RANDOM ELECTRONS, LIGHTNING BOLTS OF IDEAS, UPDATES AND RANTS FROM THE PUBLISHER:
AUGUST 3, 2016 - - - HOLD MY BEER: It may be just me, but with the explosion of shanty beer formulas which add lemonade or grapefruit juice to beers for a summer taste am I the only person who realizes that the brewers are basically diluting their beers to get a higher profit margin?
JULY 20, 2016 - - - PLANET EARTH: There are very few events that make the planet take pause. On this day in 1969, the world held its collective breath when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. For some, this event marked the high water mark of human civilization. It still marks the greatest achievement of man, technology and sci-fi dreams. Young children knew all the names of all the astronauts because they were cool, very cool. A new generation of engineers were motivated to match this accomplishment. But for some unknown reason, space exploration has turned into a mere footnote in history. But here, under the Full (Mule) Moon, we still pause and reflect on one of the greatest achievements in our lifetime.
JULY 3, 2016 - - - THE TRAP OF GOLF: Golf is a nice walk in the park, ruined. Especially for weekend hackers like yours truly. But there are times that rounds seem to be different - - - a chance to score a career best. Opening the round with a par is a good start. Being consistent on drives and short chips save shots. Things are rolling along, with a couple of Sportscenter moments: a long 30 foot putt and then a chip in par 5. Things were going great until the second shot on par 5 9th. After a very good drive down the middle of the fairway to the crest of the hill, I pull the secon 3 wood into the left tree. Caught at the base of a tree, I punch out. Third shot came up short into the bunker. And that's when the round got killed. The ball landed up against a deep vertical cut. Trapped in the trap; slashing several frustrating hacks and the hole exploded with the round. The back 9 had a few highlights (including another long chip in that fell a half inch short) but the momentum and mood was killed before the turn. But that is golf. It is the lessons of life played out with war clubs and dimbled spheres of doom.
APRIL 15, 2016 - - -BANK LANE: After work I was cutting through the bank drive through lanes when I saw something I had never seen before: a diabled man waiting in line for the drive-thru teller. He was not in a handicap van waiting behind the Toyota. No, he was sitting in his motorized wheelchair. In the bank lane. On a Friday afternoon. Granted, it was after bank lobby hours, and technically he was in a motorized vehicle, it still takes guts to play in a traffic zone. I ddi not stick around to see how he navigated the teller window mechanics but I thought he would manage quite well.
APRIL 4, 2016 - - - : HOMESTEAD: It is Square Root Day: 4/14/16. This rare mathematical calendar day only happens nine times a century. People have taken math and math skills for granted as computerized automation has shreaded the need for multiplication table memorization or retaining knowledge on how to solve long division equations.What you learned in high school probably is not within one's memory banks after graduating college. It is not a sentimental day, per se, because it won't happen again in our lifetime. It is another passage of time said in a different way. Just as reunions are the ancient ritual of counting distant tribe members, numeric oddities like fun calendar days attempt to trigger some form of nostgalia.
MARCH 5, 2015 - - - JAPAN: It has been five years since the massive earthquake and tsumani wiped out much of the Northeast coast of Japan. Nothing much has happened since the initial recovery. Most of the villages and port towns have been lost and not rebuilt. The survivors have dispersed to other locations. The crippled nuclear plant continues to be a problem. Its province is still uninhabited because of radiation fears. The anniversay of disaster has come and gone with no reflection or follow-up. It is a shame that our modern culture can forget things so quickly.
JANUARY 1, 2016 - - - HOME FRONT: After a night of eerie calm, the neighborhood
continues to shelter in place. There is no bad weather. There is no warnings.
The New Year snuck into the calendar last night. It seems that the way the holidays fell on Fridays caused many people to take off the last sixteen days of the year (and by taking off a maximum of six vacation days.) 2015 had many ups and downs. It was time to wind down and look forward to a more level and consistent next twelve months.
NOVEMBER 22, 2015 - - -SNOW DOME: The first early snow storm of the season has led to a record level of snow. In the Northwest Suburbs, the 20 hour storm left 12.75 inches at my homestead. It is not as bad as the slow response by most municipal agencies in clearing the streets or worse, the drivers who always forget how to drive in ice and snow. Darwin's theory caught several SUVs in deep ditches and in spin outs. Today, an arctic cold blast will chill the wet snow into blocks of ice. I am now living in an igloo refrigerator.
NOVEMBER 14, 2015 - - - PARIS: It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World was on cable last night. But it was paled by the madness and carnage in the streets of Paris, France. A day after President Obama said ISIS was weakening, it started a coordinated attack on Friday entertainment districts which led to hundreds dead and wounded. For the first time since World War II, France closed all its borders to declare a national state of emergency. The ruthless and unprovoked attack against innocent citizens, tourists and students is a mockery of the twisted and hijacked religious principles that creates martyrs of naive young men. The world is truly going mad.
OCTOBER 13, 2015 - - - THE DAWN: The Cubs celebrated their first home win to clinch a postseason series. This young squad has made many post season records so far this season, but defeating the rival Cardinals, the best team in baseball with 100 wins, is critical to future success. As the Bulls had to beat the Pistons, and the Blackhawks had to defeat the Red Wings, the Cubs, the new Prince of MLB, had to kill the King in order to take the Crown. The Cubs have a Blackhawk mentality that they know they are good enough to win. Getting behind does not phase them too much. They have learned how to comeback. They have learned to win, which counters a culture of losing. The Cubs are a fun, energetic and personality driven ball team. Something that Cubs have have wanted for generations.
JUNE 19, 2015 - - - THE END: Human beings are complex biochemical factories. No two humans are the same. Personal experience, hormones, personality, values, spirituality, and processing emotional to rational thoughts that are constantly being churned like the sea rushing on a rocky shore. How we process information and make decisions cannot be predicted especially when dealing with highly volatile situations like the death of a loved one. Generally, there are seven stages of dealing with personal losses: shock, denial, grief, guilt, anger, depression and acceptance. How a person navigates through grief is as unique as the number of stars in the night sky. Even when is one comforting and consoling a friend, there may be complications, strains or tears on a relationship. Every day there is a risk and reward to everything human beings do, including friendships, which can also suddenly pass on.
MARCH 22, 2015 - - - SPRING TOWN: On a cold and overcast Saturday morning, we knew spring had arrived as I watched my nephew pitch in his high school varsity baseball game. He threw a three inning save for the home team victory. In the second game, he hit a two-run double as his school swept the doubleheader to start its season. Baseball is the bellweather for the start of a long, lazy summer days ahead.
FEBRUARY 8, 2015 - - - SO CAL: Both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were going to jump start their PGA comeback seasons at their home course, Torrey Pines, near San Diego. Both golfers have had great success at this venue. But Woods withdrew with back issues, and Mickelson missed the cut. With the best players mostly competiting on the European Tour, the U.S. PGA tour does not have the marquee names to hold viewers. Woods and Mickelson have probably hit their career wall as the game has worn down their bodies and minds.
JANUARY 1, 2015 - - - HOME FRONT: There were the obligatory firework thuds at midnight on New Year's Day. But around 3 a.m., there were multiple blurred voices outside.The party must have ended at that point. Once the sun arose, I found that the corner street sign had been knocked down. It way lying in the parkway, sheared clean off at the base. So begins the next twelve months in Mr. Robber's Neighborhood.
DECEMBER 14, 2014 - - -WARD C: It seems that everyone has some sort of flu bug. Flu vaccines be damned. The typical personal home remedy is a suburban standard: chicken noodle soup, crackers, orange juice and decongestion medicine. But the latter brand is no longer available over the counter (or even manufacturered anymore) because of those meth cookers. Perhaps that is why the first winter colds linger on for weeks - - - the good meds haave been taken to make bad meds. Of course, viruses mutate faster than big pharma can catch up. It would seem one should go back to the universal college remedy for a scratchy throat: a shot of whiskey.
NOVEMBER 23, 2014 - - -HELLO, PILGRIM: This is Thanksgiving Week. It is a time to give thanks (despite the mass commercialism). It is a time to reflect upon Family, Friends and Career. For the latter, many people are just thankful for having a job let alone a position in the career field. It is also a time to take stock on what opportunities a person may have now, in the short term and the long term. There is always a great risk-reward that is tempered by fear, such as deep frying a turkey in a 55 gallon drum of flammable liquid . . . if everything works out and you don't burn down your house, the cooked bird is brilliant.
NOVEMBER 1, 2014 - - -DRIVEWAY: Halloween was fairly uneventful at Chez Pablo. Only 4 tottlers on Ritlin showed up for candy. The highlight of the evening was a bunch of youn chinese men pulling into my driveway to change their tire. They were speaking Mandarian, and having a difficult time putting on the compact spare.
OCTOBER 22, 2014- - -R.I.P: Former Washington Post Editor in Chief Ben Bradlee has died. He was the influential newspaper manager who guided the Washington Post through the mindfield of the Watergate investigation. Fighting against the establishment, and some of his peers, Bradlee allowed his young journalists to practice their profession which led to a massive lesson on government abuse of power. As the journalism industry mourns his passing, one must remember that if the paper's publisher, Kate Graham, had not supported Bradlee's judgment, the Nixon scandal would have never had made it to the printing press. Both Graham and Bradlee are museum pieces as the current landscape of the news business has dramatically changed since the heady days of the 1970s.
JULY 20, 2014 - - - HOLLYWOOD: American film icon James Garner has passed away at the age of 86. Garner's career spanned seven decades in film and television roles. He was seen a prototypical American actor. His legacy of great films was from Garner playing himself most of the time: strong, brash, rebellious to self-depreciating and kind. He was one of the early television actors who looked like he was having fun when in character. He also seemed to enjoy being a rebel, and drive cars fast on screen - - - things that appealed to young boys. He had the star football appearance that appealed to women of all ages. He was a generational figure because of his body of work. I suspect later this month, the classic movie channels will offer up several retrospectives on Garner's career. It will be worth watching.
JULY 20, 2014 - - - FUTURE HISTORY: Future historians may come to the conclusion that the United States, as a nation and culture, peaked on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed two men on the Moon. In less than a decade after President Kennedy challenged the country to reach for the moon, America achieved that ambitious goal. The project helped NASA spawn a new technology age for the post-WWII work force that will still caught up in the new Cold War. It is hard to imagine that this event gets short pause in high school history classrooms today.
MAY 22, 2014 - - - THE WEAKEND: It may be called the Unofficial Start of Summer, but Memorial Day Weakend is also the final week of procrasinated Spring Cleaning.
MAY 3, 2014 - - - WASHINGTON: The headline grabbed from the latest employment report was that approximately 220,000 found new jobs. And that the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent. But lurking within the report was the real news: the state of the U.S. economy is dismal. The unemployment rate went down because more than 800,000 people stopped looking for work during the reporting period. So the headline should have read: 3.6 TIMES MORE PEOPLE QUIT LOOKING FOR WORK THAN GOT JOBS. More than three and half times more people gave up on finding work than actually found work. That is a staggering collapse in the work force. To further buttress the problem, more than 96 million people are now considered not looking for work - - - the worst since the hard recession of 1974. But the government officials keep telling the cameras that the economy is improving, the stock market is roaring ahead, with no inflation! All white lies and half truths. The final stake through the heart is the fact that the unemployment rate for men 26 to 54, the prime working age for income, is a staggering 18 percent. You can only put so much lipstick on a pig; but it is hard for even the near sighted not to see the truth when the pig is halfway down the slaughterhouse conveyor belt.
MARCH 19, 2014 - - JAPAN: Three years after the quake and tsunami; little has changed for the affected people. Only three percent of displaced have new housing. There are still 250,000 people in temporary housing. There are certain areas around Fukashima that may never be re-settled. Eighty percent of the people in the areas that were hit by the disaster state that the government has moved too slowly in the reconstruction efforts. Meanwhile, some officials want to keep debris piles in place as a memorial. However, residents would rather have a new homse and their towns rebuilt.
FEBRUARY 19, 2014- -THE THAW: Old Man Winter and Mother Nature must have kissed and made up after a long, cold and brutal argument. The weather in Chicago began to thaw today, with temperatures in the low 40s. Some of the one story mountains of snow will probably remain in place until June. But at least it is a start; the post office won't have to assign us Antarctic zip codes.
FEBRUARY 13, 2014- -: MATH CLASS: For all the computing power at the hands of the federal government, no one can really say how many people signed up for the new nationalized health care program, Obamacare. The whole alleged reason Obamacare was needed to be implemented was because 11 million Americans were lacking health insurance coverage. Everyone should have insurance, whether they wanted it or not. This had nothing to do with the actual problem, rising health care costs (which are artifically inflated by reason of health insurance payments). Today, the government announces that 3 million people signed up for Obamacare. However, they have no idea how many actually paid premiums to start coverage. It would have been more cost effective NOT to launch a multi-billion program just to sign up 3 million people to bad health insurance contracts. Besides, more than 5 million people lost their jobs and their existing health care plans as a result of the new law. Simple math would then state that 11 million plus 5 million minus three million equals 13 million people now with no health insurance. So the paramount reason for the program, people without coverage, has now GROWN as a direct result of the program itself.
DECEMBER 8, 2013 - - SNOWFIGHTS: For those who object to the NFL playing the Super Bowl in a cold weather, non-Dome stadium like the Meadowlands, today's end to the early action was the picture postcard for excitement than snowy conditions have in football. Football was born in the elements, outdoors, in the mud and snow. The Vikings and Ravens traded four touchdowns in less than two minutes at the end of the game. The Packers barely held on in the frozen tundra. The cold, wind, sleet and snow makes the game more interesting because Mother Nature is now the 12th man on the field.
NOVEMBER 17, 2013 - - - OBSERVATION CITY: I don't know for sure, but it could be signs of Final Days. I was in the local Target store on Sunday morning. As I entered, two middle aged women were coming out to load their purchases into a taxi. Who takes a taxi to go shopping at a department store in the middle of suburbia? But then it got worse. Inside, I saw a woman pushing a shopping cart wearing an winter jacket over her pajamas. It was like she rolled out of bed and HAD to go shopping like a zombie. But then, as I was checking out, I saw another woman in her PJ bottoms AND house slippers exiting the store. I thought, what portal of hell is opening in this shopping center . . .
NOVEMBER 9, 2013: I was parking my car on my mother's driveway. It was just turning dark at dusk. My car was parked close to a hedge. As I got out, I saw on the neighbor's drive
what looked like an orange cat with its back arched.
I did a double take when I saw it had a long, fluffy tail. It was a small, skinny red fox.
I must have disturbed its nap in the hedge. He came around through the hedge and sat in front of my car, staring back at me. His triangle face did not make a sound. He sat there passive. Submissive. Only 8 feet away from me.
It was too dark to snap a camera phone picture. But it was clear he was either curious about me or my big old red car. It is becoming more common in suburbia to have close encounters with wild animals.
A fox is a member of the dog family (Canidae). Foxes are small to medium-sized, bushy-tailed dogs with long fur, pointed ears, relatively short legs, and narrow snouts. Red foxes are widely held symbols of animal cunning and are the subject of a considerable amount of folklore.Red foxes, with their coats of long guard hairs and soft, fine underfur, are typically a rich reddish brown with white-tipped tail and black ears and legs. Red foxes are generally about 36-42 inches long and weigh about15 pounds. Their preferred habitat is mixed farmlands and woodlots. Small mammals, chiefly mice and rabbits, as well as eggs, fruit, and birds (including some domestic fowl) comprise the diet; remains of larger animals usually indicate that the fox fed on carrion. Red foxes mate in winter; after a gestation period of about 51 days, the female (vixen) gives birth to 1-10 cubs (pups) in a den, which is commonly a burrow abandoned by another animal and enlarged by the parent foxes. The cubs remain in the den for about five weeks and are cared for by both parents throughout the summer. Red foxes are hunted by man, one of their few enemies, for sport and fur. Fox pelts, especially those of silver foxes, are commonly produced commercially on fox farms. Wild red foxes, although they are often destroyed for raiding hen houses, are highly beneficial in controlling undesirable rodents.
This neighborhood has had fox pairs roaming around for the past decade, but none had been seen in a while. This young fox may have been trying to find a warm place near a house as the temperatures were going to fall into the mid 30s. Or it may have just been startled on its way back to its burrow which probably is near a small creek just beyond the end of the street.
NOVEMBER 3, 2013: TWISTED: When did the pretzel roll because the most important fast food menu feature in the US? It seems everyone is advertising that their sandwiches are topped by the deep brown pretzel crust bun that apparently no one knew that they craved . . . until the advertisers told them. It appears Americans taste buds are as apathetic as their political activitism. It takes a new fad to wake them up, even if it is for a short time. The restaurant business is wading through its own economic depression: more compeition, less family budgets for outside meals, higher costs in food, labor, rent and taxes. More and more long term family owned local restaurants have closed this year. The urban landscape is filled with empty storefronts that once housed lively cooking establishments.
JULY 21, 2013 - - - DOG DAYS: It has been nearly a dozen days of 90 degree 100 degree heat index. It is so hot you do not sweat, you ooze slime from your pores. We don't know who came up with the term Dog Days of Summer, but it must have been an observation that during a heat wave, dogs slow down and mostly sleep in the shade. The heat does rile the inner brain flintlock reactionary gene. Old people get snippy at the high school hardware clerk. A slight tease at a party turns into an armed offense. People stop paying attention to right and wrong. It's too hot to think. The heat almost broke yesterday with a series of quick monsoon thunderstorms. But the temps may fall slightly, the humidity rises and cotton fabrics turn into sponges. In the Midwest, we cannot complain too much about the weather. We get four seasons on non-boredom. It's so hot in the summer we beg for an early winter. In winter, it is so damn cold we pray for an early spring.
JUNE 26, 2013 - - - SUPREME DISCORD: The Roberts Supreme Court may go down in history as the most inconistent and illogical decision makers. There appears to be no constant train of thought or legal common sense from one opinion to the next. Today, the Court decided in the Windsor case that federal law which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman unconstitional on the basis that States have the sole role in defining what is a marriage. The ruling upheld New York state's definition which included same sex couples applies to any federal benefits, including estate tax martial exclusions. By so ruling, the majority had no problem with the Obama Administration not defending the Constitutionality of the federal law (a Congressional group took the appeal). It was a clear statement that domestic relations laws are purely state law matters.
But moments later, the majority of the Court held that since state officials from California did not appeal a ruling on the consitutionality of a California constitutional amendment that defined marriage, the proponents of the amendment had no standing to bring the appeal. First, it is an extremely narrow technical definition of who can be a party in a federal suit. Second, if this is the guiding principal of federal jurisprudence, then the Court should not have heard the Windsor appeal either since federal officials decided not to defend the law. But most logically inconsistent with the majority's opinion was that it claimed that it was not deciding whether gay couples had a federal constitutional right to marriage. However, by dismissing the appeal, the court effectively nullfied the valid California state constittuional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The District Court ruled that the California ballot initiative, even though the California Supreme Court upheld it, as unconstitutional under federal constitutional principles of due process and equal protection. By its Holingsworth ruling, the majority repealed a provision of the California constitution on a specific subject that the Court just ruled was outside the scope of federal review, what a state defines as marriage.
It is also a troubling bureaucratic appeasement that actually endorses elected and public officials from doing their constitutional duties to uphold properly passed laws. In California, its citizens now have no right to enforce their ballot mandates if their elected officials refuse to abide the by law. The same holds true for federal officials who may not want to enforce existing laws as a means of political pandering; citizens or groups have no standing to intervene in challenges to those duly passed laws.
The lack of common sense between the two decisions is apparent. You cannot rule that the States are sole authority on what is marriage then nullify California's constitutional definition of marriage and say you are not ruling on the merits of the case. The District Court ruling voids the California law on federal grounds so same sex marriages must be allowed even though the citizens and State supreme court said otherwise.The outcome of the two decisions cannot be logically justified as being legally consistent.
The Supreme Court ruled that state defintions of legal marriage control. Since Windsor was decided to be not a federal question, but one solely based on NY state law, the Hollingworth decision should have thrown out the entire case since there is no federal question present if marriage is solely within the jurisdiction of state law. The Supreme Court should have dismissed the federal case and said that only the California courts should state matters such as the definition of marriage.But the effect of its ruling does the opposite, leaving the citizens of California powerless to enact their own laws.
JUNE 25, 2013 - - - BAKED BOSTON: The Chicago Blackhawks delivered a stunning one-two knock-out punch when in the one minute thirty seconds of Game 6 scored two goals in a span of 17 seconds to secure the Stanley Cup. The Boston Bruins and their fans were stunned by the quick sports assassination. The Hawks now have won two championships in the last four years under teh NHL's hard salary cap system. It will be extremely tough for any team to repeat when next year's salary cap actually significantly decreases the payrolls of teams which have young stars like the Blackhawks.
JUNE 22, 2013 - - - IRONY CITY: In the backlash of the NSA spying scandal, Google put on a message on its simple main search page. It said the snooping had to stop, and directed viewers to a stopwatching.us webpage. One would have thought it was going to be an information page on this important issue. But the first page is a sign in register asking for your name and email account. So Google continues to data mine even when it is angry about government snooping private information.
MAY 25, 2013: D.C. (DRONE CONTROL): The President made another speech. The topic of this sermon was his administration's use of drones. He claimed that he has standards and requirements to use unmanned armed aircraft to destroy terrorist targets. However, his administration quietly admits that three non-targeted Americans were killed by drone attacks. The President drones on about how accountable his administration is to the American public. But as the scandals mount, more and more people now realize that Obama is not leading or governing the executive branch. It is being run like the wild west; each department head is on a lark of his or her own.
APRIL 30, 2013 - - - KEWANEE, IL: Our friend Mark Hepner passed away on April 29, 2013. Hepner was a college radio station alum and contributor-host of many reunion adventures that have been memorialzed in these pages. He will be greatly missed by all that knew him.
APRIL 18 2013 - - - MEDIA LAND: The amount of misinformation and lack of responsibility
in the media in regard to the breaking news story about the Boston bombing hit
new highs for journalistic lows. Huge headlines based upon rumor or speculation,
misidentification of persons in pictures as suspects, and false reports have
been daily fumbles.
The problem with the instant publication and comment internet is that everyone, including citizens, are pushing the envelope to be the first to say something important. But it just degrades the investigative process by spreading false reports. Further complicating this investigation is the idea of crowdsourcing information to generate tangible leads. The general public is often the source of key evidence in criminal investigations, but now amateur cyber-sleuths are culling public photos and video links in a faux CSI way.
JANUARY 1, 2013:
OCTOBER 6, 2012 - - - DEJA VU : It was only 37 degrees on the first tee. The wind was steady 10 miles per hour. A bone freezer. It would gust steady to 25 miles per hour at times. The course was empty. The weather conditions were horrible for weekend hackers. But we soldiered on through the high fairway grass, the hard pan rough and the concrete greens that were super fast and unforgiving to most shots.
Then we got to the Par 3 8th hole. The wind was blowing directly at the tee at 25 miles per hour. The pin was in the center of the green. My fellow players teed off short, short right and left. I got to the tee, knowing it was at least a two club wind. I swung hard and the ball launched like a 757 taking off at Midway. It arched very high and straight. And then it landed less than 8 inches from the pin!!
It would have been something to score another ace in consecutive golf rounds.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2012:For weekend hackers, the idea of getting a birdie is the 18 hole goal. Nirvana if you get one. But on the par 3 14th hole of Terrace Hill, the long odds came to a yelping end when an 8 iron one skid into the hole for an ace for the Ski.
AUGUST 4, 2012: COMMIECAST: I thought the VCR was broken. It failed for the second weekend to time record some late night programs. But it would only begin recording a minute or two of the commercials before the designated shows. Then nothing. Having thought the VCR-=DVD was broken, I set up an experiment recording while I was at home. The timer went off as set, but then after 47 the record button just flashed and the DVD would not record the program. Turning on the TV set to see what was up, a message box stated "Copy Protected--- Cannot Record." What the hell? The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that individuals can time shift television progams by recording shows to their VCRs. That is a legal use. But now, the cable operator is sending a blocking signal to stop recording features? I am paying for 24 hours of cable, but now I am not? This change must have happened without any fanfare - - - and it really ticks me off.With cable companies losing tens of thousands of subscribers each month due to the high unemployment and recession, why make their paying customers mad at an underhanded and significant change in service? So you can only watch if you are at home? So any working person trying to record their daily shows will not be able to - - - so what's the point of having cable in the first place if you can't watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it? (And the cable on demand is a farce because it is not everything and you need to rent a set top box). This is another stupid board room business model which actually drives customers to cancel their service.
JUNE , 2012: VENUS: It is probably another piece of the disconnect from our distant ancestors, but the media did not make a big deal about the Transit of Venus. In a rare event, the last time in our lifetime, the planet Venus went across the face of the Sun as a perfect black circle. Scientists were excited by the prospect of documenting the event with HD cameras, new telescopes, from the Hubbell and the space station. There was audible excitement on the NASA web site coverage as the disc began its crossing of the Sun disc. It is the awe of the universe of a cosmic event that transfixed humanity for thousands of years and in many cultures foretold change in humanity. The last transits of Venus took place 143 years or so ago, when man's exploration of the universe was setting off in sailing ships to find new worlds on Earth. So, with schools out and the media in an apathetic mood, many people may not have known about this unique event. The NASA site will have an archive of the 6 hour transit. I stayed late after work to watch the passage. And then on the way through the neighborhood, there was only one couple out in their yard with a pinhole solar viewer looking at the sun. Then it sets in; no wonder why American science scores are falling when children are not shown the wonders of the universe like the Transit of Venus.
MARCH 18, 2012:HELLINOIS: As an early summer heatwave hits the late winter in the Midwest, the primary season is still doing a slow burn into Illinois. Just like the presidential candidates, the Illinois Republican party has been a dysfunctional mess for years. The Democrats have controlled the governorship and state house since the last two governors went to prison. So it is not ironic to call this place the American Baltic State (of Despair). Institutional corruption, a bankrupt state treasury, idiotic lawmakers and an apathetic taxpayer base slowly dragged by increasing taxes into the sink hole by their leaders. Illinois is more than just a split state ideologically. There are a few southeastern counties which actually voted in favor of Alan Keyes last time around. Those same counties have not been heard from since the Civil War. And parts of southern Illinois may still think that war is still on. You have counties in the north which want to commit political suicide and form their own counties. So in this monkey cage of diverse feces throwing come the national candidates with no clue how to deal with the populus except by burying them in insolent robo-calls. This is an urgent message blah blah blah day and night, night and day. But that is not even the real evi8l at play; mor ethan a dozen municipalities want to become electric aggregators, agents to negotiate unregulated power rates for their citizens. How stupid is that? When has ever a government contract come under budget or above board? Citizens can opt out and keep the state regulated power utility, which is the same folks that would be creating and supplying the power to the aggregators in the first place. It is just another push by government officials with their sticky fingers into the private lives of the people. And since these ballot referendums are on the low turnout primary ballot, the chances increase for passage. It is not enough that the people are being punished by a rack of poor presidential candidates, but likely see increases in the electric bills for no apparent reason.
JANUARY 8, 2012: THE TRACK: BBC American suddenly popped up as a channel on the local cable. One of my new favorite shows is TOP GEAR. There was an American version of the show which was okay, but BBC American was running a holiday marathon of Top Gear UK shows. I may have been spoiled by the Best Of films, but the original is far better than the duplicate. The Top Gear presenters are outrageously mad gear heads with a daft sense of humor. The show is like Monty Python hosting a car review program. Excellent.
NOVEMBER 13, 2011: Why is my tin of Coke now White?!!!!
OCTOBER 25, 2011: CLARK & ADDISON: The new Cubs owner introduced the next Savior of the Franchise, Boston's Theo Epstein,to the local media. Epstein, the boy wunderkind who helped lead Boston to two World Series championships, came to Chicago in the wake of the historic Red Sox September implosion that rivals any past Cubbie Occurrence. Epstein inherits a dysfunctional franchise with foxholed and stubborn Tribune holdovers, a marginal farm system, a roster of dead weight contracts, a lazy player attitude and a ball park that cannot yield any sustainable revenue growth. It will be much more difficult to turn around the Cubs than the Red Sox.
OCTOBER 8, 2011: IN MEMORIAM: The Passing of Steve Jobs.
OCTOBER 1, 2011: MENTAL ABBACUS: After this evening's steak house dinner, the check arrived. As guests began to reach for their smartphone calculators to divide the check up dutch, I looked at the receipt, rounded up the bill, then added ten and five percent to the bill, then divided by five and announced the verdict in less time than the others had to locate their calculator utility. Not trusting the mental calculations fully, one crunched the numbers and turned her phone over to reveal the same number I had mentally calculated a minute before. The brain stem may have been energized by a good steak dinner, or the fact the brain clicked into basic math routines that were awakened by the fact that several tables were surrounded by high school homecoming dance groups prior to their big event.
SEPTEMBER 24, 2011-- THE CAIN MUTINY: Ex-Godfather pizza CEO won a stunning straw poll victory in Florida. The black conservative businessman, Herman Cain, crushed the media's two frontrunners, Milt Romney and Rick Perry, by double digit margins. Some national correspondents were quick to opine that Cain's victory was merely a placeholder vote, of a protest vote against Romney and Perry. The media would not state that tea party favorite Cain actually WON the event. The Florida straw voters must be out of their minds to think Cain is electable in a general election. He is a novice; a political neophite. He has no chance of beating Obama. But whatever negative spin on puts on Cain, one would have to DOUBLE it on Romney and Perry for losing the straw poll to Cain. Perry's inconsistent rhetoric on illegal immigration from the last debate doomed him with conservative voters. Romney's own record on big government state health care programs and the lack of business specifics to get the country back to work are hurting across all segments of the Republican party. Cain throws out specifics like his 9-9-9 plan (which many do not believe is feasible or passable in Congress), but at least Cain is getting credit for proposing something except the tired old political playbook lines. So Cain has a new slogan which could make the old guard nervous: It's Cain or More of the Same!
JUNE 21, 2011 - - - CROSSTOWN: The Cubs and White Sox have renewed their annual in-season rivalry. There is no city buzz this year. The teams are underrperforming to failing after the first third of the season. The first game at the Cell was not a sell-out. Major League attendance is down throughout the nation, a lethal combination of high ticket prices and soft economy. The highlight so far is Ozzie Guillen kicking Geo Soto's catcher's mask through the uprights like the locked out Bear kicker Robbie Gould.
MAY 30, 2011 - - - IN MEMORY BANKS: Well, the site has not been updated in a while. What really has happened the last few weeks? Nothing earth shattering except maybe the debt ceiling breached, Blaggo taking the stand under oath to dictate his autobiography to a court reporter, Mother Nature being angry throughout the entire country, or and that Bin Laden thing. News is fleeting, and so is time at one's real job.
APRIL 9, 2011 - - - WASHING TONS OF FEE C: Congress may have the media believing that they were wrestling hungry lions in the latest federal budget battle. But when the hour hit midnight on a potential government shutdown, the reformers turned into Boehner shaded pumpkins and a budget deal was formed to solve the faux crisis. An alleged spending cut of $38.5 billion is hailed as significant, but it is less than 0.0028 percent of the current federal deficit. It is less than the interest accruing on the federal deficit. It is a drop of savings in an ocean of debt. But the politicians go before the cameras like conquering warriors feasting on a victory from battle. It is another pompous delusion that feds the incompetence of the current governing class.
MARCH 6, 2011- - - THE PUMP OUTHOUSE: Gasoline prices for 87 octane just went over $3.75 in suburban Chicago. Blame the unrest in Libya, the supplier for two per cent of the world's oil supply, to jack up the price per gallon by another quarter. Also blame the Obama administration's defiance of a federal court order to allow resumption of deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. With those reserves off line, America's dependence on foreign oil imports is greater. The unrest in the Middle East and the weakness of the President is a potent combination to bring the United States crashing back in the deep recession crater.
FEBRUARY 6, 2011--- FROM THE SNOW BUNKER: The weather forecasters said light
flurries for this weakend. Except, three inches of snow drifted in by dawn.
The streets are unplowed and rutty as snow plow crews are still exhausted from
the 72 hours of blizzard fighting last week. Snow fell this morning in Northern
Mexico. Instead of the faux science of global warming, should not the alarmists
begin to scream about the coming of a second Mini-Ice Age?
JANUARY 14, 2011 - - - EQUATOR CONSTELLATION: It has come to really nobody's attention that those who are not numeralogists find starglazing to be a more useless hobby to foretell the future. The 12 Zodiac signs in the changes of the star charts is supposed to make predictions to those born when the sun crosses their constellations. Well, many people are now shocked, SHOCKED, by the news that the earth's tilt and orbital wobble has changed the real pattern of the zodiac star calendar. No one I was screwed up, my ass-trilly-ollie-gee, was a-kilter. To add to the relative confusion, there is now a new Zodiac sign, some man holding a serpent. I wonder if newspapers will have to go back and print 50 years worth of horoscope corrections, or whether fortune tellers will have to give clients 50 years worth of refunds.
JANUARY 11, 2011 - - - - 1-11-11: I used to know a professor who went all nutty over numbers and dates. He would calculate that this occurrence would not reappear for generations. 8-8-88 for a forebearing date in history. Now, January 11, 2011 comes along as a series of all ones. Say them real fast in a row . . . sounds like waiting in line for a bathroom stall. Yes, people do put a lot of stock in the appearance of number keys, such as the doomslayers with the Mayan calendar ending in the pattern of 12-21-12. Neat.
NOVEMBER 6, 2010 - - - GYM RAT CENTRAL: I was at a local gymnastic club meet. In the stands were some high school gymnasts and one former club member who was a freshman in college. Sitting next to them was like sitting next to a crowded orthopedic physician's waiting room. One said her ankles are in constant pain, even when she walks around campus. The high schoolers complained that their backs always hurt. The repetitive twists, turns, leaps and full body weight landings take a real toil on their bodies.They discussed other girls who last season had broken bones. They were glad to see them back on the equipment where they injured themselves. During the meet, one girl almost landed her vault twist with her head smashing into the back of the vault itself. A sigh of relief from the stands. Indeed.
OCTOBER 31, 2010 --- TRICK OF THE TALE: As we wait for the little trick or treaters to arrive at the doorstep this afternoon, during the village regulated hours, we find that the political tricksters have only two more days to sell their snake oil advertisements and robocalls to the general electorate. Incumbents have a worried look as the traditional 95 percent retention rate appears to be in jeopardy this midterm cycle. People are mad at both national parties because they have melded into a uncaring, unlistening, monolithic bureaucracy which is costing the average family financial stability. People with the American spirit of getting up after being knocked down works only if big government does not sit on their chest to keep them down. This election could be the call to rewind the Obama liberal agenda. It may be the exit strategy for Obama himself not to run for a second term; tricking history with the notion that he completed his list of accomplishments in his first term so there was nothing left for him to do but ride off on a secret service valet retirement. His election would be seen as the ultimate trick on the moderate electorate who bought the theory of hope and change in 2008 - - - and finding not sweet candy but bitter taxation and loss of personal freedoms.
JUNE 7, 2010 - - - GREECE ON A SILVER PLATTER: On this day, America was changed forever. For the first time, the United States federal deficit surpassed its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We are now beyond a debtor nation. We are bankrupt; this country owes more than it can produce in a single year. And this deficit does not include the massive amounts of state and local borrowing. Only a few weeks ago, the television pundits claimed that the Greece default would never, ever occur in the USA. The fuse has been lit, and there is little chance to stop it from exploding in the inept leaders faces. They sang joy for the latest employment numbers, where 411,000 new government jobs (temporary census workers) buried the measy 41,000 new private sector jobs. 41,000 private jobs can never pay for 411,000 federal jobs. The system has imploded onto its self. This may speed up the nationalization of more and more of the private sector under the guise of a stimulus recovery pump. More government costs more money from the people; money that is all borrowed at this point with no generational hope of repaying . . . with unemployment permanently perched at 10 percent, and underemployment near 20 percent, this is a job depression in the midst of a government entitlement gold rush.
MAY 17, 2010--- SOAP BOX JUNCTION, USA: A recent NBC-WSJ poll was a wake up call to the national media. In the poll, it found 75 percent of Americans don't trust what Washington D.C. politicians have to say on any subject. That is a staggering amount of distrust. Also in the same poll, 83 percent wished that they had an independent third party to vote for, meaning that Americans do not believe in the current two party system. For decades, we have believed that there is no two-party system: it is merely in name only because public corruption and incompetence is institutionalized in both major parties. Viable third parties like the Libertarians have been legislated into hibernation by state election laws that have favored incumbents retaining political office. The road blocks to open candidates and real choice has come home to bitterly roost as more and more states are collapsing under huge budget deficits.The current two party system is designed to perpetuate the special interest, sausage making, elitist member legislative agendas. There is no real statesmen in Washington to stand up to the system. By July 4th, there may be more distrust and anger directed at Washington DC than the patriots had against King George just prior to the American Revolution.
APRIL 12, 2010---- TAXACHUSSETS: The week begins with the last dash for filing one's personal income tax returns. The annual plight of the middle class citizen fearful of the Internal Revenue Service. Panic to be on time. Anxiety over doing the math correctly. Each year, the tax code gets more complicated and convuluted because Congress really has no clue. Most Americans now believe that Congressmen do not read the bills they vote on; and fewer have any grasp what the bill actually means. If there was a qualification test to be a lawmaker, we propose a simple one: a candidate would have to correctly complete a random taxpayers tax return. We doubt if any one would pass.
MARCH 8, 2010- - - CARDBOARD BOX, USA: The Illinois political scene is so screwed up that the in-power Democratic machine forced off their own Lt. Governor nominee, who spent $2 million of his own money to campaign to victory, because state leaders did not like the rumors of his personal past (no criminal record). With a vacancy, the party is moving toward eliminating the position, which is currently vacant because the past Lt. Governor Quinn is now acting governor because the former Democratic governor, Blagovich, is pending a federal corruption trial and was impeached by the Democratic legislature. Any candidate will say anyrhing to get re-elected, including Quinn, who one week before the hotly contested primary, pledged to city and village mayors that he would not cut state tax revenue sharing as part of his new budget. Now, after winning the nomination, Quinn floats the idea of stripping $200 million from cities. The state is bloating rotting corpse in a river rapids of red ink. The state universities have not been paid $750 million in state payments this year. Chicago has underfunded pensions in excess of $18 billion. The state's underfunded pensions exceed $20 million. There are no more public property to sell, no more money to borrow because the state and local governments have no way to pay their creditors back. The state unilaterally cut 21% of the amounts owed to Medicaid providers. A normal person would be sent to debtor's prison if the country had one, or forced into bankruptcy and a financial whipping outside the wood shed. But none of this phases the candidates, who continue to run mindless, nonsensical campaigns of cheery optimism.. Why are so many people run for office now. State unemployment and underemployment is more than 25%. Government jobs pay better than private sector jobs, with no accountability. And those fat sweet six figure politican pensions are vested upon election.
JANUARY 31, 2010 - - - ROBOVILLE: The Illinois primary is two days away. The robo calls are filling up our answering machines. The daily onslaught of telephone messages has gone beyond the nagging stage. Everyone we have talked to hates them. But now on the eve of the election, the attack ads are getting vicious: calling opponents unethical, corrupt, unqualified and smear artists. Back and forth the taunts and allegations. For what? Membership in the same unethical, corrupt, unqualified political system. Sample ballots came out with a half dozen candidates for state wide office for each party. Illinois is bankrupt financially and morally. But the candidates are pouring millions of dollars of campaign money and personal loans to get the seedy job of allegedly representing the people in government affairs. But the only national affairs that grab the headlines are the personal sexual transgressions of the power elite, the missing stimulus money and the total lack of any accountability. The reason why so many people are candidates in this cesspool is that a career in politics pays . . . pays well. Even bankrupt states like Illinois will give lawmakers and elected officials six figure pensions when they leave office - - - before age 65, before a person retires, in a cumulative windfall that is eating up the vast majority of every state, county and local budget. The onslaught of robo calls is turning off the electorate - - - which is exactly what helps incumbents retain power.
JANUARY 24, 2010 - - -SEPTIC TANKVILLE: The gagging smell of corruption fills the air like the worst smog alerts of the smoke stack 1960s. The Illinois primary has taken its turn to starving wolves fighting among themselves over the rotting corpse of the State of Illinois. Illinois is officially bankrupt. It cannot pay its current operating expenses. Current payables are long overdue, and there may be a growing $5.5 billion cash deficit. There is no balanced budget. There is an estimated $80 billion shortfall in pension obligations. Agencies and universities are not getting paid their grant and capital dollars. This giant municipal ponzi scheme is about to collapse under the weight of political fraud and dishonesty. Yet, there are dozens of individuals screaming at the top of their lungs to become part of this Titanic voyage into the Damned. They are spending millions of dollars to get positions which pay only 1/10th or less in salary. It is the power and the perks of the ruling class, as set forth with a six figure public pension for life, no matter one's age. It is something you cannot get in the private sector: to the victor goes the gross spoils of ransacking the treasury. At least the Huns, Mongols and Vandals were up front when they sacked European villages and Rome.
JANUARY 10, 2010 - - - ROBOVILLE: The local candidates are piling on robotic telephone political messages for the February primary. An entire answering machine filled with the long winded drivel of people no one has heard of and for whom most voters could care less about. The primaries are heavily contested because many of these candidates appear to have no steady job prospects. Politics pays in more ways than one. Robocalls is an expensive means to the end. Candidates are getting desperate: one called his opponent a pedophile. That's beyond political speech; that's slander per se. But it does not matter. The political system has gotten so sleazy and dirty a normal person is offended by the prospect of even being tangentally involved in it. this makes incumbents happy because it makes their position easier to get campaign donations and to keep their power base through political favors.
AUGUST 2, 2009 - - - MALIBU CORNFIELD, IL: It was been a hectic summer, busy with work trips. Last weekend there was a trip to the former hog capitol of the world, through the back roads of Northern Illinois. As we sojourned through the small towns of the Midwest, I found it odd that in the past 5 years, crop prices have more than doubled, but in the mean time, the small town centers continued to die and fade away. Only a few towns hanging to the sentiment of the past, like Dixon, the Boyhood Home of Ronald Reagan, maintain an overt sense of community. However, the birthplace of Reagan, Tampico, was a ghost town. Any stimulus will never hit the vast majority of middle America, especially the small farm towns of the Midwest.
MAY 30, 2009 - - - DETROIT: General Motors, 100, the American industial icon, died today. The preliminary autopsy results are that GM died of unionitis, mismanagement, government interference secondary to chronic obsese debt loads. GM was fathered by William C. Durant, who gathered together a group of small automobile companies in 1908-1909. But by 1910, Durant was forced out because of large bank trust debt during a weak sales market. He later secretly bought GM stock to regain control briefly, but lost the company for good when the new vehicle market collapsed. GM was once described as the Heartbeat of America; what was good for General Motors was good for the United States. As part of the foundation of the heavy industrial base of the US, it supplied the key components of American security during the World Wars and present international deployments. In the end, the American industrial philosophy was so outsourced to the rest of the world that higher homeland costs would soon lead to massive stroke and bleeding of red ink. In massive infusions of taxpayer dollars for life support could not stem the bleeding, or revive GM. It is clear that the plug on the old free market capitalism machine was pulled, and the old GM quietly passed into the pages of history.
MARCH 15, 2009 - - - THE IDES OF MARCH: The economic collapse of the Free World occurred around the time the Cubs did the historically impossible: clinched another divisional title. nature is all about balance. Good things are balanced out by Bad things. So the nature and extent of the global collapse will have to mean that there will have to be some balanced bounce back; something so monumental to make the Pain worth it. A Cubs World Series, perhaps? Beware the Ides of March. And the pundits of spring training.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2008- - - CHICAGO: CUBS WIN!
JULY 13, 2008 - - - COMEBACK CITY: The Chicago Cubs blow a 7 run lead to the lowly Giants. New acquisition Rich Harden mows down the opposing team like the ground crew on the outfield grass. Harden was 31-0 when his team gave him a four run lead. Welcome to the Cubs, Rich. History and baseball and trends and suspense all have a weird cosmic vortex at Clark and Addison. The Cubs scrap an 11th inning win which puts the team five and one-half (5.5) games ahead in the Central Division standings. This is a record lead for the Cubs since divisional play was instituted by the league. Repeat, this is a RECORD lead for the Cubs. The die-hard dread meters are overloading at this point of the season.
JUNE 23, 2008 - - - FLASHBACK: I gained entry to see the show by presenting my ticket, which was wrapped around a bar of soap. It was August 6, 1985. A national celebrity was coming to the suburban dive to do a Show. This was the height of the comedy club era, where waiters, dishwashers, homemakers and students thought they were as funny as the people on the television show cases. But on that night, in a crowded room that barely had a soap box stage, he arrived. He was a small, short, thin, frail and pale man in a gruffy pepper beard and ponytail. His entrance was as fast and jittery like a panicked squirrel; the true signs of an extremely introverted person. Most entertainers are secret introverts. He was an American comic: a master of language, meaning, observation and satire. He came from the character and skit comedy of the 1950s and breached through to the dark side: pushing the boundaries of taboo subjects like religion and obscenity. In the end, it did not matter that he was a celebrity or a cause celeb; he was a performer, a humorist cut from the cloth of Mark Twain but tailored to the strife and cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s. You could tell that he respected and worked at his craft as he weaved observation to observation, language nuance to language absurdity. Young comedians often today use vile language to pull guttural laughter from their audience, but George Carlin never had to; his use of language was the bait on the hook to catch you with his observational humor. With Carlin's passing, America is left with a very few original comedy masters.
JUNE 22, 2008 - - - AT THE CROSSROADS OF HELL AND HIGHWATER: While America's political leaders oil their loins by mandating that 30 percent of the US food crops be diverted to 3 percent of the energy supply (ethanol) at an additional cost of $5 billion tax payer dollars (plus hyper inflation of food prices on the general consumer), the entire first layer of the State of Iowa is relocating to the silty floodplains of Baton Rouge. While global politicians are salivating about the prospects of diverting $1 trillion in the name of the scam of carbon foot print taxation (global warming, the first non-theological, non-scientific religion), mad men across the globe are trying to acquire nuclear weapons so they can print their names in the last history textbook of mankind. The gulf between the reality of the average person's life and that of their so-called elected representatives is as wide as the Grand Canyon, no, wider than the Gulf of Mexico. So much so that the sun soaked leaders on their yachts cannot see the shores of Common Sense. When gasoline prices have skyrocketed to $4 per gallon, Congressional reaction was to blame the oil companies. But at the same time, the federal, state and local governments are reaping a huge windfall from sales taxes on expensive oil. In Chicago, 20 percent of the pump price of gasoline is taxes. That is a higher profit margin than the gasoline retailers. Instead of becoming a domestic producer of its own oil, the United States is allowing the world to hold it for oil ransom. New petrostates like Russia and Brazil continue to drill for new oil. The new petrostates are acquiring wealth faster than the US Treasury can print $20 bills. In turn, the U.S. dollar continues to fall because it is not the monetary beacon of the past. Oil and oil futures contracts have become the new international default currency. U.S. leadership is brain dead to the current realities of what is happening to the American economy because they are so far removed from it that they are clueless. America has slowly lapsed into an ancient form of neglectful governance, a feudal system of an elitist and arrogant ruling class, which represents only self interests over public policy or public trust. In this election year, the only solution offered is to spend more tax dollars. But as noted above, the criminal waste is so high and the incompetence levels so strong, why believe anything anyone says to you? The whole American system is backwards: instead of the people telling the government how to much money to spend on public welfare and defense, it is the government that extracts as much money it deems necessary from the people under the threat of lien and forfeiture. For example, a person who buys a home with a 30 year mortgage will pay in real estate taxes the full value of that home in less than 25 year to the government agencies. When a prorated real estate tax bill is larger than your mortgage payment, there is a problem within the system. And this is on top of increasing sales taxes. In Cook County, Illinois, local sales taxes will increase next month to 10 to 11.5 percent on most goods. Ten percent of a person's purchasing power (with the dollar also declining in value) is lost. These are the practical burdens facing middle class Americans. These burdens will not change because the incumbent leadership has created these burdens for the leadership's own benefit.