Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Machine stays well-oiled

I think the most telling sign that Mayor Richard Daley had a strong grip on the race for reelection is the fact that the Chicago Tribune only used four paragraphs to announce his win Tuesday night.

With what will end up being in the neighborhood of three-quarters of the vote, he cruised to a record sixth term and it was greeted with a big yawn by the Chicago media. I guess it frees up more reporters to cover the problems with the El rehab project.

When people ask about politics in Chicago, and espcially the allegations of corruption dating back to The Machine's heyday, my best answer is that for your typical resident, they get their trash picked up and their streets clear of snow. What more could you want?

Is it disheartening to hear about corruption in your government? Certainly. Does it matter to most people on a daily basis? See above regarding trash collection.

So, congrats to the man who was gleefully unapologetic about plowing under Meigs Field and has to take this vote as a clear sign that he's bulletproof in the world of Chicago politics. However, he should be keeping tabs on the weather reports in a few years, especially if anyone can raise a candidate with a pulse or a mean streak who will be willing to take more than a bluffing charge at him.

Need proof? Just go Google Jane Byrne.

(Photo from InTheseTimes.com)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Up, up and away

I fly out of Minneapolis for Colorado Springs in four hours and have the usual antsy tics I get when I fly now.

For anyone who has spent even a few minutes with me, you see the immediate problems with these types of situations.

For starters, I hate waiting in lines when the delays are caused by people not paying attention or are unaware of the rules they're expected to play by. That never happens in a security line, right?

When the TSA rules change weekly and some chowderhead is yapping away on his cell phone or is letting their kids run free while they pick their nose in line, it bugs me to no end to stand behind them as they fish for metal in their pockets or their boarding passes that they've misplace in the 150 yards from the ticket counter to the security lines.

This is only compounded by the unfounded anxiety I feel when waiting to pass through the checkpoints.

I hate these things. I hate the fact that the only things standing between me and my flight (and my schedule) is someone who is bound by protocol for simple problems such as trying to take a lighter or pair of scissors onto a flight.

It's weird, I don't mind the flight itself, but I'm such a pain in the ass for staying on schedule and not getting held up by other people that the build up is just hell for me.

At least we're light years safer in the realm of air travel because of all this nonsense, right?


(Photo from: ISellColoradoSprings.com)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I've found something to keep me busy

As most of you know, I'm getting married in a few months.

It's an exciting time, Frankie is working up bachelor party plans and the rest of the details for the wedding are small enough that we don't need to worry about them right now.

That leaves one thing - learning to dance like this for the big day. I think working the coat is key, but I may need to watch this a few more times to narrow down the finer points.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I think my brain is crying

I've gotten used to a lot of things in this world.

I pay nearly 300 percent on the markup to get a can of soda in a gas station versus buying a whole case at the grocery store. I tolerate with people who need to be protected from themselves on what seems to be an hourly basis. I even learned to share the roads with drivers who have the memory and mental acuity of a soap dish.

Some days, though? Sweet Jesus, does it get to be difficult.

Case in point is the local news tonight.

(Side note: We only really watch one channel for news in Minneapolis - KARE 11, the NBC affiliate - because the rest are embarrassingly awful. No joke, we have seen "investigative journalism" about college hockey players who were sneaking into bars underage -Oooohhhh... - countless scare tactic stories that were meant to draw us in at 10 p.m., but never did and the temperature of milk. No, really, the temperature of milk. That's still ridiculed in this house on a weekly basis and is one of the cornerstones of any good debate on why we need to move as quickly as possible.)

Well, tonight has just been one of those nights for stupidity on parade, but I'm almost happy to say it's not a direct result of the reporting.

First, we had a story of a heroic substitute mail carrier who - again, not kidding - saw a spider in a Meals on Wheels bag and then went to call the first responders. The elderly man who'd spent days on the floor was there because his daughter had gone out of town for the week.

She'd assumed that there were safeguards in place to help prevent those types of problems.

Gee, doctor, you think?

If your dad is your responsibility, has limited mobility and needs you to live at home to lend a hand, maybe calling home once or twice a day to make sure the old coot answers the phone should be one of those safeguards.

Unless you vacation in the Amazon River Basin, find a phone and call your dad. Don't wait for the mail carrier - who thinks God helped her find the victim on the floor - to clean up your mess.

As if that story wasn't bad enough for my blood pressure, the next knucklehead up was the drunk who had a few too many, bull-rushed a window at the hotel he was staying at in downtown Minneapolis and then fell to the ground when the window totally punked out and gave up without a fight.

(If I remember correctly, the only thing that saved this guy was that he landed on the hotel's awning, Tom and Jerry style, and that broke his fall)

As they interview this mouth-breather, he's admitting on camera that a.) he was pretty drunk and b.) any attempt to recreate what was going on in his mind at the time he was rapidly approaching the window is pure conjecture.


So, he gets so hammered that he crashes through a window in a high-rise and manages to survive and I'm expecting the story to end well with a nice little life lesson and how much he loves his family these days, but no.

The camera pans back to reveal a Goldschlager ad on a wall as it becomes apparent that our favorite flightless partygoer is doing his interviews in a bar.

To recap: So drunk he jumped through a window on the something-teenth floor of the hotel. Now holds interviews regarding the incident in a bar.

Now, I had my share of alcohol-related injuries and many of them fell directly into the dumbass-induced category. However, I think falling 17 stories would be enough to scare me straight. I guess Baby Huey was boozed up to the point that he thought it was a ride or something.

You can train earthworms to learn from past experiences faster, campers.

(Update: So, it turns out the guys who fell out of his hotel owns the bar he was being interviewed in. Do I regret this post know that fact?

Well, I might, until I saw him quoted in the Star Tribune as saying:

"Hanson's reflections in recent weeks have been frequent, though he still doesn't know why this happened.
"Maybe it will come to him when he gets on his motorcycle again. Or maybe, he said, the episode is a sign that he should cut back on drinking."

(Photo from OxfordRadcliffe.nhs.uk)

Rubbin' is racin'... or so I'm told

Let's make one thing clear - I'm not really a NASCAR guy.

I should be and think I'd make a damn fine representative of the NASCAR nation, but I just can't get over the red state stink that coats the whole thing.

Of course, I realized I should have live-blogged the whole Daytona 500 about 15 minutes too late on Sunday, but I offer you these pearls of wisdom days late and subject to the inaccuracies of my sick, sick mind.

* In the pre-race discussions, one of the commentators was discussing the angles of the banks in the turns that help keep the cars on the track at 180 miles an hour.

Announcer: "Those are 30-degree angles on the banks there! That's a steeper angle than the roof on your house!"
My mind: "Well, no shit - most mobile homes just have a piece of corrugated metal welded straight to the the top, right?"

* I nearly went into patriotic shock while watching an American Idol alumnus, several huge American flags and a stars and stripes outline of the USA. It was a little over the top if you ask me.

Or anyone whose middle name isn't Lee, Ray, Jean, or Sue and is used as part of their full name in casual conversation.

Or who have received a gun rack as a gift at some point in their lives. I'll stop now.

* Everyone should add Idiocracy to their NetFlix queues right now. It's a cautionary tale, but just seeing a few crowd shots - in addition to Danny's photojournalism essay a few years back - made it all a little too real for me.

(Photo from: ThirdWayBlog.com)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Who's keeping track of this?

The History Channel ran a presidents marathon this weekend, taking John Q. Public through a tour of our nation's top dogs.

Lots of cool little facts and "Where did they go?" types of information as well as on-the-fly power rankings of were they good presidents, bad presidents or dead because of strange old time disease presidents.

That evening, as part of the Save Our History program, there was an hourlong documentary about how there had never been a definitive ruling on George Washington and what he really looked like.

To remedy this, a team was assembled to produce three figures for Mount Vernon that showed Washington as a teen surveyor, middle-aged general and an aging president.

It was all pretty cool, down to the backtracking the historians had to do to de-age the only known measurements and facial castings from in his 50s by looking at his underpants. That and going to work on the wooden teeth myths and other variables that no one had really looked into before now.

The two big cornerstones were a bust and life-sized statue produced in France while Washington was alive and while they were incredibly accurate, the original measurements were lost during the French Revolution. This was a total bummer to the science types involved.

While I'm sure the Library of Congress has the weekly weigh-ins for all modern presidents to track Bill Clinton's Big Mac consumption and Jimmy Carter's annual slim down before beach season, I can't help but wonder what we're missing that future historians will be kicking themselves over.

In this booming Information Age, things are better recorded and stored than ever before with knowledge becoming a Top 5 commodity in our society. Still, we can't find the original tapes from the lunar landing anywhere in the NASA archives (the original signals were beamed to Australia and then sent again to the world) and there have to be other pieces of history falling through the cracks.

This doesn't even take into account new technologies - like 3D renderings or whatever else is around the bend - that aren't invented yet. Then again, I'm sure no one thought to record Washington's inseam size what with the fighting the British and not getting eaten by woodland animals things going on at the time.

My money is on DNA as the mystery piece to the future's puzzle and we're already seeing some of this, beginning with Abraham Lincoln's speculated Marfan's Syndrome. Rather than the ugly business of exhuming dead presidents from their family estates, I'd honestly be surprised if there's not a cooler at the National Archives full of presidential blood right this very minute.

In the meantime, I can only imagine how kickass future museums will be with a cloned Richard Nixon causing problems for the museum staff and secretly plotting against the workers in the food court.

(Image from HistoryPlace.com / SaveOurHistory.com)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hold on, this will be awesome...

OK, so I'm surfing with my coffee this morning, and while I'm sure this will be old news by Monday when most people are reading this, Britney Spears has lost her ever-loving mind.

Like off the deep end, batshit crazy stuff.

Try these on for size:

* Checking into rehab (great decision)
* Checking out of rehab (bad decision)
* Shaving her head
* Getting tattooed

All within 18 hours of each other. TMZ.com has the pictures and the details, including the hair stylist who refused to shave her head and then watched as Spears grabbed the clippers and did it herself.

For the record, I love that the hair stylist wouldn't go near her and the tattoo guy basically said, "Yeah, whatever... sounds like classy ink." and went right ahead.

The sky is officially the limit, campers. Looks like K-Fed was the rock that held Brit's world together.

(* For the record, I've checked the calendar three times to make sure this isn't an elaborate April Fool's joke, but then realized that Spears isn't nearly smart enough for that. Not even in the same ballpark.)

(Image from FineWed.com)

Healthy, healthy me

So, the Girl is doing her level best to trick me into cleaning up my act.

She cooks low-fat, veggie-friendly meals, hides my keys on the roof so I have to walk places and occasionally grabs my hydraulic lift from the garage to tip me off the couch when the weather is better.

For my part, I'll grab a Diet Coke from the vending machines unless I really need the sugar rush from the good stuff.

In an effort to encourage this behavior, she's been noticing when Diet Coke cans appear in the house.

For my part, I've figured out how Diet Coke is better for you - It's so disgusting that no one can finish an entire can, thus cutting your intake of sugar and such in half.

(Image from GeorgiaEncyclopedia.org)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Zen and the art of tailgating

I was just having a conversation with a customer on my last stop of the day today about traffic and all things being relative and should have known I'd be asking for trouble getting home during the evening commute.

My point was that by moving from Chicago to Northern Virginia and back to Chicago, Minneapolis traffic doesn't do a whole lot to scare me.

I should have kept my fool mouth shut.

At the heart of the conversation was the fact that Joe and I are both pretty mellow guys at this stage in our lives - This stage in our lives, you snickering hyenas who knew me when... - but nothing beats a good traffic snarl to fuck up our good moods.

I used to love being the coolest guy on the roads on sweltering afternoons stuck on the Stevenson, cranking the radio with a big, dumb smile on my face as I smoked and did the cabbage patch, just to make the furious drivers around me more furious. Now, I just watch the clock, compose blog posts in my head, play with my iPod and try to ignore the new noises my truck develops daily.

With all of this and the recent conversation floating around my head tonight I sat and waited for traffic to clear as I inched my way home over the final four-mile stretch.

I paid attention to the roadway information signs, which told me there was an accident on the left-hand side ahead just before my exit. I waited and watched the suckers take the left lane, sure that I'd have the last laugh when their lane was blocked by a fiery wreck ahead.

The problem was those suckers vanished and I never saw their tail lights again.

Not only was there no accident ahead, the only thing causing the traffic snarl was some yahoo pulled over on the opposite side of the highway and drivers slowing to watch him talk to a cop, while nearly sideswiping merging traffic.

I guess for me, that's the best part of a good gapers block - by the time I realize what's going on and I'm ready to melt down and begin spewing my profanity-laced venom at my fellow motorists, it's already too late.

I think being stuck in traffic is the only problem in my life that actually fixes itself.

(Image from Transport2000.org.uk)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Quick! Quick!

In my ongoing Internet crush with PostSecret.com I'm constantly provoked, entertained and utterly depressed by the cards that flood in every week.

It's like the online version of the homeless people I see on the off ramps from time to time. About the only guy I give to on a consistent basis is one close to home who isn't screwing around. He's out in all weather and occasionally has a sign that has two words: Utter Hopelessness.

I urge everyone to rush over to the site right now before the Valentine's Day posts vanish into the digital ether.

They seem to break down into two camps - those who have broken hearts in the past and those who had their hearts broken.

It's a pretty interesting study in humanity, both in terms of resiliency and self-absorption. Those who are putting things back together are pretty positive and those who left someone have been pretty hard on themselves.

I think it's a fairly common reaction to assume that once you leave someone, they'll be ruined for life. After all, how could he or she possibly survive without the wonder that is you in their lives anymore?

Without your constant affection and guidance, how do they find the strength to drag their tired and world-weary souls from bed every morning? How have they kept a job with all of the binge drinking that they're undoubtedly doing to try and wipe any last memory of you from their restless minds and cold, empty hearts?

I don't doubt that there are people out there who really have put someone through hell and caused damage that won't be soon forgotten. I've dated women who were pretty banged up after their last relationship and I was pretty worthless for a time after my college girlfriend and I parted ways, but not many people quit living and give up, no matter how much pressure we like to put on ourselves to feel guilty about our roles in those bad situations.

The point is that while we're the centers of our respective worlds, we rarely cause irreparable damage. I just hope that the posts that have gone up over there are the result of fresh breaks and teenaged love affairs and not people who are in more serious trouble.

I think the person who admits that they "Don't fuck so good" is the only one with real problems. Real problems, people.

(Image from: HamiltonSpectator.com)

Simple pleasures

The weather is cold.

The job is not so much fun.

Overall, it's pretty day to day here in Siberia - but there's hope, campers.

It's Truck Day.

For the socially adept who have better things to follow with their precious moments here on Earth, Truck Day is the day in each major league city when moving trucks line up outside of the respective ballparks and bats, bags and uniforms are loaded in for the trek down to spring training.

I'm almost certain that these are the same photos from last year, but who cares - this means that baseball is just around the corner again.

I know that I've said it before and I'll more than likely say it again, but it's the little things like these that bring a ray of sunshine into my life. Baseball makes things more fun and spring training means baseball is almost here.

Truck Day? Just another step in the dance. After the hot stove talks and the flurry of signings comes Truck Day, then pitchers and catchers and then our yearly trip.

I just hope the Cubs remembered to pack a closer this year.

(Image from Boston.com via BostonDirtDogs.com)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Oh, hell yes

This recent post from The Last Boss, a phenomenal blog about video games and the nerds that love them, says what I've always known to be true: Video games are good for you.

I dug the picture they used so much that I totally ripped it off. I could scour the interweb for weeks and not find a better picture to go here, so, sorry fellas.

Anyways, aside from rampant obesity, anti-social tendancies and the dreaded Nintendo thumb, video games actually help you out quite a bit.

To quote The Boss:

Daphne Bavelier, the professor of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester, said that "these games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it. That learning carries over into other activities and possibly everyday life." The study involved giving eye examinations to a group of people, and then divided them into two groups. One group played a visually boring game for an hour each day, while the other group played a shooter game each day. The ones that Jack Thompson would surely despise, ended up scoring much better on the eye test after the study was over.

That's so rad.

I don't even know where I'll begin to extoll the virtues of this study, but I think the first stop is an e-mail to my mom.

(Image from TheLastBoss.com)

Don't commit crimes because the police are smarter than you

I've been lazy busy lately, so I'm behind the curve when it comes to weighing in on the whole Aqua Teen Hunger Force terrorist flap in Beantown last week.

As one of my favorite cartoons, I couldn't have been more pleased to see the whole thing go down. This includes the stupidity of mistaking these for terrorist devices, Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, the two guys responsible, refusing to answer the media's questions, except for those on 70s hairstyles and the new "development" that a security camera saw one of the "culprits" milling around, filming the whole mess and laughing.

Let's start with the last one first.

Given that a light board you had placed was being taken down by police and the whole city was pretty worked up over the whole thing would you volunteer that information at that time?

I guarantee you'd get "Oh, hey, fellas, I put that up..." before Officers Murph and Sully pounded your skull into hamburger. Assuming the scene played out the way their lawyers said it did - with them calling Turner immediately to have them handle talking to the cops - I think that is the perfect response.

God, I love the new America. It's much better than the old America where a crudely animated, light-up alien flipping everyone off wouldn't cause gridlock that could bring one of our largest cities to its knees. All we've done is teach the terrorists that a Lite-Brite can cripple Los Angeles while the real bombs are being set.

This reminds me of the time in Chicago when guacamole in the roadway got a call placed to a haz-mat unit and The Mayor just chuckled and issued a statement about how much he loved guacamole.

As for the rest of it, I avoided the talking heads and caught the recap on G4's Attack of the Show. The question up for debate was a tongue in cheek "Has guerrilla marketing gone too far" and we learned that no, it hadn't, we're just a country of wieners.

As we watched one of the 62 Law and Order's last night - and now I contend this is the real world version of Pigpen's thesis in P.C.U. where no matter what hour of the day it is, there's a Law and Order episode on television somewhere - I was struck by just how savvy those TV cops are. No pop culture, bizarre science or historical reference slips by those guys.

Last night, they found the real killer based on identifying a brand of scotch, a love letter to a 14th century duke and the 1965 St. Louis Cardinals batting order and I realized that Hollywood is lying to us.

As we saw last week, a popular cartoon on basic cable is far too underground for Boston's finest to pick up on. Not one detective, beat cop or intern fetching donuts was able to see the image on the sign and tell everyone, "Wait, wait guys... Everything is cool."

It reminds me of public figures who appear on the Daily Show and aren't clued in on the joke.

I guess fighting the war on terror doesn't leave much time for such nonsense like watching cartoons. It's worth pointing out that even the state police were able to bring down Johnny Chimpo, though.

(Photo from Wikipedia.com)

Monday, February 05, 2007

So very, very cold

It's cold up here.

We're talking cold like a Jack London novel. Sled dogs are dying on the sidewalks and our mailman was found frozen just blocks from the post office.

Closer to home, our toilet is frozen solid.

Seriously, no joke - there is no water making its way into the toilet tank.

We have a cooking pot that we're using to drop hot water into the top tank in the hopes of thawing back down the pipe, but it's a losing battle.

After the second transfusion of hot water, The Girl and I just stood in the bathroom, laughing at the insanity of the whole mess.

If we owned and weren't renting here, I'd be on my way to Home Depot to buy a torch and melt the hell out of the pipes, but we'll play it safe and wait for the thaw to come in a day or so.

Failing that, we'll go with The Girl's suggestion: Pissing in the pot and throwing it out the back door.

I'm pretty sure it'd freeze before it even hit the ground.

(Image from TheFurTrapper.com)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl, Super Hype

Only two days out and the Internet is abuzz with Super Bowl hype that will ultimately reach its ridiculous crescendo on Sunday afternoon with hour upon hour of pregame analysis, breaking down everything from the X's and O's to who had what for breakfast.

In the interest of actually writing a post this week and trying to stay ahead of the curve before the game kicks off, here are some scattered thoughts leading into the big game.

* I'm pretty tired about of the myth of "cold weather" teams. This is becoming more annoying as the temps here in sunny Minneapolis threaten to drop into the negative 40s with the wind chill this weekend.

Now, after living in cold weather climates for my entire life, it's still damned cold out there. I dare anyone to jump out in a short-sleeved shirt and run around the block for an hour and not need a trip to the hospital. Go ahead, you can even stay here, we have plenty of space in the basement.

To say that some teams are "cold weather' teams is absurd. Ask Bears fans about Curtis Conway, whose yearly bellyache about the weather as compared to his Southern California home became as predictable as bird migrations.

Now, while I admit that a team that practices outside and plays outside has a small advantage over a dome or warm-weather team, I think the biggest advantage comes from just living in the climate.

A 20-degree game time temperature isn't so bad when it's been negative 3 while you're grabbing groceries on a Wednesday night and that's where the true advantage lies.

All of this was in play for the NFC Championship game, which had Rex Grossman versus Drew Brees as the quarterbacks of record. Grossman grew up in Indiana, went to school at Florida and now plays in Chicago. Brees grew up in Texas, went to school at Purdue and now plays for the domed Saints after years in San Diego.

You pick an advantage there.

Need more proof? Look at the quarterbacks in the Super Bowl during the 1997 season. John Elway was born in Washington state, moved to California and went to school at Stanford before playing in Denver, while Brett Favre is a Mississippi product who now makes Green Bay home for as little time as possible during the season.

Both are good QBs when the temperature dips, but you try and explain why.

* How are the Bears underdogs?

No, really - I have some time here. Go ahead and argue with anything Frank the Tank has to say on the subject.

I still contend that Indy's perfect storm of choke is enough reason for anyone to wager heavily against them - I wouldn't trust Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning to come up with a win in a game of checkers against Mrs. Hughes' kindergartners, much less in a Super Bowl - but Frankie is right when he says this is a weak team by Indianapolis standards... assuming there actually were standards in Indy.

Has everyone forgotten the Ravens win?

Has everyone seen too many Manning commercials this season so they've been slowly brainwashed since August?

Maybe it's an elaborate plot by the national media to clean house in Vegas this year.

Personally, I'm lost. Remember when I wrote this:

The weird thing this year is there's no clear cut favorite heading in. The teams that started hot cooled down the stretch and the teams that had to sprint to the finish don't seem to be very good - Chiefs, ahem, Chiefs - so the traditional "peaking at the right time" team seems to be out of the equation.

Well, Chicago is that team now. As long as Grossman doesn't do a great deal of harm, I think this team has proven over and again that they can win without anything more than a mediocre offense.

Run the ball, keep the Colts offense off the field and let the defense smack the Magnetheads around the field and they'll be tipping over cabs and lighting pedestrians on fire in Lincoln Park before you know it.

* Finally, this game pits a team I can't stand - save for the fact that it consistently pisses off Viking fans - and a player I can't stand in Manning.

While I attempt to be a glass is half full type of guy, I keep telling myself that someone has to lose. Either the Bears go home and cry all offseason, or Manning spends the next two months in his PJs, refusing to shave and smelling like a sheep. See? Win-win!

In actuality, this setup will drive me nuts. While I'm sure I could cheer for the Colts, minus Manning, that's not much fun, because he's the poster boy for that sad franchise. That said, I can't be one of those fans who cheers for teams from their division, or worse, the team that knocked their guys from the postseason.

Because that's just lame.

(Image from NYTimes.com)