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'?"


"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


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?