Friday, March 31, 2006

Poor Choice of Words

Only half listening, I heard an NPR story at the top of the hour on Jill Carroll began something like this:

Jill Carroll, the journalist who was kidnapped and held in Iraq for 82 days, will BE HEADED home…

That gave me a fright until I realized that “be” and “headed” were to words in this instance.

Migrant Farm Prisoners

I don’t have a lot to say right now about the immigration discussion that is now going on in the country. I think it’s a good discussion and I can at least understand the many points of view being put forth.

Now, no good discussion remains good once you start getting the input of this country’s most wigged-out conservatives. Take this story, for example:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House conservatives criticized President Bush, accused the
Senate of fouling the air, said prisoners rather than illegal farm workers should pick America's crops and denounced the use of Mexican flags by protesters Thursday in a vehement attack on legislation to liberalize U.S. immigration laws.

"I say let the prisoners pick the fruits," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, one of more than a dozen Republicans who took turns condemning a Senate bill that offers an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants an opportunity for citizenship.
Oh my God. Another simplistic, cartoonish and simple-minded “solution” from the functionally illiterate residents of Wingnutia. When I first heard the “let the prisoners do the work” solution my mind drifted back to the late 1970s when the simpltons demanded we stand up to OPEC and Arabs with “a barrel of oil for a bushel of corn”. Yeah whatever, idiots.

Moving on:
"Anybody that votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet
letter 'A,'" said Rep. Steve King of Iowa, referring to a guest worker provision
in the Senate measure.
Yes, “amnesty” supporters should be braded as the adulterers they are. It’s about time!

And there’s more:
Referring to a wave of demonstrations in recent weeks, Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia said, "I say if you are here illegally and want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico and wave the American flag."
One word: Huh?

I’m still forming my opinion on what the proper course of action should be regarding illegal immigration. Like I said, there is a lot of thoughtful discussion out there and many good points being made by folks of many political stripes. Then we have some of our cognitively-challenged freaks and xenophobes on the right that can’t help but pee in the pool.

Update: As long as being intolerant of other flags is now in vogue, can I join in and ask that those flying Texas flags here go back to Texas and fly Illinois flags, and those displaying Confederate flags in Springfield get those the fuck out of Abe Lincoln’s home town altogether. As long as we’re being intolerant.

Friday Beer Blogging: Final Frontier Edition

Space: exploration, adventure, new worlds and…no beer. Bummer!

But wait, they’re working on it. Who? The beer scientists, of course.

For the tradition of beer and its fizzy cousins to continue as people begin settling space, a few questions must first be answered.

Will fermentation work the same in weightlessness? What happens to carbonation when there's no buoyancy to bring the bubbles to the top? Can space beer form a proper head? Scientists who study the physics of gas-liquid mixtures would love to know!

Two separate space shuttle experiments tackled these questions. Both were engineered and mediated by BioServe Space Technologies, a NASA-sponsored Commercial Space Centre at the University of Colorado at Boulder.


…technology should prove effective for carbonated space beers. Unfortunately it doesn't lend itself to the traditional frosty glass mug! Instead, beverages are dispensed into a special bottle…that screws onto the dispenser. The bottle itself, which contains a collapsible bag, is internally pressurized. The pressure around the bag is slowly released as the beverage enters, maintaining the drink under constant pressure and producing a palatable soda or beer.
Read the whole thing; it's pretty interesting.

The linked-to article also has this picture (and associated caption) of a drop of soda in space:

While not beer, the idea is the same. While smarter people than me work this out, let’s content ourselves knowing that the best beer in the Solar System is brewed right her on Earth. I here they even come from light years away to sample our suds.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Back to the Future

Marie spots and photographs a DeLorean here in Springfield. I actually appreciate those cars more as time goes by. They’re so futuristic and so '80s retro at the same time.

Good catch, phototgal.

I Want You To Want Rockford

Cheap Trick (remember them) have decided to name their new album ‘Rockford’ after their home town of Rockford, Illinois. You have to hand it the boys (old men?), they stuck around Rockford even after making it big. I once saw Rick Nielson in a Japanese restaurant in Rockford while I was living up that way. By golly, that separated me from fame by only one degree.

Too bad they don’t go all the way and make the music about Rockford as well. Here are a few title suggestions free of charge:

Almost Wisconsin

Chicago is Blocking the Sun

Where Has Lynn Martin Gone?

Halfway Between Somewhere and Galena

Sure is Cold!

Better Than F’ing Freeport

The Cradle of Civilization

This is already in heavy rotation on the left side of the blogosphere but as a Civ player I feel obliged to link to it too. Bonus: it’s also pretty funny.

Getting His Head on Straight

This just in from the crack TEH field reporting staff: The Lauterbach Giant's head is now back on his body. You may recall the tire giant lost his head during the March 12 tornado that devastated much of the Wabash commercial district in which Mr. Giant resides. No word on how he’s feeling; perhaps…wait for it…a little TIRED.

Capitol Hijinks

I’m not exactly the most serious guy in the world but sometimes fun and games just seems inappropriate. Reading this SJ-R article I was somewhat taken aback by this:
At one point in the voting process, the legislation attracted 50 or so "yes" votes, Reitz said. But when lawmakers realized the bill would not get the 60 votes required for passage, they decided to pile on the "no" votes, he said.

"It's part of the game," he said.

By sponsoring a bill that garnered at least 100 "no" votes, Reitz earned the dubious distinction of joining the House's so-called "Century Club." He also gained temporary custody of the "Century Club" trophy and cap.
Har, har, har, your stupid piece of legislation got 100 No votes! Loser! Time to give you an atomic wedgie to go along with your Century Club Cap…come here you little lawmaker.

Stuff like that I'm sure encourages risk taking in new legislation.

By the way, the vote was on a measure that would have allowed alcohol to be served at state historic sites. WUIS had a hilarious cut of one legislator (I forget who) sneeringly bemoan how allowing “booooooooooooze” on these state sites would result in people spilling “booooooooooooze” on the marble and carpets and then throwing up in the corner. I guess this dooms the state's college dorms from ever being designated as historic sites.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


If you’re a Springfield area resident, this forecast is bound to make you a little more nervous than it would have just three weeks ago.
Thursday Night: Occasional showers and thunderstorms, mainly before midnight. Some of the storms could be severe, with damaging winds. Low around 53. Breezy, with a south southwest wind between 18 and 21 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%.
Mother nature’s getting a little more respect around these parts lately.

Potty Mouth America

Who are these fuckers bitching that there’s too much damn cussing going on? What the hell? You pricks gotta be shittin’ me. If you don’t like it, screw yourself, assholes.

(that was kinda fun)

Springfield Tornado: 1957 Edition

Russ at Springfield Rewind has the retro-blogging on the other tornado to hit Springfield nearly 50 years ago. The similarities between what happened here in 1957 and this month's tornado are eerie.

Cable Outage Blogging!

OK, I think live blogging just jumped the shark.

Click It Or Stick It II

Yesterday I questioned just how popular the Illinois seatbelt laws are and suggested a repeal effort might have significant support. Someone leaving a comment pointed out that federal highway money is tied to state having seatbelt laws. I vaguely remembered that so I sent the crack TEH research staff out to verify that is true. After an exhausting (for the TEH research staff) 90 second Google search, it was concluded that indeed the state needs seatbelt laws or faces losing federal dollars. This brings a compile of points to my mind:
- Any governor would be an idiot to push for the repeal of the state’s seatbelt law.

- This would have been a perfect way for the Topinka camp to dismiss questions about their candidate's past opposition to seatbelt laws. The fact that this wasn’t invoked seems to confirm Jim Leach’s contention that the JTB campaign fumbled this one badly.
I stand by my contention that seatbelt laws aren’t necessarily that popular in Illinois but given that we have to have them to get our share of the federal highway cash, it’s really a non-issue and should be treated that way by both candidates for governor.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dusting For Prints

I saw the new fingerprint scanners in Jewel the other day and the SJ-R has a story on them here. I’m sorry, but I don’t see the advantage. Sure it’s cool technology but it’s essentially the same as using an ATM card. That is, you present your finger as you would your card and then enter a PIN.

Now, if you are always losing or forgetting your ATM card or something maybe this would be nice since you are unlikely to leave your finger at home. But for most of us I don’t think that’s a problem. It doesn’t prevent your ATM card from being stolen and used at Jewel since you still can use ATM cards there in addition to your fingerprint.

Am I missing something? Anyone excited about this?

Got One!

Finally got a contractor to come out and agree to fix my house. It was tough but calling on a friend of a friend, so to speak, was the way to go in the end.

I’ve been comparing notes with the lady across the street whose house also suffered storm damage March 12 and she came to the same conclusion today. She finally got a friend of her son’s who’s in the roofing biz to put her near the front of the line.

It sucks that it’s come to this but getting things done in shortage situations calls for connections if you want results.

Evans Exits

This AP story is from the online SJ-R breaking news page:
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, an Illinois Democrat who has battled Parkinson's disease for more than a decade, announced Tuesday that he will not run for re-election.


Evans, a former Marine whose district includes a sliver of Sangamon County, was first elected to Congress from his western Illinois district in 1982.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1995. He didn't go public for three years, worried the revelation would stigmatize him. Evans has said he first realized something was wrong with him when he attended a parade and could not wave his left hand.

Two years ago, Evans said his illness "doesn't prevent me from doing my job 365 days a year." He said he still ran twice a week and maintained a hectic congressional schedule.

But Evans has not been able to attend meetings of Congress or cast votes since receiving medical attention Feb. 14, his office has said. Evans was briefly hospitalized and has been at home in Washington, D.C., since then.

Evans ran unopposed in last week's primary so Democratic leaders are going to have to pick a new candidate.

It’s sad but I think he made the right decision. I said as much a couple of weeks ago when I wondered what motivated him to run again.

Click It or Stick It?

I was going to comment yesterday on the dust up in the Illinois governor’s race over, of all things, the state’s mandatory seatbelt law. I held off because I had only heard the story on WUIS and couldn’t easily find anything on the net to link to. I was afraid I might have not understood exactly what I thought I heard. Then later in the day, Jim at AbeLog had this post where he goes into the story in more detail.

Apparently the Topinka campaign didn’t deal very well with the salvo from the Blagojevich camp. A round that seemed to come out of nowhere. I mean, who the hell is still talking about the seatbelt law? That issue was settled more than 20 years ago. Surely there’s something more pressing then that.

For those unfamiliar with this minor flap, the Blagojevich folks came up with the damning evidence that Topinka opposed the seatbelt legislation while the issue was being debated in the mid-1980s. She opposed the plan on the grounds that it was too much government intrusion. Fair enough, many people argued that at the time. Many people feel that way now.

However, in his post, Jim says something that I wonder if it is true:
Many voters may talk a good game about opposing government intrusion, but they
don't really mind it when it comes to keeping themselves and their loved ones safe. The Patriot Act is government intrusion -- and it's overwhelmingly supported. And voters understand that seat belt laws save lives, and they'd never stand for a repeal.
Let’s suppose Topinka were to win the election and immediately set out to repeal the seatbelt law. Would there really be a public outcry? Is it really that popular?

I was doing a talk radio show in the mid ‘80s when this was an issue. In the four years I did that show I don’t think there was a topic that generated more calls than that one. Those calls were mostly in opposition. I mostly took a position in favor of the legislation. For one thing, it finally got me to wear a seatbelt; something I did not do prior to the new law.

I used to love some of the rational behind opposing the law. Often it involved some antidotal story about cousin Millie being involved in a crash where the police officer on the scene told Millie that had she been wearing a seatbelt she would have been killed! Dead, don’t your know! The other one I liked was the theoretical possibility of winding up with your car in the water and not being able to get your seatbelt undone before the water pouring into your vehicle snuffed out your life. Drowned, I tell you!

Oh, and there was that whole intrusive government thing too.

The bottom line is, there was substantial opposition to the seatbelt law then and I think a lot of people wouldn’t mind it gong away now. These people may be in the minority, but they would be very vocal if any repeal movement actually got underway. I also suggest that another large portion of the population simply wouldn’t care much either way. So while I agree it’s very unlikely there will be any politician making the effort to change the law, I don’t think it would be hugely unpopular.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Drug Money

Excellent rant from Ezra on Big Pharma and it's enablers:
…you'd have to be a moron to think centralized bargaining authority will "cripple" Big Pharma's R&D arm. If they cease being in the top three most profitable industries in the country (#1 for over two decades straight!), maybe they can dial back on the advertising and administration spending, which accounts for about 250 percent more of their budget than research and development. Or maybe the government should just step in further, as they already fund 36 percent of all medical research in the country and taxpayer-funded work developed 15 of the 21 most important drugs introduced between 1965 and 1992. Another study, this one from 1990, looked at 32 drugs on the market and concluded 60 percent would've never been developed without public funds.


And by the way, in case you're wondering how some of that R&D works, take a look at the cancer drug Taxol. Discovered by the NIH and licensed to Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, Taxol is sold for $20,000, costs $1,000 to produce, and the NIH gets .5 percent of the royalties. Some deal us taxpayers are getting, some deal.
I have no problem with making a profit on almost anything. When you start getting into healthcare though, I’m a little less generous. To the extent that profits spur innovation, I’m all for it. But it’s clear to me that pharmaceutical industry profits go to the extreme on the backs of the sick and the taxpayers who are often left providing for those who can’t provide for themselves (which are often the sick).

Enough with the commercials every five minutes for the latest boner pill. I would ban advertising of prescription drugs completely. Studies have shown doctors too often bow to the wishes of patients who have seen drug ads, deferring their best judgment to the whims of a wanting consumer of mass media. This is pure manipulation that doesn’t advance the beneficial use of limited healthcare assets. It’s time to squeeze Big Parma a bit to get more for our money.

How to Start a War

I don’t even know what to say. This leaked British government memo about the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq is pretty damning.
The memo also shows that the president [Bush] and the prime minister [Blair]acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
That’s pretty clear evidence the president had every intention of lying his way into war. That is, lying to you and me about a matter of extreme national and international significance. In the end, he stuck to the WMD lie but this memo indicates he was willing to go even higher levels of deception. This man should not be in the White House or near any federal facility other than a penitentiary.

Tornadic Activity

I had a chance this weekend to drive down Wabash between Chatham Road and MacArthur Blvd. The devastation from the tornado two weeks ago is amazing. Blogger Jerome Prophet has lots of good tornado damage pictures from that part of town. My favorite shots are the funny/not-so-funny “Shopping Cart Hell” series found in this post.

Meanwhile, two weeks on, federal disaster money is still hung up.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Feed ‘em Fish

Here’s a fish story I haven’t heard:
SPRINGFIELD -Asian carp clogging Illinois rivers could be used to feed inmates and the starving under a proposal being championed by one state lawmaker.

State Sen. Mike Jacobs called on his fellow lawmakers last week to earmark $750,000 in state funds to market the voracious, non-native species that can grow up to 100 pounds and crowd out other fish.

"At the end of the day, I think this is going to be a way for us to turn a really terrible problem into a really positive solution," he said.

The money, which could be included in the state's next budget plan, would be used to help companies reduce the population of the nuisance fish. Once harvested, the fish could be transformed into plant fertilizer or used to provide a cheap food source for prisoners and the poor worldwide.
Hell, I didn’t even know there was a carp problem. Maybe one of the 10 Blago/JBT debates can focus on this. It would, of course, be moderated by a reporter from Field and Stream.

Update: The Inside Dope has much, much more on this. Let's just say there's a whole lot more to the story, none of it good. Also, Mr. Dope has a similar plan for the state's mole population. I'd like to be the first to harvest the one(s) in my yard for fun and profit.

Freedom From Information Act

For the Iraqi War cheerleaders who complain that there isn't enough "good" news from Iraq being reported, you might want to insist the government actually make that news available if, indeed, it actually exists.The government doesn't make the "good" news easy to find and I suspect that's because not much of it is there to be found.

Update: More here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Timed Out

Here’s a rare sports post from me (and it’s really not even my idea behind it). Kevin Drum has a better plan for basketball:
I have a suggestion for the gods of college basketball: reduce the number of timeouts allowed and don't allow timeouts at all during the final two minutes of the game. The 20 lumbering minutes that it takes to finish the last few minutes of most games is nothing short of excruciating, but in games where both teams have used up their timeouts the final minutes are some of the most exciting in sports.

So: no timeouts in the final two minutes.
Amen, brother. That should be the rule for pro and high school b-ball as well. Lord, how I hate it when timeouts become part of the end game strategy.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Slipping Down the Slope

Paul Waldman traces the insidious history of the redefinition of marriage. Looks what happened since left wing radicals forced interracial marriage down the throats of Family Values America™:
The fact is, we've changed the definition of marriage many times before. At one time in America, marriage was a union between a white man and a white woman. Then the definition was changed to allow blacks to marry, but a black person and a white person couldn't get married, since that fell outside the definition. Later, we changed the definition again to allow interracial marriage. At one time the definition of marriage said that a woman became a man's property. We changed the definition when we decided that no longer accorded with our evolving values.

The Rush Limbaughs of 100 years ago surely would have warned us of the slippery slope of interracial marriage if only they had radios back then. The population would have been better educated about the “interracial agenda” and the impending destruction of the institution of marriage should there be a mixing of races. If we had only known…

Great Scott, He's Gone!

I see Steve Scott has given up blogging, at least for now. When Scott first started his blog, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, despite his great credentials as a broadcast news reporter, his blog never did much for me. In fact, it took me a month to discover he had stopped blogging.

I do, however, like the explanation for his decision to quit:
I always wondered if my blog would eventually become the adult version of a kid's holiday gift: You're really excited about it when you first get it...but then, you start to play with it less and less as new stuff comes along...and, eventually, it ends up on a shelf in the closet, where you only see it while reaching for something else.

Well, that's kind of what happened.
I think anyone who does the blogging thing regularly- and without compensation- understand it can sometimes seem more like a chore. I feel that way sometimes but I know a day or two later I’ll be excited about it again so I hang in there. But burn out is easy and eventually we’ll all hang it up.

Speaking of absentee bloggers, I see Jim Leach is back at it after a nearly two week hiatus from the blogosphere.

Oops, I’m a Statue Again

This is way too weird. I don’t think even pigeons will want to go near this statue.

Friday Beer Blogging: Tornado Edition

I thought it might be nice to do some tornado beer blogging in honor of the tough couple of weeks we’ve had here in Springfield following the March 12 tornados that struck the city. I was going to do it last week but St. Patrick’s Day was more important in terms of beer blogging (tornados may huff and puff but they can’t blow St. Patty’s Day down).

Unfortunately I don’t have a whole lot of tornado beer action to report. You see, the crack TEH Beer Blogging research staff, while dedicated and resourceful, is also basically lethargic and lazy by nature.

Here’s what I do have. First, what I think is a defunct beer from the Great Grains Brewing Company called Texas Tornado. I can't find anything else about this beer or the brewery other than the above link.

However, there is this from the Pony Express Brewing Company of Olathe, Kansas. It’s called Tornado Red Ale.

Pony Express has given up its claim to Tornado and turned it over to Great Plains Brewery (no relation to the above mentioned Great GRAINS Brewing Co.) . Now Tornado Red Ale is brewed by a bunch of farmers:
Great Plain Brewery is part of TransCon Ag. A new generation co-op with Missouri and Kansas farmers making up the co-op. all the ingredients that go into the production of Great Plains products are grown and distributed by the co-op members. Quality is the overriding concern from the first planting through out the production o process. The result is a beer that reflects the Mid American pride of its producers, and when it comes to taste…it shows!
I hope this is the last Tornado edition of Friday Beer Blogging. Let’s all drink to that.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Ten Debates

Blagojevich wants 10 debates with Judy Baar-Topinka? Why on earth would he want that? He’s ahead in the polls and is the incumbent. Neither of those things usually lends one to want to debate. Further, Blago has a ton of money and Topinka not so much. Debates give her free exposure. Ahhhh…maybe that’s it. Perhaps Campaign Blagojevich thinks Judy isn’t as ready for TV as Rod. Politics aside, I do have to admit Blagojevich comes across better on TV (unless it’s the Daily Show) than JBT. Perhaps the Rod Squad thinks they can put the campaign to bed after a poor showing by Judy in the debates.

Illinois politics –not making sense since 1818.

The Windy County

What is it about McLean County and it's wind? Is it "wind rich" like Saudi Arabia is "oil rich"? I ask beacuse a second wind farm is being proposed for the Bloomington area.
NORMAL - A second, large-scale wind farm could be sprouting turbines in McLean County as early as next spring. Chicago-based Invenergy Wind LLC plans to build the $200 million McLean Wind Energy Center, a network of 100 wind turbines scattered across an 8,000-acre swath of the northeast corner of the county.


This project would follow in the footsteps of the High Trail Wind Farm. Construction on that project will begin next month in the Arrowsmith area of western McLean County.

The High Trail farm will be the first wind farm in the county.

It could be one of the largest in the nation, with about 275 wind turbines generating
power for 120,000 homes.

The McLean Wind Energy Center would generate up to 150 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 50,000 typical Illinois homes, said Hach.

Each turbine would be 213 to 330 feet tall.
And please, no jokes about how Springfield could also cash in by setting up wind turbines in the Illinois House and Senate chambers. That just wouldn’t be nice.

Tha Name Game

TEH Exclusive!

Republican Rep. Raymond Poe, concerned by his Democratic challenger’s success in the primary election following a name pronunciation change, has followed suit with a name change of his own. Sam Cahnman rode to victory in the Democratic primary this week after he changed the pronunciation of his name from CON-man to CAN-man. Poe, concerned people will associate him with Po, the smallest and reddest of the Teletubbies, has decided on a pronunciation change too.

From now on Raymond Poe will demand to be referred to as Raymond Tinky-Winky (but still spelled Poe). Tinky-Winky is the largest of the Tubbies and has a focus group pleasing purple hue. Studies have also shown Tinky-Winky to be more of a leader than Po in most Teletubbies episodes.In a related note, Poe (pronounced Tinky-Winky) has announced he will hold a series of fundraising Tubby Toast breakfasts replacing his more familiar pancake events.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It Has Been a Long Time

I previously wondered when Springfield last had an official blizzard. The National Weather Service has the answer here. It occurred over 24 years ago on January 29-31, 1982.

I must say though, this week’s blizzard was a pretty mild in Springfield. I had little trouble getting to work yesterday and by last night, less than 24 hours after the snow started, even the side streets were in good shape. It was a wimpy blizzard.

Dare to Repair

Finally got a call back from a contractor. He said he is getting 150 calls a day since the tornado. I’m thinking I’m not going to get a break in price. Even disasters can translate into good times for some businesses.

The Can-Do Man Can-Does

Wow. I never thought Sangamon County Board member Sam Cahnman would beat Springfield Alderman Chuck Redpath in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Illinois House's 99th District seat. But apparently he has. I guess the name change worked!

Seriously though, I think this is a strange upset. Congrats, Sam. Now how are you planning on unseating Mr. Poe?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Machine Politics

So what did everyone think of the new voting machines? My biggest incentive to vote in today’s Illinois primary was to take the new machines for a spin.

Overcoming my earlier indecision, I wound up taking a Democratic ballot (I actually decided which ballot to take on the drive to the polls). I really wanted to vote against the name-changing Can-Do man. I don’t know much about the guy to be honest but the whole changing of the pronunciation of his name thing just weirded me out. Redpath is a known quantity and Poe will likely crush whoever wins anyway. I also wanted to cast a symbolic vote against Blagojevich. Are you starting to see my usual “vote against” predisposition emerging here?

As for the voting machines, I have mixed feelings. They are definitely cooler than the old punch cards but you know what, every vote I’ve ever cast, no matter where in the state I was living, has been cast on the old punch cards until today.

Most of my negative experiences with the new machine today were born out of unfamiliarity. That said, I do have a few problems with them.

First, it actually takes LONGER to vote with these machines than the old punch cards. I often do not vote for candidates running unopposed. There’s just something too Soviet style in voting for the only candidate on the ballot. There’s nothing nefarious about it, especially in a primary, but it just feels wrong to me casting a ballot when there is no choice. Anyway, the new machines make you revisit any portion of the ballot where you didn’t cast a vote the first time through. I understand the rational but I found it annoying when I skipped over so many sections.

Second, I thought it poorly thought out that inserting the paper ballot covered up the voting instructions. That’s a design flaw that can be corrected. I’m just not sure why it was not fixed before today when everyone was using these machines for the first time.

Finally, it seemed like there were still too many moving parts. You get a paper confirmation ballot that is coded when you are done voting electronically and a key card to insert into the machine when you vote. The guy in front of me forgot to remove his key card and I stood there for some time until he came back for it. A minor inconvenience but certainly one we never saw under the old system.

Those are some minor gripes and I’m sure it will be easier for me next time. I did fumble around a bit because it was all new but that’s OK, it’s a small learning curve and I’ll whip right through it come November.

Cut and Run

The lucky winner of the 2008 presidential election will get an inheritance!
WASHINGTON - President Bush said Tuesday the decision about when to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq will fall to future presidents and Iraqi leaders, suggesting that U.S. involvement will continue at least through 2008.
How cool for Bush. He can make a mess and have someone else clean it up. You’d almost think he was brought up as some spoiled rich kid or something. That’s OK, George, we’ll take care of it. You go retire now like a good little ex-president.

I feel the MF word wanting to cross my lips about now.

The Ch. 20 Snooze

Marie hilariously live blogs the WICS 10:00 pm news.

She also live blogs the Great Blizzard of ’06. My take, tornados make for better live blogging until the electricity goes out.

Operation Misdirection

This is pure speculation on my part but I think the U.S. military in Iraq was just played.

Remember the grand photo-op, I mean air assault, in the Samarra area north of Baghdad dubbed Operation Swarmer. Well, Operation Swarmer was a failure, not a single shot was fired and while some “suspects” were picked up and a few samll arms caches found it was a lot of effort for nothing other than some cool pictures of helicopters.

But get this. Not all that far away, a large formation of Iraqi insurgents stormed a police station and freed some detainees. They were opposed only by Iraqi police:

Baghdad — Insurgents stormed a jail about dawn Tuesday in the Sunni Muslim heartland north of Baghdad, killing at least 17 policemen and a courthouse guard. Authorities said all 33 prisoners in the lockup were freed and 10 attackers were killed in the battle.

As many as 100 insurgent fighters -- armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades -- stormed the judicial compound in Muqdadiyah, about 100 kilometres northeast of the capital. The assault began after the attackers fired a mortar round into the police and court complex, said police Brigadier Ali al-Jabouri.

After torching the police station, the insurgents detonated a string of roadside bombs as they fled, taking the bodies of many of their dead comrades with them, police said.
A formation of 100 insurgents operating in a coordinated effort is a big deal. I’ve not heard of such an organized attack since Mission Accomplished™.

Operation Swarmer was supposedly launched based on some sort of homegrown Iraqi intelligence. Hmmm. Could that bad intel have been planted as a distraction while the real insurgent effort was many miles away? Probably the two had nothing directly to do with each other but it makes for an intriguing conspiracy theory. This is the internet after all.

Sold Out

Is the Just-In-Time inventory concept used in manufacturing now creeping into retail? I think maybe. I have no direct evidence, but I’ve noticed grocery stores seem to run out of items more often than they used to. I’ve noticed the same thing at fast food places.

I think an experience I just had at Circuit City may indicate Just-In-Time is being used there. I was interested in a very inexpensive DVD player they had on display ($24.00 after rebate!) but there were no boxes of the unit on the shelf. When I asked about it, the sales person looked it up on the computer and indicated they had none in stock but that there were five units on a truck headed our way. He gave me the option of reserving one, which I did. I was the second person to do so. It’s entirely possible they could sell out again before any of the units are put on the shelf. Interesting.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Mell of a Hess

Blizzard warning? When's the last time we had one of those?

From the National Weather Serivce tonight:


Oh nice, thundersnows are in the forecast. I've only experienced those once in my life, in Northern Illinois. The result was lots and lots of snow.

To make matters worse for me, the friggin' wind is pulling more and more siding off my house. We're having a hard time even getting someone out to give us an estimate on repairs. All the contractors are busy with bigger jobs I guess. I may not live in Jerome or in other hard hit areas of the city but considering I'm going to have to replace my roof and a lot of siding, the weather is costing me thousands of dollars. And I'll bet you anything, given my location, my storm damage hasn't been figured into the city totals.

Update: Don't forget to go out and vote tomorrow. I hear the Republican and Democratic parties will be providing free dog sled rides to the polls.

Money for Nothing

The reason we have such a huge federal deficient isn’t just because the government spends “too much”. It’s because it spends more than it takes in. And here’s where conservatives talk the talk but can’t even begin to cut the cuts.

They are all for the federal government doing two things: cutting taxes and increasing (or at least not reducing) defense spending. Kevin Drum does the rest of the math:
Discretionary spending in 2005 was roughly $1 trillion. About half of that was for defense and national security... That leaves $500 billion, which funds the entire rest of the federal government.

The federal deficit for 2005 was over $400 billion.

So: if you support the tax cuts, and you don't want to cut defense spending, and you want a balanced budget, you need to slice about $400 billion out of the $500 billion that's left.

These are round numbers, but you get the idea. Cutting a few agricultural subsidies and eliminating Amtrak isn't going to do the trick. Even taking an axe to social welfare programs wouldn't do it. You'd need to eliminate about 80% of the federal government. So…tell us just which 80% he wants to get rid of. The FBI? Prisons? EPA? The federal courts? Housing assistance? Highways? The National Institutes of Health?
This is a peeve I’ve had with conservatives for some time. They say they want to cut spending but aside from extremely minor cuts (PBS, the arts), they really have no idea what to cut. Most of the time they will just tell you that money can be saved by cutting “waste”, whatever that is. Most “welfare” (another generic cutting place) is actually Social Security or Medicare and those programs are funded separately and are currently running surpluses.

The truth of the matter is conservatives don’t have the courage to cut 80% of the non-defense discretionary federal budget. And understandably so. They would be done, politically, overnight. But its a great talking point and helps them win elections. Problem is, they own the federal govenment now and as we can see the cuts still aren't coming, only an ever-ircreasing pile of debt.

The Can-do Con

The latest Illinois Times has an article featuring the two Democrats running for the privilege of taking on Raymond Poe for the 99th district Illinois House seat in November. Chuck Redpath and Sam Cahnman are facing each other in tomorrow’s primary election.

But look at this little tidbit:
Until recently, Cahnman pronounced his name “CON-mun” but changed to “CAN-mun,” he says, because he wants people to think of him as the “can-do candidate.”
Well, isn’t that convenient. I mean CANvenient. When I run for office I’m changing the pronunciation (but not the spelling) of my name to Resolute Strongleader.

Faulty Towers

Driving into Springfield on Veterans Parkway yesterday I looked to the west to see if the tornado had noticeably changed the view from where I was looking. The answer is, no not really, but what struck me was that all the cell phone towers. They were all still there. I guess they build those things to endure. At least one tower, WTAX’s radio tower on the east side, didn’t fare as well:

Why did the WTAX tower fall and not the west side cell towers? I can only assume the reason is the WTAX tower is much older and is of a completely different design. And perhaps because the WTAX tower is older, applying a little Viagra would straighten things right up.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Weather Woes

With the tornados out of the way, surely we can look forward to some nice spring weather tomorrow, the first day of Spring.

What's that? Oh...

Monday Night: Occasional snow with areas of blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. Low around 27. Blustery, with a east northeast wind between 17 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.

Tuesday: Occasional snow with areas of blowing snow, mainly before noon. High around 33. Breezy, with a north northeast wind between 14 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

OK, but after the blizzard things will be just fine. Right?

Saturday, March 18, 2006


I claim franchise infringement. Radio people, sheesh.

Blogging for Fun and Prophet

Jerome Prophet is back blogging again. Not even tornados keep a good blogger down.

Die Young, Stay Pretty

I’m not saying this just to be contrary but I have never thought Marilyn Monroe was particularly attractive. And don’t get me started on her truly annoying voice.

I recognize M.M. is still one of America’s leading sex icons for whatever reason. What a country, semi-ugly girls can be sex kittens too! Truly the Land of Opportunity.

Anyway, I’m watching A&E Biography and it’s on none other than Marilyn Monroe. What struck me is that she was born in 1926. That means, had she been sane enough not to have killed herself, she would be 80 years old now. Yet even I have a hard time thinking of her as possibly ever being that old. There will never be picture of her with a wrinkle or an age spot. Her boobs will never sag. How fortunate for her. She'll be beautiful (to some) forever.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Storm Experiences Blog

Randy of Photos Et Cetera has put together a collaborative blog dedicated to telling the stories of those who experienced Sunday’s tornado. It’s called Storm Experiences. Not much on it yet but feel free to leave your story in the comments or e-mail one of the contributors for a guest posting.


Fresh off Kristi Yamaoka’s 15 minutes of fame comes this piece in the Guardian that is beyond hilarious. Steven Wells, who I’m guessing is British, has a unique and very insightful perspective into cheerleading as part of American culture. Like I said, it is very funny even if you don’t give a shit about cheerleaders. I’d highlight the best parts here but I’d have to paste the entire article.

Governor Topinka to Live Here?

Maybe Judy Baar-Topinka has already been asked this question and I’ve missed it, but if she becomes governor will she live in the governor’s mansion? Based on this quote in the SJ-R today, I think she will:
"Springfield has really come to be a home for me," Topinka said. "When you see this kind of destruction take place, it really has a personal impact on me."
Topinka was referring, of course, to the damage caused by Sunday’s tornado.

As I’ve said before, I don’t really care where the governor lives but Topinka might pick up a few votes in Springfield in the general election if she makes it clear she intents to live here as governor. Of course, that assumes anyone in Springfield would otherwise vote for Blagojevich, which might be a big assumption.

I'm Such aTease

A local blogger is about to get a lot more exposure in another medium. It’s not me and no I’m not going to be in Police Beat…hopefully.

Friday Beer Blogging: Green Beer Edition

‘Tis the season for beer o’ green. With a mug of suds tinted with a touch of food coloring I will soon be seen.

Say isn’t a Miller Lite left in the fridge for a few months naturally this color?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The 183rd Rail Wing

TEH has learned, exclusively, that the facilities soon to be vacated by the 183rd Fighter Wing at Capital Airport will be utilized by a new experimental program financed by jointly by the railroad industry, Halliburton and the Air Force. Do not be frightened if you see this flying over the city:

The new facility, I have learned, will be called Area 66 and will be off limits to the public and its existence will be officially denied.

I just can’t resist stupid, badly Photoshoped pics.


Rich Miller has a post up this morning about Congressman Lane Evans declining health and how it may be affecting is ability to represent his district effectively (he’s missed many House votes of late due to his Parkinson’s disease).

My first thought is not to pass judgment on his fitness for the job; the voter’s in his district can do that. Rather, I wonder about the psychology of wanting to stay with the job given how uncomfortable it must be for him. Is it pride? Stubbornness? Courage, misguided or otherwise? Does Evans think his illness doesn’t impact his effectiveness? Does he feel “irreplaceable” (i.e. best man for the job)? Is he afraid to retire because it would be admitting he’s losing the battle with the disease? I can imagine all of these factors potentially playing a role.

Again, I’m not passing judgment, just curious about the motivation. I think if it were me, and I’m speaking only for me, it would be the not conceding to the disease that would motivate me the most. And that, admittedly, would not necessarily be in the best interest of my constituents.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

One More Salvation

I’ve thought of an addition to this list of things that prevented a bad tornado from being much worse: the trees had no leaves.

Seriously. Had the trees in Springfield had leaves they would have been far more susceptible to the power of the wind since the leaves would have acted like little sails capturing the wind and surely dragging down many, many more tress. These additional falling trees would have cut more power lines, smashed more cars and houses, and maybe killed someone. As it happened, many trees were spared as the wind simply blew through their bare branches.

Civil War

For those who choose (and I emphasize choose) to continue to buy the President’s rosy (i.e. bullshit) picture of things in Iraq, check out this story:
Ordinary Iraqi families getting ready to fight They're stockpiling weapons, food and fuel

Baghdad -- Om Hussein, wrapped in her black abaya, lists the contents of the family's walk-in storage closet: three 175-pound cases of rice, two 33-pound cases of cooking fat, six cases of canned tomatoes, three crates of assorted legumes, a one-month supply of drinking water, frozen chicken livers in the freezer. And in the garage, jerry cans filled with fuel are piled floor to ceiling.

Om Hussein, who was reluctant to give her full name, and her Shiite family are preparing for war. They've stocked up on food. They bought a Kalashnikov rifle and a second car -- so that there is space for all 13 members of their extended family should they need to flee in a hurry.
Or this one:
Shi'ite clerics fear cannot prevent civil war

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Shi'ite religious leaders' restraining influence on militia groups is waning fast and senior clerics fear they are dragging Iraq into civil war, a source close to the clerical authorities said on Wednesday.
Clapping louder and rooting out “traitors” here isn’t going to change a damn thing.

Springfield Bloggers Arise From the Rubble

Just heard from Jerome Prophet. He’s fine. His garage is not. Of course he’s taken “hundreds” of photos.

Also Marie at Disarranging Mine has checked into her blog. She is also garageless in Springfield.

Storm Track

The SJ-R has some good post-tornado coverage this morning. Especially check out the map on page 6. It illustrates the exact path of the tornados (there were two, they say) through the city and where the damage occurred. There’s also a map showing the larger path of the storm from Kansas to Michigan. Very interesting.

Serious Choices

It just occurred to me that the Illinois primary election is less than a week away (March 21). Now I have to choose what ballot to take. As usual, the Republicans have more going on statewide.

On the Dem side, Blagojevich has only nominal opposition in Edwin Eisendrath and there is a contest for State Treasurer (the winner will likely succeed Judy Baar-Topinka who is running a losing campaign for Governor).

The Repubs, of course, have a bunch of candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, most of whom are JPN (Just Plain Nuts).

I’m not worried anymore about having to declare a party by taking one or the other ballot. I figure I’m done working for the state, or any government entity, at least for a while. So, I guess I’ll go ahead and take a Republican ballot and make mischief there.

By the way, you can find who and what are on the ballot in Sangamon County here.

The Ides of March

Hey, well I'm the friendly stranger in the black sedan
Oh won't you hop inside my car
I got pictures, got candy, I am a lovable man
I'd like to take you to the nearest star

I'm your vehicle baby
I'll take you anywhere you wanna go
I'm your vehicle woman
By now I'm sure you know
That I love ya (love you)
I need ya (need you)
I want to, got to have you childGreat God in heaven, you know I love you

- Vehicle, The Ides of March

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Storeless Mall?

Before all of the excitement of Sunday night’s tornado, I was preparing (in my mind, always the first step) a post about how there seems to be a real increase in the amount of vacant storefronts in White Oaks Mall.

I was in White Oaks Sunday afternoon and the large number of shuttered stores and those having going out of business sales really struck me. I know the Mall has had its ups and downs in it’s 29 year history and their have been large chunks of time I’ve not lived in Springfield and been able to visit the mall but I don’t think that I, personally, have ever seen it this empty.

I was really surprised to see Gloria Jean’s had closed. A store next to it is also gone. Sam Goody’s is having a closeout sale and one of its neighbors is history too. At least one other shop is having a close out and there are maybe half a dozen other dark spaces throughout the mall.

What gives? Is rent to high relative to the other strip malls? Has Springfield finally reached retail saturation?

I don’t think the economy is any worse than it’s been and new retail space is opening all the time. So, I’m not sure what’s going on at the mall. If businesses are struggling there, the interruption in commerce in the mall area due to the tornado and its clean-up isn’t going to help anything.

Tornado Postscript

Hey, we made the big time: The Weather Channel actually sent a reporter to Springfield yesterday to cover the tornado and its aftermath. It doesn’t get any better than that.

On the a serious note, the reporter made an observation about how lucky we really were. The fact that we had no fatalities can largely be attributed to these factors:
We had 35 minutes warning – a rarity with tornados.

It occurred in the evening when most people were still awake to hear the warnings

The tornado skimmed the city mostly at tree-top level rather than along the ground.
Absent any one, much less all, of these factors things would have been a lot worse. A lot worse.



WICS had pictures this morning of the Lauterbach Tire Man headless. The tornado ripped it right off and deposited it in a nearby business. The cruelty of nature.

Tire Man before losing his head:

Update: The SJ-R has the gruesome results of the decapitation here (note: the loading time for the SJ-R site is still rather long, so give it time).

Monday, March 13, 2006

It Just Has To Be Said

Governor Rod Blagojevich has declared Sangamon County a disaster area. Does this mean he will come visit it now?

Seriously though, I think this may have been one instance where having the Gov living here would have been an advantage. Normally, I’m a traitor to the community by insisting it mostly doesn’t matter where in the state the governor lives. But had Blago been here last night, I think he might have been able to assess the situation better and called off work for all non-essential State employees earlier. I’m not at all close to that situation but listening to the coverage this morning, I got the sense that there was a lot of unnecessary confusion among State workers as to what the plan was.

Bad News at Home

Today's high winds are ripping the siding off my house. I guess last night weakened it just enough. Lovely.

Storm Damage Pictures

Courtesy of Poor Michael here.

Tornado Blogging: The Next Day

I’ll put up here anything I deem interesting related to the tornado that hit Springfield last night.

WMAY is still broadcasting on all of its FM sister stations (WNNS, WYVR and WQLZ). WUIS is still off the air.

One report indicates that Wal-Mart at Parkway Point lost much of its roof including 3 of 4 car-sized air conditioning units. And apparently they are really lost. No one knows where they are. Check your back yard.

Much of the city is still without power at 8:00 am.

Interstate 72 is still closed both east and west of Springfield.

Update 8:38 am: Some of the worst damage has occurred along the Wabash corridor on the city’s southwest side. It occurs to me that one of the first tornado warnings I remember, some time in the late 1960s, happened when there was a report of a tornado sighted near West Wabash. I remember that vividly. Our family huddled in the hallway of our one-story (no basement) home which was in the path of the alleged twister. Nothing came of that storm but all these years later its odd to me that that’s where one did eventually hit and apparently ran through my old neighborhood.

Update 8:50 am: Hmmm…I’m hearing that the Barrel Head was pretty much wiped out. Too bad that didn’t happen 10 years ago under the old (*cough* Kitty *cough*) management. I imagine the chairs having been blown around and out of place would have greatly disturbed the previous owner.

Update 9:35 am: WMAY has cut loose its sister stations.

Update 10:00 am: The National Weather Serivice is confirming it was a tornado that hit Springfield. Well, duh.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Tornado Blogging: Springfield Edition

A tornado hit the city of Springfield tonight shortly after 8:00 pm. Lots of damage. So far, no reports of casualties. So far.

It missed my neighborhood in the northwest part of the city but we still have roofing shingles all over the place and it destroyed the trampoline in our back yard. The worst damage seems to have occurred in a swathe running west to east in the southern part of the city. Hard hit include the White Oaks Mall area, Jerome and the South Central part of the city.

Update 11:00 pm: Power is still out in much of the city.

Marie at Disarranging Mine was live blogging the tornado event but her posts suddenly stopped at 8:23. I'm assuming that's when the power went out.

It looks like this thing went through the city from a line roughly running from the White Oaks area northeast to the intersection of Dirksen and Clearlake on the east side.

I don’t believe there has ever been anything like this in the city in the 43 years I or members of my family have lived here with the exception of the 1978 ice storm.

Update 11:10 pm: Both WMAY and WICS have pretty good live coverage. I'm assuming other local media outlets are doing as well but I'm watching/listening to these two.

Update 11:15 pm: I've lost blogger Jerome Prophet's cell phone number. Shit. The Village of Jerome was pretty hard hit and I can't even call him. Some friend I am.

Update 11:25 pm: Man, this thing is really starting to sink in. Right after the storm, I went out looking for damage in my section of our neighborhood (I’m a block representative in our neighborhood association). All looked pretty good; a few small braches down, some roofing shingles in yards but that was about it. I felt relieved. My first reaction was to let that be the end of it and assume the rest of the city was OK too. Then I admitted I was kidding myself and began to tune into local radio and TV. My suppressed fears were realized: the city had been struck by a tornado.

I think I already knew this as my family and I were sitting in the basement listening to the house shake rattle and roll overheard for about ten minutes tonight. Looking at all the weather data at the time, I had estimated that it would move slightly to our south. I didn’t realize just how slightly.

While the storm was passing the pressure in our house changed and our basement door shook. We heard a whistling sound from the basement window. I’ve never experienced this before. It turned out we had a window upstairs open a few inches that was allowing the wind (and rain, dammit!) into the house. But even that didn’t explain the intensity of what we were experiencing.

Geez, and there are more storms on the way.

Update 11:46 pm: District 186 schools will be closed tomorrow. I suspect a lot of the city will be shut down tomorrow.

Update 11:55 pm: Jim Leach on WMAY just made a great point: The reason we haven’t had reports of lots of casualties is that people headed the warnings. We did and thank God others in the path of this thing did too. It sucks that so much damage occurred but who gives a shit as long as we get through this without any major injuries or deaths.

Update 12:06 am: I'm heading to bed. Good luck Springfield; we'll pick up the pieces and be even better in the end.

Update 2:00 am: You gotta be shittin’ me. Another warning? I’m out of bed and have the family in the basement again. I think someone is trigger-happy on the warning button. The radar doesn’t look like tornado to me.

Update 2:25 am: Tornado round 2 fizzed. I guess going to work tomorrow is now out of the question.

Update 2:42 am: Back to bed.

Update by dawn'as early light: Not much sleep but I'm going into work anyway. Daylight has revealed no new damage to my place. Much of the rest of the city, particularly in the south sections, appears to be in bad shape. No more updates on this post.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Getting Fixed

I'll be out of blogging range today and probably tomorrow. My wife is taking me to the vet this morning to be fixed. Anyone hoping to someday be impregnated by me is now officially out of luck.

Talk to you, in a much higher voice, later.

Friday Beer Blogging: Palestinian Edition

I had no idea. Apparently there is a Palestinian beer brewed in the West Bank (aka Palestine). It’s called Taybeh. It’s the ONLY Palestinian made beer.

The Taybeh Brewing Company web site has this description:
Taybeh Beer
The Finest in the middle east.
The only Palestinian beer.
Brewed with the only finest selection of ingredents.
Art and Science make a good beer.
What's inside makes Taybeh Beer so special.
Taybeh beer is brewed in the town of Taybeh. I found it fascinating to read the directions to get to the brewery.

Follow signs to Jerusalem, follow signs to Ramallah
After seeing the Jerusalem Airport on your left
Take your first right
The sign should say Mishor Adummim 437
Or follow signs for Maale Mikhmas

Stay on the main road; travel straight (approximately 10 minutes)
After seeing the sign for the Ramallah Bypass
Take a right at the junction
The sign should say Maale Mikhmas 457

Stay on the main road; travel straight follow curvy mountain road (approximately 10 minutes)
At the Israeli checkpoint at the intersection
Take a left to Taybeh, no sign
Taybeh is opposite to the road to Jericho
Ask the soldiers to pass towards Taybeh.

When you enter Taybeh, pass up the Village center
Take your first left at the rotary,
Go straight, the brewery will be one block down on the right
Here’s an interesting aspect to Taybeh Beer. They are rolling out a non-alcoholic version of the beer and calling it Hamas. Marketing genius given the results of the latest Palestinian election.
TAYBEH (AFP) - Like any good entrepreneur, Palestinian beermaker Nadim Khoury knew that adaptation would be key to his brewery's survival under a government led by the Islamists of Hamas

So anticipating the hardliners' rise to power in January's general election, Khoury decided to develop a new product -- a non-alcoholic microbrew brandished with a label that coordinates perfectly with Hamas's trademark color.

"I figured why not have a green label so it will match?" said Khoury, who runs the Taybeh Brewing Company, the only brewery in the Palestinian territories. "All customers will notice the green for the Hamas flag."

The alcohol-free version of Taybeh beer, with a label inscribed only in Arabic and whose name means "delicious," is to be released this summer and will target the "local market," he said.

Non-alcoholic beer is already popular in a number of conservative Gulf Arab countries which officially ban booze sales.
Photo courtesy of Middle East Online.

Yeah, good luck with that. You know, near-beer is not totally devoid of alcohol. Well, I guess you don't have to tell the hardliners.

I hope Taybeh lives long and prospers. I'll be looking for it here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida Investments

The spectacle of financial companies trying to co-opt the “counterculture” is getting cartoonish –literally. Fidelity Investments is currently running a TV ad featuring Iron Butterfly’s classic In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida complete with psychedelic flowering artwork growing on the screen. Give me a personal break.

Fidelity joins Ameriprise which has an ad (that’s on ALL the damn time) featuring a bunch of 50-somethings embarrassing themselves by acting 17 while a Spencer Davis Group tune plays in the background. Oh, sure nothing has changed in 40 years, you’re still able to dance, skateboard and play the electric guitar! All you need now is a financial plan so you have enough money to buy your weed in retirement, man.

I can’t decide if this is pathetic or insulting. I guess it depends on if the target audience, Baby Boomers, is buying. If they are, it’s pathetic. If not, it’s just insulting.

Technically, I’m a Boomer. The so called Baby Boom generation was born between 1946 and 1964. That’s a huge spread and since I come in toward the end of that era, I have little in common with the leading “Woodstock” contingent. Most things attributed to Boomers have nothing to do with my high school class of 1978 much less the class of 1982! Geez, we missed everything by about ten years. I mean, the ‘60s were over before we were even ten. What a rip.

I will say pulling up the rear on this most over-exposed generation has benefited me in as much as I have always been able to see what’s just around the corner for me as I watch my older Boomer peers age. I’m just hoping it doesn’t include being pandered to by financial planning companies and their cheesy commercials. I guess I should be on the look out for Merrill Lynch ads featuring The Clash.

Update: Just as I post this, CNN has this idiotic story up on its web site. The headline reads:
Baby boomers or bums?

Looking to the '60s generation for lessons on how to plan
Then the first paragraph:
(CNN) -- In the 1960s and '70s they burned their bras and draft cards, marched on
Washington, founded Earth Day and vowed never to trust anyone over the age of 30.
It gets worse from there. Sigh

Update II: I just noticed there is a Fedelity ad right next to the above story. In-a-gadda-da-vida honey, don'tcha know that I love you?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Devil Is In The Details

Well, what do you know; just as I predicted the Alabama church burners weren’t “devil worshipers”. Actually, the perps are more insidious than mere “devil worshipers”. They’re bored dumbass white-boy college students! Ahhhhhhh!

The case was broken by indentifying the kind of tires on the get-away vehicle via tire tracks at the crime scene. Does the Southern setting and the case-breaking tire evidence remind anyone else of My Cousin Vinny? OK, the bored dumbass white-boy college students were innocent in that movie, but still.

Kristi: Media Superstar

Cheerleading great and Springfield native Kristi Yamaoka was interviewed on the Today Show this morning. Here’s the video link. Kristi’s SIU cheerleading squad and coach also appear in the segment.

Hat tip to the SJ-R online.

The Java Gene

Bad news for coffee drinkers:

A study of 4,000 coffee drinkers has found that two or more cups each day can increase the risk of heart disease — but only for those with a genetic mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in the body.

In diverse urban areas, the mutation is found in 54% of the population.

People without the mutation can drink as much coffee as they like with no added risk of a heart attack, the scientists said.

Unfortunately, there's no commercial test for the mutation, which now puts coffee die-hards in a bit of a quandary.


People who metabolized caffeine slowly and drank two to three cups of coffee each day had a 32% higher risk of heart attack, according to the study. Those consuming four cups or more had a 64% greater risk.

A single cup of coffee had no effect on heart attack risk, researchers found.

Are we to assume this is true of all caffeinated drinks (amount varying depending on concentration of caffeine)? I personally have been staying away from caffeine for more than 25 years now after being nearly addicted to the stuff in early college. I quit because I felt it was messing with me. Perhaps I have the bad caffeine gene.

In any case, this I believe is rather big news. Unless a way is found to test for this gene, I think we are going to see a lot of people switching to decaf. For those not inclined to quit, the good news is you can almost certainly expect a coffee industry funded study to come out shortly refuting these findings.

Taking Debate

I didn’t see the debate between the Republican candidates for Illinois governor last night but I have seen some of the coverage which, predictably, is devoid of any discussion of the issues that might have come up during the debate. Of course, that criticism is contingent on whether the candidates themselves actually said anything substantive on issues.

I was particularly amused at WICS Ch. 20’as coverage of the debate last night when they went to a segment where they got the reactions to the debate from five DEMOCRATS. Ummm, who the hell cares what a bunch of Democrats has to say about the slate of Republicans who, theoretically, will be voted on by other Republicans? I know, I know, anyone can take a Republican ballot. But wouldn’t it more relevant to hear the opinions of Republicans on how the debate went?

My overall sense is that my prediction of a second Blagojevich term is becoming more and more likely to come true. I don’t see any of these guys catching fire, burns from the political flame war during the primary not withstanding.

The Local War on Bioterrorism

I’m glad to see Ray Cooke has a new position following the merger of the Springfield and Sangamon County health departments. He was a good administrator of the now defunct Springfield Health Department. However, I can’t help but feel the job he’s now been given is, well, made-up. Cooke has been given oversight of something called the Sangamon County Office of Bioterrorism Preparedness. In fact, he is the entire Office of Bioterrorism Preparedness; it’s a one man show.

My question is this: Had Cooke taken a position somewhere else would there still have been an Office of Bioterrorism Preparedness here in Sangamon County?

Another question would be, are there other communities our size with an office dedicated solely to the very specific task of preparing for bioterrorism?

Cooke is an asset to our community and I’ve always thought him to be a great guy in my interactions with him, but I’m wondering if his talents aren’t being wasted on an unnecessary position.

There’s nothing wrong with having contingency plans for terrorism or any other disaster but is the extremely minor threat of bioterrorism here really worth the resources that have now been allocated to it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Taking One For The Team

Talk about a trooper. Did you see this story in the SJ-R about SIU cheerleader and Springfield native Kristi Yamaoka?

Yamaoka fell from the 15-foot apex of a cheerleader pyramid with about four minutes remaining in the Missouri Valley Conference basketball championship game
between SIU and Bradley at the Savvis Center in St Louis.

The crowd of 14,000 people - and a CBS-TV audience - watched in hushed suspense as Yamaoka lay motionless. Finally, Yamaoka waved and made cheer moves with her arms, the only parts of her petite body not strapped to a gurney, in time to the band playing the SIU school song.

“I didn’t realize I got knocked out,” Yamaoka said Monday. “My legs ... I just remember not wanting to move. I thought ‘Don’t touch me. I’m broke.’

“My arms went numb. But I heard the fight song, and as a cheerleader, it’s my job that the crowd is riled up. I’m there to support the team. I didn’t want the ballplayers to get distracted worrying about me. I wanted them to keep moving on.”

Wow. I think I’d be yelling, “You f**kers, you dropped me!” as they wheeled me out. So much for my team spirit. Thankfully, Kristi has a better attitude.

The Southern Illinoisian has a good account too.

Get well, Kristi!

Supplemental Beer Blogging: Beers, Sodas Lose Life in Fire

Randy at Photos Etcetera has a series of photos of the aftermath of a tavern fire. Here’s one pic showing some of the casualties

The horror.

Best Movie Theaters

In keeping with the movie theme generated by Sunday’s Oscars extravaganza, I’m reminded of recently driving past the now shuttered Esquire theater on South McArthur in Springfield and feeling kind of sad that its life is over. Once Spingfield’s best place to see movies it was, in its final years, left to deteriorate having become the “cheap theater” where you could see films for a buck before they left town.

Friday night I saw Walk the Line at the new “cheap theater” – the White Oaks Cinema. It occurred to me that this facility was also once the best place in town to catch a flick. How long before it closes?

All this got me thinking about the migration of the city’s best movie screens. Here’s what I came up with beginning with the Esquire.

Mid 1970’s – The Esquire It, I believe, was Springfield’s first multi-screen facility. I spent countless Saturday Afternoons there as a teen. You could go from one movie to the next without going outside!

Late 1970’s into the 1980s-White Oaks Cinema Even more screens! New theaters opened with the mall in 1977.

1990’s – Parkway Point 8 and Showplace 8 (tie) More and better twin operations.

2003 - Kerasotes ShowPlace West 12 Stadium seating and you can butter your own popcorn!

I’m not sure I can judge the “best” place to see a show before my teen years. In my memory, The Senate, The Fox, The Roxy and the other single screen movie houses of my early youth were all roughly the same, at least from my perspective at the time. I saw my first movie (Mary Poppins) at the Orpheum when I was like 4 but it was torn down a year or so later and I have no real memory of it. I understand it was the place to go back in the day.

Feel free to add to the list if you can.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Obligatory Oscars Post

Since every blogger must, MUST have a post (or 400 if you’re Arianna Huffington) about the Academy Awards, here’s mine.

I didn’t watch the awards show. None of it. I saw only one of the major nominees this year and I saw it only Friday night so it would have been a bit of a waste of time; something like watching a foreign language film without subtitles.

I was kind of hoping Brokeback Mountain would win so wingnut radio and blogs could continue going ape shit over the Hollywood agenda to turn us all gay. But now they’ll have to find some other cultural offense to become exercised about.

I will say the one Oscar nominated file I did see, Walk the Line, is a good film. I’m a sucker for bio-pics (and biographical works in general). Plus I’ve always had a lot of respect for Johnny Cash, both the man and the musician. So, I was predisposed to liking Walk the Line.

I’m one of those people that thinks everyone has a story and if that person also happens to be particularly interesting they have a great story.

One thing I really liked about Walk the Line is it took up the part of Cash’s life I was unfamiliar with. The movie ends in 1968 which is about when I became of Cash in real time. However, I suspect younger people are not aware of the rest of the story and will be left with the image of Cash as the drug-addled musician who couldn’t handle super-stardom. Since the rest of Cash’s career and life were much more level, this is a little unfair.

I have not read any comprehensive biography of Cash but my understanding is that he was a deeply spiritual man. This doesn’t come through at all in the film. This may be because during his early career, the subject of Walk the Line, he wasn’t. I don’t know but I would like to know more about that side of Cash and how reconciled that with the music industry in which he worked. I’d also like to know more about the end of his life. He became strangely relevant again in the 1990s as the aging rebel musician and ended his career with the haunting rendition and video of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”. I guess I’m either going to have to pick up a biography or hope for an equally well-made Walk the Line II.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Stunningly Stupid

This from the If You Don’t Laugh, You Have To Cry Department:
Two Iraqi women whose husbands and children were killed by US troops during the Iraq war have been refused entry into the United States for a speaking tour. The women were invited to the US for peace events surrounding international women’s by the human rights group Global Exchange and the women’s peace group CODEPINK.

In a piece of painful irony, the reason given for the rejection was that the women don’t have enough family in Iraq to prove that they’ll return to the country.
Yeah, that’s all we need; Iraqi women with no family left sneaking into this country to take more jobs from hard working Americans who support the war. They must hate freedom.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Inflate This

Sometimes its fun, or even necessary, to figure out what inflation has done to the price of things over the years. For example, a few years ago when we looked into having someone mow our yard, I had no idea what was a good price to pay. It had been 30 years since I did regular lawn mowing as a kid. Back then, $5 was a decent wage for an average south-side Springfield yard. So, as always when in doubt, I hit the internet.

There are a number of “inflation calculators” to choose from. I use this one because it’s really, really simple. Putting in my $5 from 1974, I found that now translated to about $20. That seems like a lot for having someone mow my lawn but that’s because I used to do it for $5 and that number has stuck with me. But there’s inflation.

The other day I got to wondering from what point have prices double and triple and so on. So I used my inflation calculator to provide an answer. Here’s what I found:

Prices have doubled since 1982. That is, something that cost $10 in 1982 now costs $20. Prices have tripled since 1978, quadrupled since 1974 and are ten times what they were in 1947.

If you really want to get depressed, put your current salary in the inflation calculator and run it against the year you got out of high school or college or whenever you first became aware of relative salaries. It turns out you’re not making as much as you think you are.

Friday Beer Blogging: Beer Car Edition

One for the road!

It’s not good to drink while you’re driving but who says you can’t drive what you’re drinking?

Good – Bud car

Better – Beer can car

More Better – Car O’ Beer

Simply Awesome – Bar Car

Drive safely.