Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Today a former postal employee went to a mail processing facility and shot six people before shooting herself. When I first saw the headline that an "Ex-postal Employee . . ." I thought it was a cheap shot. You know, playing up the "going postal" stereotype. Then I read that she did it at a mail processing faciity.

It seems that there really is something about working at the postal service that increases the risks of violent outbursts. I did a little research (very little: I typed "postal shootings" into google), and discovered the stressdoc. This page claims to have looked into the postal issue extensively and had a top ten list of "postal pressure points." These are:

1. Fishbowl Pressure
The Man is always watching.

2. Mail Mania
Too much mail too quickly.

3. Overtime
See 2 above.

4. High Pay and Nontransferable Skills
Can't afford to quit because you will never get a job that pays what this one pays with your skills.

5. Protective Unions and Management Networks
See 5.

6. Employee-Manager Personality Profile
See 6.

7. Destabilizing Effects of Downsizing
See 8.

8. Reliance On Temps
See 7.

9. Partially Disabled/Chronically Injured Employees
Cripple fight!

10. Us vs. Them
See 9.

Frankly, off the top of my head I would say that at least 1-6 and 9-10 apply to professional atheletes as much as they do to postal workers. I guess we ought to be glad that more locker rooms don't get shot up.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


The Chi is a multilingual city. It seems as if it always has been, with the French being the first permanent European inhabitants to the area, and the local Potawatomis presumably not speaking much French. The city has seen waves of immigrants since then, with huge numbers of German, Polish, Lithuanian, Greek, Croatian, Yiddish, and other language speakers arriving during the course of the Industrial Revolution.

The biggest ethnic development in Chicago in the last fifty years has surely been the rise in the number of Hispanics in Chicago. As can be seen here, Hispanics in Chicago are very widely distributed. As such, Spanish sort of overlays all multilingual interactions in Chicago. Thus, you will see signs (in their respective languages) that say, we speak Polish, we speak Ukrainian, we speak German, we speak Croatian, we speak any number of other languages. There will always be a note underneath that says Se Habla Espanol. Always.

Because Spanish underlies all of these multilingual interactions, I like to look for what I perceive to be the most unlikely possible combinations. Spanish and Polish is not very unusual. They interact often along Milwaukee Avenue. Spanish and Ukrainian interact often along Chicago Avenue. However, in our neighborhood, along Kedzie Avenue, I now see what I deem the most unlikely combination. Spanish and Arabic. I mean, didn't Spain fight 250 years of wars to never have to see Arabic again? I guess commerce really does trump all else.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


The New York Times today did a little story about Richard Ohms. Ohms lives in Edwardsville, Illinois, which is near St. Louis. Ohms is a self-described Illini Guy. He is 49 and single. He was the mascot for Edwardsville High. He graduated from Illinois in 1977.

Illini Guy watches all of the Illini football and basketball games. For years he drove from Edwardsville to Champaign for every Illini home football game. He watches the games with the phone off the hook. He does not answer his door during the games. I suspect that this is not a huge issue, frankly. Apparently he wishes to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in the area where he tailgated. He says that when the Illini win, he is so excited that he can't sleep. The Illini were 37-2 last year in basketball. Probably a tired year for him.

I am positive that there are men like Richard Ohms who root for Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, and a number of other big, Midwestern states. Why, oh why did they find a fellow Illini?

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I don't think I am obsessed with either China or the Chinese. That notwithstanding two out of three posts being about China. That being said, I am fascinated by this Christian Science Monitor article about the efforts of the Chinese to spread Mandarin in the world. Taking a cue from the Goethe Institut and the Instituto Cervantes, the Chinese are calling the centers for teaching Mandarin the Confucius Institutes and have opened them in 20 countries. At the same time that they are trying to instill Mandarin on the hundreds of millions at home, they are trying to train 100 million foreigners to speak it.

One hundred million, plus the 1.3 billion in China would make it pretty worthwhile to learn Mandarin...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Wow. Last year the quintessential Cub for my generation, Ryne Sandberg was elected to the baseball hall of fame. Today one of the first Cubs I was fully aware of as a fan, Bruce Sutter, was elected to the hall of fame. Can Rick Reuschel, Dennis Lamp, or Jose Cardenal be far behind?

By the way, Dennis Lamp gave up Willie McCovey's 513th home run (most by a National League lefty), Lou Brock's 3,000th hit, and Reggie Jackson's 2000th hit. Even though he did only the first two as a Cub, clearly Lamp was born to be a Cub.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


One of the funny questions I hear people ask is whether someone "speaks Chinese." My understanding has always been that China is chock full of languages, and even the "minor" languages may have more speakers than say, Flemish. Thus, a person could speak a Chinese language with 20 million speakers and be essentially useless depending on what you need "Chinese" for. L's experience supported this, with Chinese students often telling her that their time in the United States improved their English, as well as their Mandarin, since they used that to speak to Chinese people from all over Greater China.

Today the Los Angeles Times had a very interesting article on the decline of Cantonese relative to Mandarin both in China and in the United States. If and when the link requires a password, use your Chicago Tribune name and password (if you have them) and it will work. The joys of corporate newspaper ownership.

Anyway, apparently the Chinese communities in North America have tended to be Cantonese speakers. This was because the provinces from which immigration was most easily accomplished were in the Cantonese-speaking south, and Hong Kong. However, in the time since most of the residents in North American Chinatowns emigrated, the PRC government has done a more effective job in pushing the use of Mandarin as the official language of China. Thus, more recent immigrants often are Mandarin speakers. In addition, more business in China is apparently being conducted in Mandarin than was true before.

The funny thing is that part of the lament is that Cantonese speakers believe that swearing in Mandarin is simply not as interesting or effective as swearing in Cantonese. The example given was:

Take the popular Cantonese expression chi-seen, which means your wires have short-circuited. It is used, often affectionately, to call someone or something crazy. The Mandarin equivalent comes off to Cantonese people sounding like "You have a brain malfunction that has rendered your behavior unusual."

Say what you want, but the Mandarin sounds like a computer translation. Maybe the Cantonese speakers have a point.

Meanwhile, a New York Cantonese-speaker made me wonder if the Cantonese/Mandarin difference could be compared to the difference between the Italians and the Germans. She said, "The Italians need body language. We don't need that at all. We have adjectives." So, maybe, the Cantonese are the Italians, with all of the stereotypes that encompasses, and the Mandarins, with their computer language, are like the Germans, with all of the stereotypes that encompasses.

I await feedback from my resident China hand, F. By the way F, feel free to use the comments section. It makes it look like I have readers.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Yes, that should read "Irving Park Rd" rather than "Irvng Park Rd". On the off chance someone from IDOT reads this blog, it is on the west side of Cicero, just north of Irving (as opposed to Irvng) Park Road.