30 September 2004

Color me thrilled

Ah, debate season, when the American public finally gets to see their presidential candidates in a real sense, without barriers and spin.  It's an honest, open debate where voters learn everything they've ever wanted to know about the candidates...

And I have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I'm trying not to be cynical about tonight's debate, and I will watch, but I don't expect anything out of the ordinary double speak.  President George W. Orwell has no reason to be specific about anything and I don't expect him to do anything except say that the world is better with Saddam in jail. 

Challenger John Dukakis, er, um, Mike Kerry, will say things in a much more complicated context than he needs to, and when the possibility exists that he can refute one of the many ridiculous and untrue ways that he has allowed the Republicans to label him, he won't.  By the end of the night he will be viewed as rigid as ever.

I'll make this as simple as possible, so if you have something better to do tonight I suggest you go ahead and do it instead of watching the debate.

Orwell needs only to say one word the entire debate.  When asked a question, he should simply look straight into the camera and say "BOO!"

Kerry-Dukakis should borrow a line from SNL during the Bush-Dukakis campaign.  Every time he gets to speak after Orwell, he should only say "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!"

Sadly, I know I will write about this tomorrow.  I'll do anything and everything to see that Orwell is not returned to office, but Kerry-Dukakis has miles to go before he sleeps, and I can see him just lying down by the side of the road for a few minutes before this night is over.


28 September 2004


I woke up today and saw something that I haven't seen in a long time.


I can't remember the last time we had any kind of weather except 100% sunny and clear.  It hasn't rained once in September.  Today was the first day this month that the high temperature was below 70.

I don't remember leaving Chicago for San Diego.

I wrote something not long ago about loving this time of year but always being wary of when the last "perfect day" was going to be.  It's different this year because it seems like we have had 30 of them in a row.  I know that soon it is going to be cold and gray, for days on end, and while I may grow tired of it, I will realize that we were fortunate to have so many great days, and I will get over it.

I am not lost in appreciation of this, especially when I see what the south and east have been through recently.  I have friends in Orlando and I have not had the opportunity to speak with them since Forida became a hurricane magnet.  I can only imagine what it has been like for people down there, and in other places where it has rained so much.

As you can see, there isn't a lot going on around here today.  I'm aware of the things that are out there, that normally get me going, but they don't matter to me today.

I just want to sit here and look out my window.

25 September 2004

Saturday six

And it is actually Saturday...

1. Who is the last person you took a photograph of?  My four year old niece, Erin, sitting on the rocks by a pond at the Missouri Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago.

2. What decade do you hold the most dear and why?  Hmm, I guess I have to go with the 80's, since I grew up then.  I loved the music, figured out who and what I am, and, most importantly, survived.  Not that I shouldn't have, just that it was a time where I made a lot of decisions about the type of life I would have.

3. Take the
quiz:  What mystical creature are you?  Apparently, when the moon is full I am supposed to sprout hair and attack things.  Guess I'd better move to London.

4. What is your favorite alcoholic beverage?  I have to go with a pint of Guinness, but it has to be drawn on the other side of the pond.  There's is nothing like a fresh pint in Ireland.  Guess I'd better move to Dublin.
5. What do you normally wear to bed?  Depends on the time of year.  The warmer is it, the less I wear.  Just shorts in the summer, flannel PJ pants in the winter with a t-shirt as well.

Cherie:  What movie character do you most identify with?  George W. Bush in "Fahrenheit 9/11" HA!  I can't decide.  When I was working retail I would have said The Wolf (Harvey Keitel) from "Pulp Fiction."  I'll go with Gary Sinise in "Truman."

Sister and brother, or "Walk it off!"

I haven't done a weekend assignment in a while.

I have an older sister and a younger brother, and there is six years between the three of us.  While I could easily think of a few great stories involving one of them, I wouldn't want to leave out the other.

The problem with this is that there are, shall we say, "memory issues" on a few accounts (three words for you: broken grandfather clock) so I have to whittle it down to something that I am fairly certain all three of us would agree on concerning the details.  If either of them reads this and disagrees I will be glad to follow up.

That something involves fun, games, and of course, an injury, followed by an attempted cover up.

When we were kids, we spent a lot of time at our cousins' home not far from our home.  My aunt and uncle (who were also my Godparents) were very close with my parents; their youngest daughter was my sister's age, and their youngest son was just a little bit older than I was.  It was a big, roomy house.  We usually played in the bedrooms upstairs or in the basement while my parents and Godparents visited in the kitchen or living room.

One night, when I was nine, the five of us found ourselves playing in the living room, while the adults drank tea at the kichen table.  The living room was spacious, with some furniture but also enough room for five kids to goof around on the floor.  I don't know how we ended up doing this, but we played a game called "rolly polly."  Four of us lay on the ground side by side and rolled back and forth, while the other person had to try to step from one end to the other through us without falling.  I don't know how long we had been playing the game when it was my brother's turn to step through the gauntlet.  He was seven at the time, not a big kid, and skinny as a rail. 

I don't remember much else except feeling my brother's foot underneath me as I rolled, then him falling into the space ahead of me.  I switched directions and rolled towards him, because, c'mon! the objective of the game was to keep him from making it to the end.

I also don't remember exactly what happened next, I either rolled over onto my brother's arm, or I rolled over onto his leg as he tried to get up, causing him to fall hard.  I do know that somehow he ended up with a broken arm.

Now every time we visited or cousins, we got "the talk" before we went inside.  Our parents were plain in telling us that if any of us misbehaved, we'd leave immediately.  So as we heard our brother yell in pain, my sister and I went into panic mode: if either of our parents heard him and knew that we had been rough housing, we'd get in trouble and have to leave. 

Imagine that you are seven.  Imagine your arm bending at a forty-five degree angle just below the elbow, imagine the pain that must cause and imagine your brother and sister trying to quiet you down so that you don't blow it for everyone.  We obviously had our priorities.  After a few minutes, when he wouldn't quiet down and it became apparent to us that he was really hurt, we knew we'd have to tell our folks.  To be honest, I don't recall if one of us went and got them, or if we simply allowed our brother to drag his damaged self into the kitchen to present his injury to our parents.

Turns out that his arm was broke.  I remember that I fell asleep in my bed before my parents came home from the ER with my brother(one of our oilder cousins had taken us home).  When I woke up the next morning, I knew I was going to be arrested.  I wasn't even going to plead my case, I was ready for them to slip on the cuffs and take me away.  Fortunately, my parents sat me down right away and assured me that my brother was going to be fine.  They also said that they knew what had happened had been an accident and that they did not want me to feel like I had done something wrong.  It was no one's fault.  They handled the situation perfectly.

Of course, we have revisited this story many times in our family.  It's really the only time that the three of us were involved in something that caused serious injury to one of us.  We always laugh at how my sister and I were more concerned with having to go home than attending to the broken bone of my brother. 

And we are still amazed at the tolerance he had for pain.

23 September 2004

"Everybody gets a car! And, um, a visit from the IRS!"

God Bless Oprah.

She's on such a roll recently.  First, she sits on a jury during a murder trial last month and has an epiphany on just how bad life on the street is while she votes to convict a man of murder.  Next, she gives away 200+ $28,000 Pontiacs, one for evey person in her studio audience last week.

You might think the cars are free.  You'd think wrong. It'll cost each "receipient" $7000 in taxes if they want to keep the car.

Oprah is a very rich woman.  I have no doubt that she has the best interests of people in her heart, but she is incredibly idealistic.  Her pontifications on how bad life is in the street after serving for two days on a jury were embarrassing.  She's been living in Chicago for almost 20 years.  Parts of the city are excessively violent and have been for a long time.  Does she ever pick up a newspaper? 

And the car stunt is ridiculous as well.  Her generosity instead has created about two million dollars of debt.  Something tells me she can afford two million dollars.  If I were her, I'd pony up the taxes.  It would be more publicity for her anyway.

I don't watch Oprah except when she has a guest that I am interested in, such as Bill Clinton.  When she has a giveaway, such as she did with the car or her Christmas show when she showers her audience with gift samples, I usually hear the audio of the moment of discovery on a local radio show here.  It's hysterical.  As soon as the audience is aware that they are getting something, they all start screaming hysterically.  You'd think someone just doused them with gasoline and lit a match.

"Everybody gets a clue!"


22 September 2004

Cat Stevens Greatest Hits (revised)

Sometimes, during my frequent Internet travels, I see things and my first thought is that someone is watching me, that I have been plunged into an online "Candid Camera" episode.  There are some things I see on what I consider 100% reliable websites for news that can't possibly be true.

I think this one is the all-time champion.

I suppose that it is possible that the former Mr. Cat Stevens is a serious threat to national security, that all of this has nothing to do with freaking out about Muslims in this country, especially ones that used to be American citizens.  I'm not that big a fan of his music and certainly consider him a threat to the continued success of Muzak, but I am having trouble buying the fact that he can't enter the country.  There has to be something going on here, and I want to know what it is.  I think that if our leaders are going to behave like this, they have to offer full explanations.  I know that is not going to happen, certainly not under this administration, so I guess I can do nothing but lean back, laugh, and consider just how Cat Stevens is a threat to you and me.

May I suggest Cat get to work on reissuing some of his better known works?

(To the tune of "Moonshadow")

Yes, I'm being followed by John Ashcroft, John Ashcroft, John Ashcroft

Walking and stalking from John Ashcroft, John Ashcroft, John Ashcroft

And if I ever lose my right, to enter this country day or night

Yes if I ever lose that right, oh well...should have read the Patriot Act

(To the tune of "Morning Has Broken")

Ashcroft has spoken, passengers are awoken

Can't go to DC, till they ditch me 

Fame it is fleeting, I am still seething

The US so demeaning, thank you George W. Orwell

I can pretty much guarantee that I will have a few more of these.  Wish I knew how to single space when I don't fill up a whole line.





21 September 2004

The Unbearable Grumpiness of the Infected

It's been a strange last few days.  I woke up last Thrusday with that pre-cold feeling in my throat, and by the time I woke up Friday it was full-blown.  For me, colds are the ultimate viral road trip.  They can't just stay in one place, they have to move around and see everything.

I can picture the family of viruses having packed up the car and belted the young ones in, going over the itinerary one last time: we'll spend the first day or so getting our bearings, then probably head up to the head.  It'll be crowded in the sinuses, so we'll really have to pack everyone in there.  From there we'll run on down to the throat, makng sure we leave it as raw as we can, before we spend the last half of the trip in the chest.  Who knows, if we enjoy it there, we just might stay longer.

Every single time I get a cold I think that perhaps this will be the one that just stays in my head, and every single time I am wrong.

I am the world's biggest wuss when I am sick.  I don't even try to deny it anymore.  Fortunately for the human race, I've been by myself for a majority of the last five days.

The weather here continues to be unbelievable, so I ventured out to the golf course Sunday to see if the sun and fresh air could help my cold go away.  I love golf and have accepted the fact that I will never be able to earn any money from it.  Still, there are times when I do things that professionals do, like carefully measure the wind and how it affects the trajectory of a shot, play the slope of the green perfectly so that the ball lands and curls towards the cup, finally coming to rest three feet short of a glorious birdie, and miss the putt...I did that at least two times Sunday, hit shots that will live on in the replay archives of my memory devoted to golf, only to miss putts that I have made while sleepwalking.

Best line of the day happened that night.  I got some color on my face as it was bright and sunny, and I failed to use sunscreen.  In the throes of my escalating cold I asked my fiance if my face felt warm, playing the oh-I'm-getting-a-fever-card (it's the dominant male gene in my family) and without missing a beat she said "um yeah, you're sunburned, remember?"

There's been a bevy of grocery stores around here that have discovered the self-checkout concept.  Except for the occassional glitch when it thinks you are bagging something that you haven't scanned yet I like the system, but on my way home Sunday I stopped to pick up a few things and came to realize that with all other "improvements", it is only a matter of time before the idiots of society mess it up.

First, I went to the store within an hour or so of the Bears' football game ending, which means that everyone who put off their shopping for three hours to watch the game was now in the store.  I'm the kind of person who wants to zip in and out, I know what I need and I want to get it.  I get annoyed at the normal activities in a crowded grocery store, carts blocking aisles and such.  I picked up five items and headed to the self-checkout lane to bypass the human element of paying for my stuff.  There are four separate stations at this particular store, and at every one was a customer with a full cart of groceries.  Behind them was a line of people waiting to use the self-checkout, and most of them had full carts as well.

So I stood in line for a "regular" cashier, someone who would actually scan my purchase, take my money, and bag it for me.  This line was long as well, but it moved OK, until the cashier needed to do something for a second and disappeared.  I was in line for about ten minutes for a purchase that wound up being less than ten dollars, and when I was done, the same four people who I noticed at the self-checkout stations were still there.

Feeling the idiot factor rising, I decided to have a seat at the bench by the exit and observe this group for a few minutes.  One was a woman who was trying to teach her elderly mother (I am assuming) how to use the self-checkout.  Not to be cruel, but I think I am a fairly good judge of looking at someone and knowing if that person can grasp technology, and this older woman clearly could not, and certainly not with a cart full of groceries.  Perhaps she could manage to pay for her "Readers Digest" there but it would still take five minutes.  Another person had a cart of items that were mostly things that you do not scan, produce, bulk foods, bakery, etc. and had to enter a description of what she had into the computer each time.

At the checkouts manned by real people, they have things like scales and price look up codes that make this a painless process, but I digress.

Another was a man wth three kids, and he was going through the self-checkout just to shut his kids up, who clearly tagged along with him so that they could scan things.  I am betting he paid a lot more for his groceries than what he should have, as I did not stick around long enough to find out.  The last terminal was freezing up on the woman who was trying to checkout, and she was clearly uncomfortable at the sight of the line behind her.  She had a look on her face that told me she was considering bolting to avoid the humiliation that she was putting upon herself, and no one was coming to her rescue.

Self-checkout is presented as a convenience to the customer, and it is of course, but it is also a positive for the business.  No cashier equals no payroll, and retail is all about controlling payroll.  I still have dreams about this, people telling me I need to cut payroll-"I don't care if you have to kill someone, cut the damn payroll..."

Anyway, I sat there for maybe three minutes and watched the festivities at the self-checkout, and marveled that at least fifteen customers left the store through the regular cashier lanes with smaller purchases while no one completed a transaction at the self-checkout.  And I am trying to think of an example when I last saw something that worked in the exact opposite manner of how it was intended to.  Regardless, I can now add something else to the long list of things attributed to "The Idiot Factor."

Things like traffic jams, the popularity of Michael Jackson, (St. Louis Cardinal fans?-HOO HAH!), the GOP-these are just some of the things I attribute to the idiot factor.

Kind of like spending 45 minutes writing about people who don't know when it is best not to help themselves.  



More timeliness

I'm sure someone thinks it is Saturday somewhere.

1. If you could give your journal a content rating, which would you select:  G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17?  PG.  I write about my life, which is about as PG as one can get, and while I can drop an F-bomb with the best of them in conversation, I feel no need to do it here.

2. Are you left handed or right handed?  Do you wish you were the opposite? Right-handed, though I can do most things left-handed as well, except write.  One day I plan on teaching myself to play golf left handed and see if it makes me better than I am as a rightie.  I have never wished to be a lefty, though if I was and could throw a baseball 80 MPH, I would have been set for life. 

3. What is the last play you saw performed live in a theater? Les Miserables a long time ago.  Every Sunday when I read the arts section in the Tribune I always tell myself that I need to see more plays.

4. Your bank gives you the opportunity to send them a photo which they will make into personal checks for you?  What single photo would you most likely send?  Probably a shot of Wrigley Field at night taken from the air, or the Chicago skyline looking north from the Adler Planetarium.
5. What character from the original "Star Trek" do you most identify with?  Captain Kirk, solely because we share the same first name (James).  I know little else about the show.

Heather:  What secret urge do you have, but never act on?  Um, wouldn't answering this not make it a secret anymore?  Is it wrong that I want to belt out a tune as Ethel Merman every once in a while?

16 September 2004

Three years and five days later

I was dealing with a family health issue last Saturday.  Thus I did not get the opportunity to write about the third anniversary of 9/11 on the actual day.  I had not planned on writing about it since it passed, partly because I felt that the opportunity was gone, and partly because I had decided to lay off political postings until 9/15. 

Then I stepped outside today.

Every year around this time the sun seems to shine a little brighter than it does in the middle of summer.  I know it is getting lower in the sky as we approach autumn and (UGH) winter, and I notice that the daylight disappears earlier with each passing day.  It also seems to me that we have more perfect weather days around this time than at any other point in the year.  Today is one of those days; there is not a cloud to be seen, the sky is a deep blue, unaffected by smog and haze, and it is warm, but not humid.  When we have a day like this I always wonder if this will be the "last perfect day" of the season, if tomorrow will bring the chill that autumn promises,to be eventually followed by the long slide into winter.

September 11, 2001 was one of those "last perfect days," both here in Chicago and in New York City.  Since then, whenever it is like it is today, I remember the irony of how such horrible things can happen on such beautiful days.

I remember more about the night before 9/11 than I do the actual day.  I was at Wrigley Field with two friends watching the Cubs beat the Reds.  I have been to dozens of games with these two friends.  We pay close attention to the action on the field, but we also laugh and have fun.

Since Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray died in 1998, the Cubs have instituted an obnoxious tradition of having a celebrity sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch.  I don't like it because it has become a promotional tool for someone who has a movie coming out or a TV show on the network that televises the games, and there have been some truly awful moments in the last six seasons.  The three of us attending the game that night agree that this rite has gone on too long and needs to be retired.  As such, usually at some point in the game one of us will say "so who's singing tonight?"  It becomes a competition, who can come up with the most obscure, pointless person.  My personal favorite was a suggestion (and this is about as obscure as you can get) that the "world's heaviest twins" that were always pictured in the Guinness Book of World Records sitting on motorcycles when I was a kid get the opportunty to sing.

On September 10, 2001 when the topic of the 7th inning stretch came up, one of the group suggested Osama bin Laden.  We laughed at the thought of him singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and even changed some of the lyrics for him.  Then we watched the rest of the game and forgot about it.

The next morning I had a doctor's appointment at 8:30, and I slept as late as I could before it, so I did not watch television or even listen to the radio before I got into my car.  When I did turn on the radio, it was on a sports station and there was a discussion about Michael Jordan's expected return to the NBA that season.  I had little interest in that, and went to change the dial when I heard the announcer say that while it was an "awful morning", they were going to stick to sports until they could provide credible reporting on the planes that had flown into the World Trade Center.  I switched to a news station and found out what had happened.

It was eerie at the doctor's office.  Everyone there was very uptight, and I could see several televisions on in the offices behind the front desk.  After a short wait, I was called and went into an examination room to wait for the doctor.  I waited a long time, over half an hour, and I had no idea what was going on outside.  All I knew was that two planes had crashed in New York and that it most certainly was not an accident.  Sitting there alone for as long as I did during those events was the single most isolating experience of my life.  When my doctor came in I said "good morning" to which he replied "there's nothing good about it."  He told me about the plane crashing into the Pentagon and that there were other planes unaccounted for.

When I was finished I was supposed to go to work, but since my store at that time was in downtown Chicago, I decided to wait until I knew what was happening.  I got into my car and turned on the radio just in time to hear the description of the last tower falling.  I will never forget the voice: "The World Trade Center is now gone."

I decided to go to my parents' house.  There was a Dunkin' Doughnuts nearby and I recalled that the Cubs had a promotion with them, if the team won you could get a free cup of coffee by presenting your ticket stub from that game the next day.  I had two stubs from the night before, and decided to get a coffee each for myself and my father.  Standing in line, I recalled the comments that were made the night before about the seventh inning stretch and who we thought should perform it.  I didn't feel guilty or shaneful for having laughed about it, who could have predicted what was going to happen ten hours later?  It was just an eerie feeling, and I felt a sense of remorseful irony.

Downtown Chicago was indeed a mess, and I did not go into work until well into the afternoon.  I spent most of the day watching TV with my father, discussing the events and trying to make sense of it all.  Death has never seem as senseless to me as it was that day, and I can remember the saddest thing to me, sitting there, was not only thinking of the people who had died that day, but also of the people that were going to die in the future, from the necessary US response, from further acts of terror, from whatever resulted from this day.

My father died from natural causes that following June 8, in as sudden a manner as those that did on 9/11.  I can't think about 9/11 without thinking about him because of the time we spent together that day, like we did so many days before, and how in some ways that indeed was the last perfect day, but that for me, there was at least one day just as tragic to follow.  I just wish it didn't have to come as soon as it did.

9/11/01 and 6/8/02 were the end of something, the end of the "last perfect days."


15 September 2004


I was surprised to only score 12 out of a possible 23 on this spelling test, since I consider myself an above average speller.

Guess not.

I do notice that the site originates in the UK, where the spell things differently sometimes, but I don't think that excuse will help me here.

(Test found on bookslut, by the way).

When is AOL going to put a spell checker on the journals???

Finally, bipartisan disgust!

I'm still a little woozy from the contact high I got from my brand new, shiny AK-47.  Too bad the ban against them didn't expire last month when those huge rabbits were devouring the plants in the backyard.  Nothing shows a varmint who's boss more than blowing them into a million little pieces, not to mention that we'd still be eating stew...

Sure, I bought an AK-47.  I am also wearing St. Louis Cardinals boxer shorts, have Michael Bolton playing on the stereo and have the VCR all set up to tape the big Siegfried and Roy special on NBC tonight.

The inability of the Congress of the United States to renew the ban on assault weapons finally gives me the chance to address both major political parties in this country as morons:

Dear Morons,

Let me be the first to congratulate you on your total lack of cajones.  You already represent a land that slaughters more of its own people with guns than any other that doesn't manufacture cocaine, so why not really make it interesting?  I applaud you for shriveling like a thirteen day old avocado on this issue.  No doubt that you all know that this is an election year, and I'm sure it is a coincidence that practically no one said stood up for keeping this ban.  It's not like the big bad wolf that is the NRA would have gone after any of you in November.  Do drop in for tea the next time you are in the neighborhood.


Mother Superior

I was never very good at writing letters.

Nothing bothers me more than elected officials refusing to stand up for what is right because they know that if they do, they'll be targeted by some group the next time their seat is up for reelection.  Spare me your woe, please.  The "leadership" qualities from both sides on this has been priceless.  Bush has said that he was in favor of extending the ban, but that he couldn't force the legislation through to his desk.  I'm sure he never lobbies any Republican in Congress to introduce a bill that he wants passed.  Kerry says he wanted the ban extended as well; gee it's a shame that he has no pull in the Senate or in the Democratic party to get this brought up as well.  Both sides equally repulse me for the way they have shrugged, held up their arms and given us a collective "what can you do?"

Nobody wants the NRA's target on them in an election year.  What were they thinking in 1994 when the set this ban to expire in an even numbered year?  And what am I thinking, that a politician might actually stand up to the NRA someday, look them in the eye and say "Look, you're all a bunch of serious nutjobs.  No one is ever going to be able to pull off taking all your guns away.  It's not going to happen, so relax.  You might want to actually look at other issues before you decide who to vote for this year.  But I can't let this assault ban thing expire, because it's not a good idea to have these types of weapons out there.  Variety is nice when shopping for food, clothing, shoes and strippers, but work with me on this.  Enjoy the gun show this weekend, and tell Chuck Heston I said hello."

I begrudgingly accept the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  It was a necessary addition back in the time when the weapon of choice was the musket, and it was created to keep the country together as one.  That there never was an attempted coup d'etat in this country back in it's first century of existence can be credited to that amendment as much as anything else.  I myself will never be a gun owner, and I live terrified of the day when concealed carry becomes the law of the land, because, dear reader, most people I know should not be allowed to carry a gun, not because they're nuts, but because they lack a certain coolness under pressure.  I think most people do, which is why most people do not become police officers, soldiers or criminals.

I don't hunt, but I see it for it is, sport.  I have nothing against people who want to dress up in orange, stand in a tree and shoot Bambi to kingdom come, so long as they ingest their kill.  If it's for food, it is about as offensive to me as fishing.

What is it going to take for this country to seriously look at its gun problem?  Another James Brady-like incident?  Another Columbine?  I don't get it. 

I love Remo, I read him all the time, and he has an interesting point of view on this, as he is a police officer.  With all due respect,  I don't agree with his thought that citizens should be able to arm themselves because then the criminals would die.  I don't think most people who have a gun for "safety" keep it accesible to the point that they could wack someone intent on hurting them when theybreak in during the middle of the night.  And I don't recall  Darwin writing about guns and natural selection, though I am sure that the tortoises on the Galapagos were armed to the teeth.  I think having every citizen armed would be great for population control, and wonderful for the funeral home business.

But back to my target of disgust, the 535 delicate flowers that make up the Congress of this country:

Wake up and represent the will of the people who elected you.  Take care of the weapons of mass destruction that you allow to terrorize a number of people who live here, for God's sake.  I am all for pre-emptive strikes there.


One last hurrah

I thought that I was done attending baseball games for the season.  I don't have any tickets left for the Cubs, and I have no road trips planned to see a game in another city.  Then these events happened:

1. Hurricane Ivan-what is going on with the hurricanes this year?  I am somewhat of a weather buff, and I am fascinated by the breakout of tropical storms this year.  Of course, I can safely say that, since I am tucked away in the Midwest.  I can't imagine what it has to be like living in Florida and worrying if you were going to be hit for a third time in the matter of a month.  I'm sure I would think about leaving. 

There's a stretch of Interstate 10 as you near New Orleans that crosses water, nothing but water as far as the eye can see.  When I was there in the spring of 2003, I drove that stretch on a Friday night around 7 PM, and it seemed like I had the road to myself.  The sun was low, only about fifteen degrees above the horizon, just perfect for sunset viewing.  It was one of those moments when you wish life had Tivo, so you could just pause and rewind to watch it as many times possible.  Today I see pictures of that road jammed with people getting out of town before Ivan stops by, and I can only imagine what it would look like to see the storm approaching from that vanatage point.

Anyway, the danger of Ivan and the uncertainty of where it would strike led major league baseball to move the first two games of the Florida Marlins-Montreal Expos series to Chicago from Miami.  The Marlins were in Chicago last weekend to play the Cubs, and since no one wants to see baseball in Montreal, they decided to play the games here.

2. My nephew, who commutes daily from my mother's home to school downtown, called me at eleven Tuesday to let me know that his classes for the remainder of the day were cancelled due to a power failure on campus.

3. It was 85 degrees and sunny.

4. Tickets for the 1 PM game at Comiskey Park (its real name, I don't care what Joan Cusack says) were $15 for general admission, with $5 going towards hurricane relief funds.

As they say in driveways all over the land, "Game On!"

We sat ten rows behind the first base dugout.  There were no more than 3,000 people at the game, everyone concentrated in the lower deck and not far from the playing field.  It was a great vantage point to see a game, and a bargain for fifteen dollars.

The Marlins won 8-6.  Florida is currently in a five team battle for the National League wildcard, a group that includes the Cubs.  Since the game was being played in the home park of the White Sox, there were plenty of people rooting for the Marlins (remember, the charter of being a White Sox fan calls for hatred of the Cubs before anything else, including White Sox victories); there were plenty of Cubs fans rooting for the Expos as well.  It was a good day, the first time I was able to experience a major league game in what I would call a minor league scenario.

I was put off by one thing, though.  I have never understood what the point of heckling is.  There was a small group of people with very loud voices who spent a majority of the game targeting insults at certain players.  What's the point?  Are you jealous of the fact that someone makes millions of dollars to play a game while you scrape to get by?  I never saw a single player acknowledge any of the comments screamed at them yesterday (which isn't always the case, sadly). 

I think it reaffirms what I was thinking about a few days ago, that there is a lot of anger among men in this world.  None of the people screaming insults and obscenities (within hearing range of several kids by the way, lovely example-welcome to Chicago!) at players yesterday were women.

It wasn't enough to ruin the experience yesterday, not even close.  I enjoy the game enough to not let obnoxious jerks ruin it.  But I wonder what the motivation could possibly be.

It wasn't a bad year for me, baseball-in-person wise.  San Diego, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh along with a few games in Chicago.  I suppose there is still the chance of coming across a Cubs playoff ticket or two...

A short thank you

I'd like to send my sincere and appreciative thanks to the Illinois Central Railroad, for the crossing gates that were stuck in perpetuity for more than an hour this morning, and for the mucked up design of the railroad itself, since the diagonal tracks meant that the next crossing, also stuck, blocked those of us who were unable to cross the tracks from turning around and using a different route so that we could make our 8 AM tee time this morning.


It's September 15th.  My self-imposed moratorium on commenting on all things political is over.

However, I won't actually be writing anything until this afternoon.  I'm so excited about finally being able to purchase an AK-47 that I simply am too wound up to write...

13 September 2004

Better late than never

Once again, I am in "Saturday Six" compliance...

1. With about 50 days left until the election, you suddenly have the chance to recast the two presidential candidates.  Who would you want to replace Bush and Kerry?  That's a tough one.  For the GOP, I would have said McCain until his pathetic boot licking performances of the last month or so.  I'll go with JC Watts of Oklahoma.  For the dems, Bill Richardson, who is the current governor of New Mexico.

2. What color would you never wear in your wardrobe?  Pink

3. Other than a journal, what was the last website you visited?  CNN.com

4. Have you ever had the exact same dream more than once?  Have you ever had a dream one night pick up where the last night's dream left off?  Never the exact same dream, but for the last two years, ever since I left my long career as a retail manager, I have had dreams of being back in that position about four nights per week.  Some are pretty normal, others are not.
5. Which is more organized:  your kitchen, your medicine cabinet, your computer desk, your office, or your car?  Medicine cabinet.  It's nt even close.

6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #22 from Robin:  Are you a native of the state you currently reside in?  If not, how many states have you lived in since the state you're a native of?  I was born in Chicago and have lived within 15 miles of the city my whole life, except for four years of college in Iowa City.

10 September 2004

What is everybody so angry about?

When I was a kid, the worst thing I had to worry about was getting punched.  If I said or did something that angered another kid, I might have to run away before I got smacked in the jaw.  When I was six, my father taught me how to throw a punch in case I had to defend myself, and it came in handy.  I was walking home from school shortly after that lesson when a kid who lived on the block and was in my class came running out at me with a dog chain, swinging it at me.  I remember ducking once, then smacking him as hard as I could in the mouth.  He dropped the chain and ran into his house crying.

The only other time in my life that I have thrown a punch was at a good friend when I thought he was trying to run me over with a car that was not even running at the time.  It was a rather lucky strike and yes, alcohol was involved.

But I can remember countless times in my youth where I thought I was going to get punched, whether I deserved it or not, and yet it never happened.  However, the prospect of getting clocked with a fist helped me avoid many a distressful situation.  In other words, I was a chicken. 

I can't imagine what it would be like being an adolescent today, because it doesn't seem like anyone bothers to use a fist anymore. 

I read a story in the Tribune a few days ago about two teenagers who were shot to death in an incident that resulted from someone insulting someone else's girlfriend.  A guy got angry, left, and came back with a gun.  The two teens he killed weren't even involved in the original altercation, they were just visiting with friends there.

And then there was this gem: a tailgate party at North Carolina State turns into a double murder.  If you read the article, you find that the victims were not pleased with the way a man was driving his car in the lot where the tailgating was taking place, so they stopped him, got him out of the car, and beat him up.  He returned later with a gun, and now the two are dead.

People aren't supposed to kill each other (yes, I am a genius...), but it happens.  I seem to remember that murder usually occured over things like drugs, passion, large sums of money, or revenge.  When I was a kid, if I heard a story of murder on the news or saw one on television (and man, now that I am grown, I am blown away by the amount of violence that I realized I saw on TV) it was because of something big.

Now it seems like when someone gets angry, they get a gun.  There's so much anger involved in these two examples, but if I went back just a year, I could find so many more examples.  It's all so insane.  Anger just breeds more anger, until it is too late.  Look at the tailgate party events; the two men got angry at the driver of the car, angry enough to pull him out of the car and beat him up, which angered the driver enough to arm himself and come back to kill two human beings.  The result of uncontrolled anger is two people are gone forever, and one who is going to jail for the rest of his life.  Think he won't think about it when he is rotting in a cell for fifty years, that he won't regret not being able to control his rage?  I'm sure that if the two dead men knew what was going to happen to them, they'd have controlled their anger as well.

I was walking Wednesday afternoon to get a haircut when there was almost an accident in front of me.  A woman was pulling out of an auto repair shop in her SUV and she cut off a pickup truck, who had to slam on his breaks to avoid the collision.  From where I was, I could see that she had two small children in the back of her car, and that there were two fairly young men in the pickup truck.  I could see that  the woman was both horrified that she almost caused an accident and relieved that it did not happen.  The driver of the car was enraged.  He laid on his horn, then got out of his truck and started screaming obscenities at the woman.  She drove away quickly.  The driver of the pickup truck got back into his car and started to go after her, but after half a block I saw him turn away.

I'd like to think that cooler heads prevailed, but I am not so sure.  I do know that as I saw this incident unfold, I was hoping that this woman would do what she did, drive away, instead of yelling back at him.  I don't think I could have just stood there and watch this guy do something to her, I would have had to approach him and try to get him to calm down.  These days, the thought of doing something like that makes me nervous.  I dealt with so many situations like that when I worked in the city and always had the same goal, to get everyone to calm down before something really bad happened.  I was fortunate that nothing ever did happen, but I can tell you that many, many times someone told me that they would be coming back to the store to "get someone."  I'd tell them that I reported all threats to the police, and I did.  And no one ever came back.

In retrospect, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk to the guy driving this pickup truck.  I would have asked him just one question, a question I'd like to ask a lot of people these days:

"Dude, what can you possibly be so angry about?"

This is a first

My journal has been around since January.  Today I did something here that I had not before.  I deleted a previous entry.

There's quite a bit of stuff I've written in the last eight months that I am not particularly impressed with, but I've always felt that writing is like playing golf: there are just going to be days where you are not good, no matter how much you try or how good you feel.  Sometimes the words just don't want to come out right.

In golf, if I hit a bad shot, I can tell right away why, and most of the time it has to do with mechanics-I lifted my head or didn't follow through.  Sometimes though, everything goes as it should, yet the ball hits a tree ot falls right into the water.

I know I will have an opportunity to hit that same type of shot again sometime in the future, and I'll remember what made it go wrong the last time I hit it.

I don't delete what I have written here because when I go back and read anything, whether it has been a day or a month since it was written, there are things to find in it that make me appreciate my writing skills, even if I feel it is not a particularly good.

I guess what I am trying to say here is the even when I write badly, I think I become a better writer.

The entry I deleted today has nothing to do with my writing.  It has to do with me being duped (as many of us were).  Such is the danger when you read what people write without knowing who they really are.

Two last comments about this: everyone embellishes in their lives at some point or another, but to make people think you are dealing with a life or death situation is pathetic.  I don't feel bad about falling for it because it shows that I have a little compassion, and anyone else who fell for this should feel the same way.  I think it's better to be compassionate about something that doesn't exist rather than not be compassionate about something that does.

Lastly, what is written in here is me.  I don't write about things that I think don't belong here or that I think people will not care about.  I am not going to visit other people's sites and be skeptical.  I am going to give people the benefit of a doubt, and I am hoping that everyone does the same with me. 

04 September 2004

The Saturday Six

You can only read for so long before you have to play:

1. What's your favorite thing to do while indoors?

Read-newspapers, magazines, books, Internet articles; doesn't matter, I read it all

2. What's your favorite thing to do while outdoors?

When the weather is decent I love to golf.  I've been doing it for 25 years, though I think I'm as good as I'll ever be.  In the colder months I like to just walk around and see what life is up to.

3. Do you wear any jewelry regularly?  If so, what and where?

I wear two necklaces.  One used to have a St. Christopher's medal on it, but I lost it.  I still keep the chain on.  I haven't taken it off since I was fifteen.  The other necklace has a St. Bridget's Cross on it, a gift from my fiance for my birthday in 2003. 

4. You have the choice of spending time alone, with a few close friends, with many friends and aquaintances, or in a large crowd consisting of people you do and don't know.  Which one would make you the most comfortable?

I have a strong desire to spend time alone once in a while, but I would choose to have a few close friends around.
5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

One pair of sneakers, one pair of dress shoes, and two pairs of casual skeecher-like shoes, so I guess that makes four.  To be honest, shoes really bore me.

Jeanno43 and Cherie:   If a fire or other circumstances forced you to leave your home with all of your loved ones and pets -- but only time to rescue one single item, what would you choose to take with you and why?

My signed copy of "Will the Circle be Unbroken?" by Studs Terkel.

03 September 2004

BOO!!! (and an end to hostilities)

I'm only doing this because I have to be consistent.

I watched W last night.  I thought he was off kilter for about the first half of the speech.  He was stuttering a bit and seemed to have problems with the teleprompter.  Frankly, I am amazed that more politicians don't have that problem.  I've seen the teleprompters they use and it seems it would be very difficult to read a speech off of one.

The last half of the speech was better.  I'll say this for W, he knows who he is speaking to.  When he started to slam Kerry and I saw him smirk, I knew he had found his rhythm.  He was relaxed for the rest of the speech.  I even liked his "I have this swagger, in Texas they call it walking" comment.

So the Republican love-fest is over.  It repulsed me, of course, but it was exactly what I expected.  And you realize, of course, that this was the first ever RNC held in NYC.  If terrorists had attacked Anchorage, Alaska on 9/11 instead of New York, this year's convention would have been in the land of the midnight sun.  I don't think I will ever be able to look past my disgust at the GOP and it's blatant use of 9/11 during this convention. 

Do you realize that there was no focus on the future of this country not involving terrorism or war until W's speech yesterday?  I was happy to hear him at least address some economic and social issues, but he presented them in a State of the Union manner, all ideas, but with no explanation on how to pay for anything.  And I am sorry, really, but this President cannot attack his opponent over spending.  No President in my lifetime has spent like W has.  War or no war, he's gone nuts, and this country will be footing the bill for his sprees for a long time.

The thing about this convention is how negative it was.  I watched all the big speeches at both; the Democrats spent most of their time presenting their ideas for the future and telling us how they think things should change.  I'd estimate 20% of their comments could be construed as negative towards the current administration.  The Republicans were nothing but negative attacks, at least until last night, and even W took the gloves off.  I am wondering if an incumbent president running for re-election has ever been more negative towards his opponent than Bush was last night.  If I had a full understanding of American politics and hadwoken from a coma last week, I'd swear Kerry was the incumbent and Bush was trying to defeat him.

Compare the lineups: 1st night Clinton vs. Giuliani/McCain; Keynote speakers: Barrack Obama vs. Zell Miller; VP candidates and finally presidential nominees.  If you watched both conventions as I did, you know the Republicans were much more negative.

(Speaking of Clinton, do you think he watched W last night and that's why he needs bypass surgery?  I can picture him watching and saying "I can't believe this is the guy who followed me."  Next thing you know, he's dialing 911.  Kudos, though, to W for mentioning him at the beginning of his first campaign speech today.  That was a class act.)

Republicans know going negative works.  It got Bush 41 elected in '88, and they have been using it ever since.  The first poll I have seen today now shows Bush leading Kerry 52% to 41%.  My first instinct is to stand up and scream WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??? but that passes, amd I want to know what was said this week that could make such a difference in the polls?  Are people just that stupid that they believe all this stuff?  Do people really believe that Kerry wants to send our troops into battle with insufficient weaponry?  That he is going to ask Al-Qaida to sit down at the bargainning table?

I think it boils down to this: the GOP said BOO! loudly enough this past week and now people who thought about voting on the economy and other social issues are instead scared again, thinking that if Bush isn't in the Oval Office, we're all going to die.  The people who will decide this election, the 10-15% who have not made up their minds yet, are spooked right now, and if they don't calm down, then Bush will win.  And nothing will matter these next four years because at least we will be safe!!!  At least until all the lemmings fall off a cliff or something.

I am planning on declaring a political moratorium of at least a week after I finish this entry.  So bear with me for a few more paragraphs.

Of course, the election is not over.  There is still two more months left.  If Kerry wants to win, he has to start getting nasty.  He has to ignore every red state and every deep blue state, and spend all his time in states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  He has to fight dirty.  It has been proven that it works, unfortunately, and if Kerry doesn't jump into the mud, it's over.  And if he chooses not to, he deserves not to win.  I despise negative campaigning, but then my vote isn't in the balance. 

This is going to be the nastiest end to a presidential campaign ever.  A small part of me is salivating in anticipation, but the majority of me wants to go to sleep until November 2.

If W wins, I will only be able to deal with it if by some stroke of luck the Senate and/or the House of Representatives goes back to the Democrats.  The thought of Bush in the White House for 4 more years with control of the Congress makes me ill.

OK, I'm done until September 15, I doth declare!


02 September 2004

Fear and loathing in NYC

I suppose that if I strive to be consistent then I must comment on last night at the RNC, but I have to tell you, this is testing me. 

But before I do, in the interest of fairness, I want you to check out Remo.  Obviously, we exist on different sides of the tracks, but he is brilliant.  I can respect someone who I disagree with when they write as well as he does.

I'm a little concerned about Zell Miller.  He seems like a very angry old man.  I'm happy that he is retiring this year, because I think he needs to go somewhere and smell the roses for a while.  Zell fits right in to the message of the RNC this year, which is nothing else matters except 9/11.  There's no point in talking about the economy, jobs or the environment because if W isn't re-elected, we're all gonna die anyway.

As I listened to Zell, I tried to imagine a Rick Santorum or a Ben Nighthorse Campbell at the rostrum at the DNC last month, turning his back on his lifelong party (wait, I just remembered that Campbell already did this a few years ago, good thing he's off to smell the roses this year as well), and what exactly the GOP would say about it afterwards.  It ain't pretty.

Zell's main message was that John Kerry doesn't like weapons, and thus if he were President he'd send our troops into battle with "spitballs."  Two things, Zell: first, you moron, any vote Kerry made fifteen years ago concerning defense was an "us vs. them" situation, where the spending on defense would surely be at the expense of needed programs, and second, as I explained Monday, Kerry's weapon of choice is clearly the waffle.

But I digress.  Kudos for the tunnel vision, Zell.  Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.  And make sure you fly that Georgia state flag high when you get back home.  The South will rise again.

As for Cheney, well, he did just fine.  His programmers can pat themselves on the back.  His nuts and bolts are holding up just fine.  Once again, don't tell me anything about the future except WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE IF W IS NOT RE-ELECTED!  Nothing else matters.

So tonight we wait for the big event.  In my dream world, W keeps it short.  He walks out, holds up a big "9" in his right hand, "11" in his left, waits for the crowd to stop cheering (which will take about 30 minutes) and then keeps his speech to one word:


I'll come back tomorrow, only because I strive to be consistent.

Frances...Jim, Jim...Frances

The plans were first introduced and talked about at my nephew's graduation party in June.  A cousin has work contacts in Miami.  Contacts know people with great seats to Florida Marlins games.  Cubs are in Miami for a three game series over Labor Day weekend. 

We connect the dots and make plans to go.  Two weeks later at another family gathering, we confirm that we indeed are ready to roll.

Alas, duty calls.  The next week the cousin finds they have to be elsewhere that weekend, unavoidable work conflict.  Such is life.  Maybe next year.  But in the two months that follow there are several times where I think of how much fun that would have been, and how it's a shame that we couldn't pull it off.

Of course, if the plans had remained in place, I would have received a phone call sometime this week:

"Hi,  Jim?  Frances, Category 5 hurricane, damn glad to meet you." 





If it's Tuesday, it must be funny. AND COMPASSIONATE-NEVER FORGET THAT!!!

I had to wait to write about Tuesday night at the Improv-er, Republican Convention until tonight solely because I was laughing much too hard after watching the Bush twins, Paris and Nicky, yuck it up on stage before introducing their mother, Donna Reed.

Before that we were treated to the lovely, astute governor of California, Arnold "Why yes, I was planning on mentioning Nixon, is that a problem?" Schwarzenegger.  I am happy to see that Arnold is still confusing his shoe polish with his hair dye.  He must have picked that up from Reagan somewhere in the bowels of the mansion in Sacramento.

In reality, I am surprised that Madison Square Garden did not implode Tuesday.  I would think that the change in atmospheric pressure from the collective tightening of thousands of sphincter muscles when Arnold brought up Nixon, and when those wacky Bush twins (Mary Kate and Ashley) offered up their grandmother's opinion about sex would have brought the arena down.

I was extremely disappointed that none of the networks showed Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson yucking it up in their private box during these uproarious presentations.  Seriously, who knew that Republicans could be so wacky?

Did you notice that Tuesday's theme was "People of Compassion"?  I swear, the laughs just keep coming! 

Oh God, my sides...it's almost as funny as 2000.  Remember how madcap that was, when Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" and fifty million lemmings bought it?  Hysterical!  I've roared with glee at all the compassionate things that have happened since then, like the trampling of environmental regulations, taking care of the richest 1% of the people in the country and ignoring the conflict of interest that is Haliburton.  And the trashing of anything else that doesn't fit the far right agenda all in the name of a terrorist attack that killed 3000 people!  Wow, you couldn't make up stuff this good!

And let's not forget the funniest moment of this administration, all those weapons of mass destruction that were found in Iraq.  Man, the look on George Tenet's face...

I think quite possibly the only people not having a blast over the fun that this admimistration has brought to America are the 950 or so American soldiers who have died since the invasion of Iraq. 

Sorry to bring it down a notch.  I know that we are all supposed to have a tremendous feel-good feeling from the GOP.  C'mon, it's fun!  We are all supoosed to be having FUN!  Tax breaks, pre-emptive strikes, 9/11-9/11-9/11, it's nothing but F-U-N.

The GOP brings the F-U-N to Amercia!!!

Or at least the F-U