Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sticky Post -- updated

Second Effort welcomes BlogHer attendees to Chicago.

And the teaser question of the week: Did you know that the Empress Bee has opened another blog? Stop by and say hello.

Something else I don't understand -- this time it's about who's got a bigger PR. Doesn't that sound wrong somehow?

My Scottish blogfriend Chris, in his Blog-Op incarnation, is promoting a contest by the proprietor of Binary Moon, Mr. Ben Gillbanks. Mr. Gillbanks, says Mr. Lodge, is giving away free PR7 links.

Now regulars here know that I don't really understand this "PR" business. But I am all in favor of "free."

So, naturally, I looked.

Here's what Mr. Gillbanks proposes to give away:
  1. All entrants will get a link in a round-up post of the entrants. This will appear on the homepage for at least a couple of days.
  2. All the winners will receive links in my blog roll/ link list/ whatever you want to call it. I will have at least 3 top winners, however I may (hopefully will) add more than 3 links. Text-Links on Binary Moon currently cost $150 a month, and these links will be available indefinitely.
  3. The top prize will receive all of the above plus a review of their website on Binary Moon. Reviews currently cost $200 on ReviewMe, and the review will be permanently available.
So... trying to understand all this... if this brings in more readers, that would be a good thing, right? Unfortunately, I see nothing in these materials about new readers being obliged to stay. Or return. Or leave comments. And we haven't even mentioned book deals yet.

Nevertheless, I undertook to browse through Mr. Gillbank's archives because that is what is required to enter the contest. I was looking for something that might explain this "PR" business -- and I did. Here is a link to Mr. Gillbank's post of October 3, 2006 wherein he reports on the pending conclusion of Google's latest page rank update.

PR = Page Rank? A ha! A glimmer of understanding!

And this may be timely, too, since RT noted in a recent Blog Drive-By that a new Google page rank update is or will shortly be underway. (RT's drive-by linked to this post on Savvy Affiliate. This RT post may also be helpful....)

But back to Mr. Gillbanks. In the October 3, 2006 post, Mr. Gillbanks linked to future page rank tool. I thought I'd successfully copied the code for this widget, but the result looked awful. So this has been edited out. The link will take you to where the widget is anyway.

Now I don't know if this widget can truly predict the results of the pending update. I do know that I was a PR4 and the widget says I'll be a PR4. So I haven't lost ground. But in relation to Mr. Gillbanks, I apparently have PR envy.

Is there such a thing as too connected? Study reveals that people check email in the strangest places

Lyndon B. Johnson had telephones everywhere and he used them constantly -- even in the bathroom.

This was once considered rather gauche.

Today, however, it might be considered merely efficient. At least, that's my take on it after reading Howard Wolinsky's story in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times.

Wolinsky reports on a survey by Opinion Research Corp. for AOL (although I couldn't find anything about the survey on AOL this morning) which shows, among other things, that 47% of survey respondents in Chicago looked at their email while in the bathroom or restroom.

Twelve per cent of the persons surveyed nationwide confessed to peeking at their email while at church -- 22% of Atlanta churchgoers with mobile email systems check out their email during services while only 9% of Chicagoans do. There are several conclusions one might draw from this. Perhaps Chicagoans are more devout than residents of Atlanta. Or maybe Atlanta residents are just more tech-savvy than Chicago residents. But I suspect that the difference may be explained entirely if church services are longer in the Bible Belt.

I remember reading Studs Lonigan many years ago and how he had impure thoughts while attending Mass. Now, if you have an iPhone -- such as our old blogfriend Dr. A just acquired -- you could have impure illustrations to go along with the impure thoughts.

Not, I hasten to add, suggesting anything whatsoever about Dr. A! Or his thoughts.

And maybe -- if the sermon is boring but you're in a religious mood -- you could explore the 10 Commandments for Driving recently issued by the Vatican....

I don't have a phone that can check email. I have a cellphone, but it's a bit worn these days. The keypad no longer dials a 0 or an 8, at least not reliably. But even if I did have such a phone, I don't think I'd be tempted to use it: Long Suffering Spouse would probably kill me there and then. Besides, the widows of Nigerian generals or that very friendly fellow from Sierra Leone (he started out his spam email to me with "Hello Dear") can wait....

Although maybe I could pray that this latest one was for real....

But, no, the age of miracles is passed.

Unscientific survey: What's the strangest place where you've checked your email?

Illustration taken from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Monday, July 30, 2007

New "etiquette tips" for the workplace -- is this for real?

I have been puzzling this morning over an article by Penelope Trunk on Yahoo! entitled "Ten New Etiquette Tips for the Workplace." I never feel more like a dinosaur -- or a troglodyte -- than when I read articles like this.

The author states that the "new workplace etiquette for the new millennium" is all about "transparency and authenticity" because today's young workers, "who grew up online[,] don't know how to operate any other way except transparently."

Well, transparency seems reasonable in most circumstances. But these "new rules"... I'm baffled by several of these.

For example, new rule no. 2, "Don't ask for time off, just take it." Are you crazy? I'm self-employed now -- but I have worked for others in the past and I find it hard to believe that an employee doing this more than once would long remain employed.

Unless nobody knew you were gone. I could see cutting out early if you were sure could get away with it. But the author does not advocate sneaking out the back door when no one's looking. No, she says that an employee should make sure his or her work is up to date and then advise the manager that he or she is heading off for some frolic. In an email. Ms. Trunk concedes that, "This will seem discourteous to older people, who expect you to ask rather than tell."

It sure seems discourteous to me....

Or try rule no. 3: "Keep your headphones on at work." Yes, nothing says 'I'm a team player' like keeping your iPod earbuds in all day long....

Then there's rule no. 5: "Invite your CEO to be a friend on Facebook." I would think that even admitting that you have a Facebook page might brand you as frivolous and unprofessional. Ms. Trunk says that "Facebook is for everyone now." I thought you had to have a school email address to get a Facebook account. At least, that's what my kids keep telling me.

Rule no. 9 is "Call people on the weekend for work." I may come into the office on a weekend and I almost always take work home. But I don't want to talk about work on the weekend. It's only because I've frittered away so much time during the week that I have work to do on the weekend, right? Or -- maybe, someday -- I'd work on the weekend getting organized for the week ahead. Either way, I don't want to talk to you. And I absolutely do not want you calling me at home -- and, unless the office was on fire or something along those lines, I wouldn't be calling you at home either.

I understand rule no. 8 ("Don't blog under a pseudonym") even if I violate it here. But this isn't a business blog. And I like rule no. 10, "Be nice like your job depends on it." I am, however, certain that this is not something new -- even though it's never caught on well enough.

Are these "new rules" really catching on in the workplace? Is it really like this out there in the world?

Friday, July 27, 2007

I just read that the average office worker wastes 1.7 hours a day -- much of it wandering around the Internet

So thank you for sharing some of your employer's time with me. (You think I'm exaggerating? Click here to read about the survey results. But come right back.)

And to further assist you in your frittering away this Friday, I commend to you an essay I "Stumbled" across entitled, The Unspoken Dialogue Between Men and Women.

An excerpt:
[A] thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . .let's see... February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.
I did a little additional wandering around the site where I found this essay and I also found this classic Dr. Suess meets Star Trek TNG parody. This must be 10 years old at least, but it's still quite funny.

Curse you, David Spice-Beckham!

Long Suffering Spouse picked me up from the train last night.

The five-year old boy who lives two houses down was playing in front of his house as we pulled in the driveway. He and his siblings often play in front of their house, just like my kids used to play in front of ours when they were younger.

I never thought much about it until we moved from our old house and a neighbor lamented, "We're losing our crimestoppers." He figured our very visible kids deterred opportunistic thieves from hitting houses on our block... even though most of them were empty during the day. That made sense to me, and I've come to see the kids down the block in the same light.

And the five-year old is quite friendly. He knows Long Suffering Spouse as a teacher in his school and he always says hello. He likes to show us whatever he's doing at the moment.

When the 17-year cicadas were emerging, he showed Long Suffering Spouse how he was helping to "free" the nymphs from their shells. (Long Suffering Spouse persuaded him that he should let them do it on their own.) And a couple of weeks ago he rode his bike down the street to our driveway so we could see that he'd outgrown his training wheels.

But last night... last night he was kicking a round, mostly white ball around his lawn. Seeing us, he kicked the ball toward our house -- incrementally, you understand -- something I understand that foreigners might call "dribbling" even though he wasn't bouncing the ball at all!

My blood ran cold. I could see that the child had no present intention of picking the ball up with his hands, or bouncing it, or hitting it with a bat, or any of the acceptable behaviors one might adopt in the presence of a ball.

I tried to keep my cool. Tolerance! I thought to myself. I reminded myself that my UK blogfriends wouldn't find this aberrant behavior abhorrent. They might even find such a display -- *shudder* -- normal.

Long Suffering Spouse said hello to the boy. Fighting back the queasy feeling, I mumbled a greeting and pushed past my wife into our house.

Safe in my own home, I shouted to the heavens, "Curse you, David Spice-Beckham!"

The windows were closed. I don't think the boy heard.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another quick question about time

I'm leaving momentarily for court. My hearing is the last on the judge's call today -- at 9:00am. His first case was called at 7:00.

I'm guessing he'd be considered a "morning person."


I am not.

I'm probably a natural second shifter, conditioned by long and sometimes bitter experience to be reasonably alert, now, by mid-morning.

What are you? A morning person? A night owl? Something in between?

And is one of these types more predominant in the Blogosphere?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Overnight sensation? Pending Popadics nuptials spur Sitemeter surge

Now I know I'm not supposed to do this... but I do still check from time to time during the course of the day to see how the ol' Sitemeter is clicking along.

Today I was shocked to see this:

What was responsible for this? Had I suddenly "gone viral" on something?

(I believe that's now supposed to be a good thing, right?)

So I started looking at the "referrals" to see what was driving people here. One was from someone looking for the "Closest Costco to Cooperstown N.Y." Which, as regular readers know, is something about which I blog all the time....

But most -- nearly all -- of today's hits came from Google searches that directed them to either this January 2, 2007 post or this January 31, 2007 post -- both of which concerned Chrissy Popadics, the Boise State cheerleader, whose boyfriend, Ian Johnson, proposed to her, live on national TV, minutes after scoring the winning points in a monumental upset of heavily-favored Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

I thought my initial post on the subject was pretty good -- but surely dated by now.

But then I looked to see what the hot searches were today on Google. Look what I found out:

Why was Chrissy Popadics such a hot search all of a sudden?

Knowing full well that my blog did not have the answer, I started noodling elsewhere around the Internet. Here's the deal: Chrissy and Ian are getting married this Saturday.

What should be the happy ending to a feel-good story has been somewhat tainted, however. According to this AP story posted on ESPN, Johnson has been obliged to hire security for the wedding after receiving "phone calls, 30 letters and, in some instances, personal threats from people who objected to his plans to marry Popadics." Johnson is black; Popadics is white. Johnson told the AP that, in light of the threats, it would be naive not to take precautions. "We're going to make sure we're safe at all times. It's an amazing day for us, and we'd hate to have it ruined by someone," Johnson said.

So now you know.

Best of luck, Chrissy and Ian. Congratulations. May your lives together be long and happy... and, uh, I'm really sorry I never RSVP'd... but, you know, somehow, I never actually got your invitation.... But it's OK, really -- we have a baseball tournament with Youngest Son this weekend anyway so we probably couldn't attend....


You just never know what's going to send traffic your way, do you?


And kind of an instant update -- I'm also starting to get traffic from the Bestest Blog of the Year site. Now every time I've clicked on that URL I've gotten a different blog -- once it was this one -- framed by the Bestest Blog of the Year banner. Bestest Blog's proprietor, Bobby Griffin, explains this latest contest on his original blog. I'm not certain I understand it yet... but if you're coming here from there: Welcome. Come back again.

I'm just relieved the number wasn't higher

70%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

I found this at Skittles' Place; Barb says she got it from The Post College Years. The quiz is from the Mingle2 site which, in addition to these sorts of fun things, is some sort of online dating service.

Just the opposite of fun, you may think.

Anyway, it was from some gizmo at the Mingle site that I learned that this blog is rated PG.

I'll let Brewster Rockit handle the political commentary today, thank you

Fortunately, this is just the comics... and has no connection to reality.

I think.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A quick question about cold coffee

I dropped Middle Son off at the airport for his Florida trip very early this morning. Maybe it was the time of day, or my not yet being entirely awake, that made the signs stand out so much.

Whatever the reason, it seemed that every billboard on Cicero Avenue was plugging one brand or other of iced coffee.

(Yes, Cicero Avenue. Although we live within spitting distance of O'Hare, Middle Son's 7:00am flight was out of Midway. At least the price was right.)

It seems that people have been trying to sell iced coffee, off and on, for nearly my whole life. But it has never really caught on, at least not here.

Is it catching on now?

Do you drink iced coffee? Why?

I'll hang up now and wait for your answers.

Thanks, Skittles, for this neat award

Look at what Barb gave me. Isn't this nice?

And (assuming the Template will let me update) I'll put this up in the Sidebar, too.

According to Dictionary.com the word "schmooze" means to "converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection." (That's the American Heritage Dictionary definition.) All of the Dictionary.com definitions say "schmooze" is derived from the Yiddish verb "shmuesn," meaning to chat.

A lawyer needs to be able to schmooze, at least a little. Also, in this day and age, it's important for a lawyer to have a little Yiddish in the verbal toolbox -- maybe even as important as knowing a little Latin. So, Barb, thanks again (a sheynem dank). You make me feel like a real macher.

However, dear readers, to be entirely honest, Barb runs laps around me in the schmoozing department: Just last Saturday, she mentioned on her blog that she's about a month away from her first Blogiversary... and on the cusp of her 60,000th visitor. Sixty thousand? This poor blog will be two years old in December... and Sitemeter says I've had just over 15,400 visitors... most of them just clicking through....


Anyway, the Schmooze Award seems to have originated with this post at "Ordinary Folk" and, as I feared, the recipient of this honor is expected to pass it along to others in the Blogosphere.

This is particularly difficult here because so many people in my Sidebar who regularly comment and link and all that good bloggy stuff already have it.

But I think I may have found a few who don't. Yet. Therefore, I'll pass the Schmooze Award on to MJ, May, Rhea, RT, and Chris (just back from two weeks in a tent with his kids... and presumably still shaking like a leaf).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Welcome BlogHer attendees

The BlogHer Conference is in Chicago this weekend and, speaking as a taxpayer, I wish to welcome you all to my fair city.

The money you spend here helps defray my taxes -- so spend all you can!

Conference attendees may be to busy to sightsee during the conference itself, but for your traveling companions and for your own consideration before and after the conference, may I suggest some things you might want to see?

That North Side baseball team is out of town this week... but the Chicago White Sox are at home through Sunday. Detroit is in town through Thursday; the Toronto Blue Jays are in town for the weekend.

Yes, the Sox are having a tough year... OK, an awful year... but that just means you should be able to get tickets. And you can't beat fun at the old ballpark.

U.S. Cellular Field is accessible by the CTA Red or Green Lines.

And, speaking of the CTA, if you're coming in or going to O'Hare, and you don't have too much luggage, consider taking the Blue Line train. It goes right into the airport. The Orange Line goes right into Midway Airport, too. Check with your hotel about how best to get to your hotel from the train.

The BlogHer Conference is at Navy Pier. There is a Billy Goat Tavern there... but the one you want to visit is on the lower level of Michigan Avenue.

You may want to get over to Michigan Avenue... that's where the fancy stores are. The closest mall to the Billy Goat is North Bridge Mall.

Here's a link to a site called Concierge Preferred that lists and links all sorts of North Michigan Avenue sites. It will come as no surprise that an old Curmudgeon such as myself is less than helpful when it comes to making shopping recommendations.

Actually, I used to have an office in the River North neighborhood; the firm I was with then owned a converted three-flat-with-a-garden. We all swore to bring in our spouses (this was an all male group at the time) from the West -- past Cabrini Green -- never from the East.

Twenty years ago, when we set up shop there, it was still a pretty gritty urban streetscape from our block on west. But the Water Tower was only a couple of blocks to the east. And we didn't want our wives to know how close we were to the stores....

And the area has only improved since.

Millennium Park (and "the Bean") are south of the Chicago River along Michigan Avenue. That's almost an obligatory travel photo at this point. I think the fountains with the animated faces (also at Millennium Park) are kind of creepy... but that's me.

You're probably already planning to stop at the Art Institute. That's just south of Millennium Park, at Adams and Michigan.

You may recognize this fountain: Buckingham Fountain, in Grant Park. This is located south of the Art Institute, east of Michigan Avenue. I've been assured by Chicago cabdrivers that this fountain has an alias, one supplied by German tourists -- Bundy Fountain. (Click on the link to find out why.)

And Saturday night is Venetian Night in Chicago. The boat parade up the lakefront from the Shedd Aquarium to the Monroe Street Harbor is followed by a huge fireworks show.

Some BlogHer attendees may be Oprah fans. Whether you are or not, she's one of our biggest industries all by herself. If you don't already have tickets for her show, it's probably too late to get them for this trip. But if you get into the West Loop area, you may want to see Harpo Studios where Oprah's shows are taped.

If you're going out that way anyway, you might want to time your trip around Mass at Old St. Pat's, at 700 West Adams, one of Chicago's oldest Catholic churches. The interior is gorgeous. And if you stop by on Sunday morning, you just might see Mayor Daley. Unless he's out of town again.

I could brag on my hometown all night, but I'll restrain myself.

Enjoy your stay.

Observations while you're still reading Harry Potter

I read the book Saturday -- but I won't give anything away in this post, I promise.

I was talking to my friend Steve Friday about it and he told me how his son had pre-ordered the book and how they were looking forward to getting it Saturday. Without having to wait in line.

Me, too, I told him -- but I hadn't pre-ordered. Long Suffering Spouse figured this out several books ago: The local supermarket puts them out, steeply discounted, the day they're released. So, I told Steve, we'd probably have the book before he did.

"You mean we didn't have to do the pre-order or anything?" he asked, slightly incredulous. No, I told him, but by doing it his way he could feel a part of the worldwide publishing phenomenon.

I think that's when he hung up on me.


Harry Potter was the lead story on both evening news shows I watched Friday. Reporters were dispatched to bookstores where people were dressed in costume -- some of them waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too old to be doing this in public. Or even in private.

The interesting thing was that the reporters on both stations that I watched clearly had no clue about the books or the movies or anything, lending further support for the theory that TV reporters spring, fully-grown, from beneath cabbage leaves in the garden. And just as intelligent.

I can understand that the typical 20-something TV reporter might not have any interest in reading the books -- but wouldn't you think that they could look up, say, reviews of the movies, just to figure out the character names and who's supposed to be good or evil? That would take -- what? -- five or 10 minutes of research on line?

And here's the truly scary part: These same reporters, tomorrow night, will be providing us with information about the Presidential elections, or the War in Iraq, or the state budget.... The Harry Potter story could have been painlessly researched. How much research do you think the typical reporter has done, then, on a "hard news" story -- where figuring out the background might require some actual thought? This may be scarier than anything J.K. Rowling has imagined.


Youngest Son pressed me for details about the last book all day yesterday: He doesn't actually want to take the time or trouble to read it for himself. The books are so looooooooooong, he whines.

And this is from an incoming high school freshman -- and a decent student, supposedly, to boot.

So, finally, last night, I broke down. I told him about the plot twists:
  • I told him that Lord Voldemort revealed that the Death Star was fully operational by opening fire on the Rebel fleet;
  • Then I told him that Voldemort revealed that he, not James, was Harry's father -- and that Harry had a twin sister, Leia;
  • And then, when Youngest Son didn't like those revelations, I told him that that the book consisted mostly of ticking noises....
Youngest Son got so frustrated with my disclosures that he called his older sister to see if she'd let him in on how it all turns out. (Older Daughter was one of those people in line at midnight, in Indianapolis. I don't think she went in costume. And if she did I don't want to know about it....)

Anyway, judging by Youngest Son's growing frustration, Older Daughter was apparently as helpful as I'd been.

Oh, I forgot. I promised not to give away anything here. I really hope that these few revelations didn't ruin anything for anyone....

Friday, July 20, 2007

A sad anniversary

Warning. Still perched atop soapbox:

Thirty-eight years ago today, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the Moon. It was supposed to be "a small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind."

I believe Armstrong has long contended that he said "a man" not just "man" as the newspapers of the time (and the history books of this time) have rendered his statement as he stepped off the ladder and onto the Moon; it certainly makes more sense if he said it was a small step for a man -- himself -- and a giant leap for mankind.

Except that it hasn't been a great leap for mankind. Not yet.

After Apollo 11, only Apollos 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 made it to the Moon.

Here's the list, straight from Wikipedia of the only men to walk on the Moon:

Name Mission EVA dates
1 Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 July 20, 1969
2 Buzz Aldrin
3 Pete Conrad Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969
4 Alan Bean
5 Alan Shepard Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971
6 Edgar Mitchell
7 David Scott Apollo 15 July 31–August 2, 1971
8 James Irwin
9 John W. Young Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972
10 Charles Duke
11 Eugene Cernan Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972
12 Harrison Schmitt

Since December 14, 1972 -- 35 years ago -- a generation ago -- no man or woman from any nation has set foot on the Lunar surface. In fact, no one has left low Earth orbit in that time. Americans now occasionally drive an obsolete Space Truck (the Shuttle) to the Tool Shack in the Sky (more grandly known as the International Space Station). And multi-millionaires can ride the Russian Soyuz and play astronaut at the Tool Shack, too. (A Space.com article posted on Yahoo! News Wednesday reports that the price of such a trip is going up. It'll now cost $30 million.)

We could have done so much more than this. We should have done. So today is a sad anniversary.

President Bush has reportedly promised a return to the Moon by 2020. So maybe the anniversary of this date won't always be sad.

But, today, at least, I'm not optimistic.

Not a xenophobic rant -- just a modest proposal

Warning. I'm on the soapbox with this one:

Forbes Magazine reports that the White House has set up an import safety panel "to review import safety" in light of recent events.

What events?

Remember the brouhaha over pet food containing "Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine"?

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported on July 2 that since last October "about 60 percent of federal Consumer Product Safety Commission's recalls were for products made in China." The Tribune Review story noted how the FDA recently "clamped down on five types of farm-raised Chinese fish because they included 'antimicrobial agents' not approved for that use in the United States." If "consumed long-term," the story said, these agents might harm consumers.

Then there was the counterfeit toothpaste imported from China.

And how about the recall of Chinese-made Thomas the Tank Engine toys? Lead-based paint was the culprit there.

On July 19 Forbes reported that the Chinese
are disputing charges that automobile tires
exported to the United States "were made without a feature which helps avoid tread separation." Nevertheless, American regulators have demanded the recall of 450,000 tires made by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd.

And talk about illegal immigrants?

This is the Asian longhorned beetle. It came to America in packing crates carrying other Chinese imports. A January 2005 USDA publication said that this beetle "has the potential to cause more damage than Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight, and gypsy moths combined, destroying millions of acres of America’s treasured hardwoods, including national forests and backyard trees." When the beastie was discovered in some Chicago-area trees, those trees were taken down... and all the surrounding trees, too. Whole neighborhoods were denuded in order to keep the pest from spreading.

Now I do not pretend that the Chinese are sending us poisoned foods, shoddy goods and damaging pests as some sort of coordinated strategy. That would not only be bad business, it would be an act of war. Besides, I recently read that the Chinese are suffering through a domestic fake water scandal: counterfeit branded water -- "tap water or purified water from small suppliers put into the water jugs and sealed with bogus quality standard marks." An AP story posted July 10 on Yahoo! News clarifies that this is no minor matter because "Beijing's tap water is generally not safe to drink because of the city's aging pipes; boiling water leaves a white powdery residue inside pots and kettles."

And, just to show they're serious about cleaning house, the Chinese recently executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration.

So let's not waste a lot of time and energy hatin' (as the young people say) on the Chinese. The bottom line is this: We don't have to buy what the Chinese are selling. If their stuff is dangerous, we can make our own stuff.

Or can we?

This is a picture of George Washington's first inauguration, in 1789. Washington made a speech on that occasion, certainly, but even in selecting his clothes for the occasion he sought to make a point: Washington wore a brown suit, domestically made, for the event. He was trying to encourage, even by his own costume, domestic manufacturing. Because a country that can't make its own stuff isn't really independent, is it?

There are idealists abroad in the world today who are certain that if all the nations of the world were interdependent on one another there could be no more war. And there are captains of industry who exploit these hopes and dreams and move factories and jobs to any place where their goods can be made most cheaply.

But I know this: The Confederacy had the better generals in the Civil War, but the Union had the factories and the railroads. Production capacity was decisive in that conflict.

At the outset of World War II, the United States had a military which, on paper, was about as strong as the armies of some Balkan countries. But the enormous production capacity of the United States was harnessed after Pearl Harbor to build the mightiest military in history. The Axis powers could not keep up -- especially after those bombs America was making started raining down. Production capacity was decisive.

And maybe Ronald Reagan could not have delivered on "Star Wars." But the Soviets had to build as if he could. While America made guns and butter, the Soviet Empire collapsed. Production capacity was decisive in the Cold War, too.

What is America's production capacity today? Where is it?

Protectionism may be the recipe for worldwide depression. And I tend to be in sympathy with the idealist, one-world camp myself. But must we move all our factories off shore? Will our skills at making movies or in handling mergers and acquisitions save us from future threats?

My modest proposal is this: Look at labels. All other things being equal, buy American. If you can afford it, and the cost difference isn't too much -- buy American even if it costs more.

And for any UK readers who've made it this far -- go ahead and buy British. I can appreciate that people should support their own local industries, in any country. For the same reasons. Unless, of course, you buy American. I'd be in favor of that, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The A/C Repairman just left the house. But when will he be back?

The power flickered briefly during last night's thunderstorms. The desktop computer shut off, as did the clock on the microwave. But the power stayed on and nothing else had to be re-set.

We thought.

This morning it was a bit stuffy in the house and Long Suffering Spouse reported that it got stuffier as the day went on. She didn't want to open the windows because it was still quite humid out.

Then she called to report that she'd tried and failed to start the air conditioning.

Somewhat reluctantly, we agreed she should call the repairman.

My mother-in-law stopped using this repair service a couple of years ago soon after she figured out that every time she called them... she wound up calling them back soon thereafter.

It was almost as if the repairman fixed the thingamajig... but loosened the whatchamacallit at the same time... just by a little... so that it failed a week thereafter. Or maybe two weeks.

Long Suffering Spouse thought on it a bit and decided this had happened to us, too. We stopped getting annual maintenance visits... because they were too often and too soon followed by repair visits. And we hadn't had a problem for a couple of years now... until today.

I get that same, sinking feeling every time I take the car in: Too often, it seems, problem A is fixed... but problem B begins soon thereafter. They take one look at me and know I'm not a car guy. They know somehow that when they spout any gibberish about how the flambshooter is shot and the wootenanny has wooted its last hoot, I'll just nod gravely and sign the repair authorization.

It's not fair, really. If it's true. And if it's not true, I'm paranoid. But the repairman just made my wife initial something that says he offered her a furnace checkup and she declined. Was he laughing up his sleeve when he left the house?

I'll be sitting under my desk, trembling with fear and waiting for your responses.

Who would go to Florida in the summer? Middle Son has an opportunity....

Middle Son just called. He's the one who has the soul-crushing job as a telemarketer this summer. Just like last summer.

But the people he's working for are baseball people: His bosses played with him last year on a summer league team. Most of the players in Middle Son's wood bat summer league are college kids. Some play Division I ball, some Division II. There are a lot of Division III kids like Middle Son; so many of his teammates are in this league that they are parceled out over two teams.

It's not the Cape Cod League (which boasts an incredible number of alumni on major league rosters).

It's not even the Northwoods League -- which is an up and coming summer proving ground for would-be major leaguers.

But it's baseball. And it's competitive. But -- like Middle Son's bosses -- some of the people who play in the league are well past their college days. The head baseball coach at the high school that my sons attended is involved in the league... as a player.

Last year Middle Son had a stretch of games where -- for a change -- he did something besides pitch. He played first base or right field. He even got a chance to bat a few times... all because the old guys on his team went to a tournament in Florida for a week.

Middle Son wasn't invited to go last year. But he was invited this year.

And he's excited. He just called to say that his Summer School professor will let him take his final early so he can make the trip. I'm pretty sure that the trip will be approved by Middle Son's college coach: The guys going on the trip play on one of the teams where the coach places his players for the summer. I am a little concerned that Middle Son not fall afoul of any NCAA regulations in making this trip; when he comes down to earth a little -- hopefully by this evening -- I'll remind him of this again.

And of course he's going to Florida with a bunch of 20 or 30-somethings who are going to play baseball and... what else?

So there's risks. And I'll be nervous. But I think -- I hope -- this may be an opportunity for Middle Son. It certainly will be an opportunity to interact with older players... something that he'd have to do if he ever hopes to play beyond college. And the tournament they've entered supposedly has booked games at a number of minor league diamonds....

But I'm getting waaaaaaaaaay ahead of myself here. Maybe someone will see him toiling at his craft and be impressed. Hopefully he won't get in any trouble. And, in any event, he should return from this trip with a fund of new stories.

The only thing for sure that Middle Son will ever get out of baseball is his own stories. I hope they're good ones.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Birthday Meme -- Tagged this time by Patti -- but first a word about Technorati

Patti, of Late Bloomer Boomer tagged me with this "birthday meme"... a week ago today.

I didn't see it until last evening.

When Patti tagged me, she inserted my link. That's usually sufficient to get my attention.

Raging egotist that I am, no matter how badly I'm pressed for time on a given day, I will click on the "« Blogs That Link Here" button in my sidebar. Most of the time, if somebody has tagged me -- or linked to me for some other reason -- I can find out about it that way. Sometimes it's good -- somebody liked something I wrote and mentioned it -- sometimes it's bad (once I discovered that a post had been 'scraped' for a teenage porn site). But sometimes Technorati does not pick up the links... and it didn't pick up Patti's tag.

I'm struggling to discern a pattern here, to figure out when Technorati will or won't pick up a link. It does not appear to be as clear cut as whether your blog has a Technorati button on it. However, Patti's does not, and her link did not pop up. On the other hand, I have 'favorited' "Late Bloomer Boomer" (using the ungrammatical Technorati word) -- and her new posts do come up on that. But that's something I check when I have a little more time -- and it's supposedly not as reliable as a Google Reader (something else that I've not yet been brave enough to attempt).

Anyway, enough prologue. On with the meme.

Patti says, "We are supposed to look up our date of birth on Wikipedia and find three events, two births and a holiday that happened on that date."

Well, let's see... I was born on March 29 in a log cabin. I had to walk 10 miles to school each day. Uphill. Both ways. Barefoot. And in the snow. Even in May....

Oh, wait. Sorry.

I just automatically launch into that routine with my kids. It's become a habit.

Three Events

It turns out that March 29 was a relatively quiet day in the history of the world. On March 29, 537 Vigilius was consecrated and enthroned as Pope, replacing Silverius, whom he deposed. Silverius had reigned less than a year at the time he was booted out and busted down to monk. However, Pope Silverius became a saint in the Catholic Church -- not canonized by the church hierarchy, but acclaimed by the people -- which may be considered a consolation prize since St. Silverius died, a prisoner, only a few months after his ouster.

During the Mexican-American War, on March 29, 1847, Veracruz fell to American forces led by General Winfield Scott. Two of the officers serving under General Scott were Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant.

Grant and Lee would meet again after the Battle of Appomattox Court House... which began on March 29, 1865.

Two Births

There are a lot of famous people born on March 29, as it turns out.

Take Cy Young, for instance. He had 511 career wins -- and probably didn't make in his career what Roger Clemens spends on tips in a month.

Or how about the last 30 game winner in the majors, Denny McLain?

McLain was a Chicago guy -- a graduate of Mt. Carmel. (In Chicago, where a local athlete went to high school is at least as important as where he or she went to college. For example, in Chicago, everyone knows that Donovan McNabb also went to Mt. Carmel. Four years later, he showed up on the Eagles. We figure he probably went somewhere else in between.)

McLain married the daughter of longtime Cub broadcaster (and Hall of Famer) Lou Boudreau (the 'boy wonder' manager of Bill Veeck's 1948 Cleveland Indians). McLain won 31 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1968 -- and then got in trouble for gambling and was out of baseball within four years. He has since done a couple of prison stretches. I understand things are better for him now and that he's getting some mileage out of the success of the current incarnation of the Detroit Tigers.

That's two. So I suppose I can't mention Eric Idle of Monty Python fame or Mr. Sam Walton or....

One Holiday

According to Wikipedia, March 29 is the "Feast of Ishtar."

Now, I know you're probably wondering why a feast would be dedicated to a famous movie flop.

Actually, says Wikipedia, Ishtar was the Babylonian "goddess of fertility, sexual love, and war." (War? Maybe this is where the phrase "All's fair in..." comes from.)

But Wikipedia says that Ishtar was more associated with sexuality than anything else.

Hmmmmmm. A reason, perhaps, to celebrate my next birthday.....

This "birthday meme" comes with one other string attached: Five links were provided in Patti's original post on the subject. I was told to delete the top name, which I have done, and add my link at the end.

Sort of like a chain letter:


Big Leather Couch

Mimi Writes

Late Bloomer Boomer

Second Effort

Then, I'm supposed to tag five more people or I'll be forced to sit through Ishtar, the movie. Or Waterworld. Or maybe even Heaven's Gate.

Now, I don't respond well to threats... even to ones I make up myself.

And I know I've seen this meme up on a lot of the blogs that I visit. But, just for grins, and just this once, I'll tag Shelby, Dave, Momma's World, RDL, and Hilda (who actually volunteered to do yesterday's Moaning Meme without being tagged).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Debate '08: Obama Girl vs Giuliani Girl

American political discourse reaches a new... and strange... level.

You've read about this... now see it for yourself.

What, me moan? Tagged with the "Moaning Meme"

For some reason, when thinking about whining and complaining in the Blogosphere, Linda (of "Are We There Yet??") thought about me.

I can't imagine why.

This new "Moaning Meme" is the handiwork of The Freelance Cynic. Here are the rules, copied straight from Mr. Cynic's blog:

  • Link to the original meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it's all about!
  • Be as honest as possible: This is about letting people get to know the real you!
  • Try not to insult anyone - unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
  • Post these rules at the end of every meme!
You will note that I have already violated one of these rules, by posting these in the middle of this post. Nevertheless, we proceed:

List 4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth:

  1. People who ride on the shoulder of the highway or remain in a lane when it is clearly marked as closed up ahead. Hey! Moron! Do you think all these people you're zooming by are all lined up for fun?

  2. Political commercials for candidates for any major office. Look, Senator (not singling anyone out): If someone doesn't already know you're running for President, that person is probably too stupid to register to vote, much less find the polling place on primary day anyway. And you're just annoying the rest of us. What substantive point can you convey in 30 or 60 seconds that distinguishes you from anyone? (Not that I would ban all political commercials: For lesser offices it may be the only way to attract a following. Of course, it doesn't always work: I bought commercials on a number of radio stations when I ran for judge... because no one would otherwise know I was a candidate. After the votes were counted, it was apparent that anyone who had learned I was a candidate from these commercials probably did not care and almost certainly did not vote.)

  3. Sales calls. Even though Middle Son is working as a telemarketer again this summer. Since I don't want him unemployed, I would be willing to defer the ban on sales calls until September.

  4. Osama bin Laden. Although I can't understand why he'd have to be taken into Room 101; I should think he'd go voluntarily: He is in the news again, supposedly promoting "martyrdom" -- you know, as in suicide bombing -- as a means to happiness. If only he would choose to be happy too. I know I'd be happier... I'd be particularly happy if Osama became happy while testing his happiness device... far away from anyone else.
3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently:
  1. Other than people who shoulder ride (see above), there's not too many others I'd like to shake violently. At least not as a premeditated thing. I may be intolerant and opinionated, but I am also a physical coward. But we have to have two more? Let's see...

  2. Kids who throw eggs at my house on or around Halloween. My wife doesn't enjoy your behavior in her classes either, but you don't see her throwing eggs at your houses, do you?

  3. People who do not pay my bills.

2 things you find yourself moaning about:
  1. Money.

  2. Time. Einstein was right about time being relative. I don't know about traveling at speeds approaching the speed of light -- that's more the province of the shoulder riders, isn't it? -- but it's a known fact that time goes much faster inside a saloon than outside. You mean it's 9:30 already? My wife will kill me! It also goes faster while blogging: Whole mornings can vanish while making a simple, short post.... On the other hand time slows down during a long sermon... or an algebra test... or while waiting for a train or bus....
1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself:
  1. Nothing, I'm afraid, that I didn't already know.
At this point it is traditional to tag others with the meme... and I'm tempted... but I think I'll pass this time. Feel free to pick up the slack yourself.

Bee wins the prize in yesterday's no-prize contest

Empress Bee was the first to correctly respond that dihydrogen monoxide is just a roundabout way of saying "water."

Perhaps just as important, no one got the answer wrong --

So: A hearty handshake and virtual pat on the back goes out across the ether to the Empress Bee. And thanks also to Katherine, Ladeedah, Barb, and Fran for participating. And give extra credit points to Fran for explaining the answer... and for revealing how she 'pranks' (the young people have turned this into a verb) her grandchildren by making up stories that play on their gullibility... then 'fessing up... and thereby teaching the grandkids to be less gullible.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The perils of dihydrogen monoxide?

Stumbled across this at this site. I assumed that the story was invented; however, according to Snopes.com, this story is true!
A student at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical "dihydrogen monoxide."

And for plenty of good reasons, since:

1. it can cause excessive sweating and vomiting
2. it is a major component in acid rain
3. it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
4. accidental inhalation can kill you
5. it contributes to erosion
6. it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
7. it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients

He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical.

* Forty-three (43) said yes,
* Six (6) were undecided,
* Only one (1) knew [what "dihydrogen monoxide" really is].

The title of his prize winning project was, "How Gullible Are We?"

He feels the conclusion is obvious.
The author of the petition was Nathan Zohner and this project was a prize winner in 1997.

Zohner was apparently not the first to try and wring some laughter out of the perils of dihydrogen monoxide; Scopes says Zohner's project was based on a bogus report that was already making the rounds on the Internet.

And there may still be people falling for this bit. In fact, Snopes tells how one California municipality, Aliso Viejo, in Orange County, actually scheduled a vote at a March 2004 City Council meeting on an ordinance that would have banned the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events. Among the reasons cited for the proposed ban was that foam containers are made with dihydrogen monoxide -- "DHMO, a substance that could 'threaten human health and safety.'"

No Prize Contest: The first person to correctly identify the common name of dihydrogen monoxide in the Responses section will be acknowledged in a separate post and will also receive a hardy, if virtual, handshake and pat on the back.

Does this count as an argument for... or against... teen cell phone ownership?

It was twilight time for the old Curmudgeon -- not literally, you understand, not with the Sun setting -- but in that uncertain period when the late news has ended and the appropriate History or Discovery channel has yet to be selected. I was sitting in my recliner, flipping through the channels drowsily, my laptop computer open and still running a game that I had been playing earlier.

Soon though, barring any interruption, I would surrender myself into the arms of Morpheus.

Long Suffering Spouse had already surrendered; she was apparently sound asleep on the couch.

Youngest Son was at the desktop computer. He had commandeered the Internet connection some time before and was busy chatting in a couple of IM windows and checking his investments on Protrade.

Bet that perked you right up, didn't it? A 14 year old managing investments? But this Protrade is the latest thing in fantasy sports. You sign up and then 'buy' 'shares' of teams or players. You can sell your shares, too, and you can gain or lose value in the market. And it's free.

Anyway, this was our tender domestic scene the other evening. Middle Son was out -- which was how Youngest Son got a turn at the Internet -- and Younger Daughter had gone up to bed already. She's been grounded lately -- again -- and, without being able to use either the phone or the Internet, she tends to retire at a decent hour.

It was at this point that the phone rang.

Long Suffering Spouse's startle reflex was immediately triggered. She hollered; I jumped. Youngest Son was right by the phone; he picked it up.

"No," he said in response to the caller's inquiry. "She can't come to the phone now. And she won't be able to come to the phone for some time." He hung up. Younger brothers tend to be very smug when big sisters are grounded.

"Who was that?" asked Long Suffering Spouse, awake and alert now and ready to charge into action. It's a maternal thing.

"It was for Younger Daughter," said Youngest Son.

That being entirely unresponsive, I decided to try my hand at asking the same question. "Well, yes, but who was it on the phone?"

"Some guy," said Youngest Son, more responsively perhaps, but still shedding no light on the actual identity of our late caller.

This was not Youngest Son's fault. I have observed that people -- especially young people -- do not identify themselves when calling anymore. Part of it is that -- our household excepted -- young people call directly to other young people via cell phone. The caller ID on the cell phone tells you that Jim or Jane or Bob or Dreamy Guy is calling because you, the cell phone owner, have programmed that name and number into your phone. In such cases, self-identification would be redundant.

But not at our house. And the caller ID is no help because, unlike land lines, cell phones just come up as "Cellular Call" or some equally unhelpful description.

I had actually looked forward to answering the phone when boys called for my daughters. "Hello, Mr. Curmudgeon," I imagined the call might go, with the caller hitting two octaves in these first seven syllables, "this is [Insert Actual First and Last Names Here]. May I speak with your daughter?"

This has never happened once. Older Daughter is 23; Younger Daughter will soon be 18. *Sigh*

But back to our story: We quickly surmised, and Younger Daughter subsequently confirmed, that the caller was a New Boy.

They're all alike, these New Boys, or at least all the ones that call for Younger Daughter are all alike: They can not screw up the courage to call during the hours when normal people are awake. They call instead during Teen Time, those hours after curfew and before the birds start chirping in the new morning.

In some families, this might not be a problem: New Boy would reach Younger Daughter on her cell phone and Sleeping Parents would never be the wiser.... Say, wait, is that a problem or not?

As long-time readers here know, my children have each received a cell phone when they've gone away to college. Middle Son bent the rules a little: He used mine toward the end of his high school career. I didn't need it during the hours that he would be most active. So I could take my own phone to and from work (lucky me). If I worked late, however, I might accidentally get Middle Son's calls.

In fact, I got more calls from teenage girls during Middle Son's senior year in high school than ever I did when I was a teenage boy.

Long Suffering Spouse is weakening, just a little, now that Older Daughter and Oldest Son are off our cell phone plan. She's thinking that -- before DCFS comes to get us for so depriving our children -- maybe we should get Younger Daughter and Youngest Son cell phones of their own. Even though Younger Daughter will be only a high school senior this Fall... and Youngest Son only a freshman. "It's different now," she tells me, "there are no more pay phones and it might be easier for me, picking up Youngest Son from football, for example."

But I don't know....

There are these 10:45pm phone calls. Or 11:25. Or 1:10am.

Is not getting awakened by an incoming call to one's teenager an entirely good thing?

I say Younger Daughter should train each New Boy to call during reasonable hours instead and be prepared to identify himself by first and last names when I answer the phone. But I seem to be increasingly on my own on this.

Am I?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The power of persuasion and contingent fees

I spent much of the last two days writing a letter. A two page letter.

Well, I actually didn't spend the days writing -- mostly, I agonized over what to say and how to say it best and then, finally, late yesterday evening, punched it out. But, still, it comes out to a page a day... which is not exactly productive.

Those of you who visit often, and see the torrent of words I frequently spew out, may be confused by this claimed inability to compose.

But, you see, I was writing a demand letter.

I have a personal injury case in which I represent the injured party, the plaintiff. The case has advanced to the point where defense counsel agrees that it may be appropriate to consider settlement: He's not going to admit I have a good case... but he realizes that this is one where his client might have some exposure. He would emphasize the word "might."

Now you don't just pull a number out of the air when you make a demand. A demand is like an artillery shell: If you overshoot or undershoot, your opponent never breaks a sweat. It's only when your demand lands reasonably close to counsel's own evaluation of the case that you have a chance to accomplish something.

When I did defense work, many of my insurance clients were interested in settling... for the right price. Why pay me, they reasoned, when they'll wind up paying the other side eventually anyway? (I never liked this reasoning. When I was doing defense work.)

So from time to time a carrier would instruct me to solicit a settlement demand from opposing counsel. Some opposing lawyers would read this as a sign of weakness -- they'd see blood in the water. The testosterone would start flowing... and a wildly overstated demand would follow.

To my enormous relief. "Thank you," I'd say (to myself) as I hung up the phone or opened the letter and passed the "bad" news on to the carrier that was paying my bills. Now they'd have to pay my bills a little longer.

But it's different on the other side of the fence -- where I am now in this case. I don't get paid unless and until there's a recovery. And you can't just pull a settlement number out of the air: A lawyer must first obtain his client's authorization. And just as soon as you start talking numbers with clients, clients start bouncing those numbers off their friends, relatives and neighbors. One of the early posts in this blog lamented the corrosive impact that barstool barristers can have on a client's trust in his or her own lawyer's recommendations.

And, worse, not every client understands that a demand, if it's calculated reasonably, will never simply be accepted. It is a number that it is uncomfortably close to -- but in excess of -- defense counsel's evaluation. Opposing counsel will necessarily be instructed to negotiate down from that number.

Then there's this complication: The more time you put into a contingent fee case, the less money you really make. If you earn a fee of $10,000 for 100 hours of work, that's $100 per hour. (Not TV lawyer territory -- but it should pay the rent.) But if you must put in 500 hours, your effective hourly rate is $20. The hours really pile up as you get closer to trial.

And the other thing that piles up are expenses: If you go to trial, you have to pay for your client's doctors to come to court or give evidence depositions. This may cost thousands of dollars per doctor... and add not a penny to the value of your case. Indeed, that money is coming out of what your client can take home at the end of the process. In a big enough case, the fees charged by doctors or experts would not matter -- but in a smaller case, the cost of a doctor's testimony may be the difference between settling and having to take your chances with a jury.

So as I sat down to write this letter... all these factors were in my mind. I had obtained my client's authority to make a particular demand, based on my research into what juries have awarded other parties in similar cases. But no two juries are alike. No two cases are exactly alike.

And, to top it off, I could do with a settlement about now. Tuition bills are coming due again... and -- as regulars here know -- I have been hampered by illness this year. A self-employed person who doesn't work can't earn money.

So I agonized. How can I persuade opposing counsel that my demand is reasonable? How do I know he won't say "thank you" -- just like I used to -- as soon as he reads the letter?

I tried to summon all the powers of persuasion that I possess. And then I thought of Moses standing in Pharaoh's court. Moses' efforts at persuasion were divinely inspired... and ultimately unsuccessful. And if he couldn't persuade, with the kind of help he was getting, what chance do I have?

It comes down to this, I'm afraid: I've ranged my shot as best I could. If defense counsel's carrier figures my demand is somewhere near what it is likely to pay out down the road, it will instruct defense counsel to make a counter. And maybe we can get the case done -- and maybe we can't. I guess that enrolls me in the Chicago School of Economics from which come so many of our judges on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sometimes there can be an overlap between theory and practice.

But that interesting notion will have to wait to be explored at a different time.

I have another letter to write. (And, yes, this post may be considered as part of the agonizing process for letter no. 2.)

History on Trial

History on Trial, by Deborah Lipstadt, was recently listed among the Blogs of Note.

It's 15 minutes are over now, but the blog is interesting, challenging and worth a visit. It is, however, serious stuff.

Near the top of the page now are reports from Srebrenica (in Bosnia, part of what was Yugoslavia) about the excavation of mass graves and reburials of Muslims. Further down the page is this post about the on-air "death" of Farfour (or Farfur), the terrorist Mickey Mouse rip-off that Hamas has aired as "children's programming."


It's a digression, I know, but I have just spent an inordinate amount of time looking for a post by one of the regulars here about Farfour. I couldn't find it. I remember commenting on it; I thought I'd posted on it, too, but I apparently did not. In thinking about it, I seem to recall that there were two posts, on two different blogs I regularly visit... but my search came up empty.

If you know where these posts are, leave me a note so I can update this post and mention that link, or those links, too.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I just love these emails: Lotto luck collecting on this winner

O Happy Day!

Here's an email I found this morning in the Second Effort mailbag. My response follows:

Ref Number: BOL/002365/12IT

This is to notify you that your Email Address attached to a Ticket
Number(106012) has won an Award Sum of 500,000.00US$
(Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars)
In an Email Sweepstakes program held on the 7th of July 2007.

Do contact the Details below for the Claim
mR. Phil Morris
Tel:+39 - 348 068 4885
Contact Email : philmorrisclaim@aim.com

Ref Nnumber:BOL/002365/12IT,Serial Number 005874 ,Batch Number

Please do forward the following to the claims department below



Dear Ms. Arlen:

Thank you so much for advising me of this sudden and unexpected windfall! Why I've never even heard of the "Bingo Online Lottery" much less purchased a ticket.

How do you get a prize pool if you don't sell tickets?

Well, never mind, it's no matter how you do it -- I'm pleased to take your money either way.

Unfortunately, I'm an anonymous blogger so I couldn't reveal the information for which you ask without compromising my status.

Still, I'm sure we can work something out. My email account is with Yahoo! and they would be able to supply you with adequate assurances that the person who will arrive to pick up the $500,000 prize is, in fact, me.

Just write me back and let me know where I should go to collect, please. My lawyers and yours can work out the details of identity verification. Possibly some sort of escrow deposit?

I'll be eagerly awaiting your response.

Only I won't be holding my breath.

Very truly yours,


P.S. -- Those email addresses were connected to something when I copied your email into this post. But I disconnected them. We wouldn't want anyone else trying to claim my prize, would we?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Science investigates who's the boss at home

When I was presented with my first partnership agreement, my prospective partners urged me to consult with the firm accountant to make sure that the financial numbers "worked."

I remember reviewing some of the rather one-sided terms with the accountant one Saturday morning: On paper it looked like I'd be gaining a title, a debatable ownership interest, a real share of the potential liabilities, and no control whatsoever.

The accountant didn't disagree with my analysis.

But he had a wise observation, which has stayed with me to this day: "There won't be any problem," he said, "as long as all of you agree."

That remark came back to me as I read this article by Jeanna Bryner on LiveScience.com, "Study: Women Are in Charge at Home".

The title expresses the conclusion reached by the researchers. At first I thought I could do one of those "and people get paid for this" posts on this article. But then I read that the results of this study "counter[ed] past research."

The study's lead author David Vogel, a psychologist at Iowa State University, told LiveScience that, "Most of the research literature in psychology has suggested that women have less power.... They have largely based that on the fact that traditionally men earn more money and so therefore would have the ability to make big decisions in the relationship."

Maybe this was the first time scientists actually asked married people?

Ms. Bryner's article summarizes one reason why wives have the final say at home: "One reason for in-charge wives could be that they carry the weight of making sure the family farm is running smoothly." (Without access to the actual study, I don't know whether this is an evolutionary anthropology reference... or if this report was rather narrowly tailored for an Iowa audience....)

Another author of the study, Megan Murphy, also of Iowa State, told LiveScience, "Women are responsible for overseeing the relationship, making sure the relationship runs, that everything gets done, and that everybody's happy."

Murphy is also quoted in the article as saying, "There's been research that suggests that's a marker of a healthy marriage -— that men accept influence from their wives."

In other words, gentlemen, we are absolutely in charge... as long as our wives agree.


Accompanying photo taken from the LiveScience site; credit given there to dreamstime.com