Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Christian Science Monitor carried part one of a story about the Chinese far west. This is the area north of Tibet, east of Kazakhstan, and west of Mongolia. In 1949 the area was 90% Uighur. Now it is half Chinese. This is the sort of internal migration the Russians encouraged in the Baltic countries to essentially ethnically cleanse an area by populating it with the favored majority. However, where the Balts had only access to the sea (with NATO at the mouth of the sea), the Uighurs have oil, zinc, gold, and other natural resources.

It will be interesting to see what happens going forward. The Chinese have issues in Tibet which are well documented, but really the entire Chinese west is ethnically problematic for the Middle Kingdom. Watching them try to assimilate Turkic Muslims into the Chinese state could be as difficult as assimilating Tibetan Buddhists.

New Zealand is a country that can seem mighty smug. They have strong nuclear views that can be problematic for their military alliance with the United States and Australia, and they can be very preachy when it comes to their decision to open their economy in a decade ago. They also cop entirely too much attitude when mistaken for Australians when traveling abroad. Thus, a BBC report on a statement by a respected radio announcer has caused the country to back peddle.

Paul Holmes said on the air, "That Kofi Annan, I've got to say to you, has been a very cheeky darkie overnight. He's been a very cheeky darkie. It's all very well giving a darkie that secretary-general job but we'll only take so much. I'm sorry, we will only take so much. We're not going to be told how to live our lives by a Ghanaian."

Now, in the United States such a statement by a public figure would have involved an apology, a lost job, a few Ted Koppel moments to discuss "what it all means," and no more. In New Zealand, the PRIME MINISTER sought to distance the COUNTRY from the comments. Wow.

The Ottawa (Ontario) (Canada) Citizen is reporting a number of interesting facts about the wiley Canadians. First, 43% of Canadians have admitted to faking an orgasm. This is very high, according the worldwide survey reported in the story. Second, 12% of Canadians (again, higher than the worldwide average) have slept with a best friend's spouse. Third, six percent of Canadians (double the worldwide average) have had sex with the boss.

So, what we have learned this month is that Canadian's can't grow weed, and are devious rats in the sack. What a combination.

MSNBC inexplicably has tapped a New Yorker to write about the current Sammy Sosa saga in Chicago. So far this September, Sammy has been terrible. He hit a home run yesterday, and one tonight, but he has really been stinking up the joint. In fact, his whole year has been subpar. Thus, when Sammy looks for a new contract for the next four years at $70 million (averaging $17.5 million per annum), people look askance at him. This is especially true with Kerry Wood's contract coming up, and Sammy guaranteed $33 million for the next two years already.

It is in this context that this moron from New York writes scintillating prose, such as, "if the Tribune Company, which isn’t exactly cash-strapped, decides to get penny-conscious over Sosa’s contact, it would throw away its most identifiable and popular asset, and it’s hard to imagine who can both replace him and make the team better," and "this is what Cubs management has to impress upon him once the season ends, that he is the team and the team is he and it is for both of them to forge a new beginning." Good grief.

Finally, this idiot makes his true colors known, when he says, "there’s an owner of a pretty good team in the Bronx who might not mind taking a chance on those four seasons for the privilege of seeing Sosa playing right field and wearing pinstripes instead of a committee of guys named Sierra, Rivera and Garcia."

I'm not sure what makes me angrier about this. First, the concept that a single player "is the team" in baseball is ridiculous. Second, anyone who has spent this year following the Cubs knows that Kerry Wood has his partisans, as does Sammy. However, Mark Prior is the future. If Sammy went the Yankees, he would be vilified as a greedy, bat-corking rat. Right now Mark Prior is the man. Finally, the great threat from every free agent is that they will go to the Yankees and get paid mad cash. I hereby predict that if the Yankees do not win the World Series this year, George Steinbrenner will actually start demanding a little sense in his payroll. This is especially true if the lowly Twins beat the high-paid Yankees.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Yes. I am still (again?) sick. This time the manifestation is an infection in the same area where my brown recluse bite was. I am on some rocking antibiotics for the next two weeks and have another doctor's appointment Wednesday. Otherwise I have no news. On the other hand, this has and will happen periodically, and antibiotics have always nipped it in the bud.

The New York Times (registration required) reports on a suit filed by the Roman Catholic Church in Atlanta against a group called Capilla de la Fe. Apparently this group intimates to Spanish-speaking parishioners that they are Roman Catholic. They are not. However, they will have a service that uses "strong prayer to destroy witchcraft, demon –possession, nightmares, curses, envy, bad luck or spiritual problems." The funny thing to me is, I meet so many lapsed Catholics it would never occur to me to run a sham Catholic Church and try to get people in.

CNN-SI reported that the classic Dodgers-Giants rivalry took a deadly turn over the weekend. Some moron Giant fan shot and killed a Dodger fan in the parking lot after the game in Los Angeles. Now, I have experienced the Cub-Cardinal rivalry (in each city), the Bear-Packer rivalry, the Black Hawk-Blues rivalry, and the Illinois-Iowa rivalry (both sports), and I cannot fathom what happened here. Did the Dodger fan mock the Giant fan's choice of Chablis? Did the Giant fan go on a rampage because the frittatas in LA are better than San Francisco? I just can't understand.

Well, the Nation's Finest Newspaper actually picked up a useful piece of news this weekend. In a speech to the Columbia University School of Law, Supreme Court Justice Stephan Breyer indicated that it may be necessary to deny terrorism defendants the lawyer of their choice, since their lawyers could be used to transmit important information to the outside. This is a dramatic example of the powers that be losing their heads after September 11, 2001. If the United States has a reasonable suspicion that a lawyer is doing this, they ought to get a warrant and go after them—just like they do for drug kingpin and mobster lawyers. The only thing worse than a Supreme Court justice losing sight of this is the fact that he praised the Israeli court system for leading the way. Good grief. Are we going to blow up criminal's houses too?

Getting back to its roots, the Houston Chronicle also grabbed the story that a Chicago judge had dismissed a suit against the group Creed for putting on a terrible show. Now, the fact that these people admit they paid over $56 per person to see CREED should be enough for them to lose. I think instead of a refund and a dismissal, the judge should have treated their pleading as a request for specific performance and forced them to sit through ANOTHER Creed concert. That'd show 'em. Clowns.

The Baltic Sea is a place where many cultures come together. At minimum, the Swedes, Finns, Russians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Germans, and Danes all share the sea. However, the problem is that these people keep mixing. The Moscow Times is reporting about the problem the EU will have with the ethnic Russians it admits when Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are admitted into the EU. From the Prussians, to the Danes and Swedes, to Peter the Great, to the post war Russians, this area has seen so many peoples come and go. Maybe the EU will be the structure to let them all live and let live.

The Chicago Tribune (registration required) reported that a home in Milwaukee was found inhabited solely by 130 (or so) cats and ONE dog, as well as trash and animal feces (to be fair, mostly cat feces) three feet deep. The owner died in 1997, but the owner's adult son has been stopping by and feeding the animals ever since. They believe that the home will need to be razed, since the cats have apparently bred inside the walls. On the positive side, there were no reported rodent sightings…

Friday, September 19, 2003

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I was going to observe this by writing like a pirate, but starting every sentence with "aaargh," and ending every sentence with "matey" got boring.

In Surry, British Columbia a woman who lives in a car reported that someone took her pet cheetah. The cat is described as being about 18 kilograms (about 40 pounds) and spotted. There is an entire issue as to whether the cat ("Loki") is actually a cheetah, or is really a serval cat. It is also pointed out that if Loki gets hungry, he could be a "risk to the public." Inexplicably, nobody in article discussed what it would be like to be either Loki or the woman and LIVE IN A CAR with either an adult human, or a 40 pound cat. At what point during the day do you have to call back seat for sleeping when you share your car with a cheetah?

The Canadians (although nobody else, as far as I can tell) has reported that in the past two weeks, at least seven moose have had to be freed from hammocks in the Anchorage area. The explanation is given thus, "it happens every fall when adult males bang and rub their antlers against objects to remove summer velvet. With hormones starting to rage, the bulls also become more rambunctious as they start following cows and confronting other males." Now, I may be dense, but I have no idea how that relates to moose getting stuck in hammocks. It makes me think that moose aren't so different from the rest of us. A nice hammock, a nice day, a nice nap . . .

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a very interesting article today. The article is mostly interesting because it describes the Post-Intelligencer's relationship and issues with the Seattle Times. The Seattle papers, like papers in some other cities (Detroit may be one of these) have a joint operating agreement. This is an arrangement by which one of the papers basically outsources fundamental business operations to the other. Typically the outsourcing paper is a weak one that is being propped up. In this case, the P-I is the weak paper, and it is reporting on the conflicts it has with the stronger paper across town that does its distribution and marketing.

Obviously, there is a conflict of interest in the P-I characterizing these conflicts. However, there does not seem to be another paper to report the story (except maybe the Seattle Times). This is too bad for Seattle. Whatever else is true, it is a good thing to have the Sun-Times, Tribune, Northwest Herald, Southtown Economist, Daily Defender, and Reader . . .

The New York Times today (registration required) ran an op-ed piece by a man named Patrick French. He is apparently a former director of the Free Tibet Campaign. What is fascinating about this article is that it, in essence, tries to debunk elements of the Dalai Lama's personal appeal, as well as some of the various campaigns for a free Tibet. First, French argues that the Dalai Lama "has become whoever we want him to be, a cuddly projection of our hopes and dreams." His examples of this include the fact the Dalai Lama explicitly condemns homosexuality, all oral sex, and all anal sex, the fact that the Dalai Lama once spoke harshly to people in Dharmasala, his headquarters in India, and . . . nothing else.

French then goes on to argue that the Tibetans would be better off if the rest of the world stopped hectoring the Chinese about them and the Dalai Lama returned to China to give Tibetans a significant voice inside of China. This would all be a better argument if French could explain how well this sort of tactic is working to preserve the culture and language of the Uighur people. I don't have the soft spot for Tibet in particular that many American Buddhists have, but French's arguments seem to be awfully hollow.

Finally, this guy somehow completely failed to reference the historical record that the Lama, while a big hitter on the golf course, was not a good tipper. He just needed to seek the testimony of Mr. Carl Spackler, which clearly stated:

"So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy; a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald — striking.
So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver.
He hauls off and whacks one — big hitter, the Lama — long, into a 10,000 foot crevice, right at the base of this glacier.
And do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... Gunga, gunga galunga.
So we finish the 18th and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know?"
And he says, 'Oh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.'
So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."

By the way, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura apparently asked the Dalai Lama whether he had ever seen Caddyshack. He had not.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I don't have time to post today. However, I have the Astros at Rockies game on the Gamechannel, and the Rockies are losing 4-0 in the seventh (so far). I don't understand how the Rockies can stink so bad that they get a goose egg at home. They are just plain POOR.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Lots and lots going on in the world today. Almost too much for one poor blogger to manage. Please keep in mind that the New York Times and Chicago Tribune require a free registration to view its stories . . .

As I have said before, the Houston Chronicle has become my favorite newspaper. More than any other newspaper I review, the Houston Chronicle chooses to highlight the sort of "news" that really describes our world. For instance, the Chronicle picked up an article from the Los Angeles Times (a Tribune publication) explaining that legislators in South Korea have begun a drive to change the English spelling of their country from "Korea" to "Corea." They say that the Japanese changed the spelling when they occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945. The Japanese rationale is supposed to be to avoid having Korea appear before Japan in English-language lists. First, it is hard to imagine that the South Koreans, with an insane dictatorship sharing their peninsula, don't have anything more important to worry about. Second, why didn't the Japanese just change their name to Aaajapan, and be first over everyone? Silly Japanese.

Sometimes, it all just comes together. The following are four articles from around the country (Houston, Chicago, Seattle, Boston) that all tie together in their discussion of altered states. Must be one of those days . . .

America's Finest Newspaper carried a story today about a company that imports and distributes beer, then collects the kegs and ships them back abroad. First, these folks are doing God's work (as Franklin said, beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy), so you ought to know about them. Second, their process for tracking the kegs is called the Kegspediter System. That rules!

If you don't want to explore the uses of the Kegspediter System, it might be useful to review an article in today's Tribune (registration required). Bob Skilnik, author of the very fine History of Beer and Brewing in Chicago, 1833-1978, reviews the history of beer in America. It is an interesting article. However, the important thing is Skilnik's list of breweries trying mid-19th and early 20th Century beer formulae:

Augsburger: Formerly brewed by Jos. Huber, Point is test marketing a reintroduced Augsburger that is "100% barley malt, hops, water and yeast."

Capital 1900: Apparently the original Schlitz formula.

Huber Premium: Matured five weeks before sale, which contrary to the Budweiser claim, is better than drinking immediately.

Berghoff Original Lager: Mmmmm. Good.

Point Special Lager: All-American beer, including use of American hops. Also great with Thai food.

Another great beer resource is the Joe Sixpack column in the Philadelphia Daily News. It appears every other week, but really discusses beers that many people don't know.

While the center of the country was concerning itself with beer, Seattle was holding entire elections with direct impact on the ability to alter your state. Two issues on the ballot in yesterday's election were whether to tax coffee drinks (lattes, etc.) to fund early childhood education, and the official stance of the authorities to small-scale marijuana possession. The good people of Seattle resoundingly defeated the measure to add an extra $0.10 tax to their caffeine, and seem to have approved the measure that would require the Seattle Police Department and the City Attorney's Office to make small-scale marijuana possession -- when for personal use by adults -- their "lowest law-enforcement priority." Maybe this is why people in Seattle get so confused at traffic lights . . .

Finally, the dangers (I suspect) of all of these altered states is made clear in today's Boston Globe. This is generally a sad story about a horse from a riding school outside Boston that wandered into a road and was hit by a car. The amazing thing is that whoever hit this horse drove away. "Whoever struck this animal, clearly they had to know they struck a horse," Notwithstanding the absolutely miserable drivers in Boston, I gotta think the person driving the car was altered in several ways . . .

The International Herald Tribune today carried a story about Black Native Americans and some of the history of slavery in Indian Territories. It immediately made me think of Blazing Saddles, where the Indians speak Yiddish, and let the Black settlers pass because, "they're darker than us!" I guess Blazing Saddles isn’t the historical documentary I always took it to be.

The New York Times (registration required) ran a story today about surfers who catch the waves that hurricanes further south send up to New York. They go out to Rockaway in Queens and surf.

Finally, this is a little trashy for me, but my buddy FT in Washington was all hot and bothered about it and his own blog is too highbrow for it. Well, my blog is not too highbrow for anything, let alone a good daughter finds mom and new husband in bed, divorces husband, and serves as bridesmaid for mom and ex-husband's wedding story. I would start chanting JER-RY! JER-RY! now, but the happy couple(s) are Britons, not Americans. By the way, the quote of the tale comes from the daughter, who sayeth, "I think it's a mug's game. I've lost a husband, but I've gained a father." Now THAT'S putting a positive spin on things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm back in the saddle today. No more animals trying to bust out of my head, no more sleep of the dead "naps" for the better part of the afternoon.

Today is Mexican Independence Day. I had an inkling that something was happening in the Mexican community because all weekend I kept seeing groups of kids driving around waving Mexican flags, honking, and yelling. Now, because Chicago is the multi-ethnic city it is, we see this same display of (sub)nationalism from Puerto Ricans, Indians, Pakistanis, Irish, Bosniacs, Poles, etc. etc. etc. As such, by the time you remember to check why a certain group was doing this, the next group is doing it and you forget to check on the group before. It is just a part of the rhythm of the city. Still, it is nice to actually know what all of the honking and yelling was about last night. Since the Mexican community is probably the largest and most active wave of immigrants since the Great Migration, we should probably find a way to incorporate their holidays into our schedules. One more excuse for a party is never a bad thing.

Many people, particularly those on the right of the political spectrum saw Canada taking the last step into Hell earlier this year when the Canadians legalized same-sex unions and decriminalized marijuana (at least for medicinal purposes). Now comes word that the Canadian government is apparently in over its head with drug dealing too. First, the government-grown weed is grown in a place called Flin Flon, Manitoba. Boy, does that sound like a great place for weed.

Notwithstanding the great name of the growing location, laboratory tests indicate the Health Canada product has only about three per cent THC (which is what gets you high), not the 10.2 per cent advertised. The product also contains lead and arsenic. One Canadian weed enthusiast is quoted as saying, "This particular product wouldn't hold a candle to street level cannabis." The government weed is also criticized as was too finely ground up with stems and leaves, and referred to as "shwag" or "bunk," street terminology for the lowest grade of marijuana.

If anyone ever needed evidence of the benefits of the free market, this is it. Entrepreneurs from Mexico, Kentucky, southeast Asia, and greenhouses across the land have all shown that they can create quality merchandise that they deliver for reasonable prices. A government bureaucracy gets involved and delivers terrible product for a high cost. Adam Smith, where are you when we need you?

Today there were two stories about cities and their self-perception. The first is an article in the Christian Science Monitor about Rochester, New York. Rochester is a city about 90 miles east of Buffalo in western New York that is Kodak's world headquarters, as well as site of a huge Kodak manufacturing facility. The city also has a very large Xerox facility. Finally, Rochester also has a hot dog joint called Nick Tahou's, which should not be missed. In any case, the article about Rochester talks about how the city works very hard to retrain workers and cooperates with educational and industrial players in the area to maintain a population of trained workers for new industries and growth. Generally a nice article.

The second article is about a poll done by of professional baseball players of their favorite road cities. Chicago was their favorite city, followed by New York. This makes sense, since New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area are the only cities that all of the players would visit. Hence, every other city in the majors is only being considered by half the players. Second, the article commentary is depressing. When, oh when will Chicago columnists stop acting like we are Cleveland? Sigh.

The BBC ran a contest asking people to send them pictures of their favorite buildings. The results are abysmal, and shocking. This is such a train wreck, I encourage people to take a look and revel in their own good taste.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Sick. I hate this word because I hate being sick. This morning I woke up and felt like a large animal was trying to get out of my head. Mostly through the eyes, but sometimes animal would make a dash for the ears. I got up to go to work, and realized that work was not going to be productive today. And so it goes. Thus, no witty observations (arguably no change from normal), no links, no nothing. Just sleep, fluids, some reading, and more sleep. Tomorrow should be much better.

Saturday, September 13, 2003


When I get my hair cut, it can be a major excursion. I go to a barbershop (that certainly has no web page) in Roscoe Village. I have been going to The Barber, with the exception of my time away for school, since about 1988 or so. That makes me a newcomer at the Shop. Not so new that I am one of the yuppies The Barber barely tolerates, but new enough that I am expected to actually leave after I get my haircut. This is not true of the old Roscoe Village crowd, which spends its time talking about when Johnny the Weasel got stabbed at the biker bar that is now a boutique, and when Tommy the Vietnam Vet shot that kid in his garage. Such are the old days of Roscoe Village.

The Barber is an Italian man. I think he might be Sicilian, but I always worry about offending a man with a straight razor in his hand, so I never confirm. The Barber might be 65, he might be 70. He might be older. It is hard to tell, since I only see him in a professional context. When I see him, he is wearing his dark gray pants, black shoes, and a blue barber's shirt, open just enough buttons from the top to let his chest hair and the top of his open-heart surgery scar show. There are also a few gold chains in the mix. He drives a Cadillac with a vanity plate. When the neighborhood first started getting its yuppies, a free newspaper profiled The Barber. They said his Cadillac was parked out front. He never forgave the Press for that. His Cadillac was never parked out front! That would be too ostentatious for The Barber.

There are a few important things to know about The Barber. First, it may be physically impossible for him to speak English without swearing. I have seen him try and it just doesn't work. Consequently, he doesn’t cut women's hair at all, and he rarely cuts children's hair. When I see kids in there I always remember the Simpson's where Moe turns the bar into a family eatery, then snaps and uses the word "freakin," which immediately causes Rod (or is it Todd?) Flanders to yell, "Ow! My freakin' ears!" Any kid at the Shop will leave with an education.

The Barber also likes younger women. Very young. Like 40. He takes them dancing, and as he has told us several times, he can't use Viagra for two reasons. One, his heart will "f-ing explode," and two, he might kill one of his young girlfriends if he doesn't give them a break. Besides, with Viagra the girlfriends would be there too long, and The Barber doesn't like to share his bed. When he's done, you have to go. As he tells us, he always says, "I love you, babee, but I don't a share my bed wid a nobody, sonofabitch."

That last part is not so much directed at the woman in specific. It is just another quirk of The Barber. He ends most of his sentences with "sonofabitch." For instance, "look at it snow, sonofabitch," "I'm going out dancing tonight, sonofabitch," or "I think the Cubs game is on, sonofabitch." It is really just another way of letting you know he's done talking. Very helpful, really, since he sometimes gets excited and it is impossible to keep up with his rants. Picture Mussolini with a grudge against the city (for telling him he couldn't paint a tree on the parkway red, white, and green), bouncers (they always seem to hone in on The Barber when he's just dancing), or anyone who ever wants special treatment.

Anyway, I said that it can be an excursion. This is because The Barber does not take appointments, and for whatever reason, he is extraordinarily busy. Thus, on a Saturday morning, you have to go in and get a number. Woe to he who is not there when his number is up. Sometimes at 8:45 (although the Shop opens at 9:00) you walk into the Shop and he hands you number 10. "Two and a half hours, buddy." If the Shop is full, it really will be two and a half hours, so you can go run errands. If the shop is empty, there are a bunch of guys out running errands, some of whom will certainly miss their turns. Decision time. If you stay, you may jump four, five, God help us, six guys in line. If you go run errands, all of those guys missing could speed the line up and YOU will miss your number. No choice but to stay as long as it takes. Luckily The Barber has an extensive collection of five year old Hustler's, National Geographics, and Rolling Stones for people waiting. He also keeps a 20 year old Highlights for kids just in case. Gotta do what you gotta do.

By the way, today, at 8:40, The Barber handed me number 10, with a two and a half hour wait. I got a coffee and a newspaper and decided to gamble. One hour and twenty minutes later I was in the chair. The guy after me was number 22, skipping an incredible 12 spots. In almost 15 years, I have never seen anyone skip so many spots. That guy's Saturday could only go downhill from there . . .


The Boston Globe reported Friday afternoon that a New England 80-year old reported missing since Monday was found (alive) in a wooded area near his place of employment. Apparently he left work in his car. So far so good. Somehow he lost control of the car. Uh-oh. Happily he careened into a wooded area (as opposed to a school bus or something) and down a hill.

Up to that point, this is all in the range of Things That Happen. Now it gets strange. The man got out of his car and tried to climb up the hill he had just driven down. He slipped down. Undaunted, he apparently tried again to climb the hill. This time he tumbled down the hill and was stopped when he wedged UNDER his car. Three days later the police found him. He is 80, he fell down a hill (twice), got wedged under a car, had neither food nor water for three days, and is alive. If the guy I saw skip 12 spots in the Shop had been older, I might have thought it was this guy.

Friday, September 12, 2003

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune picked up a story from AP. It was about which celebrities are the best and worst for signing autographs. Clearly this calls for some scientifisizing and other analysis . . .Remember, this is a level of analysis that nobody else is bringing to the table.

Since I have a hard time gauging how popular famous people are, I decided to use the number of google hits that came up when I searched their name as an indicator of Star Power. The best are, in order, with their Star Power ranking are:

(1) Colin Farrell (348,000);
(2) Kate Bosworth (86,800);
(3) Asia Argento (140,000);
(3) Jennifer Love Hewitt (686,000);
(4) LeAnn Rimes (242,000);
(5-6) The Osbournes (447,000);
(7) Jessica Alba (449,000);
(8) Jennifer Garner (436,000);
(9) Kelly Hu (609,000); and
(10) Jessica Simpson (580,000).
Star Power average for this list = 402,380

The worst, in order, with their Star Power ranking:
(1) Cameron Diaz (1,040,000);
(2) Bruce Willis (1,070,000);
(3) Demi Moore (416,000);
(4) Orlando Bloom (928,000);
(5) Shannon Elizabeth (884,000);
(6) Janet Jackson (1,170,000);
(7) Catherine Zeta-Jones (241,000);
(8) Eric Bana (97,700);
(9) Hugh Jackman (183,000); and
(10) Christina Aguilera.(1,500,000).
Star Power average for this list = 752,970

First, it appears that generally, the more google hits for your name, the less likely you are to be a sport about giving autographs. Eric Bana, with 97,700 hits appears to be a statistical outlier that may simply mean he is a jerk. This is interesting, since I don't have the vaguest clue who this clown is. Second, my familiarity with the celebrity has no bearing on their willingness to give autographs, since there are two members of each list I have never heard of (Kate Bosworth, Asia Argento, Orlando Bloom, and Eric Bana). Third, women may be slightly more likely to be good autographers (9 of 11 on the best list are women, whereas 6 of 10 on the worst are women), but 60% of the worst are women, whereas the best is male.

CONCLUSION: generally, if you actually want someone's autograph because you know who they are, they will be a-holes about it.

In my old neighborhood in Lakeview there was a Jeep that had a bumper sticker that said, "Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're an a-hole." That bumper sticker cracked me up every time I saw it. Just thought I’d share.

I recently saw this on the web. Posting it here keeps me from having to e-mail it to lots of people. God, this is so funny… "Apparently, 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese. And there are 5 people in my family, so it must be one of them. It's either my mum or my dad... or maybe my older brother Colin. Or my younger brother Xiao Lu. But I'm pretty sure it's Colin."

The Straights Times of Singapore is reporting that researchers are researchers have developed a zebra fish that produces vaccines in its muscles. The only catch is that if the fish is cooked, the vaccine is destroyed. Hence, the zebra fish must be eaten raw. The guy who developed this is best known for producing a zebra fish that glows in various fluorescent colors. I think is name might be Doctor Moreau, although I could be wrong about that.

By the way, Johnny Cash and John Ritter both died last night.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

OK, I was not going to post anything today, since I did not want to get dragged into discussing September 11 of two years ago, and I did not think I could post and simply not mention it. Then, through the MSNBC web page went and published something I largely agree with. Stupid lousy media.

Anyway, the author of this piece counsels us to maintain, "a steady, unostentatious stoicism, made up out of absolute, cold hatred and contempt for the aggressors, and complete determination that their defeat will be utter and shameful. This doesn’t require drum rolls or bagpipes or banners." In other words, look to London during the Blitz, and the United States after Pearl Harbor for how to approach this conflict, not a post-Super Bowl rally. As this author says, the time to commemorate war dead is *after* the war, and we sure aren’t there yet. Not by a long shot.

Of course, this author also relates the following gem: the French had a saying during the period when the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were lost to them: “Always think of it. Never speak of it." This is supposed to teach us something because Elsaß and Lothringen are now French again. Well, he left out the part where the French were basically flat on their backs in World War I with no real hope of recovering these territories until the United States entered the war and Imperial Germany sued for peace. In fact, the French were mauled so badly in World War I that they were rapidly destroyed in World War II (at which point they again lost the provinces until the Americans again returned them). Maybe the French example is not so good after all . . .

He also has a bunch of other political crap in the article that is frankly stupid and irrelevant. Most of it is the same pseudo-Marxist straw man that lazy right wingers use to attack lefties who have never believed in it anyway. However, his admonishment to "dry your eyes, sister. You, too, brother. Stiffen up" is certainly good advice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Today my new favorite newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, reported that Lawrence Taylor had agreed to coach a group of models in the upcoming Lingerie Bowl. Jim McMahon is coaching the other team. The actual Lingerie Bowl is apparently a pay-per-view live event during Superbowl half time. It will involve, apparently, women in lingerie playing full contact football. Two questions. First, isn't this just that Lite commercial with the blonde and the brunette fighting on pay-per-view? Why pay for this when you can just record the commercial. Second, Jim McMahon has always been comfortable mocking himself, so his coaching is no surprise. L.T. on the other hand . . . well. Someone please tell me if this is worse than Dick Butkus and his newspaper grill ads in the mid-1990's.

Staying in the South, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story today about a Tires Plus employee arrested for soliciting prostitution and pandering because he called a woman who decided not to purchase tires because they were "too expensive" and offered to give them to her if she would have sex with him. He is 42. She is 25. I'm not even sure what to say about this. Except, ewwww.

In another news story, reported that Zachary Sanders, who passed the New Jersey Bar exam in 2001 has been denied a law license in light of his admitting that he, "travel[ed] to Cuba three times through Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas; deceiv[ed] U.S. Customs officials about the visits on re-entry to the country; l[ied] to customs agents about trying to smuggle Cuban cigars into the United States and bl[ew] off a query by the U.S. Treasury Department seeking information about his first visit. That last move led to a $10,000 department fine for ignoring the query, a fine Sanders acknowledged he made no effort to pay."

Sanders apparently argued that, "being a lawyer does not mean blindly following unjust and immoral laws . . . A healthy respect for the rule of law, and one's duty to comply with it as an officer of the Court, does not prevent one from engaging in civil disobedience." He quoted Gandhi, Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. while making this argument.

The beauty of this story is that the court actually seems to have gotten it right. It focused on the fact that he returned with cigars and did not engage in civil disobedience as much as smuggling. See, civil disobedience involves BEING ARRESTED to focus people on the immorality of the policy in question. Presumably Sanders did not realize that Martin Luther King was not visiting someone in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. By the way, please note that Doctor King never complained about being arrested as such. He attacked the morality of the laws under which he was arrested by challenging the states to convict a person under those ludicrous laws. Similarly, here is an account of Gandhi getting himself arrested. Finally, here is a short biography of Henry David Thoreau that discusses HIS being arrested.

The irony is that I actually believe that the Cuban embargo is terrible policy, and counterproductive both for the Cuban people and the American people. Still, it is galling to have this guy invoke Gandhi, Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. while lying about smuggling cigars. Clown.

As many of you may know, I am no Anglophile. However, I have to admire the Brits for their policy of destructive engagement with David Blaine in London. Blaine is currently suspended over London in a transparent box, and plans to stay that way without food for 44 days. This feat stands to break no world record. It is not even particularly interesting. Thus, he has been awakened by a drum beat, taunted with fish and chips, and now had eggs thrown at his box. The drummer is quoted as saying, " We were watching him at home on TV and it was really dull so we thought we would come down and liven things up. I wanted to wake him up." The guy who threw eggs at Blaine's box was "given a stern talking to," but not arrested. When, oh when will some clever Briton realize that Blaine is just a big piñata right now and go for the prize inside?

Today's Christian Science Monitor has a great article about a novel charitable enterprise. The idea is to actually make accurate maps of national parks in impoverished countries. They are starting in Mongolia, and the thesis is that tourism is hurt by the fact that these places simply don't appear on maps, or have absolutely no materials to help people get the most out of the park. A couple of notes here. First, I have to thank my aunt NM for turning me on to the Monitor when she was in college. The name always scared me off, but they really run thoughtful pieces that others do not. Second, I am imagining people driving from Yakutsk to Beijing on a road trip a la L and I driving around Lake Michigan, and one of them saying, "hey, let's swing over to Mongolia. It looks like they have a national park there." Cracks me up. Anyway, what I take away from this article is that if you see a Conservation Ink pamphlet for a Mongolian national park, go ahead and buy it. Couldn't hurt, right?

Finally, the BBC reported that something like 180 mud-constructed buildings in Timbuktu, Mali have been destroyed by flooding. These buildings are ancient, some dating back 600 years. Thus, this is a generally unhappy story. However, can anyone tell me to build a mud building that will last through even one rain, let alone 600 years? How is this done? Anyone?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I see lots and lots of news. I see more news than I can possibly process most days. Although I typically am looking for specific, work-related information, some things just catch my eye.

Today on Yahoo! there was a report headlined, "Ballpark organist ejected for playing 'Three Blind Mice' dies." When I first saw this headline, I thought an organist had been ejected for playing the song, then died soon thereafter. I read the article, and discovered that the gentleman was ejected in 1985, but had achieved some celebrity for being ejected after playing the song after a blown call by an umpire (who apparently had absolutely *no* sense of humor). Just as I was thinking that this potentially tragicomic story was going to have no humor whatsoever, I came across the name of the stadium from which the organist was ejected.

Jack Russell Stadium. Now, for any of you who ever knew my uncle N's dog Scooter will have a very clear, and unforgettable association with the words "Jack Russell." I immediately thought of an entire stadium filled with dogs that looked like puppies and "played" like wolf pups. I could not tell you how many times we ended up getting Scooter riled up and having to run away from him because he kept attacking us. Good times.

The Houston Chronicle, which is a bastion of hard hitting journalism (I hope none of the sarcasm there dripped into your CPU), ran an AP story today entitled "Even Spade didn't know when 'Just Shoot Me' died." The story was actually about the fact that Spade found out the show was not being renewed from a newspaper. However, as so often happens, the actual story was less interesting that what it made me think of. That is, the concept of jumping the shark.

I first heard this term from Bill Simmons, the former Boston Sports Guy, then the Sports Guy, now a writer for Jimmy Kimmel and a contributor to's page 2. However, as so often happens, once I heard it once, I heard it EVERYWHERE. It means, in short, that moment when a television show that was OK becomes irredeemably bad. For instance, there is broad agreement that The Brady Bunch jumped the shark when Cousin Oliver joined the show. Similarly, Scooby-Doo jumped when Scrappy-Doo was introduced. The one thing that bothered me about the term was that I didn't know the derivation. What shark? Who jumped? Then L and I were watching a VH-1 I Love the 70's thing, and they discussed the Happy Days when Fonzie, in leather and boots, water skis and . . . jumps a shark. Verily, I say unto you, that is one of the worst moments in television history and deserves to be immortalized as a short hand for the end of an era.

The Chicago Sun-Times had a report about State Street in Chicago. It is a typical puff piece in that it really just says that State Street is good and strip malls are bad. However, the end of the story has a State Street timeline which has a few interesting tidbits.

In 1831 State Street was part of the State Road authorized to go from Chicago to Vincennes, Indiana, which was a bigger city at the time. Presumably that means that if you get on State at Lincoln Park and don't get off of it, you'll be in Vincennes, Indiana, although I believe that Stateway Gardens on the South Side may make this a dicey proposition.

In 1908 the City Council renumbered Chicago addresses with the east/west axis being State Street. This is interesting, except that it means that if you grow up on the North Side, you are aware of essentially no addresses that include a direction other than North or West. I guess they didn't think of THAT!

In 1926, with Calvin Coolidge presiding, State Street switched on "the world's brightest streetlights." Two things about this. First, Coolidge's presidency was really about the most boring term imaginable, wasn't it? I mean, he presided over street lights? Good grief. This guy must have been death at a cocktail party. Second, I believe, after having traveled in the United States and Europe, that Chicago may have the brightest streetlights known to humanity. I never realized how bright the city was until I went to places that have a concept known as "light pollution." Whatever that is, we ain't got none of it here.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Here at work we live in an elevator culture. We are on the 11th floor, which is about seven stories higher than is reasonable for a walk-up. With that in mind, you'd think that the company that manages our building would have some incentive to maintain the elevators. Well you'd think wrong if you thought that.

As I left the office to go to lunch, I noticed an unusually large number of people waiting for the elevator. This didn't seem too odd, since I usually go down to lunch at 11:45 (thereby avoiding the rabble) and today it was 12:15. Maybe this was how the rest of the world lives, I thought.

Fifteen minutes later our crowd had gotten larger and more unruly. The crowd was developing a Bulls-win-the-championship riot vibe. I came back into our offices and asked our Office Manager to call the building and ask them what the deal was. It turns out they were well aware that (a) only two elevators were working, and (b) only one of the functioning elevators is traveling past the sixth floor. They were planning to call the company that maintains the elevators. Seems like the obvious call, but I was still glad the building had thought of it.

Today in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a person wrote in with a question. How is a bicyclist supposed to proceed when there are no cars around and their bike is too light to trigger the automatic device that changes traffic signals when cars are present? Now, if this question strikes you as reasonable, you ain't from around here. If there are no cars around, why are they stopped? I was baffled by the question until I reconsidered the fact that it *is* Seattle and I do live in a state where the governor proposed a law allowing the police to ticket drivers traveling too slowly in the left lane.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Just a few observations today.

First, I don't really know the altar server (formerly altar boy, but revised to account for the fact that many "altar boys" are girls) schedule at church. I get the sense that the beginning of the school year often brings the new alter servers. Today we had three altar boys (no girls in this crew) for the Mass. Two looked too tiny to carry the ceremonial candles, but gamely marched up and down the aisle with them, as well as holding them during the Gospel reading. Nevertheless, they seemed new because one of them walked up to the priest with the book they read prayers from tucked under his arm. He looked kind of surprised when Father took the book from him, opened it, and gave it back to him to hold. Apparently he slept through that part of the training . . .

And then there was the third kid. It was his job to carry the crucifix up and down the aisle. He barely made it with the offertory. His arms were shaking and you could see the perspiration collecting on his brow. I was scared for him. Then I realized that the crucifix was metal, and I was scared of him. What is the penance for killing someone with the crucifix when you drop it?

Well, the long and the short of it is that the studied nonchalance of the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders is completely absent from these new altar servers. The young man who sauntered up to me in the sacristy before my wedding last year and asked, "how ya doin'?" will soon be attending the high school of his choice, and an era will have passed.

Moving on, I have seen three *very* special articles regarding dogs in the news lately. First, the Rocky Mountain News had a hard hitting article about Doctor Sheri Beattie, who apparently runs the "International Canine Semen Bank of Colorado (uhm . . . I thought it was international) out of her Brighton Animal Clinic. Now, this quality article has a lot to recommend it. From the description of Mark the German Shepard bounding into the doctor's office to make his fourth "deposit," to the fact that the doctor changes out of her lab coat to help set the proper mood for the dog, to the quote from the doctor that "if I could, I'd do dog reproduction all day long and never treat another cat abscess." As our friend G likes to say, "it's a big ol' world."

The second *very* special article was reported by Reuters from Berlin. I know from experience that Germans protest differently than we do. By "we" I mean all non-Germans. This includes the Austrians, the German-speaking Swiss, the German-speaking Belgians, the Luxemburgers, and the Alsatians. Germans are just different. Still, the article, in its entirety follows:

"More than 3,000 dogs have paraded through central Berlin in a demonstration by owners for more rights and public tolerance.
A number of the dogs in the parade that snarled traffic throughout the centre of the German capital were wearing costumes. One German shepherd was wearing a bumblebee outfit and two others were dressed as nuns.
Accompanied by police escort, the dogs and their owners marched some five km (three miles) from the Victory Column to the posh west Berlin shopping district through the Schoeneberg district before returning to the starting point for a rally.
Speakers at the second annual "Fiffi Parade" called on the local government to set aside larger areas where dogs can roam free without leashes. "We need pro-dog rules and not anti-dog laws," said Gisela Duellberg, one of the organisers."

I had to read the article at least twice to figure out that (a) this was not a 101 Dalmatians-style spontaneous outburst of canine activism, (b) there was no rationale provided for dressing the dogs as bumblebees or nuns (I am continuing to assume that the nuns were, in fact, dogs and not ugly nuns), and (c) there was no rationale provided for the difference between the pro-dog rules they are advocating and the anti-dog laws they are protesting. Where do the constitution, statutes, regulations and other forms of public regulation stand on the pro-dog/anti-dog continuum? Are laws the problem, or are there offending ordinances that have not yet been brought into the debate? By the way, the headline was "Dogs Dressed as Nuns Snarl Berlin Traffic."

Finally, the Chicago Tribune's maleducated little brother, the RedEye, recently reported that the reason Chicago hot dogs are loaded with so much good stuff (mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes, sour pickle, celery salt, and sport peppers) stems from a war between Greek and Italian dog dealers around 1920. Supposedly, the Chicago Frankfurter had been supplied to willing patrons with typical "Germanic" brown mustard, sour pickle, and celery salt. In an effort to get more business the "Mediterranean" tomatoes, onions, relish, and sport peppers were added. Now, my first thought is that anything in RedEye is likely wrong, or at least simplified to the point of idiocy. Nevertheless, it is one interesting thesis for dog dressing in Chicago. Another is that they taste good that way . . .

By the way, the RedEye story was on the Tribune web page, and I already know that by this time next week they will want you to pay to read what I just typed. No link for them.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Where we live, the summer is bookended by two great festivals half a block from our place. The first is the Maifest, held in . . . wait for it . . . May. The second is the German-American Fest, held in early September. The German-American Fest is going on now. Their logo is an American flag with George Washington's portrait from the dollar bill superimposed and a German flag with a really terrible picture of von Steuben superimposed. Makes me proud to be a German-American.

Last night L and I were supposed to go over to the Fest when I got home from work by 6:30 or so. When I came in at 8:00, I knew it would not be good. The lights were all off (did she go without me? Sweet, maybe we already have tickets for beer and food!), and the apartment was crypt quiet. Then she spoke. "You're home?" "Yes. What are you doing?" "Resting." Not good.

As luck would have it, on my way in from the car, I could hear the strains of Ein Prosit (referred to last night as the Bavarian National Anthem). This always puts me in the mood for a little Gemütlichkeit and Bier. This allowed me to overcome the distinct feeling that getting home from work an hour and a half late was bad.

I rallied the troops and out we flew. We hit the Fest to the strains of something that sounded suspiciously like Edelweiss played on cow bells. I was ready. Then we hit the ticket line. It was long. It was the kind of long that made me wonder if I should run home and grab the oil can of Fosters that I've been saving for a special occasion. This consideration was weighed against the reality that I would probably lose my place in line if I went all the way home for a beer. I stayed.

After 20 minutes (by far the longest I've been without a beer at any German heritage-type festival in my adult life), we reached the ticket window. Now, buying tickets for food and beverages at festivals is an art. Typically I don't know yet what things cost, and I have spent enough time in line that I have no interest in repeating the experience. On the other hand, it is a rare local merchant that will accept "German-American Fest 2003" tickets as currency. Hence, the amount purchased should closely approximate the cost of beer you can consume without having to add to the burdens of the American health care system, plus the cost of the Thüringer you can eat without dying of veal poisoning. I calculated this at $50 (without knowing what Bier or Wurst cost). It is important to keep in mind that this was also all I had in my wallet . . .

We made our way to the first Wurst stand we could get to. Wurst were $4 per. Hmmm. Questioning the ticket calculation already. Also, still no beer in sight, although everyone around us appears to have a beer.

We begin to wander. By wander, I mean hunt for beer. I follow L for a while. She turns around and asks me where we're going. Not good. I take the lead and begin following the sound of traditional (read stereotypical) German music.

We make our way inside a tent. It is an enormous tent. It is a tent so big I expect a circus and high wire act when we enter. Instead, we are confronted by a group of 40 to 50 year old men in Lederhosen on a stage. They may be playing "Gloria" by the Doors. As unlikely as this seems to my work-addled brain, my attention is immediately drawn to something infinitely more important. There is beer being sold in this tent. Big beers. Maybe 32 ounce beers (although they don't say) sold in keepsake plastic mugs with the above-described logo on them. Nirvana (given the event, Valhalla?). For the low, low price of $16 I get two huge Beck's Oktoberfest. Now we are rolling.

For a while we drink and people watch. We are standing next to a sewer grate that stinks and has a pool of fetid water around it. L and I gain tremendous enjoyment from watching overdressed trixies and women wearing open-toed sandals hitting the water and trying to figure a way out without taking another step. We have more beers. And then some more.

Some sadist calls last call. It's 9:45. The fest will close at 11:00 (it is outside in the middle of a Chicago residential neighborhood). I make a beer dash and we drift to different section of the tent so we can see the band better and put our beers down on a table. We can also see the dance floor, which is full beyond capacity and includes a man L has nicknamed "The Captain" since he is wearing the sort of hat "popularized" by the Captain of Captain and Tanielle (?) in the 1970s. He is literally dancing with himself (as opposed to the Billy Idol sense), as well as any female with the poor judgment to stray within arm's length of him, and the occasional folding chair. He is outstanding, in the way a really bad wreck is. We cheer him on.

At some point, we end up between a group of four college aged guys in front of us and a big group of 40-somethings behind us. Each group talks to us, and when I see one of the college kids with his arm around the waist of one of the 40-something women while both smile at me, I realize that both groups are assuming that we are with the other group and are friendly. We are the conduit and the college kid might be scoring because of us. And so it goes.

The college kids bought lots and lots of beer at last call. Like three for each kid. They will die if they drink all of their beer. They begin to do the smart thing. They keep pouring their extra beers into my nearly empty mug every time we sing a song together. The band plays Alice (who the hell is Alice), E-I-E-I-O, and Ein Prosit in a row. I am quite drunk. Good kids.

At some point, we walk home. The front (frunch to you Chicagoans) room is spinning, but the Cubs have won, and the Cards have lost. Sleep. Sweet sleep…

By the way, I just discovered that the name of the nine (or so) year old futon I am sitting on is "Cheapy Sleepy." This sounds like a wonderful example of Engrish (Japanese English), but I think it is really just the sort of marketing you get from a company that sells futons with frame and futon for $99. Gotta keep their overhead down . . .

Friday, September 05, 2003

This is a test post to prove to my wife, L, that it is possible to embed a web link in a blog post. As such, it should be read with sensitivity to the fact that I am an inexperienced blogger and do not need a bunch of crap, either.

I read today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the military has worked with private industry to develop an electronic bugle to simulate the playing of Taps by a live bugler at funerals for honorably discharged veterans. Two things crossed my mind. First, is it really more dignified to have a guy with a toy "play" Taps than to not have the music at all? Second, if Tang and Teflon were the benefits of the space program, will electronic instruments be the benefit of the Bush military? Good grief.

By the way, do you think the element that plays "Taps" is made in China, or Japan? For the age of lots of the veterans in these funerals (World War II vets) I hope it is China. At least they were a nominal ally in the war.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I would like my first blog post to be the traditional "are we on?" or "did this work?" However, I'm just not sure what to put. Is that a good sign? This could be a very, very short blogging run...