Friday, December 28, 2007

I Just Can’t Stand the Stupidity

I’ve been holding my fire lately on the pathetic bunch of Republican candidates running for president. This is mainly because I’m not ready to worry about all the morons until just one of the morons is selected and then has a real chance at becoming president. But this from Mike Huckabee yesterday can’t go uncommented on:

[F]ormer Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee suggested that after the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the United States should, “have an immediate, very clear monitoring of our border, and particularly to make sure, if there’s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country. We just need to be very very thorough in looking at every aspect of our own security internally.”
Good lord, is there any brown-skinned person these people aren’t scared to death of. Or more precisely, is there any brown-skinned person these people don’t want us to be scared of? Odd how the rest of the world didn’t become wary of Americans and go on lockdown after Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray, Timothy McVeigh, and Eric Rudolf committed their various acts of assassination and domestic terrorism.

Huckabee also apparently thinks Afghanistan is to the east of Pakistan. Maybe he also thinks the U.S. is on Pakistan’s western border and hence the need to be on the lookout for Pakistanis.

Friday Beer Blogging: The Beer in Review

It's the end of December and time to look back at my year in beer. I have a number of categories and honors to bestow for 2007.

Favorite Beer
My favorite beer in 2007 has to have been Weihenstephaner's Hefe Weissbier.

As you may have guessed, it's a German brew. It's a wheat beer and 2007 was the year of the wheat beer for me. Last I knew, Brewhaus also serves this in large draft form. Go there and order one. Order two and you'll need to call a cab.

Best Workhorse Beer
I define a workhorse beer as a domestic, affordable beer that everyone will drink and I kinda like too. This year it's Rolling Rock.

An honorable mention has to go to Bud Light which absolutely everyone who drinks beer will drink. It's a no-brainer for social functions and i always keep some on hand.

Favorite Beer that Disappeared
I am quite fond of Schwelmer, another German beer, both the Pils and the Alt.

However, my the supply of both dried up at Friar Tuck this fall and I've not seen it anywhere else in town.

Beer I Completely Gave Up On
It's sad but I really can't drink Harp anymore. It kills my stomach. After just one, I'm reaching for the Zantac.

Oh well, there are plenty of beers in the sea, er, fridge.

Beer That Came of Age For Me
I really got into Guinness this year. A Guinness draft pored at the pub is like a beer milkshake.

Yum.

Worst Beer Experience
This had to be the night last summer when Mrs. TEH, Former Wingman SK and I stopped in at Ruby Tuesday's in the mall to get a bite to eat. SK and I tried ordering a beer before dinner but the waitress kept telling us they were out of whatever beer we asked for. It got so silly that I finally piped up and said, "It isn't much of a cheese shop is it!", referring to the famous Monty Python sketch where the cheese shop has no cheese. We laughed but the waitress had no idea what we were talking about. I guess we eventually got a Bud Light or something.


Best Beer Selection - Bar
As always, Brewhaus here in town. However the for variety of beers on tap, the honors go to Mutt Lynch's in Newport Beach, CA.

And that's just half of them. The left side of the menu if you will.

Best Beer Selection - Retail
As always, Friar Tuck.

(I know, that isn't a picture taken in the Springfield store but it was the best I could steal from their website.)

Beer Most Often Ordered in a Restaurant
This year I think Blue Moon is the winner.

A surprising number of establishments have Blue Moon on tap. Not sure why, but I'm not complaining.

Have a great weekend and a happy New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Illini Mania

I really, really don’t give a shit. Mostly because everybody else does. Oh, and then there’s my general dislike of Illini hegemony. And I hate orange.

JackSpeak

I don’t care that much about the opinions of celebrities. I know they have them, and often voice them. And that’s OK. We all have that right. I just don’t care that much one way or another. But when Jack Nicholson speaks, no matter what the topic or even if I disagree with him, I'm riveted. Even if he’s not making sense, I’m mesmerized. That’s why his movies are so watchable too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Park Potty Problem Percolates

The day after Christmas is usually a very slow news day, so thankfully there’s the Washington Park port-a-potty scandal to fall back on. Isn’t a dirty public portable bathroom kind of a dog bites man story?

First, let me point out that Willie C. Johnson is one of those fake names we would use as kids for a prank magazine subscription. You know, like I.P. Freely and Ida Phucter. To use it in conjunction with a story about bathrooms is to appeal to my suppressed 6th grade sense of humor. Thanks SJ-R!

Second, I can’t imagine doing any sit-down business in a portable toilet in the middle of winter. Wouldn’t there be some danger of having your ass freeze to the seat? I don’t want to be in a position where I need someone to come in and pour warm water on me to free my flesh from that. And with crazed, stick-wielding chest scratchers on the loose in the park, I’d also be afraid of getting caught with my pants down when I should be fleeing.

Thirdly, and maybe this was covered at some other time and I just missed it, isn’t the bigger story here that homeless people were drawn to the heated bathrooms in the park and that those bathrooms are now closed for the winter because of that “problem”. That’s sad on so many levels. At a minimum though, the park district should keep their indoor bathrooms open during the day. Even if the homeless seeking shelter in the restrooms at night are deemed a danger, locking the restrooms up at sunset should take care of that issue while still allowing everyone else use of the facilities during the day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

We Wish You a....

Merry Christmas!

May Santa Beer be good to you all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Late Shift

Fathers of young children never work harder than on Christmas Eve night. Those insidious Chinese manufacturers really are out to kill us.

Christmas Drunk

A very special Christmas Eve song.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Service Conspiracy

Huh? Does any of this ring true to anyone? It doesn't to me.
PHILADELPHIA -- If you’re over 50, you’ve probably had this experience:

You’re standing at a checkout counter, ready to pay, and the twentysomething behind the register is talking on her cell phone. So you wait, and wait, and wait, and when the clerk finally finishes her conversation, she offers not an apology, but a grimace that suggests you’ve interrupted.

Sound familiar? It has a name: the Service Gap.

That’s not a hip clothing store for soldiers. Or a new motto for the London subway system.

It’s business-speak to describe a phenomenon fueling plenty of holiday-shopping frustration: the difference in how baby boomers and members of the “millennial generation” define the concept of customer service.

“There’s a tremendous culture and value gap,” said William Withers, a communications professor at Wartburg College in Iowa who, with his colleague Patrick Langan, has spent years studying customer service.

It’s not that those in their teens or 20s are lazy or mean. Or that boomers are getting crotchety as they age. It’s that both groups have far different social experiences and expectations, and demographics tend to put boomers in the checkout line and millennials behind the counter.
Wow, lots of generalizations of generations there. That aside, I haven't noticed this "Service Gap" and particularly not along generational lines. There's some shitty service now and there was some shitty service 30 years ago.

I don't think I've ever had to wait for a young (or old) cashier to finish up a phone call before being helped. And why does this article flat out state this happens to the over 50 crowd in particular. Maybe that's why it's never happened to me, I'm not over 50. If your in your 30s or 40s, the kids leave you alone but torment the "crotchety" folks in their 50s.

Forget the alleged "Service Gap", it looks like we have an "idiotic reporting gap".

The Soft Bigotry of Bigots

Barack Obama on the campaign trail in Iowa:
Obama joined a group of four women in a booth to eat some pumpkin pie and sip a cup of tea. One of the women asked him how his "Muslim background" would affect his decisions as president.
I'd like to ask this woman a question: How could someone's "Muslim background" affect their decisions as president? Assuming, of course that person actually had a significant Muslim background, which Obama doesn't. I mean, what was she concerned about?

Flim Flam Man

The SJ-R is calling bullshit on the "Bird Whisperer". Good for them. The "eagle tried to take me away" story earlier this week convinced me that we had been taken.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Christmas Timeline

I was thinking today how fast Christmas came up on me this year and how I'm having a hard time getting into it. Damn, only three days to go. I never did get the lights out onto the front bushes (the weather didn't help). And we didn't send family pictures in our Christmas cards this year. Thankfully, and no thanks to me, Mrs. TEH got cards sent at all.

I think a lot of it has to do with "routine" factor. Looking back, I seem to get more excited about, or at least more interested in, Christmas during times when things have been shaken up in my life.

Of course, as a kid just the thrill of getting presents was enough to sustain a pretty good high for weeks before Christmas. By the time I was a teenager, the getting of presents wasn't quite as thrilling since the presents began to take on a more practical tone (clothes, typewriter, etc.), but having a little income added the new dimension of being able to buy others presents. I thought that was cool at the time.

My first year away from home in college I thought it would be totally great to bring a few of the family's Christmas albums to my dorm room and crank them as loud as I would a Rolling Stones record. Yeah, that was massively stupid but my 18 year old mind thought it pretty awesome.

After graduation and getting my first "professional" job, I spent my next few Christmases essentially alone in my schoolhouse apartment which offered me the opportunity to put up my own fake, $15 Christmas tree. I began collecting a few cheap ornaments as well. Being alone, it also allowed me to wallow in a bit of melancholy (or is it melancholia), something I actually enjoy from time to time (my version is a state of mind that lies somewhere, when set to music, between I'm Only Happy When it Rains and This is the Day).

Soon I was married and that brought not being alone and a family of my own and in-laws and all that.

Years later, I was unmarried again and getting my first cheap fake tree of my new life. This time I actually had money and could buy presents for everyone and send my own Christmas cards and it was all new again. And being alone, I could also wallow in my melancholy! Wow, a two-fer this time.

Then I was married again and was able to get into the family aspect once more. The addition of my son in 2003 again peaked my interest. But alas, even that is starting to fade and here I am going, "How did Christmas get here so fast?" again.

Next year I need to work at it a little harder. I resolve to get a family photo for the Christmas cards and get the lights out on the bushes. Come to think of it, there are still three days before Christmas and it's warm and precipitation-free outside at the moment. Maybe I can still get the lights out. Christmas is saved!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Coach Dick

No way! SIU’s new football coach is going to be Dick Cheney.
CARBONDALE - The process to hire a new football coach at Southern Illinois University is moving right along. Athletic director Mario Moccia was out of town Friday, interviewing a candidate at an undisclosed location.
I sure hope he doesn’t stick with his traditional strategies and sends in too few players or shoots someone in the face.

Friday Beer Blogging: Oh Christmas Tree Edition

By now most of you have already selected a Christmas tree or hauled up your fake one from the basement. But you know, there is a better way. Rather than hefting a fresh tree or a box-o-plastic, you can build your tree slowly, 12 ounces at a time. Let me show you what I mean.

See, no needles to sweep up and no fighting with the lights (unless you mean Lites).

You can even use big empties. You can still return kegs for the deposit after the first of the year you know.

If you're fond of just one particular beer, perhaps you can get a sponsorship and drink for free while providing the community with seasonal joy.

And don't forget the topper...

For more, see my Christmas special from two years ago.

Have a great weekend and a Merry Christmas. And remember, it's never too soon to start drinking for next year's tree.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tis the Season for Tipping

I noticed our garbage men started leaving out empty trash can standing upright and with the lids on a few weeks ago. Previously, they just threw the cans and lids on the ground. Today, taped to one of the trash cans, I left them a cash Christmas tip in spite of their transparent best behavior.

And even if my cans are soon once again strewn on the ground at the end of my front lawn, I’ll have no regrets. I contend that trash pickup is the best value in the world, while the guys that do it have really crappy jobs. They are out there in all kinds of weather doing back-breaking and smelly work. Can you imagine some of the gross things they must see and smell everyday? My guess is they don’t get paid a ton either. How could they, trash service is so cheap.

So even though they left us a Christmas card (with their names stamped, not signed, inside) to serve as a subtle reminder that we could reciprocate with a card of our own (and maybe some cash?), I say they’ve earned every penny of what I gave them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Voice From the Grave

Eric Zorn says:

Every so often, when someone dies, there's an awkward few days or even weeks when the deceased person's voice still greets callers who go into voice mail or get the answering machine.

People tell me that erasing that outgoing message can be tough, but everyone knows it's necessary.
After my mother died last year, my sister from California was staying at my mom’s condo while s in town for the funeral and aftermath. I called over there while she was still there and got my mother’s answering machine with her greeting still on it. I hadn’t thought ahead to prepare myself for that. It was kind of a shock.

On a more macabre note, about that same time we were going through mom’s things and telemarketers were still calling at her place. On one occasion, I answered one of those calls and actually got a bit of a rush being able to tell them she was dead. Few things stop the show quicker for a telemarketer than finding out their lead is deceased. I felt guilty about it immediately after, but I really think my mother would have gotten a kick out of it.

Stranger Danger

Does anyone else find this story suspicious?
The [12 year old] boy was out of school for the day and riding his bicycle through [Washington] park. He was cutting through the tennis court area when a man emerged from the woods, knocked the boy off his bike, threw him to the ground and began punching him in the back.

The man then turned the boy over, ripped off his shirt and scraped him on the chest with a stick.

The attacker was wearing a black ski mask, a puffy, navy-blue coat and black sweat pants.
Scraped him on the chest with a stick? Huh? OK, then what happened? Did the masked man get up and run away, further assaulted the boy, or what?

Very odd. I suppose the police wouldn’t be asking for witnesses if they didn’t have some reason to believe the boy. Nothing is impossible but some things are improbable.

Shovel Your Walks, You Lazy A-Holes

I’ve been meaning to write this post all week, but ultimately wasn’t motivated to do so until it affected me personally. Last night while walking in my neighborhood, I slipped on what is now ice on a sidewalk that had not been shoveled. Now, I’m not bitching so much for myself; I have 24/7 access to a gym that I can use for exercise and I was perfectly aware that there was the danger of ice and unshoveled snow out there and I chose go out in it anyway.

But people do use the sidewalks and it should be the responsibility of the home owner to make sure the sidewalks are clean. Why is it we demand that people keep their yard mowed but don’t seem to care if the sidewalks aren’t kept clean? I would estimate that about a quarter of all homes in my subdivision have not cleared there public sidewalks of the snow that fell Saturday.

I know that there are some people who are physically unable to remove snow. And in my neighborhood, I mostly know who they are. But you know what, those people, for the most part, DO have their sidewalks cleared. I don’t know if it was just a helpful neighbor or they hired someone, but somehow they got their sidewalks done even if they couldn’t do it themselves.

One of the residents who didn’t is a Springfield police officer. They must have really lowered the physical standards if this guy can’t get his ass out and do a little shoveling. Yes, serving and protecting the city, except in front of his house. Others I know are able to do it themselves and some have kids and teenagers who are certainly up to the task.

Maybe some people think that no one uses sidewalks because no one walks. Admittedly, there really isn’t anywhere to go in our neighborhood other than to another house. But if these careless people would look at there unshoveled walkways, they might notice that they are full of footprints. So the evidence is right there that people use the sidewalks. I and many others use them for exercise. Kids need to walk to their school bus or over to a friends house. The old lady across the street from me walks her dog several times a day, both for her and her dog’s benefit. I actually think about her in particular when I’m out shoveling.

People, we live in a community. We all need to do our part. Somehow your lawn gets mowed in the summer. You need to shovel your walks in the winter. You lazy fucks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bad Lawmaker of the Day

Sometimes you have to wonder who these guys are really representing. A new state law in Illinois set to take effect next month requires retailers to honor the values of the card, in full, for 5 years. But someone sees a problem with that:
Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, was the lone member of the General Assembly to vote “no” on the gift-card legislation.

“Consumers need friendly laws, but this, in my opinion, is going too far,” Jacobs said.

“I think that it could become a nightmare for retailers,” he added. “If a retailer issues a card and they put an expiration date on there, I think people have a responsibility to spend that money in a year.”
Why? The retailer gets to use that money interest-free. If gift cards are too much of a burden for a store, then they shouldn’t sell them.

I remember once getting a $50 gift card from Circuit City as a rebate on a large purchase I had made. Several months later, I went in to use it only to find out it had expired after three months. I was pissed, since I had been saving the card for another large purchase. And yes, there was an expiration notice on the card itself, but I hadn’t even thought to look at the fine print on a gift card.

I’m not sure this legislation would have covered my situation or not (since it was a rebate and not a cash purchase), but I’m glad it’s putting an end to the practice of screwing people out of their gift card’s purchasing power. I think the statistic is something like 17% of gift cards aren’t EVER redeemed because people lose them or forget about them or just never have a use for them. I think that alone should take care of any burden on the retailer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

YouTube Breaks it to Me Gently

Stupid Internet Polls

The Southern Illinoisan has up one of the most presumptive, leading and biased poll questions I’ve seen in a while. And considering we are talking about internet polls, that’s saying something.



I suspect that most of those answering in the affirmative would want to oust Blago regardless of any action on Wrigley Field. Also, just what information is this poll trying to garner? If it’s trying to measure support for the (alleged) state interest in acquisition of Wrigley Field, why doesn’t it just ask that? You know, “Do you support the idea of the State of Illinois acquiring Wrigley Field?” or something. The do you want to dispose of the governor angle seems gratuitous to me.

Home is Where the Tax Deduction is

Two things about this:

1) I’m glad I’m not a tax accountant. Just reading this article nearly put me into a coma half way through.

2) Do we need some specific legislation to spell out the work location and travel rules for governors? I’ve thought the whole thing was a bit overblown for both political reasons and the hurt feelings of downstaters (especially here in Springfield), but Blagojevich seems intent on really pushing it to the point of ridiculousness.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Old, Old, Old

The college radio station I worked at as an undergrad at SIU, WIDB, has its top albums of the year out. I'm sad to report that I have only heard of ONE of the artists on their top 30 (alternative/indie/college radio/whatever) list: The White Stripes (I even have one of their CDs!). In an odd twist, I've actually heard of several artists on their top 10 hip-hop recordings list.

Update: I have heard of a few more (OK, 2 more) of the bands on their current top 30. So: old but not totally ancient.

Even More Rockin' Tom

Geez, there's even more...

I'm not as exited about this one, but I'd love to have the cover as a poster.

And now JP can leave a comment saying he knew about this too. Maybe he can also leave a video post on his site explaining why he's been withholding this information from me.

8.5 Inches of Sweet Loving...Snow

Springfield unofficially got 8.5 inches of snow in yesterday's storm. Let's hope that's the record amount for one storm this season.

I shoveled the sidewalks and driveway three times. Once at noon yesterday because it seemed like the snow was slowing down and we weren't going to get very much snow anyway (uh-huh). Then last evening, I did it again because we were expecting company. Actually, Former Wingman SK and his girlfriend were going to meet us at our place, then we were going to head out for our annual Christmas drinks at Brewhaus. That got called off (after I had already shoveled) due to the weather. The third and final shoveling came at noon today.

Mrs. TEH and I stupidly ventured out anyway last night to grab a bite to eat and get a little Christmas shopping done. At one stop, the snow was coming down and blowing so hard that I had to dig the snow out of my ear after walking into the store from the parking lot.

Oh well. I still prefer these storms happen on weekends when they can't disrupt school and work.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ah, Remembering When...

...we were only going to get 1-2 inches of snow. Those were the days (yesterday I think).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Kill Joy

Why would anyone's "dream" be to go to DeKalb? I think Kill's dream probably had a greener complexion than the current frozen tundra of Northern Illinois.

Swooning Local Official

No big issue here, I just think it funny that Todd “Montgomery Burns” Renfow thinks something “sounds kind of romantic” and is “enchanting”. Excellent!

The Illinois Cubs?

First let me say that I agree with almost everyone in thinking the idea of the State of Illinois buying Wrigley Field is just nuts. I’m not sure how serious this idea really is, but it is crazy.

The Southern Illinoisan has an article on the issue which quotes one downstate Republican lawmaker after another denouncing the idea as “absurd”, “unbelievable” and “ridiculous”. But toward the end of the article, this gets thrown into the mix:
In Southern Illinois, Blagojevich did funnel $3 million in state funds toward the construction of a minor league baseball park in Marion.

But, state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said there is no comparison between that project and buying a ballpark in Chicago that could sell for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now hold on Mr. Bost. Is there really “no comparison”? If you take that $3 million relative to the population of Marion is it really proportionally out of line with the cost of Wrigley Field relative to the population of Chicago? I’m too lazy to do the math, but I think it’s a valid point. Sure it’s not exactly the same thing (the state has no hand in running the Marion ball field, for example) but Southern Illinoisans might want to watch just how loudly they howl about this lest a certain level of hypocrisy be revealed.

Friday Beer Blogging: Glamour Shot Edition

Nothing makes a beer feel more pretty than a professional glamour photo. A skilled photographer can take a rabble like this...

...and turn it into this...


Beer glamour shots can go different directions. More artsy...


...or more alluring...

A classy backdrop, including the grains of its origin, can accentuate a beer's beauty

And any photog will tell you camera angle can give a whole new perspective

Have a great weekend! And remember, beer is only glamorous when treated with respect.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rod Blagojevich: Hero

Everyone’s always picking on Rod, but is he really just a misunderstood life saver? Take this story from the reflections of campus newspaper photographer and graduating senior at Southern Illinois University, Anthony Souffle:
…and I dare say that my life was saved by our own Governor Rod Blagojevich when he stopped me from accidentally taking a backward step off the roof of the Marion Civic Center.
See. And you never hear Blago bragging about this. He’s the strong silent type. OK, you could argue that Souffle might not have been on the roof of the Marion Civic Center in the first place had he not been there to cover Blagojevich’s visit to the roof of the Marion Civic Center, but that’s getting a little nit-picky.

Silly Party

I’m really starting to believe the current crop of Republican presidential candidates really are, each in there own way, potentially worse than George W. Bush. That’s not an easy thing to say considering Bush has been far and away the worst president in my lifetime, and maybe in the history of the nation. It’s almost like these guys are taking Bush’s worst traits and trying to top him.

Mike Huckabee has been really stepping in it lately, including this comment on energy policy:
“And we ought to declare that we will be free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is.”
What? Free of energy consumption? The only way that’s going to happen is if we all die. Sounds like a promising platform on which to run for president.

I doubt that’s what he really meant. But what did he mean. We’ll probably never know because it is assumed anymore that Republican candidates aren’t necessarily smart just fun to be around and resolute. You know, the G. W. Bush template. Kevin Drum sums it up nicely:
So, again: will anyone press him on this? Or will he get the village idiot treatment that Republicans since Ronald Reagan have so often gotten, where they're sort of expected to say harebrained stuff and nobody holds it against them? After all, this has nothing to do with Huckabee's hair, his cleavage, or his middle name, only with the fact that he displays an almost comical, grade-school ignorance of even the bare basics of national energy policy. And who cares about that in a president of the United States?
At least they’ve got Alan Keyes in the race now to save the day.

It Could Have Been a Lot Worse

All in all, Springfield came through the weekend ice storm in fairly good shape. A look at the headlines in this morning’s Jacksonville paper, however, reveals the destruction that barely missed us. The schools are still closed there and many homes are still without power.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Self-Fulfilling Reporting

I like this SJ-R opinion piece in today’s paper that calls into question the bribery drug reps use to influence sales to doctors, and the doctors who unethically (in my opinion) accept the bribes. But I had to laugh at the opening sentence:
A drug representative allegedly attempting to smear the reputations of two local doctors and their wives made for a front-page story this week.
A front page story! How did that happen? Oh, yeah you guys decided to put it there. This wasn’t some predestined natural phenomenon; this was a conscious decision made by the staff of the paper. I’m not saying it wasn’t front page worthy; I really don’t care. It’s just that you can’t put it there and then come back and elevate the story’s significance BECAUSE it was on the front page. Just sayin’.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

T. Snyder Rocks On!

Wow, I can't believe what I found tonight. Remember right after Tom Snyder died last summer I put up a post (here) on why he was such an icon for people exactly my age, give or take a couple of years? How there was nothing else on TV that late at night and we college kids were the only ones up watching that late anyway, and how Tom would often have cool bands on that he was totally clueless about. Well it's all in the post.

Anyway, I'm Goggling around tonight and look what video awesomeness I discovered on Amazon:

I love the cheesy Snyder head shots at the top of the cover of this DVD. This is great. From the Amazon review:
Spanning the musically volatile years from 1977-1981, these eight Tomorrow Show episodes all focus on the burgeoning punk/new wave movement. To his credit, Snyder doesn't pretend to like or even understand it, but nor does he criticize (although he does chuckle on occasion). Mostly, he lets the musicians speak for themselves and play a few tunes. All the while, he looks thoroughly bemused, comfortably enveloped in a nimbus cloud of cigarette smoke...
I'm giddy. I can hardly wait to order this.

Poor Service From UPS

Good, I didn't want to be the first one to start bitching about customers service.

My beef is with The Brown. Last Friday while I was home for lunch, we got a phone call from a neighbor across the street and down the block a ways. Apparently, UPS had delivered a couple of packages belonging to us to this neighbor. He said the packages were sitting on his front porch. So I walked down to find one smallish, light package and a larger VERY HEAVY box containing my son's drum kit we got him for Christmas (OK, it probably have been better for our sanity if Mr. Brown had just dumped it into a creek, but hey).

So I have a choice: go back and get my truck or just hump it down the block with this thing. Foolishly, I chose the latter. One aching back later, I was furious at the stupidity of the UPS driver. The address number where he left out packages bore no resemblance to ours. What drugs was this person on? Entering the house I told Mrs. TEH that I was going to call UPS and verbally rip them a new one. She told me that she had already tried but couldn't get past the phone tree and recordings. That would have been just more frustration. Therefore, I vowed I would...would...BLOG ABOUT IT!

Check Her Out

I actually thought this commercial was kind of funny when I saw it for the first time today. However, I agree with Atrios that if you take its implications seriously, it is kind of disturbing. Be sure to run a credit check on your fiancĂ©e before getting married! That way you can dump her ass if she’s got bad credit. Come to think of it, that might have helped prevent my first marriage. That and a criminal background check.

The Kevin Bacon Campaign Game

Hilarious:
Kevin Bacon is now campaigning for John Edwards in Iowa. Bacon's extensive connections to every single person in Iowa just might give Edwards the edge he's looking for next month.
Who needs Oprah.

De-Iced

It looks like we’ve avoided the latest round of ice –for now. In fact, I’m hoping today’s rain and somewhat warmer temperatures get rid of some of the ice on the trees. It was annoying yesterday, driving through some residential neighborhoods, trying to avoid the low hanging branches. My high-profile truck was smacking into them when it wasn’t possible to go around them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Once, Answering Machines Roamed the Earth

I was reading this article over the weekend on how new telephone technology is making the phone survey harder to do. But something else got my attention in the first paragraph:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Pollsters taking the pulse of voters this political season are confronting growing obstacles from cell phones — and an electorate that is increasingly walling itself off with caller ID and answering machines.
Answering machines? In an article about modern technology, that seems kind of retro. I get the concept, but isn’t voice mail more prevalent than answering machines now? Or am I off-base simply because I personally don’t know very many people who have an actual answering machine? Not that I’m intimate with everyone’s telephone equipment, but I can honestly say I know only one person, for sure, that uses an answering machine. And this guy is definitely telephone low-tech. He only has a cell phone when whatever women he happens to be dating at the time requires him to have one (how did women keep track of men before cells?). So do people still use answering machines and I’m just being a com-tech snob?

Coincidentally, this is in alignment with something else I was thinking about the other day. I was looking up a phone number online and wondered why we still need phone books (answer: a lot of us don’t!). That got me to thinking about what other things I used ten years ago on a regular basis but are now obsolete. The phone book, the answering machine and the caller ID box were about all I could think of. Maybe I just had phones on the brain but it seemed to me that was about it. Everything having to do with telephone communications has changed in the last decade. But is there more? I’d say the VCR is pretty darn close these days but not quite there for me.

Hannah Blagtana

I wouldn’t have taken Rod as a big Hannah fan. On the other hand, he does little that surprises me anymore.

ROSEMONT -- Zeal for superstar Hannah Montana drew scores of admirers —including Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his family — many of whom shelled out hundreds of dollars for tickets to a Rosemont concert.

“We’re big fans,” Blagojevich, who was accompanied by his wife and two daughters, said before Saturday’s concert. “I’ve seen every ‘Hannah Montana’ episode.”
OK, as a parent I understand how you wind up becoming familiar with certain TV shows and movies geared toward a younger audience because you either watch them with your kids of hear them in the background. For the record, Hannah Montana is definitely a background show for me (you couldn’t pay me enough to sit through one of those Disney sitcoms). But what adult admits to having seen every episode of Hannah Montana? Especially if that adult already has a reputation for bad time management on the job. Blago should stick with hockey games. At least most guys can understand skipping work for that.

Notes from the Winter Wonderland

An exciting ice filled weekend, eh? The good news is there’s more to come! A few random thoughts and observations:

I had been expecting the power outages that always come with these things, but we didn’t lose power until last night and only then once for just a second and then again for about 3 minutes. We did lose our cable (and therefore our phones and internet) for about an hour as well. All in all, not too bad. Other parts of the city I guess weren’t as lucky. Mrs. TEH spent the day yesterday in Pleasant Plains and she said they lost power several times there. Of course, when we used to live there, it power seemed to go off anytime someone as much as sneezed in the direction of a power line.

In the post below, commenters Tracy (who needs her own blog judging by the quality and quantity of her comment) and JP (who already has his own blog) pass on their weather adventures over the weekend.

I was out and about several times this weekend and the streets were in pretty god shape for the most part, thanks to the street crews.

One survival tactic: when one of these ice storms approaches, turn up your heat. That way if the power does go off, it will take longer to cool off without the heat. That will buy you more warm time before power is restored.

Speaking of heat, I find it silly that when the electricity goes out my gas furnace become useless because there is no power for the blower. There’s all that potential heat (the natural gas) but it’s useless without the blower. Should gas furnaces come equipped with a backup source of power that could run the blower? How much energy can it take? Couldn’t it be run off of a battery for short intervals to get heat into the house while the electricity is off?

Last year when we had that ice storm, we lost power for most of a day and our only heat source was our gas fireplace that emitted almost no heat. This year I converted the fireplace into a wood burner. Now we can get heat from that in an emergency.

It was kind of fun walking around the backyard yesterday. Very loud and crunchy. It reminded me of the sound you here in your head when eating a crunchy cereal.

And finally, when I was outside yesterday clearing some ice, my 4 year-old son came to the back door dressed in nothing but a long-sleeved shirt. (Sometimes he likes to go natural around the house; I’m hoping he grows out of it soon.) He opened the door as if to come out and then went back in. I assumed he got the point that it was too cold to be outside with almost nothing on. A few minutes later he returned. This time he came out but had on his shirt and his snow boots and nothing else. He had determined that his feet would get cold on the ice. Problem solved.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Freezing Rainy Season

Winter is in the house.












Any questions?

And the Weather Winner Is…

The Weather Channel. Yesterday’s Weather-Off pitted TWC against the National Weather Service to see who had the better snow predicting ability. This time yesterday, the NWS was predicting we would get 2-4 inches of snow in Springfield while TWC said it would be 1-2 inches. I heard on the radio this morning that we officially got less than an inch. Using my more scientific method of measurement (sticking my finger in the snow that accumulates on the railing of my back deck) I’d say we got about an inch and a half at my house. Either way, TWC was more accurate than the NWS.

Congratulations TWC!

Friday Beer Blogging: First Snow Edition

Springfield got its first measurable snow of the season last night, which means it's time to remind everyone how well beer and snow go together. Much like how beer and everything (except driving, of course) go together.

Here's a Snow-Homer with a beer resting on his belly.

Beer itself makes for a wonderful snow sculpture subject.

A beerman?

And, if you have enough snow, you can put it to good work chilling your beer.

Have a great weekend. And snow when to say when!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bloggers on Ice

I see Rich “Crash” Miller has been littering the scenic highways of Illinois. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt. God bless seatbelts (even if the jackbooted thugs of state government force us all to wear them against our will, denying us the basic freedom to be thrown from moving vehicles!).

That reminds me of the time long ago when, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I was driving on what is now I-39 just south of Rockford. The damp pavement suddenly, and with no indication, turned into a sheet of ice. I had apparently hit the freeze line. I was going 60 or 70 miles an hour, so I lost control as soon as I hit the ice. I did a number of 360s, completely without any control of the vehicle. I just hung on to the steering wheel and hoped for the best. I finally came to a stop still on the highway but facing the wrong way. Fortunately, there was little traffic and none headed my way. I slowly turned the car around and was back on my way at a greatly reduced speed. I got to my destination no worse for wear, but that could have been one of the worst days of my life, if not the last.

Yet Another Weather-Off

As some of you know, I sometimes like to pit the forecasting abilities of the National Weather Service against those of The Weather Channel. I’ve done two or three of these before here and each contestant has won at least once, IIRC.

As of this morning, both weather information providers are calling for snow tonight. However, the NWS says it’s going to be 2-4 inches while TWC says only 1-2 inches. So who’s going to be more correct? Under 2”, TWC wins; over 2”, the NWS wins.

Gentlemen, start your Doppler radars!

Ho, Ho, Ho

I guess just I don’t know much about prostitution. I assumed the industry’s providers skewed somewhat young. But the women picked up in the latest sting in Springfield are a tad bit more mature than I would have imagined. Or maybe 40 really is the new 19. What do I know.

Well, I do know that I’ve always wanted to be Fred Garvin when I grow up. Except I don't know if I really want to service the Quad Cities.

Cablechangeaphobia

The ownership of the cable system in Springfield has changed hands several times in the approximately 35 years (?) the city has had a cable provider. The changes in the past have never made much difference to me, but the upcoming switch from Insight to Comcast is making me nervous. Not because I’ve heard anything bad about Comcast (I don’t know anything about them really), but because I’ve got so much invested in the cable system as it is right now.

I have my internet broadband service through cable, I have my landline phone service (Vonage) running through my cable lines and, of course, I have several tiers of cable TV service including a DVR set. I’m looking at the possibility of rate changes, services changes, equipment changes, billing schedule changes, and, worst of all, possibly having the whole channel lineup change. I really don’t want to have to learn a whole new set of channel locations. And they better not get rid of any of my favorite channels. Gag, I’ve become a complete cable junkie. Just give me my stuff, I have to have it, man.

Update: Uh-oh. This doesn’t bode well. I’ll assume for now it’s just a “Chicago thing” (you know how those people are).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Clouds of ‘Shrooms

The ultimate nightmare terrorism scenario has to be the use of a nuclear weapon in a terrorist attack on a major city. It’s such a frightening scenario we often focus on the horror of it happening and kind of put aside any calculation on how likely such an event really is. Turns out, a nuclear terrorist attack would be really hard to pull off (24 fantasies aside). At least that’s the conclusion of Michael Levi who has written a book called On Nuclear Terrorism. Check out some of his comments over at TPMCafe Bookclub.

And while it serves the political purposes of some to ferment the belief that The Terrorists™ could pull this off at any minute, it's worth keeping our heads and acting rationally.

The Temptation of Lawn Ornaments

I’m not sure what it is about lawn ornaments that make them such a temping target for thieves and vandals, but Roeper is right, baby Jesus lawn ornaments are still lawn ornaments and the media treatment these get when one is (inevitably) stolen is hilarious.

Now, in the interest of full discloser I’m not unfamiliar or completely innocent when it comes to lawn ornament capers –even one involving a plastic Jesus!

As a kid, there was a blue-haired lady just down the street that had a silver orb sitting on a pedestal in the middle of her back yard. It was very visible from the backyards my friends and I would play in. The orb looked very breakable and sometimes the temptation would get to be too much and we would hurl rocks at it. I don’t remember if we ever hit it or broke it but we sure wanted to.

Years later, but while I was still young and irresponsible, I was at a party where a couple of guys I knew showed up with…gasp!...a plastic baby Jesus procured from someone’s lawn nativity scene. Yikes. Maybe it was the beer, but seeing someone show up with a plastic baby Jesus under his arm struck me as very funny at the time. I won’t get into whether or not I saw anyone drink beer from said plastic baby Jesus because I’d be getting into quasi sacrilegious territory of the plastic icon variety and that doesn’t interest me right now.

My favorite lawn ornament story, though, involves the use of a lawn ornament as barter. I was with my ex-wife (while we were still married, of course) at the northern Illinois radio station she worked at. It was a late shift, probably on a weekend, when I took a call from someone requesting a song. But this was no ordinary request; they were willing to give us something in return. Half an hour later, two young guys showed up at the radio station’s front door carrying a pink flamingo lawn ornament. Needless to say, their requested song was played. Crazy-psycho wives may come and go, but lawn ornament stories are forever.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Smoking the Toad (and the Turd!)

So let me get this straight, just the intent to get high is a crime even if the substance you are using is not illegal?

"Toad smoking," which is a substitute for "toad licking," is done by extracting venom from the Sonoran Desert toad of the Colorado River. The toad's venom -- which is secreted when the toad gets angry or scared -- contains a hallucinogen called bufotenine that can be dried and smoked to produce a buzz.

In October, a Kansas City man was charged with possessing a controlled substance after Clay County authorities determined he possessed a toad with the intent to use its venom to get high.

Clay County Prosecutor Daniel White said possessing the toad is not illegal, but using it to get high off its venom is.
I’ve long suspected that the problem many people have with “drugs” isn’t so much that the drugs do harm, but that some people don’t like the idea of other people enjoying themselves using drugs. Obviously some drugs are very dangerous, but others aren’t. And the objections to the relatively harmless drugs (marijuana for example) is based, I think, on this notion that getting high in itself is wrong and people should be prevented from doing so (unless it’s alcohol or nicotine of caffeine, which are culturally exempt).

Keep this in mind: people like to get high and will do almost anything to get there. Take this for example:

While smoking toad venom might sound extreme, an even more disturbing method to get high possibly includes sniffing fermented human waste. Vicky Ward, manager of prevention services at Tri-County Mental Health Services in Kansas City, said she has read e-mail warnings about a drug called jenkem.

The drug is made from fermented feces and urine.

"We work with a lot of youths and we ask them whether anyone has tried it and they said no," Ward said. "They (the youths) have heard about it because of the nternet."
OK, I’m not really believing that one. It’s got urban legend written all over it. Banana peals anyone? Still, if you could cop a buzz that way, you can be sure someone would be doing it.

Oooo, That Smell

When did ADM move to Springfield? Outside at lunch today I noticed the city smelled like Decatur. Well, the wind is coming from the east.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas “live” (on network TV as it was being aired) for the first time in what I suppose has been decades now. A Charlie Brown Christmas was a Christmas season stable when I was a kid. It first aired in 1965 when I was just five and no one under 12 missed it when it was shown each year. Of course the was back when you had to see it “live” or you missed it until the next year -no reruns, no video recordings- catch it or miss it for the year. A few comments and observations:

The show seems a lot shorter than I remember it. But then everything at my age seems to go by frighteningly fast.

The animation is so dated that an animated Pampers ad during a commercial break seemed like it was placed there to steal the show.

I’m surprised at how the show still evokes the emotion of winter as a child in me. I suspect I could watch this in July and still feel that.

I’ve always wondered what kids in warmer places like, say, Florida or Southern California think of the winter theme that they don’t get to experience. Or are they outside playing and couldn’t care less?

In what I see as a plot flaw, I don’t believe Lucy or any of the Peanuts characters would ever have put Charlie Brown in charge of the Christmas play.

At one point, one of them calls Charlie Brown “stupid”. I’m betting no kids show today ever uses that kind of language toward a child character. Maybe I’m wrong about that.

OK, Snoopy is still kind of funny.

IMB has trivia about the show here. Apparently, there was some product placement (Coca-Cola) in the original show that has long since been edited out. Also there is an entire scene removed form the original to make more time for commercials (which may partially account for why the show seems shorter to me today).

Monday, December 03, 2007

50/50 Hindsight

I hate it when the theoretical meets reality. Last week, I was reading this Richard Roeper column on the trend of people giving back their winnings in charity 50/50 drawings, and once again wondered what I would do. That was Thursday. Friday night we won a 50/50 drawing at a high school basketball game. Well, I gave my four year-old son a dollar so he could buy three chances from his sister who was selling 50/50 tickets to raise money for new cheerleading uniforms. One of those tickets was the winner.

Fortunately, I had to take that same four year-old home for bad behavior (running onto the court, spilling a drink) before we could collect the winnings, leaving Mrs. TEH there to make the decision on what to do. Well, she decided to keep the money. And that’s fine. It was only $140 and it wasn’t like we were taking from starving third world orphans with AIDS or something. Besides, (and here’s my best of several available rationalizations) if it becomes expected that you donate the other half of the money, it will lessen the incentive to buy chances in the first place. It would make more sense to just solicit donations if there was no winning involved. Right? Anyway, even Roeper says it’s OK to keep the dough.

Supplemental Beer Blogging: Guinness Heist Edition

Someone is set for life:
DUBLIN, Ireland -- Irish police were hunting for a beer bandit who stole 450 full kegs from the Guinness brewery — the largest heist ever at Ireland’s largest brewer.

National police said a lone man drove into the brewery — a Dublin landmark and top tourist attraction — on Wednesday and hitched his truck to a fully loaded trailer awaiting delivery to city pubs.

Diageo PLC, the beverage company that owns Guinness, said the brewery had never suffered such a large-scale theft before in its 248-year history.

Police said the raider took 180 kegs of Guinness stout, 180 kegs of U.S. lager Budweiser and 90 kegs of Danish beer Carlsberg. Guinness brews both of those foreign brands under license for sale in Ireland.
Shocking! Not the theft but that people in Ireland, despite having Guinness brewed right there, apparently will also drink Budweiser. I bet the thief dumped those Bud kegs along the side of the road.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Waving Back from a Flyover Town

Check this out. Or at least the tenth picture. Of course, almost any of those pics could have been taken here or near here. Winter sucks but it does have a beauty and feel that I'm sure I would miss to some degree if I left for warmer climes.