Saturday, April 28, 2007

Potter Puppet Pals in "The Mysterious Ticking Noise"

I hope this doesn't ruin the end of the Harry Potter series for anyone....

Youngest Son came up with this and I had to share.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Riding along on Spaceship Earth: Does anybody know where they keep the life boats?

Today is Arbor Day in the United States. Last Sunday, it was Earth Day.

Go plant a tree. Or at least hug one.

One of the better lessons we learned in the 1960's was that we -- you, me, all of humanity -- are passengers on a fragile blue ball, riding around the heavens beneath a thin canopy of life-giving air.

We haven't all drawn the same lessons from this realization.

St. Albert of Gore, for instance (I think he's been promoted), preaches that we need to destroy our economies and give up our cars and all the trappings of modern life. One of his more prominent disciples would order us to use one square of toilet paper "per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required".

And there's no indication that she was kidding.

People like St. Albert and Sister Sheryl believe that we can "stop" global warming by our actions... as if Earth were naturally a static system but for the meddling of humankind.

But it just isn't so.

The Yellowstone Caldera lies at the heart of America's Yellowstone National Park. It is a "supervolcano" -- with a history of eruptions 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and about 640,000 years ago. The force of each of these eruptions was nearly 2,500 times greater than that of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. Each time Yellowstone has blown, ash spread across much of the continent.

Now that would change the climate.

And it would probably get us living in caves again, those of us who survived.

Fortunately for all of us the Yellowstone Caldera has not proved as predictable as the Old Faithful Geyser.

Do the math: If it really blew every 600,000 years, we'd be 40,000 years overdue.

Give or take. And that's just one of the little surprises Mother Nature might have in store for our species. Large meteors have hit our little planet before. A meteor collision may have wiped out the dinosaurs; it almost certainly contributed to their extinction. Who's to say it won't happen again?

So: What's the plan?

If you were riding on a ship in the middle of an ocean, no matter how sturdy the ship looked, no matter how luxuriously it was appointed, no matter how bountiful the midnight buffet -- you'd want to be sure there were enough life boats available. Just in case.

On our fragile blue ball, cruising through the heavens, where are the life boats?

Is there a better reason for a space program? A space colonization program?

Love the Earth. Be a good steward. But realize we may have to abandon ship some day.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Take Your Offspring to Work Day: The Outcome

I'm told Youngest Son will have to prepare a paper describing his experiences on Take Your Offspring to Work Day.

I really want to see it. Because I can't believe he'll tell anything close to the truth.

Here's the truth:

I got the order continuing the trial yesterday. In the meantime, I have a number of opinion letters and pleadings to draft: As it happens, much of what I do involves reading stuff and writing about what I've read.

(Gee -- I wonder why blogging appeals to me?)

While this activity may eventually result in income, I can appreciate it may not be the most riveting thing for a 14-year old to observe.

So I let the kid sleep in this morning, while I worked at home. I'd made substantial progress on an opinion letter before he wandered downstairs around 10:00am. I told him to have breakfast and iron a shirt and then I'd probably be ready to take him downtown.

He ironed his shirt... and then I ironed it again. But he made an effort.

We left the house around 11:00 -- but it took a half hour to find a place to park (you take your chances driving into the Loop that late) and we didn't get into the office until nearly noon.

I had a plan: Last year I gave him the nickel tour. We went to the Daley Center, the Dirksen Building and the Bilandic Building (where the Appellate Court sits). We went out to lunch.

Today I decided he'd just have to see what I really do when I'm not blogging.

We started with lunch: I usually eat at my desk. Long Suffering Spouse had prepared a ham sandwich for Youngest Son and a peanut butter and jelly for me. I pulled the sandwiches from my briefcase. I had put cans of pop in the pockets of my trench coat on the way out the house. So we ate. Very glamorous.

And I printed out the letters I'd done at home, made a fax cover sheet, and sent the documents on their way. I made the labels for the envelopes. I punched holes in the file copies and put them away. I returned phone calls. I printed out emails related to files.

By this time, Youngest Son was asleep.

You too?

His baseball cap was pulled down over his face and he was slumped back in his chair and he was gently snoring.

But I got even: I had a box of documents that had to be returned to a lawyer in River North. So we borrowed a cart to wheel the box around. Youngest Son was in charge of wheeling the box. We walked back to the car over by the Daley Center -- in the rain -- making a detour to pick up my quarterly tax returns from the accountant.

Youngest Son managed to stay awake for this much, anyway, but after we put the box in the car I needed to check on a file at the courthouse. We waited in line -- the clerks were preoccupied today because many of them had their kids to chase after -- but I got the file I needed and sat down to read through it... and Youngest Son started to nod off again.

He did deliver the box of documents for me while I sat in the car with the flashers going... and then he dozed off again on the way home.

I don't think he'll be able to write a very long paper....

Admission against interest

I'm not on trial tomorrow.

This would be OK if I'd settled the case -- but I didn't: I asked the court for a continuance.

I felt I had no choice. At this point, though I'm doing much better -- head, shoulders, knees and toes above where I was even a couple of weeks ago -- I'm not ready to undertake a trial.

I'm not happy about it.

On the plus side I can see substantial increases in my productivity. I've done actual work this week... and I've done it better and faster than I've been able to do since my surgery.

My case won't get any better between now and the next setting.

But I will.

All in good pun

Another one that I found cleaning up my email, some of them 'punched up' and (maybe) slightly improved by yours truly as an exercise.

Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
* * *
A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."
* * *
Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

Didn't Monty Python use this about 30 years ago in a sketch about the ultimate killer joke of World War II? Just asking....
* * *
A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
* * *
A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says: "A beer please, and one for the road."
* * *
Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other, "Does this taste funny to you?"
* * *
"Doc, I can't stop singing 'The Green, Green Grass of Home'."

"That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome."

"Is that common?"

"Well, 'It's Not Unusual'."

For you youngsters out there... find someone to explain this one to you. Or rent Mars Attacks!

For everyone else -- see how long it takes you to get "It's Not Unusual" out of your head this morning....


* * *
Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning."

"I don't believe you," says Dolly.

"It's true, no bull!" exclaims Daisy.
* * *
An invisible man married an invisible woman. Their children were nothing to look at either.
* * *
Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.
* * *
I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.

Here I believe our email circulator has left the world of puns and invaded the routines of Steven Wright.
* * *
I went to a seafood disco last week... and pulled a mussel.
* * *
What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

Here we've left the world of puns again. Now we've joined the first graders on the playground....
* * *
Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, "Dam!"
* * *
Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
* * *
A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why," they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

OK, that hurt. But it moved Tom Jones out of your head didn't it? Hello, Nat King Cole!
* * *
A poor woman has twins. Because she and her husband can't support the new children they give them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; he is named "Juan." Years later, Juan seeks out his birth parents and sends a picture of himself. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."
* * *
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him... a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
* * *
Finally, there was the person who recycled an email with 20 different puns in his blog with the hope that at least 10 of the puns would make his readers laugh. No pun in 10 did.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Still here... sort of

I just looked at all the comments to the last post: Glad to see the conversation is continuing in my absence. Yes, I'm taking my vitamins -- and, no, you can't blog in court....

Tomorrow is "Take Your Daughter To Work Day." At our school, they've broadened that out to include daughters and sons -- so I'll have charge of Youngest Son tomorrow.

Which is OK, I suppose.

Although there'll be no blogging tomorrow from the Undisclosed Location, obviously. It would be difficult to maintain an anonymous blog with Youngest Son watching me type... but I just looked it up in the Archives: Last year Take Your Offspring To Work Day was a seventh grade activity -- it was merely optional for eighth graders. This year, it's an eighth grade activity, too.

At least that's what Long Suffering Spouse is telling me. And she should know because she teaches at the school....

Say... is that a coincidence? Or a conspiracy?

And, just because Youngest Son sees his mother work every other day, why can't she take him tomorrow, too? Is there some sort of sexist thing happening here? Or is it just good planning on her part?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Coming distractions

I've not visited as many sites as I'd like during the week and I've lurked more than usual when I have visited. Sorry.

I'm trying to play catch-up a little with work. And I really should focus on that for a while.

And I'm supposed to start a trial next Friday. It will be interesting to see if I can handle the physical demands of trying a case right now -- I can blog readily enough (if not always lucidly) -- but to be in the well of the courtroom, looking (and actually being) attentive, popping up and down as ceremony (and objections) may require, without excusing myself every couple of hours....

Well, we'll just have to see about that, won't we?

I'm sure I won't go "dark" here -- I may even post again today (my addiction is that overwhelming) -- but for this morning... must try to concentrate on work.

Must keep trying....

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Buehrle's doing very well tonight, isn't he?"

That's what Long Suffering Spouse said when the line score came up as the Sox broadcast went into a commercial break.

I looked up. I see what you mean, I thought -- but all I dared say was, "Yes, he is. I hadn't noticed."

And I hadn't noticed.

I'd gotten home late and didn't turn on the game until the 5th inning -- in time to see Jermaine Dye's grand slam. Dye's been hitting poorly of late and Youngest Son was threatening to cut Dye from his fantasy team. (Yeah, that'll teach him.) When Dye hit the home run I wondered if Youngest Son had made good on this threat -- making a mental note to tell him to cut all the White Sox from his team if he had. We could use the offense.

So I did not notice just how well Buehrle was doing -- until Long Suffering Spouse pointed it out.

Without saying any more than I've already said she said, of course. Because even in our den we might jinx it.

Fast forward to the end of the game: Buehrle completed the no hitter.

I was on the computer sending celebratory IM's to Oldest Son and Middle Son -- trying to count out the "nos" in the opening lines to "Nobody But Me" -- the 1968 classic by the Human Beinz: No no -- no -- no no -- no no no no....

The phone rang. It was my friend Steve -- who shares White Sox season tickets with three other people. I'd seen that he was on line; I knew he wasn't at the game. I greeted him with "Who had the tickets tonight?"

It's still cold in Chicago -- and the Sox had been drubbed by the Rangers Tuesday night. We speculated that the guy who had the tickets might have given them away -- just as Steve had done the night before. If he did give the tickets away, he'll never live it down.

Middle Son responded to my IM just after I hung up the phone: He'd been watching the game in someone else's room at the dorm. I typed that Buehrle said, until tonight, he'd never pitched a no-hitter at any level -- although he pitched part of one, maybe two innings or so -- in a high school game.

Middle Son typed back: "Then I've done something Buehrle didn't do."

(I've cleaned up the spelling and punctuation. Apparently only old fogies like me worry about bothersome things like spelling or grammar when instant messaging.)

After a pause, presumably picking up on the fact that I didn't know what the heck he was talking about, Middle Son typed, "Well, it was Summer ball. I don't know if it counts."

I could think of a couple of very good games Middle Son had pitched in high school summer ball... but a no-no? No -- I was still blank.

"It was against Evanston. And I went to football practice right after."

Ah, that's it, I figured: He probably didn't even tell us about it... because he went straight to football practice. Long Suffering Spouse agreed with my reconstruction of events -- and I typed that to Middle Son, too.

"I'm sure I told you," he typed back.

But he didn't. I may forget a lot -- but not that. I think we've offended him, though.

Youngest Son got home around this time: He'd been at... where else? ... baseball practice. Last night, at least, was at an indoor facility. Another family drove him. He didn't even say hello. Instead he greeted us with: "Tell me you watched it."

Which brings me to the punch line.

Oldest Son -- the most fanatical White Sox fan in the entire Galaxy -- didn't respond to my IM last night -- but his away message this morning was, "The one night I don't watch the game...."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech and which way to turn coming out of the subway at Chicago & State

The AP's Adam Geller reports today on Yahoo! News that Cho Seung-Hui had prior contacts with local police concerning "stalking," that a professor once had campus security remove him from a poetry class, and that the chair of his department referred him for counseling.

Cho was even "taken to a mental health facility in 2005 after an acquaintance worried he might be suicidal," according to today's report.

AP also reports that Cho may have been taking medications for depression; that presumably means he'd been seen by a doctor.

And yet none of these warning signs, none of these past brushes with the law, ripened into any meaningful treatment for Cho. (Charges were never filed in the stalking incidents.) Nor was he removed from the college community -- even though he was scaring all sorts of people with whom he was coming in contact.


A lot of commentators are suggesting that this tragedy comes from Cho's easy access to weapons -- but I think a more basic problem is Cho's lack of access to mental health care... or maybe his right to reject mental health care.

We know he was referred for counseling; we don't (yet) know if he went.

I am not a mental health professional, not like MJ, a psychiatric nurse.

But I have observed the consequences of changes in mental health laws and attitudes... and I wonder today as I mourn with the rest of the nation for the lives lost at Virginia Tech how those changes may have -- inadvertently -- and despite the best of intentions -- led to this tragedy.

I had an office for many years in the River North area of Chicago, west of the subway stop at Chicago and State.

Chicago and State was a very busy stop -- Loyola University's downtown campus is there, as is Holy Name Cathedral... and if you walk just a little further east you would come to the Michigan Avenue Shopping District -- the Magnificent Mile. You'd pass by the famous Water Tower -- famous because it survived the Chicago Fire.

Keep going just a little further east and you'll be on the downtown campus of Northwestern University. That's where the university hospital is -- and mental patients heading for that hospital were among those who'd get off the train at Chicago and State.

It's just that -- sometimes -- they'd go west instead. And then I'd see them.

Look: I think its wonderful that modern medicine can treat so many mental illnesses. People who take their medications faithfully have a chance to live normal lives and contribute to society -- when in a not yet too distant age they could look forward to nothing but an institutionalized existence.

But, you know, my wife and my doctor both want me to take a multivitamin every morning. My wife reminds me nearly every day. And sometimes I take the pill... and a lot of times I don't.

I may not be the clinical picture of perfect mental health, but I'm reasonably functional -- and sometimes I forget to take one pill.

How can we assume that people who are struggling with mental illness and who may not have a strong support system like I do -- who may even be homeless -- how can we assume that these people will remember to take their pills as prescribed?

I'm not a doctor and I don't have access to anyone's mental health records... but I'd bet any sum you care to wager that many of the characters I saw wandering in the wrong direction down Chicago Avenue were mental patients who'd gone off their meds.

We used to warehouse people... and we, as a society, determined that that was bad. But as we've emptied mental hospitals we've also filled up jails: I don't have statistics at my fingertips, but I've read appalling figures about how many people in the criminal justice system have mental health issues. If they'd had supportive families and homes, they may never have become ensnared in criminal activity... but they didn't. And they leave victims in their wake as they drift toward jail....

We know Cho Seung-Hui was referred for counseling. We don't know if he went.

Could he have been forced to go?

And if (as I assume) he could not have been forced, should he have been?

I have no answers now -- just questions.

Is it "love of the game" -- or are we just plain nuts?

I got these images from The Big Red Report, an "an unofficial and independent source of news and information" devoted entirely to athletics at the University of Nebraska.

Yes, that's snow on the ground.

There was no snow on the ground yesterday in Chicago, although there has been snow here, and recently, too.

At one point yesterday, we are told, the temperature reached 70 degrees in Chicago.

If this is true, it wasn't true for long.

The Sun went down, the temperature went way down, and the winds came up: Youngest Son had a game last night.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

I was late getting there, of course, although it was not entirely my fault: I did not leave the Undisclosed Location as promptly as I'd hoped, but when I finally arrived in the subway, I saw a train sitting at Monroe, the next stop down.

From the my vantage point a couple blocks away I could see the red and yellow lights on the sides of the cars facing the platform -- meaning that the train was standing with its doors open.

It stood for a long while. I could even make out the headlights of another train directly behind it.

In the meantime, the platform at Washington -- which had been relatively empty when I strolled in -- had swelled in population to the point where hopeful commuters were two and three deep along most of the platform. I was thinking I'd probably have to take the following train if I wanted to sit down... but eventually the train closed its doors and moved two blocks to where I was standing. It moved slowly.

But there were seats! And I'd guessed well as to where the train would stop: A door was right in front of me. I scrambled in and pulled my book from my brief case.

It's a juggling technique I use: Some people carry a to-do list. I carry all the files that are on my list -- at least all that I can. So I had a briefcase and a redweld folder -- and my coffee cup, of course. So sitting is really important for me: I'm a hazard to other commuters otherwise.

Absorbed in my book, I didn't realize that we were creeping slower than usual. We must have limped into the Division and Milwaukee station. But I noticed then, eventually, how long we were sitting in the station, again with the doors open.

People began to get off. A CTA employee came by to shoo us along. The train was to be emptied, he said. Reluctantly, I complied. As a straggler, I had prime position by an open door when... surprise, surprise... the same CTA employee let us get back on the train.

He also told us the train would run express to Damen. He had to tell us, because the usually loud and obnoxious speaker in the car was not working. It was kaput.

But nobody told anyone at Damen about the broken speaker -- and that's why a host of unwilling passengers on my car were conveyed, express, from Damen to Jefferson Park.

I get off beyond Jefferson Park, so I was not unhappy. I was merely very, very late.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Long Suffering Spouse met me at the train. Another family had driven Youngest Son to his game from the school baseball practice: Yes, for the next couple of weeks he'll probably be on two teams.

I changed clothes quickly and put on my winter coat. Long Suffering Spouse questioned that decision, but only momentarily: She took her parka, too.

I ate in the car on the way to the game.

That's the way it is in baseball season in Chicago. In the nice weather, when the kids were young and all still playing at Bluejay Park, I'd walk over from the train and meet Long Suffering Spouse and we'd have a sort of picnic. She had a cooler with sandwiches and pop and we'd wander from diamond to diamond checking in on our offspring's various contests. Usually we'd arrive just after our son or daughter batted. Timing is everything in this world.

But now that the kids are older we must drive to all of their increasingly far-flung games. And I eat in the car. Gracious living at its best.

Our van has a thermometer built in above the windshield. It was 50 degrees when we got to the park.

This park is one of the nicer ones available for youth play; it even has lights.

On a night like last night, this was a mixed blessing: With no sun to provide even the illusion of warmth, we were quickly chilled to the bone.

Youngest Son's travel team has spiffy uniforms -- home and away uniforms, mind you -- and the kids all have huge bags for their equipment, duly emblazoned with each boy's uniform number and the team logo. But all the equipment in the world can't help you field a ground ball or make an accurate throw, especially on a cold, windy night: Youngest Son's team did not prevail.

The temperature was in the mid-40's when we got back in the car at the end of the game. We had to give another boy a ride home -- and Younger Daughter called in the middle of all this with something she absolutely had to have for school today. So we had to make a stop at Walgreen's lest Younger Daughter fail Chemistry. (It is just possible that Younger Daughter may have known about this requirement before yesterday -- but she will admit nothing.)

But, eventually, we arrived home. It was shortly after 9:00 pm. Youngest Son could now eat dinner and start his homework.

Which brings up the question posed in the title of this essay, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Update on Bloggers' Choice Awards

Well, I missed a few of my regular visitors in my last post on the Bloggers' Choice Awards... and, you betcha, I heard about it.

But I asked to hear about it. Honest.

Linda, from Are We There Yet??, pointed out that she's up for "Best Blog Design" -- and she wanted to take the opportunity to give props to her "awesome blog designer, Se7en... who hails from New Orleans and just finished his last chemo treatment."

The Empress Bee took me to task for not plugging her nomination for "Best Humor Blog." Bee really has been spending a lot of time in South Florida; she asked whether she was "chopped liver" because she'd voted for me... but I hadn't voted for her.

And Claire took me to task for failing to vote for Chris of Thermal for "Hottest Daddy Blogger" because he's the competition. That hurt.

Anyway, I've voted for all these.

There's other news to report, too: Wil Wheaton has withdrawn from all categories except "Best Celebrity Blogger." That may not mean victory for Jean Luc Picard in any of the categories in which he's nominated... but at least he won't lose to Ensign Crusher!

And -- if there may have been some doubt -- Barb from Skittles' Place is staying in the race for "Best Blog About Stuff." And her vote totals are impressive.

And my own totals? These are pretty sad: I still only have 12 votes for "Hottest Daddy Blogger." And now I'm 167 votes behind the leader. So... if you haven't already done so... could you stop by and give my sad numbers a little boost?

I thank you.

Almost "outed" by Oldest Son

It was the Easter weekend and the family... those that made it home for the holiday... were gathered around...

the computer!





Once upon a time, families gathered 'round the radio.






A generation later, families gathered around the TV. But more and more, I think, families gather around the computer, at least on occasion.

This was one such.

Oldest Son, our soon-to-be college graduate, has lately become enamored of Google home pages. He was showing us all the gizmos and gadgets we could lard into our own home pages... which we could access anywhere from any computer that could reach into the Internet.

There was a certain amount of ooohing and aaahing involved.

And then Oldest Son thought to show us a couple of videos posted on You Tube. His home page has a You Tube search screen added in.

A few clicks and...

Well, I have been careless. Reckless even. I can't deny it: I have sometimes blogged from home. Usually, I do it from here -- safely cocooned in my Undisclosed Location -- but I fell into the habit during my recent convalescence.

I have tried to be discreet. The younger kids use IE. I use Firefox. Knowing that Oldest Son would be home, I'd 'cleared the private data' from Firefox and deleted all temporary Internet files using Windows.

But this, it turns out, is like putting your vodka bottle in the back of the sock drawer: It's still there. It can still be found. Was this a cry for help?


"Say," said Oldest Son, when You Tube came up, "what's this?"

My You Tube user name -- some permutation of Curmudgeon -- came up on the top line of the screen, right after "Hello."

"What's what?" asked Long Suffering Spouse, looking up from the papers she was grading. She was multitasking -- grading and watching the computer demonstration.

The almost-college-graduate mispronounced "Curmudgeon." Long Suffering Spouse corrected him. "What's that?" he asked again -- and, in his defense, I can only say that he's majored in computer science, not English.

"That's a grouchy old guy," Long Suffering Spouse explained.

"It's me," I confessed. "That's my user name for You Tube."

The assembled family members laughed. "That sounds like you," Long Suffering Spouse said.

By this time, Oldest Son had found the videos he wanted to show us... and the moment of danger passed.

For now.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bloggers' Choice Awards -- so many choices!

I suppose it sounds strange for a lawyer to say he doesn't like controversy -- but, at least in my case, it's true: I want to save my hostility for those who are arrayed against me. I sure don't want squabbles on my side of the lines.

Then along come the Blogger's Choice Awards... and all these blogs I visit are competing against each other.

Let's get specific: Billy Mac's Critique My Blog is up for Best Blog About Blogging... but so is Chris' blog alter ego, Blog-Op. (That's Chris from Scotland, not Chris from Dixon, Illinois or thereabouts.)

Also vying for Best Blog About Blogging is RT from Untwisted Vortex and Bobby Griffin of The Bestest Blog of All Time (and himself a teacher, too).

Here's how we would handle this in Chicago: When any of these worthies come looking for our vote, we would tell them we think they're wonderful and we wish them the best of luck. Note: No promises are made or even implied in that statement. We are then free to vote as we wish.

But that's not how it works with the Blogger's Choice Awards: You can not only see which one has how many votes -- but even who voted for whom. *Shudder*

But there's one bit of good news: You can vote for more than one blog in each category. So I voted for all of the above.

(Coward that I am....)

Some people are nominated in multiple categories. Take Sgt. Dub for instance. Sgt. Dub isn't a regular visitor here -- he's more of a blog friend of a blog friend -- but I'm familiar enough with him. So when I saw he was nominated for "Best Blog About Stuff" I went to look. But he's competing against Barb from Skittles' Place in this category. I saw yesterday that Barb says she's throwing in the towel... but, no matter, two more votes.

Sgt. Dub is also nominated for "Best Political Blog." This may be where he's concentrating his efforts -- he's got a couple more votes here than elsewhere. (I've been nominated in this category, too, but -- although I don't always succeed -- I have tried to stay away from political stuff. Honest.)

Captain Picard's Journal has been nominated in several categories as well -- the "Blogitzer" category, the "Best Humor Blog," and the "Best Blog of All Time." Jean-Luc faces determined competition from Claire (A Little Piece of Me) in this latter category. But what's probably really galling to him is that he's losing...

big time... to Wesley Crusher....

Wesley Crusher, it turns out, is some sort of major phenomenon in the Blogosphere.

Who knew?

And Jean Luc faces strong competition in the "Best Humor Blog" category, too. Among the more notable contestants in this category are Miss Cellania, Lindsay Ferrier of Suburban Turmoil, and Ladeedah of La La Land. (Ladeedah is also nominated in the "Best Parenting Blog" category).

I have probably missed someone -- but please do not construe any omissions as intentional. Updates or additional posts on the subject will presumably follow in due course and additions and corrections can be made as we go....

Oh -- and, if you think of it -- give me a vote on the "Hottest Daddy Blogger." As this is posting, I'm only 63 votes behind the leader... who is not Wesley Crusher.

Tagged with the "Balance Meme"

Barb, of Skittles' Place, has tagged me with the "Balance Meme."

1. How do you achieve balance in your life?
Me? Balanced?
2. What is your biggest challenge in balancing your life?
Finding the energy and focus to complete tasks I don't want to complete -- relating usually to work or health -- when there are usually more interesting things to do... like blog.
3. What are your priorities?
Setting priorities implies being able to determine which of many pending tasks is most important, which is second-most and so on. But I always start with 1 and go to 1A, 1B, 1C -- and I never get to two. In general my purpose is to keep my family afloat. But sometimes figuring out what are the priorities necessary to effectuate that purpose seems overwhelming.
4. Have your priorities changed over time and why?
Yes and no. The overall purpose doesn't change. The immediate priorities change minute to minute: See above.
5. What advice can you share to help all of us balance our lives?
This question -- at least as direct to me -- must be premised on the theory of "Thems as can't do, teach." OK: How about this? Stay solvent. Stay healthy. Balance will follow.Right now I have to work on both ends of that.
I won't tag anyone else with the meme -- but if you choose to do it, leave me a comment and I'll make it a priority (ouch!) to come and read it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Post of the day?

I'm hearing Jimmy Stewart's voice on this: "Well, what do you know about that?"

Here's an email Saturday afternoon from Judd Corizan, who left a comment to Friday's post following up on the Worst 70's Song Contest:
Congratulations on your award on The Rising Blogger. It is a brand new site that awards posts, not blogs. Your post from Friday (04.13.07) won. Since we award posts, you might even win again. We ask winners to nominate a post favorite of a fellow blogger. It is not a requirement. You have won this award because we truly feel you deserve it. Great post, good job!
And he included this little button which will eventually make it into the Sidebar:


Rising Blogger is a brand new enterprise: The very nice write-up posted by Mr. Corizan concerning Second Effort is only the third entry that he's made. His profile is particularly interesting for a wannabe like me:
After some years of not helping writers develop their skills in an effort to become both successful and published, The Rising Blogger will award blog authors with potential. The Rising Blogger makes no guarantees in regards to an author not getting published. Step one is simply awarding blogs that are insightful, creative, interesting and original. We award our "Post of the Day" seven days a week. Welcome!
And he says he's in the publishing industry in New York.

Hmmmmmm. New York... publishing... I wonder if he knows Miss Snark.

Let's look at that profile again: "[He] makes no guarantees in regards to an author not getting published?" Huh?

Well, anyway, thank you Mr. Corizan -- and best of luck with your new enterprise.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Can Google Earth really show the horrors of Darfur?

Here is a link to Ellee Seymour's post on the subject.

Take a look for yourself.

Extracurricular DVD forces resignation of "old school" principal

I checked my Sitemeter traffic this morning and found several searches which included the words "sex scandal."

That's not the kind of thing I tend to write about here. So I followed the links to find out why searches of this kind were identifying something I'd written. I eventually wound up at this post of mine, from January 11 -- which I remembered as recounting my feeble -- and ultimately ineffectual -- efforts to keep my daughters from dyeing their hair.

But that lament was triggered by Stefano Esposito's article in that morning's Chicago Sun-Times. I set out the entire article to make a point (OK, to try to make a point) about how to interpret newspaper articles.

The article concerned an elementary school principal, Leroy Coleman, who sent a seventh grade girl home when she showed up at school with "cranberry-red streaks in her hair." Instead of helping her daughter to wash out the dye, the girl's mother called the newspaper.

Principal Coleman was portrayed in the article as "old school" -- and disapproving of "kids holding hands in the hallways or 'romancing.'" Esposito quoted Coleman as saying he didn't want "any romancing going on."

Apparently, however, Mr. Coleman did not follow his own rules: According to William Lee's story in today's Daily Southtown, Coleman's "dalliances with a teacher in the principal's office -- perhaps once during school hours -- were caught on a secret video, outraging parents and forcing the principal's resignation."

Lee reports, "The camera that captured the scenes appeared to have been hidden without Coleman’s knowledge." The linked news article does not report whether sound as well as video images were captured.

Strange as this must seem to most of you, whether there is sound on the DVD may bear directly on the question of whether the person who planted the camera is -- or is not -- criminally liable.

Section 26-4 of the Illinois Criminal Code (720 ILCS 5/26-4) specifies when a person will be criminally liable for making an unauthorized video: Not surprisingly, taking a video of someone in their own home, hotel room, restroom, tanning salon, or locker room without that person's consent is prohibited. Taking a video "of another person under or through the clothing worn by that other person for the purpose of viewing the body of or the undergarments worn by that other person without that person's consent" is also a criminal offense. But I could not find anything in the statutes about sneaking a camera into the office of a controversial school principal... except that §26-4(c) makes clear that the provisions of this statute do not trump those of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, 720 ILCS 5/14-1 et seq., which imposes very strong restrictions, and penalties, on unauthorized sound recordings.

I realize that this distinction will seem unimportant to most of the people who stop by here. But, as I followed the links this morning, I just had to look the statutes up. And, as long as I went to the trouble, I thought I'd try and explain all this, too.

Old Business -- Follow up on our Name the Worst 70's Song NO PRIZE Contest

Two weeks ago I solicited your suggestions for the worst 70's song -- ever.

The contest pulled in 32 comments -- not all of them my own -- and a number of interesting (i.e., cringe-worthy) nominations.

As promised, absolutely no prizes will be awarded, but... let's acknowledge our participants, shall we?

Claire got so far into the spirit of the proceedings that she posted a William Shatner video on her own site. This has prompted me to announce a new rule: No more Shatner music videos. Fortunately, Claire will be too busy campaigning for her own Blogger's Choice Award that she is unlikely to take offense at this... or even notice. (I do hope she'll see this eventually, however, and tell me what "shirty" means.)

Special mention must also be made of the Empress Bee's contributions to the discussion. She didn't nominate any song -- but she was unapologetic about saying that she liked Cher. Twice.

Even in this outfit, Bee?

Patti of Late Boomer Bloomer made multiple nominations, as did Linda of Are We There Yet? and Hilda of The Mind Wobbles. Yesterday Hilda posted a blogging birthday card to David Cassidy. (She says he's 57! Yikes.)

I would make some mean-spirited snide remark about this... except I kind of liked Susan Dey when I was that age, too... *Sigh.*

Sari, of The Geek Inside provided one of the inspirations for the post and made significant contributions to the discussion that followed. And the contest brought in two new contributors, Lynn of A Tired Mama and Dave, a lawyer from Atlanta -- and the proprietor of Rather Than Working.

Also participating were Landgirl (of Home in the Highlands), SQT, and Captain Picard, Dr. (Don't Try to Take Me to a Disco) Anonymous, Barb (of Skittles fame), Shelby, and Mary Anne.

I think that covers everyone -- except for RT of Untwisted Vortex, who didn't actually leave a comment... but did do a "Blog Drive By" in which, thankfully, no one was injured.

(So I can't award prizes -- but I can supply a little "link love" -- right, Chris?)

Oh -- and the "winning" song?

Well, there was no clear winner... but there was a strong consensus for Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life."

It's in your head now, isn't it?

Happy Friday the 13th.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thanks for the nomination, Momma's World!

Momma's World has nominated Second Effort for a Blogger's Choice Award in the category of "Hottest Daddy Blogger."

I can't find the criteria for this award... but it's certain that one key to this nomination has been never running my picture.

I have also been able to ascertain that I am currently lagging far behind in the standings. This will come as no surprise to long-time readers of this blog who know how well I seem to do in elections....

If you visit the Blogger's Choice site you'll notice there's a label warning persons that this blog -- the one you're currently visiting -- contains "Adult Content."

This is almost certainly due to the language (and especially the song lyrics) quoted in the post earlier today. It's amazing that this could be picked up so quickly....

Brief for the defense of Mr. Imus... sort of

Warning: There is language in this post that you may (and should) consider offensive.

This is Don Imus. Somehow during recent presidential election cycles he acquired some sort of national prominence because he interviewed candidates on his morning radio program. I was vaguely aware of Mr. Imus and understood that his radio show was heard in New York. I have since read that he had been syndicated on a number of radio stations in different markets, although not in Chicago. In addition, until yesterday, Mr. Imus' program was also simulcast on the MSNBC cable television network.

He's lost that TV gig now because of some amazingly racist, stupid comments regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team, a team that played, and lost to Tennessee in the recent NCAA Women's Championship game. Late this afternoon, CBS announced it had fired Imus, too.

Mr. Imus realized the enormity of his blunder -- which was apparently a spectacularly poor attempt at humor -- shortly after he first made the remarks. His multiple apologies were not accepted. Instead, notables such as the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton agitated for his firing.

You won't have to search far on the Internet for detailed accounts of prior instances in which the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have used offensive language. But the fact the Mr. Imus' critics have themselves on occasion fallen short of the standard to which they would hold Mr. Imus does not provide Mr. Imus with any defense, nor does it excuse Mr. Imus on this occasion.

Mr. Imus referred to the women athletes on the Rutgers basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."

I am uncertain if there is a standard way of rendering the plural of the slang word "ho," but I am entirely certain of the derivation of the word: It comes from the word "whore." This is not a nice word.

It is, however, a word in altogether too common usage. See, for example, U.S. v. Murphy, 406 F.3d 857, 859, n. 1 (7th Cir. 2005):
The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch “hoe.” A “hoe,” of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden's response. We have taken the liberty of changing “hoe” to “ho,” a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps “You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies.”
The meaning of this ugly word "ho" has been apparently been expanded, in some circles, to include women generally -- or at least to women who may not have saved themselves for marriage. (See the various definitions of "ho" in the Urban Dictionary if you require confirmation -- but, be advised, a visit to that site can quickly become unpleasant and disturbing.) Nevertheless, even if "ho" could be translated as meaning all women, it still could not be considered as anything other than hostile and misogynist.

News accounts of the Imus controversy have made it clear that the entire comment was offensive, not just the word "ho." But I recall the hit song from the late 1970's, "I Wish," by Stevie Wonder: "Looking back on when I/Was a little, nappy-headed boy/And my only worry/Was for Christmas what would be my toy...." That's not an expression I would feel comfortable using -- but I don't know that it falls within the same category as "ho" -- and I recall no particular controversy arising from Stevie Wonder's use of the term.

The bottom line here is that Mr. Imus' comments are stupid, certainly, and uncalled for, and not funny.

But given the low standards of modern day society, are they so far out of line that it should have cost the man his job?

To evaluate that, I went to the Billboard Singles Charts. From there, I did a quick "lyrics" search on some of today's current hits.

For those of you who remember when Lou Christie's "Lightnin' Strikes" was censored, please take a tranquilizer before proceeding....

Here are some of the lyrics to today's No. 5 hit, "This is Why I'm Hot," a little ditty by a very humble young man by the name of Mims:

This is why I’m hot, I don’t gotta rap
I could sell a mill, sayin’ nothing on the track
I represent New York, I got it on my back
Niggaz say that we lost it, so I’ma bring it back
I love the Dirty Dirty, cause niggaz show me love
The ladies start to bounce as soon as I hit the club
But in the Midwest, they love to take it slow
So when I hit that shit, I watch ’em (get it on the flo’)
And if you need it hyphy, I’ll take it to the Bay
’Frisco to Sac-Town, they do it everyday
Compton to Hollywood, soon as I hit LA
I’m in the low-low, I do it the Cali way....

Even I understand that it might be unfair to look at one 'song' and generalize from there. So, I looked up the lyrics to the current number one song. "Give It to Me" is a collaborative effort by an entity referred to as "Timbaland Featuring Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake." Mr. Timberlake was once prominent in a "boy band" known as 'N Sync and was more recently famous for exposing Janet Jackson's pasty during a recent Super Bowl. The following lyric, however, is part of Ms. Furtado's contribution to the recording:

I'm the type of girl that'll look you dead in the eye (eye)
I'm real as they come if you don't know why im fly-y-y-y-y
seen ya try to switch it up but girl you ain't got to
I'm the wonderwoman let me go get my ropes
I'm a supermodel and mummy, si mummy
amnesty international got bankrupt (im on top, on lock)
you love my ass and my abs and the video called promiscuous
my style is miticulous-s-s-s-s

Who says that love songs have gone out of fashion? At least the "n-word" is not used.

We could go down the entire hit parade, but it would only reinforce the conclusion that you have already reached, namely, that the reputations of Messrs. Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jule Styne et al. will not be diminished by any song likely to become popular in the immediate future.

We come, at last then, to my feeble defense of Mr. Imus: Why is it that he is singled out for his crude and insensitive remarks when crude and insensitive are apparently the twin pillars of modern popular culture? Are words like the ugly words that Mr. Imus used only wrong when they are spewed by a scary-looking, over-age white guy with hair that would embarrass even Donald Trump -- but OK if they are used in a rap 'song'? Why?

I do not condone Mr. Imus' remarks -- but the words he used in his feeble attempt at humor are apparently not beneath current contemporary standards.

I wonder, indeed, if anything is.

If firing Mr. Imus were the beginning of a trend to clean up the filth which passes for modern 'culture' I might say hooray. But will the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton now move on to challenge the gangsta rappers and their corporate purveyors? Can I look forward to publishing lyrics from Top 10 songs on my blog in future without a "warning" label? Will our kids be inspired by the firing of Mr. Imus to delete from their iPods all the 'rhymes' with undeleted expletives celebrating drugs, crime and loveless sex?

No?

Then perhaps Mr. Imus was unfairly singled out.

The defense rests.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another amazing use of the cellphone

Sometimes those email jokes we all get are worth sharing.

I think this is one of those times:


Several men are in the locker room of a golf club. A cell phone on a bench rings and a man engages the hands free speaker function and begins to talk. Everyone else in the room stops to listen.

MAN: "Hello?"

WOMAN: "Honey, it's me. Are you at the club?"

MAN: "Yes."

WOMAN: "I am at the mall now and found this beautiful leather coat. It's only $1,000. Is it OK if I buy it?"

MAN: "Sure, go ahead if you like it that much."

WOMAN: "I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the new 2007 models. I saw one I really liked."

MAN: "How much?"

WOMAN: "$90,000."

MAN: "OK, but for that price I want it with all the options."

WOMAN: "Great! Oh, and one more thing... the house I wanted last year is back on the market. They're asking $950,000"

MAN: "Well, then go ahead and give them an offer of $900,000. They will probably take it. If not, we can go the extra 50 thousand if it's really a pretty good price."

WOMAN: "OK. I'll see you later! I love you so much!"

MAN: "Bye! I love you, too."

The man hangs up. The other men in the locker room are staring at him in astonishment, mouths agape.

The man looks up at his astonished comrades, holds up the phone, and asks: "Anyone know who this phone belongs to?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My first oral argument

Shelby, a law student, left a comment on yesterday's post:
I had my FIRST oral argument today and it went well. I'm so excited I lived to tell about it. I'm so happee I'm so happee I'm so happee so happee so happee :)

Can you tell I'm happy?
You'd think she was happy or something.

But I can sure understand why: An oral argument isn't just a speech where you present your side of the case and all the case law that supports your carefully reasoned position. That would be way too easy -- and no fun at all to watch.

Here's a picture of the courtroom in Springfield where the Illinois Supreme Court sits.

You can just see, at the bottom of the photo, the place where an advocate would stand and present oral argument.

Let's back up just a bit, to get a better look:

Now you can see how large the room is, how intimidating it is, how far away the lawyer stands from the bench... so that all the Justices can see and hear what the lawyer has to say when they challenge the lawyer with questions. Because the questions are what makes an oral argument fun.

I'd love to tell you that I have had the privilege of arguing cases in this room. But that would not be true.

The Illinois Supreme Court, like the U.S. Supreme Court, gets to largely choose what cases it will hear. In Illinois, at least 20 cases are turned away for every one that is docketed. I've been turned away lots of times.

I've only been in this room twice -- and only once on a case. The other time, the first time, was on an August vacation. The Supreme Court was not in session, although the Fourth Appellate District, which sits in the same building, did have arguments scheduled that day.

I brought the family to see the place. Parked right in front of the building. The commotion of our entry woke up the guard -- it was hot and quiet and his dozing was entirely understandable in the circumstances. And even though we woke him -- when I explained why I was there and asked if the courtroom was open, and he said it wasn't -- he readily agreed to open it up for me and the family.

Can you tell this was before 2001?

So we went up to the room and the guard unlocked the door and turned on the lights and Middle Son, who was probably about six, made a beeline for the Chief Justice's chair, jumped in and started swiveling. I was mortified, but the guard was amused and it all worked out....

Not at all like my first oral argument, when I was a law student, like Shelby is now.

There are nine justices on the United States Supreme Court and seven justices on the Illinois Supreme Court -- but there were only three "judges" hearing my maiden effort. That's because three is the number of justices who would sit in an argument before the Illinois Appellate Court or the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

I'd stressed over the arguments, committed huge chunks of cases to memory, rehearsed an entire argument -- even though I knew I was unlikely to get past "Good morning" before the questions began coming in. To heighten our anxiety, the school made arrangements with the Circuit Court of Cook County to use actual courtrooms. So we would-be advocates were looking up at a real bench -- with very real law professors ready to challenge our every assertion.

I don't remember the case. It probably had a civil rights angle, because one of my "judges" that day had made his reputation as one of the top attorneys for the NAACP.

You must remember that this took place in 1978. I believe that we'd been exposed to Lexis (an on-line legal research system) by this time. I also believe that cases from Lexis weren't printed out at this time, they were carved with a stylus into clay tablets which had to be fired in a kiln before they could be read. Today there is almost no lag time between disposition and dissemination of a case... but this was a different time.

Thus, when the professor asked me if I was aware of a case that had been handed down yesterday afternoon by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, I think I panicked. I certainly froze.

Fortunately, this took place on a Saturday morning. By Monday, when the court was returned to its usual occupants, they'd somehow gotten me removed from the spot where I'd stood rooted for who knows how long. I believe I stood there so long the cleaning people came by and dusted me off. I don't believe I left a stain in the carpet -- but I've never investigated.

Actually, the question the professor posed was an easy one: A beachball, set up on a virtual tee for me to hit. All I had to do was say "no." But I didn't know that then... and I didn't say anything at all.

Years later -- just a couple of years ago now -- I was arguing a case to the Appellate Court of Illinois and one of the justices asked me if I was aware of the Smith case. (I don't remember the actual name of the case.) Now gray-haired and seasoned, I knew the correct answer: "No, Your Honor," I said.

"Well," said the justice, "I believe that the Smith case strongly supports your position here and is probably controlling."

I still had no clue what he was talking about, but I knew what to say in reply: "Well, in that case, Your Honor, I agree with you entirely." Everybody laughed -- except my opposing counsel, who tried hard to stifle a sob -- and we moved right along.

So I did improve. And now Shelby has started out well. So tender congratulations to her.

Congratulations to Captain Picard's Journal

Captain Picard's Journal celebrates a milestone later today: The 400th post -- each one a short, and amusing, story. That's quite an achievement. So click -- or beam -- on over and offer felicitations to Jean Luc et al.

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And, on an entirely unrelated subject, I've got another one about money:

How is it that you can't take it with you -- but you can't go anywhere without it? Hmmmmm?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Status Report -- or -- An observation about money


Money: You can't take it with you -- but you can't stay here without it!

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So the good news is that I went to the doctor this morning -- and he told me I can go back to work.

Fortunately (at least fortunately for my many creditors), I've already been back at work for a couple of weeks so far. I've gotten some bills out -- and I've even done some new work, a little of which is actually billable. Late Thursday, after I whined a bit, a client even paid about 40% of his outstanding fee balance.

This morning I felt brave enough to tote up the current and overdue bills sitting in my drawer here at the Undisclosed Location. These are the bills that must be paid before I can take home any money that might be left over. And I was pleased to discover that the amounts due on these bills is only about $1,000 more than the amount received from the client.

No, really: I'm not being sarcastic. That's progress.

So I'm going to get some work done today while I'm focused -- and we can talk later about my son the Easter Bunny, how I almost got outed this weekend by my computer-savvy Oldest Son, and how I got served with a Rule to Show Cause for filing a motion on old-fashioned paper....

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Just a quick hello this morning

This from this morning's post by Ken Levine:
I plan on being the only blog on the internet not to do a Keith Richards snorting his father joke. I know it may cost me a coveted Weblog nomination but I’m going to take the high road on this one.
Sorry, Mr. Levine, but I'm not trying one here either -- the eeeeeeewwwwww quotient of this entire sordid story overwhelms any joke I could think of -- and any passing references to the story I may have left in comments elsewhere do not count.

-----------------------------------------------------------

This is a picture of the coyote captured in downtown Chicago this week. (The photo was obtained from the Chicago Tribune).

Now this all took place at the other end of the Loop from my current Undisclosed Location -- but about equidistant between my two previous addresses. The Quiznos -- where the coyote stopped for lunch -- is on the ground floor of the parking garage at the corner of Adams and Wabash. I've never been in there; it opened after I moved. There's plenty of video of the incident still available on line this morning.

I'm working this morning, not blogging -- well, I'm blogging now, but only to explain that I don't have time today to blog because I have a lot of work to do -- oh, never mind. More and better (I hope) later -- but I may have limited time here in the next few days with Easter upon us.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A "sinister" curse?

I'm left handed -- a sinistral, if you will. Yes, the English word "sinister" derives from the Latin word for left....

Because I was left handed, I flunked scissoring in kindergarten. I have since largely recovered from this academic setback.

And I have since learned helpful slogans -- like, "only lefties are in their right minds" -- that I can spout at will and thereby boost my self-esteem.

But there are mornings, like this one, where I am reminded of the difference between us lefties and everyone else.

It was cold in Chicago this morning, and I broke out the heavy down jacket. With the zipper.

I've always had a hard time with jacket zippers, especially those double ones, like the one on this jacket, that zip up to the top and zip open from the bottom... sometimes I just can't get them started... like this morning....

I think that's because I'm left handed. Or am I just that uncoordinated?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Status report -- or -- There's no such thing as a straightaway on the road to recovery

I am five weeks post surgery as of tomorrow.

This past weekend, having cut down from six Norco tablets a day to four to three, I decided it was time to quit cold turkey. I'd been here at work -- sort of -- for parts of two weeks, unable to focus, unable to concentrate, unable to complete even simple tasks.

This was entirely unacceptable: OK, so I never could focus or concentrate -- but I'd always been able to complete simple tasks. If they were simple enough.

So I stopped with the meds. I figured I could control any lingering pain with Advil or something along those lines and I didn't think I'd find that there was a whole lot of pain in any event.

And I wanted to be at home when I did this.

Because there are all sorts of detours and dead ends on the road to recovery, at least in my case: Every time I do anything new my body reacts. And it reacts in the only way a body mostly deprived of its colon seems wont to do. Yes, I had to be at home.

And in the course of this project, Older Daughter came in for the weekend. She brought me this belated birthday present:

Yes, a book about baseball, Sox and the City -- by Richard Roeper, the guy most of you outside Chicago are most likely to know as the junior host of Ebert & Roeper, the syndicated movie review show.

I know some of you are tiring of my incessant yammering about baseball -- but, bear with me a minute or two and I'll expand the scope of the discussion. Promise.

Roeper's book illustrates the difference between memory and research. Oh, he shares his memories, and I'm thoroughly enjoying them -- but he's actually looked up all sorts of stuff I just kinda sorta remember.

Emphasis on kinda sorta. And it's already had an influence on what I've written here.

For instance, in my Opening Day post this week, I was going to try and justify my brief 1969 flirtation with that North Side baseball club with the Sox losing their flagship radio outlet (WMAQ) and having to cobble together a string of suburban radio stations, each with a weaker signal than the next. But fortunately Roeper's book reminded me -- before I hit the "Publish" button -- that this disaster happened in 1971 -- after I'd recovered from my moment of weakness.

And Roeper made a passing reference to the 1999 Sox/ Cubs series, citing Sox shortstop Mike Caruso's 8th inning home run "in the deciding game of the series" -- on June 13, 1999. I'd recently told a story here about Oldest Son's 1999 grammar school graduation -- where I got clobbered by the grandmother of one of Oldest Son's classmates because... well because she knows I'm a Sox fan and the Cubs lost that day. And I thought that this happened on the day the Sox swept the series. And indeed the Sox did sweep that series! But Oldest Son's graduation was Saturday, June 12, 1999. The Sox clinched the series that day with an 8-2 pasting of the Cubbies... but the sweep hadn't yet happened.

(But that very nice grandmotherly lady did hit me: I didn't confuse that! I still give her guff about it....)

So memory and focus and concentration are much on my mind these days as I continue down this road to full recovery -- but I think it's safe to day -- if I may borrow the memorably infelicitous phrase used by former Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson III when launching a campaign -- "The sap is rising." My head is beginning to clear -- and I have hopes of completing simple tasks in the near future....

But I still think Long Suffering Spouse will give the surgeon both barrels when we see him next Monday. But we'll talk about that -- maybe -- next week.

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There's another reason why memory, focus, and concentration are so much on my mind these days.

I recently got an email from a publicist plugging a new book, Carved in Sand, available today from HarperCollins.

Ms. Carter (that's the publicist's name) was kind enough to send me a review copy and I've started in on it... although it did get bumped by the Roeper book... and I think I'll enjoy it more with a clearer head.

And maybe figure out how to clear my head still further in the process.

I'll be getting back to you on this.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Update: Cubs for sale -- Sox scalped by Tribe in opener

The Chicago Tribune has been sold and I mistakenly assumed that billionaire Sam Zell had taken the Cubs as part of the deal.

Wrong. The Tribune now reports that the Cubs are to be sold separately.

I'm not certain whether Zell is "flipping" the Cubs... or whether the team is not included in the sale and is being sold separately. Having read the linked article, I'm still not sure.

But I did learn from the article that Zell has a piece of the White Sox -- so, according to the Tribune, he would had to have chosen between that stake and ownership of the Cubs.

So far, he's making good decisions....

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Meanwhile the White Sox lost the home opener 12-5 to the Cleveland Indians. The score wasn't close -- and the game wasn't as close as the lopsided score indicated. And can anyone tell me what Pablo Ozuna was doing trying to bunt with two out and two on and down by seven runs?

Still, the Sun eventually came out and the day began to live up to its advance billing.

José Contreras gave up five runs in the first inning... and couldn't record a single out in the second. He looked every bit his age.

Whatever that might be.

The best story I heard at the game came when the kid next to me took a phone call from someone else in the stands. It seems Paul Konerko's third inning home run bounced off the face of some girl this kid knew. She got the bruise... but someone else ran off with the ball. Chivalry is dead.

It's just a good thing that beer today was sold in plastic bottles with screw tops. Because I remember, when I was a kid, my grandmother told me they couldn't sell beer at the ballpark... if the Sox lost the opener....

It's finally Opening Day

Oldest Son's away message this morning, quoting James Earl Jones as J.D. Salinger, uh, Terrence Mann in Field of Dreams:
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: It's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."
It's finally Opening Day. The fickle Chicago weather spirits are wearing Silver and Black this year: We're supposed to have a beautiful afternoon for baseball.

Oh, and that other team is opening in Cincinnati.

Actually, I've never really hated the Cubs. I know that Sox fans are supposed to hate the Cubs and vice versa, but I save my serious opprobrium for the Yankees. And, lately, the Twins.

I actually even flirted with following the Cubs, briefly, in 1969. I was young then, and naive. And the Cubs were in first place -- and the Sox were so far out of contention that it seemed they might be demoted to Triple A. There was a serious danger that the Sox might even be relocated to Milwaukee. So I listened to a couple of games. But only on the radio. And I felt dirty and ashamed -- and I never did it again.

This past winter the Cubs have spent $300 million on free agents and the Tribune Company has handed the bill to Sam Zell.

But I like the Sox' chances better this year. Why not? It's Opening Day... when anything can happen.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Curmudgeon's guide to attending church as a family

Today is Palm Sunday and, in Catholic churches at least, the Gospel is the entire Passion of Jesus.

That's a long reading.

So it's traditional, at least in my parish, that the congregation remains seated for almost the entire reading. Part of that is to accommodate the old folks who might have trouble standing so long. But I think another reason is for all of us to enjoy sitting because next week the Easter-only Catholics are going to show up and we're going to have to stand though the entire Mass!

Some people avoid church like the plague... but others are skittish about attending, particularly as a family. And one of the biggest reasons for that is the fear that, well, the kids will misbehave. Especially the little ones.

I know I was in this category.

Actually, I was in both of the above categories -- when I was a student at a Catholic university, I told people I didn't attend Mass because I was a Druid -- but, after Older Daughter was born, and when Long Suffering Spouse insisted, we began attending as a family.

Older Daughter wasn't a particularly fussy baby but we didn't want to disturb the old women at prayer, working their Rosaries. They sure looked intimidating to me.

So we tried the "crying room."

This should have been called the Ritalin Room. We were in the very back of the church, watching through a glass window with the sound piped in. It was like watching Mass for Shut-Ins only we had to drive to get there. And the children!

There were children who looked old enough to shave bouncing off the walls and ceiling. I think I got bruised after a couple ricocheted my way a couple times. I was worried Older Daughter might pick up life-long bad habits.

The next time we made the attempt (and it may not have been the very next Sunday) we resolved to sit in the congregation and take our chances.

Now imagine you're in church holding a baby. You're looking straight ahead, but the baby is looking behind you, over your shoulder. And Older Daughter was doing very well, keeping quiet... until the Homily... when all of the sudden she began to gurgle and coo and make happy noises.

I was mortified.

I turned around to see what had gotten Older Daughter going, but all I saw were the tops of old ladies heads, bowed reverently, and fingering their prayer books. (Not even the old ladies necessarily listen to the Homily....)

I looked away... and a few minutes later, the gurgling started up again, rising to a kind of a chatter....

I turned around again... but it was just the tops of heads again... so, deeply puzzled, I jollied Older Daughter back into a quieter mode and went back to my business.

And it started up again! This time I didn't turn around immediately... I let it go on a bit... and then -- quickly whipped around -- and caught the old ladies making faces right out of a Three Stooges movie....

Lesson No. 1: They may look scary and reverent, but the old ladies are all grandmas at heart. And they're Devils! They are trying to jolly your kids. So don't sweat it: Crying babies need to be taken out... but leave the happy babies alone... and make the old ladies happy.

Feel better about trying to come to church now?

We'll see you Sunday. I'll be the old man standing along the wall trying to get your baby to giggle....