Saturday, December 19, 2009


Okay winter doesn't completely suck. We took a couple of more inches overnight, and the trees look all Christmassy. Once January and February roll around, everything starts to look all slushy and gray. But, for the time being, it's kinda cool looking I guess.

This is a place up in Northbrook called the River Trail Nature Center.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Red Tailed Hawk

It's poorly lit because it was early, and because it's a gray day.

My favorite local bird, outside the occasional peregrine falcon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I hate Illinois Nazis

The fine folks out in Thomson don't seem to be too concerned that the domestic jihadists will start terrorizing the soy and melon fields of western Illinois as soon as the first Gitmo detainees are transferred to our super-max prison there.

I'm not sure if they're paying attention to Rep Mark Kirk (R-IL) at all, or perhaps they, like me, think he's just a frightened little neocon dupe. Personally, I think Kirk's been reading too much Paul Berman but there is something I see as truly pathetic about the Republican party at the moment. The same folks who hatched the idea of preemptive war are now shaking in their Johnston & Murphys at the mere notion that some of the detainees we've been torturing in Cuba are now going to be incarcerated on US soil.

And Kirk isn't alone either. His fellow Illinois Republicans are all singing something close to the same panicky tune about Illinois becoming "ground zero" for terrorist attacks in the US. To hear these pussies talk you'd think that we fought "them" over there for no reason at all now, rather than their old standard that we don't have to fight "them" here refrain.

Their logic absolutely escapes me. It was all fine and well to invade two of "their" countries, and to round up people our intel told us were "of interest." It was okay with these assholes that we hauled some of "them" to a dungeon in Cuba, or a concrete bunker in Torturestan without allowing the accused so much as a trial or the right to state their cases. These gutless turds nodded like horizontally challenged bobble-heads when asked if they felt waterboarding was an acceptable practice, and they came up with lovely euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation techniques" to hide the disgraceful fact that the US government approved of torturing human beings. Sure, all of that was okay with the Illinois Republicans.

But now these NIMBY-ass motherfuckers want me to believe that our security in Illinois is suddenly at risk because the victims of our enhanced interrogation techniques will be in the Thomson super-max prison instead of a chain-link dog kennel in Cuba?

I've got news for the Mark Kirks of the world. From the moment we bombed and then invaded "their" countries we heightened the risk of terrorist attacks on the US. And the decision to rendition our POWs to torture chambers only made the situation more dire. It doesn't matter where we keep our POWs now. That ship left the dock years ago, back when the US still felt justified in claiming any kind of moral high ground.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Drifted away from my Blackhawks back in the 70s when they let Bobby Hull leave to play in the WHL. I kept up on them from time to time when they had decent teams, like the year they played the Penguins for the Cup, but for the most part hockey became an afterthought for the last 30 years.

Well folks let me tell you, that entire this town has gone hockey crazy again. It ain't just me. This is just like back in the day, and again raises the question of which team rules the city. Everyone says it's a Bears town but you wouldn't know that this year. The management team of Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough have worked an absolute miracle practically overnight, and the Hawks are the hot topic of sports talk again. (It helps that the Bears are this sucky, but still....)

Prior to his death, Bill Wirtz was seen as probably the worst sports franchise owner in this town since Charles "Old Roman" Comiskey. Everyone hated the guy. He wouldn't put the games on TV because he was afraid it would drive down attendance at the Stadium. I'm not kidding. Marketing not his strong suit.The Hawks were losing fans in droves, and seemed on the brink of collapse. Not to sound cold hearted or anything, but it was a great day in Chicago sports when Bill Wirtz died.

Once he shed his mortal coil, his son took over and Rocky has done the unthinkable in the span of just over two years. The Hawks added a couple of really exciting young players in Jonathan Toews and Patrick "Two Dimes" Kane, and filled the rest of the lineup with really talented players. They're sparing no expense either, as the long term, big buck contract of Marian Hossa can attest.

The team also took steps to bring back some old timers like Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Tony Esposito to serve as franchise ambassadors. Those are guys who had been cast off like trash by the old man, so it was great to see the old fences being mended.

The team is exciting, and the Madhouse on Madison is rocking again. Sellouts for every game. AND, the games are all broadcast on TV.

Before he died, as part of his plan to alienate every hockey fan in this city, old man Wirtz fired a guy who is undoubtedly the best play-by-play man in all of hockey, the great Pat Foley. One of the first things Rocky and John McD did was put Foley back in the booth, and as a result I have to admit I never miss a game any more. Foley and his partner Eddie Olczyk do a fantastic job.

But, I will say that if the Hawks felt like they wanted to make it a 3 man booth, I would love to see them steal Randy Moller away from the Panthers. This guy would fit here in Chicago perfectly.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C

I rest my case. We gotta get this guy.

(Oh and, it doesn't hurt that my Blackhawks have the best uniform in the history of pro sports.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Weeping guitar

My god Dhani Harrison looks more like his father with each passing year.

Here's Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, Steve Winwood and Prince hitting a George Harrison classic.

And who the hell taught Prince to play a guitar like that?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Southwest baby

One reason I don't fly on airplanes is because I don't believe it's physically possible to keep something that weighs that much up in the air. Like the Monty Python hypnotist sketch, I think it's nothing more than the faith of the passengers that keeps the things up there. If everyone stopped believing in Bernoulli's Principle at the same time, I believe we'd see a spate of aluminum showers.

But never mind that. Let's talk about Southwest airlines.

Ever fly on one of their jets? I haven't, but there was a time in my life when I was privvy to many conversations held by people who'd just de-planed from a Southwest flight, or were on their way to board one at Midway. These were not happy people.

"But their TV commercials are great. Why do you people hate Southwest so much?"

"I'm flying to Indianapolis, but first we're stopping in fucking KC, and then Moline, and then Omaha, and then Minneapolis, and then back here to Midway, and then to St. Louis, and then we get to Indy probably by Wednesday."

"I can drive you there in under 3 hours and there's an open bar."

"For $19?"

"Oh. not for $19. They charge $19 to take you to Indy?"

"And KC, and Moline, and....did you say this is an open bar?"

"It is if we're on a charter to Indy. But since you're paying $16 to ride in a limo from Oak Brook to Midway, you should be glad I didn't toss you in the trunk with the friggin' luggage."

"There's no pre-assigned seating, they jam us in like we're damned sardines, the goofy-ass flight attendants put on these stupid little skits while they're giving the safety instructions, the..."


"What what?"


"Oh yeah, they sing the things sometimes. The emergency exits are dum di dee dummmm back there and lah di dah over there, if we have a water landing then lah di dee dah. Dancing around."

"You're kidding me. Seems like they'd take that shit a little more seriously. Those things have landed on water you know. Might be helpful to know about the Mae Wests and shit."

"They don't care. We're cattle. There's no room to move. The guy next to you smells from being on the plane for 2 days before you got on. Kid next to you is picking his nose, while the little monster behind you is kicking the back of your seat. It's like a flying Greyhound bus."

Now that was a long time ago, and I heard Southwest gave up on the summer stock safety instructions bit about 8 years ago , but I imagine with the current lull in the industry they're still trying to squeeze as many people into their fleet of 737s as is humanly possible. I still picture them as "Flying Greyhound buses."
I saw this come across the "Breaking news" feed from the Tribune's website earlier today.

A baby was born today on a flight from Chicago's Midway Airport to Salt Lake City, according to Southwest Airlines.

The flight, Southwest Airlines 441, has landed safely at Salt Lake City International Airport, according to Chris Mainz, a Southwest spokesman.

The flight originated in Columbus, Ohio with scheduled stops at Midway, Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho before ending at Spokane, Wash.

The flight landed safely in Salt Lake City?

Why wouldn't it have landed safely for God's sake? It's not like the baby was flying the plane.

Never mind the damned routine landing in Utah. Please dear god tell me the baby was getting off in Utah. Tell me they didn't make a 2 hour old human being stop in SLC and then Boise before continuing on to Spokane.

And I don't even want to know how many people on that flight have that unforgettable miracle moment captured on their phone cams.


A baby was born today on a flight from Chicago's Midway Airport, and officials said mother and child "were doing fine" at a hospital after the flight was diverted to Denver.

The woman went into labor after Southwest Airlines 441 took off from Midway bound for Salt Lake City, according to an airline spokesman. The flight was diverted to Denver, the nearest airport, at about 11:30 a.m. Central time but the baby was born before the plane could land, officials said.

Paramedics rushed mom and baby to the Medical Center of Aurora outside of Denver, where a spokeswoman said "they are both doing fine."
"It went smooth," said Charles E. McMillan, a division chief for the Denver Fire Department. "There wasn't anything out of the ordinary -- well, except that the baby was born on the plane."

The plane was at about 30,000 feet, and 100 miles north of Denver, when the pilot asked if anyone had medical training, according to airline officials. The flight was then diverted to Denver .

Flight attendants threw down a blanket in the back of the Boeing 737 and a doctor on the flight delivered the baby boy with the help of Med Link, which allows flight attendants to call medical personnel on the ground for assistance, airline and airport officials said.

"We now have a new passenger," said a flight attendant on the jet's public address system after the quick delivery, Channel 7 in Denver station reported.

The father and the couple's other kids were also on the flight, the station said.

The flight originated in Columbus, Ohio with scheduled stops at Midway, Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho before ending at Spokane, Wash.

The family's identity and their hometown were not released. But passengers on the flight told a television station in Salt Lake City that the couple was from North Carolina and the doctor who helped deliver the baby was from Spokane, Wash.

The hospital spokeswoman said the mother did not want to speak with the media.

Personally, I found Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz's version earlier today much funnier.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Road Trip

Well they've done it again. The people at Budget Rent-a-Car have made me an offer I can't refuse.

$168.40 to rent a reasonably brand new car for the week following Christmas. Better yet, for $24 a day I can put as many miles as I wish on their car. That's a mistake on their part.

Two years ago it was $220 for a 2007 Subaru Legacy with 5000 miles on it. My plan was to retrace the route of the Lewis & Clark expedition, which meant 9 days and about 5500 miles round trip. Only made it as far as North Sioux City, SD but that's a story for the archives.

I'm going to be turning the big Five-O in a couple of weeks and I've decided to treat myself to something. I am in absolutely no financial position to be taking a vacation, at least not the kind of vacation one thinks of when considering a winter holiday. Actually, I'm in no position to be spending $168 to rent a car but I've always operated under a rule that says when you can least afford to take a break from work, that is precisely the time to take a break from work. So that's what I'm going to do. And, my vacation will be spent driving. Got myself a new RCA Small Wonder HD Camcorder as a premium from one of my suppliers, and so I'm going to make a video documentary of my trip and post it here when I come home.

But here's the thing...I don't know to where I feel like driving. Some rough calculations tell me that I can cover somewhere between 4500 and 5000 miles if I just drive drive drive. Not sure I want to do that. I'd like to spend a couple of days driving, a couple of days kicking around, and a couple of days driving home. Whenever I open the Rand McNally Atlas my eye seems to float towards the west. I've done Colorado a dozen times, and it's winter. Not only am I not bringing my skis, I'm not carrying enough cash to lodge in Colorado during ski season.

In fact, I'm in the mood for something warmer. Been southeast a hundred times, ain't no way I'm making Texas my destination (sorry Michael, but that state stinks of Jack), so now I'm thinking southwest. I know New Mexico is high desert so it won't be that warm, but I've always wanted to check out the Very Large Array radio telescope in Socorro.

I've never seen the Grand Canyon, which is just about as far as I'll be able to travel while allowing for a reasonable pace of return, so I'm thinking of hitting those two places.

If I hook north from there I can check out Monument Valley in northern AZ. (Monument Valley was just written up in Vanity Fair. A nice read.) Where's Lono and Duc when I really need them? I could use some Arizona advice.

 If time allows I can swing through the southern part of Utah, maybe see Bryce Canyon and what-not.

That'll allow me to pass through my old friend the Colorado Rockies without dumping $300 for a hotel room.

I can already picture the final leg of my trip across the Nebraska and Iowa plains during winter. Nothing like that stretch of highway to make a person feel real small, but in a nice way.

This is going to be my kind of trip, the kind that involves no reservations, no real itinerary, and no schedule to serve.  Money's tight, and this is the best bang I can think of for $168 bucks. What the hell, you only turn 50 once right?