Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poor Bastard of the Day

Today, for a change of pace, I'm naming a Poor Bastard of the Day. The difference, of course, is that while the regular Bastard of the Day deserves scorn, the Poor Bastard elicits sympathy. From the Chicago Tribune:
Caleb Kosek, 24, showed up for his first day of work as a Bennigan's server to find the 225 North Michigan location locked. He circled the building for a few minutes before passersby informed him that they had heard the restaurant chain was closed as of that morning. "Wow," he said wide-eyed as he peeked into the empty restaurant.
Man, what rotten luck! Caleb, you poor bastard, I hope you find another job soon!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Knowing Your Market

Ad Age interviews Andy Puzder, president-CEO of Carl's Jr./Hardee's. When asked, "Why don't you have more healthy products on the menu?" he replies
My job is not to tell you what to eat, but figure out what you want to eat and offer it to you. I can tell you from our sales, it's not the ultra-healthy no-taste food. At Hardee's we sell 130 to 150 Thickburgers a day per restaurant and probably two salads. But they're there. I think if we fried the salads, they would sell more.
Come to think of it, maybe Hardee's and Carl's Jr. should partner with Hostess to offer fried Twinkies.

Puzder also attacks his competitors' 99-cent double cheeseburgers. He points out that one can't purchase the basic ingredients for a good burger at that price, even without paying rent, utilities, and labor (although some may counter that these are "loss leaders" intended to attract customers). Then he puts it bluntly: "People are looking to sell this garbage and trying to out-garbage each other."

I wish the interview hadn't been so short. I think I like this guy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


The CTA will introduce seatless "L" cars within a few months, starting with the Brown Line. In other words, "Brown Line riders, we know you've tolerated several years of construction zones and station closures so we could improve service by running 8-car trains instead of 6-car trains. Here's your reward: reach for a pole because those new cars won't have any seats!" Gee, thanks.

CTA President Ron Huberman knows the limits of what the Chicago commuter will bear:
Huberman assured CTA riders that he is not looking to Asia or the Third World for ideas. He said CTA customers won't be asked to ride on the roofs of trains, as riders frequently do in India.
At least the bar is set low enough for riders to grab onto.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bastard of the Day

I went for a midday bike ride today. Coming south on Gross Point Road in Skokie (or maybe Evanston), I was almost killed by a bastard in a 3/4-ton pick-up truck.

I was about 15 feet from an intersection when a pick-up truck behind me suddenly accelerated hard, swung out to my left (I wasn't quite "taking the lane," but I was well away from the curb) and turned right in front of me. When I was 16, someone did that to me and I ended up with 15 stitches in my knee, so I am hyper-aware of the so-called "right hook." I braked when I saw the truck in my peripheral vision because I sensed what he was about to do. If he had waited just a few seconds, I would have been out of his way. If I hadn't anticipated his actions, I would have plowed into the side of his truck and maybe slid underneath.

The bastard obviously saw me and consciously chose to endanger my life. That wasn't my only close call today, either. What the Hell is wrong with these people?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Farewell to a Boyhood Hero

I was saddened last night to learn that baseball player Bobby Murcer died. Everyone remembers him as a Yankee, but I remember him as a Cub.

My first sports memories are from the late 1970s. Baseball was my favorite, and in my family there was -- and is -- only one team that matters. Murcer played for the Cubs for only two and a half seasons, 1977-1979, but those were critical years for me, a brief time when athletes were heroes (I think I started to become cynical around fifth grade). I remember Murcer as the Cubs' leading home run hitter in 1977. In fact, his 27 homers were more than twice as many as anyone else on the team hit.

Then the Cubs got Dave Kingman. I think I liked him better than Murcer mostly because we shared a name, the sort of thing that matters to an eight-year-old. Kingman had a great year in 1979, leading the National League in home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, and slugging percentage. Now I know everybody hates Kingman, but I was too young to understand it then.

In mid-1979, Murcer was traded back to the Yankees, where he finished a solid career. Since that was long before inter-league play*, he disappeared from my world except on Topps baseball cards (this columnist's Murcer memories began when mine ended). I didn't even know he became a broadcaster until I read his obituary. By all accounts, he was a great guy, a Yankee legend, and he will be missed.

* Except for the World Series, of course, but that's unknown territory to a Cubs fan.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lyrics of the Day

On a bike ride this morning, I had this Steve Earle song going through my head. "More Than I Can Do" belongs on a Stalker's Greatest Hits compilation (which would also include "Every Breath You Take"):
You told me that I got to stop
But it's more than I can do
And that ain't nothing new
'Cause we both know that I'm crazy about you

You said you're gonna call the cops
But I ain't gonna run
Because you're the only one
There ain't no way I could live without you
Earle has had half a dozen wives (he married one twice), so I can't help wondering who this song is about.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


It was bad enough when I dreamed last night that my wife had died. Then I woke up to this. Although there was no mention in my dream about whether she died in the line of duty, it made today's sad news that much more disturbing.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bastard of the Day

I would be remiss if I didn't name Cook County Board President Todd "the Toddler" Stroger as the bastard of July 1st. Today his 1% county sales tax increase went into effect. One percent doesn't sound like much, but it makes Chicago sales taxes the highest of any major U.S. city.

Want to go shopping for a new wardrobe on Michigan Avenue? Now you'll have to pay 10.25% sales tax on your purchase. In the face of such depressing news, some people will go out for a nice dinner to raise their spirits. They'll have to pay the county's new tax, too. And speaking of spirits, you can't even drown your sorrows in booze without handing over that extra 1% tithe to the Toddler.

Stroger's timing is impeccable. Sales taxes are going up at a time when gas prices are high enough to discourage residents from traveling outside the county to make their purchases. And with the economy in the toilet (if you care to argue that point with me, buzz off), what better time to stick it to Cook County residents?

Honorary bastard awards go to the fools who voted for the incapacitated incumbent, Todd's dad, in the 2006 Democratic primary instead of Forrest Claypool, who wouldn't have raised taxes (I could say the same for those who chose Stroger over Tony Peraica in the general election, but Peraica is kind of a goof with his own set of issues). The Tribune suggests that we hunt down everyone responsible and force them to repent or run them out of office.