Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bush Goes Out Of His Way To Irritate Me

Shorter SOTU: Fear mongering, blah, blah, blah, terra, terra, terra, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

The strangest moment in the State of the Union to me had to have been Bush’s call for the line item veto. It’s been a while, so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but hasn’t that already been tried? As I recall, the LIV was given to the President during the Clinton administration and then struck down by the Supreme Court. Wikipedia agrees with me:

The President of the United States was briefly granted this power by the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, passed by Congress in order to control "pork barrel spending" that favors a particular region rather than the nation as a whole. The line-item veto was used 82 [1] [2] times by President Bill Clinton before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan decided on February 12, 1998 that unilateral amendment or repeal of only parts of statutes violated the U.S. Constitution. This ruling was subsequently affirmed on June 25, 1998 by a 6-3 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Clinton v. City of New York.

Bush asked for the LIV as if it were some new idea. Weird.

Jim, no longer irritating me, has the SOTU play-by-play.

Update: Tom Tomorrow translates the SOTU into Pirate. Now I get what Bush was trying to say.


One of my favorite blogs, Unfogged, has a new line-up. The collaborative effort lost at least one of its originators (Ogged) this week but has introduced a new crew to keep things lively. I know I’ve said in the past I don’t generally like collaborative blogs, but lately I’ve actually gotten more comfortable with them (the good ones anyway). In fact, many of my favorites now are collaberatives: The Huffington Post Blog, Think Progress and ILLINOIZE to name a few.

Unfogged has a lack of focus, sort of like my blog but with more and better writers. The stream of consciousness posting style is one I can appreciate and get ideas from. I’ll be interested to see how the new bunch does.

Radio Free Drugs

Jim goes out of his way to irritate me.

Beyond Stupid

Oh, get over this drug testing thing people. My God.

Everyone running around “I’m more drug negative than you” is just dumb. You all look silly. For example, this from the SJ-R:
Ward 9 Ald. Tom Selinger said, "I don't have a problem with it. But I think this is being blown out of proportion."

Selinger suggested that the media be included in any drug-testing program.

"I think all reporters, editors and talk-show hosts and everyone talking about this ought to be included," he said.
But what about bloggers!? Shouldn’t we worry about this too? Blogging under the influence might result in something akin to most of my posts. And who wants that?

Maybe we should be subjecting our elected officials to providing credit histories too. I don’t want any deadbeats running the city. It shows lack of fiscal responsibility. I also want IQ tests; we don’t want any dummies running things. I think random lie detector tests are also necessary. No liars allowed. After all, these requests aren’t unreasonable if you have nothing to hide. And I’m quite sure bad debt, low IQs and lying are far more prevalent than drug use among city officials.

Good on any alderman, or member of the media, that resists this nonsense.

Going Postal

I was just thinking the other day the term “going postal” had kind of become outdated since there hadn’t, to my knowledge, been any “postal” shooting incidents in years. Well, today we have someone going horribly postal. I still don’t get it. It can’t be that bad working at the Post Office.


I steal this post in its entirety from Tom Tomorrow:
According to a commenter over at HuffPo, this is Rush Limbaugh’s response to the domestic surveillance scandal: “If you’re doing nothing wrong why would you care?”

That would be the same Rush Limbaugh who’s spent the last two years fighting the release of his medical records to the prosecutors who are investigating his procurement of illegally obtained prescription drugs.
Can you say hypocrite? Or would that be hippo-crit in Rush’s case. (I don’t normally attack based on physical appearance but Rush wouldn’t hold back if the tables were turned.)

Speaking of the HuffPo, in recent weeks both T.T. and Eric Alterman have joined the Huffington parallel blogging universe. It will soon no longer be necessary to go anywhere else.

By the way, the “If you’re doing nothing wrong why would you care?” justification is the hallmark of a fascist. So it surprises me none that Rush would invoke it. Pig.

Monday, January 30, 2006

More Smoking Bans!

In case you are one of the 4 or 5 people in the world who actually enthusiastically followed the smoking ban debate here in Springfield, you will be pleased to know that you can watch the whole thing over again –this time in Bloomington. How lucky the residents of Bloomington-Normal are, they get to see this debate in stereo (in both Bloomington and Normal).

Actually, I’m amazed at the number of people around here who seem so tired of the smoking ban debate that took place here. It’s not like it went on for years and I think there were some important issues at stake that affect almost everyone in the city. Then again, I think the drug-tests-for-all-city-officials flap is a bore; a solution in search of a problem. But that’s me.

3 Step Program

Kevin Drum has a simple three-step solution to global warming:
Step 1: Get rid of the nitwit in the White House who's convinced global warming
can't exist because that would be inconvenient for the Republican Party's funding base. Step 2: Replace him with someone who can read a simple chart. Step 3: Pray.
As Kevin points out, since it's going to take about as much time to apply a cure as we have left before it's too late, we need to get going now. Too bad we have to wait three years to implement Step 1.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Reasons To Be Glad the ‘80s Are Over: Movie Stars No Longer Make Pop Records

Remember the late '80s when there was a brief spate of movie starts coming out with music recordings? Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis and (the one that made me think of this when I –gag- heard his hit She’s like the Wind recently) Patrick Swayze all had hit singles about 20 years ago. But I don’t think I’m aware of any similar ventures into music by screen actors since then. While lots of recording stars have made successful transitions into film in the last 60 or so years, going the other direction doesn’t seemed to have worked out –the above not really being exceptions.

Am I wrong about this? Have there been other actors putting out actual hits before or after the ‘80s? And have I left anyone out of the actors-gone-pop club of that era?

Update: Yes, I'm sort of wrong. See Russ' (who else) comment. It still looks like the trend peaked in the '80s though. And I can't believe I forgot Don Johnson!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Challenger +20

I wrote this a year ago. I have nothing to add.

Friday, January 27, 2006

It All Makes Me Want To Do Drugs

I just did something I hardly ever do. I watched the Ch. 20 news. OK, just the first five minutes but even that’s unusual.

Why? Well, I was mesmerized by this idiotic call to drug testing by the city of Springfield’s elected.

For God’s sake, two lowly unelected assistant states attorneys (state’s attorney, states' attorney?) resigned for some reason (maybe doing drugs??) and suddenly it’s urgent – no, damn necessary – that all officials in Springfield take drug test to prove they are not taking drugs.

Sure there were rumors flying that Mayor Tim Davlin was, what, doing drugs or somehow involved with a recent drug bust or something. I’m not even sure what all the rumors were about. The mayor panicked and took a drug test. I guess he was in a no win situation. Not taking the test would only add fuel to the drug rumors and taking it was I’m sure a bit humiliating for having been forced into it by rumors. Of course, after he was done and the results came back negative, Davlin pretended it was no big deal and suggested it might even be a good idea. Whatever.

Ch. 20 even had Ald. Chuck Redpath calling for all city officials to be tested. Again, whatever.

Is drug abuse really all that rampant among our city officials? Enough that universal drug testing is needed. Oh, oh, I have the answer: NO!

Watching these guys fall all over themselves demanding everyone now be tested was a bit humorous but mostly they looked like idiots.

Friday Beer Blogging: "33" Edition

This is kind of a quick one today as my schedule seems to get exponentially more full every day lately.

Anyway, are there any Rolling Rock beer fans out there? I must admit it's one of my favorite mainstream domestics. I first became aware of Rolling Rock in the late '70swhen it was prominently featured in the film The Deer Hunter. I wasn’t even sure it was a real beer when I first saw the film. Years later I began seeing it around and found it to be a good beer.

Adding to the beer’s mystique is a mystery surrounding something on the back label of the beer: the number 33 in quotes.
What does it mean? Well, Snopes.com of all places takes on this question here. The official line is that it started back in The Depression when a printing error resulted in a batch of bottles with the number erroneously included. But as the Snopes article indicates there are a ton of other theories. You’ll have to make up your own mind: I report you drink.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Insane Wingnuts

Didn’t I read this same story about three years ago:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, says Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is as great a threat today as
German dictator Adolf Hitler was in 1935, and the United States should not wait to help bring about a regime change in Iran.
Only I think it was maybe a lot of other wingnuts and a different “I” country. Oh, and I think I read this somewhere back then too:

When asked about President Bush's top priorities in his remaining three years in office, Gingrich said atop that list should be overthrowing -- peacefully but most likely militarily -- the government of Iran.
Boy, two Hitler’s and two Nazi Germanys in less than four years! How dreadful. Well OK then, let’s find an Army that isn’t busy we can use and get at it.

Newt’s really running for president on the More War ticket?

Money For Nothing

This story about Rep. Ray LaHood distancing himself from lobbyists brought out the cynic in me once again.

It’s easy (or easier) for LaHood to do this since he has a very secure seat. Has he ever had a serious challenge? It seems to me he’s run pretty much unopposed. Politicians with little to no opposition need little to no money to campaign with.

I know, politicians shouldn’t be gobbling up money just to be able to buy more media time. But they do. And when you don’t have to have the money to win, it’s easier to bite the hand that feeds you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Arguments That Bother Me: Healthcare Rights Edition

Wherever there’s a debate on universal healthcare there’s a wingnut that rushes in with the “HEALTHCARE IS NOT A RIGHT!!” argument. Can I just stipulate that, yes Mr. Wingnut, healthcare is not a right. May I also add…So the fuck what?

Traffic lights are not a right. A military is not a right. A universal postal system is not a right. But you know what? Society has agreed these are good things to have even if they aren’t “rights”. Some things are just good ideas. Some things just make the quality of life better for us all even if it isn’t a “right”.

Even if you don't like the idea of universal healthcare, simply declaring it to be "not a right" does not advance your position. So knock it off.

Blogston Legal

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of the ABC TV series Boston Legal. The reasons are many but the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously is one of its more endearing characteristics for me. Often there is a little aside or inside joke not directly related to the story that is clearly out of place but is fun to catch. Last night for instance, at the end of the show, as Alan (James Spader) walks in to join Denny (William Shatner) in their usual show-ending cigar-time wrap-up of the days events, Alan says something like, “I haven’t seen much of you this episode, Denny”, pulling us back to reality and reminding us this is only a TV show. I blogged about another great example here.

But get this: I think I’ve detected on the show a subtle nod blogs, particularly liberal blogs. On an episode right before the show temporarily went away for the holidays last month, there was a reference in a courtroom scene to a judge (I think) named Kevin Drum. The blogger Kevin Drum can be found here. Now, last night’s show was the first new one I’ve seen since the holiday break and I swear there was, again in a courtroom scene, a mention of another big league blog and not in the context of blogging in any way. I’m not sure that’s what I heard and I need to look back at the tape to verify it before I embarrass myself. Anyway, I’m now on the lookout for more references in future shows to confirm, my suspicion.

Speaking of Boston Legal, Michel J. Fox is on the show for a few episodes. It’s good to see him working again. I’ve been wondering for years if Fox was ever going to look older than 19. Last night, watching him, I think I finally saw the older-already Fox. Since we are about the same age it made me feel older too.

Maximizing Danger for Fun and Profit

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for a post on the hyper-exaggerated dangers posed to this country by The Terrorists™. There are so many facets to it, I keep putting it off out of simple laziness. But yesterday Juan Cole came close to at least part of my thesis-in-the-making and says it much better than I could:

On September 11, 2001, the question was whether we had underestimated al-Qaeda. It appeared to be a Muslim version of the radical seventies groups like the
Baader Meinhoff gang or the Japanese Red Army. It was small, only a few hundred
really committed members who had sworn fealty to Bin Laden and would actually
kill themselves in suicide attacks. There were a few thousand close sympathizers, who had passed through the Afghanistan training camps or otherwise been inducted into the world view. But could a small terrorist group commit mayhem on that scale? Might there be something more to it? Was this the beginning of a new political force in the Middle East that could hope to roll in and take over, the way the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan in the 1990s? People asked such questions.

Over four years later, there is no doubt. Al-Qaeda is a small terrorist network that has spawned a few copy-cats and wannabes. Its breakthrough was to recruit some high-powered engineers in Hamburg, which it immediately used up. Most al-Qaeda recruits are marginal people, people like Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid, who would be mere cranks if they hadn't been manipulated into trying something dangerous. Muhammad al-Amir (a.k.a Atta) and Ziad Jarrah were highly competent scientists, who could figure the kinetic energy of a jet plane loaded with fuel. There don't seem to be significant numbers of such people in the organization. They are left mostly with cranks, petty thieves, drug smugglers, bored bank tellers, shopkeepers, and so forth, persons who could pull off a bombing of trains in Madrid or London, but who could not for the life of them do a really big operation.

The Bush administration and the American Right generally has refused to acknowledge what we now know. Al-Qaeda is dangerous. All small terrorist groups can do damage. But it is not an epochal threat to the United States or its allies of the sort the Soviet Union was (and that threat was consistently exaggerated, as well).

None of this is Patriotically Correct but, I’m sorry, 9/11 did not change everything. In fact, I can’t think of a single thing it’s changed in my life. Attacks like those conducted on 9/11 were essentially stopped with one action: sealing cockpit doors. Sure we need to be vigilant against terrorists, foreign and domestic, but we should not scrap the Constitution, be on a perpetual war footing or become so fearful of the terror boogieman that we start behaving irrationally.

Certain political elements in this country find The Terrorists™ a convenient way to retain power through fear but that does not mean we need to buy into their appeals to our base instincts.

I’m sure I’ll have more on this later.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Come Back, Shane!

So Richard Norton Smith is leaving town. His job here is done; the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is complete and thriving. Smith is saddling up his horse, stowing his rifle and moving on to the next town where another adventure of historical proportions [ha, get it, historical] awaits him.

Seriously, it was great to have a man of such talent here to see the ALPLM through its birth. I guess we can take it from here. Thanks, Mr. Smith

Jim has more thoughts here.

Getting Sirius

One of the better gifts I got this Christmas was a Sirius satellite radio. I’ve long since tired of the choices, particularly of music, on local “terrestrial” radio around here. (The exception being WQNA which continues to offer a wide variety of music formats and alternative programming.)

Satellite radio really is the latest wave (pardon the pun) in radio. As FM stole the music from AM, satellite will be taking it, in time, from FM. I saw some industry expert on some cable TV news show recently who predicted music would move to satellite and talk would move to FM. He was a little vague as to what would happen to AM, something about “How-to” programming, what ever that is.

I think that’s about right. Satellite radio is only going to increase in popularity. Sirius has something like 120 channels already. Most are music of various formats but there is also a ton of news, sports and talk available.

One of my favorites on Sirius is an uncensored comedy channel called “Raw Dog”. While it has regular “shows” I like the strings of stand-up comedy bits, usually running about 5 minutes each, from well known and not so well known comics. While listening in my car, I’m a danger as I’m often laughing so hard I can’t see to drive.

Of course there are many, many music channels. They slice music genres pretty thin at times but also have channels that mix it up a bit.

I’m a little disappointed in their “1st Wave” channel that is supposed to have all the New Wave stuff from 20-25 years ago. Sadly, despite how it’s billed, it seems to be mostly the pop, top-40 brand of “New Wave”. You know, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran and even David Bowie (!).

They have a “Jam” channel featuring jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish, a couple of channels playing Alternative and channels for each decade since the 1960s. They’re all good. And, of course, there is much more including an all-Elvis, all-the-time channel.

Oh yeah, they also have Howard Stern but I couldn’t care less other than he draws more subscribers to satellite radio.

The cool thing is that the music channels, for the most part, have no commercials. The news, talk and personality driven channels do but they need to offset the cost of talent somehow. For those who object to paying a subscription fee and having to endure some commercials, I have two words for you: cable TV. It’s the same idea.

Technically, my receiver, pictured above, works pretty well. It picks up the satellite signal and then rebroadcasts it on an FM frequency of your choosing. In my case, I found 89.1 to be clear enough on my car radio. If you have the unit set to rebroadcast on a frequency that already has a local FM station on or near it, you’ll get poor reception and interference. My satellite receiver is detachable from my car so I’m able to use it in other places. Separate home kits are sold.

It’s hard to tell how all this is going to shake out. Will XM and Sirius merge? Will a better service arrive on the scene? Will space junk smash into the Sirius satellite? So I’m going with paying only a year at a time. It’s cheaper than paying monthly but doesn’t commit me to anything too far into the future.

Anyone else happy or sad about their satellite radio experience? Any advantages, cool channels I didn’t mention?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Hazel & Otto

I was playing around again with the excellent public records internet tool called Pretrieve.

This time I thought I would do a search for death records. But whose? Whose death am I specifically unaware of but surely must have occurred. (Sure, I cold have tried looking up someone who I know has died but what’s the point of that; I learn nothing.)

I settled on my former landlords from my days living in Freeport, Illinois in the 1980s. They were an older couple then, in their 80s. I figured it was a safe be that they had now passed on. But who knows, maybe not. I decided to find out.

The schoolhouse apartments. Mine was on the second floor on the left.

My landlords were Hazel and Otto. Otto was a retired farmer who had taken an old schoolhouse, raised the roof and turned the building into four apartments and a place for them to live in the basement. Hazel was his wife.

People think I'm kidding when I say I lived in the middle of a corn field. This pic was taken from my apartment window. The radio sation I worked at is beyond the treeline in the background.

Otto was a quiet man who kept to himself. I’m not sure he said more than 50 words to me in the 3 1/2 years I lived in his building. But he was healthy and still did the maintenance work around the apartments and tended a large garden in the summer (the farmer in him, no doubt).

A reflective Otto looking over his garden. Photo taken from my apartment.

Hazel was vocal and engaging. She was very motherly to her tenants who were, I think by design, all single men (she once told me men were neater). Hazel made it her business to know what was going on in all our lives but not in a pushy/nosey way. It was more in a matronly way. Hazel once knitted me a pair of slippers that I had on so often I wore a hole in one of them. I still have those slippers although I don’t wear them anymore. I can’t throw them out. It was also Hazel who came up to my apartment on day and gave me a block of cheese. She told me the government was giving it away. She wound up with way too much of it and thought I could use it. This turned out to be some of the famous Reagan Cheese. Being a poorly paid radio newsman, I was grateful for the dozens of grilled cheese sandwiches I made out of it.

The schoolhouse sat in a nice little valley.
It can be seen here in the middle of the picture on the right side of the road.

Anyway, I did the search and on Pretrieve and found both Hazel and Otto. Otto died in 1993 at the age of 93. That was about six years after I moved out of the schoolhouse. Hazel made it past 100, passing on in 2001 at the ripe old age of 101. I’m sure she was talking until the end.

It's funny how people touch your life. I took Hazel and Otto for granted at the time. I was just beginning my adult life and they were in the last years of theirs. I didn’t think much about that at the time. I’m glad I knew them. I hate the term “closure” but seeing their death information did add a conclusion to their story in my mind. I would wonder about them from time to time. I’m sorry they're gone.

One more...

The moon rise in the winter of 1984 as seen from my schoolhouse apartment.

Writer's Block

The bad news:
More than half of students at four-year colleges -- and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges -- lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers, a study found.
The worse news:
Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education.
The better news (for me):

Since writing is a big part of my job, I'd probably be working a drive-thru if literacy was any better in this country.

Meet the Racist

Illinois Senator Barack Obama was Tim Russert’s guest on Meet the Press yesterday. Among other things, Russert got Obama to swear on a stack of bibles he will not run for president or vice president in 2008. So that’s settled. For now.

But the real news came when Russert asked Obama about comments Harry Belafonte made about George Bush being a terrorist. It turns out the only other person Russert ever asked about Belafonte’s remarks was…Colin Powell. Gotta keep up with what the brothers are thinkin’, eh Timmy?

Update: James Wolcott has some additional questions Russert should have asked Obama.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

And the Band Played On…

I hate it when I realize I’ve completely forgotten about a totally great song. Tonight I was watching VH-1 Classic’s Alternative program when they played the Love and Rockets cover of The Temptations “Ball of Confusion”. The Love and Rockets version is perfectly awful (and I like Love and Rockets) but it occurred to me I had not heard The Temptations version in maybe 25 years. What a great song. I even went out and, ahem, found it on the internet so I could listen to it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Trivial Pursuit

Did trivia tonight. The wife and I were invited to join a trivia team at the Knights of Columbus hall for the annual fundraiser for the St. Patrick’s Day parade here in Springfield. We did it last year too and had a great time each night. I tell you, I would do this every weekend if I could.

WMAY’s Pamela Furr was the question reader at tonight’s event, filling in for Ch. 20’s Kevilee Douglas who is apparently too pregnant to do trivia. I stopped to talk briefly with Pam and thank her for filling in. I know I’m not always nice to her here (which she reminded me of) but we had a pleasant conversation and it was good to finally meet her. Even if she is wrong 67.8 percent of the time on her show, she still has a lot of guts and I appreciate the fact that she participates in the community.

Our team got only a score of 88 out of 100 and that included using a number of paid-for “Mulligans”. They allowed us to buy up to 10 free answers (Milligans) and we used seven of them. So our score was really 81. I’m not sure I like the Mulligan thing in trivia contests. It seems like cheating much as it is in golf. But since they were available and others were going to use them, so did we.

Actually, our score might have been even lower had it not been for the unintentional giving away of answers. You see, they projected the questions onto a screen from a laptop. In between rounds the laptop projected a Windows folder containing not only the PowerPoint questions, but also some of the graphics used in displaying the answers. A number of the .jpg files were named in such a way that it was obvious to some of us geeks that they were answers to upcoming questions. I think we only picked up one or two answers this way. Still, word to trivia presenters: never underestimate your audience.

Anyway, it was a good time full of friends, food and beer and I hope we're out doing it again soon.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In Defense of Vanilla

For some reason, vanilla, a legitimate and otherwise popular flavor, has come to mean “plain” or even “devoid of characteristics”. This is just wrong. Vanilla is a flavoring as legitimate and unique as any other. So leave it alone and give it the respect it deserves.

Oh, and check this out:
The name came from the Spanish word "vainilla", diminutive form of "vaina" (meaning "sheath"), which is in turn derived from Latin "vagina".
Well OK, depending on who you talk to, that might not speak well for vanilla as a flavor but it's interesting just the same.

Friday Beer Blogging: Beer Goggles Edition

Beer Goggles: Beer goggles is a slang term for a phenomenon in which one's consumption of alcohol makes physically unattractive people appear beautiful. The term is often associated with the awkward experience of waking up the following morning to discover that the person lying next to you is less attractive than you had previously believed (see also coyote ugly).

I’ve been avoiding the subject for months now but it’s time we all stare reality in the face – a face that gets prettier after each beer.

Research has produced a time-elapsed view of the beer goggles' transformation:

And it’s equal opportunity; sexual preference seems not to play a part in susceptibility to the pitfalls of donning beer goggles:

Yikes. Be careful out there.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Educational TV

Hey here’s an idea. A commenter at Eric Alterman’s blog Altercation says,
In an international study of reading literacy conducted in the early 1990s, Finland came in first among both 9- and 14-year-olds. (US 9-year-olds came in second.) One explanation I heard for their strong standing was the fact that Finland has (or at least had at the time) no Finnish-language television; kids learned to read by watching close-captioned television.

Missing White Women: Iraq Edition

The media’s fascination with missing young attractive white women has crossed paths with real news. The Jill Carroll story is everywhere but it wouldn’t be if Carroll were not a MYAWW. For example, did this guy get anywhere near the coverage Carroll has gotten? Of course not.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Smoking Banned

I agree, it is a great day for Springfield. I’ve been very busy today and this is my first chance to blog, but Jim is right; it’s nice to see Springfield get out in front of a progressive issue for once.

I’m amazed at how quickly things have turned about. A year ago, I thought it might be decades before this city saw smoke-free establishments. Then, in the course of just a few months (a blink of an eye in cultural evolution time) we have a comprehensive smoking ban.

The difference was leadership. Leadership from Mayor Davlin and leadership from the alderman. There was enough controversy on this issue that it was probably easier to do nothing, but our city leaders tackled the issue. They debated, sent up proposals and in the end did the right thing.

Congratulations Springfield, it’s a great day.

Damn, Now It's Going to be 10 Years and a Day

I'm not going to live forever, you know. Let's get this thing airborne.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


The Springfield City Council has passed a total smoking ban for restaurants, bars and other indoor public places.

Mayor Davlin took out his silly "ventilation clause".

The ban takes effect September 17, 2006.

From the TEH Health Department

A public service announcement:

There is a terrible “stomach flu” going around Springfield. It's not fun. Ask me how I know.

In addition to my own on-going experience, I’ve talked to several health professionals in the area over the last few weeks and they have all seen a lot of it. It can last 2-3 weeks. For me, one week down and 1-2 to go. Supposedly, all you can do is keep yourself hydrated and ride it out.

Good luck everyone. That is all.

The Jewel of the Grocery Aisle

I never followed up but a few days after I wrote this post about Jewel stores in Springfield promoting and selling I-PASS for the Chicago area tollways, I noticed the Jewel I frequent no longer did. I’m sure it had nothing to do with my post and they may have even discontinued the I-PASS stuff before my post for all I know. Anyway, it’s gone. Thank you, Jewel.

However, the tradition continues. I was in Jewel Saturday night for a quick run when I heard an advertisement for the Shedd Aquarium over the PA system. “The Shedd” is apparently having a display of crabs!

I know the Shedd Aquarium is a tourist destination and most visitors from Springfield likely have made it to “The Shedd” while in Chicago. But this ad was clearly designed for a Chicago area audience which, of course, is annoying to us in Springfield.

How far and wide do the corporate masters at Jewel think the Chicago metro area extends? I’m not among the many Chicago-haters here ( I love Chicago) but I’m not sure it’s good PR to convey to the citizens of Springfield that you think they are part of Chicagoland or that you care so little about knowing the difference.


I’ve been very suspicious of Mayor Tim Davlin’s insistence on including the “ventilation clause” in his proposed smoking ban ordinance scheduled to come before the city council for a vote tonight. It has made no sense from the beginning and leads me to believe there is some strategy behind its inclusion. Is it a poison pill that insures its defeat at the hands the most ardent proponents of a smoking ban? Is it a giant loophole that will effectively neuter the measure? I don’t get it.

This article in the SJ-R this morning makes it clear there is no EPA standard of second-hand smoke indoors or outdoors. So why reference it in the ordinance? As the SJ-R points out, there is little difference between the Mayor’s ordinance and that of Alderman Bruce Storm’s proposed ban except for the silly, unworkable, unenforceable ventilation exemption. Something is up.

My best guess is that Davlin is trying to get out ahead of the issue (which he initially opposed) but needs something – anything – to distinguish his measure from Strom’s. But that’s just a theory. I have no idea what’s going on here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy MLK Day

It's happier if you have the day off. I don't.

Some interesting perspective here: 10 Things Martin Luther King Would have Done about Iraq

Update: Tom Tomorrow on what an interview with MLK on modern right wing radio might sound like:

HANNITY: Welcome to the show, Reverend. You’ve said some pretty outrageous things about the war in Iraq. Do you think America is a force for good in the world or for evil?

KING: Well, Sean, I think it’s more complicated than that–

HANNITY: Good or evil?? Which is it, Dr. King? Good–or EVIL?

KING: Sean, I–

HANNITY: I’m not going to let you change the subject! This is MY show! Now answer the question — is America good or evil?

KING: Sean, you can’t just–

HANNITY (to engineer): Pot him down — cut his mic. With all due respect, Reverend, I’m not going to let you dodge the question. Why won’t you just admit that you hate America? Why don’t you have the decency to admit that you hate this country and everything we stand for?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Price is Really Wrong

Ugh! A few days ago I posted a list of things that cost way more than they should. But I left off what should have been #1 on the list. Fortunately, in the comments Russ reminds me: Razor blade cartridges. You know, they actually lock up packs of those things at the store they’re so valuable. But why do they cost so much?


Oh my God, these wingnuts are afraid of their own fucking shadows. They sit around their campfires, er, computers and tell terrorist horror stories. This is just hilarious.

They really are little scared babies crying for their mommies and all the while blaming their hallucinations (which they continue to believe no matter what the evidence) on those who are a bit more mature and sober.

Sadly, there is no cure. It's so primal.

Night, night little ones. Daddy Bush and Mommy Cheney will scare the monsters away.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Supplemental Beer Blogging: Town Goes Wet

This story on CNN.com via the AP caught my attention. A town in Ohio that had ben dry for 131 years finally lifts the ban on beer. The best part of the story was this photo:
Man, that’s the expression I’d have too if it had been 131 years between beers. I'd probably be willing to pay that much too. I also like this bit from the article:
Westerville's temperance history dates back 131 years, when the town's saloon was blown up during what's known as the "Whiskey Wars."
The long historical arm of terrorism.

The New Iraqi ARVN, I mean Army

Actually, that’s kind of an insult to the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam). Although ARVN units were unreliable in their day I don’t remember ever coming across of an account like this one from Juan Cole involving The New Iraqi Army™:

Despite the hopes being placed by Bush in the new Iraqi army, it is still not reliable. The Washington Post reports that when the US turned over to the Iraqi military a palace complex it had used as a base near Tikrit, the Iraqi soldiers promptly went into an orgy of looting. At the time, the turn-over was hailed as a sign of "progress," Ellen Knickmeyer notes. Actually, as I remember, the ceremony was interrupted by mortar fire that endangered the lives of some of the US brass and of ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
The odd thing is we were told initially that Iraqis were very timid and compliant people due to years of being under Saddam’s brutal boot. They seem pretty daring and independent to me.

And speaking of independent, Kurdistan continues to inch closer to its independence from Iraq. Also from Juan Cole today:

…the already-existing Kurdistan confederacy, which is issuing visas and inviting foreign companies to engage in exploration for petroleum without informing the
central government in Baghdad, took another step toward autonomy on Wednesday. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports [Ar.] that Kurdistan will establish a provincial ministry
of foreign affairs, which is being claimed as a "constitutional right." Usually in federal systems, the states or provinces cede the field of foreign affairs to the central government.
Stuff like this gets no coverage in the mainstream media in this country. Then when things blow up it’s a big surprise to everyone (here). Turkey, which has violently opposed an independent Kurdistan, has to be taking notes and making plans. But again there is no discussion of that in our media. The growing civil war in Iraq could easily go international in the region and all we hear about is how Samuel Alito’s wife got the vapors during her husband’s Senate confirmation hearing.

Friday Beer Blogging: Salute to Beer Waitresses Edition

Oh sure, that may seem like a sexist title for this post. After all, you say, there are many male beer servers. But can any of them do this:

Of course not. So here’s to the women who haul the brew and haul it in quantity. You just can’t learn skills like this.

However, not everyone is as appreciative of the bringer of beer as they should be.

Oh, shame!

Photos courtesy of Beer Drinkers Tribe.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Price is Wrong

Things that cost way more than they should:

1. Laundry detergent
2. Breakfast cereal
3. Printer cartridges
4. Prescription drugs
5. Music CDs
6. Anything associated with a wedding or a funeral

Update: 7. Greeting Cards

With Liberty and Healthcare For All

I heard a rather strange commercial on WMAY this morning. It told the tale of some poor schlub who has a stroke causing him to not be able to work. This causes him to lose his job and insurance. He is then left with piles and piles of medical bills some of which he puts on credit cards that accrue interest and late fees making his debt all the worse. The sponsor of the ad comes to the rescues arranging for up to 60% (!) of the debt to be wiped away. The announcer then says our guy is back on his feet physically and financially thanks to this wonderful company.

First of all, I doubt this wonderful company had much to do with his physical recovery but that’s beside the point.

No, I was stunned at how accepting the tone was of this situation. “Well, of course you could be financially ruined by medical bills, this is the USA! Here’s a Band-Aid solution thanks to the wonders of the free market. Now run along and don’t get hurt.”

Someone suffering a stroke should not be financially devastated by the event. We as a society can take care of each other. Yes, I’m talking about universal healthcare. Listening to that radio ad was almost disturbing. It reinforced in my mind the blind acceptance of such situations by our society. Sure, as long as it isn’t you everything is fine. Too bad about those like the guy in the commercial. Tough luck, I guess.

Virtually every nation above third world status has some variety of universal health coverage. I find it crazy that we don’t have it here. And by the way, if you read up on the subject (which I have) you will find that many nations with universal coverage have lower health costs overall, have greater life expectancies and greater satisfaction with heath services than we have here in the U.S.

We keep inching toward it. We have the poorest of the poor and the elderly covered. Military veterans are looked after (mostly). Initiatives like Governor Blagojevich's to cover all children are nice too but we need to finally go all the way and make sure everyone is covered.

The story in the radio commercial was technically fictional but things like it happen all the time. Here are a few real life examples.

Salad Days

Has anyone else noticed (or cared) that salad bars at restaurants have been in great decline over the last ten years. Recently, I was at Ruby Tuesday in White Oaks Mall and decided to get the salad bar for my meal. They have a good salad bar, the kind that were everywhere 15 or 20 years ago. As the big salad bar declined in the ‘90s, I stopped using them and then pretty much forgot they ever existed. But I was reminded of the days of the awesome salad bar while eating at Ruby Tuesday that night. And I’ve been back.

So what happened? I’m assuming after a brief salad craze in the mid to late 1980s, they just lost popularity with the public. Even fast food places had them at one time. Wendy’s had a decent one. They certainly had to be money makers (when people actually used them). Maybe people got tired of having to do the meal prep themselves. I, for one, like that I can pick and choose what I want. Overall I also think I eat less and healthier when I belly up to the salad bar.

So here’s to an old friend – the salad bar. See you at Ruby Tuesday.

Update: I guess I forgot to ask: are there other really good salad bars in town?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Did He Really Say That?

Tom Tomorrow points us to a stunningly bizarre quote from President Bush today:
You know when I was growin’ up, or other baby boomers here were growin’ up, we felt safe. Because we had these vast oceans that could protect us from harm’s way. September the 11th changed all of that.
You gotta be shittin’ me. I was a kid in the 1960s and I literally had nightmares about a hard rain of nuclear missiles coming down on this country. I figured it was pretty much inevitable, that it was only a matter of time before everything I knew was incinerated in the ultimate act of human madness. It had me very scared and I wasn’t alone by any means. So don’t give me this “we felt safe” bullshit.

Sorry, George, you’ve WAY overplayed your terrorism hand. Nothing a terrorist could do, even IF (a big if) one terrorist nuke somehow went off in the US, it would be nothing – nothing - like what was at stake during the Cold War.


Time for an Intervention

Shorter Jim Leach: I can’t possibly blog with a PlayStation controller permanently affixed to my hands!

Oh sure, he gives three excuses for his recent light-to-no blogging but, like a sandwich, the meat is in the middle. That’s OK, I’d have ten times as many posts (including on weekends!) if I didn’t have a computer game monkey on my back.

Justice DeLayed is Justice Denied

Tom DeLay (R-Kickback Mountain) says he’ll sue! I thought Republicans hated “frivolous lawsuits” and “trail lawyers”. Anyway, Delay now joins Trent Lott (R-Homeless) in running to the courts for help in something that displeases them. And I thought real men didn’t need nanny-state judiciaries to settle disputes.

What’s funny about DeLay’s threatened action is it truly would be frivolous. He’s mad about a negative ad that’s to be run in his congressional district. He’s going to sue any station that airs it. He may have a difficult day in court since there doesn’t even seem to be anything untrue in the ad.

DeLay’s kind of big baby for someone who struts around with the nickname “The Hammer”. May I suggest that be changed to “The Whiner”?

Republican Police Beat: Wednesday Edition

I haven’t done one of these for a while because, well, I don’t have enough time in the day to keep up with the plethora of new (or recently uncovered) criminal activity among Republicans. But this one seemed kind of fun:
SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to update his driver's license after police determined he had been riding his Harley Davidson illegally when he got into a minor accident last weekend.

Police did not cite the governor because they arrived after the accident. Officers referred their findings to the city attorney's office, which will determine whether Schwarzenegger should be cited for an infraction.
Cue Judas PriestBreakin’ the law! Breakin’ the law!

Timely Movies

There is a fake radio commercial version of this too.

Hat tip to Josh Marshall.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Real Lesson of the Sharon Stroke

Ariel Sharon’s stroke and ongoing recovery has shed light on an issue that affects the whole world. IS it peace in out time? A settlement of the Arab/Israeli bloodletting?


The lesson is: healthcare in the world is kind of shitty.

I’m not blaming anyone here but I was struck by two things. One, Sharon was given blood thinners when he shouldn’t have been. The thinners only complicated a condition that likely contributed to his stroke.

The other thing is I heard the doctors at what I assume must be one of Israel’s finest hospitals declare that if the patient had been anyone else, they would have been allowed to die because a stroke like the one Sharon had was hopeless. Of course, now Sharon seems to be recovering.

I also saw a statistic recently that up to 100,000 people die each year in the United States from some sort of bad medical decision or action.

We’re all doomed.

Speed Tax

This is going to hurt me for sure some time in the future but I’ll be damed if I can come up with a good reason against it.

SPRINGFIELD -- The cost of a speeding ticket in Illinois could increase to help pay for replacing old, rusting police cars. State Rep. Shane Cultra has proposed legislation to add a $5 fee for anyone who receives a ticket from the state police and is convicted for speeding.

The money raised would help the state police buy new cars.

You gotta pay to play.


I know, I just made up that word. But I think it’s a convenient term for people whose knowledge and depth of thinking is so shallow they create neat little buzz words and (buzz concepts) for complex, multifaceted people, ideas and events.

For examples, listen any time to right wing talk radio where callers and hosts converse in nothing but buzz words and concepts so simplistic that they are devoid of any true meaning.

One of my favorites right now is The Terrorists. Yes, THE Terrorists. That one, like-minded global group of people bent on terrorizing everyone else. We even have a War on Terror to fight The Terrorists.

It reminds me of THE Communists of yesteryear. All Marxist totalitarian states were Communist and in cahoots with each other. Never mind that the Soviet Union and Communist Red China (China was lucky, it got TWO evil designations: Communist AND Red) were bitter rivals nearly going to war on a few occasions. Communist Vietnam invaded Communist Kampuchea and in retaliation Communist Red China attacked Communist Vietnam, all in 1979. The Communists seemed to be living in a house divided. But they were monolithic and out to get us. All of them. That’s why it was important 55,000 Americans die in Vietnam.

Today, from our simple minded president on down, people conveniently place their need for a mortal enemy at the base of The Terrorists monolith. Of course, The Terrorists never seem to include white (Timothy McVeigh) or Christian (Eric Robert Rudolph) killers who are responsible for the second and third worst terror attacks in the U.S. Too much diversity kills Monolithism.

Simple minds (no, not the ‘80s band) also have a hard time with the quasi-organization of a given group that uses terror as a weapon. They do, however, understand nation states. They’re easily understood in a monolithic sort of way. So, to resolve the cognitive complexities, The Terrorists are given all the attributes of an evil nation bent on territorial acquisition and world domination. Therefore, you get ridiculous notions that The Terrorists want to take over Iraq and make it A Terrorist Nation (remember the Communists and Red Communists). Just as Hitler and Germany acquired Poland, so too shall the Nation of Terror gobble up land until the hoards of The Terrorists hit our shores and eventually take over. Because that’s their goal: to rule the world. Or something easy to understand and dislike.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bloggers Are the New Punks

I guess I was wrong: blogs aren’t the new CBs. Nope. We’re punks!

I knew I had lived through this before, I just had the wrong era.

"Enjoy the blogs while you can. These are the salad days."

This post finally gets Firedoglake into the TEH blogroll.

No Comment

Well, I was wondering why I had had absolutely no comments for several weeks now.  I normally don't get many and that's OK, but still.  Apparently, I had a setting marked whereby I was supposed to be able to moderate comments.  You leave a comment and Blogger sends me an email indicating there is a comment awaiting approval.  Only I never got any of those emails.  

I don’t remember enabling that setting.

I even had one guy a few weeks ago send me an angry email asking why I had deleted his comment.  I assured him I had done no such thing and could not explain why his comment did not appear.  Now I see why.

I've fixed the setting and you’re free to comment away.  Sorry about that.  Now if I could only find where all the comments went.

Better Red Than Dead

Picture from CNN.com taken at the Alito hearings today.

Sadly, his tie clashes with the red tablecloth. But the Alito Ladies sure look snappy.

“The Silkiest Chops”

I was sad to see the passing of Lou Rawls last week but I hadn’t planed on blogging about it. That is, until I read this story and came across this quote:
Sinatra once said that Rawls possessed the "silkiest chops in the singing game."
Heh, that’s pure Sinatra. Although not always the biggest fan, I miss all these guys.

Dirty Laundry Online

Marie at Disarranging Mine has a post up about accessing public records online.

I’d just like to add to this discussion a link to a site, Pretrieve, where you can get public records from around the country, including a number of Illinois counties (Sangamon is NOT one of them, however). It's free to use.

I was able to track a number of court proceedings against my ex-wife who, in another county, continues her life of crime (recent orders of protection against her, small claims judgments, a criminal telephone harassment charge – all the same stuff that I knew her for late in our marriage).

Pretrieve is a little hard to use (I think) but with a little persistence and clicking around, you can find out quite a lot about people living in places that have public records online.

Komputer Kids

Illinois’ Lt. Governor wants to give your kid a computer.
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn wants the state to buy 170,000 laptops, enough to equip every seventh-grader in Illinois.

Under his proposal, called I-Connect, students would keep their laptops through 12th grade. The estimated annual cost of Quinn’s plan is $50 million.

The initiative will help students stay competitive, said Ted Gibbs, a policy adviser to Quinn.


It’s not clear how the state would pay for Quinn’s $50 million program. A draft of Quinn’s plan does not address any source of revenue. Gibbs said parents would bear no cost under Quinn’s plan.

Gibbs also said the plan could entail rolling back commissions that retailers get for collecting sales taxes. Under current law, retailers keep 1.75 percent of sales tax receipts to cover their administrative costs. Quinn wants to cut retailers’ share of tax revenue to 1 percent — thereby generating more money for the state.

Illinois lawmakers are expected to consider Quinn’s proposal during their spring session, which begins Wed­nesday.
The story goes on to identify what I see as the biggest problem with this plan:
Marc Snir, head of the computer science department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said a six-year life span of a laptop is pushing the limits of technology.

“The obvious problem is wear and tear on the computer. Students do not always manage their backpacks with the utmost attention,” Snir said, adding that laptops are “not built to survive. Laptops are not built to survive being dropped on the concrete. Drop a laptop on a hard surface and it’s gone.”
Ummm, yeah, a laptop used regularly by a responsible adult is not likely to last six years. In the hands of kids, well, forget it.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about this idea but I think we must be prepared for some stiff maintenance costs. Laptops are going to have to be fixed or replaced fairly frequently. Can you imagine a student being given , say, a book in seventh grade and expecting it to still be in decent shape by the time that kid graduates high school? No, that book is going to be beat to hell. Now, imagine a laptop, which is infanitly more delicate, holding up over that period of time.

Anyway, Quinn has the right idea but I would be prepared for a higher long-term price tag.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Count the Vote

This is sort of interesting. Not so much because it reinforces my belief that Al Gore actually won Florida in 2000 (he did but…), rather it’s the tidbit that so-called “over vote” ballots, where someone punches a candidates name AND writes in that SAME candidate, are thrown out. It seems very clear what the voter’s intention was. Why shouldn’t it count? Not counting it seems to me to be a bit overly litigious in the matter. I also wonder if we have a similar rule here in Illinois.

Blogs as CBs: Revising and Extending My Remarks

My recent post about the contraction of the local (Springfield) blogosphere got this response from local photoblogger and TEH friend-for-life JeromeProphet.

I just want to be clear, I’m not suggesting blogging is a fad that’s going to disappear completely only to be remembered in 20 years on VH-1’s “I Love the ‘00s” or something. No, blogs are, and will continue to be, a force in the marketplace of ideas and as a source of fun and communication.

What I was suggesting is that (perhaps) the local blog boom has peaked and is now settling down a bit. I understand that the lack of posting by some of the more prolific local bloggers was probably more a holiday season thing than any identifiable trend. For example, Jim Leach was playing video games and JP was reading books (snob).

JP in his post also resurrects the “Are blogs the new CBs” debate. While there are many differences between blogging and the 1970s citizens band radio fad, I still contend there are some things they have in common. The main similarity being, everyone is getting one (CB/Blog) and then many get bored and stop playing with it (CB/Blog). I’m just wondering if we haven’t seen the blogging craze peak, at least locally.

Friday Beer Blogging: Swedish Edition

Bring on the Swedish Beer Team.

Did you know the Swedish word for “blue” is “bla”? And that’s what the Swedish brewers at Pripps call their beer: Bla. Funny thing is, the first time I ever tried beer as a much too youthful a youth, that’s exactly what I said: BLA! Beer is an acquired taste after all.

I went to the Pripps Blue, er - Pripps Bla, web site and found the Swedish beer guys make such varieties as: Pripps Bla, Pripps Bla Light, Pripps Bla Extra Stark (the Swedish word for “strong” is “stark” and Pripps Stark has a 7.2 alcohol content!) and Pripps Sommarspecial.

Pripps also has a whole page (no direct link) on how they make the Bla. One thing I’ve noticed over the last year visiting all these beer makers’ web sites is they love to tell you how they make the beer. I’m not sure most of us really care but they all think we do. I’ll just humor them so they keep making their brew but I’m really not that interested.

By the way, I had help in translating Swedish here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

God Hates Ariel Sharon

Ha, Josh Marshall calls it punitive cardiology but Pat Robertson seriously thinks Sharon is being punished for “dividing God’s land”. What an ass. Hey Pat, what did you do that God made you an idiot, and ugly to boot?

USC (United States of Cowards)

Sorry, this is not America. In all seriousness, "The Terrorists™" have won. Or more precisely, we (the Bush administration and those who let it run amok) have surrendered. What a pathetic, cowardly nation. More on that thought here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Why Broadcasting is Easier

The online SJ-R has a story on how it had to, say it with me, STOP THE PRESSES when the West Virginia coalminers headline suddenly changed overnight. Some papers with the wrong headline still made it out before the new front page could be substituted. A rare “dual edition” for the SJ-R today.

A Nail in the Coughin'

Do they make cough drops that, you know, actually stop coughs? Or is the whole concept bullshit and only a way to sell adults candy in the name of cold and flu relief?

Blog Days

It seems like the local (Springfield) blogoshere has contracted a bit over the last few months and has really taken a dip in overall posting in the last several weeks. Has the blogging fad hit an equilibrium having peaked about six months ago? I think maybe. A number of blogs have gone dark and others have fewer posts.

Sure, the holidays have sapped everyone including bloggers and the things they blog about. Still, it seems there is a blogging malaise setting in around here. Even I feel less motivated lately. I have made it a year but with nearly 1100 posts under my belt I’m increasingly questioning whether I’m having enough fun to justify the effort. Maybe others are feeling the same.

Still Getting it Wrong

OK, it's after 8:00 AM and the online versions of at least two Illinois papers still have the West Virginia miners being found alive.

I was watching the wall-to-wall coverage late last night on the cable news channels of the miners being “found alive”. That was still the story when I went to bed. I was shocked to get up this morning to see that, no, everyone got it wrong – the miners were actually dead (except for one who is in critical condition). OOPS! Geez, whoever let the “their alive” story go on for as long did should be beaten. Apparently the mining company was aware of the false reports for hours and did nothing (at least that’s my initial understanding; I hope that report is also false).

I don’t think the media is blameless either. The cable news outlets in particular were hyping this as a “miracle”. How about a little verification before uncorking the verbal champaign.

RIP Winter?

I was hoping this was going to be the case:
Spring-like temperatures that had some Illinoisans reaching for golf clubs instead of snow shovels as they greeted 2006 will dip later this week, but the worst of winter’s freeze may already be over, weather officials said Tuesday.

Above-normal temperatures are forecast through March, making a repeat of the frigid blast that ushered in December unlikely, said Ed Shimon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln.


Weather officials say the balmy January temperatures have set no records around the state, but on Monday they spawned the sort of storms usually found in the spring.

The warm spell came a month after Illinois’ second-coldest start to December on record, weather officials said. Statewide temperatures were nearly 11 degrees below
normal for the first 20 days of that month, with above-average snowfall that piled up to 16 inches in parts of northern Illinois, according to the Illinois State Water Survey.
I kind of wish this scenario would play out every year. With the distraction of the holidays, it’s easier to ignore the bad weather in December. Honestly, this year the weather didn’t bother me much with all the parties, shopping, Christmas prep, etc. After the first of the year, it’s easier to get through the rest of the winter, with its ever-lengthening days, if it’s mild.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Holidays in the Rearview

Funniest Christmas blogging: We have a winner. Suddenly, I feel so -- normal.

Pee TV

I still don’t get the need for the downtown “vandal” cameras. So what if they capture an image of me peeing where I shouldn’t? What are the cops going to do about it? They don’t know who I am. Are they going to put up wanted posters with my image:

Wanted: Pissing in Public

Is someone who recognizes me then going to call Crime Stoppers for a reward (damn my friends)?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to patrol the area during peak post drinking hours? What good is any of this if you don’t catch the perps?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy Birthday

The Eleventh Hour is one year old today.
I began this blog on January 2, 2005 with this post. According to Blogger, I’ve published 1,071 posts since that one. All that verbiage and I still don’t know anything.

Be sure to have some cake.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2 Reviews in 1 post!

I saw two movies over the holidays and thought I’d pass on my thoughts on them here.

By the way, I just finished watching Ebert and Roeper’s top ten movies of the year and I’m sad to report I did not see any of the films on their lists. Oh, well. To paraphrase John Lennon, life is what happens when you’re busy not sitting in movie theaters.

Anyway, I saw Fun With Dick and Jane on Christmas day. It had a lot of good elements but overall I wouldn’t recommend anyone waste their time with this one. It stars Jim Carrey (who is also one of the producers of the film) and Tea Leoni in an updated remake of the 1977 film of the dame name.

I’m not sure why they remade this film. The original was just OK and this new version really doesn’t come together or bring anything new to the table.

There were a lot of good things about this flick. The soundtrack is great and relevant to what’s happening on the screen. There is a very strange looking scene involving the robbery of a black light lit head shop which is almost worth the price of admission. There is also a big takedown of the Enron’s of the world even thanking Enron and WoldCom et al in the credits at the end.

The story revolves around an upper middle class couple that suddenly find themselves with no income (she quits her job while he is Enroned out of a job). They turn to crime to maintain their lifestyle. Actually, one other good part of the movie is the costumes they use in their robberies (it helps to have the costuming weight of a Hollywood movie behind you).

Despite a lot of good parts, the whole doesn’t result in a good time at the movies. Nice try guys, but this one’s a miss. I think Jim Carry made this film for the sole purpose of being able making out on-screen with Tea Leoni.

On New Years Eve I saw The Family Stone. Now this is a good film.

I was not expecting much when we decided to see this. Based on the trailers, I figured it was just the lasted in the “Meet the Parents” genre.

I’m not sure where this new meet the screwball family genre came from but Hollywood has really been buying into it lately. Even this year’s Wedding Crashers involved a very lengthy “Meet the parents” segment. In fact it was the main part of that movie. My guess is that this genre provides an easy vehicle for gathering a wacky group in one place for fun and hilarity. Or something.

Anyway, The Family Stone turned out to be more than just another Meet the Parents rip-off.

Sarah Jessica Parker plays the serious girlfriend who is taken to spend Christmas with her boyfriend’s family. She has not met them yet so of course the Meet the Parents thing is all set up for us. Parker plays a rally uptight high intensity businessperson with a seemingly very limited range of emotion. She doesn’t along well with the family. Halfway through the movie Parker puts on one of the best ‘drunk chick’ performances I think I’ve ever seen.

Actually, there are tons of good performances in this movie. Diane Keaton, who plays the mother of the family, is excellent. She is the new queen of the ‘mother of the recently grown children’ roles. She comes across as so real in that role. But then so does everyone else in this movie.

Even the house in which most of the film takes place feels real. It‘s warm and lived in and nothing looks like it’s just part of a movie set. I kept thinking, I’d like to live there.

There are lots of very funny moments in this picture but there is also a very serious and sobering thread running through it (involving Keaton’s character) that really pulls the whole story together. There is even a unique and very touching love scene (of sorts) between Keaton and her on-screen husband played by Craig T. Nelson. This movie, on several occasions, goes where few films have gone before.

My only complaint about this film is the quickly evolving relationships between several of the characters. I mean, we’re talking about a 24-hour period, for the most part, in which loves are lost and gained. I know it’s done for the efficiency of the story but it annoyed me a little as a Hollywood trick.

Otherwise, I was both moved by The Family Stone and got some good laughs out of it. I recommend it highly.

Welcome to 2006

I’ll start the new year by agreeing with Jim: it was sad and a bit shocking hearing Dick Clark last night.

I’ll have more later, including a movie review.