Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bonus Points

We are all just nuts. Psychology is interesting until you realize how silly our thinking processes are sometimes.

The most important thing politicians can do to make the upcoming tax stimulus work, say some behavioral economists, is to change the name. Thought you were giving out rebates? Nope. You're giving out bonuses. Controlled studies where half the group is given a rebate of value X and half the group is given a bonus of the same value find that those with the bonus spend more than twice what those with the rebate do. "Psychologically speaking, they conclude, "[a rebate is the return of a loss of one’s own money rather than a pure gain provided by someone else, so it is unlikely to be seen as extra spending money. Getting a rebate is more like being reimbursed for travel expenses than like getting a year-end bonus. Reimbursements send people on trips to the bank. Bonuses send people on trips to the Bahamas."

Is it any wonder advertising and branding work so well? We’re all idiots.

More on My Presidential Predictions

When we last left off, I had predicted a Clinton/Obama vs. McCain/Lieberman contest in November. Since then, Lieberman has said he would not run with McCain. Lieberman’s problems with truth and reality aside, I’ll take him at his word. That means I need a new veep for the Republicans. I don’t get the feeling that McCain and Mitt Romney like each other at all but I’m going to say McCain picks Romney to run with and Romney will accept.

So, my revised prediction is Clinton/Obama vs. McCain/Romney, with Clinton/Obama winning. Those aren’t exactly a daring predictions at this point, but it’s what I see right now.

Also, can I say something about Obama as a veep candidate? I heard WAMY’s Jim Leach this morning say he doubted Clinton would pick Obama, that she would be looking for someone that might help her pick up votes in a region or state where she might otherwise have difficulty (I believe that was his take). That’s certainly a time-honored strategy used by presidential candidates. But I would suggest that Obama would draw votes from regions and states all over the country. Rather than selecting someone who might garner a few more voted in place, Obama has the potential of attracting those extra voters nationwide. I don’t see how Clinton could go wrong picking Obama, I really don’t.

Anyone else care to offer their predictions at this point?

Water Bored

I’ll tell you something, we’ve really been spoiled here in Springfield in the past. It was such an inexpensive place to live. We used to have some of the cheapest utility rates anywhere. So while news like this doesn’t surprise me, it does make me miss the golden age of really inexpensive living.

I remember in the late 1980s moving back to Springfield from Northern Illinois and being happily surprised that my electric bills were about half of what I was paying Commonwealth Edison.

I’ve never paid much attention to water rates since water bills have never amounted to all that much anywhere I’ve lived. And that even takes into consideration that I’ve lived many places that didn’t have a centralized water service, meaning I had no water bill at all outside of the electricity used to pump the well water. I think water is, and will continue to be, a good bargain considering how much we depend on it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Weather Bowl XVII

Are you ready for some WEAAAAAAATHER?

Time once again to pit the forecasting abilities of the National Weather Service against those of The Weather Channel. Both operations think we are going to get snow tomorrow (Thursday) night, but they disagree on how much. As of right now, the NWS says 4-8 inches and TWC says 2-4.

TWC Forecast

NWS Forecast

Let the weather battle begin. The winner will be determined by whether we get over/under 4 inches.

Update 1030 PM: Well hell, The Weather Channel already blinked and upped their prediction to 4-6 inches. Sorry, contest is already on. May the best forecast from this afternoon win. Being right early matters.

Update 7:15 AM: The Weather Channel now says 5-8 inches.

For the XCLVIIth Time, Just Stop It!


Super Bowl XLII: New England Patriots 38, New York Giants 17.

(Sidebar: Are they going to stick with the Roman numeral thing forever? "Welcome to Super Bowl CLXXXIV, with the Las Vegas Thunderbolts taking on the San Jose Gladiators...")
I’ll go a step further and ask that everyone just refrain from using Roman numerals -period, unless you’re studying Latin or Roman history. We aren’t Romans and we have a much better system of numbers, so use it. I used to hate trying to figure out the copyright dates of movies or TV shows by trying to quickly catch it at the end of the show. It was hard enough sometimes seeing it at all, much less translating the fucking Roman numerals. I say I used to hate that because now I can just look it up on the internet. Everyone uses IMDb, right?

I do know how to read Roman numerals and even have a shortcut memorized to quickly recognize the numerical order of the letters beyond X (LCDM). But why should I? What purpose does using Roman numerals serve? I suppose it’s to seem classy or something. Which really begs the question as to why they are used to denote Super Bowls. Why not just attach the year to game like baseball does the World Series. For example, Sunday would be the 2008 Super Bowl, not Super Bowl XLII.

Really Inside Jokes

Someone on these local Springfield internets, I don’t remember who, had a blog post up recently about how cool inside jokes among friends and/or family are. And they are. But I have a certain very limited number of inside jokes I share with…only myself.

See, a prerequisite for an inside joke is that “you had to be there” for it’s inception and sometimes funny things happen and I’m not with anyone to share it, or maybe no one else present at the time also thought it funny, or maybe I don’t hang with anyone anymore who was there.

I bring this up because the title of one of my recent blog posts, Anthrax, I Know Nothing of Anthrax, is a take-off on one of my own personal inside jokes. I use variations of “X, I know nothing of X” all time in my head. Sometimes I use it out loud even when I know no one is going to get the joke.

Here’s the background. It goes all the way back to high school in a class taught by, I’ll call him “Mr. Jones” – wait that was his REAL name, never mind. Mr. Jones, for some reason, was telling us a story about how he tried to return some defective blank cassette tapes to Radio Shack. He said the store clerk was Indian and seemed confused by his request. At some point, the clerk told Mr. Jones “Tapes, I know nothing of tapes”. Mr. Jones even used a bad Indian accent to punch up the dialog.

I don’t remember how the stupid story ended but for some reason the whole “tapes, I know nothing of tapes” thing stuck in my head and has been amusing me for three decades now. The problem, of course, is that no one else gets it. Now at least you all do, even if you weren't there and it’s not funny to you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We Sure Can Pick 'Em

So Rudy is going to drop out of the race tomorrow. Will Sangamon County Republicans steadfastly stand by their endorsement anyway?

Remember: No Flip-Flopping!

Update: And what about this:
Local Republican officials are scrambling to relocate this weekend's Lincoln Day Luncheon featuring presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani after electrical problems knocked out power to several buildings on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

The Illinois Building was to be the site of Saturday's annual Sangamon County Lincoln Day Luncheon staged by the county GOP. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the $75-per-person lunch.

"We do not have an alternate site yet," Sangamon County Republican Party Chairman Tony Libri said Tuesday. "The bad thing is that the building was initially chosen because every other large building was taken (this weekend). We are limited in what we are going to be able to find."

Libri, who is in California on military duty, said an announcement will be made as soon as an alternate site is located.
Ummm, maybe that won't be necessary Tony.

Your Miserable 40s

I’ve been hearing a lot about this notion that depression and unhappiness hits those in their 40s the hardest.
People are most likely to become depressed in middle age, according to a worldwide study of happiness. The team of economists leading the work found that we are happiest towards the beginning and end of our lives, leaving us most miserable in middle years between 40 and 50.

The results, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, showed that people's levels of happiness followed a U-shaped curve, a pattern that was remarkably consistent in the vast majority of countries the researchers looked at, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe.

For both men and women in the UK, the probability of depression peaked at around the age of 44. In the US, men were most likely to be unhappiest at 50, while for women the age was 40.

Andrew Oswald, from the University of Warwick, and David Blanchflower, from Dartmouth College in the US, led a study of more than 2 million people from 80 countries to find if happiness was related to age.
I thought there was another study a while back that showed men were their most unhappy in their late 40s. Or maybe it was the same study. Either way the results look to be about the same. Which is interesting to me cuz I’m a 47 year old male.

I think the explanation for the U-shaped happiness curve has to do with the peculiar time of life that are your 40s. You aren’t “old” but your sure aren’t young anymore either. I think right through your 30s you still have some claim on youth. That disappears pretty quickly in your 40s. Some of that is legitimate, like physical changes, and part is societal. Anyone who has hit 40 knows what I mean by the societal aspect. You are perceived as being much older once you cross that line. Now, since this was a study done in many countries, it maybe that societal factors aren’t really that important given that different societies treat age differently. So I don’t know.

There was some commentary on the study that theorized that it is in your 40s that you realize you may not ever achieve your aspirations. I would suggest that, at best, is tied in with the loss of youth. Plus, and maybe this is just me, I’m not sure we all have grand, unattainable aspirations to begin with. Most of us are just trying to get by the best we can and hope for a good weekend. So I’m not sure how prevalent the “loss of aspirations” is really a factor. Also, I think it would be pretty clear long before your 40s that you weren’t going to meet all of your lofty goals.
Another factor may be that your 40s can be an age of great burden when you're taking care of your children as well as your parents. This also gives you a view of life in its entirety; your lost youth and the old age that is just around the corner. You have a complete view of life and its slipping away quickly. The infinity of youth is gone. That CAN be depressing.

I am assuming the upturn of the U-curve relates to some degree of acceptance of the fact that you’re getting old. In your 40s you may still be trying to fight that notion. Another part of the emotional upswing might be that you have fewer people depending on you as your parents pass on and your kids grow up.

All of this probably has more to do with my own personal experience, but I’m betting it’s not far off from what a lot of other people are going through in there 40 s as well. That doesn’t mean I’m depressed, but it is kind of a depressing time of life in many ways for the reasons I’ve mentioned.

Anthrax? I Know Nothing of Anthrax?

Yes the anthrax attack has been forgotten by the media, the government and the nation as whole. Probably because it wasn’t as dramatic as its big brother, 9/11. And, you know, it didn’t involve scary brown people trying to take away our freedoms or whatever.

But while many wonder why the anthrax attacks were erased from the national consciousness, I’ve long maintained that every other domestic terrorist attack has pretty much suffered the same fate because they don’t fit the xenophobic, us-against-them mold. Arguably what could be considered the second and third worst terror attacks in recent history (Oklahoma City and the 1996 Olympics) were done by rightwing white males that were U.S. citizens.*

We don’t know who pulled off the anthrax attacks, but considering the targets were mostly liberal politicians and members of the “liberal” media, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe the mastermind could also have been an angry conservative white male. And as we all know, conservative white males are “good” relative to the scary dark-skinned foreigners. Therefore, we just forget about those other incidents. They don’t fit the post 9/11 storyline, and are thus discounted. Note too that there are still those looking to make the anthrax attacks foreign in origin even though law enforcement and other experts pretty much universally contend the evidence discounts that. But again, for some it’s more convenient to blame outsiders.
*When I bring this up to some on the right, they often dismiss these guys as just being “crazy” and move on. Look, anyone who engages in this stuff is, at some level, crazy in my opinion. But they were driven by ideology, and acted just as the 9/11 hijackers did. Sorry, I’m not letting them off the hook that easily. I’m not saying rightwing = terrorist, but it’s also worth noting that Muslin doesn’t = terrorist either, something those on the right have a hard time coming to grips with.

Le Menu Revisited

Blog about it and they will come. About a year ago, I put up a blog post about the Le Menu frozen dinners that were all the rage in the 1980s. You may still have some of the highly reusable plates in you cabinet.

I continue to get comments on that post at a slow but steady pace. The latest is from a woman who claims to be the granddaughter of the inventor of Le Menus! Usually commenting on a post that’s more than a few days old is a waste of time, no one is going to see it. I see the ones my blog gets only because I have a copy any new comment is emailed to me.

But posts like my Le Menu item seem to maintain a life of their own because it fills an infinitesimally small niche on these internets. I know before writing the post I Googled Le Menu and found almost nothing. Now I’m king of the Le Menu world on Google.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ballot Selection

Maybe this will convince him to stay:
PEORIA — While the son of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the keynote speaker at tonight’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Peoria County Republicans reserved standing ovations for U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood.
I know, it’s too late.

I’ll likely take a Republican ballot on February 5th in an attempt to block Aaron Schock. I really don’t want that guy representing me in Congress. I’ve always felt sorry for people who live in congressional districts represented by one of the batshit insane true believers, and I don’t want to be one of them.

As I’ve long said, LaHood was a LOR (Least Objectionable Republican) with whom I could mostly disagree with but still respect. And since there’s no way anyone but a Republican will ever be elected to Congress here (or so it seams), I need to seek out the next LOR. Right now McConoughey looks like he might be a better (not good, but better) alternative.

While I’d like to vote in the Democratic presidential primary, I can still find some fun on the Republican side. I’ll be voting for Mittens because he'll be absolutely crushed by whichever Dem emerges as the victor in the primaries.

Weekend Wrap

Anyone try to get their car washed this weekend in Springfield? I hope you didn’t run out of gas waiting. I tried to resist the desire to get the six inches of salt off my truck but by Sunday afternoon I was in line too.

I haven’t seen the very cool movie Repo Man in a looong time, but it was on my TV this weekend. It’s still a lot of fun.

The wait for a table at Lone Star was an hour+ Saturday night. We didn’t stay. I can wait that long at far better restaurants.

On my satellite radio, I heard Liz Phair’s “Fuck and Run” from her spectacular debut CD (which is now amazingly 15 years old!). Now I can’t get the song out of my head. And it’s not like I can going around singing it out loud.

At Sam’s Club, I picked up a sample of some orange juice and began to walk away. The crabby old bitch manning the sample station, tersely said, “YOU'RE WELCOME!” Normally, I will say thank you when picking up a sample, but for some reason I didn’t that time. Sheesh. But I did have a revelation: old women who would have been cranky nuns teaching me in parochial school 40 years ago, are now sample givers at Sams.

Springfield Defended

Chris, in comments to the post below, defends Springfield and would stay here even if there was nothing that required it:

Well, I'm actually one of the 4.3 percent (of the skewed unscientific poll anyway) who actually WANTS to stay here. In fact I actually chose to move here a little over 4 years ago. I've very much enjoyed my 4+ years here so far. And I could probably still leave if I wanted. But I don't want to.

Maybe some of it has to do with my experience in the podunk, unfriendly, ill-planned, traffic-and-crime-ridden, and historically ignorant, backwards, and uneducated chessehead capitol of Wisconsin, the place I was forced to grow up in.

At least Springfield's got Lincoln, older interesting neighborhoods with character, local shops and interesting things in its downtown, history, and events I enjoy. It has a good combination of "big city" and "small town" character. It is easy to get around. There are plenty of things to do, and I still discover more things my former hometown never had all the time. I could list more positive things if I wanted to. Sure there's problems, but they're nothing compared to what I'm used to. (Try living in a city with St. Louis level traffic that is only 1/5 the size of St. Louis, that has curvy, confusing streets and wide boulevards leading nowhere, houses - and people - that all look the same and if you want to shop you can only do so at a big-box chain store or the mall on the edge of the ever sprawling city. And the only thing famous to come out of that damn town is the crappy grunge band Garbage (anybody remember them now?). It's these kind of things keep Springfield's more small townish problems - and its advantages - in perspective for me.)

One of my theories is that there are too many people here who take what we have in
Springfield for granted. I think that we have plenty to be proud of. Having a positive attitude goes a long way. You can have the greenest grass in the world but if you ignore it then the grass "over there" will still seem greener to you. I still find it funny how the ALPM has attracted 1.5 million visitors from all 50 states and all over the world but maybe only 30% of Springfield has visited it. (Yes I've visited it.)

And I have met many people who live here who are happy and say they like living here. So I think the poll is very skewed. And knowing the kinds of people who use the comment board on (that I never read anymore for that reason) I guess I'm not that surprised by the results. It's hard for me to believe there are that many people in the world who are that miserable. It makes me wonder whether they'd be happy no matter where they lived.

So be happy, don't take things for granted so much, and maybe it'll seem better.
OK Chris, fair enough. However…

You may be the first person I’ve ever heard say they like Springfield more than Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve always liked Madison and thought it had a lot to offer, although I never actually lived there.

Don’t you be saying Garbage is crappy. Their first two discs would probably be in my top whatever number list of all time best albums. One of them would certainly make my top ten. I might even include both but I wouldn’t give any single artist two slots in the top ten.

Anyway, I thought it interesting to hear from someone with a view that opposes almost everyone else’s in regard to our city. Maybe we can start a "my capital city hometown is worse than your capital city hometown" contest here. I hear Jefferson City, Missouri sucks donkeys.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Springfield: The City We Love (to leave)

Ha-ha. Today’s SJ-R online poll…

“If there were no money, job or family considerations, would you stay in Springfield or move somewhere else?"

Let’s just say I’m part of that 95.7 percent. I want to know who the 4.3 percent are. I know what they are - crazy. Of course, asking this in January during a cold snap probably skewed the already unscientific results. I'm not sure my answer would change on the nicest day in May though.

Pamela Furr Leaving Springfield

I don’t think any other local talk show host has been kicked around in the local blogosphere quite as much as Pam. Today she announced she is leaving WMAY to take a talk radio job in Huntsville, Alabama.

Pam also blogged off and on for much of her time here. I wish her luck in her new job. And here’s to hoping the Huntsville bloggers are just as merciless.

Friday Beer Blogging: Bar Tricks Edition

Springfield blogger Marie of Disarranging Mine fame tipped me off to this site. It's full of bar tricks, many of which use beer or beer bottles. has a couple of dozen tricks you can perform to amaze your drunk friends and your designated driver.

Note that you have to follow the links as the pictures below are just screen shots.

This one, called Freezing Beer, you will have to do at home rather than at the bar but is pretty cool nonetheless.

Actually, this next one would be best done at home in the basement if it has paint on the walls.

Here's a good way to win a bet at a bar using one finger only.

This one is more of a helpful tip than a trick. Occasionally, i find myself in need of a bottle opener but don't have one. There is always a way to get the bottle open but some are messy, some are painful and some leave a mark. This trick requires you only have a newspaper to open that beer and is without consequence.

There are lots of another tricks at, so check it out.

Have a great weekend! And have a beer, that should do the trick.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Exploiting the Dead

In Keith Olbermann’s nightly ‘Worst Persons in the World’ segment last night on Countdown, worst person #2 (of three) was a Best Buy store in San Diego that, just hours after Heath Ledger’s death, had a display set up of Ledger’s movies on DVDs. I don’t know if that really makes the Best Buy a “worst person” but I do know that’s not all that unusual or even a new thing to do. I was working in a book store in White Oaks Mall in August of 1977 (we had just opened) when Elvis Presley died.

In no time, we had all Elvis material in the store (which wasn’t much at first) displayed in one place. In fact, the only actual book about Elvis we had in stock was one called Elvis: What Happened? It was written by a couple of his former bodyguards and it was not very flattering to The King. It was released shortly before Elvis’ death and sold out in our store almost instantly after he died. I’m sure most of the people buying the book were fans and I bet they weren’t happy with what they read. At least, I don't believe they got what they were expecting. Within a few weeks a ton of books came out on Presley and the display grew massive. When I left the bookstore in the summer of 1978 before heading off to college, Elvis was still moving books. The person may die, but the saleable celebrity doesn’t.

Never Underestimate the Power of the “C” Word

Years ago, long before I started blogging, I left a comment on a progressive political discussion board somewhere in which I used the “C” word in conjunction with some loathsome wingnut hack like Ann Coulter (it may have actually been her). Moments later, I was descended upon by lots of female commnters who objected strongly to my use of the “C” word, even if it was directed at Ann Coulter (or whoever). These were women who despised the object of my derision as much as me, but disliked the “C” word even more. Needless to say, I now respect that and don’t use the term. Before this lessen in life, I kind of equated the “C” word with calling a man a “dick”. You can see where that at least makes some anatomical sense, right?

Anyway, apparently there is now an anti-Hillary Clinton group called Citizens United Not Timid (you do the acronym). Cogitamus blogs about it here (really, go there and read it, you won’t believe the groups logo).

My guess is that, indeed, this will only cause a backlash. The hate-Hillary-just-because meme played out years ago and it’s just not going to work anymore. But I’m sure that’s not going to stop the rabid right from missing that fact and proceeding as programmed.


Why do thermostats in homes have a fan “on” setting? Does anyone use that setting? Mine always stays on “auto”.

The other night I briefly panicked when I noticed the air coming out of the register was cool. I thought the furnace was broken just as we were heading into a cold snap. Then I remembered that I came home from work that evening to find Hyper Drummer Boy standing on a chair looking at the thermostat. I asked him what he was doing. Of course, it was “nothing”. I quickly looked at the temperature setting and it was OK, so I removed HDB from the scene and didn’t give it another thought until the moment I discovered the cool air. Going back to the thermostat, sure enough, HDB had moved the fan setting from “auto” to “on”. This meant that the fan was running even when the furnace wasn’t producing any heat. I corrected the situation, but I realized then that I had never in my life used the fan “on” setting. So why have it? Is there some aspect of living comfort I’m missing by NOT using it?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You Know, It Don’t Come Easy

Yeah, it’s bullshit when TV shows make musicians cut their songs arbitrarily short because some programming genius decided that’s the thing to do.

But it’s fucking Ringo Starr and nobody would care.

Oldest Story in the World

OMG, kids like to race each other in cars! It’s a national problem! Since 1948.

Seriously, this is a bad thing to do, but it’s nothing new. It used to be called drag racing. Now I guess it’s not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Seconding Random Thoughts

I agree with this:

…I find single-occupancy restrooms that are gender-restricted to be really odd.
We have “single-occupancy restrooms” in the building I work in. I always hate it when the “Mens” room is occupied and right next to it is the “Ladies” room is empty and I have to go to another part of the building to relieve myself. Why not just have two restrooms open to anyone who wants to use one? I have actually suggested as much, but the women in the office are horrified at the idea.
Why? Do they think we’re going to go in and pee all over the seats? Don’t they share bathrooms with the opposite sex at home? Or maybe male pattern bad-aim is why they don’t want to share restrooms at work too. One other problem may be that some (not all) of the “Mens” rooms have a urinals in them in addition to the standard stool. Maybe that freaks the women out too. I will confess this though: in a couple of situations I have gone ahead and used the “Ladies” room. Hah. And nobody died.

I Have Raccoon Pee on My Garage Floor

I’ll bet no other blogger has ever topped a post with that statement. It gives me the same feeling of uniqueness I get when I go grocery shopping, look at the items I’m purchasing on the checkout counter and hypothesize that no one, ever, has purchased the exact same combination of items. I an individual!

Anyway, we had a raccoon in our garage yesterday. That’s nothing new in and of itself. Raccoons often find there way in through the cat door and eat whatever cat food our cat didn’t finish, or maybe go over to the trash can and dump it over looking for a quick snack. They usually run out the cat door as soon as anyone enters the garage. This happens from time to time.

What doesn’t happen is a raccoon coming into my garage, finding the round little cat bed (our cat is indoors during the winter months and outdoors the rest of the year), getting in and curling up for a warm(er) nap. Well, that’s what was going on yesterday when I went into the garage to get into my truck and go to work. As I approached the sleeping raccoon, it lifted its head to look at me but wasn’t willing to get up. OK. I need to get to work, so I just let it be.

Sometime during the morning I got a call from home from one of my daughters about this, this CREATURE that was sleeping in our garage. I told her to just leave it alone and it would go away. When I came home for lunch the lazy-ass raccoon was still sleeping in the garage and someone had locked the door leading into the house. Yes, because the raccoon might get up from his/her nap, walk over to the door to the house open it, come in and devour everybody. At least that’s the explanation I got for the locked door.

I tried chasing the raccoon out of the garage but all it would do is run into a corner behind some folding tables. There was no way I was going to reach in and try to grab a cornered raccoon. When I would leave, the raccoon would go back to bed. And so it went until Mrs. TEH decided to call animal control. Too late, I figured out if I got rid of the cat bed while the raccoon hid in the corner, it might leave when it found its bed had been taken away. But animal control was already ion its way and I needed to get back to work.

And while I wasn’t there, I’m told the big we t spot on the floor of the garage is where the raccoon peed itself while the animal control guy snared the creature and put it in the back of his truck (it was too big for the cage he brought). I’m not sure what happened to the raccoon from that point; hopefully he was just released into the wild. I mean, he was just looking for a warm bed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Confused Black Women and the Media That Loves Them

The headline reads:

Gender or race: Black women voters face tough choices in S.C.

Gosh, I guess this means I have a really hard choice to make: which of the half dozen or so white males running for president should I vote for. I mean we can only vote based on gender and race, right CNN?

And why in this picture is Barack Obama orange? Orange-Americans now have a tough choice too.

Watson’s War

Oh, enough of this guy. Thousands of Central Illinoisans have gone off to Iraq with little to no fanfare. Most of them had jobs way more vital than Watson’s. His district will get along just fine without him.

There is, I’ll admit, a man bites dog aspect to a Republican politician actually going off to war, but still, enough’s enough.

Presidential Predictions

I might as well get this out of the way before the ball completely settles on the roulette wheel. Or at least before Super Tuesday (Feb. 5) when things just might be decided.

I’m predicting the Democratic ticket will be: Clinton/Obama. I’m not thinking Obama has quite enough support to gain the kind of momentum that is going to put him over the top. At the same time, I don’t think Clinton can ignore Obama’s appeal and will put him on the ticket.

I’m predicting the Republican ticket will be: McCain/Lieberman. This is a harder call but I’ve always thought McCain was going to be the GOPs nominee. McCain will be smart enough not to pick any of the other clowns in the race (unless he’s forced to because no one has enough delegates to win at the national convention). McCain’s good buddy Joe Lieberman would make the ticket appear more like a bipartisan effort even if Joe has long since ceased to be anything close to a Democrat. And, faced with an interesting ticket of two firsts (a woman and an African-American), Lieberman would bring the uniqueness of having been a vice presidential candidate for both the Democrats and the Republicans.

Final result: Clinton/Obama over McCain/Lieberman.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dead Cubs

I noticed this yesterday but figured it was just a goof by a smaller-sized newspaper and they would soon fix the problem. But tonight I see it is still there, so let the mocking begin.

Or maybe this would be a good place to start a weekend caption contest, eh Cardinals fans?

By the way, the "obit" links to this story.

Friday Beer Blogging: Dog Beer Edition

A quick one today since I've got some things going on that are going to keep me from blogging at full strength. Looking for something quick and easy, I came across this: Beer for dogs.

Everyone who owns a dog and beer knows that at some point the temptation is to let your dog "try" some beer. Dogs actually like beer, until they've had too much. This reminds me of the time back in my college days when a friend and I gave his dog some beer. This friend, who now happens to also be a blogger with a blog that rhymes with Prerome Jophet, had a small dog that we decided needed to understand the fine art of beer drinking. We gave him a sample. He liked it! Hey Mikey! Then we gave him more, he drank more, and so it went on into the night. Well, the report I got the nest day was that this dog experienced a doggy hangover. All I know is that dog wouldn't touch the stuff ever again. That's proof right there that dogs are smarter than humans.

Anyway, these folks have come up with a non-alcoholic beer for dogs.
Non-alcoholic and non-carbonated, our Happy Tail Ale is the ultimate liquid refreshment for your best friend. Our beer is made in a real brewery and starts with artesian water and choice malted barley. Brewed in 500-gallon copper kettles, Happy Tail Ale also features all-natural beef drippings (no by-products or chemicals!). Plus, it's fortified with Glucosamine and Vitamin E! Every ingredient in Happy Tail Ale is human grade, as Dog Star Brewing Company does not believe in giving our canine family members less than superior food and beverages.
Hmmm, sounds a lot like Miller Lite, only better.

Well it's certainly a better option for dogs than the real thing. So if you want to have one more drinking buddy that will keep coming back to the party, try Happy Trail Ale.

Have a great weekend! And Happy Tails!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ticket Tirade

They report this stuff to the police? And expect them to do what?

A [Springfield] city parking meter attendant complained to police Wednesday afternoon that a downtown business owner swore at her after she ticketed his car.

The incident happened about 12:15 p.m. in the 300 block of East Monroe Street. The attendant and her supervisor told police that the man called the attendant a derogatory name while questioning her about why he got a parking ticket and the vehicle in front of his did not.

The attendant told him the other vehicle was, in fact, ticketed for an expired meter, the angry man swore at her, then tore up his ticket and threw it on the ground.

No one was arrested.

I would think this stuff happens daily. Maybe it’s time for the ticket writer to get into a new line of work. Also, I thought ticket writers ARE the police. Or a kind of police. Guess I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout police either.

Oldest Electronic Item

I read a blog post on another blog a few days ago in which the author wrote about an old alarm clock they use which is now the oldest piece of electronics in that person’s home. (I can’t find the post anymore, but you weren’t going to follow the link anyway, were you.) Anyway, that got me wondering what my oldest piece of functional electronics is. Or more precisely, what is the oldest electronic item I still use.

I think it has to be my now deceased great aunt’s television which now resides in my younger daughter’s room. It dates back, I would estimate, to the early to mid 1980s. My great aunt died in the early ‘90s and I know she had it for several years before that (I actually saw it in her condo in Baltimore in 1986).

Technically, we haven’t used the TV in a few months because my daughter was abusing the privilege, so we unplugged it and removed the cable line. But I still consider that TV to be on “active duty” and I’m sure it will be used again at some point, probably in a few months when my older daughter goes off to college and we turn her room into a guest room (I know I’m kidding myself thinking she won’t be in that room A LOT over the next ten years).

That TV has made the rounds. First my great aunt used it for many years, them my mother who inherited most of her stuff moved it to Springfield where she used it as a second television for a while. Then she gave it to me when I got divorced in 1997. It was my main TV for a while then when I bought a newer one, it went into my bedroom. Since I’ve been remarried it’s been in a few different bedrooms and now awaits a new assignment.

So, what's your oldest active piece of electronics?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TEH World Headquarters Restored

The final touches on the rehabilitation of my basement office have been completed after suffering flood damage from last week’s soaking rain. I still have some minor things like stocking bookshelves and putting things back on the walls, but the hard part is all done.
A lot of work was put into it and I’m kind of surprised it took only eight days. We even repainted the walls, something I’ve wanted to do for some time. Expect the quality of blogging to soar!

Stupid Addicts

OMG, get over yourselves! Or at least your habit. This is just nuts.

D&J owner John Price is there for them. He has been having the morning waitresses, Beth Akers and Ronda Shuster on Monday, take coffee to customers who want to sit in their vehicles and smoke in the restaurant parking lot. The smokers keep their cars and trucks running for warmth while they enjoy what they used to enjoy inside the restaurant - a smoke and a cup of hot coffee.

Sandy Berry is one of ... them.

"Thank God John lets the waitresses out here to give us coffee," she says, puffing away in her car. Next to her car is a pickup, with Jerry Otto and Charlie Ratliff inside. Sandy and the men keep a window down, either to let smoke out or so they can talk. I think it's so they can talk.


Bare Traffic Control

It must be Dump on Capital Airport week. Yesterday, Springfield’s loss of the Vietnam vets gathering was blamed, in part, on the airport no having a robust enough flight schedule. Today we find out that the airport’s lack of flights is having an effect on its air traffic controllers:

[Elizabeth Cory, an FAA spokeswoman] said declining traffic at Springfield also is making it tough for [air traffic controller] trainees to get sufficient practice.

In 2000, Springfield handled 72,560 takeoffs and landings, according to FAA records. Last year, the airport saw 42,851 landings and takeoffs. Since 2000, controller staffing has been reduced from 22 to 14 positions.
Yet most of the article is about how the controllers are overworked, understaffed, and having breakdowns. Sounds to me like they don’t have a lot to do, but then I know nothing about air traffic controlling.

In fact, I’m so ignorant that I didn’t realize that there was still an air traffic controllers union. I though Ronald Reagan destroyed that back in the ‘80s by firing all the striking controllers. However, what union there is doesn’t seem to be too effective:

The FAA reduced starting pay by 30 percent in 2006, when contract negotiations
reached a stalemate.

“It’s a pretty serious disincentive,” [Jeff Brennan, union reprsenattive] said. “They’re currently having problems filling classes. I’ve got two trainees at the facility right now, one of which is working a part-time job to make ends meet.”
Man, what’s the point of the union if the best deal they can get is a 30 percent pay cut. I could easily get my employer to cut my pay by that much even without union representation.

All kidding aside though, this story makes me a little nervous about flying in or out of Springfield. It actually makes me a littler nervous flying in or out of anywhere since I would guess other airports are facing similar problems with their controllers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The iPhone Just Got More Awesomer

Apple released the latest firmware for its iPhone today.

New features include:
The ability to send a single text message to multiple people

Google Maps can now pinpoint your location using cell tower triangulation

Google Maps can now display the Hybrid map view (a combination of the regular map and satellite)

You can now arrange icons on your home screen

You can now add web bookmarks to your home screen in the form of icons

The home screen supports pagination (meaning it has multiple pages now to accommodate the additional icons you may add)
It's all pretty cool.

Sanitized on the Job

I use hand sanitizer at work daily. Sometimes several times a day. Not that I have a particularly dirty job or am a germophobe, I just think it’s a good idea, especially this time of year (and it’s another 10 seconds I get out of working).

I have an “unscented” store brand that reeks of alcohol. Today, the inevitable finally happened: someone came into my cube and noted that it smelled like booze. I quickly demonstrated the germ-killing aroma of my hand sanitizer to allay any fears that I’ve having a little more fun at work than everyone else. But it makes me wonder how many people have smelled it and not said anything, then left figuring I was drunk. And how would they know the difference?

Speaking of Tongues

Piercings do nothing for me so you can imagine I have no desire to even think about tongue splitting. The graphic details in this story only reinforce that. Having said that, I think it’s silly to make them illegal (which they are in Illinois).

This is a stupid decision that, it seems to me, only affects the individual who gets the split tongue. And no one really cares to enforce the law anyway, so why bother. Be sure to read the article if you like a little gore with your morning coffee.

Monday, January 14, 2008

UFOs Foretell End Times!!!!

I'm game anytime for a good UFO story, but I found myself slapping my forehead a few sentences into this one. See if you can spot where.
STEPHENVILLE, Texas -- In this farming community where nightfall usually brings clear, starry skies, residents are abuzz over reported sightings of what many believe is a UFO.

Several dozen people — including a pilot, county constable and business owners — insist they have seen a large silent object with bright lights flying low and fast. Some reported seeing fighter jets chasing it.

"People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times," said Steve Allen, a freight company owner and pilot who said the object he saw last week was a mile long and half a mile wide. "It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts."

While federal officials insist there's a logical explanation, locals swear that it was larger, quieter, faster and lower to the ground than an airplane. They also said the object's lights changed configuration, unlike those of a plane. People in several towns who reported seeing it over several weeks have offered similar descriptions of the object.
OK, "It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts" was a classic line, but the "end of times" stuff is our winner tonight.

Yes, UFO reports can take on a regional flavor. There's Texan straight talk a-plenty in this story. Like, "You hear about big bass or big buck in the area, but this is a different deal". Or this nuggit, "Sorrells said he has seen the object several times. He said he watched it through his rifle's telescopic lens..." Love it!

Update: Oh dear, great minds and all that...

When in Doubt, Blame the Airport

From the Department of Too Bad But Understandable:

The Vietnam Veterans of America have selected Reno, Nev. for its 2011 national convention, bypassing Springfield and about 30 other cities nationwide, the organization's director of meetings said today.

“It was a tough decision. There were tons of things we liked about Springfield,” where the convention was held in 2007, said Wes Guidry.

Guidry said the veterans liked the city's hospitality, a rejuvenated downtown, the history and meeting space. While a variety of factors went into choice of Reno for the 2011 convention, Guidry said Springfield's bid was hurt by the lack of flights at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport last summer.

While the air service out of Abraham Lincoln Grand International Capital Airport is somewhat anemic, I can think of a dozen other reasons Reno might be more appealing then Springfield. I mean, if you’re looking for fun beyond the gathering.

Yeah, we got Abe, but once you’ve seen his stuff there’s not much to come back for.

Back to the Stereotype

I don’t know, I always took the “Libyans” in Back to the Future as sort of a tongue-in-cheek poke at those who were presenting Libyans as the latest “bad guys” and Muammar Gaddafi as the Hitler of the week. But maybe I was wrong. Did anyone take that part of the movie seriously? Was it deliberate stereotyping? Was it part of a larger Arab demonization campaign?

My biggest complaint about that scene was the second time it was shown at the end when Marty sees himself (with the “Libyans”). Isn’t that a time travel story no-no?

And speaking of Back to the Future, it’s funny to watch now because all the modern (1985) references they use to contrast with the past (1955) now are dated too. I’d like to do a blog post sometime about how ordinary props in an older movie actually become fun distractions (to me, anyway) while watching the film, thereby changing the way the movie was intended to be perceived.

I Heard It Through the Internet

I’ve never understood why blatant falsehoods on the internet (usually forwarded by e-mail) are called “Internet Rumors”. A rumor conjures up the idea of speculation or in some way leaving room for doubt. A verbal rumor is usually prefaced with “I heard that…”

That, in my mind, greatly differentiates the information from some tidbit someone relays to me by saying, “I saw on the news…” Now, both pieces of information may be false (or true), but I only put the former in the rumor category. Forwarded e-mails that are simply false aren’t rumors, they’re lies. Someone deliberately created this bogus stuff to mislead, often for political reasons. They may be passed on by some without malice, but they aren’t rumors, they’re lies.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Colorful Play

I happened to catch part of that very snowy Green Bay Packers game while I was eating at D'arcy's Pint tonight. For the first time in my life I realized why the Packers have those stand-out green and yellow uniforms.

So they can see each other in Green Bay blizzards. That surely gave them an advantage over the mostly white-clad Seattle Seahawks. On the other hand, being dressed in white could turn your ball runner stealth in such conditions. Anyway, the Packers won, so advantage colors.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What’s Fare is Fair

From a fiscal point of view I’m not sure the “Everyone Over 65 Rides Free” plan is the best for mass transit. For one thing, not everyone over 65 needs that break. Probably most don’t. And we want to, in my opinion, encourage ridership among the young(er) too.

However, I think any person over 65 (or 70, whatever) that turns in their driver’s license (or doesn’t have one already) should be allowed to ride for free. This might help get some of the elderly drivers, who should not be driving, off the road.

Off-topic, but somewhat related: Did you know that the SMTD has a Wikipedia entry?

See, They Are Doing Something

If this becomes law throughout the land (and not just a couple of states), the Electoral College will become functionally useless. Which would be great!

[Wednesday], the [Illinois] General Assembly passed HB 1685, the "Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote Act."

…the essence of it is that Illinois should cast all its electoral college votes for the presidential candidate who has won the national popular vote, whether or not that candidate actually carried the popular vote in Illinois.

But, notes Article IV, "This agreement shall take effect (only) when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have enacted this agreement," meaning that we're not unilaterally laying down our blue-state arms.

Only one state, Maryland, has so far signed such a bill into law, but it's in the legislative pipeline in 42 other states.
But will we then, finally, abolish the Electoral College or continue pretending it matters and going through the motions? It seems silly to have to work around a problem rather than just fix it. But that's not how the real world works, I guess.

Friday Beer Blogging: Beer Brick Edition

No, I'm not going to blog about St. Patrick's Day style green beer. Rather, beer that was environmentally friendly. Or at least the bottles were. And the bottles also happened to be green in color. I'm talking about Beer Bricks by Heineken.

The idea was that these bottles, when emptied of their beer contents, could be used as bricks. Unfortunately, the idea really never took off:
...the idea of turning waste into useful products came to life brilliantly in 1963 with the Heineken WOBO (world bottle). Envisioned by beer brewer Alfred Heineken and designed by Dutch architect John Habraken, the “brick that holds beer” was ahead of its ecodesign time, letting beer lovers and builders alike drink and design all in one sitting.

Mr. Heineken’s idea came after a visit to the Caribbean where he saw two problems: beaches littered with bottles and a lack of affordable building materials. The WOBO became his vision to solve both the recycling and housing challenges that he had witnessed on the islands.

The final WOBO design came in two sizes - 350 and 500 mm versions that were meant to lay horizontally, interlock and layout in the same manner as ‘brick and mortar’ construction. One production run in 1963 yielded 100,000 bottles some of which were used to build a small shed on Mr. Heineken’s estate in Noordwijk, Netherlands. One of the construction challenges “was to find a way in which corners and openings could be made without cutting bottles,” said Mr. Habraken.

Despite the success of the first “world bottle” project, the Heineken brewery didn’t support the WOBO and the idea stalled.
Have a great weekend! And remember to build things with your empties.