Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Last month I was in New York, on the trip with the Joisey people I blogged about before. The flight back was very nearly as full as the flight out. Again, I was in the next to last row on the aisle. I looked forward on the plane and there was a little lady wearing a nun’s habit standing on a seat, punching her luggage into the overhead bin. I was quite struck by the image, but then she sat down and we took off. I almost forgot about the little nun. When I got to O’Hare, I went up to the Departures level to get picked up (only suckers get picked up at Arrivals) and waited for L.

Suddenly the little nun came flying out the doors. She whipped out a mobile phone and started jabbering frantically in an undetermined foreign language. She looked agitated. I almost asked her if she needed anything. Then she whipped a rosary out of her other pocket and started fingering the beads and mumbling. I decided I would not disturb a praying nun.

As if on cue, a car came flying by. I could see that there was another nun driving. She slammed on the brakes and jerked the car over to the curb about 50 yards down from us. The nun standing near me grabbed her bag on the run, hauled ass down to car and jumped in at a dead run. The car then peeled away and was gone into the night. I told L that the pick up seemed to well rehearsed that I thought the nuns either were practicing to go to, or had come from one of those places that jails people for being Catholic.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Ukraine held elections in November, and they were seriously flawed. The current Prime Minister claimed to have won, and the opposition took to the streets. It seems like most international commentators agree that the opposition actually won the election. Now the east of the country is going to hold a referendum on its "status" within Ukraine. This is because the east of the country is majority Russian-speaking and has not ever reconciled completely to being Ukranian, rather than Russian.

And so Stalin's ghost continues to stalk the former Soviet Union. Stalin moved Russians into the Baltic, moved various ethnicities within the south of the old USSR, and drew "national" borders that included unreconciled minorities. None of it seemed to matter when the Soviet Union was intact. However, now we have this conflict in Ukraine, the problem of the Kaliningrad exclave, the various ethnic conflicts in Georgia and the Crimea, and the intractable Chechnya problem. Stalin set a time bomb to punish anyone who ever tried to break the USSR into its elements, and we continue to see the reprecussions today.

L and I have cable. We have sort of low level cable, but it is digital, and we do get like 80 or 90 channels. Thus, I can see the allure of cable. That’s why I can sort of understand the two guys I saw the other day.

L and I were in the Old Irving Park neighborhood because L saw a sign for the Korean Martyrs’ Catholic Church and wanted to find out who the Korean martyrs were. While there we saw the Tridentine Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Don’t even ask what that is. All I know is that they can be liberal or conservative, but they reject Vatican II. Therefore, the cathedral had the motto “The Understanding Church” but also advertises its Latin High Mass. I have no idea.

Surprisingly enough, neither the Korean martyrs nor the Tridentine Catholics were the most entertaining thing we saw in the Old Irving Park neighborhood. Two Latin men were in the alley. They had a ladder and about 60 feet of cable. As I watched them, they raised the ladder up toward the electrical lines. One of them eyeballed it for the perfect place to prop the ladder, the other gathered cable. Then the first one laid the ladder against the electrical wire (!) smack dab between (but not touching) two utility poles and started to climb the ladder. We left when he was at the top of the ladder. The other guy was smiling and holding the bottom of the ladder. The electrical cables for two blocks were swaying with his movements. Ah, the allure of cable.

Friday, November 19, 2004


L and I are off to a Unibomber-remote cabin for a few days of rest and relaxation. I set my autoreturn at work tonight and the old message was from last Thanksgiving. Maybe that's why I've been so testy. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and know that I got 94% in 117 seconds here. I only got 94% because I had Tennessee eleven miles off.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Originally uploaded by dforgue.
A friend sent me this. I guess this is the ultimate in getting new clients for yourself.

I am currently reading At The Tomb of the Inflatable Pig by John Gimlette. It is a sort of travelogue/history of Paraguay. I had no idea that Paraguay was insane. The book is very, very entertaining and very informative. In the context of this review, I will now unsueably quote a substantial portion of said book:

"The builder looked at his pick-up doubtfully. 'I don't think it will go that far.'

He was right. There were too many essential structures missing. It would have been like driving around in a diagram.

I started reinforcing my pleas with offers of cash. I worked my way up the street, making more and more outrageous propsals at each tyre [Limey book] shop. My bidding reached its critical momentum in the grocer's. I was now offering the equivalent of fifty newspapers, three old prostitutes or a night-and-a-half at the Hotel Dysentery. It was good enough for Lino the grocer. He was soon packing me into his fancy new pick-up, with his wife out on the back. I was pleased that she was coming because it took the hard commercial edge off our transaction, turning it into more of a family outing. Mrs. Berera brought her swimming costume, a beach towel, a garden chair and a bottle of frozen cherryade. It was obviously an excursion they'd enjoyed many times before and Mrs. Berera wasn't the least perturbed when her chair slid backwards and forwards across the truck as Lino whirled in a tornado of red volcanic gravel. We tried to keep an eye on her in the mirror but sometimes Mrs. Berera slid completely out of view and it wasn't until the next fold in the earth's crust--and the reversal of centrifugal forces--that she made her stately reappearance."

This is funny. I recommend actually purchasing this book. A rare compliment from me.

I once voted for a man under indictment. His name was Dan Rostenkowski, and he was a great Congressman because he brought the bacon back to Illinois. I understand that in the world of Chicago politics, indictments are simply part of the game. Chicago politicians don't generally (successfully) run on morals platforms.

The GOP ran on just such a platform nationally. That's fine. They can make their bed any way they choose. I think lots of us just expect them to lie in it. That's why news that, "House Republicans approved a party rules change Wednesday that could allow Majority leader Tom DeLay to retain his leadership post if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury on state political corruption charges" is galling. If the GOP can't rely on a Texas Grand Jury, maybe they need to start actually acting like the men they hold themselves out to be when they campaign.

A week ago Monday I needed to be in New York City for the United States Court of International Trade Judicial Conference. In keeping with my general rule about not writing about work, the substance of the conference will not be inflicted upon you. However, the trip out is not technically "work." I'll try to write about the trip back later.

Anyway, I flew Continental from Midway to Newark Liberty. Newark is in New Jersey. I have often heard from our friends U and M about New Jersey people, but I'm not sure that I really understood what they were telling me.

The flight was full. Every seat, front to back. I was in the next to last row, on the aisle. A family walked up. They had the middle seat in my row and the three behind me. They were with another family that had four seats in the middle of coach. The kids all talked like they had never been out of New Jersey in their lives. The dad was awesomely tanned with well coiffed hair. The mom was the product of three kids, a boob job, lip injections, and a serious tanning booth. Mom and Dad talked like the kids. The plane left the tarmac in Chicago. The Loop appeared below us. The middle kid (maybe seven) asked if that was Joisey. Dad said he'd pop him if he said anything that stupid again.

The fasten seatbelt light was extinguished. The other family's mom walked back by her friends. She was a bottle blond, also with fake lips and a preternatural tan. She had probably seen the same boob doctor as the first mom, but she packaged them in a mesh see-through shirt with a little sweater covering the outer portions to the nipples. She made me think of the line in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure when the kid tells Freud he's sane, with a minor Oedipal complex because his dad married a cheerleader who was a senior when he was a freshman.

In any case, the parents decided to all sit together up front and let the kids sit in back. This was probably a net gain, since it freed the middle seat in our aisle. Still, the kids got in a water fight, on an airplane. The flight attendants actually went and got the parents. Dad came back and asked the kids whether they were a "bunch of knuckleheads, or what." Apparently that was the extent of his parenting skills, because he then walked back up front. The kids settled down enough that they just wrestled and banged the younger one's head off the tray table behind my seat for the remainder of the flight.

The strangest thing was this. The flight was full. Every seat. When we landed, Dad stayed up front with the Desparate Joisey Housewives. The kids stayed behind us. Nobody ever returned to the seat in our row. The flight attendant looked at the seat, shrugged and went to put her own seat belt on. I can only assume that the kids killed one of their own and crammed him into the toilet to be discovered later.

Truly things are different in Joisey.

The building in which I "office" (God, I hate MBAs and their inability to speak English properly) is testing the emergency system for the building. Suddenly little blue strobe lights started flashing in the hallways, and a voice of god came on telling us there was a test, and no action was required on our part. The voice of god then said, "we will be playing music for your enjoyment during this test." They the started blaring Bryan Adams through the office. The have the local "Lite Rock" adult contemporary station on loud enough that we can't use our phones to ensure that the speakers work.

Hear me now believe me later, if they played Bryan Adams to get me to evacuate the office, that would work like a charm.

The Moscow Times reports that the Constitutional Court in Russia has barred Tatarstan from switching the alphabet used to write Tatar from Cyrillic to Latin. The court indicated that this switch would harm the unity of the nation. I wonder if they realize that Tatar, whether written in Cyrillic, Latin, Chinese, or Cambodian is incomprehensible to people who don't speak Tatar. Kind of like the fact that Spanish is written in the Latin alphabet, but arguably does not promote unity among Americans when so written... silly Russians.

By the way, the article says that Tatar was written using the Arabic until 1927. Then it was switched to Latin (about the same time the Turks were switching Turkish to the Latin alphabet). In 1939 Stalin helpfully mandated that Cyrillic be used. Crazy. An 85 year old Tatar would have started learning to read using Arabic, been switched to Latin, then Cyrillic by the time they were 21.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Von Clausewitz described war as diplomacy by other means. However, a story in the Prague Post this week reflects the strange bedfellows that war can produce. Makes me wonder if sometimes war is politics by other means. Many people have heard that Patton wanted to arm captured SS units and send them at the Russians after Germany was defeated in World War II. His idea was to basically make them fight for their lives to destroy Stalin. Turns out this sort of idea was a mere rehashing of a similar idea (as most ideas are).

Apparently the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia met in Prague on November 14, 1944. As is true of so many vital moments in Czech/Bohemian history, the meeting took place at Prague Castle. Attending were high ranking SS and Wehrmacht officers, as well as representatives from the various Slav lands the Nazis had conquered. The plan put forward was to recruit an army of 1.5 million Russians and Ukrainians from the POW population and use it to invade and conquer Stalin's Soviet Union.

Apparently the Nazis thought this idea had some real problems, but ended up arming 50,000 of these guys and sending them through Bohemia and Moravia toward the Red Army. This was May 1945, and the army realized that if the Soviets captured them, they would be tortured and executed. Therefore, they decided to march to Pilsen, where Patton had stopped his advance through the Reich. The army stopped to rest south of Prague as the Prague Uprising against the Nazis started. As it became evident that the Soviets were about to let the Czech patriots and Nazis kill each other (as they had in Warsaw the previous year), the Czechs asked the POW army for help. The army went to Prague, causing the Nazis to surrender instead of destroying the whole city. The army then marched to Pilsen where the United States eventually returned most of them to the Soviets, where they were tortured and killed.

What a strange, strange story.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


I will never forget the line from a TV movie where the woman yells "a dingo stole my baby!" I always thought it was a strange line. As if dingos just went around stealing babies. Well, apparently they do. The BBC reports that a dingo entered a room on Fraser Island and menaced a three month old baby, until her five year old sister scared it away. Crazy.

In any case, the BBC did some interesting reporting. For instance, at root, this story is thus: a dog wandered into a hotel room and was scared away without harming anyone. However, the BBC let us know that "the Corke family moved from Britain to Brisbane three years ago, for the sunshine and a more relaxed lifestyle." Further, Mrs. Corke thinks "we share this planet with animals and I think this is really an unfortunate circumstance. What would be a wiser precaution to take on the part of all of us on the island is that they could at least put more explicit signs that these animals have become so bold that they're willing to come into a room."

So, they are beach bums and they didn't realize that a dog might wander into an open hotel room. Great story.

The Japanese found a foreign submarine lurking off Okinawa. They are tracking it with an airplane. The submarine did not launch any missiles, shoot any torpedoes, or surface below any Japanese school ships (oops). Nevertheless, the Japanese have indicated that they "want to resolve this issue peacefully." Jeez for a country that has been "pacifist" for fifty years, it sure didn't take much to get them to contemplate non-peaceful solutions, did it?

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Tomorrow I have to fly out of Midway Airport. I have to do it at a time when L will be singing in choir. I return to O'Hare Airport, so I don't want to park at Midway. I was going to take a cab, but decided I will take the el. Much smarter, and much cheaper.

I live 0.1 miles from the Brown line train. I will tell you how I know this in a minute. I take the Brown line probably four or five times a week. I know where it goes. I do not take the Orange line. It mirrors the Brown, but goes south to Midway. I was not sure where I could transfer from the Brown to the Orange in the Loop. I got on the CTA web page and see that I can do it at a number of places. Good. Things are looking up.

I next decide to give their trip planner a whirl, just for yucks. This takes me to the RTA page. Bad sign. The RTA is the clownish bureaucracy that sits over the CTA and dedicates itself to bus service in the car-addicted suburbs. Pretty useless. In any case, I put my address and destination into the trip planner. It helpfully points out that I am 0.1 miles from Leland and Western, and advises me in THREE DIFFERENT, ALTERNATE itineraries to take the Western bus south for over an hour until it intersects with the Orange line. Not one itinerary takes note of the 100 year old el line AT THAT INTERSECTION!!!

RTA, stoopidest answer ever.

Friday, November 05, 2004


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that "just after 10:30 a.m. yesterday, a man climbed aboard a crowded Metro bus heading into downtown Seattle from a stop along Aurora Avenue North at North 85th Street, near Green Lake." The man tried to use a bus pass that was expired. The driver told him it was expired. The man asked to be let off the bus immediately. The driver said he would let him off at the next stop. The passenger took exception to that. He "the man allegedly grabbed the bus' steering wheel, wrenching it away from the driver. The bus then veered up over a curb and through a tree before slamming through a utility pole. It crashed to a halt along Aurora at North 80th Street." The man then "booked" away from the bus, and was apprehended by the police.

I don't think that little adventure got him where he was going any more quickly.

The BBC reports that the Somalian leper colony has been flooded out, and that the lepers are dying of malaria, and exposure. What a complete and utter kick in the ass. To be a leper living in a leper colony in Somalia. Oh my God.

The International Herald Tribune reports that the first foreign policy move that GW has made with his new "mandate" in hand is to piss Greece off. Not a bad first move, I guess.

Anyway, when Yugoslavia split into its constituent countries, one of the new countries was Macedonia. However, the Greeks went nuts about this because they have part of historic Macedonia (i.e. Phillip of Macedon Macedonia) and didn't want the Macedonians claiming the entire historic Macedonia. Therefore, the Greeks bullied the Macedonians into calling their country The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The international community went along with it. Until now.

It appears that the United States believes that it will help lessen ethnic tensions by calling the country Macedonia. In addition, it should be noted that Macedonia has 70 troops is Iraq, and Greece has not been supportive of the war in Iraq. I think the main motivator was pure laziness. The old name was just too damn long.

Many news sources are reporting about the National Guard F-16 that strafed a grade school in New Jersey the other night. Now that this has happened in the United States, in New Jersey, on a shooting range the National Guard has presumably used before, is there any doubt that this sometimes happens abroad?

By the way, nobody was hurt.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Montana has a Democratic governor. This story tells you that. However, this story also talks about the people who lost the race. In fact it discusses the Libertarian thus:

"Jones, 65, a retired business consultant from Bozeman, also ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002 as a Libertarian. He advocated a limited role for government and is critic of public schools and prefers private schools. Jones also called for major cuts in state government.

Jones is probably best known for his skin, which is a shade of blue after he ingested colloidal silver in 1999 as a precaution against diseases that might be spread if the Y2K computer switch failed."

I see an Alan Keyes, Stan Jones dream team running for President/Vice President in 2008. They would be geographically diverse (Keyes could fail to bring the Maryland and the Illinois votes, while Jones could fail to bring the Montana vote), and they would be funnier than hell.

map of US
Originally uploaded by dforgue.
My cousin NQ sent me this. The funny thing is, I suspect that both Bush and Kerry supporters are nodding sagely as they look at it.

I think everyone knows someone who talks and talks and talks about politics and policy, but you know would never run for office. They don't want the loss of privacy, etc. etc. Well, there is a new idol for these people in Cicero, Illinois. Her name is Michelle Chavez. She is a Democrat in the Illinois House of Representatives, after having won her election on Tuesday.

Ms. Chavez took a unique road to winning. She had no contributions to her campaign. Her campaign does not appear to have spent any money. She had no flyers. She had no yard signs. It does not appear that she ever appeared in public to campaign. She did not respond to newspaper inquiries about her candidacy. In fact, the Democratic leadership in the House doesn't know her, or how to contact her.

And yet she got 53% of the vote. The man she beat, the former incumbant, indicated that she won using coattails from Kerry/Obama, and by grassroots efforts. I can only imagine what constituted "grassroots" in that campaign.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


I won't be adding my thoughts to the many who will be commenting on the elections. Suffice it to say that if Democrats want national power, they ought to look to Illinois for a model. The state is rural, conservative, white, industrial, urban, liberal, diverse, and wealthy. What works in Illinois will work elsewhere. Try moderate politics, embracing policies that are good for people, regardless of where they come from, and making things work. Just a thought.


A few weeks ago I finally finished The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto. It is about New York in the Dutch period. Shorto is too much the New Yorker, and gets on thin ice when he claims that American values of tolerance come from the Dutch influence in New York. I would argue that most immigrants brought tolerance with them, since they generally left somewhere to be left alone. All in all, however, it is a pretty interesting read. RECOMMENDATION: get it at the library.

Last night I finished Plague by Edward Marriott. It is sort of all over the place. It tells the story of the discovery of the plague bacillus in Hong Kong, then meanders through some other plague issues and cool rat stories. The point was that the Japanese guy who was credited with discovering the bacillus didn't, and that plague could break out again any day, especially since there are drug-resistant strains in Madagascar. It was OK. RECOMMENDATION: borrow it from a friend, don't take the energy to go to the library for it.

Now I am reading Gunter Grass's Crabwalk. I kind of like it, but I suspect it will be too Grassian for most people. Thank God I'm reading it in English. Some of the changes in perspective are tough enough to follow in English. In German he would have lost me.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


I recently had some Chinese (People's Republic of) currency in my hands. I notice that something was written on the back in a variety of scripts. I asked my local China expert F what the deal with that was. He sent this, which includes the clarification that, "on the new paper money, the words "People's Bank of China" appeared in Chinese characters and in Mongolian, Tibetan and Uygur's languages." And there it is.

I went down to get lunch. I stopped at a takeaway faux Italian place. The gentleman behind the counter was wearing a miniature hand grenade with (presumably) fake gems on it. It struck me as sort of an ominous talisman. When he handed me my order, he told me to have a "blessed day." Blessed by the absence of hand grenades?

Meanwhile, the Tribune reports that a hand grenade was found in right field at Wrigley. It was hollowed out and contained no explosives. Still, what a grenadetastic day.

Think corporate culture doesn't pervade our entire culture? Well, you would be wrong. The Chicago Sun-Times has a story today about a funeral procession. The procession was headed out Archer to go to Resurrection Cemetary in the suburbs. They were going to bury a member of the Latin Kings street gang. Apparently many in the procession were in full King gear.

A funny (or not) thing happened on the way to the cemetary. A rival gang member saw the procession and started flashing gang signs at the procession. This doesn't seem very bright. The procession stopped. Someone shot the rival gangbanger. The procession went on to Resurrection.

That is multi-tasking. Carrying on a gang war at the same time your are burying your own dead.

Monday, November 01, 2004


This is too funny. Just click the link.

I think I scared the maroon helicopter away. He has not been back since I posted his call numbers. Now, I have been abducted by aliens twice since then, and flames and a satellite dish shoot out of my ass whenever I press the switch in my ass, but the helicopter is gone.

The New York Times pointed out yesterday that the time span from 9/11 to election day is only three months shorter than the time span from Pearl Harbor to VE Day. Of course, VJ Day was less than six months after that. That floored me. Anyone feel like we're three months from having really done anything to defeat the terrorists? How about none months away?

I understand that there is a very crucial, very fundamental difference between World War II and the War on Terror. In fact, back when the Presdient referred to 9/11 in comparison with Pearl Harbor I knew the analogy was flawed. The Germans, Japanese, and to a lesser extent the Italians, had the decency (that term being inherently relative in this context) to have countries and armies and battles. Still, all of the "Mission Accomplished" signs in the world are not going to convince me that we are anywhere close to VE or VJ Day in this war. We haven't even finished the job in Afghanistan, let alone rooting the terrorists out of countries we can't just invade.

Today L and I were driving down to the Loop on Lake Shore Drive. It is a cold, wet, raining type day. It has actually been raining pretty hard, and there were starting to be some puddles forming. Sitting in traffic just north of Fullerton, we saw a car speeding north hit a big puddle going pretty fast. He shot a huge wall of water over the divider wall and into the south bound traffic. A guy ahead of us and in the left lane in a nice, big Jaguar flinched when the wall of water hit his car. L and I both saw him and thought it was strange that he reacted like he did. As we pulled next to him, I noticed him wiping his face and saw that his window was open about 1/3 of the way.

He immediately tried to change lanes. I laughed and told L that he should think about closing his window instead. L pointed out that since it was a Jaguar, the windows probably didn't work in the rain...

What a way to start the week.

Watch the Manchurian Candidate (the original). Watch anti-Communist propaganda from the 1950s. Listen to trade protectionists talk about China today. All of these sources give you the idea that "China" is a monolith, that the "Chinese" are a single organism working toward a single goal, and that the country is poised to conquer the universe.

I have blogged several times about the "Chinese" minorities in the Chinese west. They are Turkic, and Muslim, and have no more to do with the Han Chinese than the Tibetans do. Today I learned about an even crazier split in ethnic China. The BBC, AP, and International Herald Tribune all carried stories about ethnic clashes in China over the weekend. I started reading the BBC version, in which is said the conflict started when "Mr Lu, from Nanren village, began a fight with Mr Liu, from nearby Nanwei village." I'm thinking, those are two Chinese names, so where's the "ethnic" in the ethnic clashes?

Turns out that one of the guys is Hui. The BBC says that the HUI are mainly descendants from 13th century Central Asian immigrants and look and speak the same as the Han Chinese. There are 8.5 million of them, and Islam is central to their identity.

I had no idea the Hui existed. It seems, from the BBC description, as if they are a religious, rather than an ethnic minority, since they look and speak the same as the Han majority. However, the myth that even the Han Chinese constitute a single nation in the political science sense is taking a real hit here.

Alan Keyes came to Illinois to run for United States Senate. He is currently about 51 points behind Obama in the polls, which is what political pundits call an ass kicking. I'm not sure he'ss come that close to Obama. Keyes is a carpetbagger from Maryland, and a nut to boot. However, he doesn't want the Illinois GOP to feel like he was just using them. That's why he now says that after the election, he's going to stay in Illinois to help rebuild the state GOP.

Illinois Republicans are reeling. The last governor, who was a Republican, is going to jail. With the excpetion of the extraordinarily moderate Judy Barr Topinka, every state constitutional office is held by Democrats, the largest city in the state is run by a Democrat, and we are about to replace a Republican Senator with a Democrat. Now crazy-assed Keyes is threatening to stay after he loses an election by 50+ points? That, as they say, has GOT to hurt.