24 July 2005

Breaking news...sun comes up in east

It busted the 100 degree mark in Chicago today for the first time this century, and, of course, it's the top news story of the day, because, you know, it never gets hot here.

Same thing happens in the winter; we get more than two inches of snow and all the newsrooms go nuts with sending out reporters to local hardware stores so that they can get shots of people buying snow shovels. 

"Welcome to the news!  I'm Biff McSparkland.  Today Martians landed in our city.  But will they need a coat to handle this chill?  Let's go to Forest Shatner in the Weather Center for tonight's top story..."

Hey look, thousands of people went to the beach today.  Better send over a special investigative team to see if sand indeed fills up those "hard to reach areas."

I was watching television tonight.  During a break they went to the news, and I heard the main anchor say that tonight, they'll be giving tips for beating the summer heat.

If they have ripped off my idea of lots of hot coffee and a parka, I won't be happy.


One of the things I hate the most is one I think of something, forget about it, and then see that someone else has had the same idea and capitalized on it.

Like the Ball O' Splendid Isolation.

23 July 2005

I need an attorney

My wife and I went out to a local mall two nights ago to pick up something we ordered from a store there.  The restaurant where we first met is located there, so we decided to grab a bite to eat.  We even sat at the same table.

I was in the men's room at the sink when it happened; I heard the unmistakable beginning of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" and drifted away to wherever the mystic is, only to be slammed back to reality by a voice that was not Van's.

Try Jakob Dylan instead.

Nothing personal, JD, but how was it decided that a Wallflowers version of this CLASSIC would make the world a better place?

Wait, I know, it has to be in a movie somewhere.

Seriously, can I get someone with a law degree to bring up charges against these people? 

My descension into Curmudgeon-dom continues...

20 July 2005

Not very Hemulan at all (anyone?)

1. What is the last thing you either camped out or got up unusually early to be able to buy?  I can answer with the confidence of a thousand pills of levitra that I have never camped out or got up unusually early to buy anything.  I've never understood the concept of either, especially getting up at 5 AM on the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas shop.  More power to all that do.  You'll never have to worry about knocking me over to get to the electronic department before the price of the digital cameras go up 300%.

2. If you had to give up one of the following for a full year, which would be the easiest to do without?  Which would be the most difficult to give up?
    a) Your personal vehicle
    b) Your Telephone (both cellular and land line)
    c) The Internet
    d) Meat (all of it:  Beef, Poultry, Pork and Seafood)
    e) Television

Telephone.  Ain't even close.  In fact, stop calling me.  Please. 

3. How many items (include all bottles, boxes and containers) are in your medicine cabinet?  Which is the last one you used? We don't really have a medicine cabinet.  We have a medicine counter, and a medicine nightstand, and a medicine that goes wherever we used it last, dammit.  The last thing used was a few ibuprofen pills.

4. What is the first source you go to for news of any kind when you wake up?  How much do you trust that particular source? Since I normally check my email within 1/2 hour of waking up, I see the AOL main page and will continue to news if something is on it that intrigues me.  Otherwise I read the Tribune.  I trust the paper a lot more than I trust the Internet.

5. Take the Quiz:  
What do the letters of your name stand for?  

Had to have some fun with this one.  First I entered "James" and got: Jolly (ho freaking ho ho ho), Awesome (apparently I am 15), Mysterious (BOO!), Emotional (WHY DOES IT SAY THAT ABOUT ME?  I DON'T UNDERSTAND?  WHY DOES IT HATE ME???  I WISH I HAD NEVER BEEN BORN!!!), and Sensational (I do have great hair...); then I went with "Jim" and got: Judicial (If only W had known!  I could have been a Supreme Court Justice...), Intense (Yeah, but it couldn't say that to my face, could it?), and Misunderstood (which is crap, to be honest, I feel like just about everyone "gets" me).  Then I put the Irish version of my name in, Seamus, and got a message that said "There's no such name.  Now stop messing around with us before we come find you, you intense, mysterious, emotional, awesome man."  Then it asked me out.  I am having drinks with the quiz next Friday.

6. What is your favorite color and why?  If you have a journal or journals, is this color the primary one on those journals?  If not, why not?

Blue.  It soothes me.  As silly as that sounds, that's what I like about it.  Nothing beats the feeling of looking up into a clear sky and seeing nothing but blue.  On a clear enough day I can see where every shade ends and the next begins.  It's just incredibly peaceful.  My journals are blue because that is the default setting.  I'm not much into design.

19 July 2005


I've not been to active upon these pages lately, which happens every once in a while.  I think I get tired of the blog when I see myself writing nothing but political rants.  I don't mind diving into the realm of the hot-air, but as I remind myself when I read other blogs that focus solely on politics, full-time preaching is not my gig.

And that is really all it is, preaching.  Standing in the pulpit, telling (yelling?) us all why we need to do A and B lest we end up in the fiery depths of hell, without all the religious implications.

I don't really feel all that comfortable doing that.

Ah, well.

So as I attempt to return to my normal standard of observance, I can't help but notice that the nation is supposed to find out tonight who is going to be nominated to replace O'Connor to the Supreme Court.  I find myself saying that I don't really care.

I have read a lot about it today (and when O'Connor first stepped down) and have noticed a few things:

-Why would anyone expect a conservative president nominate a liberal judge?  I'm sure that there were certain conservative groups that called on Clinton to name conservative judges to the court when he had the opportunity, but it didn't happen.  To expect it to happen know that the opposite party holds the White House is ridiculous.

-Everybody expects the Democrats to be a collective pain in the ass when it is time for confirmation hearings.  Personally, my hope is that the nominee, whoever he/she may be, is a moderate, because that will have the far right in an uproar, and I do so love seeing the Pat Robertson's of this world get bent out of shape.

-I consider this to be a true test of the kind of person the president is.  O'Connor was a moderate conservative.  Bush knows that if he names a hard line conservative, there's going to be a good chance that the process will be long and nasty.  If he names a moderate, there's an excellent chance that the nominee will waltz right on through to the court.  Remember, this president pledged to work "together" after his re-election and really has not stepped up to do so.  If he is serious about working "together", he will replace O'Connor with someone with a similar record. 

It will be really clear to see once the choice is revealed:

Moderate conservative choice = Bush concerned about all citizens of this country

Hard line conservative choice = Bush only concerned about his GOP base

I have no clue what he is going to do.

Ever so slowly coming out of it

I remember seeing this a long, long time ago, before I realized what freakishly bad acting was, and I am only happy to pass it along now that I have finally rediscovered it.

William Shatner IS "Rocketman."

16 July 2005

Slow news day

I don't live that far from a place called Northwestern University.  You might have heard of it, usually ranked among the top schools in the nation in certain programs.

But not in proofreading, I think.

Arriving in the mail this week: a postcard from the continuing studies institute of NU.  Prominently displayed on the front, above a photo of three of the happiest people I have ever seen, was this:

"This is the place to pursue your creative INERESTS, DICUSS intellectual subjects and get involved in stimulating discussion with interesting people."

(Capital letters mine, of course.)

13 July 2005

Spelunking for inspiration

1. How many mirrors are there in your home?  If you could go for the rest of your life without ever looking in a mirror (but still know that you hadn't missed a button or that your hair was disarrayed, etc.) would you?  I'll say seven.  I would have to keep looking in the mirror, if for no reason than to make sure my home perm turned out well.  No matter what the box says, Lilt does not set itself.

Can you reference an obscure 70's hair product in your blog?  Huh?  Can you???

2. What online abbreviation annoys you the most and why? All of them, actually, though I find the longer the abbreviation, the easier time I have figuring out what it means.  It took me a year to figure out what "IMO" meant, but I nailed "RTFLMAO" in about two seconds.

3. What do you hate the most in this world? A very select gaggle of people (you know who you are), the St. Louis Cardinals (are you paying attention, salad?), and mushrooms, except for the portobello, which should be reclassified as steak.  I think what I hate the most though are excuses.

4. You decide to go to your next high school reunion.  What do you anticipate would be the thing most people said about you behind your back? Who is he again?

5. You learn that because of some galactic mixup in fate itself, you must restart your life tomorrow in a new place.  You will emerge as a person with a unique past and won't seem out of the ordinary to those in the new place.  You will retain the experiences and memories of your past, but the people you are closest to will believe that you are dead and gone and you would be prohibited from contacting them.  Where would you go and why?

Since this is a "galactic" mixup I will assume that we can go anywhere in the universe, so I'll choose a random planet somewhere out in the cosmos where life exists.  If it has to be on Earth, I'd go with New Zealand.  Or maybe the Playboy Mansion.

6. What are you most passionate about in this moment of your life and why? My marriage, because it is still so new (less than three months) and we have so many plans for our future that we want to make happen.  That involves a lot of different things so maybe that answer is a cop out, but I think the key to my future is building a strong marriage, so there you go.

07 July 2005

Is that all you got?

My favorite city outside the US?  London (Dublin, please don't be angry with me.  It was a very close vote).  I've been lucky enough to visit the city five times in the last ten years.  I feel like I know it as well as any other place on Earth, except for Chicago.

First visit was the summer of 1995, the first stop on a 28 day odyssey of the European continent.  It was my first time abroad, and I was rather green.  I had no clue where anything was or how to get to anywhere.  Then I discovered the Underground.  Things became much, much easier.  We were staying just a block or so from the station at Marble Arch. 

I may have been a little too appreciative and excited about the efficiency of the Tube, as I compared every other transit system we took that trip to it.  I believe my traveling companions grew sick of it quickly.  One got the message though.  My Christmas gift that year from her was a mouse pad of the Underground map.  I still use it today.

I returned to London by myself in the autumn of 1996 as the gateway and terminus of a trip to Ireland.  Since I was by myself I ventured off the path a bit, to places that we did not have time to see the year before.  I took the Tube to places where it stops being the Tube for quite a distance before and resembles more of Chicago's El.  Wimbledon, Cockfoster's (heh), Upminster, and other places I rode to just because of their names.  "White City" by Pete Townshend is my favorite album/CD of all time.  How could I not go there (not recommended, by the way)?

I repeated the trip in October of 1997.  This would be the time when I barfed almost directly on the Gates of Kensington Palace, still covered with flowers and cards in tribute to the recently deceased Princess Diana, in front of about seven million people.  Yeah, I'm not too fond of talking about that.  I will say, however, that it had nothing to do with grief or alcohol, and much to do with my stomach simply expressing its dissatisfaction with a week of heavy breakfasts.

On that 1997 trip I arrived at Heathrow at 6 AM.  I couldn't check into my hotel until noon, so the plan was take the Tube into central London, drop my bag off at the hotel and find something to do for a few hours.  I took the Piccadilly line from the airport into the city, planning on switching lines at Green Park.  When you switch lines on the Underground, you normally have to walk either up or down a long series of stairs to one or more levels, and I did so at Green Park.

There were a lot of people on the platform.  Someone had been hit by a train along another line, causing a disruption.  It was announced as "a person under a train" ( I do love the way the English say things).  Green Park had become the place for people to get off trains for one line that was now shut down.

It was rush hour.  Apparently everyone in London takes the train to get to work.  Unwilling to fight the crowds and in no particular hurry to get anywhere, I slid up against a wall and waited out the rush.  I didn't get on a train until ten o'clock.  Later, after dropping off my bag, I fell asleep on a bench inside the London Planetarium, (which I had mistakenly thought was Madame Tussard's.  And yes, I was really, really tired) and earned the wrath of a woman who felt the need to kick me out, so much so that she mocked me endlessly in her proper British voice until she could no longer see me.  I was lost inside the building and I managed to wander past her again minutes later.  She squealed "You again?  What is your bloody problem?" in the most properly polite bitch-slapping manner possible.  When I told her I had no idea where the exit was, she proceeded to tell me that if I had listened to her in the first place, I would be halfway home by now.  Her tone was amazing, like she was comforting me as she bandaged a wound.  So very British.

So this morning when I woke to the news of the bombings on the London Underground, I felt it, because it's been a big part of my wandering over the last decade of my life.  I love the city passionately.  I love how easy it is to get around.  And I love the English.  I've never had a bad moment with them, even when I am getting sick on the doorsteps of their dead icons. 

When I heard that three bombs exploded in the subway during rush hour, I expected a death toll over 200, remembering how crowded it was that morning back in 1997.  If it is possible to be happy over the events of today, the fact that only 40 people died makes me happy.  Perhaps I should say "relieved" instead.

One of the things that attract me to Britain is its history.  I'm from America, where it's a big deal to see something that has beenaround for a century or two.  When I have been in London and have toured the Tower of London or visited the crypts at St. Paul's, I've been struck at all that has happened in that part of the world.  Today, I recall that, and I also remember that the Brits have been through much worse than this. 

Try visiting the Cabinet War Rooms from World War II and you'll see what I mean.  The Blitz, the IRA-London has been through worse.

And I can see London's reaction to what has happened today, people in the pubs figuring out how they will get to work tomorrow and move on, not letting this alter their way of life.  I see them holding their palms out and saying "is that all you got?"

(Very politely, of course)

Rule Britannia!

03 July 2005

As an added bonus, no political commentary included

1. A stray dog wonders into your yard, obviously weak, hungry and thirsty.  He is a very friendly dog, but if you feed it or give it water, you know that the dog won't leave your yard and you'll end up keeping him.  If you don't help the animal, he might die.  What do you do?  Just because I've helped him doesn't mean I'm keeping him.  If I'm around and he shows up again and I can help him, I will, but I also believe that he will end up where he belongs.  I'm not a dog person, and trust me, this dog does not want to end up with me.  I don't hate dogs, not at all, I am just absolutely no good with them.  I realized that at a very young age, and dogs as a species are better off for it.

2. You must lose one of the following:  a foot, a hand, an eye or an ear.  Which would you get rid of and why?  An ear.  It would give me the added bonus of losing about 80% of my body weight.  I might blow away in the wind if I lost one of my ears.  Well, I'd probably just tip over, since I'd be unbalanced.  I have ears that are frequently mistaken for catchers mitts.  In fact, major league baseball has requested that I not attend any games with the intention of sitting in the first fifty rows directly behind home plate.  I have been outside at times, minding my own business, when all of the sudden, BAM!  a baseball smacks into one of my ears.  I never have an idea where it has come from.  I have seen meterologists on television include the weather conditions around my head as part of their regional forecast.  My ears have the country's sole six digit zip code.  If I could manage to wiggle the gigundus flaps on the sides of my head I could eliminate global warming.  And don't think I haven't heard that one about 57 million times...

3. Scalzi of "
By the Way" recently posted about the top unanswered questions in science today.  Click here and scroll down to the list of the top 25 biggest mysteries:  which one would you MOST like to have answered? While I've always wanted to know if there are other beings out there in the universe, I'd have to go with "what are the biological basis of consciousness" because knowing this might give me the insight on what I can expect after I have shifted off this mortal coil.  Well, not all of me.  My ears are far too large to accompany me to the great beyond.  I'm sorry, have I mentioned that my ears are the size of Tahiti?

Joe, our AOL Journals Editor, says blogs are boring:  either everyone talks about pretty much the same topics, or regular people lead dull lives, he suggests.  So what keeps you reading other people's blogs? Interesting, as I was posting my sixth consecutive political entry before this I found myself saying "I bet the people who read you are going to get real tired of this crap quickly."  I read other people's writings because they somehow found a way to capture my interest.  Some have gotten much better, and some have gotten much worse, but I still read pretty much the same ones that I did at the beginning.  I only usually give up on someone if they stop posting.

Lisa:  You are writing a bestseller book.  What kind of book is it (romance, mystery, science fiction, action adventure, historical, gothic, classic, fiction, non fiction, biography, other) ?   What is your main character's first name and the setting in which it will take place?  And give us a one sentence tidbit about the plot ...  It would be non-fiction, about something I know very well, tracing back a few years, and it has a plot of pretty much nothing.  That's all you're going to get out of me.  Maybe one day I'll get around to actually doing it.

Mary:  Jim Elliot once said, "When it comes time to die...make sure all you got to do is die."  What do you have to do or would like to do before you die? Make a list of at least 6 things.  And since you made the list.. will  you actually try to accomplish those things?  I doth hereby proclaim that all will be accomplished before I die:

1. I become a father  2. I witness the Chicago Cubs win the World Series  3. I go to Australia and New Zealand  4. I break 80 on the golf course  5. I live at some point in the Western United States  6. I spoil my grandchildren

Details, details, details

I was faced with a choice this past Tuesday evening: watch W's latest tap dance about Iraq, or go to the library and find a new book.  I chose the walk to the library.  Reading the speech a day or so later, I was pleased to be reminded that I made the right choice.

There's only one reason why Bush gave this speech.  He is rapidly losing the confidence of the American public.  Support for the war is at an all-time low, and even a few Republican members of Congress have started to question the direction we are heading in.  This administration, careful plotters that they are, deemed a strategy to attempt to get public perception out of the gutter.  The first salvo was Karl Rove's ridiculous performance in New York two weeks or so ago, where he stated that all liberals were against military intervention in the wake of 9/11.

It was no accident that Rove was sent out to make those comments.  When your policies and actions are beginning to slip, always undermine your opponents with smears and lies.  That's how elections are won in this country now, remember?

We all know that the President is not fond of talking to the media, so when he has something really important to say, he goes in front of soldiers instead.  Personally, I am disappointed that he chose not to play dress up this time, like he did on the USS Lincoln back in May of 2003.

Reading the speech, I was drawn to the following parts, in which the President tells us how he has managed to screw this all up:

"Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others."

Were those ruthless killers present in Iraq before the US invasion, or did they make their way to Iraq afterwards?  It is documented that the borders of Iraq, especially the one it shares with Syria, are wide open now, because there are not enough forces present to close the borders.  By invading the country, we left it wide open.  Excellent move.  Proceed, please...

"Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." He says it will end in "victory and glory, or misery and humiliation."

Of course Iraq is the central front now.  The US invasion created hundreds, if not thousands of wannabe terrorists.  Until the invasion, the central front was Afghanistan.  You do remember Afghanistan?  And why is Bush quoting OBL?  All he did there was remind me that we can't find that sucker, and that we have lessened the efforts in Afghanistan because we had to press further into Iraq.  When the US invaded Afghanistan in retaliation after 9/11 (a move that I will go to my grave strongly defending, no matter what Karl Rove says), we squashed a refuge for terrorists.  By launching an invasion of Iraq, we essentially hung up a big "Welcome Terrorists" sign in Baghdad, Falluja, etc.

"The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th..."

The third of FIVE references to 9/11 in a twenty minute speech.  Interesting that while Bush peppers us with references to lessons of 9/11, he forgets a lot of them himself.  He forgets how the entire nation supported him, how every single voting member of Congress except for one voted to allow him to use force against the Taliban, and how almost all of the world was aligned with the US in sympathy and support.  He has forgotten all that.  What a shame.  What a crime.  But as I said, he is no idiot.  He knows that his team has done a brilliant job of brain washing a ton of people that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.  If he keeps repeating 9/11, sooner or later the Pavlovians start to drool, and all is well again.

We hear nothing new.  People day every day.  In 2009 Bush will be back chopping wood in Crawford, and US forces will still be in Iraq.  There will be neo-conservative windbags calling for W's face on Mt. Rushmore, and the US will still be in Iraq.  Sean Hannity will have gone through thousands of pairs of knee pads, and the US will still be in Iraq.  Remember way back when, in the olden days of January-February-March 2003, when all we heard was that the US had to invade Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction all over the country, and if we did not go in and get them, they'd be used to kill us?  They are still being looked for.  I am fascinated that there was no mention of this Tuesday.  The President is usually so straight forward with us.

I hope his Daddy is proud of him.  Vengeance is a bitch, but somebody has to do it.