Wednesday, May 31, 2006


As L can attest, the first time I saw the documentary that later became the series America's Deadliest Catch I was totally transfixed. I had absolutely no doubt that the show would be a huge hit. I have a knack for these things.

I am calling a new hit. It is Bad Lads Army on BBC America. The show is described as "yob culture comes face to face with 1950’s style National Service." No idea what that means. Apparently that's Bwitish for a bunch of criminals and slackers getting their asses kicked by a bunch of former military guys. It is pretty compelling, although as near as I can tell, half the dialog consists of guys saying "Right! Hrmph wropp pwowo! Right!" Kind of like Monty Python. Still, when the Major Henry Dodds tells the yobs "you're all going to die" in his first interaction with them, you just know the show is going somewhere good.

Of the soldier types, one has a hyphenated name ("Harry Lort-Phillips"), one is called "Julian" and another is called "Alistair." Can't go wrong with this show. Get on the bandwagon now. Plenty of good seats still available.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


This morning on the el there was a kid I have seen many times before on the el. He looks to be between maybe 16 and 19. He is full of affectations. He starts off with a scrawny little 'stache that is now, after maybe a year of seeing him, filling in. Usually I won't make fun of someone for their facial hair, since I could not grow a 'stache to save my life. In a Taliban America, I will be viewed as unpious for my utter lack of beard. On the other hand, I don't try to grow a 'stache.

This kid also must be into some martial art or something, because he likes to sit with his legs crossed in an exaggerated lotus position. He would sit in a seat on the el, then make a big show of grabbing one foot and cramming it into place. He would then breathe deeply. He would then repeat with the other foot. Then he would casually take a book like The Way of Life by Lao Tzu out of his bag. Very deep.

Today he went a whole different direction. We all got on the train. He was directly across from me, with a middle aged Latin lady sitting next to him. He has on headphones, but his legs are not crossed. All of a sudden he winds up like he is about burst forth into song. Thankfully he lip synchs. Then the rips into a vicious air guitar. The lady looks out of the corner of her eye at him, not turning her head an inch. She gets this disgusted look on her face and rolls her eyes. She tries to scoot further into the corner of her seat. Now the kid starts playing drums on his knees, and really getting into lip synching. I mean, he's an American Idol. The lady looks like she wants to get up and punch him.

Then the kid abruptly stops and puts his head between his knees while wrapping his arms around his knees. He is "asleep" on a crowded train, with people's knees inches from his head. It is a great performance and I am almost in tears trying not to laugh out loud.

The kid is still "asleep" when a new batch of people gets on. One of them is a woman about the same age as the kid. She is blond, wearing shorts that are very, very short and about 1/3 of a T shirt. The kid does not see her because he is "asleep." She stands just past him on the el. A few minutes before he is to get off the kid sits up straight, looks around him, sees her, and is suddenly stock still, sitting straight up. No air guitar. No "sleep." His eyes get wide, and he looks her up and down, as straight and normal as I have ever seen him. It doesn't matter. She looks right through him until he gets up to get off. Then she took his seat.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Not by any planning, L and I had a real foodie weekend. First, on Saturday we went to the Jewels (as they say in the old neighborhood). Since I was along there was significant impulse buying. More later, but we got a bunch of finger bananas. These are outstanding. They are sweeter and creamier than regular Cavendish bananas. L thinks they taste like banana nut muffins. They are excellent, and make me want to try other bananas, like apple and red bananas.

Anyway, Saturday we had a pretty typical all-American holiday meal. We grilled brats and hot dogs and ate them with the usual sides of slaw, p-salad, etc. That was not so foodie, but it tasted gooood. For dessert L soaked some pineapple in rum, which we put on skewers and grilled. We then dumped the grilled pineapple on coconut/pineapple ice cream with chocolate sauce. Boozy. Sweet. Good.

Sunday we were sitting around, doing domestic stuff when K called. He was at work because he was about to get slammed in a case he is working on and was trying to catch up. That meant that D and the kids were out of town. Apparently the waters parted and extension came through. Suddenly K was in the city on the weekend without his fam in town. Naturally he called L and me. We met him at Hopleaf, which is a Belgian-influenced bar/restaurant. L and I both had the Steak Frites, while K had the Lamb Stew. We shared the Belgian style mussels for two. God they're good. I enjoyed a few Vichtenaars, which was quite nice. By the way, I don't buy all of the Beer Advocate crap about Vichtenaar, or any other beer for that matter. What a bunch of snooty a-holes. Anyway, L and I headed back to Lincoln Square and decided to try the Cold Stone Creamery that just opened. Admittedly, the chain ice cream joint isn't very foodie, but I am just being complete, alright?

As part of the impulsebuyingpalooza that L was forced to endure with me, we bought two salmon steaks, some dill, some mini carrots, and a package of small potatoes, including Yukon Golds, Purple Potatoes, and others. We decided to try to grill again, but didn't have a recipe. So, here is a useful recipe:

Step 1, get a sheet of foil.
Step 2, lay thick (3/16) slices of citrus (we used lemons, but limes might be good) down as a base on the foil, in the middle.
Step 3, lay one salmon steak on top of the citrus bed and season with salt and pepper.
Step 4, lay dill across salmon.
Step 5, cut potatoes, carrots, onions, and whatever else you want on and around the salmon, season lightly.
Step 6, break a pat of butter up and put pieces around and on the salmon and veggies.
Step 7, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mixture.
Step 8, close the foil up so that it is an airtight seal around the food.
Step 9, rewrap in another layer of foil to prevent ripping.
Step 10, put the foil packet over hot coals for 1/2 hour.
Step 11, carefully open and enjoy.

You're welcome.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


As promised, L and I completed the Lane Tech page with pictures from last weekend. It is here. So stop complaining.

Friday, May 19, 2006


The BBC carried a story this morning that the "Chief Inspector" for the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted in Orwellian terms) told a group of teachers that parents had responsibilities with respect to the education of their children, and getting the kids to school ready to learn. His list of responsibilities was set forth as:

(1) being up and ready for school, awake and alert, not tired and lethargic from last night's television, computer or entertainment;
(2) being properly nourished and dressed, not scruffy or hitting the sweet shop en route to school for a substitute breakfast;
(3) being prompt and enthusiastic both at the start, and throughout the school day, not late or dilatory;
(4) being ready to learn - if to confront, to do so with debate and discipline, not ignorance and apathy.

I know that it is easy to take pot shots at teachers, especially elementary and high school teachers. Still, I can probably count on one hand the teachers I had that consistently met all four of the responsibilities above.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


And as Iraq burns, and gas is $3.30+ a gallon, and the Federal government still has not committed to any energy policy other than drilling for more oil, and one in three homeless men is a veteran of our armed services, and the NSA is probably reading this as I type it, the Senate today debated whether to declare English the "national" language of the United States. One vote was 63-34 to declare English our "national" language. Moments later the Senate voted 58-39 to call English our "common and unifying" language. I vote 1-0 to call it "die schoene Sprache Shakespeares" (the beautiful language of Shakespeare). Now we have three meaningless declarations of fact.

There is no doubt that English is the only language in the United States with which you can fully participate in our society. You can vote, shop, be entertained, read, etc. in Spanish, Polish, Romanian, various Chinese dialects, various Indian languages, Russian, Vietnamese, and other languages. However, English is still the language of full participation. Call it the National Language, call it the Common and Unifying Language,whatever. That is true regardless of an idiotic Senate vote. It will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

I am sure that there will be people who accidentally wandered into an ethnic neighborhood where their English was not very useful who will tell me that I don't understand; that this time it's different. Unfortunately, one of the Senators (Jim Inhofe, which sounds pretty foreign to me) helped to clarify the fact that we have already been through this. He quoted Teddy Roosevelt one hundred years ago saying that those living in the United States "must also learn one language and that language is English." Indeed. And so they do, have, and will.

In 1919 Meyer v. Nebraska started. The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Meyer for teaching in a language other than English when he taught a Bible story to a 10 year old in German. That court said:

The salutary purpose of the statute is clear. The Legislature had seen the baneful effects of permitting foreigners, who had taken residence in this country, to rear and educate their children in the language of their native land. The result of that condition was found to be inimical to our own safety. To allow the children of foreigners, who had emigrated here, to be taught from early childhood the language of the country of their parents was ... to educate them so that they must always think in that language, and, as a consequence, naturally inculcate in them the ideas and sentiments foreign to the best interests of this country.

Sound familiar? You know, this time is different. Just like it was in 1919, when Germans were "it" in America's game of Fear the Foreigner. In 1923 the United States Supreme Court overturned the Nebraska law, as well as similar laws in Iowa and Ohio. As luck would have it, none of these states ended up leaving the United States and merging with Germany since 1923. Let's keep our fingers crossed that they don't do it any time soon!

Thus, while modern day Know Nothings waste their time on unworkable "immigration reform" and these language beefs, we are at war and are doing nothing to render the areas in which we fight irrelevant to us. Truly that is a good use of the Senate's time.

ADDENDUM: Today's sign of the apocalypse is that George Bush apparently agrees that this amendment to make English the "national" language is a bad idea. G.W. and I agree that we both like baseball, would both rather live in the U.S. than elsewhere, and now this.

Last night the Cubs had an infield of Neifi Perez at third, Ronny Cedeno at shortstop, Jerry Hairston, Jr. at second, and Todd Walker at first. Yes. Three second basemen and a shortstop. That's a good sign.

In the Netherlands some sloth bears killed and ate some Barbary macaques, which are apparently monkeys. The bears overcame their slothful nature and chased the monkeys into an electric fence. When the fence stunned the monkeys the bears ate them. What the hell? Since when do bears use logic and tools like that? Since when do Sloth Bears chase monkeys down? What the hell?

I am currently listening to Guru, late of Gang Starr. Check out Plenty with Erykah Badu, All I Said with Macy Gray, and Code of the Streets (actually Gang Starr, but same idea). Also, check out Talib Kweli Just to Get By.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Last Saturday L and I went to an open house at my high school. There was a lot of cool stuff that we took pictures of. I expect that we will put a Lane page on the Rooster & Anvil. Nevertheless, I had no choice but to share the wood cut Works Progress Administration superheroes from the library.

Industrial Man. He builds factories in a single bound!

Electricity Man. He races through the air, trailing flame in his wake! Uhm, which seems sort of like maybe he is miswired...

Aqua Man! Oh wait. That's just Aquaman.

And now you know where all of those crazy superheroes from the 1930s came from.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Barry "My Hat Size has Always Been 12.5" Bonds is at 713 home runs for his career, which is one home run less than Babe Ruth hit in his career. It is 42 fewer than Hank Aaron hit in his career. The Cubs are playing the Giants now, so it is possible that Bonds will hit 714 off of a Cub. Thus, the Tribune ran an article about players in various sports who gave up the "Big Play" and how they reacted.

Ralph Branca, who gave up the Shot Heard Round the World to Bobby Thompson in 1951 ("the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!") was their first case study. Branca says the 1950s were "absolute hell" for him, and that only decades later has he come to embrace his role in history.

Everson Walls (covering Dwight Clark for The Catch) and Craig "I'm Michael Jordan's Bitch" Ehlo (and the aftermath) are both fine with having been posterized by great moments in sports (good thing).

In any case, while Donnie Moore killed himself and gave up a home run to Dave Henderson in 1986 (the causal connection seems to be missing), most guys either sort embrace the "at least I'm famous for something" or the "leave me alone" style.

So you wonder, how would last night's pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who is famously "emotional," which some people take to mean "crazy," have reacted to giving up number 714? Well, this article has a key quote from Z. Sayeth Z "If he hit it, I wouldn't be the only one he's hit a home run off. He's got 713. It's no big deal for me, but it's a big deal for him." Leave it to Z to make giving up a historic home run look like pressure for the hitter, not the pitcher. I love that guy.

The Chicago Tribune had an article yesterday that talked about the plan being implemented by the University of Illinois to improve its statistics with regard to the student body. People are up in arms because the plan involves cutting the size of the freshman class and increasing the percentage of out-of-state students enrolled. Illinois is falling behind its peer schools on both counts. The quotes in the article are mostly from people complaining because their kid did not get into U of I and they expected the kid to. The refrain seems to be, don't favor out-of-state kids over locals!

The funny thing is, in a very fundamental sense I agree that the school's mission needs to be to educate the kids of the state of Illinois. However, the "increase" the school is targeting is going from 10% out-of-state to 15% out-of-state. Pretty at the margins. The smaller freshman class is, in fact, a return to historical norms, with the increase in the last few years being unusual. In other words, the number of people who will be impacted by this who are Illinois residents is very, very small. 6500 total freshman is a historically appropriate number. Ten percent of that is 650. 15% is 975. Thus, the entire issue is whether your child would have been one of the last 325 (5%) students admitted.

My advice to the parents who are so up in arms about this: being in the last 5% admitted is always a bad place to be. You are always vulnerable to the whims of the administration. Maybe you ought to talk to the local high school about the classes and activities they offer to allow your kid to try to get out of that last 5%. Alternatively, maybe it is time to be more realistic about this whole Tom-Cruise-safety school business and recognize that Illinois is a very good institution and Johnny might just not be an appropriate candidate.

P.S. You might also consider moving to Chicago and having your kids score grade points and ACTs from a city school similar to those of the kids at the nice suburban schools. My ACT of 30 coming out of a Chicago Public School was worth much more than the 30 coming out of New Trier. Something to think about...

Sunday, May 07, 2006


This morning I got up, put on my Yomuri Giants hat, and went out. Thus, we have all American mutt (1/2 German, 1/4 Irish, 1/8 French Canadian, 1/8 Lithuanian) wearing his Japanese baseball cap. I drove a mile north to Devon Avenue. Devon and Western is the epicenter of the Indo-Pak neighborhood. There is so much retail on Devon that I was having trouble tracking the store signs. I headed west on Devon. I was on a mission.

At California Devon changes personalities. The neighborhood turns Russian, and Jewish. I don't know much (read: anything) about the groups that live there, but I saw a bunch of huge vehicles (SUVs, 12 passenger vans, etc.) driven by women with their hair covered. Interestingly, I wasn't looking for a Russian place, a Jewish place, or even a South Asian place. I was looking for the Argo Georgian Bakery.

Fortunately, I remembered that the place was near a place cleverly called "Afghan Restaurant." At 9:30 on a Sunday morning, parking was a snap. I went in and had zero idea what I wanted. I got two tapluna, which are like a piece of baklava wrapped in pastry and powdered with confectioner sugar (fantastic), four turnovers (two apple, two raspberry), and a loaf of puri, which is a huge, round bread. The puri is very chewey and sort of like a naked focaccia, but different. Very good. In fact, I split a piece and drizzled olive oil, pepper, and parmesan on the inside. Excellent.

The funny thing is that they gave me my stuff in a bag. I noticed that the bag had Russian written on it, which is different from Georgian, but I assumed it was for the bakery. Imagine my surprise when I got home and saw the bag pictured below. Apparently I went east, rather than west on Devon, and much further than I realized!

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Today I discovered at about 6:15 that I needed to stay home to resolve a plumbing issue. This is not a "self resolution" situation, but rather, a be home to let the guy in situation. The guy came for round one. Between his pidgin English and my pidgin Polish we determined that he would put something down the drain that would help start to resolve the immediate issue.

I think he put concentrate of vomit in the drain. It is like a rotten egg/vomit odor that is just filling the place. I have every element of cross ventilation I can think of going and the bathroom sealed off. It doesn't matter.

Oh, and in an almost Arnold-like accent he informed me that "He'd be back." This ought to be good.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Today's cover of the Redeye (the Tribune's idiot version for Trixies and Dudes) had this picture of Nancy Vega. Obviously this is the face of a criminal. Thank God for all of the brave legislators who are working hard to criminalize being undocumented.

Yesterday somewhere between 400,000 and 700,000 people marched in Chicago. Whether they marched for "immigrants rights" or "respect" or to remind people that they are here and are a vital part of our society, they marched. Chicago had the biggest march in country, with another 300,000 in Los Angeles. In Chicago reports are that Poles, Irish and other people, in addition to people from all over the Western Hemisphere marched. Our Cardinal, who doesn't do as much right as his predecessor did, spoke at the rally at the end of the march. Old St. Pat's, an entry church for the Irish in Chicago hung this sign:

(Susan M. Richter, Photographer)

So, my take on this? People who want to criminalize being undocumented and providing humanitarian services to undocumented people are not proposing a morally sound solution to our immigration issues. People should not be rewarded for breaking American law. That does not mean their kids should not be educated and that they should not be able to receive social services from groups like the Church. Even as we discuss guest worker programs, and trying to improve the quality of life in countries that are net exporters of labor, we also need to acknowledge that undocumented people provide backbone services in our society, are generally not criminals (other than their undocumented status), in many cases pay taxes, and have generally come to America for the exact same reasons as our immigrant forebearers.

In the late 18th century people like Benjamin Franklin were concerned about the "swarthy" Germans who were overrunning Pennsylvania. They were not American in their outlook, spoke a different language, and were largely (gasp) Papists. It all sounds too familiar for me to be anything but welcoming to the next great infusion of energy into the American Experiment. The Latin, central/east European, African, Asian, and Caribbean immigrants we are blessed with today will change this country, and in many ways strengthen it. Just because some of them are undocumented is not reason to be anything but grateful that people still want to come to America and make a better life and a better country.