Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You'd better invite Oprah, Chrissy

Just when you thought (hoped?) I'd let the clock run out on Chrissy Popadics' 15 minutes of fame, I stumbled on this story out of the Idaho Statesman.

Chrissy Popadics is the Boise State cheerleader who received a marriage proposal from football player Ian Johnson, right after Ian scored on a trick play two point conversion to seal an upset victory in the Fiesta Bowl.

The linked story advises that Jesse Jackson has been invited to the pending nuptials... he asked for an invite... and Chrissy reveals that she's also had an inquiry from Oprah Winfrey's production company, Harpo. The Idaho columnist speculates that Oprah may be looking for a wedding invite, too.

Herewith some unsolicited personal advice for the bride-to-be: Send her the invite, Chrissy. Maybe Tom Cruise could get away with snubbing her -- even after jumping on her couch -- but, Chrissy, I don't think you want to start off your married life on Oprah's bad side.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Connecting the dots... closing the loop... shattering the illusion....

I regularly read Zay N. Smith's Quick Takes in the Chicago Sun-Times and -- as you can probably tell from the number of times I've cited it in these postings -- I enjoy the column thoroughly.

Mr. Smith, however, has one regular feature in his column that often bugs me: He will come up with an absurd headline and then say only, "There is probably an interesting story behind that."

Now I am a cynical person and I have wondered, from time to time, whether Mr. Smith is simply making up these headlines. This morning, for instance, he wrote:
News Headline: "Underpants rage burns down house."

There is probably an interesting story behind that.
Now I wasn't particularly interested in this item, nor did I have a burning desire to investigate to determine whether it had, in fact, been invented or whether it was an actual story reported somewhere.

But today at lunch, clicking away between bites, I came across this story on a site called The item was indeed headlined, "Underpants rage burns down house." And the story? Through the miracle of cut and paste, it follows:
An angry husband who threw old clothes from his wardrobe in the garden and set fire to them because he could not find his clean underpants accidentally burnt his home down.

Ivo Jerbic, 55, from Prikraj close to the capital Zagreb told police he had flipped out after failing to find any clean underpants in the closet full of old clothes, and had thrown them all in the garden and set fire to them.

He told police: 'My wife never throws anything out, I just lost my temper.'
So we have established that Mr. Smith did not make up today's throwaway headline. Why he thought it might be so interesting, however, is not nearly as clear.

Although, there was another story on the same site, "Viagra-spiked wine nearly kills husband." (With apologies to Mr. Smith) there is probably an interesting story behind that one, too.

Why you have to read all the way through

I saw a link to this site over the weekend and, before I'd finished the second paragraph I was up in arms. Here's the paragraph in question, from a group blog entitled "That's Fit," this particular entry being authored by Bethany Sanders:
[D]id you know that recent research suggests that caffeine may be the new up and coming treatment for baldness? Researchers believe that caffeine protects hair follicles by blocking a chemical called DHT, which is produced by the male hormone testosterone. In fact -- and this was news to me -- experts believe that men with more testosterone in their bodies are at a higher risk of balding, especially when there's a family history of hair loss. DHT damages hair follicles, but caffeine appears to block that process and stimulate growth. In recent lab test, hair follicles exposed to caffeine grew an extra 33 to 40 percent.
Given the amount of coffee I drink, if there were in fact a direct correlation between caffiene intake and hair growth, every inch of my surface area should be covered with lush, luxuriant hair.

The Addams Family character I'd most resemble would be Cousin Itt -- not Uncle Fester.

Oh, yes, I'd worked myself into a fine dander.

But then I read more of the post in question:
....Researchers don't believe that drinking more coffee will affect your scalp -- or your hair loss -- in any significant way. In fact, you'd have to drink a heart-racing 60 cups of coffee to gain any benefit.... Instead, a German cosmetics firm has developed a caffeine-infused lotion that can be rubbed directly onto the scalp. If it works, it seems like a simple and natural solution.
Instead of going beserk like some jittery, hopped-up caffiene fiend, I read the article all the way through... and was mollified.

Meantime, although I'm not interested in trying any new German lotions or potions, I am thinking about using the morning coffee grounds as a scalp massage. If nothing else, the grounds might stain what hair there is a darker color....

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Curmudgeon goes to the grocery store

One evening, before we were married, my soon-to-be wife and her roommate decided to have a normal, sit-down, grownup dinner.

That in itself will tell you how long ago this was: In this long ago time before the Internet, there was a widely-held belief that grownups ate meals while seated at a table, without blogging or even the TV to provide distraction.

We were young; what did we know?

Anyway, I was already working for a living and the party was delayed until I could arrive. When I did, I and the roommate's boyfriend (now her husband) were dispatched to the nearby grocery, there to pick up a couple of last minute provisions for the meal.

It was a simple task, really, and even a simple person such as myself should have been capable of discharging it.

But I was hungry. I was lured to the girls' apartment on the false pretense that I was going to receive a meal -- and upon arriving was instead dispatched on an errand. My subconscious took over.

I got the couple of items that I was instructed to get -- and every variety of snack cracker and dessert that the Certified grocery chain had to offer.

And even though I paid for these excesses, the young woman who was to become Long Suffering Spouse was mortified. She made a mental note: I was not to be trusted in the grocery store.

That's not to say that, in the intervening 25 years, I have not been sent out to get this or that as exigent circumstances required. I certainly have. When the late night pharmacy runs were made, it was usually I who made them. But when we needed a gallon of milk on a Sunday morning I have all too often returned home with donuts or a coffee cake besides. The lesson learned a quarter century ago has been regularly reinforced: I am not to be allowed to do the grocery shopping.

I have not minded this arrangement.

But this weekend may have changed things.

We have just begun Catholic Schools Week. Parents always grumble that the run-up to Catholic Schools Week always includes a number of big, involved projects for the kids -- projects into which the kids' parents are all too often drawn. But every teacher wants a gaudy display to impress the young parents, the new parents, who are deciding whether to invest a healthy portion of their futures in Catholic education. And there's lately been some sort of unifying theme and the whole school is decorated....

Long Suffering Spouse cut out wall decorations all week long -- while we both encouraged Youngest Son to complete his various gaudy projects -- and then she had to hang everything up in her room and the adjacent hallway. And she still had to design and give a re-take on a test. I was with her for three hours Saturday trying to figure out how to set up a slideshow on her Apple computer that would play on the TV in the room while the parents came by and ooohed and aaaahed.

I'm sure that there are Apple users among you. But most of the people in any business I know of are locked into Wintel machines. We know we are unwitting drones of an Evil Empire, but, like the clever slaves in classical comedies, we have devised strategies for making the best of our lot. The Apple machines are similar enough to tease us into believing that we can readily apply our hard-won Wintel experience to any problem at hand -- but different enough to dash these hopes, often cruelly. And if the teachers' machines had any documentation, Long Suffering Spouse hasn't seen it. And the Apple machines are "intuitive."

Intuitive means there's nothing in writing. The time I spent learning how to read was entirely wasted, at least for this purpose.

But I figured out how to import the photos LSS wanted and get the slideshow to run and, I will happily testify, the "Ken Burns effect" that the Apple machine used in running the slideshow was very cool.

But now Saturday was gone and Sunday was the Open House that signals the beginning of Catholic School Week. And it was also necessary that someone get the week's groceries.

"I'll do it after the Open House," Long Suffering Spouse told me.

I knew this was reverse psychology -- knew it, and fell for it anyway.

"No," I said, "I'll go while you're at the Open House. That way, when you come home, you can stay home."

She put up a show of reluctance -- although, given my checkered history of grocery shopping lo these many years, maybe it wasn't entirely a show. "Really," she said, "I'll take care of it. We don't need that much this week."

It occurred to me -- in the logical part of my brain -- that LSS has asked me to accompany her to the grocery a couple of times in recent weeks and I've gone with to assist and speed the completion of the task. Maybe she was trying to audition me for a new solo effort. But I pushed these thoughts aside and insisted that I should go. "Especially if there's not much to get, why should you have to make the extra trip?"

Sunday morning, after Mass, Long Suffering Spouse dictated the grocery list to me. It was short. Younger Daughter had already gone to her job; Youngest Son was supposed to be a 'tour guide' at the Open House. I would take LSS and Youngest Son to school, drop them off, and proceed to the grocery.

And it was almost time to go -- and I poured an extra bowl of cereal for myself.

Youngest Son was confused. "I thought we had to leave."

"We do," said Long Suffering Spouse, but not harshly. "Your father just doesn't want to go to the grocery store while he's hungry."

So it was a good news/ bad news outcome: The good news was I didn't return with a lot of unnecessary things. I even got the right brands of most of the things I was sent to get. But the bad news is... I'm afraid she may ask me to do this again.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sticky Post

My recent Chicago Quiz was too much for non-natives (and I didn't ace it myself) , but, if you'd be interested in seeing the questions with the answers, just click here.

If you're not out lookin' for trouble, but just want to dance to the Superbowl Shuffle, click here.

Driver produces false ID -- the ID of a person wanted for possession of false ID

I can't blame you if your head has already begun hurting as you try and puzzle that one out. Here is a link to Gene Haschak's story in this morning's Kane County editions of the Daily Herald newspaper which tries to explain.

Since I don't know how long the link will be active, here is most of the story:
When an Elgin man bought a fraudulent identification card for $100, he got more than he bargained for — the man whose identity was used on the fake ID was wanted by police.

Juan Galvan, 25, of 1057 South St., Elgin, was arrested at 12:30 a.m. Thursday on the Kimball Street bridge. Police said the tan Maxima he was driving had license plates that were registered to a Saturn.

Galvan handed police identification with the name and personal information of Juan Perez-Leon, who was born on Aug. 22, 1981.

Police checked and found Perez-Leon was wanted on a warrant for a 2004 charge. That charge was for possession of a fraudulent identification card, according to a police report.

Galvan was charged Thursday with possession of a fraudulent identification card.

He also was cited for no insurance, no driver’s license, improper use of registration and suspended license plates, police said.
Listening to this story this morning on the radio I was put in mind of two opposing mirrors... look into either one and see reflections back stretching into infinity.

The Daily Herald story suggests the moral, "Be careful what you pay for." Can you come up with a better one?

A Chicago Quiz -- or -- Maybe I'm not so old, after all

Shel, from Musings of a Phenomenal Webmistress sent me this quiz. I had some fun answering the questions that I could -- there were a few on which I had no clue whatsoever, and on others I made some bad guesses.

My score, according to the answers Shel sent with, was 28 out of 40 -- only 70% -- although I dispute one of the stated answers.

I'll post those answers this afternoon. Stay tuned... and see how you fare in the meantime.

And, yes, this quiz is very locally focused. But if Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics you'll be looking for Chicago material... and here it is.

Old Time Chicago Quiz

(1) Name all five of Riverview's roller coasters.

(2) What was the former name of Martin Luther King Drive?

(3) How many times was Richard J. Daley elected mayor?

(4) Identify any two of the candidates who ran against Richard J. Daley for mayor.

(5) What is an alewife? (Hint: It's not a spouse that tipples.)

(6) What did Jack Brickhouse yell when the Cubs hit a home run?

(7) Name, in order, the three papers Mike Royko wrote for.

(8) What gasoline chain had Dino the Dinosaur as a mascot?

(9) Which of Bill Veeck's legs was the peg-leg?

(10) Identify Resurrection Mary.

(11) Why was 1340 North State Parkway a famous address?

(12) Who was Uncle Johnny Coons?

(13) What car dealer was the "Home of the Backward K?"

(14) Name the announcer of TV bowling at Faetz-Niesen.

(15) What was a Green Hornet? (Hint: It's not the guy in the mask.)

(16) Where were the Stock Yards located?

(17) What type of store was Morris B. Sachs?

(18) When he wasn't doing Riverview commercials, what was Two-Ton Baker's profession?

(19) What Catholic archbishop has a suburb named after him?

(20) What business had the phone number MOhawk 4-4100?

(21) Identify one Chicago street that was part of U.S. Route 66. (It winds from Chicago to L.A./ More than 2,000 miles on the way/ Get your kicks/ On Route 66....)

(22) Name the sponsor of TV wrestling who was killed by an unhappy customer.

(23) What was the last home stadium of the Chicago Cardinals? (Yes, this is the same franchise that is now the Arizona Cardinals, coached this past season by former Northwestern and Minnesota Vikings Coach Dennis Green. They didn't do well in Chicago either. And they're still owned by the Bidwill family.)

(24) Name one locally-brewed Chicago beer. (Recent brew-pubs do not count!)

(25) Before Circle, where was the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois?

(26) Where did the Beatles perform on their first trip to Chicago?

(27) Which defunct grocery chain gave S & H Green Stamps?

(28) Name the boxing champ who gave his name to a local milk company.

(29) Where was the Army Induction Center located?

(30) How many inches of snow fell in the January 1967 blizzard?

(31) Who wore an Uncle Sam suit, and was always a losing candidate for public office? (I've given this away in a past entry.)

(32) What public building was often called simply "Eleventh and State?"

(33) Where did Andy the Clown hang out?

(34) Name the TV show that was the source of the local catch-phrase: "Right Here, Harv."

(35) Who were the Lincoln Park Pirates?

(36) What was the old name of the Brown Line 'L?

(37) Where was Skip's located?

(38) What do the call letters of Channel 11 (WTTW) stand for?

(39) Where was Skid Row?

(40) Name two Illinois governors who served time in prison. (George Ryan doesn't count because, though sentenced to jail, he's free pending the outcome of his appeal.)

I warned you that some of these are extremely local... but see how you fare or pass it along to a Chicagoan, ex-Chicagoan or Chicagoan wannabe in your life.

Answers to the Chicago Quiz

Thanks to the miracle of "Post Options" I'm putting these after (following? beneath?) the quiz I posted this morning. Even though it's really Friday afternoon. The answers that Shel provided are in blue. My comments are in red.

(1) Name all five of Riverview's roller coasters.
Bobs, Sliver Streak, Comet, Fireball (formerly the Blue Streak), and Flying Turns. (No, the Wild Mouse was not a real rollercoaster.) I didn't know any of these either.

(2) What was the former name of Martin Luther King Drive?
South Park Avenue.

(3) How many times was Richard J. Daley elected mayor?
Six times. 1955, 1959, 1963, 1967, 1971, and 1975.

(4) Identify any two of the candidates who ran against Richard J. Daley for mayor.
Any two of these will suffice: Merriam, Sheehan, Adamowski, Waner, Friedman, Hoellen. But here's an exhaustive list from the Chicago Public Library.

(5) What is an alewife?
A type of fish. The Chicago connection is that great numbers of these fish turned up dead on the shores of Lake Michigan, as this Time Magazine story from 1967 recounts.

(6) What did Jack Brickhouse yell when the Cubs hit a home run?

Hey Hey! If you look close, you can see it's even on his monument just off Michigan Avenue. Cub fans forget that, at one time, Brickhouse also broadcast White Sox games on WGN Television. And, of course, he did the Bears games on radio for many years.

(7) Name, in order, the three papers Mike Royko wrote for.
The Daily News, the Sun-Times, and the Tribune. Royko called me a "yuppie" once when we were at the Billy Goat. But he took it back. Some time I'll tell that story.

(8) What gasoline chain had Dino the Dinosaur as a mascot?
Sinclair. The Sinclair chain must still exist outside of Chicago, or at least it did a few years back. I was with Middle Son going to a baseball tournament in western Illinois and we bought gas at one. I carried the receipt with me until it disintegrated.

(9) Which of Bill Veeck's legs was the peg-leg?

The right one. As I recall, it had an ashtray in it.

(10) Identify Resurrection Mary.

A famous Chicago area ghost. Here's a link to more information about her. At least one 1950's teenage tragedy song rips off this legend.

(11) Why was 1340 North State Parkway a famous address?
This was the original Playboy Mansion.

(12) Who was Uncle Johnny Coons?
The host of a children's TV show. I knew this, although he was before my time.

(13) What car dealer was the "Home of the Backward K?"
Nickey Chevrolet. (Sing along with me now: Nickey, Nickey, Nickey Chevrolet.)

(14) Name the announcer of TV bowling at Faetz-Niesen.
Whispering Joe Wilson. I recognize the name, but I didn't know this one at all.

(15) What was a Green Hornet?
A streetcar.

(16) Where were the Stock Yards located?

Halsted, near 43rd. This is one I marked wrong on my score sheet because I was a couple blocks off.

(17) What type of store was Morris B. Sachs?
A clothing store.

(18) When he wasn't doing Riverview commercials, what was Two-Ton Baker's profession?
Band leader. I got this one wrong, too.

(19) What Catholic archbishop has a suburb named after him?
The town of Mundelein is named for George Cardinal Mundelein.

(20) What business had the phone number MOhawk 4-4100?
CET for Television. Are you singing along with me? I didn't go to amusement parks but I watched a lot of TV as a kid.

(21) Identify one Chicago street that was part of U.S. Route 66.
Ogden, Adams, or Jackson. I'm embarrassed to say I missed this one.

(22) Name the sponsor of TV wrestling who was killed by an unhappy customer.
Sid Forhman. I'm not embarrassed to have missed this one.

(23) What was the last home stadium of the Chicago Cardinals?
(Updated 2/2/09) This is a trick question. Although Chicagoans of a certain age remember the Cardinals playing at Comiskey Park, an article in the Sports section of the January 25, 2009 Chicago Tribune confirmed that, in their very last season in Chicago, the Cards played four games at Soldier Field. They also played two games that year in Minnesota.

(24) Name one locally-brewed Chicago beer. (Recent brew-pubs do not count!)
Old Chicago, Meister Brau, Tavern Pale, Drewrys, Edelweiss, etc. I had a brain cramp on this and couldn't remember any of these.

(25) Before Circle, where was the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois?
Navy Pier. These days you're not supposed to say "Circle" either; you're supposed to say the University of Illinois at Chicago.

(26) Where did the Beatles perform on their first trip to Chicago?
Comiskey Park.

(27) Which defunct grocery chain gave S & H Green Stamps?
National. I remember the Green Stamp books. My mother collected.

(28) Name the boxing champ who gave his name to a local milk company.
Joe Louis. Another one I got wrong.

(29) Where was the Army Induction Center located?
Van Buren and Des Plaines Streets. Didn't know this one either.

(30) How many inches of snow fell in the January 1967 blizzard?

27. That's the number I remembered too, but I've also seen 23.1 bandied about. We're celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1967 blizzard this weekend. If "celebrating" is an appropriate word. I was just a kid and remember it fondly -- but I doubt I'd have the same attitude today.

(31) Who wore an Uncle Sam suit, and was always a losing candidate for public office?
Lar "America First" Daly. Regular visitors should have gotten this one right.

(32) What public building was often called simply "Eleventh and State?"
Police Headquarters.

(33) Where did Andy the Clown hang out?
Comiskey Park. You know, I'm wondering if whoever came up with this quiz was from the South Side -- with the Riverview questions just there to throw people off the trail. Andy's cry: "Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooo White Sox!"

(34) Name the TV show that was the source of the local catch-phrase: "Right Here, Harv."
Bozo's Circus. I watched this show for years. I just don't remember this as a catch-phrase that people used.

(35) Who were the Lincoln Park Pirates?
Lincoln Towing. They were the subject of the Steve Goodman song, "Lincoln Park Pirates" which, I believe, was popular in places besides Chicago as well. Are you singing along with me yet?

The streetlamps are on in Chicago tonight/ And lovers are gazin' at stars/ The stores are all closin' and Daley is dozin' and the fat man is counting the cars/ And there's more cars than places to put 'em, he says/ But I got room for 'em all....

Not singing along? Maybe it's my voice. I hope Simon doesn't hear me.

And, yes, I know that's not the right album cover. But it was the best picture I could scrounge.

(36) What was the old name of the Brown Line 'L?
The Ravenswood.

(37) Where was Skip's located?
North Avenue near First Avenue. Another one on which I had no clue either.

(38) What do the call letters of Channel 11 (WTTW) stand for?
Window To The World.

(39) Where was Skid Row?
Madison Street, from Clinton to Halsted. I'd say this is too narrow a location, although certainly accurate.

(40) Name two Illinois governors who served time in prison.
Otto Kerner, Jr. and Dan Walker.

How did you do?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The barber is getting along in years....

This isn't the barber shop I go to, but it gives you the general idea.

I go to an old-fashioned barber -- not a stylist. There's a beauty shop next door. The ladies are welcome over there, please. A mom can bring junior in, and she's welcome to stay while he gets his haircut... but she can't also get a trim... and we hope she doesn't poke around the magazines in the stack.

There's nothing too wild there, mind you, just some back issues of Esquire or some of the newer "lads' mags." Nothing really explicit... but we don't want the boy's mom seeing this stuff. It would make us -- the barbers, the other customers -- uncomfortable. With luck, these are buried beneath the sports magazines when a kid's mom sits next to the stack.

When I go in with one of the boys I read only the newspapers.

I've been going to this same barber now for some years.

He used to be so good: He'd thin out the hair in places where it was thick, and he'd cut out all the gray ones.

But I'm afraid he's slipping: He must be thinning too much on top because my scalp is all too visible. And I think he's only cutting out the dark hairs now because everything that's left is gray.

Still, I think I'll keep going to the same barber. I'm used to him. He's used to me. And besides, who am I to hurt his business as he's getting so obviously along in years?

A dollar spent at Walgreens -- and how we all come from somewhere

I found this at Walgreens Tuesday night and since it cost only a dollar I bought it. Two Fred Allen programs from the 1948 season, toward the end of his radio career.

I had a dentist's appointment yesterday, so I drove to work. That way, I could also listen to the programs. Long Suffering Spouse is a tolerant woman -- she puts up with many of my eccentricities -- but she can't stand to be in the same house with me when I listen to old time radio programs.

Fred Allen died in 1956 at the age of 61; he didn't have the celebrated old age that George Burns or Jack Benny did. Allen's reputation also suffered because his programs don't age well. The ones I listened to yesterday, for example, were chock full of topical references -- I caught most of them -- but not all. And my children would be unlikely to catch any. So many Jack Benny sketches, on the other hand, are timeless -- funny then, funny now -- because they dealt with recognizable people in situations, not current events. (In fairness, I should add that my children do not necessarily agree with my assessment that Jack Benny is still funny. That's because they're stubborn. And they're siding with their mother.)

The Jack Benny - Fred Allen feud is still funny today, 70 years after it started. Some of the scripts are in Allen's book, Treadmill to Oblivion, which I read as a kid. Somewhere along the line my parents disposed of it. I'd love to have it today.

And Allen's parody of game shows, when guest star Jack Benny is named "King for a Day" remains fall down, pound on the floor funny.

Listening to the Fred Allen programs yesterday reminded me that Allen still has an heir enjoying national fame.

David Letterman's feuds with his various networks are right out of the Fred Allen playbook.

And Letterman often comes across as an unhappy man, no matter how successful he has become, or how famous. In the judgment of his contemporaries, Allen also seemed happiest when he was miserable.

Letterman has always acknowledged his debt to Johnny Carson -- who made a career out of doing Jack Benny's doubletake. And Carson and Letterman both have acknowledged their debt to Benny. Benny, in turn, said he borrowed extensively from Frank Fay.

Letterman would probably acknowledge his debt to Fred Allen too, but most people wouldn't know who he was talking about.

But we all come from somewhere.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Airline doesn't permit free range children -- and that's a problem?

Meet the Kulesza family: Julie, Gerry and three year old Elly.

They got on an airplane in Florida 10 days ago -- on Sunday, January 14 -- expecting to fly to their home in Boston.

Before any plane can take off, all passengers must be seated in their own seats with seat belts fastened. But Elly didn't want to sit in her seat. According to the AP story reported in this morning's Chicago Tribune, Elly "was climbing under the seat and hitting the parents and wouldn't get in her seat." An ABC News story reports that Elly had behaved well on the flight to Florida -- but when she got on the airplane to go home Elly "began to cry uncontrollably... throwing a temper tantrum on the floor."

The parents couldn't (or wouldn't) get the child under control and eventually, the plane already having been delayed 15 minutes by the hysterical toddler, the crew decided to remove the family.

They got kicked off the plane.

Now any parent can recall a time when his or her child has misbehaved in public. We can all sympathize with the parents, who surely must be mortified at their daughter's terrible behavior -- oh, wait, never mind.

This story is in the news today because the parents are angry. At the airline! Even though AirTran Airways flew the family home the next day. Even though they reimbursed the family for the cost of the tickets they bought on the flight they didn't take because of Elly's behavior. Even though they were even offered free round trip tickets to anywhere AirTran flies.

No! The airline is at fault because, quoting Julie Kluesza in the AP story, "We weren't given an opportunity to hold her, console her or anything."

In unrelated news, Democrat Sally Lieber of San Francisco, a California legislator recently proposed a law in that State that would outlaw the spanking of any child "three years old or younger and carry a possible penalty of jail time or a 1,000-dollar fine." The AFP story reported January 19 on Yahoo! News quotes the sponsor of the proposed legislation as saying the law would be written to ban "any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, punching, any of that."

Or are these stories unrelated?

The Kuleszas could not have had Rep. Lieber's anti-spanking legislation in mind on January 14 as they let their child block the aisle in the airplane, waiting for her tantrum to blow over. But one can not help but speculate that the child was not brought under control because little, if any, effort was made to bring her under control. (In my view, pleas like, "Now Elly, Elly, this isn't the right way to behave, dear..." do not count as a legitimate effort.)

Now not even I would punch a three year old child. (Do I really have to offer that disclaimer?) But wouldn't you think Mom or Dad would have hoisted the child by scruff of her neck, plopped her in her seat and gotten in her face and told her to behave herself? (I might assured her that it was a very long walk from Florida to Boston, but I'm an old grouch.)

The Kuleszas said that unlike the AirTran crew, the passengers on the flight were sympathetic to their situation.

The Kulesza say that their fellow passengers seemed sympathetic. From the ABC News story:
"I jokingly turned around and asked the three gentlemen behind me, 'Aren't you glad you got these seats?" Julie said. "Another passenger offered up a lollipop to try and calm her down."
I can only imagine what kind of medication had been spread on the lollipop before it was tendered.

And it's possible that the Kuleszas might have gotten some dirty looks or sniffs or harrumphs from their fellow passengers if they had acted like parents and made their child behave. I might have cheered and cringed at the same time: No one would want to have to discipline their child in public like that and -- at that time -- before the Kuleszas made their media rounds, I would have felt sorry for them.

But is that what parenting has come to these days? Spanking is a crime and demanding that you control your child offensive? Am I that far out of touch already?

I'll hang up and wait for your answers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Looking at the books and what's left over when you've gone

There were four of us when we set up shop here at this Undisclosed Location, four solo practitioners. I've mentioned here, I know, that we're down to three. But I didn't write about how it happened, or when, I've just mentioned it in passing.

The man who died was our ringleader, the one who herded us into this move -- he didn't force us, mind you, because we had to go somewhere -- and we -- certainly I -- wanted as many of us to stay together as possible. But if the four of us who came here were equals, this man was primus inter pares, "first among equals," an appellation he would have particularly appreciated. He would quiz me on my (increasingly weak) Latin vocabulary from time to time. I usually failed the tests -- but passed often enough that he kept posing new ones.

My association with this man was relatively brief, only a few years. He taught part-time for decades at the law school I attended, since before the time I was a student there -- but I never took his class. I was hopeful though that we'd be able to use that law school connection to put together something here -- get in on the ground floor of the providing end of MCLE after it was imposed on us in Illinois.

(MCLE stands for "Minimum Continuing Legal Education," if you're talking to the Supreme Court -- "Mandatory Continuing Legal Education if you're talking to anyone else.)

And this man was a tax lawyer, not a litigator. He had a healthy roster of clients and he turned away a lot litigation work, or farmed it out. And I'm a litigator. Can you say "synergy?"

So I had hopes. And then he died. So I was disappointed professionally as well as saddened personally.

I can't say I knew the man well. I knew he'd battled some inner demons. I knew he'd never recovered from a bitter divorce. I knew he was estranged from his children. But I didn't know the details. Things like these are usually revealed in the fullness of time.

But not this time.

Since June we've been watching his operation wind down. Another lawyer was named executor of his estate. She'd maintained relationships with my colleague's ex-wife and children; she got them all involved in the process of winding down his business. This is one reason, however, why things have moved so slowly. When my parents died I got to know them a little better, I suppose, in looking through their stuff. But my colleague's daughters weren't just going through their father's things. They were literally getting reacquainted with their father. And they are so young. One is a college student, the other had just graduated from high school when her father died.

So the process has been slow. Healthy, I think, but slow.

In due course active files were reassigned to new counsel. Closed files have been called back from the warehouse, box after box, and returned to the clients whenever they could be found.

And now there are 15 or 16 bankers' boxes outside my office door, boxes of other things that my colleague had seen fit to store.

Books. The boxes are full of books. History books, some stuff on tax law, and a lot of religious books. Works on theology. Books my colleague couldn't continue to keep in his home when he moved to smaller quarters after his divorce -- but stuff he couldn't part with either.

His ex-wife took what she wanted; his daughters have done the same. We've been invited to take what we want. The family doesn't want to sell the books or throw them out. They want good homes for these books; they believe that's what my colleague would have wanted. Because of the subject matter, I've asked my pastor if his order would be interested (he believes they will be). And I am sure it will work out for the books; they won't be discarded. They will be placed.

But -- are these books all that's left over now that my colleague is gone? He was not a big part of his daughters' lives -- for whatever reason. Multiple reasons, no doubt.

This was what I thought about this morning, when I dropped Younger Daughter off at school and headed down here for another busy (read: largely non-blogging) day. It's not the things we leave behind that matter at all; it's the people we've shaped.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Da Bears -- and how The Curmudgeon lost a nickel yesterday

Oldest Son would rate a seat at this table.

He may be the most fanatic Bear fan around. And he likes to gamble. I've mentioned how I recently had to deposit a check for him when he closed out his on line poker account.

It's not that I have anything against gambling. If you want to throw your money away in a casino, I figure it's your business. If the casino pays taxes to a jurisdiction in which I live, so much the better.

I don't gamble much because I'm not good at it. I am rational enough to believe that no one is really "good" at gambling: The house wins in the end.

But Oldest Son sees an element of skill in poker -- and in betting on sporting events.

I was having a conversation with him last week, before the game. Our conversations take place on line, via AIM. I type complete sentences and attempt to use proper grammar and spelling. All of my children find this hilarious.

Anyway, he favored me with his prediction for yesterday's game: Bears by at least 10.

Fine, I typed back, I'll take the Saints and 11. Here, I thought, was a chance to show the boy up: Gamble with your heart, be a Superfan, I thought. Maybe I can teach him a lesson.

My jumping at his exuberant prediction did catch Oldest Son a little by surprise: He waffled just a bit -- the Bears were favored by no more than three on any line -- but ultimately gave me the Saints and 9.5.

Then the question was the stake.

Because I am ordinarily an abject failure as a gambler, I have learned that, when I take the plunge, it must be for low stakes. I usually go for a penny.

That's not gambling jargon. That's a coin with Lincoln on it.

But -- in this instance -- where I had trapped Oldest Son into an irrational bet, I went all out. I went up to a nickel.

Again, we are not talking gambling jargon of any sort. This refers to a coin bearing Jefferson's image..

I am quite certain that Oldest Son realized, by my venturing into such high stakes territory, just how serious I was.

And, of course, I lost.

He called to gloat within a few minutes of the end of the game, too. My nickel is in the mail today.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Super Bowl XLI and the complications of young love

Bear down, Chicago Bears,
make every play clear the way to victory;

Bear down, Chicago Bears,
put up a fight with a might so fearlessly.

We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation
with your T-formation.

Bear down, Chicago Bears,
and let them know why you're wearing the crown.

You're the pride and joy of Illinois,
Chicago Bears, bear down.

We may have been singing the familiar Al Hoffman lyric (above) earlier this evening. At one point in his stubborn young life, Oldest Son insisted that I had made up this song; he didn't believe it was real. That was a long time ago....

Right now, we're pretty happy here... even though I lost a nickel on the game.

But, you know, life just got more complicated for Older Daughter. I mean, she lives in Indianapolis. Her boyfriend is a huge Colts fan. And she will be forced to choose.

No, it won't be quite as public as it was for Brady Quinn's sister in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl... but it will be difficult for Older Daughter nonetheless. Oldest Son has already started the email duel with Older Daughter's boyfriend.

Let the hype begin.

From the Mailbag: Fill 'er up!

OK, this wasn't actually sent to me as The Curmudgeon, but I did get it in an email... and I think these images are both remarkable and worth sharing.

See if you agree.

It is amazing that this can be done. It is even more amazing that -- on some level -- this is a matter of routine.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lynn Johnston's just teasing us -- isn't she?

Now that Liz has dumped Paul the two-timing cop, she's just going to settle for Anthony. On the double rebound, no less.

Or does Warren really have a chance?

Do we dare hope?

The Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle

A true blast from the past. I have the record -- in all its actual vinyl, 33⅓ RPM glory -- at home in the basement. If the Bears actually win Sunday, maybe they'll reissue it on CD. Or this video on DVD.

Watch this now. Dancing is optional, especially if you're at work.

How to argue a motion -- Part One

No, this is not my picture. But I was looking for something
authoritative here.
And this is the second most famous
lawyer ever to come out of Illinois.
(The most famous
lawyer to come out of Illinois has his picture on the $5 bill.)
Do you know who this second most famous Illinois lawyer is?
Answer below.

And now our little seminar, presented as an annotated colloquy:
The young lawyer had prepared an excellent brief in support of the pending motion and the senior partners have decided the young lawyer was "ready" to appear in court and argue the motion alone. "Flying solo," the partners called it. Also, one had a lunch appointment with a client and the other had a 1:00 pm tee time. The golfing partner had signed the brief, so the firm was "covered" with the client.

The magic moment arrived: The young lawyer stepped up to the bench, and began, "Good afternoon, Your Honor."

The young lawyer may have had a riveting 10 minute argument carefully scripted. But if the judge interrupts there is only one thing to do: Shut up.

The learned judge can surely argue your case better than you, the young lawyer. At least so far as the learned judge is concerned -- and that's the most important thing right now, isn't it? If the judge wants to talk, let him talk.

The judge (who may have a tee time too, you know) cuts off the argument at "Good afternoon," and turns to opposing counsel.

"Counsel, your opponent cites five Illinois Supreme Court cases in his brief that appear to be right on point. What do you say to this?"

"Well, your honor, my young friend here has left out the Smith case which surely is the leading case on this issue. There must be hundreds of cases that follow it. Smith states the rule -- and counsel has merely cited the exceptions to the rule."
It is bad form at this point to turn red in the face and jump up and down and say that your learned opponent is making Smith and its progeny up out of whole cloth. Even though you are certain that this is so. Even if it is so. Shouting "liar, liar, pants on fire!" is almost a sure method of pushing the court into following "Smith."

If the attorney "citing" Smith has enough gray hair, the court will be inclined to follow Smith anyway. Right down the primrose path.

Do not condemn the learned judge. There is a reason why we call it the practice of law: We never know it all. But there is reason to believe that the older lawyer should know more than the younger one.

I remember once asking a clerk to research an issue. I knew a starting point and I gave the clerk the case citation. But I knew there had been changes in the law and I couldn't remember what the current case was. If I'd remembered that I wouldn't have needed the clerk's help.

What I received in return, however, was a very scholarly memo tracing of the legal principle in the case I'd provided, all the way back to the Statutes of Henry II.

Or darn near.

What I didn't get was the case that had since abandoned the point of law in the case I'd provided to the clerk -- the case that I dimly recollected to be out there, lurking in the legal shadows.

I suspect that everyone who has been around long enough has at least one story like this. The clerk, a law student, had taken an academic -- law school -- approach to the question when I wanted a lawyer's approach: I want a case that will impress the judge. What will impress the judge is a case that provides the court with reassurance that he or she will not be reveresed if my argument is accepted. Preferably a case decided in the last five minutes, so that it is unlikely that the Appellate Court has not yet changed its mind.

What will not impress the judge is a learned treatise tracing the principle of law back to when case diverged from assumpsit. Indeed the judge may be angry with the lawyer for dredging up traumatic law school memories. And, besides, there are often page limits to consider.

If you've read anything in this blog you will have arrived at the conclusion that I can be a trifle, uh, long-winded. It is an occupational hazard. Mary Anne, of A Place I call Home, is running a little contest this week, looking for "dental horror stories". She's asked for entries of 250 words or less. Lawyers can't say "good morning" in less than 250 words.

Well, maybe I just did -- but you understand the point.

But back to our annotated colloquy: How do we get the judge to realize that the Smith case is a fabrication, whole and entire? We've eliminated "liar, liar, pants on fire" as an appropriate rejoinder. So I would suggest this instead:
"Your Honor, I must admit that I am unfamiliar with this Smith case. I did not come across Smith in my resarch on this motion, or indeed any reference to Smith. It isn't mentioned in any of the five cases I've cited and I would have thought that the court would have acknowledged a rule if it was carving out an exception. Perhaps counsel could give me the citation so that I can examine the case...."
Two things here: First, never ask opposing counsel anything directly. That's not being rude to counsel, it is proper etiquette in court. Second, our young lawyer is taking advantage of youth and inexperience, turning the judge into a mentor.

And, of course, the young lawyer has in fact said "liar, liar, pants on fire" -- but not in a way that embarrasses the court.

This is particularly important if the learned judge plays golf or plays cards with your opponent.
So the judge looks to the young lawyer's opponent and says, "What is the citation to Smith again? I can't remember myself."
A lifeline is being extended here. The learned judge may now suspect that counsel is imagining Smith and he or she is giving counsel a chance to say that he can't remember the citation either. With luck, the court will now take the motion under advisement, and in due course issue an order granting the young lawyer's motion.

Sometimes, wary of this trap, unwilling to be called out on a Smith or Jones case that does not and never has existed, counsel will instead say, "So my young friend here has cited five cases. But there are lots of cases that say the opposite."

No Smith corner in which to be painted.

But the response is still the same: Play on the court's paternal or maternal feelings toward you, the young lawyer, and ask the court to ask counsel for any of those cases. Any of them. So that you can read and grow and learn.

And thereby call out the old fogey just the same.

But one final bit of advice: Don't gloat. Someday, you'll have the gray hair.


Quiz Answer: Clarance Darrow. But you all knew that, didn't you?

Triple dog dared

Barb, of Skittles' Place, posted an underwear quiz on her blog yesterday... and I declined to participate. But I left a comment saying so.

That was a mistake.

Barb thereafter left a comment over here as follows: "I TRIPLE DOG DARE you to do that underwear quiz AND post it on your blog!"

Well, as everyone knows, at least those who know the movie from which the above photograph is taken, the triple dog dare is not something that can be taken lightly. Still, it was just in a comment here, and maybe not all the kids on the playground heard it... but no! When I went over to Skittles' Place this morning, I found this post at the top of her page.

Now all the kids on the playground know and honor is truly at stake.

On the other hand, look what happened to poor Flick when he accepted his challenge. I don't want to wind up like him.

So I have tried to find a middle ground and, after pulling out tufts of hair I can ill afford to lose, I think I have....

Barb, I took the test. Honest, I did. And I've posted the quiz here, via a link back to you.

The bell's ringing, Barb, we have to get back to class!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

From the mailbag

Not too long ago, I installed an email link in the Sidebar. All the cool kids seemed to have one, I noticed, so I wanted one too.

But, what to do with it? Well, there are weak jokes that I can make above the link which I'll change from time to time. The book contract remark is very weak; it'll be gone soon enough.

I know what I can't do with the mailbox: I will not ever solicit or respond to inquiries made specific legal services. Not that anyone reading this blog would do so silly a thing. I'm anonymous. I couldn't possibly help you, even if you were from Chicago where I live and practice. And my license ends at the borders of the State of Illinois.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'll share some of the things I get from time to time. If there's an idea or a topic you'd like me to discuss, I'm open to suggestion. I make no promises, warranties or guarantees of any kind, either to respond or about the responses I may make. All letters to The Curmudgeon are mine to do with as I please; if I do run with an idea you give me I will be pleased to provide attribution (unless, of course, you request otherwise).

Back in college, when we had a hole on a page and it was the wee small hours of the morning and the paper had to be at the printer by dawn in order to get distributed, sometimes we'd make up a letter to the editor. Or two. We were thouroughly versed in Monty Python. Sometimes one imaginary letter to the editor would respond to the one preceding -- a neat trick if both hadn't been made up entirely. I'm not promising not to make up letters if it suits me. Although I'm pretty lazy... and besides, I have great material to work with -- like this:

Royal Circus Casino - $777 Welcome Bonus !

Join now one of the best online casinos in the world :
* Over 45 advanced games .
* Huge Jackpots .
* Ongoing Comps .
* 24/7 Customer Support .
* Quick Download.
I feel very special to receive an invitation like this. Although I'd rather they just sent me the $777. Perhaps if I installed Paypal.... And then there was this email:

Dear Sir,

Have a nice day

MainMold is a manufacturer , supplying products for plastic flat sheets that have many colors and sizes .

Material:ABS , PS , PP, H.D.P.E. PVC. PET

Dimension: 1250mm*650mm





We welcome your inquiries and it's our honor to provide quotations. Kindly send your models and we will reply ASAP.

Best regards,

Avy Chen

MainMold Technology Co., Ltd.

No.1 , Lane 476, HuaCheng Rd,

Sinjhuang City 242, Taipei County,


Clearly this blog is starting to have a global reach -- and if I can ever think of a use for flat plastic sheets in my life, I now know exactly where to go. And if you order your flat plastic sheets there, be sure to mention my name; maybe I'll get a commission.

But my current favorite email has to be this one:
In confidence / Marcel

Hello Dear,

I am Mr Marcel Kuma from
sierra leone but residing in Ivory Coast in Africa. It is my desire to contact you on honesty and sincerity to assist me in transferring the sum of $8,000,000(Eight Million United States Dollars) inherited from my father late Mr. Kuma to your country for investment. I am motivated in contacting you and hope to gradually build trust, relationship and confidence in you as I get to know you better.

So please I want to know if you will be of assistance but first I want to get to know you better. I am willing to offer you $1,600,000(One Million Six Hundred Thousand
United States Dollars) for your effort input after the successful transfer of this money and investment. Indicate your interest towards assisting me by sending your phone # and address so that I can communicate with you at any time. I will be waiting for your response.

Marcel will continue to wait a long time. Poor man.

However, what a nice salutation -- "Hello Dear." If I were to respond, I suppose I should have to start my letter, "Hello Snookums." I don't know how we could fail to "build trust, relationship and confidence" if we start speaking to one another like this.

At least this letter is shorter than most of them.

Excuse me, I have to clean up a bit after the party

Ah, but wasn't it grand while it lasted?

While I'm emptying the ashtrays, sing amongst yourselves:

The Party's Over (from the 1956 musical Bells Are Ringing)
music by Jule Styne & lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden

The Party's Over, it's time to call it a day.
They've burst your pretty balloon and taken the moon away.

It's time to wind up the masquerade.
Just make your mind up the piper must be paid.

The Party's Over. The candles ficker and dim.
You danced and dreamed through the night,
it seemed to be right just being with him.

Now you must wake up, all dreams must end.
Take off your make up, The Party's Over.
It's all over, my friend.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Problem solving 101

From this morning's Quick Takes column in the Chicago Sun-Times:
The British secretary of state for education has responded to failures of British schools to meet standards in regular national curriculum tests of schoolchildren by announcing that regular national curriculum tests of schoolchildren will be discontinued.
That's what we need in our public servants! See a problem -- and sweep it right under the rug devise a solution.

Thank you, thank you -- why is the orchestra playing so loud already?

And I don't even have one of those music widgets on this thing!

It's probably a good thing the music is so loud, because otherwise I'd give you a speech like Sally Field did at the Oscars.

Although I tend to remember Ms. Field as Sister Bertrille:

Today seems to have a "nun theme" here at Second Effort (for another example, see updated post below). Maybe it's because every time I see "Bestest Blog" I think of what Sr. Lucilla would have said about the word "bestest." It would not have been pretty, folks; you may trust me on this.

In the meantime, my Google ads are really going to be different for a couple of days, aren't they?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The sign is still there

As of a few minutes ago, the big "Go Bears/" sign is still up outside the Claretian Publications Building on West Monroe. I wasn't sure it would be.

I mean, it was one thing when the Bears were playing the Seahawks. But on Sunday -- it's the Saints.

Update -- January 17

A new visitor, "The Awkward Epiphany," left this comment: "Do you think the Saints have a monopoly on the spirits of all past saints?"

Well... no. It may have been a weak attempt at humor, but I'm not the only one having some fun with this.

Sneed's column, in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times quotes our own "pigskin prognosticator extraordinaire," Sr. Jean Kenny (a Sister of Providence if you keep track of these sorts of things) as predicting:

"Blustery Bears sideline Saints (even on a Sunday) 27-24."

Now, if Sr. Jean can make this little joke, so can I.

Twice now.