Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Problem with Gracie

I don't get along well with Gracie, our youngest dog. "She's eying me with contempt," I told my wife.

"Are you eying her with contempt?" she asked.

"Yeah, but I see the world through contempt-colored glasses."

Monday, December 20, 2010

That Hard-to-Find Gift

Today I received an e-mail offer to purchase a gift subscription to Ancestry.com, "the world's largest online family history resource."

Finally, a gift for the bastard in your life! Or the Mormon, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Afternoon Delight?

"I've got something for you in the bedroom," she said.

Hmm, that sounds provocative.

Alas, after nearly 12 years of marriage, I should know better.

"They were selling these t-shirts at work so I got you one. They were only ten bucks."


No, the shirt did not say, "I thought I might get lucky but all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Funniest Link Request Ever

I got this e-mail today:
I would like to submit our web site, http://www.criminaljusticedegree.com, for your review and inclusion in the resource section of your site,
http://www.djwriter.com/blog/labels/bastards.html.
"Hey, you know that page full of bastards on your blog? We want you to link to us there!"

Since my wife has a degree in criminal justice, I won't dare to guess why the sender thought that would be an appropriate place to promote their site.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Ultimate Brush-Off?

I spent a weekend in Lost Hills, CA near the end of my cross-country bike trip in 2002. Actually, I was in what might be called "East Lost Hills," a collection of gas, food, and lodging establishments located at an interchange with Interstate 5. The "real" town of Lost Hills, populated almost entirely by Hispanic farm workers, is a couple miles further west.

I just finished reading "Meet the Billionaire Couple Who Took Over California's Water Supply," the only article I've ever seen that says anything about Lost Hills. Writer John Gibler describes what may be the ultimate brush-off:
Years earlier, while working on another investigation, I also called Roll International to request an interview. That time the receptionist told me straight: “We don’t give information to the public.” When I asked her to whom I should address my research questions she responded, “I suggest you don’t research us.” Then she hung up.
I guess privately held agribusiness corporations aren't keen on public relations!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I Knew It!!!

Lead story in The Onion this week:

Universe Admits To Wronging

Area Man His Entire Life

'Dave's Got A Right To Be Angry,' Says Cosmos

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Magic Window

A friend invited me to meet him at a concert tonight. I was thinking about going, but then something came up here at home during what I call the magic window: that short period of time when one decides whether or not to do something.

Tonight the magic window lasted from 8:20 to 8:40 PM. I got home at 8:20, and there was a cooler full of Omaha Steaks at the door. I had to rearrange the entire freezer to make room for it all. Reorganizing the freezer reminded me that the refrigerator contained several bottles of expired milk. As I was pouring the old milk in the toilet, I remembered that I had been meaning to combine two partial bottles of my wife's shampoo in my never-ending battle against clutter. As I tossed the empty plastic milk and shampoo bottles into the recycling bin, I remembered that a local restaurant has a food drive box. So I started looking at my boxes of cereal and discovered that half of them were expired (no surprise considering all the milk I haven't been using lately). I threw away the cereal and saved the cardboard boxes for recycling. By then it was 8:47. The magic window was closed.

Although in theory I could still go -- the cover is only $5 and the band is playing two sets -- once the magic window closes, it just isn't going to happen. And yes, I know the previous paragraph describes one of the lamest justifications for blowing off a concert ever. And no, my friend doesn't read my blog. I intend to tell him "something came up" without confessing the pathetic details.

Monday, November 22, 2010

This just in...

Breaking news from CNN:
Ingmar Guandique convicted of first-degree murder in 2001 death of D.C. intern Chandra Levy.
Gary Condit should sue the media for ruining his life. Police say he was never even a suspect.

CFLs for a Song

At Menard's this weekend, I was shocked to see their prices on compact fluorescent light bulbs. First I saw a 3-pack of 60-watt equivalent bulbs "on sale" for $7.77, but that was nothing. Another display had 2-packs of 60-watt equivalents for 49 cents. And an end-cap offered 3-packs of 60-watt equivalents for 74 cents. I bought two of the 3-packs because those were 10,000-hour bulbs whereas the 2-packs were 8,000-hour bulbs.

At prices like these, there is no reason not to install CFLs almost everywhere. Anyone who has been scared off by claims that CFLs burn out faster if you turn lights on and off frequently (which has not been my experience) or that CFLs don't last as long as advertised when installed in confined spaces (a problem I have had with a couple of fixtures) -- get to Menard's now! For a quarter a bulb, you can't lose.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Biking Illinois Twilight

It's been a discouraging month as the author of Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides.

I spend a lot of time (and money) in bookstores, and I usually scan the "Local Interest" section for that familiar goldenrod spine with BIKING ILLINOIS in black letters. The last six stores I've visited have not had a single copy on offer.

A few days ago, I received my twice-yearly royalty check. It was a mere $61 for the first half of 2010.

There was a time when Biking Illinois was almost everywhere, and my royalties were measured in hundreds of dollars instead of tens. I never came close to getting rich or even covering my enormous travel expenses, but at least I was getting something. At least my book was out there.

Considering that my book is now four years old, the economy still sucks, and a couple of competing titles came out this year, I guess it isn't surprising. But I can't help feeling depressed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Buy a Dead Brand

On December 8, Racebrook is auctioning 150 old brand names. If you miss shopping at Phar-Mor or Child World, here's your big chance to own your favorite store, or at least the name. Do you miss Texaco's Sky Chief gasoline? Want to bring back Meister Brau beer or Barrelhead Root Beer? I can imagine a Beatles fan bidding for the BOAC airline brand: "Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC/Didn't get to bed last night."

Some brands aren't likely to sell for much. Who would buy the Continental Illinois brand when it's associated with one of the largest bank failures in U.S. history? That would be like naming your fishing boat Lusitania.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Problems

I have two kinds of problems in my life. First there are those that I actually want to solve. The other kind I just want to bitch about. The more obvious the solution, the more likely the problem is among the latter category. Please restrain yourself from interrupting me with your helpful suggestions. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sade? Really?

I guess my finger isn't on the pulse of pop culture. I was shocked several weeks ago to see tickets go on sale for Sade -- not only because the tickets are for next August, which is unusually far in advance, but because the venue is the United Center. Surely Sade can't fill a place like the United Center, I thought (had I not seen her on TV earlier this year, my reaction might have been I thought she was dead). I can recall only two of her songs, both a quarter of a century old: "Smooth Operator" and "Sweetest Taboo." How could she be so popular after all these years?

Then today I saw that tickets are going on sale Monday for a second Sade show next August at the United Center. And I learned that Sade is apparently "the most successful solo female artist Britain has ever produced." Who knew?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Stores Rip Off Consumers to Make Money on Coupons

Lost in the story of the Great Target Coupon Scandal is this bullshit policy:
The glitch appears to stem from a common practice among retailers. Stores won't allow a coupon to reduce the price of an item to less than zero. Free is the best they will do, which is also Target's stated policy.
At first blush, this may sound reasonable. It seems wrong for a store to essentially pay you to purchase a product.

BUT... what happens when the store sends the coupon to the issuer/processor? They get reimbursed the face value of the coupon regardless of whether the consumer got the entire face value as a discount. So this is just a way for stores to make money by scamming their own customers. Granted, this sort of thing doesn't happen often (unless there is a software bug as in Target's case), but it's still a bum deal for consumers.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election 2010

I live in a nation full of idiots. Go suck on a teabag.

Never Enough

Sitting in a traffic jam on the Kennedy Expressway recently, I thought, Sometimes the only thing that stops me from killing a bunch of people is that I could never kill enough.

Think about it. Even if you could snuff out 1,000 people and get away with it (both legally and psychologically), it still wouldn't make a damn bit of difference in so many ways. Fewer cars on the road? Fewer people in line at the grocery store? Fewer people crowding your favorite dining spot on a Friday night? Hardly.

It gave me a new appreciation for guys like Joseph Stalin. Imagine how easy it was to get a good table in Moscow's finest restaurants after the Great Purge.

The "Lewd Lyrics" Blog

An anonymous friend started a blog to share his obscene rewrites of popular song lyrics with the world. I promised I would promote his blog if he posted at least twice a week for two months. He celebrated his two-month anniversary as a blogger on Saturday, so I'm keeping my word.

Visit "Lewd Lyrics" at http://lewdlyrics.blogspot.com/ to see what kind of sick stuff he's come up with. You'll never listen to classic rock the same way again.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Bastard of the Day

This could be for every day, but today and tomorrow especially: the Republican Party. These bastards have done everything they could for the past two years to keep President Obama and the Democratic Party from accomplishing their goals in Congress. And now they are running a sadly successful campaign of claiming that "we gave the Democrats two years and they haven't accomplished anything."

Aside from the inherent bastardry of this tactic, the charge isn't even true. Read Tim Dickinson's article in Rolling Stone titled "The Case for Obama" and discover that he actually has accomplished quite a bit.

To all you liberals and progressives out there: get off your butts November 2 and vote! We cannot allow another weakened presidency like President Clinton had once Gingrich and friends took control. And most importantly, we cannot tolerate those Republican bastards undoing all the positive changes that Obama has made so far. Those fucking teabaggers will be out in force tomorrow. Don't let those bastards destroy this generation's best shot at progressive change.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Support the USO

This morning my wife said, "We got a calendar in the mail from the USO full of touching moments."

I replied, "Well, I'd rather get a calendar of touching moments from the USO than from NAMBLA."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mayor Rahm Fucking Emanuel?

I don't know whether Rahm Emanuel will be the next mayor of Chicago or even whether I will vote for him, but there's one thing I love about the guy: his language. While the Mayors Daley (father & son) have been known for malapropisms and other colorful speech (Daleyisms predate Bushisms), Emanuel curses like a truck driver. When the mayor is under fire at a press conference, I'd rather see Emanuel dropping f-bombs like a B-29 than Daley sputtering some sort of incoherent response.

Suggested campaign sign slogan: "Rahm Emanuel: Fuck Yeah!"

Omnaris

The other day I was watching TV when one of those cheesy "Omnaris to the nose!" commercials came on. And I thought, Wouldn't it be great if Omnaris treated hemorrhoids instead?

I can see it now... Those guys dressed like a Devo tribute band shout, "Omnaris to the anus!" which is already an improvement because it rhymes. Then you see those little guys scaling some fat truck driver's hairy ass. When they get to the crack, they tip the Omnaris bottle like Marines planting the flag on Iwo Jima!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Illinois' Proud Political Tradition

Last Sunday's Chicago Tribune included an interesting history of the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs this year (Obama's former office, currently filled by Blagojevich appointee Roland Burris). Among the many rogues in our state's past, William Lorimer (senator from 1909 to 1912) stands out:
After the legislature picked Lorimer as senator, one lawmaker confessed that he had traded his vote for $1,000. (A Chicago Tribune editor paid the lawmaker three times as much for his confession.) Soon other legislators also admitted taking bribes. But the U.S. Senate ruled Lorimer could keep the seat, noting that the number of corrupt votes was smaller than Lorimer's margin of victory. When even more allegations piled up, the Senate finally expelled Lorimer, who turned his attention to his other business: banking.
My favorite part is the parenthetical sentence. Paying the legislator -- who, though unnamed, is the real villain in Lorimer's tale -- three times the bribe he took in exchange for a confession isn't exactly a high point in Chicago journalism.

Fun math problem: If, instead of being paid to that legislator, the $3,000 had been invested in stocks at an average rate of return (and assuming it didn't get wiped out in the Great Depression), how much would it be worth today? Would it be enough to bail the Tribune Company out of its financial woes?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Editorial Mystery

As an editor/proofreader, my eyes are drawn to errors whenever I read. As a writer, I sometimes wonder about the origins of those errors. Simple typos are obvious, but consider this from A.J. Jacobs' The Know-It-All:
That's an strange concept, I think to myself. (page 66 of paperback edition)
It is possible that the author initially typed an instead of a, and no editor caught it.

But maybe an was correct in the sentence's original form. Perhaps instead of strange, the author first described the concept as odd or unusual, in which case an would be appropriate. Then in a revision the author or editor changed the adjective to strange but neglected to change the article to a. That seems more likely to me.

Needless to say, Evelyn Wood's acolytes would not pause to ponder such editorial mysteries.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mayer Vs. Mayor

Take this quiz over at Mental Floss to guess whether twelve quotes are from John Mayer or Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

For what it's worth, I totally kicked ass on this -- I only missed one! (And I hardly know John Mayer except for a recent Rolling Stone interview.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Self-Destruction

Why does thinking about how fat I have become make me so hungry?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Missed Graphic Opportunity

I watched the Chicago Bears play the Carolina Panthers today. Starting quarterback Jay Cutler got a concussion last week so he didn't play. Whenever they showed him standing on the sidelines, I think they should have had little birds flying around in circles over his head like they do in cartoons.

You know you're getting old when...

You're watching a football game and start thinking, Gosh, those guys fall on the ground a lot. They have to get up a lot. I'd get tired if I had to do that for a whole game. I'm getting tired just watching it on TV. I think I need a nap. I hope I wake up before the game is over. *Sigh* They'll show the highlights on the news later anyway.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

You Won't Find This Ride in Biking Illinois

Some places are never bicycle-friendly:
Bond was set at $200,000 Friday for a south suburban man charged with riding a bike on an O'Hare Airport runway Thursday night, then trying to go inside the terminal through a security door.
If you are traveling with your bicycle and don't want to ride around aimlessly on the runways dodging 747s, check out the Bike Access website. It includes information about airlines, airports, trains, packing, shipping, rentals, and more. Much of the site consists of posts by cyclists sharing their experiences. The page for O'Hare Airport is here.

Reflections

When I look in the mirror, I see a middle-aged, overweight caricature of myself.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Big-Ass Headphones

I was walking down my block today and saw a kid walking a dog. In spite of my generally sour blogging demeanor, I am surprisingly neighborly so I prepared to exchange hellos. Then I saw the D-cup-sized headphones covering his ears. In this age of discreet iPod ear buds, there's no better way to announce to the world that you want to be left alone than wearing big-ass fucking headphones.*
Search Amazon.com for headphones


* If you ever doubted that hyphen placement matters, picture a pair of big-ass fucking headphones and then picture a pair of big ass-fucking headphones. Gee, I wonder why no one has asked me to write a grammar primer for elementary school students. (I hope I'm correct in assuming that my mother no longer reads this blog.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tempting Fate

Coming out today, this is my candidate for most obnoxious book title of 2010: I Do, Now What?: Secrets, Stories, and Advice from a Madly-in-Love Couple by Giuliana and Bill Rancic.

Just imagine how stupid they'll feel seeing that cloying subtitle on the shelf when the virtually inevitable celebrity divorce happens.

Deaths in the News

  • The owner of the Segway company accidentally rode his Segway off a cliff near his English estate on Sunday. I won't pick on the man, Jim Heselden, because he seems like he was a good guy ("one of Britain’s leading philanthropists"), but I sometimes I wish all Segway owners would just ride those stupid things off cliffs.
  • Jacksonville, FL gym teacher Leonard Skinner, whose name inspired the legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd, died in his sleep at age 77 last Monday. Sadly, as the Alabama Ass Whuppin' blog points out, he outlived most members of that ill-fated band.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Favorite Phil Collins Song?

"I can't stand Phil Collins."

"You don't like 'In the Air Tonight'?"

"No."

"Dude. Come on."

Long pause.

"Well, I suppose it's my favorite Phil Collins song." Kind of like my favorite strain of gonorrhea.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why the Recession is Good for Women

In the checkout line at the grocery store today, I saw the above headline on the cover of a magazine. Well, of course the recession is good for women. Companies are trying to cut costs, and they can hire five women for less than it costs to pay four men. So women's employment should increase!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tele-Apathy

The new TV season starts in less than one hour. I only watch about half a dozen shows, but I watch them religiously. That's in the Roman Catholic sense, as in "skip a week and you're damned to Hell." In that respect, TV is like most things in my life: taken to an unhealthy extreme.

As recently as 2004, I rarely watched TV, much less followed any series. When I moved out of my parents' house at the beyond-ripe age of 24, I ordered cable TV for my apartment but soon found my interest in even network programming on the wane. When I bought my condo less than two years later,  I invested in a 27" TV (unlike my studio apartment, the condo had a real living room) but rarely watched it. Nearly 10 years passed. I moved into a house, got married, and often went weeks without turning on the TV.

For reasons long forgotten, I decided to started watching again shortly after completing my book manuscript. I suppose I was bored without full-time employment and looking for something to occupy my time. I'm still not a channel-changer, though. Not only do I never turn on the TV without a specific show to watch, but all my shows happen to be on CBS (I used to watch Boston Legal on ABC).

But this year doesn't feel right. I can't muster any excitement for my old favorites. Numb3rs is gone, but it was starting to wear thin anyway. I've been watching three other "criminal procedurals" -- NCISNCIS: Los Angeles, and The Mentalist -- but I'm not anxious about what's going to happen next on any of them. Last year I literally slept through a couple episodes of NCIS: LA. I've watched the CBS Monday night sitcoms How I Met Your Mother, Rules of Engagement, and Two and a Half Men, but I'm kind of tired of most of those characters and their recycled plot lines by now.

I don't give a shit about the next screwy relationship Ted Moseby gets into. I don't care how Charlie Harper catches his next STD. I don't care whether Patrick Jane ever kills Red John. I don't even care whether Jethro Gibbs stops the drug cartel chick from killing his dad.

What should I do tonight? Should I watch the season premieres anyway, hoping that something reignites the passion I once had for these shows and characters? Or should I just say fuck it and abandon TV entirely?

Those are really my only options. I do not want to check out any other shows (new or returning) because that would only complicate my life further. Besides, if I can't even muster any interest in the characters I've watched for the past two to five years, why would I care about someone new?

So it's all or nothing, and I'm leaning toward nothing. Ask me again in an hour or so.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Problem with Whitesnake

For some reason, whenever I hear Whitesnake on the radio and think of the band's singer and founder David Coverdale, I also think of David Hasselhoff. Once that happens, although I know they are different people, I just can't take either one seriously.

Metra: No Innovations Here

This story describes "quiet cars" on New Jersey Transit where the use of cell phones and other noisy gadgets is restricted so commuters can travel in peace. Similar initiatives on other commuter railways as well as Amtrak's Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service have had success. Regardless, Metra -- our 1950s-mentality commuter rail service -- has no plans to even consider such a thing.

To any Chicago area bicyclist, this resistance sounds familiar. It took pressure from then-Lieutenant Governor Quinn (along with the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, of course) to get Metra to implement a program to allow a very limited number of bikes on their trains. By my reckoning, Metra is one of the least progressive transit services in the country. I guess we should be glad they don't make us shovel coal.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Updates to BikingIllinois.com

Just when you were ready to give up on me, I've added some rides to BikingIllinois.com:
They aren't the most verbose pages I've created, but at least there are some pretty pictures. That leaves 17 out of 60 rides that I still need to finish. I may add a few more soon... or it may be a while. I know better than to make promises.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

What Bugs Me About AC/DC

When I was in fifth grade (1980-81), I loved AC/DC. My dad owned Back in Black and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap but I listened to them more than he did (though he tried to keep me from hearing certain "adult lyrics"). My first big thrill as a record collector was finding the Australian import of Dirty Deeds, which included my favorite AC/DC song, "Jailbreak" (not on any U.S. releases at the time, but radio stations played it a lot). It was in the Sears record department at the local mall, of all places! [The import's cover features the tattooed forearm shown below, although Amazon's tracklist is for the American version.]

I didn't stay "into" AC/DC for long, though. By the time For Those About to Rock We Salute You came out, I wasn't interested enough to buy it. A lack of radio play compared to Back in Black was probably part of it, but I think I just moved on to other bands.

Fast forward 25 years. I became a hardcore collector of bootleg concert recordings for several years (I quit cold turkey last spring). My brother, a toddler when Back in Black came out,  is much more into AC/DC than I've been since fifth grade, so I downloaded many concerts for him. And this is what bugs me about AC/DC: "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)" is one of the greatest concert openers ever written, but the band closes with that song! Why would you play for 90 minutes and then sing a song called "For Those About to Rock"? I haven't been able to find a good explanation. My best guess is that they made it the encore because they used a cannon, and they figured they couldn't beat that for a climax.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Billy Williams

I'm glad Williams got a statue because I think he's a good guy and he was a great ballplayer, but I can't help feeling like the honors being bestowed by the Cubs are just a sad reflection on the team. The Cubs have sucked long and hard, and yet they keep retiring numbers and erecting statues for the guys who have played during this era of sucking. There were great Cubs in the first half of the 20th century who played on pennant-winning and even World Series-winning teams, guys enshrined in Cooperstown before new team owner Tom Ricketts was born. Why are we clinging to guys like Williams, Jenkins, and Maddux when they only remind us how badly their teams played?

Be Careful What You Wish For

A lot of people are celebrating after mayor Daley's announcement yesterday that he will not seek re-election.

People forget that one reason Daley stayed in power so long was the dearth of worthy challengers. Whatever I thought of Daley over the years, I was never tempted to vote for Bobby Rush or whoever else was up against him. Without Daley in the mix, one of those kooks might end up running this city.

I don't want to remember yesterday as the day Chicago started to become Detroit.

Monday, September 06, 2010

If you're lonely, you can talk to me...

Last night I was listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage radio show, and he was playing a bunch of songs from the Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie including "Hey Bulldog". Tonight I'm listening to Alice Cooper's radio show, and he just played "Hey Bulldog"!

It's probably been 20 years since I last played my Yellow Submarine soundtrack album (on vinyl!) since it's not one of my favorites. "Hey Bulldog" isn't one of their more popular tunes, so I haven't heard it on the radio in a long time either. And now I've heard it twice on the "radio" (actually, I'm listening online) within 24 hours, plus I saw a band cover it live in June.

Coincidence? Or a message from the cosmos?

Awesome Chrome Plug-In

I've been using Google's Chrome browser for the past four months or so. It's a great improvement over Internet Explorer, and it seems better than Firefox as well (I haven't used Firefox as much so it's harder to judge). Today I was looking at the plug-ins/extensions offered for Chrome and saw this:
See instant definitions

This extension lets you double-click a word on a page to view its definition in a small pop-up bubble. The extension also adds a small icon to the address bar that you can click to search for a definition. You can set the dictionary language via the options menu for the extension.
As someone who is concerned about the exact meanings of words, I often look up words even when I think I already know them. This extension is going to save me a lot of time. I don't know if other browsers offer anything similar.

Appropriate Cubs Promotion

I got an e-mail today about the Chicago Cubs' upcoming series against the Houston Astros. On Wednesday, September 8, the first 10,000 fans get a Cubs toiletry bag. I couldn't dream of a better promotional item since the Cubs' season has been in the toilet since July.*


* My brother would say April, but that's just mean.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mourning Constitutional

Lately I've been reading a book that refers to the writings of James Madison quite a bit, and I had an interesting thought.

Imagine if one of the Founding Fathers came back to life (doesn't matter which one, as long as it's someone from the Constitutional Convention that we've heard of, not the guy from Rhode Island who sat in the back, drank whiskey, and fiddled with himself while all the important stuff went on without him). Constitutional scholars rush to see him, eager to soak up profound insights from someone who played a role in the birth of our country. Excitedly, they gush about how brilliant the U.S. Constitution is because we're still using it more than 200 years later. The Founding Father stares at them, then laughs heartily: "You guys never rewrote that damn thing? What the Hell is wrong with you people?"

After picturing that scene, I was jarred by the realization of how chaotic -- how utterly impossible -- rewriting the Constitution would be in modern times. Issues like abortion and guns would quickly derail the process. Then Fox News would whip the tea-baggers into a lather about how the liberals are going to tax their every thought. Anonymous e-mails will spread dubious claims about every subject. Conspiracy theorists will probably spontaneously combust just thinking about what might really be going on.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Scrotum Girl

With everyone talking about Facebook and reconnecting with the past, I've been thinking about whether it is worth the effort. I'm sure it is not, for several reasons. I never had many friends anyway, and anybody I lost touch with, I probably had a good reason. I keep in touch with only one friend from the first 22 years of my life, and I can't think of any others that I particularly miss. Most importantly, I have had a Web presence for eight years now. For the past three, I've even been using my own name as a domain. If anyone wants to find me, I'm a 0.25-second Google search away (I suppose I could be mistaken for a dentist in Iowa, except he got his DDS the year I was born). For what it's worth, two old "sort-of friends" have tracked me down online over the years; our reconnections each lasted through the exchange of three e-mails.

Anyway, an odd memory popped into my head today. Although I know her real name, let's call her Scrotum Girl. She was a year ahead of me in school, and I never had any classes with her. I don't remember much about her except for one incident: when I was in 7th grade, I heard her call somebody a scrotum in the hallway. I can even recall the inflection of her voice, though I can't describe it.

I have no idea why I retained that memory from almost three decades ago. Maybe it was that I hadn't heard a female use that word before, at least in a non-clinical sense. Or maybe it was just that scrotum is a weird thing to call someone. With all the curses and slang at our disposal, why choose something from anatomy class?

The strangest thing about all this -- aside from me blogging about it and thinking anyone would care (I got over that concern years ago) -- is that Scrotum Girl likely has no recollection of the incident that, for me, defines her. And virtually everyone else who knows her is unaware of that event, meaning they associate her with something completely different (assuming scrotum wasn't her catch phrase). It makes me wonder how others remember me. Hmm, maybe that explains why hardly anyone has typed my name into Google over the years.

The Trouble with Exhibitionists...

... is that they are rarely the kind of people you want to see that much of. I'm not sure whether the grin on that guy's face is from the sex or getting hit on the head too many times.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Bastard of the Day

This one goes out to the engineers at Lexmark. It's 20-fucking-10, and you still haven't figured out how to make your printers feed one damn page at a time?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Silly Question

An article was posted to AlterNet over the weekend with the headline: "Cooler Than Thou: Will Hipsters Ruin Christianity?"

Of course. Damn hipsters ruin everything.

Rolling in Dough

About a month ago, I decided to place Google AdSense on this blog and other davidjohnsen.com content (the homepage and my 2007 vacation). After 634 "page impressions" (i.e., times ads have appeared on my pages for visitors), someone finally clicked on one of the ads! I've earned a whopping eight cents, which is like paying myself four cents an hour for the time I spent putting the code for those ads on my pages. Best of all, I only need to earn $99.92 more to get a check from Google. At this rate, I can expect that check in 2022.

Despite the underwhelming response, I still plan to add ads to my other, more popular sites eventually. If I play my cards right, maybe I can hasten my payday to 2016!

Speaking of recent blog enhancements, I now know that nothing I write is particularly funny, interesting, or cool, based on the dearth of clicks on those little boxes. I thought it would be funny or interesting or maybe even cool to have those check boxes like other blogs, but I guess I was wrong. I suppose I'll leave them up for another month or two.

Bastard of the Day

I've been trying to ignore Glenn Beck for a long time though he's been practically begging to be named Bastard of the Day. So what finally put me over the edge? This: "I have no desire to be president of the United States. Zero desire."

While this statement increased global warming from the collective sigh of relieved liberals across the country, I also see it in a different light. Beck criticizes President Obama all day, every day, but when he is challenged to take on the responsibility himself, he backs down. What a fucking coward.

Granted, a President Beck would be as likely to fix our country's problems as the Wizard of Oz or Don Quixote. His first problem would be that he doesn't understand the real problems. But there are two kinds of people in America, people who bitch about everything and people who want to try to fix it. By shrugging off public office, Beck clearly has aligned himself with the former.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Phone Phollow-Up: A Better Answer

Today I went to a Verizon-owned store to inquire about my phone recharging issue. The clerk there gave me a much better answer than I got from the lying bastard I spoke with at the authorized dealer.

He said that because of my phone's waterproofing, the recharger has to be plugged in deeper than in most phones. If it doesn't go in far enough, the phone will "trickle charge" slowly. Then for some reason, the phone will say it is fully charged based on how long it has been charging rather than how much charge the battery has actually received. Although the problem is more frequent with car chargers, sometimes the charger that comes with the phone won't go deep enough into the phone to charge it properly.

Since sometimes my charge lasts a long time, I assume that I haven't always been pushing the plug in far enough. So now I will be sure to push the recharger plug in as far as it will go. He said that if I still have trouble, I should bring in the phone and the charger together so he can test and possibly replace them.

Hmmm, he didn't mention anything about a six-hour maximum cell-phone battery life!

Bastard of the Day

I've been fairly happy with my Verizon cellular service over the past six years. It's expensive, but it works well most of the time. Today's bastard, however, is the lying salesman at the local authorized Verizon dealer where we bought new phones about a month ago.

I've been having trouble with inconsistent charging on my new phone (a heavy-duty but no-frills Motorola flip-phone). Sometimes it stays charged for a week, but often it discharges completely in one day even when I don't make any calls. My previous two phones usually lasted a week, sometimes more, between recharges. I don't necessarily expect my new phone's charge to last that long, but one day is ridiculously short.

I went back to the dealer to ask what's going on and whether I need a new battery or a new phone. The clerk, who wasn't the same guy who sold us our phones, replied, "It's normal to recharge every day. Cell phone batteries only last for six hours." Bullshit! He stuck to this line even when I reiterated that my battery discharges completely in a day even when I make no calls. If batteries only lasted six hours, everyone would have to recharge their phones at work just to get through a standard workday!

I told him about my previous phone's performance, and he said, "Well, phone and battery technology is changing all the time." Huh? So in the three years since I last upgraded, technology has actually gone backward? Really?

He gave me a phone number to get a warranty replacement, but I'll be seeking a second opinion first.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Can't Go Back

An old friend e-mailed me yesterday asking whether I'd be interested in a full-time job in the corporate world. It's been five years since I left that behind, but a flood of memories came back to me. While I miss the money, I don't miss working full-time. Worst of all is the thought of re-immersing myself in soul-squelching corporate bullshit. Acronyms and cubicles and dress codes and certifications and politics and training classes and locked-down PCs and late hours and crappy lunches and forced cordiality and meetings, meetings, meetings. Plus a commute to the suburbs. And no cursing.

I didn't think I could go back before. Now I'm certain.

Coincidentally, this week I've been packing up my old "work" clothes to donate to charity. Four large garbage bags and counting.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bedbugs Are Back

After being wiped out in the U.S., bedbugs have been making a comeback. I've been following this story for a few years, but apparently the situation has become much worse, especially in the Northeast.

We were thinking of visiting the Northeast for a vacation this fall. Maybe we'll go somewhere else.

There are two big problems with exterminating bedbugs in the 21st century: the people who knew a lot about bedbugs are dead, and the chemical they used to kill bedbugs is banned.

Good night, sleep tight...

UPDATE 08/25/2010 - This topic is gaining traction -- the Chicago Tribune and Advertising Age have covered it this week. According to Terminix, Chicago is the fifth most bedbug-infested city in the country, so I guess it doesn't matter where we go on vacation.

Shocking: Many of Groupon's Bargain Hunters are Cheapskates

A Tribune story about Groupon malcontents says the Chicago Bagel Authority offered $8 vouchers for $3 on Groupon. Owner Greg Gibbs is disappointed that so many Groupon groupies are skinflints:
"We just don't get the kind of customer that we want to come back," said Gibbs, who saw patrons put items back if their total exceeded $8. "It's a lot of people that come once for the discount, nobody tips, and they're all trying to squeeze it into the exact dollar amount."
Knowing how Groupon works, how could business owners be surprised? When you offer such an extreme discount on your product, you're going to attract a lot of people who are only interested because it's cheap.

Articles like this will only worsen the situation. After reading how unprepared some business owners are for the Groupon onslaught, I'm much more likely to use my Groupons sooner than later for fear of the restaurant or store going out of business. But if these businesses start seeing 50% of redemptions within the first month instead of 20%, then they'll really be overwhelmed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bush-Bashing Bandwagonners

I'm sick of these people jumping on the George W. Bush-bashing bandwagon.

Look, I didn't trust that smirking son-of-a-bitch back in 1999. Just because you were stupid enough to vote for the bastard -- twice -- don't think that you're going to win some credibility with me now for saying he was a fuck-up. Of course he was -- it was written all over his damn resume!

I don't even get any smug satisfaction from knowing that I was right (heck, I'm used to being right, anyway). I just have to live with the consequences of the Bush regime like everyone else in the world.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Misery

Today Chicago is under an excessive heat warning for the first time since 2006. Apparently the record string of 80+ high temperatures this summer has just been practice leading up to this.

We have air conditioning, sort of, except we can't use it without destroying the walls of our home. Our blower is in the attic, and the installers routed a drainage pipe into the stack, which is black steel pipe. Trouble is, whenever it's really hot and humid -- whenever my cheap ass would actually turn on the AC -- the cold water makes that stack pipe sweat profusely. Kind of like I am right now.

I want to paint the Virgin Mary on the wall of our stairway and charge admission to those who want to see the weeping Madonna. As an extra bonus, they can see the weeping homeowner watching his plaster walls disintegrate.

The obvious question is, Why don't you get the drain pipe rerouted so you can use your AC? While two companies have diagnosed our problem, neither expressed any interest in fixing it themselves. If you saw our attic, you'd understand. It's going to require the equivalent of arthroscopic surgery to redirect a pipe up there. Until I find a company that hires child labor -- say, four-year-olds -- we're probably just going to have to sweat it out, either through perspiration or pipe condensation.

Over the past 42 straight days of 80+ temps (that's the entire month of July plus August so far), I've learned to live in this sauna. I don't love it, but I can tolerate it. Then yesterday, on the eve of the most dangerously hot day of a hot year, I woke up with the dreaded summer cold. Not cold as in temperature, but cold as in that pesky virus. Therein lies the misery. It started with a sore throat and advanced to post-nasal drip by evening. Sometimes I can't tell the drip apart from the beads of sweat, though I'm pretty sure that's sweat on my forehead. Throw in an occasional cough for good measure, just to shake loose the droplets of whatever.

My mother would ask if I'm taking anything for it. Yes, I am, but since it's that OTC crap with the pseudo-ephedrine substitute (thanks a lot, you meth-cooking bastards), it hasn't been very effective. It was good enough to let me fall asleep last night, at least. But today, when it would be nice to seek refuge in the AC of a local business, preferably one with endless refills of Coca-Cola, I don't feel like leaving the house.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

How Weak Are We?

I saw something disturbing while shopping for a bookcase last week. There was a small shelving unit, really just two one-foot-square cubes made of particle board, in a box. And on that box was a warning symbol that said, "Two person carry." The weight was printed below: "27 lbs."

Does it really take two people to carry a 27-lb. box? I'm no Phil Pfister, but I can easily lift that much over my head with one arm. It's not as if the box was unwieldy, either. It measured roughly two feet by one foot by three inches.

I hope this is just one of those stupid lawyer-inspired warnings and not a reflection of the weakness of modern Americans.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion

I've been "into" the Beatles since high school, and I know their history better than most people who lived through the 1960s (I was born around the time they broke up). I've never been interested in zombies -- and I'm sooo damn sick of vampires -- but a book retelling the story of the Beatles as zombies was irresistible.

Writing in an oral history style, Chicago author Alan Goldsher casts John, Paul, and George as zombies. Ringo, on the other hand, is a ninja. Why? Oh, why not?!? He quotes all the major players including George Martin, Brian Epstein, and Neil Aspinall, even tossing in characters like Apple electronics "wizard" Magic Alex (though he neglects the Beatle wives aside from Yoko). Especially amusing is the conflict between the zombie Beatles and Rod Argent, whose band the Zombies ("She's Not There", "Time of the Season") are not actually zombies. Mick Jagger is a zombie hunter, adding a new dimension to the "Beatles vs. Stones" rivalry.

I wish Goldsher had included more about the music; he misses many opportunities to zombify the titles and origins of songs. There are a few too many zombie fights, but I suppose they appeal to the zombie fans in the book's target audience (as opposed to the Beatles fans). Also, the book wraps up too quickly, covering 1968-69 as if the author had a maximum page limit or a too-tight deadline. Oddly enough, the book's title is its only reference to the rumors of Paul's demise.

Despite those flaws, Paul Is Undead is an entertaining book for any hardcore Beatles fan willing to accept the inherent silliness of it all.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Forgottonia: Forgotten Land, Forgotten Newspaper

Forgottonia is the name claimed by 14 western Illinois counties in the 1970s to protest government under-funding of their region. A major catalyst for this was the delay of Interstate 72's extension westward from Springfield toward Kansas City (it seemed like everyone was getting an interstate in those days except the region between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers). Since I-72 was extended to Hannibal, MO and other transportation improvements have been made, the moniker has been fading away.

I learned about Forgottonia in a recent book titled Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It (a fascinating book, though it could be meatier). If I had known about it sooner, there would probably be a Forgottonia Ride in Biking Illinois. This week Forgottonia graces the cover of New City, a Chicago alternative weekly. It's an odd choice for a local newspaper's cover story. By its very nature Forgottonia means little to Chicagoans.

These days, New City itself could be called Forgottonia judging by the thin volume (16 pages) I picked up yesterday. Whether a victim of the newspaper crisis or the recession, this paper doesn't look like it will last much longer. Its demise would be a shame. I used to read it every week when I was young, almost hip, and new to Chicago 15 years ago. Although New City never matched The Reader in size or influence (a tall order since The Reader, even in its current state, is one of the top alternative weeklies in the nation), at least it was much thicker back in the day, and there was always something worth reading within. My favorite feature is the "Chicago Hype Exchange," a brief column picking five local gainers and losers for the past week. I hope that New City, locally owned with 22 years under its belt, can weather the current business cycle and recover.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Why is Chelsea Handler so Popular?

More specifically, why are her books so damn popular?

I read My Horizontal Life, and it sucked. It wasn't very funny, and it wasn't at all titillating. If an author writes such a boring memoir about sexual encounters, I can't imagine her other books being worth reading. The message I took away from My Horizontal Life is that Handler is just as shallow and dumb as all the one-night stand guys she makes fun of.

As a friend put it, "Do you realize this woman has built an entire career on being a drunk and a slut?"

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Long in the Making, Woefully Underwhelming

This morning I opened a new section of DavidJohnsen.com called "America in Pictures."

The project began in 2003 when I visited the 48 contiguous United States in one year. My objective was to combine photos from all of my travels and organize them by state, creating individual pages for towns, parks, roadside sights, etc. I started with my cross-country bike trip since those photos were already prepared for the Web. Then I plowed through hundreds more, editing and sorting them by state. I uploaded everything I had, but I didn't think it was ready to go live yet. So all my hard work sat invisibly on a Web server for seven years without any links from the outside world.

What changed today? Nothing, really. I still don't consider it to be ready for release, much less anywhere near finished or up-to-date. But since I started adding Google AdSense ads everywhere, I thought it would be wise to make use of the pages I've already created. Besides, since most traffic will come from people searching for something specific rather than people who want to see photos from all over the U.S., the whole thing doesn't have to be "ready" to be worth putting online.

Right now, you can see pictures from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington state. Check out Texas to see the best expression thus far of my vision. There are many more photos uploaded that I have not linked to yet. What gets added next and when depends on whether I'm feeling industrious or lazy; I wouldn't expect much if I were you.

American Political Economics 101

In a hilarious review of Glenn Beck's Beck University, blogger Steve Foster at The Donkey Edge describes how things work:
The school bullies (Republicans) constantly frighten (fear-monger) the other children (the middle and working class) with threats and lies (socialized medicine, the free market is self-correcting, the wealth will trickle down… I could go on) in order to steal their lunch money (tax cuts for the wealthy) so that they can spend it on candy (yachts, mansions, hookers and blow).
Of course, that's not quite how the lesson is taught at Beck U.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Don't think of it as getting older... Think of it as a series of doors slamming shut, never to be unlocked again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ads

I've decided to start placing advertisements served by Google AdSense on this blog as well as my other Web sites. I figure that if the comment spammers think my blog is lucrative virtual real estate, I may as well get in on the action. I don't foresee any conflicts of interest since I don't control which ads Google chooses to display. By the way, for any Blogger bloggers who are considering AdSense, it is ridiculously easy to set up if you are using the Page Elements design tool.

Oddly enough, the first ad I saw on this blog was for pizza. That's more proof that Google knows everything about us, even our dietary preferences.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Changes, Finally

Two months after moving DJWriter to this new location (because Google dropped FTP support), I am finally changing my template and upgrading to Blogger's new way of doing things. I just finished the biggest change, but don't be surprised to see more alterations throughout the next week or so as I customize the template.

I'm Just Walkin'

Actually I'm not, but Matt Green is -- from Rockaway Beach, NY to Rockaway Beach, OR (a Ramones fan?). Check out his entertaining photo blog here. He's on Day 123 in Montana, but I'm still catching up on Day 28 in Ohio.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Truth About Designer Sunglasses

The Wall Street Journal has the story. Here's a taste:
Do you prefer the "quality" of Ray-Ban to Oakley? Do you think Bulgari is better than Dolce & Gabbana, or Salvatore Ferragamo is better than Prada? Wake up. They're all made by one company, Italian manufacturer Luxottica–one of the biggest consumer companies that consumers have never heard of. Luxottica also makes sunglasses branded Burberry, Chanel, Polo Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, Stella McCartney, Tiffany, Versace, Vogue, Persol, Miu Miu, Tory Burch and Donna Karan.
But wait, there's more: "Luxottica also owns LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Should I Make of This?

A while ago, I "rescued" a lost and confused runner at Busse Woods. I was taking a break at my car between bike laps of the 7.7-mile loop path. She approached me to ask directions. I started describing where she was relative to where she had started, then said, "Wait a minute..." and reached into the car. "Here, let me show you a map in this book I wrote a few years ago."

"The book you wrote?" she asked incredulously. It's pretty funny -- what are the odds of asking directions from some random cyclist and it turns out he wrote a book including the path you're on?

Anyway, as I showed her the map, it dawned on both of us that it would be a long way for her to run back to where she had parked her car. It was one of those 90-95 degree days in July, and she had already run about as far as she was able at the time (she was training for a marathon several months away). Being a much nicer guy in person than I usually am in this blog, I offered to drive her to the parking lot.

She accepted, so I put my bike in the car and cleared the passenger seat for her. In my peripheral vision, I saw her doing something on her phone.

When I told my wife this story later, I mentioned that she was doing something on her phone, "probably texting a friend to say she's getting in a silver Ford Focus with license plate XXXXX and 'If you don't hear from me in 30 minutes call the police.'"

"That's good," my wife said.

I understand that my wife was just thinking about what a woman should do for safety, but come on, it was me this woman was getting into a car with. It's reasonable for the runner to be concerned that I might rape and kill her in the forest preserve, but my wife?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Folkers in the Neighborhood

Of the many cultural resources in this great city that I virtually ignore, the Old Town School of Folk Music is the closest to my home. I've been to only one concert there, which was excellent, but that was about a decade ago. I've missed out on at least a dozen great shows because they were sold out long before I got wind of them. Why don't I check their Web site more frequently? I also have thought about taking classes there from time to time, but my lack of coordination dashes any dreams of playing a musical instrument competently (just ask the four unfortunate, aurally scarred people who heard me play electric guitar as a teenager). So the Old Town School goes on being a venerable and probably wonderful place without me.

Anyway, they are expanding to a new building across the street. Now there will be two buildings full of interesting musical things in my neighborhood that I'll probably continue to ignore.

This is not a post against the Old Town School. As I said, my sole experience there was great. It's not even really about my own failure to enjoy my own neighborhood. It's mostly just an excuse for the title pun referring to guitar-toting students walking past my house.

Monday, July 19, 2010

70% Less Spacey

That's just an estimate, but the good news is that my entire summer 2007 travelogue has been edited using KompoZer to remove all those inappropriate spaces that were introduced by bugs in Namo's WebEditor product (which apparently still have not been fixed). Anyone who has read some of my Web pages (outside of this blog) knows what I'm talking about. I also noticed a number of mysteriously missing semicolons, but I can't guarantee I caught all of them. Unfortunately, there are hundreds more pages of content from the past eight years that need similar corrections. I can't say when I'll get to those, but this particular road trip was a manageable size to start with.

Police Killings

In the past two months, three off-duty Chicago police officers have been shot and killed. Even if I wasn't married to a Chicago police officer, I would be outraged.

Two were in uniform, and one was even in a police parking lot. What the Hell is going on here? Doesn't anyone respect the badge anymore? These aren't situations where criminals are exchanging fire to evade arrest. These are cases where they are targeting off-duty officers (I'm not suggesting that shooting a cop in either scenario is justifiable, of course, just that the motives are very different). There was a time not long ago when this would have been unimaginable. Criminals feared the police or at least avoided them. Now they just don't care.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Chicago's gun control law, their opinion referred to crime being out of control here (it mentioned politicians calling for the Illinois National Guard to be assigned to Chicago streets). It sounded a bit harsh to me then, but clearly they are correct. When the bad guys no longer fear the good guys, the streets really are up for grabs.

Among myriad reasons, this one stands out: The police department is short by two or three thousand officers. How many more officers and regular citizens have to die before the City decides to do something about that?

There's more on this from John Kass, although he predictably blames it on political corruption (Kass is the journalistic embodiment of "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail"). Kass' biggest logical error is assuming that money lost to corruption would have gone to fight crime. Knowing Mayor Daley's skewed priorities, that money probably would have funded additional wrought iron fences and median planters.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Tour de Nada

There's a bicycle race going on in France right now, I assume, but don't ask me about it. I gave up on pro cycling this year. After following the sport daily since 2000, I quit cold turkey on January 1, 2010. I'd like to say it was a principled stand against doping or something like that, but really I just decided it was a waste of my time and energy to read cyclingnews.com obsessively.

The only article I've read about pro cycling this year was about Floyd Landis' allegations of widespread doping. For what it's worth, I think he's probably telling the truth this time. I lost all faith in clean cycling after the Tyler Hamilton affair.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Cyrillic Spammers

Why is my blog being spammed in Cyrillic? It's especially strange that this local post about Illinois and Cook County politics has attracted dozens of Russian advertisements. After weeks of trying to stay on top of the problem by deleting the obnoxious comments, today I finally "fixed" the problem by turning off comments for that post. I hope legitimate commenter Jennifer wasn't subscribing to follow-up comments (and if she was, I'm very, very sorry for all the garbage she's been receiving lately).

Note: Other posts have been heavily spammed, but they sometimes attract legitimate comments so I'm not turning off commenting (sub-note: before someone suggests it, let me say that I do not want to moderate comments on the entire blog). Oddly enough, what is by far the most popular page of my blog -- even more popular than the freaking index! -- has not attracted spammers among its 263 comments.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Would the Beatles have stayed together in today's music biz?

That's a broad question, but here's the part I've been thinking about. Even when their recording pace slowed in the late 1960s*, the Beatles spent an awful lot of time together in the studio. They'd spend 2-3 months making an album, and they'd be back in the studio again a few months later. These days, most popular bands only put out an album every two or three years. Of course, the Beatles fell apart for myriad reasons (management issues, Apple problems, Yoko, etc.), but spending so much time together in the studio couldn't have helped their situation.

A related question: would modern long-lived bands like U2 and REM still be together if their record companies required them to make records as frequently as the Beatles did?


* How prolific were the Beatles? They released over 200 of their own songs (plus some cover versions in the early days), and yet their recording career lasted only about seven years (1963-1969).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Life I Could Have Had

Strange coincidence today: First I read an article about Ron Wayne, the third partner in Apple Computer who sold his 10% share for $800; today it would be worth billions. Then I got an e-mail from an old friend/business associate asking whether I had contact info for another old friend/business associate. I did not, but I love hunting that sort of thing down on the Internet. In the process, I found out that five years ago our old friend, described in the press as a "serial entrepreneur," sold one of his companies for over$2 million.

The connection? Way back when I was a neophyte computer consultant, I was paired with a seasoned veteran (he often joked that he had "25 years of information technology experience" although he had just turned 30 -- in truth, he had started teaching computer classes at age 18 and had founded three computer businesses by the time we met). Peter was a Chicago native who had moved to Hawaii. He returned here for a short time with his Hawaiian wife to show her his roots and took this consulting gig to keep himself busy (unsurprisingly, once the novelty of snow had worn off, his wife was not fond of Chicago winters and flew back to Honolulu ahead of schedule).

Although we only worked together for about six months, we developed a close relationship. In some ways, Peter was the big brother I never had. When he was leaving, Peter told me I should come out to Hawaii, and he offered me an unspecified job in his next start-up venture. Obviously, I didn't do it. I could give all sorts of reasons, but the bottom line is that I didn't have the guts to make such a move. After what I read today, I can't help wondering how different my life could be.

To be fair, things haven't turned out so badly here in Chicago. Careerwise, I hitched my wagon to a different rising star and fared pretty well in the late 1990s. I met my wife, bought a house, acquired (too) many pets, rode my bike across the country, wrote a book, and so forth.

But what if I had moved to Hawaii? Would I still be working in the computer field? I probably wouldn't have met my wife, but would I have met someone else? (I don't believe that bullshit about there being only one person for each of us, especially when people use that nauseating term soul mate.) I probably wouldn't have as close of a relationship with my family, but maybe after being separated I would appreciate them more. Of course, I wouldn't have written a book about bicycling in Illinois, although I cannot imagine taking up surfing instead. Or maybe Peter would have talked me into it (he's a great talker), and I would have drowned in the Pacific ten years ago.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Near-Death Experience

Certain stories are extremely amusing as long as nobody dies:
A 22-year-old man was injured when he fell 60 feet from a cliff after wandering off the trail at Starved Rock State Park to urinate, officials said today.
Naturally, alcohol was involved. Did you really need to ask?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Cheese

Today at Ruby Tuesday's I ordered fried mozzarella cheese sticks. It tasted like grease-laden breading -- no cheese flavor whatsoever. I remember a time when that was a tasty appetizer, but lately everywhere I go it sucks. What happened? Is everyone using some lame cheese, like maybe fat-free mozzarella? That would be pretty silly considering that the cheese is the least of one's dietetic concerns in fried mozzarella sticks!

Actually, many of the cheese sticks I've sampled over the past year have suffered from a dearth of cheese. It's as if the goal is to include just enough to hold the breading together. No wonder I can't taste the cheese anymore.

And yet today's cheese sticks are nowhere near the worst I've ever had. That prize goes to the sticks I ordered one Friday night at the same time my friend ordered fried calamari. I think you can guess where this is leading. Even if you like fried calamari -- and I have to be pretty smashed to eat that stuff -- I think you would agree that frying the cheese and the calamari in the same oil is not a good plan. Fishy cheese. Yum. We sent that back to the kitchen.

Speaking of cheese, last night we went to Jury's, a Lincoln Square bar & grill, for burgers, and I got the most pathetic slice of cheddar. I got a slice so thin that I could see the burger through it. It would have to be mighty sharp for so little to have any flavor, and it was not. Worst of all, the bastards charged me an extra 75 cents for it. I have so much good cheddar cheese at home, I told my wife that next time I'm going to sneak a thick slice into Jury's in my pocket! They make great burgers, but the cheese isn't worth it.

Well, I guess turning 40 didn't inspire any positive changes in my diet.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Music, Books, and Waffles

I'm back from a spontaneous 3-day road trip to mark the beginning of my fifth decade on the planet. I kept a journal of sorts, which I will probably post to DavidJohnsen.com to learn how to use KompoZer. Here's the executive summary:

On Tuesday, I drove down to Indianapolis to eat at the nearest Waffle House. I listened to CDs along the way and shopped for books while I was down there. Since I didn't want to come straight home the next day (my birthday), I went to Champaign instead. While searching the phone book for a restaurant, I noticed Papa Del's Pizza "since 1970." So on my birthday I had dinner at a restaurant as old as I am that was about 1.5 miles from where I was born. Then I drove home today.

Note: I have decided to spare everyone most of the navel-gazing posts that I alluded to a few weeks ago. I wrote them longhand, but they aren't worth typing into the computer for the world to read. Some things are better left unshared.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Life Can't Be This Boring

There must be some grand narrative here, but I can't see it. Imagine that, a writer without a life worth recording.

Oh well, I suppose hanging around to find out whether it ever comes together is as good a reason to keep living as any.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Nepotism is a great thing if you're from the right family.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

No bargain is worth buying if you do not need it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

Porn is for guys who are too lazy to objectify women in their minds.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another Vacation Shot in the Ass

Aside from a quick overnight to Missouri, we haven't been on a vacation since June 2007. I've planned numerous trips, many to the point just before making reservations, but something always comes up. Most of the time it involves the dogs. So as my wife's month-long vacation approaches, I should have figured something would happen.

Longtime readers may recall Rosco's ACL surgery in March 2005 (or more likely recall his near-biting of Governor Blagojevich a month later). At the time, some people told us that dogs often need the opposite knee done within 6-12 months. I suppose we're lucky that Rosco made it five years, but now he's 12 years old and needs another $3,000 operation.

The little bastard had better live to be 18 so we get our money's worth. I'm counting on him being too ornery to die.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lane Tech Lolitas

Today I had lunch near massive Lane Tech High School, my wife's alma mater. After ordering my sandwich, I sat at the counter facing the sidewalk. Lane Tech has an open campus, so many students went out for lunch. As I watched waves of attractive young females walk by, I couldn't help thinking, It's a jailbait parade!

Then "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads played over the restaurant's overhead speakers. I thought, Holy shit, these girls weren't even born when this song came out. And a split second later, These girls weren't even born when Talking Heads broke up!*

All my life, I've been training to be a dirty old man.

* "Burning Down the House" came out in 1983 and the band officially broke up in 1991.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

NCIS: Los Angeles

Spoiler alert

Wow, this week's episode of NCIS: Los Angeles was utterly heartbreaking. The way it all went down was just terrible. Although I wasn't excited about that particular character, seeing the reactions of the others really got to me. I know that's how the real world is, but I don't necessarily want to see the real world on TV. I prefer the massage parlor approach: happy endings.

Yet as I'm writing this, I recall that one of my favorite things about Chasing Amy is that it didn't have a happy ending. Maybe I want TV to have happy endings but not movies? I think it's an investment issue. I've invested much more time in getting to know and care about characters on a TV series than in a movie.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Not Depressed

Some people would say that I'm depressed, that I should seek professional help, and/or that I should be taking medication. Those people are missing the point.

First, I'm not depressed. Hell, just yesterday I took the dog for a walk, and according to the anti-depressant TV commercials, depressed people don't walk their dogs.

Second, I have no respect for the psychology field. I know too many psychology majors who are total head cases trying to figure out their own problems while professing to help others. It's at least 90% bullshit anyway.

Finally, I am strongly anti-pharmaceutical. Everybody wants to take a pill to feel better these days. Just because it's available by prescription doesn't make it any less a mind-altering drug than LSD or Ecstasy. I think I'd rather not live at all than live in that state.

40

My fortieth birthday is less than a month away. Since my mind has been processing a mid-life crisis for several years, I didn't expect to give this milestone much thought. Besides, I always said I'd die before turning forty. I still might.

But the occasion is making me more introspective than usual, and I will probably be writing a lot about it this month -- if I have the nerve to bare my innermost fears and self-loathing on the World Wide Web.

When I turned 30, I had the world by the balls. I had a six-figure income, a promising career, a successful business, the best physical condition of my life, engaging hobbies, and a loving wife.

In the new century, I have driven headlong into a ditch. My income has dwindled to an annual tax deduction, and my "career" is a case study in ennui. My body has suffered the double whammy of losing the war against genetics and losing interest in active pastimes. Actually, I'm not interested in much of anything these days, active or not. My wife is still around, which may be the only reason I am, too.

Most frustrating, my current dilemma is not that I can't get out of the ditch, it's that I can't even find a good reason to bother. I'm in a position that many would envy -- my wife doesn't mind being the breadwinner, I have lots of free time, and while not well off, I'm not broke. And yet I'm missing something, and I fear that I won't figure it out until it's too late to matter anymore.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Shiny Happy Bloggers

It's okay to be happy -- it even happens to me every once in a while -- but perpetually effervescent bloggers are obnoxious.

Record Store Day: Good Idea, Awful Execution

I'm late blogging about this, but April 17 was Record Store Day. Many artists released special products in limited editions to promote/celebrate the occasion. Since the Drive-By Truckers were releasing a special 7" vinyl single (!), I headed down to Laurie's Planet of Sound hoping to get a copy. Although I arrived 15 minutes before they opened, there was already a long line.

To make a long story short (for once), I waited in line for over an hour with a bunch of damned hipsters. When I finally got into the store, a clerk announced that they were sold out of the following... And proceeded to rattle off maybe 30 releases. Naturally, DBT was one of them.

Obviously the manufacturers deserve most of the blame for Record Store Day being complete bullshit. They press ridiculously limited quantities of product and ship too few copies to each store. But I blame my store, too. First of all, the only limit was "one of each item per person." If there are only five of each item to begin with, how long will that supply last? Okay, so the first 20 hipsters scarfed up all the good stuff. Then with so many items sold out, somebody should have informed those of us waiting outside. I wasted more than an hour of my time and didn't get a damned thing. Is that supposed to make me feel good about my local record store?

Before I participated in Record Store Day, I genuinely wanted to support my local record shop. In fact, I make a point of buying new releases there even though I know they are much cheaper at Amazon.com. But Record Store Day just pissed me off. So screw 'em. The new Hold Steady CD is coming out soon, and I'm not going to buy it from Laurie's. And I'll never "celebrate" another Record Store Day.

Long live independent record stores. Fuck Record Store Day.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Truth in Advertising

I saw an ad for a vibrator today (don't ask), and one of its features was "100% waterproof to enhance your pleasure." I suppose that is technically true, since nothing spoils the mood like an electric shock to the privates.* But I thought that was a funny way of putting it.

* Actually, I can think of a few things, but I'd rather not.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Success, Mostly

Well, here I am. I couldn't use the migration tool because I was jumping from djwriter.com to davidjohnsen.com, but it was shockingly easy to do it myself by changing Blogger's publishing settings. For now, I have moved to http://blog.davidjohnsen.com with my old template. I will probably update the template soon (not tonight), so don't be shocked if things look a bit different next time.

I was unable to set up a "missing files host" (again because I was jumping from one domain to another instead of just going to a subdomain at djwriter.com), so I think blog entries with photos will be broken. Since I haven't posted many photos here, I'm not worried about it.

I still have to update my own Web pages with the new blog address. This may take a while because my Web editor got wiped out with my laptop hard drive. Although I have the file to reinstall, the registration info is inside an Outlook e-mail file and, yep, I lost Outlook as well. The software (Namo WebEditor) was several years old, so I may just buy something new instead. I need something more robust than a mere HTML editor, but I think something like Dreamweaver would be overkill (in features and price). Any recommendations?

As part of severing the blog's connection to my business, I am also brainstorming a new blog name. Suggestions are welcome, but try to keep them clean enough that I'm not embarrassed to tell my mom.

Blog Status

Yes, I know time is ticking away, but I am having a hell of a time computer-wise lately. First my laptop hard drive croaked last Friday. Since I'd have to start over anyway, I figured I may as well buy a new desktop PC (I've had only the laptop since 2005). The new PC is okay except my Internet connection keeps going down for no reason at all. This time it isn't even EarthLink's fault -- according to my DSL modem, everything is fine. But Windows keeps showing a big red 'X' between my network and the Internet. Others have reported similar problems with Windows 7, but all the solutions I've found online have failed.

I'm afraid I'll lose my connection at a critical juncture in the Blogger conversion wizard and something terrible will happen. But the odds are that my computer problems won't be solved by May 1, so I'm going to try to convert my blog now regardless. See you on the other side, I hope. Please go to http://blog.davidjohnsen.com to follow my further adventures (give me an hour or two -- or more)...

Boys Will Be Boys

Here's another interesting excerpt from Tom Zoellner's Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World:
In 1951, three boys in the prairie town of Dahlhart, Texas, discovered a black rock lying near the railroad tracks. It was weirdly heavy -- thirty pounds -- though only about the size of a hamburger. The boys found that it made colorful sparks when they pounded on it with a hammer. The editor of the local newspaper believed it might be a meteor and sent it off to the University of New Mexico for testing. The rock turned out to be highly enriched uranium, apparently stolen from Los Alamos. An even bigger chunk of it was discovered in a nearby junkyard. If slammed together correctly, these two pieces would have leveled everything within ten miles.
When I read that to my wife, she asked, "Why is it that the first thing boys do when they find something is to pound on it with a hammer?!"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Story of Uranus

Everyone knows Uranus as the seventh planet from the sun and the butt (pun intended) of many a joke. But the story of the god Uranus is pretty wild. From Tom Zoellner's Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World:
According to the Greek creation story, [the sky god] Uranus had visited the earth every night to make love with the ground and bring forth children who would one day grow into the mutated Cyclops and the Titans. Uranus hated his own children and ordered them chained in a prison deep inside his wife, the earth. One of the most violent of his children rose up from his prison, castrated his father, Uranus, and tossed the severed penis and testicles into the sea. These organs grew into avenging spirits called Erinyes, or the Furies, who occasionally returned to earth for the persecution and damnation of men who upset the natural order.
So let's see... Uranus screws the earth and then buries their progeny within, like stuffing them back into the womb. One of the kids gets pissed and cuts off dad's manhood (godhood?). Then Uranus's vengeful junk punishes people.

It's really a shame that the legacy of Uranus has been reduced to Klingon jokes.

Quote of the Day

"He's an alcoholic, but at least he drinks at home."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blog Update

When I started this blog, I thought I was being smart by using FTP to host it on my own domain. Now that Google has announced the end of Blogger FTP support, I don't look so smart anymore. Come to think of it, I've been feeling stupid for quite a while, ever since Google started adding a whole bunch of features to Blogger that were not available for FTP users (such as layouts and Amazon.com integration).

So after 5-1/2 years, I am being forced to make a decision: move to another URL or kill off this blog entirely. Frankly, my ego would not stand for the second option. Like many writers, I feel that my written work is far more important than it actually is. Killing off this blog is akin to chopping off a limb, albeit not a very important one. I'm sure I could live without one of my littlest toes, but losing it would still be painful.

I will be moving somewhere. The most obvious choice is blog.djwriter.com, but I've decided against that. When I created this blog, I intended to use it to promote my business. Aside from disseminating public appearances related to Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides, this blog has utterly failed in that respect. Who really wants to blog about -- or read about -- work?

Even worse, connecting this blog to my business has compromised my freedom of expression. I've pulled a lot of punches over the years for fear that potential clients will be turned off -- if not downright repulsed -- by my blunt opinions and crass language (at this point, some of you are thinking, If he's been pulling punches, how much of an asshole is he really? Stick around and find out, I guess.). I also have felt stifled in writing about my career on a "company blog," even though it's my company. Instead, I am planning to move to blog.davidjohnsen.com. I know clients could still find my blog there, but at least it won't be literally a part of my corporate identity.

Please note that I have not made any changes yet, so don't go to the new URL looking for anything.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Next Time You're on a Bike Path, Think About This

This completely random shit always freaks me out:
The 33-year-old driver of a flooring company van was critically injured this morning when a rotted tree fell on his vehicle as he was driving outside a Northwest Side forest preserve. "It fell directly on his head--it was like the tree aimed at him," said Nancy Hagerty, one of the first people to reach him.
This particular incident occurred on a road, but it could happen in any forest anytime. Many cyclists think trails are so much safer than streets -- even though they may be surrounded by potentially deadly rotting trees!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Little Pony

On Monday night, my wife said she wants a pony that she saw advertised on Craigslist. When I asked why, she replied, "Because it's so cute!"

"I think some of the waitresses at the restaurant down the street are cute, but you won't let me bring one of them home," I countered.

Then she said that if I let her get a pony, I could get a waitress (provided she came willingly, of course).

When we went out to eat the other night, one of those cute waitresses was working. I whispered to my wife, "So, should I ask ______ if she'll come live with us if I let you get a pony?"

My wife, who is never sure whether I'm serious, backed down.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Inspiration

It ain't about the money or even being #1
You gotta know when it's all over you did the best you could've done
Knowing that it's in you and you never let it out
Is worse than blowing any engine or any wreck you'll ever have

--Mike Cooley, "Daddy's Cup"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dumbasses of the Day

The Chicago Tribune has an article today about "census resisters" -- people who refuse to give the big, evil government any of their personal information. Clearly these people are living in 1952. Nowadays, anybody can find out anything about you if they want to. Do you really think you're protecting your privacy by throwing away your census form?

They say they want to "send a message" to Washington. And what is that message? I think it's, "I don't mind taxation without representation. Go ahead and send my tax money to some other community." Or better yet, "My silence shows my displeasure with government." Oooh, you guys really know how to protest, don't you?

These people make the teabaggers and the birthers look brilliant.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Kick Is Up...

Former Chicago Bears kicker Bob Thomas now serves on the Illinois Supreme Court. He wrote the majority opinion ruling against our convicted former governor today:

George H. Ryan Sr. has clearly forfeited all of the pension benefits he earned from the General Assembly retirement system. As the victims of Ryan's crimes, the taxpayers of the state of Illinois are under no obligation to now fund his retirement.

...And it's good!

Too bad we can't send the Honorable Judge Thomas to the federal prison in Terre Haute, IN to personally deliver a serious kicking to Ryan's corrupt hindquarters.

Friday, February 12, 2010

CBS Déjà Vu

I watched The Mentalist last night, and it had virtually the same critical plot element as this week's episode of NCIS: Los Angeles!

***spoiler alert for both of the above shows***

Both CBS programs used a staged (faked) shooting to trick a suspect into acting/confessing. Did anyone else notice the similiarity?

Friday, February 05, 2010

You Couldn't Make This Stuff Up

  • On Tuesday, Illinois voters fed up with government corruption and criminality selected a hooker-slashing* pawnbroker to be the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
  • A new ad campaign for the ExtenZe "male-enhancement supplement" will feature "Fox NFL Sunday" host Jimmy Johnson. I'm just waiting for Flomax to hire retired race car driver Dick Trickle.
* Since the charges were dropped, I guess I should say, "alleged hooker-slashing..."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Okay, So What About 2010?

I made a bunch of resolutions last year and managed to keep a few of them. One might think that success would be something to build upon, but I feel strangely unmotivated this year, uninterested in even setting goals, much less working toward them. Besides, if I really intend to die before I turn 40, making a year-long goal is pointless.

On the other hand, I thought Book Challenge 2009 was a worthwhile pursuit that ought to be repeated in some form. After all, I still have too many books. But then I recall that saying about Mt. Fuji, something like, "You are wise to climb Fuji once and a fool to climb it twice." If one makes a resolution and keeps it, why do it again? Keeping track of how many books I've acquired and finished is a good idea, but I'm not going to challenge myself to anything. I will still write the occasional book review here as I have for the past half a decade, but I won't review every book I finish anymore.

Any other resolutions? Like I said, I haven't felt too inspired lately. Maybe I'll take up heroin.

Bastard of the Day

It's primary election day here in Illinois, so I have plenty to choose from.*

However, I had an experience this morning that distracted me from my rage against politicians. I bought a concert ticket from Ticketmaster. How those bastards can charge $40 for a $25 ticket is beyond all logic and common sense. They are making a killing on consumers with no choice, and it will only get worse after their merger with Live Nation. Here's the breakdown of my costs:
Ticket Price $25.00 x 1
Facility Charge $1.00 x 1
Convenience Charge $8.60 x 1
Additional Taxes $0.43 x 1
Order Processing Fee $5.85
Standard Mail No Charge
TOTAL CHARGES $40.88
The biggest scam is at-home ticket printing. I refuse to pay them $2.50 extra so that I can use my paper and ink -- plus save them postage -- to do their job.

I know this isn't news -- Ticketmaster has sucked for a long, long, long time -- but it's fresh in my mind so they're getting the award. Runner-up is Blogger for dropping FTP support, which may kill off this blog. More about that later...


* I have finally become so disenchanted and discouraged regarding our political system that I may not even bother to vote. I don't trust anybody anymore, and whenever I vote for a candidate I believe in, he or she proceeds to disappoint me (the first year of Barack Obama stank like his initials). I used to be emphatic if not downright enthusiastic about voting, so this is a major turn for me.