Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Biggest Regret of 2011

I wish that when I called off Book Challenge 2011, I hadn't stopped keeping track of how many books I've read this year. While there's no way I would have "won" the Challenge due to obsessive shopping (I actually have twice as many unread books now as I had at the start of the year), I may have read more books this year than I did in 2009. But now I'll never know. Maybe next year...

Family Vacation Redefined

Somewhere along the line, a vacation from the family became much more appealing than a vacation with the family.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Book-Inspired Meal

I was going to go down the street for dinner tonight, but then I was reading Jancee Dunn's very entertaining memoir But Enough About Me. Dunn describes snorting coke in a nightclub, freaking out, and calling her sister for help. Her brother-in-law comes instead and takes her home. He offers to make her dinner (he's a chef), but her refrigerator is nearly empty. He figures out that he can make her a grilled cheese sandwich. As I read this, I thought Ooh, I haven't had a grilled cheese sandwich in months!

I wonder how often people decide what to eat based on what they read in books (cookbooks excluded).

And yes, that grilled cheese really hit the spot!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Great Idea Gone Stupid

When I first heard Mayor Emanuel call for closing the 19th District police station -- my local station as well as Emanuel's -- I thought it was a wise move.* Most if not all of the surrounding districts are operating in large, new stations with excess capacity. I assumed the plan was to reassign the beats in the 19th District to whichever district is closest and redistribute personnel accordingly. After all, the northern reaches of the 19th District are pretty close to the new 20th District station, the eastern end is near the new 23rd District station, etc. Chicago's police districts have not been redrawn in many years, and this would be a logical consolidation.

Then the specific plan came out. Instead of implementing the station closing intelligently as outlined above, the plan is to move the entire 19th District's operations into the 23rd District complex. This will create a crowded-to-overcrowded environment at the 23rd District station while wasting all that unused capacity in the other new stations. It will also waste fuel (as officers drive to the far ends of the 19th District from the 23rd) and probably lengthen response times.

If the department had considered this in long-range planning, they could have built the 23rd District station a mile further west to facilitate this consolidation. I hope this is only a temporary fix until the entire city's police districts are redrawn, an undertaking that is long overdue. Wards are redrawn every decade to reflect changes in demographics. It makes sense to redraw police districts as well.

* On a tangent, I think Emanuel's primary motivation for closing the 19th District station is political (no surprise there) -- he figures that eliminating his own police station will make it easier to get the aldermen in the other two districts losing their stations to acquiesce.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Bears' Biggest Fan?

Something odd happened while I was watching the Bears-Lions game Sunday at the local bar & grill.

A guy sat at the table next to me and started watching the game. He ordered a drink and said his wife would be there soon. She showed up a few minutes before Devin Hester -- the NFL's all-time leader in returning punts for touchdowns -- returned yet another Lions punt for a touchdown. When Hester scored, the guy's wife went nuts. She jumped up, hooted, hollered, and clapped. There were only about 20 people in the place since it's not really a "sports bar", and only a couple of other patrons clapped or yelled. She was by far the most exuberant.

Later in the game, Hester returned another punt for decent yardage and the crowd at Soldier Field roared even though he didn't score like he had earlier. As the camera followed Hester after the play, the woman asked her husband, "Is this guy, like, a big star or something?"

From the way she had cheered earlier, I really would have expected her to know one of the most famous players on the team. Weird.

Bastard of the Day

Remember in high school how you hated the jocks because they always got away with stuff? Like teachers would let them slide on a late assignment, or they could elbow you into a locker in the hallway and never get busted for it? It was bad enough that they always got the cutest girls, went to the best parties, and so on, but the utter injustice of how jocks were held to a lower standard was especially infuriating to "the rest of us" (dare I say the 99 percent?).

Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions is that prick star quarterback from your high school. In yesterday's Bears game, he practically tried to rip cornerback D.J. Moore's head off, and yet Moore got ejected from the game while that curly-locked, purple-lipped bastard QB got to stay in the game with no punishment.*

So what did Stafford have to say for himself? "(Moore) kind of blocked me and I was just trying to get him off of me the best I knew how."

What kind of bullshit explanation is that? Stafford grabbed Moore by the helmet and threw him to the ground. Oh, did I forget to mention that he outweighs Moore by 50 freaking pounds? And that's the best way he knew how to counteract Moore's block? Maybe Stafford should have stayed in college for his senior year and learned something about physics.

I know the NFL is a quarterback's league these days, and the rules have been adjusted to afford them greater protection. But there is nothing in the rules that says quarterbacks can or should get away with that kind of thuggish aggression. The NFL could try to make this right by at least fining Stafford after reviewing the weekend's games, but I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE 11/18/2011 - Well, I'll be damned -- the NFL actually fined Stafford for trying to remove Moore's head from his body. Of course, it was only half as much as Moore got fined, but it's more than I expected.

* Lions fans will point out that Moore was ejected for the retaliatory "late hit" on Stafford, but that hit did not endanger Stafford the way Stafford's thuggery could have very seriously injured Moore (i.e., a spinal cord injury). If the referees chose to merely charge Moore with the penalty, that would be reasonable, but to eject Moore and do nothing to Stafford was ridiculous.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Good Things Come...

A couple of weeks ago, I got an offer from the Chicago Tribune to register in their "EZ Pay" automatic payment program for our Sunday-only subscription. They enticed me with a $10 Target gift card, so I put it in the to-do pile on my computer desk.

Today I received another offer from the Tribune to register for "EZ Pay." This new offer promised a $25 Target gift card as an incentive.

I am now enrolled in "EZ Pay" and expecting a $25 Target gift card soon. Sometimes it pays to procrastinate!

My Life in Baseball

My grandfather was a long-suffering Cubs fan who never got to see a World Series victory, so his life begs for a baseball analogy. I'd say he hit a grand slam (to extend the metaphor, his three daughters would be the base runners). He started out with little -- he had to quit high school to work -- yet achieved everything he wanted in life (family, career, wealth, leisure, etc.). I don't think he had many regrets, if any.

What about my own at-bat in the ballgame of life? I hit a long fly to the right field corner that dropped just short of the fence. I got a double, but half the fans are disappointed because it wasn't a homer and the other half are disappointed because it could have been a triple if I had run faster. Such potential for greatness, and look where I ended up. I'm standing there on second base thinking, A double is pretty good, isn't it? But it's hard to feel good when the whole stadium is booing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Everything Hurts the Economy

From a press release from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources:
Economic losses nationally resulting from feral swine are estimated at more than $1 billion annually.
Even wild pigs are draining our economy! Over a billion dollars! It's a miracle anybody makes any money at all anymore.

To learn more than you ever wanted to know about this problem, look here.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Possible Epitaph

"A much bigger pain in the ass than it should have been."

Thursday, November 03, 2011

My Blank Job Application

I was at the local Barnes & Noble last week, and they had a sign advertising for a part-time seasonal position in receiving. I was thinking it would be the perfect job for me -- I have some prior receiving experience, I'd love to work with books, it wouldn't be a long-term commitment, and I wouldn't have to deal much with other people -- so I took an application.

By the time I got home, however, I had pretty much talked myself out of it. The obvious reason would be that I could make as much money doing three or four billable hours a week of writing as I would make working 20-25 hours at B&N (it's evidence of my lack of enthusiasm for copywriting that I would consider a minimum wage job instead, but that's an issue for another blog post). To the folks at B&N, the obvious reason would be that my relevant experience is nearly two decades old -- from while I was in college, for goodness' sake. Besides, the rest of my job application wouldn't look much better. Aside from working a few events for Clif Bar a few summers ago, I haven't been employed by someone other than myself in 15 years. I can't think of a single person to list as a reference. My only chance would be if B&N has a soft spot for writers (not entirely implausible).

But what really got me was this: The job market sucks. Realistically, unemployment is pushing 20% when one includes the underemployed and those who have given up on finding work. I'd like to work for a couple of months just to make some extra cash and have something to do. But if I somehow got that job at B&N, I might be taking it away from someone desperate to feed a family, pay a mortgage, etc. I might even feel guilty if I got hired. Oh well, I suppose I didn't really want to work anyway.