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 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


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?"