Friday, September 28, 2007

Sight seen recently along Clark Street

The movie trailers which were parked on a lot only a block or so from my Undisclosed Location are gone now. Those were for The Dark Knight, that being the working title of the latest installment in the Batman franchise. That movie was filming here in Chicago for months.

I saw these trailers parked a couple of days ago as I was running errands in the Loop.

This is taken from Monroe Street looking south on Clark, toward Adams. At the far end of this line of trailers, presumably invisible even to persons with good eyesight, was a tall, middle-aged man, wearing a jacket with a walkie-talkie clipped on and looking -- well -- kind of bored.

I asked him what movie these were for and he told me, in a voice that left little doubt that he'd answered this question far too often already, that the movie being filed was Family Practice, a made for TV movie starring Anne Archer and Beau Bridges.

In the movie (according to IMDb), the City of Chicago will play the part of Philadelphia.

No casting director approached me as I loitered in the street.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

At the Clerk's Office: Yet another reason why I never seem to get anything done

Besides blogging, that is.

I actually did finish a Complaint yesterday. I finished it on the very day I told the client it would be filed, too.

(She'll be so surprised.)

This is the glamorous life of the solo practitioner: I figured out what the Complaint would say. That's the legal work.

Then I typed the Complaint. (OK, I do both of these at the same time. Word processing is a wonderful thing.)

Then I assembled the Complaint and the exhibits and photocopied the whole pleading.

The Complaint was too big to staple. (No, it wasn't my pleading, thank you very much. The exhibits were voluminous.) So I two-hole-punched every page and used fasteners.

I stamped the copies with my handy-dandy copy stamp. This sometimes -- but not always -- prevents the clerk from asking, when I present the documents for filing, which one is the original. It's the one that isn't stamped 'copy' I say.

I prepared my Summons and my 'cover sheet' and pulled a couple of checks out of the checkbook, one for the Clerk and one for the Sheriff. And now I was ready to march over to court.

Mind you, the clerical stuff isn't billable. But it still must be done. And my desk is covered with this file -- cases I looked at to formulate my Complaint -- the investigator's report -- the pleadings in the underlying case -- and, scattered amidst all these are the portions of the six other matters that I had to work on because clients called -- or because these are already past due. Oh, there's a few of those.

But finally I was ready to head off to the Clerk's Office.

The line was long, as usual. Every department in Cook County had to cut personnel in order to make the budget balance this year. I assume that's way there's seldom more than one filing station open whenever I get there. No matter when I get there.

After awhile, though, a woman returned from a late lunch or a mid-afternoon break and opened a second window. Now the line began to move a bit faster.

I reached her station, presented my papers, began filling in my check, and then there was this ear-splitting noise.

Fire drill. Everyone must leave at once. We were herded to a central hallway, where the Clerk's personnel have lockers, and into a stairwell.

Everyone was very polite at the outset. "You can tell it's a drill," said one man to a female acquaintance. "Why is that?" she asked. "Because if this was for real, I'd have run you over already," he said. "Not a chance," she said back, "I'd be long out of here." They both laughed.

The woman going down the stairs in front of me was wearing high-heeled boots. Either these were not designed for descending stairs or she'd had little practice doing so while wearing footwear of this kind. A large gap opened up in front of her -- and increasingly impatient people pressed in behind me.

Eventually, we all made it to the 7th floor hallway.

The 7th floor of the Daley Center is a transfer point. Almost all the banks of elevators stop there and, while we were crowded into the hallway, some people came from other floors and exited the elevators... and ran smack dab into the fire drill. They had to listen to the fireman's lecture with the rest of us. Most of these were lawyers, coming from a courtroom, going to file papers or looking to transfer to a different bank of elevators to get to a different courtroom. None of them were pleased.

The fireman, for his part, was pretty funny. He had a serious message, but delivered it glibly. I have to think that would help people to remember, should there ever be a real emergency.

Finally, we were allowed to return to where we began. I finished the filing transaction and went right back to the 7th floor to place my Summons with the Sheriff for service.

This is a two-step process. Before one can pay the fee, one must first present the papers to a clerk at one end of the counter who determines the price the Sheriff will charge to attempt service at a particular address. I made it to the front of this line and got my Summons priced. I was just about to step into the second line for payment when there was this ear-splitting noise.

Fire drill. Everyone must leave at once.

I was almost afraid to get back in line after that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hey hey, holy mackerel, no doubt about it, the Cubs are on their way

Old people, like me, will remember that as the anthem of the 1969 Cubs. My sister actually bought the 45.

I listened to a couple of Cub games that year on the radio, too, but I felt dirty and ashamed and I never did it again.

OK, I did watch the 2003 NLCS -- but it was the NLCS, please, and Ozzie Guillen was the Marlins' third base coach.

Anyway, maybe Cub fans wouldn't want me remembering their theme song from 1969. Things didn't turn out so good for them that year, now that I think about it.

There is one thing, however, I must make abundantly clear. I am certainly not jumping on the Cubs' bandwagon. Still, I think this could be their year.

I like Lou Piniella; I liked him when managed Seattle and Tampa Bay. I think he's a good manager and the Cubs are lucky to have him.

And, in the weakest division in baseball, it looks like he's going to bring his team, with its gazillion-dollar payroll, in ahead of the Brewers.

Cub fans are suspicious when White Sox fans, like myself, don't spew hatred in their direction. There is, of course, the good-natured ribbing that we give Cub fans, like in these words to the pub song, "South Side Irish":

And when it comes to baseball, we've got two favorite clubs:
Our beloved Go Go White Sox -- and whoever plays the Cubs.

But, sure now, that's just for fun. We Sox fans aren't trying to jinx the Chubbies by saying they're going to hold on and win that division.

Even though they lost last night.

To the woeful Marlins.

And Milwaukee won.

Hey, nobody seems to have clinched yet in the entire National League. (I think I looked at the NL standings this morning for the first time all season.)

I have no rooting interest either way. If Philadelphia gets in, of course, I'm rooting for Aaron Rowand. White Sox fans remember him fondly.

But I'm much more interested in what happens in the American League.

Dr. A, Fran, 74WIXYgrad, and Misty Dawn will be pulling for Cleveland. Ralph will be pulling for the BoSox, and so will Patti and Ben and Bennie and RDL. (Rhea is in Boston, but I don't think she has ever mentioned her undying allegiance to the Carmines, which is kind of unusual for folks in that part of the country.) I don't think I have any Angels fans among the regulars here. But I will root for any and all of these... against the Yankees.

I will root for the AL club in the World Series as long as it's not the Yankees. If -- heaven forfend -- the Yankees do make it to the World Serious, I would then root for the NL club... unless... unless....

The prospect is simply too awful for a White Sox fan to contemplate. But I wish them no ill.


The Moon belongs to Asia?

In the real future it might be Iowa farm boy James Tiberius Kirk who mans the helm while Captain Hikaru Sulu holds down the center seat, cursing Klingons in Japanese. Jean-Luc Picard might grow up in France... but speak Mandarin. Or maybe Hindi.

These thoughts crossed my mind yesterday after I read Anil Penna's AFP story posted on Yahoo! News. (Here is a link to the story on Discovery Channel News; this link may last longer.)

A new space race is underway -- and America isn't in it.

The linked article reports that Japan successfully launched a lunar orbiter on September 14.

Penna adds that China is expected to launch its own moon probe, Chang'e 1, before the end of the year, and India will follow, with Chandrayaan 1, in March or April of 2008.

Japan's space agency, JAXA, plans a number of robotic missions before sending an astronaut, according to the AFP story. The key here is that Japan is planning to send astronauts. And so are China and India.

G. Madhavan Nair, head of the Indian Space Research Organization, is quoted in Penna's article as saying, "It will take seven or eight years," before India will be ready to send people to the Moon. "We are in the process of sharpening our ideas."

Read the article: The Asians are planning to move to the Moon and exploit it. To see if its mineral wealth can provide solutions to our problems here on Earth that our muddleheaded, short-sighted, fear-riddled politicians can't even imagine. And, no, this is not my interpretation of what the Asians are doing. It is what they in fact proclaim to the world that they are doing: Penna's article quotes the head of JAXA, Keiji Tachikawa, as flatly stating, "The moon is no longer a place for us to visit. We should consider inhabiting and exploiting it."

Oh sure, as the AFP article also noted, President George W. Bush in 2004 announced an ambitious plan for America "to return to the moon by 2020 and use it as a stepping stone for manned missions to Mars and beyond."

But the next President will almost certainly cancel those plans. Or at least delay them. Because the next President will not wish to be associated in any way with the plans of his (or her) predecessor.

And I stand by this gloomy prediction even if (maybe even especially if) the next President, by some chance, turns out to be a Republican.

The Western nations are determined to delay space exploration. Franco Bonacina, a spokesman for the European Space Agency, is quoted in Penna's article as saying "humanity is a 'couple of generations away' from tapping commercial opportunities in outer space, including the moon."

But this is apparently not the prevailing attitude in Asia.

Oh, sure, you say: America began space exploration. It is America's New Frontier. The other nations are merely playing catch-up.


And, once upon a time, Spain and Portugal, smug in their discoveries outside of Europe, divided the world between themselves.

And along came the British and the French, rising nations then, and took most of it away.

America: We're about to become a really big Portugal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This just in -- Curmudgeon doesn't win "Genius" grant

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced its "Genius grants" for 2007.

The Curmudgeon is not listed among them.


Here's a link to the official announcement of this year's MacArthur Fellows. They prefer that term, "fellows," actually, as opposed to "genius grants."

If you should pardon the expression, there are a lot of really 'cool' people doing very 'cool' things who win these awards. You should follow the links this time. Really.

It's just -- well, there's no grant to any over-age, slice-of-life, semi-humorous bloggers.

Darn it.

And here's something you didn't know: The John D. MacArthur aforementioned is the brother of Charles MacArthur.

The name Charles MacArthur may not be familiar to you but you may remember his wife, the late Helen Hayes.

Also, Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht wrote a play, "The Front Page," that has been made and remade into a movie more times than just about any movie you can think of. Here's a link to the 1931 version starring Adolph Menjou -- and to the 1940 remake, His Girl Friday.

And -- because you're here at Second Effort -- there's a Chicago angle: "The Front Page" was based on MacArthur's experiences at the late, lamented City News Bureau (motto: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out").

And there's another Chicago angle (and motto) that comes into play here: Wait 'til next year!

Heads or Tails #7 (Pets)

It's Oktoberfest at our parish this weekend and that means there'll be liquor and gambling, the twin pillars of any Catholic fundraising enterprise.

Fine, fine, you say. But what does this have to do with pets?

Ah. Well, there will also be a children's room with fun fair type games and prizes.

And among these prizes will be fish.

I have no training in cannon law; I don't know what provisions of Church doctrine require that fish be given away as prizes at all kids events.

I assume it has something to do with the Apostles, many of whom were -- you may recall -- fishermen. But I've never researched the question.

All I know is that sickly looking goldfish, in baggies, are always awarded as prizes at parish events attended by children.

The life expectancy of these creatures can be measured in minutes. These are feeder fish, after all, used by the pet stores as food. And fodder for Catholic fundraising events.

Yet, somehow, these fish always, always, always defy the odds.

They live until you get home.

They survive -- even if you leave them in the baggie -- overnight.

They live when you pull down the tank you bought last year and while you feed them the fish food left over from last year.

Because they are waiting.

Yes, these fish are born to die. But they are programmed to expire at a certain time... and that time comes as soon as you spend money on them.

Trust me on this. I speak from experience. And a lot of Oktoberfests. And Cub Scout Halloween fun fairs....

Monday, September 24, 2007

But why would anyone want to stay awake for this?

Yahoo! News carries an AFP story this morning about a man who stayed awake during his own brain surgery.

John James, a retired bus driver, was apparently kept awake during the surgery to make certain that the procedure to remove an aneurysm did not harm his vision: He had to "read the words and numbers on flashcards shown to him during the surgery" so the surgeons could be sure.

Next week: Do-it-yourself brain surgery kits.

The funniest comic on any planet

(Click to enlarge. This image is taken from Yahoo! Comics, but I read Brewster Rockit in the Chicago Tribune.)

Bears disintegrate on national TV... but it's not all QB's fault

You might not be able to hear it today over the shrieks for this guy's blood, but what knowledgeable football fans should be talking about today is that last night's Bears-Cowboys game was lost when Cedric Benson plunged into the line for two yards -- and lost the ball. Bad as they were, Rex Grossman's last two interceptions were as much the product of desperation as anything else. On the other hand, when Benson fumbled, the Bears were only down 17-10. Even after that mishap (which resulted only in a Dallas field goal) there would have been plenty of time to come back if the Bears had a running game.

But they don't: Benson's fumble didn't prove it -- it merely provided the exclamation point.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, this guy, Thomas Jones, the man the Bears chose to discard in favor of the aforementioned Mr. Benson, ran for 110 yards on 25 carries.

There is a falloff that many teams experience after losing the Super Bowl, and the Bears, apparently, will share in that experience. They're not just experiencing a falloff -- they're plummeting.

But it's not all on Grossman.

And, anyway, what else should you expect in a year when the Cubs might win their division?


The world is indeed turned upside down.

Rex Grossman image from the Chicago Sun-Times; Thomas Jones image cropped from the New York Times.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I fiddle with the light and dark dial on the monitor but nothing seems to happen....

Stumbled upon at this site.

Post suggested by another's post

RT, of Untwisted Vortex, laments the needless inclusion of profanity in blogs he's reading. He makes an "open plea for all writers to examine their work and see if something can be written a little less offensively. You do, after all, want me to read your writings, right?"

(If a profane comeback flitted across your synapses just now, you are only human. And a smart-aleck. If you refrained from vocalizing it, there's hope for you yet.)

Anyway, RT's post got me thinking -- the coarse language that the young people use today -- my own children, for example -- and not just in conversation when they think no elders are about -- often in writing in their IM's. These can be printed out and exhibited against them whenever a participant in an IM conversation wants to. It can get very ugly very fast.

So, yes, I was wrapping the cloak of self-righteousness firmly about me -- how I'd never used such language when I was young, etc., etc.... and then I began to remember....

*shimmer * shimmer * shimmer*

(Yes, that's taking us into a flashback....)

My poor father was teaching me to drive. I had driver's ed in school, but the cars there had automatic transmissions; the car I would be permitted to drive (on rare occasions) had a clutch -- a three-on-the-tree transmission. And, besides, the driver's ed teachers -- if there were both boys and girls assigned to the same car -- well, let's just say this was the era of miniskirts and the instructors felt it was necessary to keep the girls in the front seat practicing for as long as possible. And, when I say they felt it was necessary, I mean they felt....

Hmmmmmm. How to explain, delicately? Well, Long Suffering Spouse -- who attended an entirely different high school from me and a number of years later -- said that the smarter girls quickly figured out it was best to wear pants for driver's ed.

If that doesn't help, ask your mom.

Anyway, my father felt I needed the practice, and I did. Fortunately, we lived way out in the sticks so there were plenty of places where I could learn to stop, going uphill at a stop sign, and start up again without rolling back into anyone else's bumper.

My father claimed that both I and my sister burned out a clutch in the course of our driver training.

But in addition to rolling backwards, and stalling out the car by popping the clutch too quickly without applying the gas, my father decided I should learn how to enter a limited access highway.

My father was no fool.

He wasn't going to take me on a City expressway; that would be too far away anyway.

But there was one cloverleaf in the vicinity going from a two lane State highway to a four lane Federal route -- and it was to this location that my father directed me one morning.

I barreled down the ramp without any difficulty (going fast is really not a problem for teenage boys, is it?) but there was, I noticed, a car already on the highway below, matching course and speed as I prepared to merge.

Indeed, for a moment it looked as if I was about to merge right into him.

At that moment, forgetting entirely who was sitting beside me, I let loose with a string of invective that would do any modern teenager proud. I'm sure it wouldn't have brought the slightest blush to a career noncom, but it was blue enough.

And, as I slowed in time to safely merge behind the car that had been blocking my entrance onto the highway, I remembered that my father was in fact present.

I snuck a glance his way.

He was regarding me, as I have since learned fathers often do, with a calculating look, trying to decide how best to respond in the circumstances.

You have to understand that my father was not one of those Ward Cleaver types. He could go from calm to furious in a nanosecond and he had the kind of booming voice that could focus entirely on the object of his anger. On the other hand, since I was driving, I did sort of have both our lives in my hands....

I braced for the verbal impact -- which I knew I deserved. But my father only said, "I didn't know you knew all those words." He paused, thinking, I presume, that he should add something else. What should he say, though? Sternly admonish me against any further uncontrolled bursts of Anglo-Saxon epithets? "You did use all the words correctly," he said.

And that was that.

So I guess maybe I can't get too smug about my own non-use of profanity in my younger days....

OK, first you have to know what a piñata is....

Stumbled on at this site.

(Chris has run a lot of the "Cyanide and Happiness" cartoons at his blog, Thermal, but I hope he won't mind my grabbing this one....)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Constant pain, the price of heath?

(Click on the cartoon to enlarge.) Stumbled upon at this site. (That will take you to the above cartoon; for more of these, click here.)

Maybe I find this particularly funny because I'm trying to cut back on my coffee consumption. But I need something to keep me going in the afternoon when I'm really trying to work.

Coffee's out. Sugar's out. And I suppose greenies are out the question, too.

So I'm open for suggestions?

Setting a bad example: Parents melting down at kids' sporting events

Lindsay Ferrier's September 18 post on "Suburban Turmoil," When Dads Attack, Preschool Edition, is a very funny account of what could have been a very serious incident at a soccer game between teams of girls aged three to five. Come back after you've read it.

Back so soon?

When Younger Daughter played soccer in grammar school the home games were in "Bluejay Park" (not its real name) and Long Suffering Spouse and I would make a point of trying to go.

But we sat quite a distance away from the field.

Long Suffering Spouse is a teacher -- and she didn't want parents coming up to her during the game and asking how Junior was doing in Spanish class... or, worse, berating her for giving out too much homework... or making the test too hard.

So we didn't see a lot of bad parental behavior at soccer games. Not from our vantage point.

But we've seen plenty at baseball games over the years.

The leagues at Bluejay Park were "recreational" -- meaning supposedly not cut-throat competitive. And, by rule, all the kids had to play. Over the many years our children were in the program, the rules evolved for the older kids. At one point, when Oldest Son was in junior high, coaches were required only to bat everyone once. There was no continuous batting order -- and no rule requiring every kid to play the field. By the time Youngest Son was at that same age, eight years later, all kids had to play three innings in the field and the continuous batting order was mandatory. (Fourteen kids on the team? Fourteen kids had to bat before your leadoff hitter came up again. Usually the kids batting 10-14 were not likely to hit anything, except by accident.)

But even with these supposedly kid-friendly rules (and everybody got a trophy, too!) tempers could -- and did -- flare. My perception was that parental involvement decreased as the kids got older: Parents, grandparents, and various aunts and uncles all showed up for t-ball games. By the time the kids were allowed to pitch, only the parents were left. By the time the kids could drive themselves, hardly any parents showed up at all. (This was a shame, really, since those were much better games.)

Parents had a tendency to melt down more during grammar school games than high school games -- and to get in the coaches' faces more during the younger years, too. The change over time was not necessarily the result of increasing maturity on the parents' part: In high school, at least around here, they'll cut a kid whose parents are a problem. In football (a non-cut sport) they can make life so difficult for the child of problem parents that he'll quit.

Readers will remember my kvetching about some of the parents during this Summer's travel ball experience. But, although some of the Raptors' parents were not well versed in the game (or in what coaching teenage boys necessarily involves) I never thought anyone was going to become violent. I sometimes thought violence was a real possibility at some of those 'recreational' Bluejay Park games.

Middle Son is pitching still in college. The parents there are grizzled veterans. Some will berate the umpire -- I don't dare because I don't want the umpire to punish my son for my complaints -- although, I admit, sometimes I groan involuntarily. Or sigh. But, for the most part, the atmosphere is far more laid back than at games involving 10 year olds.

Or, apparently, involving three year old girl soccer players.

But, Ms. Ferrier and others similarly situated, I guess I'm saying there's hope.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More for International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Stumbled upon at this site, a compendium of "Pirate Laws."

Of course, this makes it look like I'm encouraging this "International Talk Like a Pirate Day." Arrrrrrrgggghhhhh. I do not wish to convey any such impression.

A couple of the rules were pretty good, anyway. No. 7, for instance:

A pirate shall never wear lipstick, nail
polish, or capri pants. Actually,
that kinda goes without saying.

Well, actually, someone should have said something to Johnny Depp.

Or no. 48:

Hooks are the only acceptable hand substitute.
However, they may not have secondary attachments
such as screwdrivers, bottle openers, corkscrews,
or nail files. These are Pirates we're talking
about, not Inspector Gadget.

And no. 20 was just painful:

No pirate shall attend a movie with
less than an Arrrr rating.

But if this pirate-talking is your thing, have at it mateys! But just for today, please.

(Proving once again there are no depths to which I will not sink, uh, no lengths to which I will not go in order to better serve my readers. Arrrrggggghhhh.)

So -- my wife came at me with a scissors over the weekend....

I bet that got your attention, eh?

It sure got mine.

Here's the set-up.

As a few of you may remember, I didn't shave while I was hospitalized earlier this year. Even a week's growth of stubble is too much for the gossamer strands of tinfoil that pass for today's razors, so I let the beard grow out after I got home. Truth be told, shaving would have required too much effort at that time even if I'd had a razor up to the challenge.

Fast forward a few months: I like the beard. Sure, it's practically white around the muzzle, just like you'd see on any old hound dog, but the mutton chops contained some of the darkest hair on my head. There were also, on close inspection, strands of hair with every color in between white and dark. This was among the objections to the beard cited by family members.

But mine was a real beard, not a wispy, wimpy beard like that on the swishbuckler, er, swashbuckler at left. (Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day, by the way.)

Aside from it being a coat of many colors, the other objection raised was that I wanted to grow it too long.

The family, it seems, thought that I wanted to grow it out like this fellow on the right.

But my vision was for the beard to look more like that on the fellow on the left.

Well I see a difference.

Anyway, I thought, with the passage of time, the family had come to accept my beard. Though Long Suffering Spouse still exhorted me to keep it trimmed, the other members of the family no longer expressed opinions.

And then came Sunday.

"You can keep the beard," Long Suffering Spouse was telling me for the 500th time, "but you have to trim it so it looks neat. Who wants to hire a lawyer that looks like he just escaped from the 60's?"

She was brandishing a scissors at this point so I prudently refrained from engaging in any snappy repartee.

"Here," she said, "let me help." She raised the scissors.

Readers over the age of 12 will be familiar, I'm sure, with the old Dining Room Table Sketch. That's where the dining room table is found to be wobbly and the clown (or baggy pants comic) flips the table over and saws of a little bit from each of the three longer legs... only to find, of course, that he'd overestimated. And now one leg is too short. The process is repeated. And repeated. And repeated -- until the table becomes nothing more than a plank on the floor. Done well, this is very funny. Every single time.

This ancient scene, with my beard in the role of the dining room table, was played out in our bathroom Sunday morning.

I was not actually flipped over during the process.

But, when these tender ministrations were at an end, I looked like I'd developed a case of the mange.

Or something like that.

So shaving became the only option. I'll spare you the details, but after awhile the job was done.

And, lo and behold, the family rejoiced. My mother-in-law looked quite pleased when she saw me at church later Sunday morning. And my kids were thrilled. Middle Son even called last night from school. "Yo, Pops," he said, "I heard you shaved the beard. Great!"

It apparently was not as accepted as I'd thought.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Follow-up on today's Heads or Tails

Yes, Katherine correctly wins the bonus round. "The Star Spangled Banner" is set to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven." This is a music video (you know, I'm old enough to remember when MTV had music videos) of the first stanza.

Here's the words -- if you want to try and sing along:
To Anacreon in heaven where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition,
That he their inspirer and patron would be,
When this answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian:
Voice, fiddle aud flute, no longer be mute,
I'll lend you my name and inspire you to boot!
And besides I'll instruct you like me to entwine
The myrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine.
There's a few more stanzas, if you can stand it, at this site. John Stafford Smith is usually credited with the melody; the words were penned by Ralph Tomlinson. Both were members of the Anacreontic Club of London. The song dates to about 1780.

Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on this song disputes the notion that this is a drinking song: "In all probability some drinking did occur at Society meetings, but the primary purpose of the [Anacreonitic] Society (and its song) was to promote an interest in music. This absence of an official connection to drinking did not keep the song from being associated with alcohol, as it was commonly used as a sobriety test: If you could sing a stanza of the notoriously difficult melody and stay on key, you were sober enough for another round."

Who's buying this one?

Heads or Tails #6 (Key)

Coming Into Los Angeles
Words and Music by Arlo Guthrie

Coming in from London
From over the pole
Flying in a big airliner
Chickens flying everywhere around the plane
Could we ever feel much finer?

Coming into Los Angeles
Bringing in a couple of keys
Don't touch my bags if you please
Mister Customs Man

The words and music of Arlo Guthrie from the Woodstock soundtrack form the musical accompaniment for our post today because the song contains the word "keys," a slang word for kilograms.

As if Americans weren't confused enough about the metric system.

If a key is an object that opens something, the what does key lime pie open, huh?

Or Key Biscayne? Key Largo?

We open baseball games with Francis Scott Key's composition. (Bonus points -- name the original English drinking song to which Key's lyrics are sung.)

We open our beer with a churchkey. So what do we open churches with?

Did you ever notice that if you put your key in a car it goes... but if you key a car you're a vandal?

And what exactly do the keys on my computer keyboard unlock? Heck, I got two keys here that says they are locks.

(Did you peek at your own computer just now? That's right: Caps Lock and Scroll Lock. And are those confused keys.)

So visit Barb today at Skittles' Place for more Heads or Tails. I got nothin'.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Two hard to believe baseball stories

From the September 16 edition of Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird comes this gem under the headline "Can't possibly be true":
In July, the Houston School District, citing student privacy laws, declined to release last season's Bellaire High School baseball statistics (such as batting averages), even though requested by a player's parent.
Mr. Shepherd cites to an article in the July 19 Houston Chronicle as his source.

I did find, however, a follow-up article in the Chronicle from July 24 (registration required). Ericka Mellon's article reported that the Houston Independent School District did ultimately relent "after a federal official confirmed the information can be made public."

And what was behind all this? The district thought it couldn't release the information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This "federal law," Mellon reported, "protects student records such as grades and discipline history." Besides, Rocky Manuel, the Bellaire High School coach who has lead his team to two state championships, didn't want the stats published so as to obtain a competitive advantage: Mellon wrote that Bellaire "withholds statistics from the Houston Chronicle, which publishes information about the top players weekly, until mid-season." By that time, Mellon quoted Coach Manuel as saying, "we feel like everybody has already seen us play, so there's no secrets."

According to Mellon's story, Manuel also "opposed releasing the numbers because he didn't want to embarrass players with weak statistics."

According to the Chronicle story, Coach Manuel dismissed the entire controversy this way: "This is all about a disgruntled parent complaining about the statistics of his son."

And I thought they took football seriously in Texas.


The other gem from News of the Weird concerns a volunteer Little League umpire in Alexandria, Virginia who wanted to study up a little on the rules of the games he was calling. But Army officer Bryan Hilferty was turned down when he requested a copy of the rules. Shepherd writes:
Hilferty, who has access to classified information in his job at the Pentagon, was told that the Little League restricts its rulebooks, on a "need to know" basis, so as not to invite litigation, and that Hilferty did not qualify.
Shepherd cites Ted Gup's July 29 story in the Washington Post (registration required) which confirms the substance of his tale.

At the end of the Post article we learn Mr. Gup is the author of author of "Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life" and the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism at Case Western Reserve University. One quote from his article provides assurance that the issue of Little League secrecy is bigger than Lt. Col. Hilferty's quest to obtain a rulebook:
In Corpus Christi, Tex., the Laguna Little League rules related to selection for the All-Star Team note: "All personnel involved in the selection process shall be sworn to secrecy of all All-star announcements until given dates authorized by the board." The East Tonka Little League, in Minnetonka, Minn., provides that "at the start of the selection meeting, coaches will receive a copy of player evaluations for their use that evening. These evaluations will be collected and destroyed at the end of the meeting." (There was no reference to burn bags.) Arizona's Tempe South Little League in its 2007 playoff calendar notes that the location of the "Major Division Draft" and "Minor Division Draft" were to be considered "Top Secret." The Pacific Little League, in Lynnwood, Wash., has a section titled "Secrecy," which states that "players and parents are never told of the round in which candidates were drafted. All coaches' and managers' scoring sheets and draft notes are collected and destroyed at the end of the draft by the Player Agent."
Just two observations about this: It does make sense to keep the draft order confidential. No kid will be motivated by knowing that the coaches fought, at the draft meeting, over who would be stuck with him. And it would be unconscionably cruel. The kids who are drafted early know they were drafted early anyway. And it makes no difference in the long run: Even at 10, 11, 12, 13 years old, pre-season expectations don't always turn into actual in-season performance.

Secondly, I don't think it's just the Little League that keeps its rules under lock and key. I have a more than passing interest in baseball (even if I didn't go to the Sox game yesterday) and this past Summer I went on line looking for the Illinois High School Association official rules.

I couldn't find those either.

Failing to witness history

My friend Steve called yesterday morning -- a glorious Fall-like Sunday morning in Chicago -- with an offer I wouldn't ordinarily refuse: A chance to go to the White Sox game.

Sure, the Sox have played miserably this year, but the Angels were in town so I could see one playoff team at least -- and I'd have a chance to witness history: Jim Thome was going for home run no. 500 -- again -- yesterday.

But I turned Steve down.

And Thome delivered -- a game-winning, walk-off homer.

Steve called the house moments after the ball cleared the fence. Long Suffering Spouse picked up the phone. The conversation was brief. "Tell Curmudgeon he could have been here," Steve said. "I will," Long Suffering Spouse said, and Steve hung up.

I switched from the Bears game to the Sox Post-Game show in time to watch Thome's interview: Yes, I wasn't even watching.

This morning the Sun-Times said that Thome has hit 70 homers in a Sox uniform, 96 while a member of the Phillies, and 334 while a Cleveland Indian. My perception is that he hit at least half of those home runs against the White Sox.

Even though the Cleveland fans still boo him, when Thome goes into the Hall of Fame, his plaque will probably show him in an Indians hat. As it probably should.

I like Thome; everyone likes Thome, except when he's beating you. But... it would have meant so much more if it had been Frank Thomas hitting his 500th home run this season wearing White Sox colors -- instead of Toronto's. Big Frank was our guy; Thome's just visiting. (Mind you, Thome's a really, really welcome visitor. And I hope he stays a long time....)

Tom Seaver won his 300th victory in a White Sox uniform. But does anyone remember Seaver as a member of the White Sox?

I rest my case.

(Image from this morning's Chicago Sun-Times.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

I can sometimes draw a pretty good square...

...with an Etch-A-Sketch. If I really work at it. According to, this is what Jeff Gagliardi of Boulder, Colorado can do:

Follow the link to see more of Mr. Gagliardi's efforts.

And here's a link to Gagliardi's own website. He does offer these for sale -- at a pretty high price, apparently -- so it's not a colossal waste of time, if that's what you're thinking.

Oh, and he somehow makes these "shake proof" -- so that your work of art can't get picked up by Junior and, uh, replaced. ("Yours was nice, Mommy, but look: I made a ducky!") Because that would be one of those parenting acid tests, wouldn't it?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why is she so sure?

Stumbled upon at this site.

Ultrasounds weren't quite so detailed when were expecting our first child 23 years ago. There was a little tiny screen and the picture was sort of green and white. There was a pulsating bright spot -- the heart, I could tell that much... and little else.

But the woman reading it during the course of our last ultrasound appointment was pretty sure she could figure out the baby's gender.

"Do you want to know?" she asked my wife. But my wife didn't want to know and the exam continued.

I looked at the shifting, seemingly meaningless pattern on the teeny, tiny screen and offered what I was certain were helpful observations. "He sure is jumpin' around in there," I'd say. Or, "he sure is movin' today."

There was one thing Not Then Nearly As Long Suffering Spouse and I knew about this new baby: It would be a boy. All the first borns in our family were boys. I was a boy, for example. And my father -- he'd been a boy, too.

Actually, we didn't go back much farther than that.

But, still.... there was the little old lady test.

As you know, visibly pregnant women can be accosted by little old ladies in any public place. It's the law.

So if my wife was squeezing a cantaloupe in the grocery, a little old lady would feel free to come up to her and squeeze my wife's belly. In much the same way, I think.

"Oh, you're carrying a boy for sure," the old lady would say. "And that cantaloupe isn't ripe yet."

Things like this happened on a regular basis -- with different old ladies and not always with fruit -- and we became persuaded.

Besides, my wife's mother had a dream.

If you can't believe dreams what can you believe?

And, in my mother-in-law's dream, the baby was a boy.

So we knew. We knew.

The woman conducting the ultrasound respected our decision -- my wife's decision, actually, since, looking back, I'm pretty sure I was not consulted -- but after about the 15th or 50th of my helpful comments she did say, "I wouldn't get so used to saying 'he' if I were you."

Older Daughter is now 23.

L'shanah tovah

The date on today's post is wrong -- at least for some readers. For Jews, today is 1 Tishri 5768. To those readers, if you don't mind a greeting from a good Catholic boy, Happy New Year.

Image from Newsday.

Today also marks the beginning of fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This doesn't happen that often -- but it is the third time in a row that these holy days have coincided.

Almost makes you think that Someone wants to remind us that Christians, Jews and Muslims alike are all children of Abraham and therefore family -- and, therefore, we should get along better: Not one dominating another, just all living side by side. In peace. And tolerance. And freedom.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

History lesson... made really, really easy

Stumbled upon at this site.

A small community -- spotting the Blogger in the crowd

Long Suffering Spouse and I were in the cell phone store the other day.

Yes, I've lost my battle: Younger Daughter and Youngest Son will soon have their cell phones. Clueless Sitcom Dad fulminates against cell phones -- and loses once again.

But this is not a story about my defeat.

At the wireless store, all the employees were grouped behind a circular counter, each with their own computer terminals. These were needed to look up accounts or determine the availability of products. There were probably other business uses as well.

But the fellow opposite me in the circle was using his for one other thing: He was blogging.

To a blogaholic like me, the Blogger sign-in screen is immediately recognizable. But I didn't let on.

I know people blog at work. I do. But on the store floor?

So my unscientific survey question: Where's the most public place you've blogged?

And, please, I said "blogged." Not anything else!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Heads or Tails #5 (9/11)

I was driving to court in Joliet on the morning of September 11, 2001 and, when I eventually turned on the radio, I tuned to Mike and Mike on ESPN.

They weren't talking sports.

The first plane had hit.

The first thought I had was that "the Palestinian Air Force" had attacked us -- not that there is such a thing, but I assumed that a terrorist group had hijacked a plane and flown it into the tower in some bizarrely misguided way on behalf of the Palestinian cause.

I had the right part of the world in mind, but not the right "perp." And I lacked the imagination to think about the type of plane that had been commandeered.

And then came the second hit.

The news filtered into my wife's school. She called me in the car. I don't know how reassuring it was, but I told her that I highly doubted that the courthouse in Joliet was on the target list for today.

The judge eventually came out for the morning call, at least a half hour late. I saw her in an adjacent office, watching TV. Torts and contracts weren't really that important just at that moment. But I was still kind of miffed. I wanted to get back to the car -- where I could also listen to the news -- but I had to wait.

Eventually, I went straight home. I thought about going to my office, but I figured things would be crazy downtown and nothing would get done. It was and nothing did get done and I watched TV all day just like everyone else. (For a good part of the day, there was concern that a plane might be headed for the Sears Tower.)

My story is not particularly exciting. My opinions about the lessons learned -- or, mostly, unlearned -- from that terrible day are in the post below.

But one of the people on my Bloglist, Dave, of Rather Than Working, was in New York on September 11, 2001. So, in addition to your "Heads or Tails" browsing today... or tomorrow... when you get to it... you may want to visit Dave. His story is lengthy; it's posted in five parts. Here are links to each of them:
I would recommend also that you visit Cathy's Place. She has hosted a 9/11 Writing Challenge and you can read those entries by following the link provided.

Another unhappy anniversary

That's what I called it last year in this post when I started ticking off the lessons that I thought we should have learned from 9/11/01. Let me summarize:

First, I said, good communications are vital. And "official channels" alone are insufficient. Flight 93 never reached its target because people used their cell phones. They found out something of what was going on outside, enough to know that the hijackers were going to kill them, notwithstanding any promises they'd made. So they tried to take the plane back. It didn't work -- but the hijackers did not reach their target.

But have we learned this lesson? No! There was a brief moment in the past year when it looked like the government would finally allow in-flight cell phone use -- but it passed and the ban still remains in effect.

Look: I don't want to hear you tell your mother about why your husband is a jerk all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles. I don't want you to compare details of your recent operations with your best friend. I want to read my book in peace and quiet -- but if some morons try and restage multiple hijackings, and it's hit the TV, I want someone to call me -- or you -- so we can prepare to do something about it.

The people on Flight 93 did something about their situation, and they might have lived if they'd done it sooner. They surely saved many others by their actions.

The second lesson, I suggested last year, is a subset of the first: When disaster strikes, government should strive to facilitate good communication, not control it or shut it down. The bureaucrat's first instinct is to stamp "top secret" on everything, and worry about what should be disclosed later. And that's wrong. Mushrooms and terrorists thrive in the dark -- and shrivel in the light of day. There's a lot of misinformation that comes out in the first hours after a tragedy (Katrina provides a more recent example) -- but information should be seen as a river rushing by. We can pluck from the rushing stream morsels of the truth. Historians can figure out what it all meant after the fact.

I was more timid last year: I said only, "I don't think these lessons are accepted by our government."

I'm less timid now -- because another year has gone by and this guy is still at large:

The picture on the right is from the new video making the rounds. Apparently he can get "Just for Men" hair color delivered to his cave in Pakistan.

At least, I assume Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan. Where we can't get him. Because we -- us -- the U.S. -- won't learn a few other lessons.

First, we are not at "war" with this guy. We are not at "war" with terror.

Being at "war" with a concept or an ideology makes no sense. I suppose this is the inevitable consequence of sloppy talk from the '60's -- the War on Poverty -- or the 70's -- the War on Drugs. Those aren't/weren't wars either.

Wars are fought against countries. Against soldiers in uniform. With soldiers in uniform. After 9/11 we fought a war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. We won.

We also fought a war against Iraq. Despite White House efforts to link 9/11 with Saddam Hussein's despotic regime, we really went to war against Iraq because we thought Iraq was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. We weren't the only country to think so. Most governments in the world believed it.

But we acted -- and we won that war.

Oh, I know it's fashionable now to sneer at the President's presumption in announcing "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003.

But the war was over.

What we've bungled is the peace. Mr. Bush and his advisers set the stage for the current national frustration when they refused to listen to their own experts about what sort and what size army would be necessary to occupy Iraq. To police it.

And we still say that we're at war with al-Qaeda. Perhaps we say this because foreign "police actions" acquired a bad odor in this country... because prior administrations could not bring themselves to admit that their "police actions" (Korea, Vietnam) were really wars.

But we never were at war with al-Qaeda: Bin Laden and al-Qaeda control no country (at least not since they were kicked out of Afghanistan). They wear no uniforms. They have no capital. They are criminals. Criminals who can and should be brought to justice by police action.

The sovereign nation of Pakistan does not want American troops to cross into its North-West Frontier Province and flush out bin Laden. That would be a gross violation of its sovereignty. And we can't afford to alienate still another ally. But might Pakistan not agree to a police action, led by the FBI, to capture him? Surely some military hardware and personnel would be involved -- but it would be a civilian operation conducted with due regard for the sovereignty of that nation. But we apparently haven't even asked if this would be possible. And Pakistan grows more unstable every day.

In our secular Western eyes, bin Laden is just a criminal. He has violated the laws of our country.

But in Muslim eyes there is often no difference between the laws of a country and the laws of God. Here again, though, bin Laden is a criminal. And also an apostate. A heretic. He is trying to pervert an entire world religion to bring him an earthly kingdom -- a restored caliphate. With Osama as Caliph. Or at least the power behind the throne. (I suppose if he fulfills this ambition, then we could be at war with him. But I'd rather not wait for that, thank you.)

The current administration has wasted a lot of legal talent in this country trying to blur the distinctions between interrogation and torture. That talent would have been far better spent preparing the brief against bin Laden. The Qur'an provides ample precedent for our case. We should present it to the Muslim world.

In the meantime, good police work will prevent another 9/11.

Good police work will also bring Osama to justice.

And, I pray, this will happen soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ten ways to lose friends and alienate coworkers

Here's a list from "Yahoo! HotJobs."

I don't have to really worry too much about these since I work by myself at the Undisclosed Location, but I was unnerved (as I reported in my July 30 post) about reports of a 'new workplace etiquette', so I wanted to see if these latest suggestions made any sense.

Having carefully reviewed them now, I believe that, yes, these will push colleagues right off the edge. Some examples:
1. Eat stinky snacks.

2. Make endless meeting requests. (Your colleagues need time to blog, too, you know....)

3. "Reply to All" all the time.(Yes, please: We all need to know that you got the same memo we did about the unnecessary meeting at 8:30. Thank you.)
And one of my favorites:
7. "Borrow" magazines or newspapers.
This is particularly offensive if you "borrow" it before your colleague has had a chance to read it yet -- particularly if you make it abundantly clear that you and your colleague's magazine are going to the 'library' or heading off for some 'private time' -- if you know what I mean.

Interestingly, backstabbing and glory-hogging did not make this list. Presumably because people who engage in this sort of conduct would have no friends to lose.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A cartoon that explains an awful lot

And I do mean awful.

I am a lifelong White Sox fan. I usually say I'm a lifelong, long suffering White Sox fan.

But then came 2005. And I wasn't suffering anymore. Although, like a lot of Sox fans, I could hardly believe it was real.

And there were some wonderful moments in 2006, too. I'll always remember that, in 2006, my Oldest Son took me to a game. And then the Sox fell short. In this post I explained how I had finally accepted the reality of 2005, and how I was finally "ready to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride back to the postseason." But, sadly, the moment had passed. And soon thereafter also passed the crown. (Lucky John Rooney: He got to call the entire season for the team that won the World Series two years in a row.)

But disappointing as last year was, this year has been... well, awful.

And I've found this cartoon which entirely explains my own feelings on the subject:

This is taken from a blog called Palehose 7 by Carl Skanberg.

You don't have to be a Sox fan to 'get' this cartoon. Everyone recognizes Ozzie Guillen when they seem him, right?

It was Mike Royko, I believe, who coined the unofficial motto of the City of Chicago, "ubi est mea?" But there's another unofficial motto, too:

Wait 'til next year!

And next out of the closet of anxieties:
Bears vs. 'Bolts. Live from San Diego Sunday afternoon.

I've got a bad feeling about this, Chewy.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Memories of riding the school bus

My rant about my high schoolers taking -- or, rather, not taking -- the bus got me remembering.

At right is the kind of bus they would take.

If they took the bus.

But I suppose that's not the picture that comes into your mind when you think of taking a school bus.

You probably see something more like this:

This is the kind of bus I took nearly every day in high school.

Even as a senior. (Oh! The horrors!)

The bus came by our house at 6:50am. We had to be out at the corner or the bus would pass us by -- there was none of that stopping in front of someone's house and honking the horn.

The bus driver's name was Kim. Kim had long, golden hair -- not platinum -- more of a brassy gold, but falling straight all the way down Kim's back. A lot of girls would have killed for hair like that in the early '70's -- but they wouldn't have wanted Kim's beard. Kim, you see, was a man.

Kim drove a standard issue, yellow school bus. But it did have a giant speaker in the front of the bus topped by an 8-track player.

There's nothing like listening to King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" at threshold of pain volume at 6:50am. Or "Yer Blues," from the Beatles' "White Album." C'mon, sing along with me now: The eagle picks my eye / The worm he licks my bones / Feel so suicidal / Just like Dylan's Mr. Jones....

Don't feel like singing?

Or eating again any time soon?

One time, toward the end of my senior year -- maybe even after classes were completed -- I was at a local deep dish pizza joint, having beer and pizza with the rest of my honors English class... and our teacher.

(I forgot to shoo the kids out of the room this time, didn't I? Yes, this would have gotten the poor man fired today -- but he was a wonderful teacher. And this was over 30 years ago. Things really were different then.)

Anyway, there we were, the über nerds and our teacher, and I spotted Kim the bus driver at the bar by himself.

I was surely the only bus-rider among our group. This was a wealthy community. Most of these kids had their own cars. I don't mean that they had access to family cars. They had their own cars.

Not me, you understand: I rode the bus.

I invited Kim to come over and join our group.

He was hammered.

And it got a bit awkward when he started groping the head cheerleader with one hand and the Student Council Secretary with the other. But they quickly disabused him of whatever notions he had and the party continued without further incident.

I've always liked bringing people together....

With gas at $3.25 a gallon, why isn't it OK to take the bus?

Younger Daughter and Youngest Son are both in high school now and Youngest Son figures his school isn't too far out of Younger Daughter's way, and therefore Younger Daughter should chauffeur him to school each morning.

Younger Daughter, meanwhile, doesn't mind the idea so much... since she'd be given a daily opportunity to cruise the parking lot of Youngest Son's all-boys Catholic school on her way to her own all-girls Catholic school. After all, prom is only nine months away. And Homecoming is in two weeks!!!!

(It's difficult to render the shriek of a teenage girl in print, isn't it?)

The only one who has real reservations about this plan is me.

Younger Daughter can't take the bus because she has Orchestra class that meets at 7:00am -- before school. And the bus doesn't get there before 7:20 -- and sometimes not until 7:40, barely enough time to make it to the first class period of the day.

That Younger Daughter has been engaged a feud with the Orchestra director for the past two years is of no moment in these discussions: Long Suffering Spouse and I both agreed that Younger Daughter could drop Orchestra this year -- but Younger Daughter wants to 'stick it out.'

"Why?" we ask. Why be in a situation which is unpleasant? Younger Daughter plays the trumpet -- but she doesn't take it that seriously. She practices guitar (for which she receives no academic credit) an hour or more a day, perfectly happy to play songs by ear -- with the guitar upside down and backwards -- and she's become quite good at it.

But she won't take her trumpet home to practice without a court order. And maybe not even then.

This same trumpet that we paid a king's ransom for just a couple of years ago.

But I digress.

(And I weep softly.)

She actually plays the trumpet well, too (I have heard her on rare occasions, so I'm not just being Dad), but nothing will make a music teacher madder than a student who doesn't practice except a student who doesn't practice but does well anyway.

The teacher, in such cases, believes (probably with good reason) that the student would do even better with practice.

In any event, the unpleasant feelings between the music director and Younger Daughter got so intense last year that the school counselor got involved.

But Younger Daughter says she is determined to finish Orchestra this year.

And, finally, it occurs to me why she is so determined: I have to let her drive if she continues in Orchestra.

If she quits, she thinks I'd make her take the bus.

She's right, too.

I am nervous about her driving every day. I drove with her while she was accumulating the hours necessary to take the driver's exam. She hasn't driven that much since getting her license -- preempted by my health and then by older siblings home for the Summer. And though we're driving with her again (even Long Suffering Spouse has taken a couple of turns in the passenger seat) and Younger Daughter really isn't doing badly... well, the car is too new and I am too old to let her drive every day.

It's not that she's a bad driver... it's just that she's inexperienced. She may not react in time or react properly when some truly bad driver does something stupid. That wouldn't be her fault... but we'd have a problem just the same.

Besides, I have a vivid imagination.

Too vivid, really, for my own good.

Would taking the bus really be so uncool if the kids actually paid for the gas?

Just asking....

Vindication for us non-morning people

And we know who we are, don't we?

I'm writing this early Friday morning... but only because I had to get Youngest Son to school at some outrageously early hour. If you're looking at this this morning, you're looking with bleary eyes, wondering (as so many people who stop here often do) when, exactly, I'm going to get to the point.

Fear not: I'm already there. An AFP story posted yesterday on Yahoo! News cites a Japanese study which concludes that -- not only does early to bed and early to rise not make us healthy, wealthy and wise, it may actually put us at greater risk of "heart conditions including hypertension and of having strokes."

The study reached these conclusions after following just over 3,000 healthy adults aged between 23 and 90. Of course, the study also noted that the early risers were usually older... but that's a quibble. This is solid scientific proof that I shouldn't have to get up so darn early.

I continue to wait for the study that proves, once and for all, that chocolate donuts provide significant health benefits.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

And here's one for Miss Bee....

I saw this comic this morning in the Sun-Times (the image was obtained here) and I thought immediately of Empress Bee. So, Bee, this is for you (and any other "cat people" out there today).

A huge donation and unsolicited career counseling

Popular nursing blogger (and my blogfriend) MJ has mentioned, from time to time in her essays at Nurse Ratched's Place, that she is looking for a new job.

Health reporter Jim Ritter's story in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times suggests one possibility.

Pictured above is Ann Lurie, one-time intensive care nurse at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The Sun-Times ran this picture this morning because Mrs. Lurie came back to the hospital yesterday -- announcing plans to donate $100 million toward construction of a new children's hospital. Children's is moving from Lincoln Park to Streeterville (near the Northwestern medical campus) and, when it moves, it will be renamed the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Ritter's article this morning says that this is the biggest gift ever "to a Chicago hospital and the largest gift to any children's hospital anywhere."

That fellow on the left isn't me, but I'll borrow a page from his book and suggest that MJ might follow in Mrs. Lurie's footsteps and become a phil--, a philan--, a good deed doer.

Actually, Mrs. Lurie is president of Lurie Investments, a private firm that, Ritter's article says, "supports her philanthropic foundation." Each of Mrs. Lurie's six children has a philanthropic foundation of their own.

There are any number of charitable trusts that have been established for various reasons as our population ages. Mrs. Lurie, herself a nurse, and a former member of the Children's Memorial Hospital board, was well-versed in the needs and virtues of that hospital. But, seriously: Who helps a well-meaning but less-well-connected donor sift among all the charities, worthy or otherwise, that clamor for donations? How about becoming a consultant to charitable foundations, MJ?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Food, glorious food? Curmudgeon munches on a new meme -- and finally stops wringing his hands about whether to do more memes

This meme is from a new reader, TroyBoy of Pheasantly Fascinating. The idea is to reveal favorite foods for particular purposes.

I am, however, the wrong person for such a meme. Some people love to eat; I eat because, if I don't, I get light-headed and woozy. I am an habitual eater: I probably eat the same thing for lunch 300 out of 365 days a year. I was always a picky eater; I have no appetite for culinary adventures. When I practiced with a firm, we had, on occasion, to take clients out to lunch. One of the senior partners fancied himself a gourmet. He eagerly sought out gustatory challenges at the newest and latest "hot" dining spots. I would scan the menus at these places, often in vain, for something I could at least pronounce. I had to order something -- dry, white toast wouldn't cut it. I found such occasions to be sheer torture.

Now, I'm even worse. Since my colon was removed I'm not just picky, I'm scared: I am afraid to eat anything that might overwhelm my reduced digestive equipment. Nevertheless, I herewith undertake the meme:

Favorite Gourmet Item:

None. If something is a gourmet item I am probably unaware of its existence. Calamari is about as exotic as I get... on the theory that I can eat almost anything so long as it has been breaded and fried.

Favorite Snack at Home:


Favorite Fastfood item:

A jamocha shake from Arby's. My days of fastfood burgers are gone. I think that each human is alloted a certain limit of fastfood burgers -- and I'd used mine up before finishing law school. I envy my kids, who are still in their White Castle phase. I recall downing a dozen slyders at a time... but that was then.

Favorite Food When Driving:

I don't really eat much when driving, and certainly not as a habit. When we took long distance family outings, I'd have fries or a shake while the kids ate fastfood burgers. Long Suffering Spouse would pack sandwiches for very long trips; I'd eat those.

Favorite Food With a Beer (or other libation - please specify):

Pizza. I'm still good for one beer at the Sox game, maybe two if it's a hot day. And, at the ballpark, I like to have a slice of pizza. But I don't much care for beer either. This may be another item for which I've used up my lifetime quota. (Fortunately, my quotas for scotch, vodka and wine seem not yet fully depleted.)

Favorite Food for Invoking Romantic Intentions:

I don't associate food with romance. With five kids, privacy has been far more important than any comestible.

Least Favorite Food:

Food that Conjures a Childhood Memory:

Food that Conjures a Sad Memory:

Food that Conjures a Happy Memory:

All pass. I wasn't partial to liver as a child -- and I wouldn't touch bologna -- but food is usually not a memory trigger for me. Although, now that I think of it, lamb with mint jelly would remind me of my grandmother. If I ever had lamb with mint jelly again.

And a fellow as picky as I am can't have just one least favorite food.


I suppose that the foregoing is no better than a C+ effort, and I apologize.

But that is the trouble with memes: Appropriate responses seem to suggest themselves in some cases; other times it is difficult to come up with something that anyone (other than, presumably, the tagger) is willing to read.

I'd agonized over this problem (to meme or not to meme?) in an August 15 post and I hemmed and hawed on it still further in a post I put up the next day.

I asked for input from my readers:

I already knew that Dr. A passes on memes. A new commenter, Robin said that, for her, "Memes are a lazy, self-indulgent exercise" -- but she wasn't trying to pour cold water on others' enjoyment. She quickly added, "sometimes they can be fun."

I expected, and received, some strong pro-meme responses: Hilda may have had the most enthusiastic response of all: "I *LOVE* memes...and when I'm not tagged, I don't feel left out - I just steal it." But, even with this, Hilda said, "while I don't mind being tagged, I don't like tagging."

Barb, Ralph, and Patti were generally in favor of tags and tagging. Ralph said, "I like to be tagged, it allows me to open up a bit more." Patti was a bit more reserved: "I don't mind being tagged, it's just a matter of taking the time to complete them." And Barb? She wrote, "tag away anytime." (There's a reason why she's had over 65,000 visitors in little more than a year of operating "Skittles' Place.")

Bennie was a tad uncomfortable with the use of memes to build an audience: "If it's a way to gain readership I don't think I'd participate." But he's not against all memes: "I like reading memes that dig into the soul so to speak. The best ones will make me remember something interesting from the past that was meaningful."

But not all memes do that. Sharon observed, "Mostly I find the tagging stuff to be a distraction from the reading and the writing in blogosphere." Katherine, too, said she didn't pursue traffic because she's "more of a reader...not a writer."

And Katherine was one of several who expressed a certain ambivalence about memes: "For me its more about WHO tags me. There are some people for whom I would do even the most inane Meme. I'd rather not feel obligated to complete one just cause they have fourteen letters in their middle name and everyone else has done it already."

This was a common theme in reader comments: Shelby, on whom I'd just bestowed a tag, accepted the assignment with seeming enthusiasm: "I shall do this meme - on the morrow - with smiles." But, she added, "ever so gently and quite hesitantly....I do not like getting tagged." MJ said, "I'm relieved when I'm not tagged. I hate tags, but sometimes I play the game because I don't want to hurt the other person's feelings."

Silverneurotic said, "I just don't like having that feeling of obligation to participate in a meme just because a fellow blogger thinks I should.... I would not mind too much if I only got tagged occasionally by different people, but it seems that every week I get tagged by the same people to do a meme...and often times the meme's are very similar and I find myself repeating myself!" (Silverneurotic has since declared her blog meme-free. I like this sentence in her post: "Then when I get given a meme and told to fill it out…well I feel like I’m taking the SAT’s all over again, except this time without the aid of a trusty calculator." I like it, that is, except for the part about the calculator. We didn't have calculators when I took the SAT. And an abacus was too big to sneak in....)

Another new commenter, Marcia, said, "I don't mind tags, but write so much anyway, I put them aside at times and forget them." That was Sari's chief complaint, too: "My problem is, even if I AM tagged, a lot of times I just forget to do the memes." Chris doesn't necessarily forget or ignore tags, "but it does depend on whether it inspires me or if I think I could do it."

Chris also said he doesn't like to tag people because it "feels like an imposition," a sentiment with which Pilgrim and Jean-Luc would both agree.

SQT added, "Sometimes [memes] just seem tedious and other times they're fun. I guess it's a mood thing." Susan also said her moods dictate her response to a tag: "If I already have a direction in mind for my next post, I tend to find being tagged somewhat of an annoyance.... HOWEVER, if I find myself in a spot where I feel less than inspired, a gentle tagging seems to have the effect of getting the brain moving again."

Heather had a short comment, but one that sent me to the dictionary (without success). What the heck does "falky" mean? And, if it means "ambivalent," where the heck did the word come from?

Linda had a lot to say on this topic. An excerpt: "I only have x-amount of time for blogging and it already takes up way too big of a chunk of my life and I also try to do only one post per day as I think that's what people expect of me. If I have to keep trying to catch up with memes then I get behind on the stuff I really meant to write about but got sidetracked away from." At some point, she said, "you have to politely refuse but then I feel bad as if someone took the time to think of me, I feel bad not holding up my end."

Bee and RDL had what I thought was a sound approach. Bee said, "i like some of 'em and if i don't, well, then i just say no thank you and i don't think anyone has gotten upset about it with me" and RDL said, "I like memes and i like that if i don't like a particular meme, I don't have to do it - like grown-up homework; or if life gets in the way i don't need an excuse not to do it."

All of this discussion has helped me sort out my own opinions on the subject and I thank all who contributed (and I hope I didn't miss anyone in this summary).

I conclude that (a) if I do a meme henceforth, I won't tag (except for Hilda -- she's always tagged) and (b) I'll do such memes from now on that I think I can do well -- that appeal to me.

I mean no offense to anyone who tags me with a meme that I fail to do. I hope none will be taken.

Gosh, I hope I don't wind up in the dungeon of Mimi, Queen of Memes for this....