Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When Corruption Gets Boring Pt. II

...
I told you (here) this would be the case.
CHICAGO (AP) -- A new poll shows Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich with a 15 percentage point lead over Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka, garnering 44 percent support versus her 29 percent.
Corruption is now officially a political fact of life when it comes to governors in Illinois. Voters have moved on and are looking for other reasons to support candidates since it seems inevitable there is going to be some degree of skirting of (or flat-out breaking) the law involved with running the state.

Happy Halloween

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This is a great tune from years ago. Maybe more fun than scary, but well worth another listen.

The Specials - Ghost Town

Monday, October 30, 2006

St. Louis is Number One

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Yikes
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AP) -- A surge in violence made St. Louis the most dangerous city in the country, leading a trend of violent crimes rising much faster in the Midwest than in the rest of nation, according to an annual list.

The city has long fared poorly in the rankings of the safest and most dangerous American cities compiled by Morgan Quitno Press. Violent crime surged nearly 20 percent in St. Louis from 2004 to last year, when the rate of such crimes rose most dramatically in the Midwest, according to FBI figures released in June.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Not For Hypochondriacs

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Geez, just when you think you’ve read, seen or heard about every possible ailment that can affect the human body, a new one pops up. Read what Dilbert creator Scott Adams has had to endure and how he may have “fixed” his own problem.

Hat tip to Ezra Klein.

Friday Beer Blogging: Foam Edition

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Everyone likes a little head once in a while, so today we take a look at beer foam.

Information contained in this post was gathered from the article by Wolfgang Kunze here.

Foam occurs on dispensing the beer as a result of the formation of CO2 bubbles released by the reduction in pressure. The C02 bubbles collect surface active materials as they rise.

These surface active substances have a low surface tension, this means that within limits they can increase their surface area and also, after the bubbles have risen, they form an elastic skin around the gas bubble.

The greater the amount of dissolved C02 the more foam is formed. But foam formation is not the same as foam stability. Foam is only stable in the presence of these surface active substances.

No stable foam can be formed in a glass of mineral water since there are none of these substances present there. Thus one must always distinguish between foam formation and foam stability. It is the stability which is most important.

Foam begins to collapse as soon as it is formed, but the rate of collapse is very variable. Collapse begins with the bursting and flowing back of the skins of the gas bubbles, as a result of which evaporation processes are encouraged and the foam becomes more solidified in the upper region. This makes it possible to dispense more beer into the glass after a relatively short time (after about a minute) so that the solidified foam is pushed up to form a foam crown above the glass. This cannot be obtained by using a single dispensing process.

The further solidification of the foam can be recognised by the formation of foam rings produced on the wall of the glass each time a drink is taken.

Apart from the technological factors during beer production, foam stability can be affected subsequently.

The greatest negative effect is the foam destroying effect of oils and fats which become applied to the rim of the glass as a result of food consumption and can destroy the foam in a matter of seconds. Use of clean glasses without the slightest film of fat, exchange of empty glasses with fatty rims, and use of clean polishing cloths are only a few of the conditions needed to ensure good foam stability. Even the smallest traces of fat are harmfull.

Insufficient pressure in the delivery pipes of the pub, inadequately cleaned beer pipes and unsuitable dispense tap fittings can also decrease the stability of the foam.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cigarette Prohibition

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Here’s an interesting poll result:
Would you support a federal law making cigarettes illegal in the next five to ten years?

According to a recent nationwide survey of registered voters by Zogby International, 45% of Americans said yes. Among 18-29 year olds, 57% were in favor.
I’m actually kind of surprised the number is so high. It’s also kind of scary. While it’s no secret I hate being around cigarette smoke, I definitely DO NOT favor a total prohibition on cigarettes. Ethan Nadelmann gets it exactly right here.
As the number of smokers drops, the dangerous logic of prohibition becomes ever more tempting. Forty years ago, when half of all men and a third of all women smoked, most non-smokers barely noticed cigarette smoke unless it was particularly thick or right in their face. Now, with barely one in five Americans still smoking, we non-smokers are increasingly intolerant. We think smoking cigarettes is filthy, deadly and offensive. We've become accustomed to bans on smoking - by minors, and in more and more workplaces and public spaces - and on advertising cigarettes. And we hate the corporations that profit off this deadly product.

But it's important not to get carried away with our rhetoric and our bans. Stigmatizing smokers and smoking persuades some to stop and deters others from starting, but demonizing and dehumanizing those who persist is both morally wrong and dangerous. The ever higher taxes and broader bans on cigarettes have played an important role in reducing both the number of smokers and the amount they smoke. Persisting with these policies will no doubt lead to further reductions. But there is a point of declining returns at which the costs of such policies begin to outweigh the benefits.
Read the whole post for the reasons why cigarette prohibition is such a bad idea.

I’m still in awe of how far we have come in curbing smoking and its secondary effects on non-smokers. But any movement can be taken to a dangerous extreme. In time, smoking will be a very isolated problem and reaching that point will have very few unintended consequences unless we act rashly.

Credit, Like Youth, Is Wasted on the Young

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Marie has an unusual but great post on credit cards and college students.

I feel lucky. I got out of college in the early ‘80s just before credit card companies began issuing lines of credit to students. I have a feeling I would have gotten myself into trouble had I been born just a few years later.

I never had much money in college. I survived on grant money, student loans, a bit here and there from my parents, being able to crash (and eat) at my mom’s house during breaks and, of course, I worked the entire time I was in school. Really, my only luxury was being able to afford beer on the weekends. I wouldn’t have even been able to do that had I owned a car (I walked, bummed rides and took public transportation).

With that in mind, I seriously doubt I would have been able to resist credit card solicitations. The temptation to have some extra spending power just would have been too great. I’m not complaining about my life during those years –far from it – I just think I would have tried to make them even better on credit and then been stuck with a mountain of debt going into my first (very low-paying) post college job.

While I never got an invitation from a credit card company back then, I did apply for one particular card a couple of times for a specific reason and knowing full well that I would be rejected. You see, Sears would have credit card application booths set up in their stores and would encourage applications by giving away a cheap gift just for applying. So, I got my first set of tools this way and, later, my first credit rejection letter. But that was fine. I had no expectation of being issued a credit card and I now had myself a free tool set or decanters or whatever. I was happy.

And I wasn’t the only one card-free. None of my college buddies had credit cards unless it was their parents. Yes, there were a few spoiled brats who were given cars by mommy and daddy and then given plastic on to which they could charge their gas. But that was about the extent of it.

Smoking Bits

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A few random thoughts on Springfield’s smoking ban and the issues surrounding it:

My theory on why many drinking establishment proprietors and employees oppose the smoking ban is they are smokers themselves and like to smoke at work. I know of one employee of a downtown bar that says she has not seen any decrease in business but the owner and employees (all smokers) signed a petition anyway requesting the ban be overturned. I suspect it’s because they miss being able to smoke themselves and will say anything to get that privilege back. Working in bars has to be a draw for the truly addicted since most work places already don’t allow smoking.

Rather than patronizing these places prematurely whining that business is down, I suggest we non-smokers do just the opposite. Any bar agitating for a repeal of the ban gets none of my money. Go out of business, good riddance. I used to frequent Break Time and their comedy club but I’m done with them until they drop their opposition to the ban.

A statewide smoking ban is needed to level the playing field. Smokers will return to their usual haunts when they have no alternative. I predict this will become a reality within a year.

This is a public health issue. Second-hand smoke is bad and should not be allowed in public places. Period.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Phone First

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You gotta love stories about really stupid criminals

BLOOMINGTON -- An 18-year-old man walked into the sheriff’s department, asked if he had a warrant for his arrest and bolted when told yes, a sergeant said.

And a friend and a relative of the 18-year-old were pinched on unrelated charges when police caught up with him.

McLean County Sgt. Brent Wick said the man, named Judge D. Harris, came into the lobby of his department with another man, identified himself and asked if he was wanted on a warrant early Tuesday afternoon.

Wick said he told Harris there was a warrant out for his arrest and turned to grab a paper in the case when Harris and the other man ran out the door.

Wick said he wasn’t able to leave the desk and give chase. But officers were dispatched to find Harris.

Harris was found less than 10 blocks away at 910 S. Center St., the home address listed on his warrant, Wick said.
Not only does this guy walk into the police station to inquire about any outstanding warrants on himself, he flees and goes to his own house where I’m sure he thought he’d never be found. Brilliant!

Oh, and hats off to the Pantagraph for working in "pinched". I like it better than "nabbed".

Somebody Has To Do It

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Rich Miller admits he’s insane:
I don’t usually watch network TV, but I force myself to do it around this time of the year so I can watch the political ads.
Yes, and I don’t grill steaks much but I force myself to do it so I can eat the burnt charcoal.

The Big 14 Pharmacy

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Ok, I’ve never really paid attention but Eric Zorn has: CVS pharmacies, bucking industry standards, have carpeted floors.
It does feel comfortable, upscale and homey, I agree. Yet at least at first it's jarring, as cognitively dissonant as a tuxedo on the counterman at the Dunkin' Donuts or disco lighting at the dentists office. I'll adapt, I guess. I always seem to. Will you?
Now that I think about it, I actaully like the CVS carpet better than the standard hard floors found in any other pharmacy or grocery store. It does make the store very quiet. Well, that and the fact there is never anyone in the CVS I frequent.

And am I the only one who can’t help but think of WCVS every time I see a CVS store (see headline above)? I keep expecting to see a pharmacist there with "Crazy Bob" on his name tag. I grew up with the old WCVS-AM top forty radio station so I’m probably just showing my age. Still, a buddy of mine and I do actively refer to the chain as WCVS pharmacy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

That Other Springfield

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I don’t know why, but this is funny to me.
Hard on the heels of the Cheap Trick album entitled “Rockford,” pop singer Rick Springfield is out today with a DVD called “Live in Rockford,” which captures in video images as well as sound the excitement of Springfield’s concert at the Coronado Theatre in February 2005.
Oh wait, Rick Springfield releasing a new DVD, that’s what’s funny. No better place to showcase your talents than Rockford, IL I always say.

What a Card

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I just don’t see Barack Obama as a card player but I guess he is (or was)...
SPRINGFIELD -- U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to consider a run for president isn’t surprising to his old poker buddies. The Democratic senator from Illinois was described Monday as a “conservative” card player who kept his hand close to his vest.

“He wasn’t going to declare his hand until he had his cards and had a chance of winning,” said Denny Jacobs of East Moline, who served with Obama when the two were members of the Illinois State Senate. “He usually kicked my butt.”

Jacobs, a Democrat, speculated that Obama arrived at his presidential decision — announced Sunday — after assessing that he had the right combination of cards to win the jackpot.

“If he played his hand, he usually had a winner,” Jacobs said. “That’s what I learned about the other side of Barack Obama.”

Obama, who served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 until he left for Washington D.C. in 2004, said Sunday he was abandoning his earlier vow to serve out his six-year
term.

[snip]

State Sen. Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican, said a group of senators from both sides of the partisan aisle would often meet on Wednesday nights after a day of doing business in Springfield.

Seated around a card table at a lobbyist’s office in downtown Springfield, the lawmakers would lay bets that would allow a winner to walk away with $100 in winnings on a good night.

Brady said Obama’s card-playing style didn’t match his more liberal voting record.

“He was very conservative at the card table,” agreed Brady.
He may be a superstar on the national stage now, but this story reminds us B.O. (ew, that's not good) used to be a mere mortal who did ordinary things.

And by the way...Obama spent a lot of time in Springfield (I assume) while in the Illinois Senate. Did he have a favorite place to eat here? Where did he stay? Does anyone remember seeing him around town? Anyone deliver a pizza to him? Or was he so fucking bored here all he did was play cards and count the days until he could leave again? Now that Obamarama is in full swing nationwide, I just wonder what his Springfield experience was like.

S.O.S. (Save Our Smokers)

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OK, I’ve completely changed my mind; there should be NO smoking ban. I mean who can argue with this:
He said the restaurant organization wants bar areas to be exempt from any smoking ban. Likewise, representatives of the Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association said bowling alleys should be allowed to have separate smoker's lounges.

Otherwise, association member Bob Stubler said, patrons may try to sneak outside to smoke while wearing their bowling shoes and slip in inclement weather - creating insurance liabilities for business owners.
Well, that certainly is a compelling argument. And let’s not stop at bowling shoes. Many patrons of non-smoking establishments are bound to be hit by cars that jump the curb while standing outside smoking. Also, there will certainly be an increase in pneumonia among those outdoor puffers who fail to wear a jacket in the cold. I foresee wholesale slaughter as those smoking outside are hit by falling ice and speeding bicyclists, bitten by loose dogs and vaporized by wayward meteorites. Oh the humanity!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Smartest Man in the World

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First we had “The Internets”, now “The Google”.
HOST: I’m curious, have you ever googled anybody? Do you use Google?

BUSH: Occasionally. One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see — I’ve forgot the name of the program — but you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It remind me of where I wanna be sometimes.
You know who I’m talkin’ about.

Hat tip to Think Progress.

Bushcronium

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Time for some science:
New Element on Periodic Table

A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the densest element yet known to science. The new element has been named "Bushcronium." Bushcronium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 311. These particles are held together by dark forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. The symbol for Bushcronium is "W". Bushcronium's mass actually increases over time, as morons randomly interact with various elements in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy neutrons in a Bushcronium molecule, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe that Bushcronium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass". When catalyzed with money, Bushcronium activates Foxnewsium, an element that radiates orders of magnitude more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has 1/2 as many peons but twice as many morons.
Hat tip to Eric Alterman.

The Obamachrist

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Well, there goes that. Apparently Barack Obama ISN’T The Beatles. No, he is LITERALLY the Anitichrist. Damn, and my Antichrist-dar is usually pretty good.

Barack Star

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Rich Miller makes a good case for Barack Obama being not just any political rock star, but nothing less than The Beatles of presidential hopefuls. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The pundits love you, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Aging Embarrassingly

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Thanks Ameriprise. It’s bad enough that I really don’t feel like a Baby Boomer even though I’m lumped in with them anyway (I come in at the tail end of the Boomer era). But thanks to you, boomers are being mocked even more. Can I just become an honorary member of Gen X or is that even worse?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Payback is a Bitch

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Ray LaHood is an asshole.

This week, on the request of Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) suspended a Democratic staffer’s access to classified information. Hoekstra said the suspension would remain in place pending a review to determine if that staffer leaked a classified National Intelligence Estimate to the New York Times.

Today on Fox News, LaHood said, “I’ll tell you why I did it. The reason I did it was because Jane Harman released the Duke Cunningham — who sat on our Intelligence committee — report.” That report, which detailed the misconduct of Cunningham, who is now serving a jail term, was not classified.

A Fox anchor asked, “So, it’s payback?” LaHood responded, “There are some of us on the other side who can equally play politics, and I’m not afraid to do it.”

Remember, LaHood is not running unopposed. Steve Waterworth will make a fine replacement.

Enjoy It While You Can

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Cheaper gasoline may be here for a while.

On the face of it, OPEC’s decision to take 1.2 million barrels per day offline would seem like bad news for Americans enjoying today’s less exorbitant gas prices. Less supply equals higher prices. Right?

Well the economics are neither as simple or intuitive as that. I interviewed oil economist Jim Williams of WTRG Economics and he made the case that by adding spare crude back into an oil market that’s been stretched to nearly maximum capacity, OPEC’s move may actually help lower gas prices.

[snip]

Add spare capacity to the system as OPEC is doing, and yes supply goes down, but so does the security premium. “With this much spare capacity,” says Williams, “Nigeria can blow up and we can cover it. A big chunk of the risk premium goes away” — and crude prices may start to settle back toward a figure governed by market fundamentals rather than jitters.

If this keeps up, says Williams, we may all be enjoying sub $2-a-gallon gas by next summer.

That’s good economic news, I guess. It seems to me it also just pushes the inevitable down the road a bit. It also discourages conservation necessary to slow global warming. But you should have more money in your pocket after filling up. Enjoy it while you can but don’t lose site of the long-term problems.

Christopher Glenn

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I’m shocked and saddened to see Christopher Glenn has died.
Christopher Glenn, a longtime CBS News correspondent whose soothing, authoritative baritone voice became familiar to millions as he read the news to adults, explained it to children and often reported it himself, died on Tuesday
in Norwalk, Conn. He was 68. The cause was liver cancer, CBS said.

For 35 years of his 45-year broadcasting career, Mr. Glenn worked in many positions for CBS News on radio and television. One was narrator of “In the News,” a long-running television news program geared to children and youths. At the end of his career, he was successively the anchor for the radio newscasts “The World Tonight” and “CBS World News Roundup.”
You may not know the name but I’ll just bet you know the voice (this CBS story on his death has links to some of his work).

Glenn was one of my first broadcasting heroes for his Saturday morning “In the News” segments. I think I have to credit those kid-friendly segments as generating my first interest in news and current events.

Later, when I was working as a news reader and reporter at a CBS radio affiliate, my local news would often lead into or followed Glenn’s network newscasts. It felt kind of cool to be on some of the same airwaves with the great Christopher Glenn.

And, once again, as we pour billions and billions down an Iraqi rat hole, cancer continues to be the real terrorist threat among us. Now it’s taken another great one.

Friday Beer Blogging: Cardinals Edition

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On the occasion of the St. Louis Cardinals capturing the National League pennant, I present Cardinals Beer Blogging.



NO! Not THAT kind of cardinal (who later became Pope), the baseball Cardinals. You know, the team immortalized in this beer stein.


There even used to be a Cardinal Beer brewed in St. Louis.


And another one from some foreign land.



Congratulations St. Louis Cardinals! But remember, the Cubs are going to do it…as always…next year.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mulling a Run

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So he is thinking about it now...
WASHINGTON -- While Sen. Barack Obama launches the most public of book tours, with appearances on "Oprah Winfrey," the "Today" show, "Larry King Live" and "Meet the Press," he also is more intensively examining whether to run for president in 2008, reaching out to Democratic operatives and trying to reconcile the demands of a national campaign on his family.

Obama (D-Ill.) has been having quiet conversations with colleagues and friends about a prospective White House run, but a key concern is whether his wife, Michelle, would support it and whether he could manage the time away from their two young daughters.

Slacking

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Ain’t got much of nuthin’ today. Except this:

Bananas and tea don’t go well together. I’m not sure why.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Excuse Me But...

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Pssssst! How do I tell the nice old lady across the street she has a political sign in her front yard for an out of district candidate? She has a Phil Hare for congress sign in her yard. Hare is running in the 17th Congressional District. We live in the 18th. Damn, this is bothering me.

Obama vs. Bush

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Compare and contrast:
In 2000, Bush offered a political reconciliation: Elect me and the bitter partisanship will come to an end. "I don't have enemies to fight," he said at his 2000 convention, "and I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect."

That was a promise that today no one could plausibly claim Bush meant in the first place, but it was just what many Americans wanted to hear. In a similar way--and sincerely, it appears--Obama is offering a national reconciliation. Bush made an argument about who he was--upstanding, moderate, uninterested in partisan sniping. Obama makes an argument about who we are, in the hopes that we can get beyond what divides us even though we disagree, and move to a new era of comity, perhaps not in Washington but in our own lives. Whether a politician can accomplish such a thing is not particularly relevant; the question is how much people want to believe what he says.
And Obama’s a rock star while Bush is Iraq stuck.

Class Act

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Eric Zorn has a great column today on high school class reunions. While I’ve only bothered to go to one of mine (the 10th) I think there can be some real value in them.

Zorn also has a good line that is applicable beyond class reunions:
At a certain point in your life, you know that you can always make friends, but you can never make old friends.
I think I’ve always known that. Keeping in touch with your past is to keep in touch with yourself. And a large part of your past involves the people who were with you in that past.

By the way, best class reunion movie ever: Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

Never Too Old To Rock ’n’ Roll

...
Happy 80th birthday to Chuck Berry.
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AP) -- As he turns 80 Wednesday, Chuck Berry could leave the hard work of great music to younger souls, and rest comfortably as the rock 'n' roll legend who first made his mark in the 1950s.

But Berry, the duck-walking, guitar-playing rock genius who defined the music's joy and rebellion in such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven," has plenty left to say and play.

He still performs regularly at an intimate nightclub here, his hometown, as well as venues from Las Vegas to London, saying "these shows keep me alive."

Early next year, he'll release a CD of new material, his first commercial release in more than 20 years.

Clip Art II

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Just to be clear, I was being all sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, ironic or whatever in my last post. A few of the comments make me think that wasn’t coming through. I know the girl in the picture isn’t really a Sangamon County employee (hint: look at the title of the post). It was a joke.

I find “clip art” people used in marketing sort of amusing. It says, “no one working here (or using our product) is good looking enough to be used in our marketing materials.”

A few years ago, I was involved with the development of a marketing brochure for my employer. Someone incorporated a bunch of “clip art“ people on the cover. These faces became rather familiar as I worked on the project. Soon I and some coworkers began noticing one of them –the exact same picture- appearing in other places for other companies. It became a running joke about who else this generic (but attractive!) woman was representing. So I think ever since that experience I tend to notice and laugh at the phony images used in things like the Sangamon County website.

Now the question is, have I just over-explained the punch line of a joke?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Clip Art

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Gee, do you suppose this woman really works for Sangamon County? She must, right, because she’s on the County’s web site offering assistance.

I have a single friend who works in the County Building who would probably think she‘s cute. I wonder if he’s met Miss Assistance yet. I better call him and tell him to be on the look out for her.

Fantasy League for Political Wonks

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Fantasy Congress

I’m trying to resist.

Update: And who is going to come up with the Illinois version of this league? You have a ready-made pool of players here.

I See Music

...
I watched the Ray Charles biopic Ray the other night. It’s basically a good film with an incredible performance by Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles but…I was kind of bored. Not that Ray Charles isn’t interesting or the music not great, it’s just, well, this is the same story I’ve seen over and over again in flicks about great musicians.

A year ago I saw Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash story. It was the same basic movie: poor boy learns to make music, works hard, gets a break, finds a good woman, gets famous, gets addicted to drugs, finds other women, becomes a mega-star, life starts falling apart, gets cleaned up and the movie ends. Oh yeah, and there are lots of tunes.

This is no accident of course; there is a predictable path many musicians, and other stars in our society, take. It’s sad but very familiar. Since the story is always basically the same, these movies make it on the presentation of the music, something done well in both Ray and Walk the Line but done poorly in other similar films like The Doors.

I suspect we will be seeing even more of these movies as many of the legends of the last half of the twentieth century die off. In the end they aren’t about the people, but about the music.

Lots of People

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It’s hard to believe that in my lifetime the population of the U.S. has gone up more than 50 percent. There are now 300 million of us here. That number was just 200 million in 1967, the year I turned seven.

Does the 300 millionth person get some sort of door prize? A book deal? Appearances on late night TV talk shows?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Quotable

...
White House spokesman Tony Snow when asked today if we are winning in Iraq:

“We’re making progress. I don’t know. How do you define winning?”

Ummmmm, that’s exactly the question the nation has been asking you guys, Mr. Snow. We kinda hoped you could tell us.

The Shot Barely Detected Around the World

...
Apparently North Korea DID test an atomic bomb but it looks like not all went well during that test.
U.S. intelligence confirmed today that North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Oct. 9, saying that "radioactive debris" was detected in air samples from a relatively small atomic blast.

[snip]

There was no immediate official explanation for the relatively small size of the nuclear blast, which was many times smaller than the explosions from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II.
Maybe they just kind of suck at bomb building like they suck at most things. This is certainly the worst showing of any nation just entering the nuclear club.

Meanwhile, sanctions are going into effect against NK. The most devastating may be the embargo on luxury goods of which leader Kim Jong Il is so fond.

The Great Range

...
This seems a little excessive. The Coast Guard is going to be using live ammunition in regular training exercises on the Great Lakes. But look at how many areas (in red) they have designated for this.

Can’t the CG use one centralized facility for this type of training? This isn’t going to be popular. Sorry 9/11 didn’t change everything.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

Verbal Abuse

...
The U.S. Air Force has found no evidence of any radiation over the site of the alleged North Korean nuke test. What does that mean? Well...
"lack of confirmation is not proof of a non-event."
That's a phrase I'm sure will catch on big-time. Truely words to live by.

Friday Emu Blogging

...
The emu menace is moving north. You may recall this incident last spring in Southern Illinois involving a rogue emu. Well, now the Metro East area is dealing with the defiant birds.
GRANITE CITY — Packing 100 pounds on its 5-foot frame, the big bird gave police in this St. Louis suburb a mighty run, confounding them all six times someone reported the ostrich-like beast bugging motorists last weekend along busy Illinois Route 3.

Police finally caught up to the claw-footed menace Monday and ended the ruckus once and for all, cornering the emu, a cousin to the ostrich, and shooting it dead out of fear it'd again wander into traffic and kill someone.

Two days later, police on Wednesday still were pecking away at the vexing question: Where did the bird come from?

``We figured someone would call and say, `That's my bird!''' Police Chief Rich Miller said. ``But we still haven't heard from anybody.''
First let me say I’m impressed Rich Miller has time to be a police chief in addition to running Capitol Fax. Best blogger AND cop. The man is tireless.

Secondly, emus don’t come from anywhere, they just are (go ahead try to figure out which came first, the emu or the egg). And the emu problem will continue to spread.

I’ve been accused of underplaying certain crisis, up to and including comets heading straight for Earth to smash it into a million bits, but it can’t be said I didn’t sound the alarm when it comes to rampaging emus.

By the way, in case you were wondering what one does with emu road kill:
Meat from the emu slain here was being processed by a Granite City police officer who hunts and would be donated to local food pantries, Miller said.
Yum! Emu cutlets!

Friday Beer Blogging: Korea Edition

...
North Korea was in the news this week having exploded something, maybe an atomic bomb. It’s all well and good to get all nukey but can you build a decent beer? Apparently there is beer available in North Korea but I’m fighting a cold and don’t intend to research the topic too thoroughly right now. Maybe later after the NKs fuck up there second nuke test.

I did, however, find this old article on how North Korea bought a British brewery and moved the manufacturing facilities to Pyongyang. I’m sure sales soared after the bottles started rolling of the NK assembly line.

OK, you say, so where’s the beer porn? Well I had to move a little south to get some good beer pics. I had to go all the way to South Korea. The SKs have a beer called Cass. And damn you are so cool if you’re south of the DMZ and sippin’ a Cass.
And it does look good.


And did I mention it makes you very, very cool?

All I can say is when you want get bombed, make Cass not nukes.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

When Corruption Gets Boring

...
The SJ-R sez:
A second term for Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich became less assured Wednesday with the fraud indictment of one of his top fundraisers and private advisers, Antoin "Tony" Rezko.
Really? Prove it. I bet the polls don’t budge an inch. Not that they shouldn’t based on the merits (demerits?), I just don’t think anyone cares all that much. Call it Ryan fatique. And perhaps if the Republicans had a more aggressive and charismatic candidate seizing the opportunity we might see some movement in the polls, but I don’t see Topinka getting much out of this.

I also have to take issue with the SJ-R using that opening paragraph. It seems to me the reporter is drawing a conclusion he can’t immediately support. He may be right (and I wrong) but no one really knows that right now. Perhaps he could have gotten away with “A second term for Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich MAY HAVE BECOME less assured Wednesday…” but as it stands in the article he’s telling us that it is, in fact, less assured.

Update: And isn’t the start to this SJ-R editorial a bit hyperbolic?
The atomic bomb detonated Monday by North Korea had nothing on the bomb dropped by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago Wednesday.
Feds indict Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s chief fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko. Ka-boom!
Yes, North Korea testing an atomic weapon is “nothing” compared to a corrupt political fundraiser in Illinois. Ka-Boom!

Bitchin' About Obits

...
There’s something I’ve never understood that maybe someone out there knows the answer to. Why do published obituaries tell you exactly where a person died (home, hospital) when what everyone really wants to know is, how did they die? I understand that sometimes the person (or next of kin) doesn’t want the cause of made public (suicide, maybe AIDS) but most of the time it’s not a secret, so why not tell us.

There is the occasional mention of cause of death. It seems to me auto accidents are occasionally mentioned and sometimes we see “a courageous battle with cancer” attributed to the deceased, but that’s about it.

But let’s be honest, if you see a 36 year-old’s obit, the first thing that comes to mind is, “how on earth did a 36 year-old die?” I’m not saying it’s necessarily any of your business but it s what you want to know.

I find myself reading between the lines. Where donations are to be sent is a good clue if the person died of a particular disease. If money is to be sent to the American Cancer Society, you can bet that person died of cancer (yes, but what kind?). If you see the person died at home, it may mean a sudden heart attack or accident or even suicide. Seeing someone died “after a long illness” makes me think cancer, “a short illness” a stroke or heart attack.

I’m not sure why we feel it important to know the cause of death. I suspect it’s in part because we want to triangulate our own mortality. What people are dying of and at what age gives one a vague roadmap to the possibilities surrounding their own inevitable death. If you are younger and see only older people in the obituaries, it’s reassuring that you have a good chance of living quite a bit longer. But opening up the paper and seeing several people your age or younger have passed on is, well, a little scarier. Older people may look at the obits and wonder what’s going to eventually get them.

So, I’m curious why obituaries, which are filed with personal information, often don’t reveal the cause of death. Who cares what hospital they died in, I want to know why they died.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Unnamed Sources

...
See anything wrong with this story in the SJ-R online breaking news section?
Authorities Wednesday morning still hadn't officially released the name of a 52-year-old woman killed Tuesday night when a truck hit the bicycle she was riding at Dirksen Parkway and Enos Avenue.

Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone said Wednesday morning she was having difficulty locating family members of the woman to notify them of the death.

Anyone with information regarding the woman's family's whereabouts can call the coroner's office at (217) 753-6610.

The Curse of Cursive

...
Josh Marshall points us to this Washington Post article on the decline of cursive writing in the United States:

When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters.

And those college hopefuls are just the first edge of a wave of U.S. students who no longer get much handwriting instruction in the primary grades, frequently 10 minutes a day or less. As a result, more and more students struggle to read and write cursive.

Many educators shrug. Stacked up against teaching technology, foreign languages and the material on standardized tests, penmanship instruction seems a relic, teachers across the region say. But academics who specialize in writing acquisition argue that it's important cognitively, pointing to research that shows children without proficient handwriting skills produce simpler, shorter compositions, from the earliest grades.

Scholars who study original documents say the demise of handwriting will diminish the power and accuracy of future historical research. And others simply lament the loss of handwritten communication for its beauty, individualism and intimacy.
Let me just say that I hate cursive. I hate to use it and I hate reading it except for the writing of those who are really, really good at it. OK, sure it can be “pretty” when done right but it doesn’t help convey a message.

Most of my problem with cursive is personal, I’ll admit. I never enjoyed using it in grade school where we were taught “penmanship” and were required to write in cursive. By some time in high school I had given it up almost entirely, printing or, later, typing instead. I remember once being scolded about it by a teacher. He wasn’t angry with me but was annoyed by something else I had done and decided to add an “oh-by-the-way” indicating I just HAD to start using cursive for my own good. He even implied I’d never make it in college if I didn’t. Hah, I don’t think I ever used cursive in college. I printed on tests and quizzes and, of course, typed papers. I used to actually write letters (not e-mails) back then and usually printed those.

So I guess I’m biased against cursive as a practical means of communication. At the same time, it is still used enough that I think it’s important to keep teaching it. And there’s always the matter of signatures. For some reason, signatures, in cursive, are still the standard for entering into contracts. So I guess we all need to be able to write our name if nothing else.


I say there at least needs to be some reform, like changing the cursive capital “Q” and “Z”. What the fuck are those about? They look like some form of the number “2”. Even when I did write cursive, under duress, I refused to write them properly, opting instead for some hybrid of the printed letters that had a tail connecting to the rest of the word. And the capital “G” is kind of stupid too.

And finally, there is ease of use for the reader. There is a reason you don’t find any printed material, other than greeting cards, written in cursive. It’s harder to read, even if perfect. I’ll be honest; I’m more concerned with the message than the prettiness of the physical text. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for cursive, but communicating ideas effectively isn’t that place.

Update: Ezra has some thoughts on this as well:
In any case, the decline of cursive seems inevitable and healthy. Class time is finite, and it's hard to make the case that much of the time that used to go to penmanship shouldn't now be spent on typing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Bomb that Bombed

...
At the risk of once again “underplaying” events as I’m apparently want to do, it appears the NKs aren’t such good bomb builders. From CNN (no specific link yet, just on main page):
The U.S. believes North Korea tried to detonate a nuclear device and "something went wrong," a government official told CNN Tuesday. The official confirmed North Korea told China before the test that it would be a 4 kiloton device. The official added the unexpectedly small blast, of a half kiloton or less, indicates the test was not very successful.
Or it was a complete fake. Either way, North Korea isn’t your daddy’s Red Menace.

North Korea is for Lovers

...
We think of North Korea as being totally shut off from the world (which is largely true) but did you know you can vacation there? You can.

Ah, the scenery, the architecture, the, ummm,…food?
DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is a country that has suffered severe food shortages over the last decade and although the famine situation has been largely relieved with the help of many western NGOs it is far from a culinary land of plenty. However as a visitor and guest in the DPRK you will be well fed with 3 meals a day including meat and fish. The food in DPRK is far from fantastic but is not too bad, some meals are very good and some are just good enough. Vegetarians can be catered for and Vegans also to an extent although it cannot be guaranteed that utensils used to touch food will not have touched meat, or that cooking oil does not contain animal fats.

Fruit and chocolate is scarce in the DPRK so if you need this while you are on the tour then you should take it with you from Beijing.
Yum! Sounds scrumptious but maybe I’ll wait to see if Rachael Ray can make it there on $40 a day.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Youggle or GooTube?

...
The Google empire grows:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Google, the Internet's leading search engine, announced Monday that it is buying popular online video site YouTube for $1.65 million in stock.
YouTube, which was founded in February 2005, has quickly become the most well-known of several online video sites. More than 100 million videos, many of which are short videos created by the site's users, are downloaded a day on the site.

[snip]

In a statement, Google said that YouTube will operate as an independent unit of Google once the deal closes and will retain the YouTube brand name.
Eat or be eaten.

Sass-Talk the Troops

...
Our men and women in uniform have already endured a lot in Iraq, and now wise-cracking Iranian Farmers
Most Profound Man in Iraq — an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied "Yes, you."
Funny people, those Iraqis.

On Going Nuclear

...
Before we panic about North Korea’s alleged acquisition of The Bomb, we need to take a couple steps toward understanding what we’re really dealing with here.

First, did North Korea really successfully test a nuclear device? There seem to be some doubt about that. See here and here.

Normally, I’d believe a country’s claim to having done what North Korea says it’s accomplished, but we're talking about North Korea and they have about zero credibility. This could all be a stunt to provide a kind of pseudo-nuclear deterrence based on the illusion they have nuclear weapons. Hell, Saddam Hussein did a similar thing by not fully admitting he had gotten rid of his now famous “weapons of mass destruction”. It’s defense by threat only, paper tigers if you will.

Next, even if the North Koreans have successfully detonated a nuclear bomb, I suspect it will be a long, long time before they are in any position to effectively use it offensively. And they are decades or more away from being able to lob one over the Pacific our way.

Also consider this: the reasons for the NKs resuming their nuclear program may have more to do with fear from without than any desire from within to become aggressive. Remember, while we don’t like other countries to have access to nuclear weapons, the populations of those countries, by and large, do like the idea of getting their own bomb. Membership in the nuclear club had it’s advantages, like deterrence, credibility and status on many levels.

The atomic weapons programs in Pakistan and India are quite popular domestically. And while Iran isn’t very close to developing an atomic weapon, it seems they may be on the path to one. And guess what, everyday Iranians like the idea. I suspect the Iranian nuclear program, such as it is, is far more popular than the government perusing the nuclear ends. Meaning even with “regime change” the march to nukes may continue there.

It’s a sad reality but nuclear proliferation will continue. We should to everything reasonable to slow it but it is here to stay. I suggest we all, globally, do a Rodney King and ask, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Perfect Juxtaposition

...
Here.

Classic Classical

...
I think Ogged is on to something here.
I just realized why I've never been able to get into classical music: I can't remember what the fuck anything is called. It turns out that I enjoy Brahms's Intermezzo in A Minor, Opus 76, No. 7. Will I ever listen to it again? Probably not, because I'd have to look up this blog entry to remember what it was. The naming of classical music pieces seem a lot like remembering books by Dewey decimal number. "Oh, I loved 813.14fh. Now where did I put it?" I propose that humanity should go back and rename all the good stuff with catchy, memorable titles.
And after the renaming project, NPR stations (the only ones that play classical music) need to emulate commercial radio formats. They need to put better known pieces in heavy rotation with the lesser known stuff inserted with a lot of back-announcing. That way we get to know the music and can remember it by name. Like Ogged, I’ll sometimes hear a classical tune, think it’s pretty good and then forget about it because I either have no idea what it is or couldn’t possibly remember its name even if I did.

LaHood LaLying

...
Think Progress has the story.

Just as a note, LaHood does have an opponent in the upcoming election. He’s Steve Waterworth. While I’ve long considered LaHood an LOR (Least Objectionable Republican), some of his recent statements and the overall need for a change of control in Congress have persuaded me it’s time to openly support LaHood’s defeat. I know Lhood is almost certainly going to retain his seat but the more votes his opponent gets the louder the message will be to ol’ Ray Baby.

Good Ideas That Can’t Happen

...
The SJ-R online is conducting an internet poll asking readers if they would like to see election day moved a Saturday. Personally, I think it would be a good idea but it’ll never happen.

Saturday offers the obvious advantage of having more people free all day to get to the polls. Busy work days have a way of suppressing the vote, I don’t doubt. Most people still wouldn’t vote if elections were held on Saturday’s but I bet more would vote than do on Tuesdays.

But here’s why it will never happen, at least not nationally. Today it is possible to fairly accurately calculate the effect such a move would have on the outcomes of elections. And one of the major political parties will gain at least some advantage, even if only a tiny one. As such, that party will block the idea from ever becoming reality. I have no idea to which party this idea would grant an advantage, but it’s very likely one or the other would benefit.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Funny but Not

...
I enjoyed the opening lines to this post on Daily Kos.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a "surprise" visit to Iraq this week. As Juan Cole points out, it had to be a "surprise" visit because otherwise she would be killed.
That’s putting it bluntly. It’s also sadly true. Anyone care to guess in what year a high-ranking U.S. official might be able to make an announced visit?

Sad and Stupid

...
I really think The Terrorists™ have won when I read things like this.
Even if the [secret list used to screen airline passengers for terrorists] is made more accurate, it won't help thousands of innocent travelers who share a common name on the list and who get detained, sometimes for hours, when they attempt to fly.

Gary Smith, John Williams and Robert Johnson are some of those names. Kroft talked to 12 people with the name Robert Johnson, all of whom are detained almost every time they fly. The detentions can include strip searches and long delays in their travels.

"Well, Robert Johnson will never get off the list," says Donna Bucella, who oversaw the creation of the list and has headed up the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center since 2003. She regrets the trouble they experience, but chalks it up to the price of security in the post-9/11 world. "They're going to be inconvenienced every time … because they do have the name of a person who's a known or suspected terrorist," says Bucella.
If the terrorist Robert Johnson and friends are such threats then watch them and leave the rest of us the hell alone. Idiots.

I also find it hilarious that Osama bin Laden is on the list. Like he’s going to go to the airport and check in, “My name is Osama, Osama bin Laden. Please may I fly to New York?” Saddam Hussein is on the list too. God, I feel safe.

Friday Beer Blogging: Troubleshooting Edition

...
From the beer drinkers user manual, some tips on finding out what's wrong.

SYMPTOM: Feet cold and wet.
FAULT: Glass being held at incorrect angle.
ACTION: Rotate glass so that open end points toward ceiling.

SYMPTOM: Feet warm and wet.
FAULT: Improper bladder control.
ACTION: Stand next to nearest dog, complain about house training.

SYMPTOM: Beer unusually pale and tasteless.
FAULT: Glass empty.
ACTION: Get someone to buy you another beer.



SYMPTOM: Opposite wall covered with fluorescent lights.
FAULT: You have fallen over backward.
ACTION: Have yourself leashed to bar.

SYMPTOM: Mouth contains cigarette butts.
FAULT: You have fallen forward.
ACTION: See above.

SYMPTOM: Beer tasteless, front of your shirt is wet.
FAULT: Mouth not open, or glass applied to wrong part of face.
ACTION: Retire to restroom, practice in mirror.


SYMPTOM: Floor blurred.
FAULT: You are looking through bottom of empty glass.
ACTION: Get someone to buy you another beer.

SYMPTOM: Floor moving.
FAULT: You are being carried out.
ACTION: Find out if you are being taken to another bar.

SYMPTOM: Room seems unusually dark.
FAULT: Bar has closed.
ACTION: Confirm home address with bartender.



SYMPTOM: Taxi suddenly takes on colorful aspect and textures.
FAULT: Beer consumption has exceeded personal limitations.
ACTION: Cover mouth.

SYMPTOM: Everyone looks up to you and smiles.
FAULT: You are dancing on the table.
ACTION: Fall on somebody cushy-looking.

SYMPTOM: Beer is crystal-clear.
FAULT: It's water. Somebody is trying to sober you up.
ACTION: Punch him.

SYMPTOM: Hands hurts, nose hurts, mind unusually clear.
FAULT: You have been in a fight.
ACTION: Apologize to everyone you see, just in case it was them.

SYMPTOM: Don't recognize anyone, don't recognize the room you're in.
FAULT: You've wandered into the wrong party.
ACTION: See if they have free beer.

SYMPTOM: Your singing sounds distorted.
FAULT: The beer is too weak.
ACTION: Have more beer until your voice improves.

SYMPTOM: Don't remember the words to the song.
FAULT: Beer is just right.
ACTION: Play air guitar.

Troubleshooting guide courtesy of The Opinionated Beer Page.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stay, Denny, Stay

...
Denny Hastert is the bestest House Speaker ever and he should never resign.
WASHINGTON — House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains speaker until Election Day, according to internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, FOX News has
learned.

"The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker," a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss."
I’m with Ray LaHood in standing behind the Speaker all the way.

Ahead of My Time

...
This is curious. It seems to describe a “new” treatment for hay fever (allergic reaction to ragweed) that nearly cured me over 20 years ago. First the news story then mine.
BALTIMORE -- Could the sneezy, runny-eyed misery of hay fever one day be a thing of the past? Scientists are reporting encouraging results from early tests of a vaccine they hope will give long-lasting relief from this seasonal scourge.

The experimental vaccine has been tested on only a couple of dozen people so far, but it substantially relieved symptoms for those who received it in six weekly shots, and the benefit lasted for at least two years, doctors reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
Boy that sounds familiar. I used to have terrible hay fever that lasted from late June until the first freeze of the fall. The worst was in late August and the month of September. I was in radio at the time so it was a real problem having a stuffed-up nose (not to mention sneezing and watery eyes) for a good chunk of the year. In 1985 I went to an ear, nose and throat guy in the community in which I lived and he promised a successful treatment. I was very skeptical but was willing to try it. The doctor would give me what he called “co-seasonal” shots from June through September once a week except for the late August/September period when I would get two.

Well, let me tell you, it worked great. I had no allergy problems while getting the treatment. I continued the “co-seasonal” shots until 1988 when I moved back to Springfield and discovered there was no one in town providing the same treatment as my former specialist. So I did nothing and waited for the return of the killer allergy. But you know what, it never really came back. For several years after the treatments, I had no symptoms at all. Over the years it has crept back some but is nothing like it used to be. I’d say a bad year now is only about 20% of what it used to be.

Anyway, I assume the new treatment discussed in the news item is not the same as what I got all those years ago, but it sure walks and quacks like the same duck.

Boxed-In

...
For years I marveled at how a store sizes have steadily grown over the years. When I was growing up in the 1960s, “supermarkets” were about the size of a modern Walgreen’s. In fact, the recently torn down (and replaced) Walgreen’s on South MacArthur had been a supermarket back in the day. As a kid they certainly didn’t seem small or inadequate in any way. Yet I can’t imagine a grocery store that size (well maybe an IGA in a small town like, say, Allen’s in Ashland).

With that in mind, I like what Paul Povse has to say today in the SJ-R:
Though business insiders have seen it coming, it's still sad - and a little troubling - to see feisty K's get KO'd by the bullies of retail. Another notch on the big-box belt that is Wal-Mart.

K's Merchandise Mart in Springfield has been a pleasant and manageable store, one where you did not have to wander aimlessly down corridors the width of Veterans Parkway before finding a clerk who actually knows where the double-A batteries are.

And you know, I remember a day when K’s seemed like a “box store”. Retail places have just become so huge that even stores previously perceived at large now seem rather small.

What I wonder is, will this trend continue? Are stores going to get bigger and bigger without end? Or is there a point where people will begin becoming intimidated by the retail vastness of some future mega-ginormous super store? Or will Wal-Mart’s quest for total world domination succeed so that someday when you say you are “going to the store” you really mean THE store?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

And Now a LaHood Moment

...
Quotes from Ray LaHood on CNN today talking about Foleygate:

LAHOOD: To send 15 and 16-year-old boys and girls to Washington, D.C., it's an antiquated system. And my idea is let's suspend it, send the pages home, and have some scholarly people in Washington really evaluate the program and bring it into the 21st century. It just -- it's a program that simply is flawed. It has its flaws. We should fix it. And then if it's a valuable program, perhaps bring it back.

[CNN’s] M. O'BRIEN: Well, that's kind of a sorry state of affairs. In essence, what you're saying is that members of Congress can't be trusted to be around young people.

LAHOOD: Well, that's pretty obvious…
Wow. He doesn't think much of his peers.

And he’s still supporting his man Denny:

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's shift gears here a little bit. You're a friend of Speaker Hastert. Can you here right now offer unequivocal support for the speaker in his job, in his staying in his job?

LAHOOD: Absolutely. The speaker has handled some very tough situations, whether it's the Tom DeLay, whether it's the Duke Cunningham, whether it's the Bob Ney. The speaker brought us through 9/11.
Yes, thank you Denny Hastert for getting us all through 9/11. I don’t know what I would have done without you. And LaHood reminds us again later in the interview how Denny got us through that dark day.

But I think when you look at Speaker Hastert's record and what he's had to deal with -- 9/11, ethical conduct on the part of at least three members of Congress -- he's done an extraordinary job.
And finally, Rep. Ray sees more fun and games coming.

I have no doubt that there are people in [the news] business that are doing a lots of investigative reporting and I have no doubt that there will probably be other disclosures.
Weeeeeee!

Wall Street Weak

...
While the Dow is up to record levels (well, not really if you take inflation into account*), my 401k is actually down a bit the last day or two. Was I wrong to invest in spinach and K’s Merchandise Marts?

*Factoring in inflation, the Dow must rise another 2,150 points before it reaches an all-time high.

Party Like It's 2099

...
I hope they have this money in a long-term interest-bearing account. We might be able to pay off the national debt with it some day.
Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.
Oh those hapless Republicans, they’re a lot like Cubs fans.

FIRE!

...
(And, yes, it’s legal to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded blog)

This is distressing:
YAKIMA, Washington (AP) -- Federal investigators were set Tuesday to begin
an investigation into a fire that ruined about 4 percent of America's yield of hops, used as flavoring in the brewing of beer and ale.

[snip]

Based on an industry official's estimate of the quantity of hops in the warehouse, the loss could amount to $3.5 million to $4 million. The impact on brewers and beer prices was unclear early Tuesday.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to run out to the store for something.

What Happened?

...
Not sure what's going on. My Blog roll and other information to the left disappeared from my main page (you can still see it if you go to individual posts). I did nothing to my template. Weird. Maybe posting this will knock it loose.

Update: That did it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

K’s To Klose

...
I’m only posting this because I get a large amount of hits from people doing Google searches on K’s Merchandise Mart closing. It’s this old post that gets them here. Later it looked like the store was going to stay open but today we get this news (from the SJ-R):

After nearly 50 years, K's Merchandise Mart is going out of business and will close its 17 stores in the Midwest, including one in Springfield.

Liquidation sales begin Thursday at all K's stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri. Stores will be closed Wednesday in preparation for the sales.

Founded in Decatur in 1957, the family-owned K's grew into a regional operator of catalog showroom stores.

The Springfield store opened in 1976. Located at 3001 Wabash Ave., the store will remain open until all merchandise has been sold, the company said in a statement.
Another former employer of mine bites the dust. I worked there the Christmas of 1988 during a brief period of professional unemployment. It was tough financially (I remember getting 10 cents above minimum wage because I was a college graduate!). Still, it wasn’t that bad a place to work, at least for being retail.

One of the worst or funniest or something moments working there came the day I ran into the former sheriff from the county in Northern Illinois where I used to work as a reporter. He had left there under a cloud of scandal and, I guess, relocated in or near Springfield. I had moved only recently leaving my job. We knew each other alright, but not that day.

There was a time when K’s was kind of big deal on the west side. But I think the massive growth of retail out west of K’s has overwhelmed it here. Sadly, its glory days gone, I’m not sure Springfield shoppers will miss it that much.

Baffled

...
Yes, this situation does need some serious study.

RENO, Nevada (AP) -- The Bush administration, alarmed by recent attacks at public schools across the country, is bringing education and law enforcement experts together for a conference on coming to grips with the problem.

The goal would be to discuss the nature of the problem and federal action that can help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said as President Bush made a campaign tour here Monday.

Three schools have been hit by deadly attacks in the past week. A gunman killed himself and five girls Monday at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania; on Friday a 15-year-old Wisconsin student shot and killed his principal; and last Wednesday a man took six girls hostage in Colorado, sexually assaulting them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself.

Man, there must be some common thread in all these incidents that made the attacks so easy. But what is it? A shooting in Wisconsin, shootings in Colorado and shootings in Pennsylvania. Oh, what DO these have in common? I just don’t see it. It must be something obvious but I’m just not connecting. I’ll have to look at this harder, just like the president.

Wait, I have a phone call coming in from my friends at the NRA, I’ll be back in a minute. In the meantime, give this conundrum some thought and see if you can come up with something.

Armstrong DID’T Blow His Line

...
Well, it turns out maybe the first man on the moon didn’t fuck up after all.
An Australian computer programmer says he found the missing "a" from Armstrong's famous first words from the moon in 1969, when the world heard the phrase, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

The story was reported in Saturday's editions of the Houston Chronicle.

Some historians and critics have dogged Armstrong for not saying the more dramatic and grammatically correct, "One small step for a man ..." in the version he transmitted to NASA's Mission Control. Without the missing "a," Armstrong essentially said, "One small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind."

The famous astronaut has maintained he intended to say it properly and believes he did. Thanks to some high-tech sound-editing software, computer programmer Peter Shann Ford might have proved Armstrong right.

Ford said he downloaded the audio recording of Armstrong's words from a NASA Web site and analyzed the statement with software that allows disabled people to communicate through computers using their nerve impulses.

In a graphical representation of the famous phrase, Ford said he found evidence that the missing "a" was spoken and transmitted to NASA.
Abe Lincoln may not have had any connection to Australia (see post below) but Neil Armstrong is now indebted to at least one Aussie.

TEH International Gets Mail

...
This was kind of nice to see in the ol’ inbox:
G’day Dave,

My name is Mike, from Kallista near Melbourne Australia. Just wanted to say hi. I read your blog every day, for no particular reason other than I don’t have time to keep up with world events, only enough time for one other far away corner of the planet, which now happens to be Springfield Illinois. Keep up the good work. Love the beer blogging, inspires me to crack the top off a frothy every weekend. (2 toddlers destroying the house also inspires me, but that’s not just Fridays)

Cheers

Mike
Well, thanks Mike. Come see us in Springfield sometime. We have more Lincoln crap than anyone else in the world.

I wonder if Lincoln ever thought about Australia. Say, in early 1864 when he’d just about had enough of the war, I wonder if he ever got the notion to just get on a ship and sail down under. Or more seriously, was he part of any official government proceeding that dealt with Australia. You know how every little town in Illinois tries to establish SOME Lincoln connection. Well, I wonder if there’s some document in Australia signed by Abe as part of some trade agreement or something with the British Empire.

Hmmm, a Google search finds that there is a Port Lincoln and a Lincoln Park in Australia. However there seems to be no relation. But there is an Abraham Lincoln Motel in New South Wales. There's probably a relation there. Did Lincoln’s circuit cover New South Wales? How far is that by horse?

Is It Over Yet?

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There was a debate last night and both candidates took to their podium and, um, uuuuh…..Zzzzzzzzzz.

But good coverage here and here.

Upadate: OK, they were at a table. Now let me go back to sleep.

Power Politics

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I really don’t get this whole electric rate freeze thing. This SJ-R article raises more questions for me than it answers. The way I understand it, the state froze electric rates 10 years ago and now that freeze is going to expire. The utilities want top take advantage of this and dramatically raise rates. State officials and lawmakers (and consumers) want no such thing to happen. State officials and lawmakers (and consumers) want to extend the freeze. The utilities don’t want it extended.

OK, I got all that. And count me in as not wanting to pay a ton more for electricity (even though I will anyway because I’m a CWLP customer and am unaffected by this whole debate). But how can rates be frozen indefinitely without the utilities getting to a point where they are losing money? Are they losing money now? The utilities say they are. But Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says the electric companies are making “record profits”. So which is it?

The problem seems to be that a deregulation measure passed 10 years ago has failed to generate competition among the utilities so they still hold monopolies in most areas, therefore the need for regulation. How was all this handled before the 1997 deregulation took effect? How ‘bout we go back to that.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Speaker's Pet

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According to a reader of Josh Marshall’s blog, Ray LaHood (R - 1313 Mockingbird Lane) is standing by his man Denny Hastert in the unfolding Foleygate scandal. Of course, our other local Republican Rep, John Shimkus, is up to his ass in this thing himself.

Many Still Living

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Who says there’s no good news coming out of Iraq?

Let’s Go To State

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A couple of years ago, it was one of my dreams that one day, someday, in the distant future there would be no smoking allowed in restaurants. I was hoping before I reached old age (no jokes please) I would be able to walk into a restaurant and enjoy a meal without the foul-smelling and carcinogenic smoke from cigarettes wafting over to my table. So I’ve been more than delighted to see the smoking ban movement, er, catch fire here in Illinois and specifically in Springfield.

And that was my starting point: no smoking in restaurants. When the ban was approved here in the city and included bars, I was fine with that too but it was never a top priority of mine to include bars. There seems to be some push-bask now on the ban but it seems almost entirely limited to smoking in drinking establishments. Restaurants aren’t even being discussed. The game has advanced down field. Good news.

However, I still think it’s best the ban still include the bars. To the extent there is a problem, I think it stems from the uneven playing field. We are never going to wring the culturally accepted notion that you can smoke in bars out of the public consciousness until it isn’t allowed anywhere in the state. Once that happens it’s just a matter of time before it becomes an accepted practice and there will no longer be any controversy.

Right now though, we have a divisive situation. Smoking has traditionally been a staple of the tavern experience and some are reluctant to give that up. By having establishments down the road in another community without a ban, the tradition lives on and provides haven for those unwilling to give up on subjecting others to their smoke. A larger scale ban takes care of that.

Here’s my take on what should happen. Either the state implements a statewide ban or the local bans exclude places that are primarily engaged in serving liquor. I know that seems like I’m ceding ground but I’m convinced it’s the only fair thing to do at this point. Until there is a level playing field, new restrictions will not change the behavior of those who think it’s their “right” to smoke to other’s detriment.

Harvest Moon

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Great article on moonlight here. Why do things look different in the light of the moon? Why is it virtually impossible to read by moonlight? What part do your rods and cones play in what you see on a moonlit night? All the answers here.

"WTF?"

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At first I scanned passed this without thinking it was anything unusual. Then it struck me that I wasn’t looking at some potty-mouthed blog but the website of one of Central Illinois’ most prestigious newspapers. Downstate’s “Gray Lady”, if you will. You see, the Bloomington Pantagraph has redesigned its site and has a new future section called “WTF?”.

Maybe I’m na├»ve, but isn’t there a certain segment or two of the population that might not know what WTF stands for? And if they don’t what will they think when they find out? And better yet, isn’t there another, more conservative, segment that might take offense to the use of this term? I’m fine with the new name. In fact, I kind of like it. But for that reason alone, I suspect there are many who will not appreciate it. I mean, WTF?!