Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Sluts Eve

OK, I'm not being prudish but I've noticed this same thing. Girls, mid-teens and older, seem to think dressing down, if you will, is a prerequisite for any Halloween costume.

The sight of so many young girls looking like sex toys disturbed me. There were gaggles of slutty pirates, slutty nurses, slutty milkmaids, slutty Snow Whites, slutty schoolgirls, slutty referees. A few girls skipped costumes altogether and went straight to lacy lingerie and sheer teddies. Some shorts rose so high that fleshy rear-ends peaked out below. Some skirts fell so low on the hips that they had stopped serving their purpose as clothing.

Weren't they aware that they were standing around cold and naked just for the sake of appealing to some particularly dull looking men? After all, these are ostensibly smart co-eds. Too smart, I thought, to trick-or-treat for compliments and catcalls.

I'm not sure when this trend started (after I was that age, for sure) but it seems nearly inescapable now.

Update: Just to be clear, I don’t think the girls and young women wearing these costumes are really sluts. I just think it’s an odd trend that kind of gets away from the idea behind Halloween costumes. There’s nothing wrong with dressing “sexy” or whatever, but when that becomes the point of all Halloween costumes I thinks it starts becoming a lingerie contest rather than just a fun dress-up event. The boys and men are still free to be whatever they want. The ladies are now pressured to show some skin for reasons that have nothing to do with Halloween.

Great Balls of Fire

You’ve probably never seen an exploding comet. Well you can now, right from your own back yard. A dim comet called Comet 17P/Holmes was being watched by astronomers when suddenly it exploded a few days ago. It’s now visible with the naked eye. I was able to see it the last few nights in the constellation Perseus that is in the northeastern sky right after it gets dark (sky map here). It looks like a fuzzy star but look at it with some binoculars or a home telescope and it becomes obvious it’s no ordinary star (pictures here).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Earthquake in Aisle 9

Earthquakes aren't funny, but sometimes the media coverage of them is. CNN.com reports on Tuesday night's quake in northern California and includes this horrific picture of the destruction wrought:

Oh My God! Shampoo bottles down! Oh the humanity!

Worse and Worser

No matter what else happens in the 2008 race for the White House, this man simply must not become president. To think that there is a viable candidate out there worse than George W. Bush is really amazing given what we've been through the last seven years. But I agree that after his failure, talk radio awaits.

And then there is this guy who is a foreign policy adviser to Giuliani. Wow.

Jump the Snark

Is it too late to rename my blog? Because I sure do like this:

Heart of Snarkness

Crossing the Line

I have a question. Is it proper for a member of a news organization to publicly taunt the subject of an ongoing story? Last week WMAY’s Pamela Furr posted this on her blog:
WHERE'S THE BILL OF SALE?

We're waiting, Sam Cahnman. You said you'd have proof for us on Thursday of your sale of the vehicle that was found registered to you.. with drug paraphernalia in it. Today is Friday. Will we have it Monday?
Furr, who is part of the WMAY news staff, also has a talk show. I have no idea what she did or didn’t say about the strange Cahnman car story on her talk show (I’m not able to listen), but if its anything like the blog post, I think she’s crossed a line. The blog post itself crosses that line in my opinion. Yes, as of the time of the post there were still questions, but I’m not sure taunting Cahnman was the way to go. What makes good blogging or talk show fodder doesn’t always make for good journalism. I’m not sure you can just switch hats that easily in cases like this.

Now I understand the dilemma. I used to be a news director at a radio station and I did a talk show at the same station. Sometimes it was a fine line to walk, but I don’t ever remember calling out the subject of a developing news story that our station was covering.

I guess it’s just a matter of degree, but it seems to me that there is a way to raise and discuss questions without being antagonistic about it. It’s a hazard that comes with doing two jobs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Uneducated on Education

I generally don’t pay much attention to the comments that follow the SJ-R online stories because I really don’t want to believe there are that many truly stupid people with living here. That said, I did take a peek at the comments to the story on the State’s pre-K program. There’s the usual rabid denunciation of anything positive that one can expect in these comments, but there was also some of the tired old saw about how bad public education is.

I’m not sure why these people and many others around here and the country think the educational system is failing. I’ve been involved with many school districts in some fashion for most of my life now. While nothing is problem-free, I think the quality of education is actually going up from when I was in school. I attended parochial schools right through high school and I can tell you that kids are learning more and earlier than we did. Expectations are higher and there is more attention to student well-being and discipline.

I think for the most part teachers and administrators do as well as they can given what they have to work with. That means there are schools, and even whole districts, that are plagued by social, infrastructure, and economic decay that can’t be overcome by good intentions. Still, where conditions aren’t conspiring against it, the education system is in pretty good shape I think. I wish these gloom and doomers would provide some concrete examples of how bad the education system is, because I just don’t see it and never have.

Yes, when compared to the educational systems in a number of other industrialized countries, we do fall short. But that’s the cultural path we have chosen. We could spend more and require longer days, etc. and that might make a difference, but I doubt that’s what these critics have in mind (if they have anything in mind other than bitching).

Bottom line is, if a student is properly motivated (AHEM, parents) the resources are usually there for a good education. Because anti-intellectualism is a feature of many of the subcultures in this nation, that motivation is often lacking and the results are plain to see. Add to that the anti-intellectual leanings of certain political and religious groups, and you get less than optimal results. The schools don’t suck, we do.

Chief Ubiquitous

Make it stop already.

And speaking of U of I hegemony, you may recall I recently posted on how you can’t find any college gear in local stores from any state university other than the U of I. And you can find a ton of that. Well a few weeks ago, Mrs. TEH took our college bound daughter to tour the Eastern Illinois University campus in Charleston. After they were done, they stopped in nearby Mattoon to have lunch and do some shopping. In one of the stores, they came across a display of clothing emblazoned with University logos. However, there was nothing from Eastern despite EIU being just down the road. But, of course, there was plenty of U of I crap.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Go Flo Update

Kevin Drum is having problems with his compact florescent light bulbs. Specifically, he's having a high rate of burn out. One of the touted features of CF bulbs is their longevity (the other is their energy efficiency).
A year ago Marian and I replaced about 20 bulbs around the house with CF bulbs. Hooray for saving energy! But one of them just burned out, and it occurred to me as I was replacing it that this is the fourth or fifth one I've had to replace. The first one I figured was just bad luck. Nobody has a perfect manufacturing record. The second one seemed like more bad luck. The third one made me think something was going on. Now I'm up to four. Maybe five, if I've forgotten one.
That's a pretty high failure rate over the course of a year. I replaced about 40 bulbs in our house with CFs. That was over eight months ago. Since then, I've only had one burn out. I also broke one and had to replace one that was making a buzzing sound that was annoying. So I think our experience has been pretty good so far. My bellwether in this is the two overhead bulbs in my garage. I would have to change one of the old incandescent bulbs every 3 months. Meaning, by now I would have gone through something like 3 incandescents since the time I switched to CF. Neither CF in the garage has burned out since I made the switch.

As for energy (and cost savings), let me just say that CWLP just informed us that they are lowering our monthly level payment plan amount and sending us a check for several hundred dollars in overpayments from the last fiscal year. Not all of that is due to my CF conversion (we temporarily had one less person living in the house for a good portion of that time) but I think a significant portion of the lower electric bill can be attributed to the CFs

CFs still have their drawbacks, especially the ones outdoors in cold weather, but overall I couldn't be more pleased.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Oh, Just Stop Falling On Your Chief Swords

Outside of the usual U of I hegemony on all things college-related in Illinois, why is The Chief still such an important subject? I swear it dominates the conversation WAY out of proportion to its importance (hint: it’s not at all important). And it’s mostly the “pro-Chief” types who have a limitless appetite for the indignation of it all. Really, no matter what you think of the Great and Powerful Chief, don’t you have better things to worry about?

Definitions Matter

Here’s a great example of why you should never put much stock into “the unemployment rate”. The headline gives a good clue:
New jobs boost unemployment
That’s right, job creation can increase unemployment, at least when “unemployment” is defined they way the government defines it.
PEORIA - The Peoria area, like much of the state, may be a victim of its own success when it comes to unemployment.

More jobs have been created in the region and throughout the state in the last year, and that has brought more people out looking for work.

As a result, unemployment was up considerably in September from a year earlier, according to statistics released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
You see, unemployment doesn’t mean “out of work”, it means looking for work and not finding it. There’s a big difference. The government’s unemployment statistic almost always covers up the segment of the population that has simply given up looking for work. These are mostly people who would work, but they have become discouraged at not being able to find anything. When more jobs become available, they resume their search for work and become “unemployed”. Silly but true.

Friday Beer Blogging: Halloween Costume Edition

Halloween is almost here which means you need to start thinking about what beer you're going to be. Gone are the days when you could get away with punching two eye holes in a 12-pack box and putting it over your head. Beer costumes today are more sophisticated.

Your best bet is to make your own fashioned after you favorite brew. But if you're low on design ideas but still have room on your credit card, you can order in.

Here's a basic model from MoonCostumes.com.

If you have that beer can body type, here's an idea from WackyPlanet.com.

Superheros like Beerman are always an option. Get this one from FindCostume.com.

Go bottle! This from FrightCatalog.com.

There's the Tin Man looking keg costume from Brandsonsale.com.

And finally, the beer costume that expresses how you feel. This from BuyCostumes.com.

Have a great weekend! And don't drink until you're scary.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let Lying Dogs Sleep

After all, it’s only when he’s awake that we need to be worried. Also, you might want to stay indoors this weekend.

Neato-Quito

I say go ahead and let them have their base here.
NAPLES (Reuters) - Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.

"We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base," Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy.

"If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."
Seems like they would be spending a lot of money for a Miami area base. Perhaps some Ecuadorean restaurants would open up near the base for off-duty Ecuadorean troops. Anyway, it’s not like Ecuador is a military threat. Foreign military bases might turn into a growth industry that could help balance the trade deficit. And if we decided to attack another country that isn’t a threat to us, we won’t have so far to go.

Bridging the Priority Gap

Shouldn’t something have been done about this bridge earlier, given that it’s the only way out of Springfield to the northwest?

A deteriorating bridge on Illinois 97 west of Springfield is going to mean a long detour for truck drivers for at least the next year.

The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to place a 15-ton weight limit on the small bridge at Prairie Creek about five miles west of Springfield. To cover those five miles, however, trucks will have to make nearly a 40-mile loop that will take them to Petersburg.

“There’s 500 trucks a day that cross that bridge,” said Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, who crosses it when he travels to Springfield. “You’re going to add 40 miles one way to that trip.”

The bridge is just east of the intersection of Illinois 97 and 125.

IDOT’s preferred detour calls for trucks to get on Illinois 4/Veterans Parkway in Springfield, turn north on Illinois 29 to Illinois 123, take that west to Petersburg, and then drive south on Illinois 97 back to the 97/125 intersection.

“It’s not next door,” acknowledged IDOT spokesman Brian Williamsen of the detour route. “We can’t have (heavy trucks) driving on neighborhood roads.”

The bridge has been deteriorating for years, but a recent inspection revealed the deck had gotten to the point that a load limit had to be imposed, Williamsen said. He said the inspection was routine and not prompted by this summer’s bridge collapse in Minnesota.

All of my kids travel over that bridge every school day so color me concerned.

Even before the trillion dollar adventure we call Iraq, I was amazed at how low a priority infrastructure maintenance funding was in this country. Now it just seems absurd that we are futilely trying to “rebuild” a nation that was never any threat to us and we can’t even keep our bridges up.

And what’s Braur bitching about? Would he rather the trucks continue to use the bridge, perhaps causing a collapse? And Rep.Poe’s comments aren’t much better.
“Grain haulers are going to be going crazy,” added Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield. “They can drive across empty, but not loaded. What about a garbage truck or a concrete truck? It’s a terrible inconvenience.”
Yeah, well, a collapsed bridge would be both inconvenient and DEADLY.

Maybe Brarr and Poe are great advocates of infrastructure maintenance and have been warning of this for years. I have no idea, but somehow I doubt it given what political party they belong to. Not that this is necessarily partisan issue; neither party seems to take infrastructure all that seriously.

Anyway, it’s time –and has been for quite a while- to get our infrastructure needs taken care of before we move on to more entertaining things like wars and tax cuts for the rich.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Barack Obutter

How can you lose when you've sewn up the butter cow vote?
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Democrat Barack Obama won over Iowa's butter cow lady.

Norma "Duffy" Lyon, known for carving life-sized cows from butter for 46 years at the Iowa State Fair, said she's backing Obama because he " doesn't believe in a lot of gobbly-gook" and spends time listening to ordinary voters.

Lyon also carved the famed butter cow at the Illinois State Fair every year except one from 1970 through 2001.
Let's hope Obama has more substance than the butter cows though. I've never recovered from the dashing of my childhood belief that the butter cows were SOLID butter, not just butter smeared on a wire frame.

Journeyman

Anyone else watching Journeyman? It's a new NBC series that's about a guy, Dan Vasser, who suddenly starts traveling back in time. His involuntary travels can happen at at any moment (even inconvenient ones). Dan is only gone briefly and then returns to the present time. Each episode has him go back several times to facilitate some ongoing situation that needs attention. These situations are small in scope, usually only affecting a few people, so he's not routinely "saving the world" or anything. He also seems to be limited to the recent past (he's gone no farther back then 1975 so far) and seems to be limited to the San Francisco area where he lives in present times.

While time travel is one of my favorite themes in fiction, I've had a hard time getting into this series. The first few episodes were kind of lame, but this week's had the show finding it's groove a bit. Had it not, I think I would have finally called it quits.

Anyway, just wondering if anyone else is watching this.

Full of Chit

Damn, I lived in Southern Illinois all those years and never knew there was a place there called Chittyville? I’ve lived in a few places that would be perfectly described by changing just one letter in that town’s name.

The Plot Thins

I have no idea what the particulars of this story are. Like what these “world jihad” dudes were actually capable of doing. But it’s a good idea to discern between “plots” and actual, viable threats. Our sensationalistic media never takes the time to separate the two. I can sit here at my computer and concoct “plots” all day long, but I’m way too stupid, lazy and lacking in resources to actually be able to carry them out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Valuable

Hooray for Eric Zorn for pointing out what should be obvious but often isn't treated as such.

The right’s hold on “values” is now so strong that most news coverage I saw and heard about last weekend’s second annual “Values Voter Summit” of Christian conservatives didn’t even bother to nestle the word dubiously inside real or implied quotation marks. Fewer than 1 in 10 recent accounts of the summit I found in a national news database bothered to put “so-called” in front of the first reference to “values voters.”

It’s galling. I mean, sure, the activists who assembled in Washington vote in accordance to their values. So do I. So do you, reader, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

Anyone who casts a ballot is a “values voter.” And to allow one group to squat on that title is to concede without a fight that their values are, if not superior to others’ values, then at least stronger and more important to them than the flimsy ethical whims of their ideological foes.

That’s arrogant nonsense.

EVERYONE has "values". Not everyone has the SAME values, but everyone has them. Don't let anyone us the language against you.

Right Up Your Alley

I can't believe some people in Springfield actually think they can't get along without have trash pick-up done from their alley instead of the end of their driveway.

But Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney, chief sponsor of the trash-reform ordinance, said he’ll fight any attempt to strip the ordinance of the alley-pickup provision. He said his constituents oppose having garbage cans on the curb when they could be in the alleys out of public view.

“That is one of the No. 1 issue I hear from neighborhood groups,” Mahoney said. “At some point, we have to decide what’s good for the look of the entire city.”

WTF? You put your cans in the garage, or the side of the house, or in the back yard, or in a shed, or wherever. Then you move the cans to the street on trash day. Later, when the garbage has been picked up, you bring the cans back to wherever you keep them. Many of us do that now. It's no big deal.

I grew up in a neighborhood that had alleys. We (me and my friends) loved them. Alleys were not only great places to find all manners of junk and the occasional Playboy magazine, but they offered a traffic-free way to get around. We owned the alleys!

I'm not sure when they stopped including alleys in new developments around here, sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s I would imagine. As a kid, I wondered how people got along without them. It seemed to me back then that it would be a pain to have to put out and bring in trash cans. We had ours sitting in the same spot in the alley until they rusted through and we had to replaced them. We took the trash to the can and that was that.

But alleys were also dirty and a bit unsafe. Occasionally, for reasons I never understood, people would cut through alleys in their cars at high rates of speed. Additionally, spilled trash was everywhere. Back when I was a kid, that was mostly due to loose dogs dumping over the cans for a quick snack. That's a problem that has largely gone away though as dogs don't run loose in the city like they used too (but that's for another blog post).

I can see where someone who is used to never having to move their trash cans might have gotten used to convenience, but it really makes more sense to put it out on the curb for the reasons Allied Waste cites in the SJ-R article.

Allied has gradually stopped alley pickup over the past couple of years as it has increased the size of its trucks so that it has to have fewer on the streets. Barnett said that allows the company to use less fuel and more environmentally friendly fuels, reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Accidents — of which Allied had 17 last year — are another factor in not picking up in alleys.
I would add to that, the city will not have to maintain the alleys nearly to the degree they do now if those big garbage trucks aren't using them. Let them use streets that are designed to handle such loads.

As an adult, I've mostly had to put my trash out for street pickup. It's not that big a deal. Get the cans with wheels and they are easy to move. You'll adjust.

Monday, October 22, 2007

University of Edwardsville

This guy thinks SIUE should get a life of its own too. He also brings up a point I forgot to mention in my most recent post on the subject – SIU School of Medicine is in Springfield. That’s a little more problematic than the Edwardsville thing, but what’s with Springfield having to steal names from TWO state universities? Next thing you know Lincoln Land Community College will be seeking a franchiseship with Parkland Community College (Parkland Community College at Springfield). Why not upgrade the city name as well: New York City in Illinois. Then we could have the “University of Illinois at New York City in Illinois”. Sounds pretty impressive.

Cut Off His Balls!

This should please the more vindictive among us. From the SJ-R breaking news online:
A registered sex offender who apparently was feeling an urge to offend again tried to remove his own testicles overnight.

The 59-year-old man, who lives in the 1600 block of Seven Pines Road [in Springfield], was bleeding profusely when police arrived around 8:15 p.m., but he is expected to survive.

The man used a fillet knife to remove one testicle and flushed it down the toilet. The other testicle was nearly cut off.

The man then called a friend for help. He was rushed to the hospital after police and paramedics arrived.
Tomorrow, when this appears with their regular online stories, I wonder if the SJ-R is going to allow comments. Probably not, so leave them here.

Update: Full story here. And as I thought, no comments allowed.

I See Movies

Saw the movie Michael Clayton over the weekend. I’ve recently decided that George Clooney is one of my favorite actors, both due to his performances and the movies he chooses to be in. No that I’ve seen EVERYTHING he’s been in, but I don’t remember ever seeing one of his films and thinking it sucked afterward (well there was that episode of The Golden Girls).

Aside from Clooney, I appreciated the performances of everyone in the movie. The Arthur Edens character was played superbly by Tom Wilkinson. Edens is sort of a latter-day Howard Beal (they even kind of look alike) who crosses the line into madness, or unspeakable reality, depending on how you look at it. Characters like this always fascinate me because they’ve reached a point of clarity and honesty that makes the rest of us uncomfortable.

Even the bad guy (or woman in this case) played by Tilda Swinton was conflicted and human. I’m not sure I’d ever seen underarm wetness dominate a scene in anything other than comedies until now.

It’s not a fast-paced movie, but the writing and performances in Michael Clayton keep it going at a good clip. It’s over before you know it.

And speaking of being over, I think it’s a testament to Clooney’s acting abilities that he can pull off a two minute silent cab ride at the end of the movie. It’s a neat little device, because you wind up reflecting on what all has happened right along with Clooney. That’s something that I usually do walking out of the theater but doing it a s part of the movie experience was interesting.

We Have Ways…of Making You Lie

Morality aside, here’s why torture is a bad idea. There’s also a lesson on bad ass-covering in there somewhere.

Update: Link fixed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rules Rule!

I wonder where the school "Rules-Are-The-Rules" absolutists stand on things like this. After all, the rules are the rules and no one should ever question them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Keep Your Eyes on the Balls

Hey, my eyee are up here!

Ha, ha. Science can't be wrong; men have only one thing on their minds and that plays out in some strange ways.
Technology that tracks eye movements across Web pages offers useful design insights for news sites — and sometimes uncomfortable truths. At the Online News Association conference in Toronto, two U.S. university researchers presented “heat maps” showing which parts of a Web page readers focus on, based on experiments that use an eye-tracking camera in the base of a computer monitor. But the information that the top-right corner of a page is a dead-zone for eye traffic was less interesting than the heat map for a picture of baseball player George Brett . While both men and women focused primarily on Brett’s face when asked to find a picture of him on a baseball site, one of the sexes also fixated on what the researchers coyly termed his “private anatomy.”
Read the rest to see what else the cruder sex is looking at.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Separate But Equal

Yeah, well maybe SIUE should stop being an SIU altogether and get their own f’ing name. How ‘bout University of Who Cares. That would solve the Poshard problem for them. About once a year I put out the call for these schools to get their own identification. Southern Illinois University is in Carbondale. The University of Illinois is in Champaign, not Chicago or Springfield. Please adjust accordingly.

Linkin’ Along

So Pam Furr is blogging again (but for how long, most bloggers who take long breaks don’t ever get back to it regularly). I went to her site and noticed she still has a link to Jim Leach’s defunct blog. Clicking the link, I actually found a blog at the other end. Someone is now using http://www.abelog.blogspot.com/. Not sure what it’s all about since it’s written in another language that I can’t immediately identify.

Blog rot is usually just a matter of links going dead over time. But left to rot long enough, links can apparently take on new life.

By the way, I’m not criticizing Furr for not maintaining her blog roll. Just try clicking through to some the blogs I’ve linked to and you’ll find nothing at the other end. Maintenance is needed.

Friday Beer Blogging: Paintings Edition

Those who can't drink, paint. You can paint a beer, but you can't beer a paint. Or something.

FBB this week takes you to the Virtual Beer Art Gallery...

First up, an artist view of a Blue Moon. It can be found at Cat Scott Sketch Blog.

Next we have a rendition of what it's like to attack a really big beer. You can find it for sale at eyeballpress.com.

This one is very simply stated. It is for sale at Art.com.

A group sitting. Get your copy at Easy Art.

And finally, this rendition of beers in their natural environment. It can be had from Dan Dunn's Paint Jam.

Have a great weekend! And be careful if you go out and paint the town.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blowing Can Advisory

Hazardous travel conditions exist in neighborhoods with trash pick up today. Drivers should watch for blowing cans, lids and recycling bins.

On a more serious note, in my neighborhood the recycling rate (based on blue boxes at the end of driveways) is near 100%. In other places I’ve lived I don’t remember it being nearly that universal. But then I’ve lived in my current home for more than six years. Is recycling that popular citywide in Springfield or do I just live near a lot of otherwise conservative tree-huggers?

Nanosecond of Silence

The SJ-R and I were working on the same thing yesterday. We were both asking real students about the new Moment of Silence™ that is now required each day in Illinois classrooms. Neither survey was scientific but theirs was broader than mine. I simply asked my two high schools students about it. Apparently, and this is mentioned in the SJ-R article, Pleasant Plains High School includes the MoS in its morning announcements given over the school PA system. One daughter said the MoS lasts about four seconds; the other indicated it was about two seconds. Both said that students are indeed quieter during those seconds than they are while the rest of the announcements are read. So score one for the MoS! However, they also both said everyone (other students) thinks the MoS is stupid and pointless, yada, yada. I got the impression that the administration and faculty aren’t real interested either. But hey, it’s the law, baby.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Direct Deposit Avoidance Syndrom

I’m amazed to still occasionally hear people say they don’t use direct deposit for their paychecks because they’re afraid of some snafu that would prevent them from immediately getting to their money. I’ve been getting my paychecks deposited directly since 1979 (with some breaks) and I have never, ever had a problem. Not once. In fact, I usually have had access to my money earlier (and never later) than if I were getting paper checks.

If I were to opt out of direct deposit at my current employer, I would be getting my checks through the mail a day later than the money goes into my account now (assuming the mail was on time). And I tell you what, I trust the direct deposit system a lot more than the Postal Service. Add to that occasions when you just can’t get to the bank (sick, vacation) and I just don’t understand the fear. Are there a sufficient number of direct deposit horror stories out there to justify this phobia?

State Pledge

Eric Zorn blows the lid off of the pledge industry. Turns out that not only is there a national Pledge of Allegiance, but several states (mostly in the south –go figure) have them as well. Texas even forces school children to recite theirs”
Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.
Yeah, OK, one more reason to never live in Texas.

The national pledge is silly enough and forcing kids to mindlessly recite it everyday accomplishes nothing. But a state pledge piled on top of that? Throw in the odd Moment of Silence™ and pretty soon the school day is over.

I think I'm stealing this from Chris Rock or somebody, but why do you have to repeat a pledge over and over again? It’s a pledge; say it once and you’re done. We don’t repeat our wedding vows every morning. Members of the armed forces only have to pledge loyalty once when they enlist. Christian denominations that have a confirmation ceremony only require it once. Need I go on?

But back to state pledges. Zorn invokes a bit of snark and suggests if Illinois gets a pledge it should begin, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of Illinois and the incompetence and corruption for which it stands...” And while that’s funny, some of the real pledges seem like parody:

Kentucky: I pledge allegiance to the Kentucky flag, and to the Sovereign State for which it stands, one Commonwealth, blessed with diversity, natural wealth, beauty, and grace from on High.

Michigan: I pledge allegiance to the flag of Michigan, and to the state for which it stands, 2 beautiful peninsulas united by a bridge of steel, where equal opportunity and justice to all is our ideal.

Alabama: Flag of Alabama I salute thee. To thee I pledge my allegiance, my service, and my life.

Louisiana: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the state of Louisiana and to the motto for which it stands: A state, under God, united in purpose and ideals, confident that justice shall prevail for all of those abiding here.

Ohio: I salute the flag of the state of Ohio and pledge to the Buckeye State respect and loyalty.
Arkansas: I Salute the Arkansas Flag With Its Diamond and Stars. We Pledge Our Loyalty to Thee.

South Dakota: I pledge loyalty and support to the flag and state of South Dakota, land of sunshine, land of infinite variety.

Mississippi: I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God.

And by the way, which pledge, your state’s or the national one, trumps? Are you first a Texan or a citizen of the United States? Divided loyalties can be so confusing!

And why stop at the state level. Can’t we have a pledge of allegiance to Springfield? Or Sangamon County? Or the library district? I’m a sitting member of our neighborhood association and I’ll soon be introducing a motion to establish a pledge of loyalty to our subdivision. I mean, what if we get into it with Bradfordton Place or Oak Park? I need to know who I can count on.

Dick Cheney Was Born a Poor Black Child

OK, this is kind of funny. But the thing is, if you go back far enough (which often isn't that far), you are related to everyone. For example, I'm quite sure there was some insane drunk guy, who came to America after he passed out on a ship to the New World, to whom Jerome Prophet and I can both trace our lineage.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spring is Here!

From the National Weather Service:

A POWERFUL SPRING-LIKE STORM SYSTEM WILL PUSH INTO THE PLAINS LATE WEDNESDAY NIGHT INTO THURSDAY BRINGING THE THREAT FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS TO PARTS OF CENTRAL...EAST CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST ILLINOIS. A WARM FRONT WILL MOVE ACROSS ILLINOIS WEDNESDAY NIGHTWITH OCCASIONAL THUNDERSTORMS EXPECTED DURING THE OVERNIGHT HOURS.NO SEVERE WEATHER IS ANTICIPATED WEDNESDAY NIGHT.

AS THE COLD FRONT SWEEPS JUST EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER EARLY THURSDAY AFTERNOON...THE POTENTIAL FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WILL INCREASE ACROSS THE AREA. PRESENT INDICATIONS SUGGEST THE PRIMARY THREAT WILL BE FROM DAMAGING STRAIGHT LINE WINDS AND LARGE HAIL. HOWEVER...DUE TO THE PRESENCE OF STRONG LOW LEVEL WINDS...A FEW TORNADOES WILL BE POSSIBLE...ESPECIALLY WITH ANY ISOLATED STORMS THAT DEVELOP AHEAD OF THE MAIN LINE OF STORMS THURSDAY AFTERNOON.

And as long as we are talking weather…

Have you noticed here, on October 16th, there is still very little color in the leaves except green? And 98% of the leaves are still on the trees.

The average first day with a temperature at or below freezing in Springfield is October 13th. That hasn’t happened yet and the 10 day forecast (taking us to 10/25) doesn’t have any temperatures lower then the 40s. I wonder if there’s ever been an October around here without a freezing temperature.

Susceptible to Persuasion in Certain Matters

OK, I’ve read this in exactly one place now but that’s good enough for me.
“There is very little evidence, if any, that doing [comprehensive] exams yearly on patients without symptoms is good for anything," said Dr. Ned Calonge, chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which does not endorse yearly physicals.

Experts question many of the tests traditionally performed during these visits. Chest X-rays, for example, can detect lung cancer but have not been shown to prevent deaths from the disease. Nor are rectal exams useful as screening tools for rectal or prostate cancer.
Unclenching even as I write.

Speed Studying

The benign but silly Moment of Silence law that went into effect here in Illinois recently continues to provide amusing justifications. The latest silliness is documented here in the Peoria Journal Star piece. My favorite part is this:
Senate Bill 1463 went into effect Thursday after the Illinois House of Representatives overrode a veto by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. By Monday, many area schools were inserting 10- to 15-second moments of silence into their daily routines.

Rep. William Davis, D-Homewood, who sponsored the change, told the Journal Star on Monday the bill offers students and teachers a moment to compose themselves before the school day. Whether they silently reflect on upcoming activities, pray or study is at the discretion of each person.

"Whatever the case may be, if given just that brief moment or quiet time, it may very well impact the decisions a young person may make during the day," he said.

Davis stressed that the law isn't meant as a religious exercise nor is there punishment for districts which don't observe it. He also said he doesn't think it cuts into learning time.

"(A) young person may pull out the book and study," he said. "To me, that's furthering the education of a young person."
He’s right! This won’t cut into learning time. 10 seconds won’t be missed by anyone. But 10 seconds isn’t going to ADD any learning either. Please. And teachers need a law to “compose” their classes? Thank goodness the legislature stepped in to make that possible. I’m not sure how teachers would “compose” a class without the full force of the law behind them.

Uniform Code of Justice

Nothing like a little student protest to bring out the authoritarianism in people.

I have no stake in the whole school uniforms thing at Franklin Middle School, but I was kind of impressed at Ashley Pruitt’s protest against the new uniforms. I think she showed quite a bit of courage and everything seems to have turned out OK. Her voice was heard and she’s back in class.

What I was shocked about was some of the reaction her protest received. She broke the rules! This must never be tolerated! She must be severely punished! Dissent = anarchy! In my day we respected our elders or else! The rules are the rules!

Geez, I had no idea the oppressors at Tiananmen Square were living here in Springfield.

Look, this was a new rule that I imagine a lot of students and a number of parents were unhappy with. Ashley set about a non-violent protest while the issue was still fresh. It’s not like she decided the rules against talking in class, or cheating, or fighting were suddenly unreasonable and decided to defy those rules. No one got hurt and I’m sure anarchy isn’t any more prevalent at Franklin than it was before her protest.

Yes, children do need to obey and defer to teachers and parents. That doesn’t mean they can’t have a voice and occasionally challenge authority on issues that mean something to them.

From what little I actually know about all of this, Ashley has shown more maturity than many of her detractors. The knee-jerk reaction to crush her protest swiftly and mercilessly I don’t think teaches anything other than intolerance of dissent and a distrust of authority. Good on everyone directly involved for coming to a mutual and peaceful accord.

Update: Just to be clear, I have no problem with uniforms; I'm just astonished at the level of vitriol and hostility toward the very notion of a student peacefully protesting.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Of Lunch and Youth

This post over at Marie's place reminds me of how unhealthy I think school lunch menus are every time I see one. Then, as a father of several, I remind myself how hard it it is to get kids to eat sometimes and how you're just glad when they eat something that halfway resembles a meal. I also remember in grade school my mother packing a sandwich and dessert in a brown paper bag for me everyday. At lunchtime, I would usually discard the sandwich and eat the dessert. In high school, I pretty much skipped lunch altogether, save maybe a milk and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. So who am I to comment.

After the Long national Nightmare is Over, Then What?

Richard Roeper asks what’s next for George W. Bush.

Seriously. Bush will be just 62 when he leaves office -- seven years younger than Ronald Reagan when Reagan was elected.

Is Bush going to make an important cause his life's mission, a la Gore?

Is he going to get involved in all sorts of humanitarian efforts and international politics, like Carter?

Is he going to be a globe-trotting, much admired superstar, like Clinton?

Is he going to become a respected elder statesman and counsel to presidents of both parties, as was the case with Nixon?

I don't think so either.

You may dismiss this as the sniping of a liberal/moderate, but even if you believe President Bush is a great leader, I'd love to hear your thoughts on what he'll do once he's out of office.

No doubt Bush will be asked to serve on this or that board, and he'll be able to collect fat speaking fees.

But what else?

Nixon wrote books with titles such as Beyond Peace, No More Vietnams, and 1999: Victory Without War. I can see Bush writing books with titles such as, Where'd I Leave My Boots?, I Still Say Brownie Did a Heckuva Job, and That bin Laden Sure Was a Tough Turtle to Drown.

All snark aside, this guy is going to be radioactive to nearly everyone. And that will include the hardcore wingnut base after they blame him for the huge Republican defeat in 2008. Not that he will care. I don’t think Bush wants to do much of anything ayway. He’ll probably be relieved not to have to put any effort into anything. Failing upward can be tiring.

I will be interested in seeing where he retires. The “ranch” prop will probably go away as soon as he’s out of office (almost as quickly as it appeared before the 2000 election). He won’t hang around Washington, no one does, and he won’t be needed there anyway. Maybe he’ll move back in with mom and dad at Kennebunkport (I’ll bet he’s already called dibs on that place after his parents pass). Texas surely is a good bet, but I also see him as a Palm Springs kind of guy, just golfin’ and goofin’. We’ll see soon enough.

When I Make the Rules: Primary Election Edition

As Supreme Rule Maker, I would decree a national primary election day on the second Saturday of May instead of this poorly designed system of choosing a leader. Since I will be Supreme Rule Maker, elections will actually be pointless but still better than letting Iowans and the folks from New Hampshire picking our presidential candidates.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Denial Isn’t Just a River in Turkey

If we must have meaningless congressional resolutions, can we stick to condemning MoveOn.org or Rush Limbaugh? This sudden need to condemn Turkey for a century-old atrocity isn’t going to accomplish anything positive. In fact, it’s going to greatly erode (and already has without even being passed yet) the relationship with a stable ally in a strategic part of the world (the Middle East).

To be sure, Turkey needs to come to grips with it’s past. The slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in WWI ranks right up there with the worst genocides in history. For that nation to be so resistant to acknowledging it, is truly bizarre.

But here’s the thing: it’s their issue to deal with. Here in the U.S., I think we’ve done a fairly good job of recognizing our own indiscretions –slavery, treatment of native Americans, imperialism, detaining Japanese Americans in WWII, etc.- few of which are on the scale of what the Turks did to the Armenians. The key is that we recognized, and in some cases, made attempts at atonement to some degree. And we did it on our own. We would have resented, say, a piece of legislation in the German parliament in 1998 denouncing slavery in the U.S.

If the Turkish genocide campaign continued today, that would be another story, of course. All pressure to end the genocide would be appropriate. Right now, no one responsible for what happened is even alive.

Strangely, the Turks dealt harshly with the government that was responsible not long after it happened, but today they seem to want to sweep the whole incident under the rug. I’m not sure why that is, but the U.S. Congress rubbing there faces in it now isn’t going to help them own up to it and it isn’t going to help anything diplomatically or politically in the Middle East.

Anyway, Juan Cole says it all much better and more authoritatively than I can, so at this point I defer to him.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Great Escape

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Great Escape. Perhaps the most famous part of that movie was Steve McQueen's flight from the Nazis on a motorcycle. While McQueen did most of his own riding in the film, a stunt double, Bud Ekins, was used for the climactic jump across a barbed wire barrier at the Swiss border. I saw where Ekins died this week (McQueen died back in the early 80s). All this gives me an excuse to link to that scene from the Great Escape.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Congratulations Al Gore

Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize.

To be fair, they really should have a Nobel War Prize to honor the work of people like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.

Well, this will give all of wingnuttia another occasion to get apoplectic (like they need another reason beyond what they conjure up for their daily dose of rage). And that’s OK, because I love the very, very funny, not at all childish, “Algore” references. Ha, ha, ha….comedy gold! So creative! And, oh yeah, he “invented the internet”! From small minds…

SILENCE!

I know the new silence law doesn’t pertain to blogs –but it should. So now please observe a moment of silence to start your day.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

OK. Isn’t that better? Those desires to commit mass murder just floated away, didn’t they. One Illinois lawmaker has assured us that this is one of the benefits of the new law mandating a moment of silence in the classroom.

In his closing remarks, the House sponsor, Rep. William Davis, D-Hazel Crest, said that if the student in Cleveland who shot four people before killing himself earlier this week - or students who knew about his plans - "had an opportunity to sit and reflect," the tragedy might have been averted.
Of course, this argument against the MOS is equally stupid:

…Sen. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, urged his colleagues to uphold the governor's veto.

With the cumulative silent time in every school for years to come, Fritchey said, "we are losing hours upon hours of our students' education
and the future."
There are lots of reasons to oppose the legislation but the loss of learning time I don’t think is one of them.

I think if I were a teacher, I would mandate seven hours of silence in my classroom.

Or as Sister Mary Elephant used to say:

“Good morning class…class…SHUTUUUP!!!!!”

Friday Beer Blogging: MillerCoors Edition

The folks at the Coors and Miller brewing companies have decided to get together:


The marriage of the Coors and Miller brands promises to reshape the U.S. beer industry, likely creating a stronger challenger for reigning industry titan Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser.

The pairing of the U.S. operations of Molson Coors Brewing Co. and SABMiller PLC, unveiled Tuesday, is expected to save $500 million a year, a healthy sum that analysts say will give the combined company a larger war chest to use in its battle against Anheuser in a slow-growing market for mainstream beer.

But some of those cost savings will come from cutting redundant functions, a fact certain to spark worries from Milwaukee, where Miller's U.S. business is based, to Chicago, home of the agencies that do much of Coors' and Miller's adverting work.

Milwaukee could suffer job cuts, while some of Miller's and Coors' advertising work is likely to be consolidated, analysts say. Draftfcb in Chicago is Coors' lead agency. Starcom in Chicago is Miller's media buyer, while Y & R's Chicago office handles the Miller Genuine Draft account.

London-based SABMiller and Denver-based Molson Coors, itself born from a 2005 merger between Coors and Canada's biggest brewer, Molson Inc., will form a joint venture called MillerCoors.

The new company will have $6.6 billion in revenue and produce 69 million barrels of beer annually.That's still short of the 102 million barrels produced for the U.S. last year by Anheuser- Busch.

But together, Miller and Coors would have a U.S. market share of around 29 percent, compared with the 18 percent and 11 percent they respectively had apart in 2006, according to Beer Marketer's Insights, an industry publication. Anheuser- Busch had a 48 percent share last year.

"This is bad news for Anheuser, "Nikolaas Faes, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas in London, told Bloomberg News. "Together, Molson and Coors are tiny competitors, but in a joint venture, they are much more formidable."
...
The Miller-Coors combination renewed speculation that Anheuser-Busch itself will eventually combine with InBev, a Belgium-based beer giant with which it already has a distribution deal.

Behind the merger fever over the past several years is a sluggishness in the beer market.

Sales of import and specialty beers have grown at fast paces, but the volume is in the Buds and MGDs of the world. And growth in that area has averaged about one percent annually over the past five years, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.
...
The new company will combine Coors' two breweries with Miller's seven plants. Under the deal, a Coors product can be brewed at a Miller plant and vice versa. Thus, the combined firm will bring its production closer to end markets, creating huge savings on shipping.
...
MillerCoors said both Denver and Milwaukee will keep some headquarters functions but hasn't chosen a home base yet.
Have a great weekend! And avoid speculative merging.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why I Don’t Watch Presidential Debates

Because they’re Stooopid:
This was to be the big gotcha against Fred Thompson. That he didn't know who the Prime Minister of Canada was. Except, in the debate, he got it right. Stephen
Harper. But who cares? It's not like the President doesn't have advisors who can clue him in on the guy's name before a major summit, or the moment he has to think about some issue relating to North American relations. The question is whether he has any coherent ideas as to North American trade and American-Canadian relation. But since that's a long question, with a possibly complicated answer, not only does nobody care to ask it, but no one would care to parse whether he got it right. Instead we get stupid gotchas like this, which probably lead to presidential candidates spending a lot of time with World Leader flash cards when they should be boning up on actual policy matters.
One-liners, sound bites, zingers, and, of course, the gotchas. Add to that, the candidates aren’t inclined to go off prepared and predicable scripts no matter what they are asked. When is the last time you saw a news story about how well a candidate answered a question? Nope, it’s only the mistakes that are newsworthy. These things are a waste of time, except for 24-hour “news” channels on cable that desperately need sometime to do. And now we’ve come to a point where there’s about one a week. Can’t get too much of a pointless thing.

Tom Tomorrow on Klutzo

Klutzo and other moralistic hypocrites. But no cartoon –yet. Well there is this one.

That Blows

I had no idea modern blowguns even existed
MORTON [Illinois] - Police have arrested the person - reportedly a juvenile - believed responsible for a pair of blow dart attacks last week.

The suspect was arrested Wednesday on charges of aggravated battery and unlawful use of a weapon.

A blow dart went through the ring finger on the girl's left hand while she was walking at Illinois and Monroe streets, near the Morton High School softball diamond, about 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4.

About fifteen minutes later, a 24-year-old woman was struck in the rear end by a blow dart at Second and Idlewood streets, more than a mile away from the site of the first attack.

Neither victim was hospitalized, but both needed medical treatment.
Not only do blowguns exist, you can get them online, you can even get a “Bunker Buster” blowgun that fires things like “Stun Darts”, and “Spike Darts”.

My first thought when I saw these things was that they looked like some sort of smoking device. But as we all know, smoking paraphernalia is highly illegal, while I’m sure blowguns are protected under the 2nd Amendment. And no one wants to cross the powerful National Blowgun Association!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Poison Pot Pies

How can they tell it’s Salmonella and not just the natural result of eating cheap pot pies?
CNN) -- Federal authorities are warning consumers not to eat Banquet frozen turkey and chicken pot pies or similar generic store-brand products because they may have caused an outbreak of salmonella poisoning.
Yeah, and I’m warning you that stuff will kill you even without salmonella. Yuck.

(And yes, there are good, or at least not so bad, pot pies out there, but you get what you pay for.)

Wednesday Penguin Blogging

I had another incident with my 4 year-old son involving my wall map of the world hanging in my office at home. (This story is still cuter though.) He often comes in and asks what this or that country is and where that country’s flag is in the display of flags at the bottom of the map. The other day he came in, pointed to Antarctica and wanted to know what it was. I told him it was Antarctica, where the penguins live. He then wanted to know which flag was the penguins’ flag.

I thought of that when I saw this cartoon this morning:

Rim Shot, Please!

Lindsay Lohan on rehab:

“It was a sobering experience…"

Hi-oooooo!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Welcome to the Working Week

LaHood quitting because the five day work week is too grueling.

Meanwhile, Weeks Before Halloween…

I was in Walgreen’s today and noticed that have a huge space filled with nothing but Christmas wrapping paper. Is anyone buying Christmas wrapping paper yet? This suggests not. Common sense might even suggest a “WTF?”

Line of Flight

Wouldn’t the burden here, or at least some of it, be on the Secret Service? Shouldn’t they have known there was going to be an air show in the area and perhaps been in contact with the organizers?
The president's security no-fly air zone was extended Sunday and included the Hagerstown, Maryland, event, but at least four pilots of antique airplanes who were supposed to join the charity show were apparently unaware of the Federal Aviation Administration restrictions. They were intercepted by F-16s and escorted out of the area, federal officials said.

Bush was speaking at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, about 26 miles from Hagerstown.

Several pilots headed to the benefit for the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Hagerstown Aviation Museum apparently were unaware of the security measure in part because their antique planes carried no radios.

A dozen planes flew into the area, causing the North American Aerospace Defense Command to scramble its fighters. The four antiques intercepted were escorted to nearby airports and forced to land. The others were warned off.

Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said the pilots would not have had the problem if they had been using radios. She said all pilots have a responsibility to check the agency's notifications.

The pilots, who were being interviewed by the Secret Service, could face penalties, including suspension of their license, Brown said.
JP has an exclusive, inside look at the incident.

Booting Up

I have no problem with the city of Springfield using boots to enforce parking laws. Well, as long as they aren’t booting the wrong cars. But I’m getting the impression the Davlin administration is more concerned with collecting fines than enforcing the parking laws that were violated. Nowhere have I seen or heard anyone from the city says they hope the boots deter illegal parking. No, all I hear is how this is going to force people to pay their fines. I think everyone has lost sight of why these fines were levied in the first place. Law enforcement is the goal isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Aside from that, how weird is it that a local radio show raised money for boots? Odd fundraising priorities.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Visiting Buildings

As the parent of a college-bound high school senior, I'm enjoying school hunting season. Today we stalk the campus of SIU Carbondale on a day the University has set aside just for this sort of thing. We joined a few hundred other prospective students and their parents in presentations and tours designed to convince us that all life begins in Carbondale. And it's true, so I had no problem with the concept.

I went with my daughter on the dull, off-putting official tour of campus, but then later took her on the real tour that will make any future academic swoon. It seemed to work, she really, REALLY likes the campus. But, hey, it's her decision. Last week she was all in love with Eastern Illinois University after visiting there. So who knows. (Confsing her more, we ate at Booby's on the way out of town, but then Charleston has a Chick-Fil-A.)

One of the things we did this morning was sit through a bunch of presentations by university folk like an admissions person, financial aid administrator, and so on. On of the speakers, the women's basketball coach, we sent up tot he podium to sell us on the school. She boasted about how great SIU was and how those others school probably weren't as good and blah, blah, blah. She also went into how SIU, it's students, the city of Carbondale and it's residents are all sort of melded into one community. And from my experience years ago, I have to agree with that. It helps that about everyone in Carbondale who isn't student, works for the university or some retail outlet that caters to students. So, yes, there is much love all around. One thing she forgot though is that the university/city also melded into the natural beauty of the area from the southern edge of the campus right into the Shawnee National Forest. At least that's the way I fhave always felt about it. But whatever, she got most of it right.

However, the coach said one thing that kind of, I don't know, bothered me I guess. Talking about that sense of community and acknowledging that many in the audience who had brought there kids were SIUC alum themselves, she said we like to return, not for the buildings but for the people. Uh, yeah, maybe. In the general sense; there are fine people there, I just don't know any of them anymore. If you've been away even half as long as I have, there isn't anyone left who you knew back when. My friends who were students have all long since left to live life and the many teachers and campus workers I knew have all either retired or died. So when she said we don't come back to see the buildings, well, some of us do.

Most of the SIU campus looks just as it did 25 years ago. There are a few new buildings (Life Science III) and a few others showing a bit more age (Faner Hall), but for the most part it's the same . Today when I gave my daughter the tour she could use, I had no problem navigating my way around. I still know the campus like the back of my hand, all the buidings, all the paths -even through Thompson Woods. And it felt good to be back. It always does. Even if all that is left from my era are the buildings. Nothing wrong with that, coach.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Losing in Peace

What's with the weird gloating that comes from Cardinals fans around Springfield whenever the Cubs fail (which, admittedly, they always eventually do)? The Cardinals ARE an admittedly better team over the long-term. I don't think even most Cubs fans will deny that. But when the Cardinals do fail, you don't the kind of laughing and pointing from Cubs fans like you do when the situations reversed (I'm speaking very generally here of course). You'd think the fans of a truly better team would be at least a little more gracious.

And, yes I know the ribbing is mostly "in fun" but that doesn't change the dynamic.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fogerty

John Fogerty is simply amazing. No one over 60, save maybe Neil Young, rocks as hard and coherently. He has released a new album, Revival, and from what I've heard of it, it's pretty damn good.

Fogerty is such an unstoppable force and I'm so glad he's still making music. I began listening to the radio when I was about 10 in 1970 and Creedence Clearwater Revival was all over the place then with what would turn out to be a dozen or so classic rock tunes. I missed Fogerty after he left scene in the early to mid '70s, but was thrilled when he started cranking out the music again in 1985 with the album Centerfield.

Anyway, here's a sample of some of his latest stuff preformed live this week on Letterman.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKSXIzkmpsg

Bonus CCR! :

CCR at Woodstock (Yes, they were there): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyCUUfJZun8

One I remember best from the early '70s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW18CzVzts4

Medley Pt. 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95JTbkmRBIE

Medley Pt. 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaquPuNFNeg

Friday, October 05, 2007

Pin Heads

I don’t know anyone personally who wears a flag label pin. If you want to wear one, fine. If you don’t, who cares? Well, other than the disingenuous, politically-motivated patriotism police? To make a big deal about it is childish, but that’s par for the phony, chickenhawk crowd.

2007: A Mens' Room Odyssey

Idaho Senator Larry Craig's mug shot after trying to 'get some' from a dude in an airport bathroom:


What HAL saw:

Dave, why is your foot touching mine. You don't want to do this Dave. Daisy...daisy.....

Friday Beer Blogging: Beer Holster Edition

I must admit, I have not seen these things out anywhere, but then I don't get out all that much anymore. Anyway, I was somewhat surprised to find out that there is something called a 'beer holster'. Thank goodness for the internet or I'd really be out of it when it comes to beer fashion.

The beer holster's function seems to be an obvious means to hands-free beer toting. No more setting your drink down and forgetting where it is. See a beer holster review here for more on their functionality.

Some of the holsters mimic their wild west six-shooter brethren.

Others are more urban designer in nature.

Some are rural designer. Note that beer holsters can hold bottles or cans.

The ultimate has to be the six pack holder. However, I recommend not walking into an airport with one of these on. Just sayin'.

And apparently you can wear a beer holster and (almost) nothing else.

Have a great weekend! Be good and keep it in its holster.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Drinking Age Rides Again

I’m not sure how the discussion on the legal drinking age got started again, but it’s out there. There’s this opinion piece from the Bloomington Pantagraph which prompted this post at Capitol Fax Blog and today Richard Roeper tackles the issue in his Chicago Sun-Times column.

First, whether lowing the drinking age to a more reasonable (in my opinion) 18 or whatever is a good idea or not doesn’t matter much because there’s no way it’s going to be lowered. That smacks of being “soft on crime”. Rarely any more are laws relaxed. No we must always be tough, tough, tough or the terrorists win or something. Additionally, those directly affected, 18 to 20 year olds, have no political power. So this is merely an academic discussion.

I often tell my own story of getting caught up in the politics of the drinking age. When I turned 19, the drinking age in Illinois was 19. Hooray! A few weeks after my 19th birthday, legislation was passed raising the drinking age in the state to 21 effective the following January. So, a few months after becoming legally able to drink, I became underage again. D’oh! Talk about pissed. That was beyond insane to me then and still makes no sense to me now. But that was the past; now I’m an adult and drinking ages have no direct affect on me anymore and never will again.

Still, perhaps because of my bad experience, I still wonder from time to time about the 21 age limit. And when I do think about it, I just don’t see the justification for it being anything over 18. 18 is the age at which one becomes an adult in almost every other way, legally speaking. Buying and consuming alcohol should be part of the adult package.

I remember well, back in 1980 when Illinois went from 19 to 21, the main rationale was that raising the age would curtail older kids buying booze for younger kids. (It wasn’t until 1984 that the federal government began threatening to withhold highway funds for the remaining states that had not yet raised the age to 21.) That rationale seems to still hold some sway today. I’m not sure the law had the intended effect (I really doubt it) but even if it did to some extent, I don’t believe the ends justified the means. Additionally, making alcohol illegal and allegedly harder to get only makes the stuff MORE enticing to underage kids.

So for what it’s worth, as long as we are talking about it, but me down for lowering the drinking age to 18. And I’ll add the idea to the long list of good ideas that will nefver happen.

Update: I find it particularly odd that you can buy and own guns at 18 but not a can of beer.

Update 2: Getting the drinking age lowered would actually be a two step process, neither of which is likely to happen. First, the federal government would have to drop the highway funds restrictions and then the state would have to lower the age limit.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More Noise Blogging

I imagine this could be a problem for pedestrians in general, not just the blind.

BALTIMORE -- Gas-electric hybrid vehicles, the status symbol for the environmentally conscientious, are coming under attack from a constituency that doesn't drive: the blind.

Because hybrids make virtually no noise at slower speeds when they run solely on electric power, blind people say they pose a hazard to those who rely on their ears to determine whether it's safe to cross the street or walk through a parking lot.

"I'm used to being able to get sound cues from my environment and negotiate accordingly. I hadn't imagined there was anything I really wouldn't be able to hear," said Deborah Kent Stein, chairwoman of the National Federation of the Blind's Committee on Automotive and Pedestrian Safety. "We did a test, and I discovered, to my great dismay, that I couldn't hear it."
In some ways, the idea of quieter vehicles is appealing. Anyone living near a busy street would attest to that. Hell I live a mile away from it, but on most days I can hear the din of traffic on Veterans Parkway from my back yard. And driving a quieter car would be nice.

However, anyone not paying attention could suffer the consequences of no audio cues that a car is coming. That would probably include cyclists to some extent too.

This is certainly not an insurmountable problem. Adding some sort of warning noise to a vehicle should be easy. And it wouldn’t have to be loud. Maybe they could be unique and of the car owner’s choice, like ring tones on cell phones. Or better yet, how ‘bout we all get that “Hello” recording the ice cram trucks in town use.

How Loud is Loud Enough?

Assuming a low level of noise in the house, I’ve always been able to hear the tornado sirens in the various houses in which I’ve lived in Springfield. I can even hear the siren tests at my desk at work on the first Tuesday of each month. This was true of old sirens as well.

Short of putting a siren in everyone’s front yard I’m not sure what more can be done. I mean, have you ever been right next to one of the sirens when it has gone off? I have. If it were any louder, it would probably kill you. If the weather looks bad, turn on your radio, TV or get on the internet (my preference) for severe weather statements. Or you can go out and buy weather radios that automatically come on when severe weather threatens. There’s no need for louder sirens.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fiscal Responsibility

Although I don’t see a lot of media coverage on this yet, I think it’s a great idea. A few Democratic Congressmen are proposing a war surtax.
The tax would be intended to raise roughly $150 billion for the war. It would be a surtax of 2 to 15 percent of income tax. A 2 percent surtax means that a person who would otherwise pay $100 in taxes would pay $102.
The percentage paid would be based on income.

That story phrases the concept rather badly; it should say, “The tax would be intended to raise roughly $150 billion to offset the cost of the war.”

The war in Iraq has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and we’ve done nothing to pay for it. It’s gone on longer than our involvement in WWII and has cost more than Vietnam (even adjusted for inflation). This isn’t a quick in-and-out operation that doesn’t greatly affect spending.

If you’re going to hold a war, you need to raise money –lots of it. It’s time we paid the bill rather than passing it on to future generations. This gives everyone a stake in the war. A draft would do the same thing but that’s not going to happen. This tax proposal isn’t either but it’s still the right idea.

And Atrios also reminds us of this:
…literally ever [news] story about legislation or proposed legislation contains an aside about how the person "plans to pay for it" or an aside saying that they didn't say how they were going to pay for it. Every policy except war, of course.
I think it’s time that change.

Update: CNN finally has the story here. But what the hell is this?

The Republican leadership was quick to condemn the proposal.
"Raiding every taxpayer's wallet for the purposes of playing politics with our national security amounts to one of the most irresponsible proposals I've seen in a long, long time," House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement.
“Raiding the taxpayers wallet”? Give me a fucking break. Yeah, I sure hate it when I go to the store and at the end the cashier “raids” my wallet. Paying for what you are buying isn’t “raiding” asswipe.

Bottom line though is this proposal is going nowhere. Our grandchildren will thank us someday

Alienated

Purely by accident, last night I happened to catch the premiers of a new show called Aliens in America on the CW. The show is getting good reviews (here and here) but I thought it kind of stupid, a bit insulting and even a little racist.

The premise of the show involves a family with two high school kids that gets a foreign exchange student. (The mother wants to get the exchange student so her unpopular son has a friend, which is kind of funny.) However, they get not the blue-eyed blond European they had hoped for, but a Pakistani Muslim. And the hilarity begins as everyone initially rejects the kid because he’s, well, a Pakistani Muslim (you know, as in terrorist). The only time this situation is at all funny is when the prejudice goes way over the top, like when everyone in his classroom raises their hand when the teacher asks who is angry with him for 9/11. Otherwise, the bigoted fear of the Americans in the show is subtle and treated as understandable. I kept thinking, no it’s not understandable.

But perhaps the most offensive part of the show didn’t even involve our South Asian friend. In the last scene of the show, it’s revealed that the host family’s high school girl is, gasp, dating (and apparently having, or wanting to have, sex with) an African-American boy. The way the scene was set up, you could tell we were supposed to be surprised or maybe even shocked by this.

I don’t know, maybe the whole point was to force us to confront silly prejudices though humor, but if that was the case, it sure backfired for me.

Monday, October 01, 2007

They're All Just Weird

2008 is shaping up to be a really interesting year in presidential politics -and we're still in the last quarter of 2007 to go.

At the risk of this being dismissed as a purely partisan comment, I have to say the the Republican bench is, well, weird. I don't think I've seen a collection candidates so quirky and even downright out of touch as the bunch we have here. And this goes beyond partisanship. I may have disagreed with a Bob Dole or Ronald Reagan of George Bush the First on the issues, but I never thought them weird. No so the current bunch.

Kevin Drum has a good post on one example. Rudy Giuliani has developed this weird (there's that word again) penchant for taking cell phone calls from his wife DURING CAMPAIGN SPEECHES. He's done it something like 40 times. And Giuliani says the calls are legit, not political theater (and even if it was political theater it would still be, you guessed it, weird).

I don't know if this crop of Republicans is just the manifestation of the disastrous Bush II presidency and the party will, next time around, right (no pun intended) itself, or if it is a prelude to even worse days to come, but there is something really, umm, weird about the standard bearers this time around.

In Service to the Homeland


Nice to see the Bush administration is utilizing extras from the Rocky Horror Picture Show in high level Defense Department positions.

That’s Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Love the Iron Cross. It lends itself nicely to that “piss us off and we’ll blitz your ass” brand of foreign policy we’ve all become so fond of.

Meanwhile, Ms. Cagan recently allegedly told a group of visiting British Members of Parliament that “I hate all Iranians”. I’m sure Cagan and her cohorts are busily drawign up plans for a final solution to the Iranian menace even as I type.

More here.

The Old Razzle-Dazzle

You don’t find spirited defenses of George Ryan like this every day. Might he get a presidential pardon?