Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Deer Insurgency Redux


CARBONDALE -- The story of deer attacking pedestrians on the Southern Illinois University campus in Carbondale is drawing national attention.

SIU wildlife researcher Clay Nielsen is set to appear Sunday night on an hour-long Discovery Channel program called “When Animals Strike.”

The show features a series of segments highlighting unpleasant encounters between humans and animals, and the science behind such things.

Nielsen addresses a series of human-deer encounters at SIU during the summers of 2005 and 2006. That’s when a half dozen people required hospital care after being attacked by deer at the school. Several other people were threatened but unharmed.
Yeah, back in the (2005, 2006) day I blogged extensively about the Southern Illinois Deer Menace (see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). I blogged so much about it, I was paid a visit one night. Anyway, this bit of national coverage might expose the deer insurgency problem as it existed and take some of the heat off me.

Fair and Blogging

The SJ-R online is going to blog the Illinois State Fair this year. The blog is up and running.

Their latest post wonders why tickets sales for the Weird Al Yankovic are selling so poorly. My answers are:

1) Al is so two decades ago.

2) Even in his heyday in the 1980s, I don’t think I would have paid money to see him live even though I enjoyed his work.

3) I imagine his stuff works better as videos (but then again I’ve never seen him live).

Who Works 9 to 5?

I’ve often wondered where the term “9 to 5” as it relates to a job came from. It’s shorthand for a normal working day, 8 hour kind of job. But who really works from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM? That’s eight hours but doesn’t include any time for lunch, which I think is illegal.

The closest I’ve ever come to “9 to 5” was 8:30 to 5:00 when I worked for the State of Illinois. And that’s only because we worked 7.5 hour days with an hour for lunch. It wasn’t even an eight hour day.

For decades now I’ve just assumed it was an East Coast thing. You know, they’re an hour ahead of us. Their local nightly news doesn’t come on until 11:00 PM so they must need that late starting time for work in the morning because they were up so late the night before. Seriously, I think I came up with that theory as a teenager and kind-of, sort-of hung onto it ever since. I’ve never worked even a day in the Eastern Time zone, but I don’t think they really have later start times for work tahn we do. Maybe i'm wrong. And even if they do, wouldn't they have to work later than 5:00?

So where did the oft-used “9 ro 5” term come from. I didn’t do any extensive research on the subject online, but a cursory look at Google results doesn’t offer much by they way of an explanation, just lots of references to 9 to 5 jobs. Wikipedia does have this:

9 to 5 (see also: day job) is a phrase used to describe a conventional and possibly tedious job. Negatively used, it connotes a tedious or unremarkable occupation, the idea being that, because the job is so boring, the workplace shuts down outside of required hours. The phrase also indicates that a person is an employee, usually in a large company, rather than self-employed. More neutrally, it connotes a job with stable hours and low career risk, but still a position of subordinate employment.

The phrase originates from the traditional business hours in the United States of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (9h - 17h), Monday through Friday (or, rarely and archaically, Saturday), representing a workweek of between 35 and 48 hours depending on how the hours are counted. In many traditional white collar positions, employees were required to be in the office during these hours in order to take orders from the bosses, hence the relationship between this phrase and subordination.

Hmmm…that’s still unsatisfying to me. I think the key in the above passage is that 9 to 5 used to be the standard open-for-business hours in offices but that workers likely had to be there before and after those hours to prepare/close-up the operation.

I dunno. I suppose I can stop feeling like I’m the one with weird working hours and not take the 9 to 5 thing literally. Still, why not just call it 8 to 5? At least that reflects reality. C’mon Dolly Parton, time for a corrective sequel to both the movie and the song!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

North vs. South vs. East vs. West

I’ve said before that while I certainly would rather have the IDOT jobs that Governor Blagojevich wants to move to Southern Illinois stay here, it’s not like the residents of Harrisburg don’t have as much “right” to those jobs as we do. Harrisburg is in Illinois and who gave Springfield the divine right to state jobs?

And while the arguments on the other side are also compelling (worker displacement, no cost savings, some disruption at IDOT), what is starting to bother me is that the Governor is now, in effect, pitting one part of the state against another. A bus (or busses) from Harrisburg are bringing people up here tomorrow to show support for the move at a hearing on the proposed move. Of course, Springfieldians will also be there to root for our community. Great. Maybe we can have a mock Civil War battle reenactment to decide the winner.

Then there’s this similar situation pitting north-central Illinois against northwestern Illinois:
The departure of IDOT’s traffic safety division from Springfield would have little direct impact on Pontiac, but McCoy wants to stay informed because his city faces the prospect of a similar loss.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to shut down the Pontiac Correctional Center and, in effect, replace it with a new prison at Thomson in northwestern Illinois that never has been fully utilized.
This just seems like a bad idea. Don’t relocate existing facilities. Build new ones as the need arises in other communities if you like, but pitting communities against each other is unnecessarily divisive and lacks leadership.

Having Not Mocked Decatur in Ages…

It may or may not surprise you, but mullets are the top story (including a video!) in the online Decatur Herald & Review this morning:

Oh, and there’s a video on grill safety on the right side of the front page. No mention of how close you can get your mullet to the grill.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Go Bears

Gawd. If this happens, I will actively root AGAINST a team.
Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has a hankering to become an NFL team owner and said if the St. Louis Rams came up for sale, he might be interested in buying them.

Well, it could turn out to be the first all-white NFL team in, what, forever.

Unidentified Flying Osamas

So…UFO’s are flown by terrorists?
A healthy skepticism about extraterrestrial space travelers leads people to disregard U.F.O. sightings without a moment’s thought. But in the United States, this translates into overdependence on radar data and indifference to all kinds of unidentified aircraft — a weakness that could be exploited by terrorists or anyone seeking to engage in espionage against the United States.
Read the whole thing anyway. Yes, there is something to be studied in UFOs. We should not ignore them. But why throw in a gratuitous terrorist reference? Maybe that’s how you get a UFO opinion piece into the New York Times?

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Don't Golf, But My 5 Year-Old Son Promised to Teach Me!

For some reason, Hyper Drummer Boy as become Hyper Golf Boy. When we were out of town on vacation in early April, the boy stumbled upon the Golf Channel and was memorized...for about a day. Typical. Then about a week ago he was at Toys R Us with his mom looking to spend a birthday gift certificate and eyed a kids golf set. He wanted nothing else. So he came home with his bag of four clubs (a driver, a 5 iron, a 9 iron, and a putter), a few balls and some tees. The clubs are pretty good quality it seems, just short.

Anyway, he's been out using them almost every day. The first day he had them he was actually able to hit the ball, and when he did it for the first time, he yelled, "Dad, I just made my first golf!" Yes, a big moment indeed. One I really can't relate to since I have no interest in golf and never have. But still, it was cute.

Here are some pics of the boy using his new clubs.

Lining up his shot...

Laughing at his own golf goofiness...

Hitting the ball...

And while we're on sports and the boy, this weekend we also practiced hitting a pitched ball with a bat. He successfully did that for the first time on Saturday. While he was trying to hit a missed ball back to me, I snapped this:

Notice that strange bending of objects iPhone cameras are able to do (look at what is otherwise a straight bat).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

iPhone Photo Dump: Clouds Before the Storm

I took this last week as the clouds started rolling in just before that bad storm we had, what was it, Tuesday night?

There was some really intense lightning during that storm. And even after the storm had mostly passed, I witnessed some massive fingers of lightning go from the eastern horizon nearly all the way to the western horizon. Amazing stuff.


Come on, White Oaks Mall. Are we to believe that you are so desperate to have a Chick-fil-A back in the mall that you are calling on mall shoppers to get all activist on the issue. Right now this poster fills an entire store-sized wall in the mall's food court.

I mean it's really big. Next to it is a bunch of pre-printed cards that look like this:

You are supposed to fill it out and place it into a box also right next to the giant poster.

Uh-huh. This can't possibly be an attempt to draw attention to the fact that Chick-fil-A is already planning on opening a store in the space now occupied by the poster. Nope. This true retail activism. And I only know of one person who would actually take up this cause in a serious way.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Beer Blogging: Zon Edition

Visited Brewhouse again this past weekend. This time for my birthday. We sampled several of the brews on their Seasonals and New Arrivals list having pretty much exhausted the regular list over the years. One that all-knowing beer waitress Kate recommended was Boulevard Brewing Company's Zon Witbier.

Boulevard Brewing is out of Kansas City and they have a whole line of beers, including several seasonals. One of those seasonals is the Zon.
Boulevard's summer seasonal is our interpretation of a classic Belgian witbier. Zon (Flemish for "sun") combines the subtle flavors of coriander and and orange peel with other traditional ingredients to create a delightful, refreshing summertime brew.
And you know that there ain't no cure for the summertime brews!

I thought the Zon was quite good, perhaps the best of the night. It's no greatly outstanding from other wheat beers but pretty good coming from K.C. and not Europe.

Have a great weekend! And remember to soak up the Zon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Air Farce One

I generally don’t have a problem with temporary disruptions (think traffic, law enforcement) caused to a community by a presidential visit. I think it's good when the president gets out to visit the country he (someday she) governs. And yes, politics is always a consideration in these things, that can’t be avoided.

But I think I draw the line when the visit is 100% pure political. For example, President Bush is flying into Peoria tomorrow for the sole purpose of attending a fundraiser for congressional candidate Aaron Schock. That’s it, there’s no other reason he’s coming to Peoria. And what do the residents of Peoria get:
Motorists who typically use Airport Road and Dirksen Parkway or Interstate 474, Illinois Route 6 and U.S. Route 150 near Orange Prairie Road are asked to find an alternate route if they need to get to their destination promptly.

Portions of those roadways will be shut down temporarily as the president's motorcade leaves the airport and makes it way to the fundraiser.

After the president has passed, the roadways will be reopened. When it's time for him to leave Weaver Farm and head back to the airport, authorities will repeat the process.
Schock gets some cash, his potential constituents get delays. I’m pretty sure these delays would be more than a little irritating to me given the nature of the visit. It would be one thing if the president showed up for some public ceremony (the opening of the ALPLM here for example) or some alleged fact-finding visit (tour a local manufacturing plant) but when it’s to only raise money for a candidate, well, not so much. And I would feel the same way no matter the president or his party affiliation. Got that, Mr. Obama?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ich bin ein New Berliner

Hey, what about Berlin, Illinois? We even have a NEW Berlin, Mr. McCain.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Barack Obama is not the only presidential candidate who will be front-and-center in Berlin this Thursday. Well, sort of.

In the latest effort to counter-program Obama’s tour of Europe and the Middle East, the Republican National Committee will air radio ads promoting John McCain’s candidacy in three different Berlins: Berlin, New Hampshire; Berlin, Pennsylvania; and Berlin, Wisconsin.

Not the most expensive media markets for the RNC to buy time – but certainly a clever way to gain some national press and perhaps gain some buzz in these three battleground states, while Obama delivers what is expected to be one of the biggest speeches of this campaign cycle in the European capital.

This really is one stupid stunt even for a really desperate campaign like McCain’s. Shit, John, why not hit the road and tour all of Europe right here at home. In addition to Berlin and New Berlin, the state of Illinois alone can provide you with Paris, Athens, Vienna, Marseilles (close enough), Sicily, New Holland, Milan, Brussels, Lisbon, Liverpool, Rome, Warsaw…am I missing any?

What E-mailers Really Mean

So if someone ends an email with “Take Care”, don’t you assume they are done with the email exchange and don’t expect to hear from you for at least days, if not weeks or months? That’s the way I take it.

As with everything in emails, it’s hard to read into the writer’s intention since you can’t see their facial expressions and body language, and you can’t hear inflections in their voice. Therefore, it becomes necessary to fill in those “meaning” blanks. Am I wrong? Is “take care” not necessarily just a polite way of telling the person you are emailing that you expect to be done with them for a while?

And no, I’m not telling you strangers why I’m asking.

View From the Receiving End

While the proposed move of IDOT jobs fom Springfield to Southern Illinois is wildly unpopular here, it does have some support there:

HARRISBURG - A coordinated effort is under way in Saline County to demonstrate support for the governor's recent decision to move the Illinois Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Division from Springfield to Harrisburg.

That show of demonstration comes in the form of a July 31 bus trip from Harrisburg to Springfield as organized by State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton,, state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, the Southeastern Illinois College Foundation, Saline County government and Harrisburg city officials.

The Southern Illinois contingent will voice its opinion on the economic development role the move will play, as well as the attributes of the region.

"This is a call to action," said Harrisburg Mayor Valerie Rose Mitchell. "I'm excited about this opportunity for the region. The governor has our full support in his effort to reduce expenditures by the decentralization of government functions."

However, the version of this story that appeared yesterday afternoon online had a number of comments that were negative. Those comments are now gone for some reason. While it’s not possible to know where those commenters live, I’m guessing most were from Southern Illinois. Those negative comments were mostly either blasting the local pols for their subservience to the governor or sympathetic to the plight of the Springfield IDOT workers and their families. The funniest one lamented the poor Springfield workers who would have to move to Harrisburg and not somewhere more palatable like Marion or Carbondale.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Seeing As I Never Blog About Madonna…

This has nothing to do with anything important but I love this passage anyway:

History has established two fates for pop icons:. Kurt Cobain chose the first fate, while Britney Spears is embracing the second. Since Madonna never seemed like the found-dead-in-a-hotel-room type, a reasonable person might have assumed that, by now, she’d be well into her quaaludes-and-peanut-butter stage. But no. She has, through the potent voodoo of fierce will and unlimited resources, kept herself exceptionally well preserved, albeit in an asexual-android kind of way. And she continues to understand she’s only as good as her collaborators, whether on her records (Stephen Bray, William Orbit) or in her latest “scandal,” which, despite hobbling two real-life marriages, still has the whiff of a publicity coup.

So if her creative output has diminished, her true skills remain world-class. Remember when she kissed Britney at the MTV Video Music Awards? The calculated “shocker” that left you both slightly embarrassed and truly impressed? All you could do was sit back and mutter, “Well played, Madonna. Well played.” Now, in A-Rod, she’s claimed another victim with her hyperbaric cougar charms. She’s proved not to be a publicity whore so much as publicity’s madam. And there’s always another ingenue to tongue, another orphan to champion, another athlete to bed. Flash forward a thousand years, and there Madonna will be, among the rubble, immortal, and shtupping Wall-E. And whatever’s left of humanity will no doubt still be watching and thinking, Well played, Madonna. Again.
Madonna, now almost 50, really is the celebrity act that keeps on going, and still has lots of cred for some reason.

I remember Madonna’s emergence in the mid-1980s and thought at the time that she would be over with quickly; her shtick wouldn’t last. Well, it didn’t but rather kept evolving –successfully. And I have a feeling it was all her doing. Say what you will about her, she’s always been smart about her career.

The Battle of Vinegar Hill

I‘ve previously posted my own opinions on building a new Springfield High School somewhere other than its current location, but something in this SJ-R article has me puzzled.
Tony Leone, representing the Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association, spoke of Springfield High as a crucial component of the city’s central core. Its departure would send property values plummeting, he argued.
Huh? Superintendent Milton’s plan calls for the old Springfield High building to be turned into a “grades 6-12 science and technology academy”. How would that cause property values to plummet? Why would it make any difference at all? I could see a problem if the school district built a new high school and then just abandoned the old site. But that’s not what they're talking about. It would still be a school.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Ha, ha. Schock the Monkey = Barack Obama.

In a story last week about campaign finances and fund-raising, 18th Congressional District candidate Aaron Schock's campaign manager, Steve Shearer, said, "Like Sen. (Barack) Obama, Aaron continues to attract new donors who have never given before because of the promise Aaron has for the future."

That wasn't the first reference or comparison the Schock camp has made to Obama. It could be a risky strategy given the conservative 18th Congressional District, which has been held by Republicans since 1917.

So why make the Democratic reference?

Why compare Schock, the "new face" of the Republican party - young, idealistic and conservative - to the rising superstar of the Democratic party and possibly the next president?

Maybe it's a clever campaign tactic.

Obama is a popular guy, especially in his home state of Illinois. So set Schock up as the young up-and-comer, only on the Republican side.

"It's been well noted that Obama has gotten a lot of new contributors that have never contributed before. Aaron has too. That's a fair comparison. Change is not partisan," Shearer said.

His Democratic opponent, Colleen Callahan, asks the same question, especially since President George W. Bush, also a Republican, is coming to Peoria on Friday for a fundraiser for Schock.

"Isn't it creative of Aaron to try to have it both ways?" Callahan asked.

She says Schock is embracing a president dogged by skyrocketing gasoline and food prices and who supports an unpopular war that continues to drag on.

Shearer said Schock is like Obama in that he represents change and people are inspired by him. Callahan, he said, is showing she's more of a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Well, I certainly expect Aaron Schock, given his similarity to Barack Obama, will align himself with Predisdent Obama’s agenda next year should thay both win thier respective races.

You Pantsless Nerds!

See, this is why I never even indicated I was going to the game. Illinois Times stalkers!
But even more unusual was the little gaggle of nerds sitting in the bleachers, squinting against the sun. It was the first meeting IRL of Springfield bloggers — a group that took offense a few months ago when Cap City called them pantsless persons living in their parents’ basements. For days in advance they had chattered about their baseball outing, but when Sunday rolled around — beautiful weather, free tickets (every Sunday home game, courtesy of County Market), and an extra-innings spectacular Sliders victory — a mere handful of bloggers showed up.

Says our brave favorite (a pants-wearing, truth-speaking soul): “Apparently getting bloggers to dress and leave their parents’ basement is more difficult than we thought. Turnout was dismal.”
My mother warned me about hanging with the in-gaggle, nerdy or not.

Springfield Sliders

Sweet 16

As of this posting, it’s only a three sentence story in the SJ-R about an (allegedly) drunk teenage girl crashing into a house in the wee hours of Sunday morning, but it brings a number of things to my mind.

Fortunately, there are no comments below the story, but if there were they would be full of smug, self-righteous denunciations of the parents of this girl. “Where were they?!” “The parents should be arrested for letting their teenager be out so late!” “The parenting sucks!” I get tired of that stuff. Sure, good parenting goes a long way, but it’s not hard to get past even the best of parents if you are a determined and sneaky teenager. I know, I was one. And I’ve raised more than one.
Most teenagers are intelligent but really, really unwise. Short of locking the kids in the basement, there’s always going to be an opportunity at some point for them to do something really stupid. So if you are a parent who has never had any trouble with a teenager, you are either very lucky or have been completely bamboozled by your teen. I have no idea what led up to this girls (allegedly) drunken house crashing, and she deserves everything she’s going to get, but I can think of scenarios where the parents really aren’t the culprits. One easy example, she simply sneaks out of the house after everyone’s asleep. That was a tried and true feat even in my day.

One thing I do question though, is the paper not publishing her name because she’s a minor? In this case, I think it should be published. She grossly abused an adult privilege and should be held accountable for it as an adult. Otherwise, let’s not let 16 year-olds drive. I have a lot of misgivings about the way we treat 16-20 year-olds. There’s too much inconsistency in the level of “adultness” we grant them. You can vote and serve in the military at 18 but you cannot drink. You can drive a car at 16, but can’t vote or drink. I guess there are some advantages to being old like me.

And finally, there’s the injured person who was sleeping in their house when a car came crashing through the bedroom wall in the middle of the night. This has always been a phobia of mine (I’ve been posting about a lot of them lately for some reason). I see houses all the time that are at the end of a street, like a T-intersection, or on a curve and I can’t help but think sooner or later some vehicle, maybe driven by a drunk 16 year-old, is going to come crashing into the house. And if a bedroom is at the front of the house, well, you are really asking for trouble. Bedrooms need to be at the back of the house or upstairs or you might just wind up sucking on an oil pan in the middle of the night.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Noodling Around

Stopped into the new Noodles and Company restaurant near White Oaks Mall this afternoon to see what they were all about. I wasn't expecting much as I kind of thought the concept, all foods based on noodles, was kind of lame. But we were bored on a Sunday and so what the hell.

I wasn't encouraged when we went in and saw what appeared to be a rather limited menu posted above the counter. They have three menus: Asian, Mediterranean, and American. I ordered the Bangkok Curry while Mrs. TEH got the Pod Thai, both off the Asian menu. We were both very pleased with the food. The potsickers side I ordered was just OK, but the entrees were great.

But I did notice one thing that I guess really doesn't surprise me. As you look at the three menus, going from the Asian to the Mediterranean (which is really just Italian) and on to the American, I noticed how the health quality decreased. The Asian stuff is full of veggies, the Mediterranean does pretty well too with just some Feta or Parmesan to add some flavor, while American is pasta and fat. Makes you kind of proud.

Full disclosure: We did take home some of their Mushroom Stroganoff and while it was all pasta and fat with three or four mushroom slices, it was quite good.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hotel Moraine

I'm still going through the box of old photos from my late mother's collection. I ran across another one I don't remember ever seeing before.

Left to right: My grandfather (mom's side), me, my father.

On the back, in my mother's handwriting, it says "Father's Day Breakfast Hotel Moraine". She lists my age as "48 weeks".

Hotel Moraine?

Of course, I turned to Google and found out the Moraine Hotel still exists:
The hotel is located on Chicago's beautiful North Shore between Highland Park and Lake Forest, 30 minutes from downtown Chicago and from Ohare International Airport, 1/2 mile from a metro station with trains to downtown Chicago every 30 minutes.
Well, my grandparents lived in Highland Park at the time, so I have to assume this is the same place and that my parents went up to see my mom's dad on Father's Day 1961 when I was almost 1. We lived in Metamora, near Peoria, at the time. My grandfather died a little over 2 years later. I, of course, have no memories of this day and only a few of my grandfather. But I'm glad I now have this picture.

I might also add that this is one of the few pictures I have of my grandfather where he doesn't have a pipe in his mouth. Sadly, it was the pipe that ultimately lead to his early death (at 52) from jaw cancer.

And hey, I just thought of something else; I just turned 48 YEARS old this week. That makes me 52 times older than I was in the picture.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Media Critic Me

In case anyone from WMAY is reading this, your new remote setup where there is this huge delay between caller and host is just plain unlistenable.

The caller and host wind up talking all over each other only to be broken up by periods of aggravating silence. Better radio please.

Friday Beer Blogging: Curve Ball Edition

Hey, here's a tasty good one for summer: Curve Ball Kölsch. It's made by the Pyramid Breweries out of Seattle.

A friend brought a six pack over a few weeks ago and I've purchased another since. Here's how the Pyramid folks describe Curve Ball:
Inspired by the traditional Kölsch style beers of Cologne, Germany, Curve Ball boasts a clean, crisp slightly herbal taste and a lighter body. With its sporty packaging and refreshing taste, Curve Ball is the perfect accompaniment to summer grilling and ballpark outings. Try swingin' at it on a hot summer day!

Original Gravity:
Alcohol By Volume: 4.9%
Malts: 2-Row Barley, Malted Wheat
Hops: Vanguard, Perle
Availability: March - September
Best Paired With: German Sausages and other BBQ favorites

Locally, here in Springfield, you can get Curve Ball at the new Party House Liquors. Friar Tuck may have it, but I haven't been there in a while to know for sure.

Have a great weekend! And you can't (swing and) miss with a Curve Ball.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fear of Driving

What scares you the most on the road? This may be idiotic and not supported by statistics, but I’m afraid of deer jumping out in front of (or into the side of) my car, which has happened to me. That’s followed closely by the fear of some moron blowing off a stop sign or red light and running into me, which has also (sort of) happened to me.

The two are different degrees of the same thing and the fear comes from it happening suddenly, unexpectedly, and with no time to react. I think the deer thing scares me more because deer are too stupid to know not to run onto a highway. Other motorists at least should understand not to do the same against a traffic signal, although some of them appear to be as stupid as the deer.

Then there are motorcycles. I have nothing against them or those who ride them but I’ve personally seen enough people badly injured riding them, I stay away. So what happens when two of my highway phobias come together literally? Yikes! At least those guys were only hurt, but still.

Wal of the Worlds

I’ve said it before folks, while you battle the Wal-Marts, Walgreen’s is taking over the universe. I believe Wal-Marts were created solely as a distraction from the sinister plans of the other Wal menace.
However, one Illinois city has caught on and is taking action.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Freedom to Pose

From Richard Roeper:
The Orlando Sentinel: "Five Olive Garden servers and a hostess are featured in a new online pictorial from called 'The Girls of Olive Garden.' "

Often, when you see a story like this in the news, it's followed by a statement from a company spokesman condemning the photo shoot or even saying the women have been fired.

Here's what Olive Garden's spokeswoman told the Sentinel: "What people chose to do outside of work is an individual decision, and we all have the freedom to participate in any legal activity in our private lives."

… Nobody's getting fired? No disciplinary action?

Talk about a shocking development. Talk about a refreshingly open-minded and cosmopolitan attitude. All hail the Olive Garden.
Hmmmm…in general that is a good attitude for businesses to take. But…there are exceptions we can agree on, right? For example, if I work for radio station WDAV and I’m quoted in the newspaper as saying I recommend people listen to WTEH instead, wouldn’t that be a reasonable thing for WDAV to fire me over?

I’m not talking legal issues here, just general principle. I agree that posing for Playboy should not be a firing offense, but might not the Olive Garden tune change if those same women employees appeared (clothed!) in a Denny’s ad? You know, "Hi, we work at Olive Garden but we much prefer to eat at Denny's!" And following that logic, what if I work for Penthouse and pose for Playboy?

Four x Ten

I’ve already come out in favor of going to a four day work week to save energy. This Dave Bakke column today looks at the idea for State of Illinois employees.

The biggest drawback seems to be the potential loss of services from state offices that serve the public. Those offices might wind up being open only four days a week but open later/earlier on those four days. I think we could live with that. More and more transactions are already conducted over the phone or computer and that trend could be expanded to ensure the fewer working days don’t result in longer lines at state offices providing services directly to the public. So I’m not sure that is a real concern.

Having some experience with a four day work week, I will say there are some drawbacks. The most obvious is the longer day. My experience involved a very low stress job so the long days really didn’t bother me. However, it’s all some people can do to get through eight hour (or 7.5 for State employees) without going mad or passing out from exhaustion. Up that to 10 (9.375 or whatever for State workers) might result in lost productivity.

Another drawback concerns childcare. Single parents or even couples who both work the longer days might find it difficult to have their child in daycare for so long each day. The advantage here is that as this work schedule gets more popular, daycares will adjust and may wind up with four day work weeks of their own. Still, the transition might be a strain on the household.
I’m wondering, if the four day work week becomes popular, if we might not see the traditional weekend expanded and standardized. That is, Monday or Friday might become part of what we consider to be the weekend. Of course, my vote it for Fridays.
In the end, the greatest resistance to a four day week is going to come from employers (including the general public in the case of State workers) because there is an underlying impression that this is a concession to employees. Many employers now would treat an employee asking for the four day week as if they were trying to get away with something. I think the same traditional mentality exists for telecommuting. I also think we all need to get over that notion and embrace the benefits.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Say It’s My Birthday

And I brought birthday treats!

Oh…wait…they’re all gone.

You should have gotten here sooner.

Real Men of Posturing

After my mother’s death a couple of years ago, my sister took the family photo albums and assorted boxes of pictures to someday sort them out and distribute them evenly (or at least fairly). I got my allotment in the mail a week or so ago. I’ve been going through the pictures and have come across a few that I hadn’t seen before, or at least don’t remember. One of them is below and it made me laugh.

It’s a picture of me and my father (I’m the short, shirtless one with the wheelbarrow!) next to where we were having an addition put on the house in the summer of 1969. You can see the foundation in front of us.

The joke here is that my father had zero manual labor abilities, and let’s just say the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Believe me, we did nothing toward building that addition other than my parents signing a check or loan papers or whatever. I’m not sure if this was my mother’s idea of humor (she must have been taking the picture) or what. Or maybe we were really moving that dirt somewhere and she felt it to be an historic moment worthy of capturing on film. Anyway, it’s the only picture you will ever see of my father holding a shovel.

It’s odd that some of the pictures I’ve come across are in such bad shape. This picture is as faded as something taken in the 1920s rather than the summer man first landed on the moon. Just bad film quality, I guess.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In Praise of 1978

I’ve never thought that 1978, the year I graduated high school and started college, held much historical significance. Greatly interested in current events even back then, I found the news of the day largely boring and uninspiring. However, Kenneth S. Baer in the Washington Post says 1978 was actually a very important year that, among other things, began the modern political era.

Time Magazine Cover From Early 1978

Baer makes a pretty good case, but I think you could make similar arguments for about any year. I mean, things happen and evolve all the time. Still, the retrospective does remind me that it was a time when things were about to begin changing more rapidly (computers for example) even if it wasn’t apparent at the time how far reaching these developments would be. Sometimes it’s interesting to look back at the significance of even seemingly boring times.

Snark of the Day: McCain Computer Illiteracy Watch

J. Sidney McCain admits he has no idea how to use a computer. The Video Professor is available to help.

Thanks Video Professor. Keep up the good and patriotic work!


Great. We’ll all soon be speaking Belgian in bars.

And when they move the Cardinals to Brussels, don’t say you weren’t warned about the Belgian menace. 6/11 changed everything.

Update: Matthewe Yglesias asks the important question:

Obviously, like all red-blooded Americans I'm outraged by the idea of a Belgian company with the silly name InBev purchasing our beloved Budweiser. Still, wouldn't it be kind of great if the Belgians started turning Budweiser into something more like the, um, vastly superior product they have in Belgium?
That would be a nice consequence from the sale, but it won't happen. Most Americans like the way AH products taste now. They won't see any quality improvements as being better. They're used to their Bud just the way it is! For example, I've tried giving my father-in-law some of the best beer in the world and he still simply perfers Miller Lite. The good stuff sits in his fridge until I come over or until he can pawn one off on an unsuspecting friend.

Where Have All Awnings Gone?

One of the things I notice about old photographs featuring houses or buildings, is awnings. I’m not old enough to remember awnings on all the windows of multi-story buildings (I’ve seen the pictures) but I very much do remember the houses in our neighborhood all having them while I was growing up. Window awnings were a great way to cut down on the heating up of the house (or building) by the sun during the summer.

Growing up during the 1960s, my father would put up the canvas awnings in the spring and take them back down in the fall. It was desirable to take them down to allow the sun to help heat the house during the cold months, while keeping the awnings in storage and out of the weather at the to extend their life. Some houses in our neighborhood had permanent aluminum awnings that stayed up year-round.

Back when I was a child, central air was kind of new for residential homes and a lot of people would have maybe just one large window air conditioner for the whole house. This one unit could not effectively cool the whole house without a little help, the kind of help the awnings could provide. And of course, the tradition of awnings went back to a time even before air-conditioning when they were use to block the sun while allowing you to leave the window open for air circulation.

About the time we got central air-conditioning (1969), dad stopped putting up the awning except on the west side of the house that got the brunt of the afternoon heat. By the mid ‘70s, even those were gone.

Today you don’t see awnings anymore, the SunSetter commercials on TV notwithstanding. But I imagine we (as a society) would save a lot of energy if we still used them. I suppose, though, it still comes down to money. Right now, it would probably take a lot of years before you even broke even on the cost of the awnings and, if you maintained them the old fashioned way, there’s the hassle of putting them up and taking them down every year, and then you have to replace them at some point, etc. So unless electric prices soar, I don’t see the widow awning making a return anytime soon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Chimp to Campaign for Schock the Monkey

Well, at least somebody wants to be seen with George W. Bush.
SPRINGFIELD -- President Bush plans to visit Peoria July 25 to hold a private fundraising event for Republican [18th Congressional District] candidate Aaron Schock, the candidate said Thursday.

"I'm honored that the president of the United States is coming to do a fundraiser for me," Schock said.

Hmmmm. Is that who we want representing us in Congress? A Bush true-believer? Who would want that?

Schock’s opponent, Colleen Callahan, sounds pleased that Schock is getting “help” from Bush:

"Is it desperation?" Callahan said. "Does it mean that our opponent is aligning himself with President Bush's policies?"
I would say the answer to that is yes. Can we make this congressional election a referendum on George W. Bush? That would be great.

Extendile Disfunction

From an SJ-R article on the MacArthur extension project today:
“It’s the most significant change in our traffic patterns since we built the interstates and Veterans Parkway, because it opens up a whole new way to get in from Chatham,” said Moll. “It also opens up a huge new area for development. Our estimate is that there are 30 or 40 years’ worth of development because of this project.”

The Legacy Pointe “lifestyle” center at the south end of the extension is expected to provide a big chunk of the development. Work is slated to start next summer on the retail, commercial, residential and recreation project, which would be larger than Parkway Pointe shopping center once completed.
Does this mean the commercial growth of the southwest side of Springfield, along west Wabash and down Veterans Parkway, is now groing to stop or dramatically slow down? For three decades now, this kind of growth has primarily been on the southwest side. In recent years, we’ve seen Dirksen Parkway north of Sangamon come to life but that’s been the only major exception to the southwest rule.
It also seems to me, just based on personal observation and nothing concrete like actual statistics, that the pace of new residential building has slowed considerably on the city’s west side. That may just be a pause due to things like shifting mortgage practices, a slumping housing market, and/or a coincidental “clam before the storm” of new subdivisions.

My uneducated guess is that the opening up of the area around the new MacArthur Extension will suck the air out of further commercial expansion in the southwest part of the city while, in the long run, new housing will continue to expand west from the city.

Friday Beer Blogging: Great Waters Edition

Two weekends ago, I found myself stuck in St. Paul, Minnesota for a wedding my wife was in. And no, she didn't wise-up and marry someone else; she was doing a reading in her godson's wedding.

So there I was, in St. Paul with not much to do. A couple of days before, and before I was in town, Mrs. TEH attended the rehearsal dinner which was held at a local pub and microbrewery called Great Waters Brewing Company.

She had a great time and told me about the place. Well, it turned out the GWBC was just two blocks from our hotel. So about noon, before the evening wedding, we decided to go over to GWBC, have some lunch, and sample the local brews.

Like many microbreweries, GWBC offers a beer sampler. I ordered one and this is what I got.

They had nine brews on tap that day and I soon had four ounces of each. They brew up to twelve varieties (I think) but only nine were available that day. Each beer sat on a numbered circle on the serving mat and I was provided a descriptive list of what each beer was by number.

I soon was able to pick a few favorites including the Cywren Saison which is described as:
A Belgian farmhouse style ale. Mediterranean spice and a pleasant pungent aroma present in this saison ale. We used dandelion honey, coriander, and sweet orange peel for a unique flavor and aroma. Very complex, dry and refreshing. Don't let its drinkability fool you, though. At 6.8 ABV This beer can sneak up on you.
Tastes great and a great buzz.

Perhaps the best though was the Mr. Smooth Dark Mild. Yum.
Made in the style of century old dark mild’s, with wheat, oats, and barley. Gently hopped with East Kent Goldings. Sturdy blue collar session beer for refreshment after a hard day in the mill.
Man, that stuff was good.

GWBC doesn't sell bottled beer but you can take home "growlers" of their tap beer. Basically, they fill half-gallon jugs from the tap and seal it up. You have to drink your growler beer soon because it won't keep more than a week. The GWBC growlers look like this (when placed on my back deck):

Unfortunately, because the Mr. Smooth Dark Mild is kept at a higher temperature, you can't get it to go, I was told, because it won't keep at all. Too bad. But I did manage to get out of there with a couple of growlers of the Cywren Saison along with two other varieties, all of which have been consumed by now. Sorry.

Have a great weekend! And you've now been told what you need to do if you have a few minutes to spare in St. Paul, MN.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bad Phil-osophy

Obama today:

(CNN) — Barack Obama mocked a top economic adviser to John McCain Thursday for suggesting Americans are whining over to the country's economic woes, telling a Virginia crowd the nation doesn't need another Dr. Phil.

"I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr. Phil," Obama said, laughing as the crowd cheered. "We don’t need another one when it comes to the economy. We need somebody to actually solve the economy. It’s not just a figment of your imagination, it's not all in your head.”
Might I suggest that we really don’t need ANY Dr. Phils. The original is a creepy charlatan. I hope Obama campaigns on an anti-Dr. Phil platform too.