Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Energy Supply Problems Are Standing for Every Man

February comes to its usual sputtering end. The sun promised for the morning, which would have liquidated some of the ice on the walkway, stood us up here in northern Illinois. Tomorrow will be March, but really still February, since that month got shorted by ancient superstition.

The following is a slice of spam for today, the kind whose function is to pump – pimp? – up some penny stock, often an energy company sitting on top of the Next Big Thing. But I have to like the first sentence especially (everything sic): “In 21st century energy supply problems are standing for every man. Prices for oil, gas, coal are getting higher and higher.”

Obviously a writer with an English-Other Language dictionary next to the computer, and no fear of criticism for using non-inclusive language. He continues: “The governments of many countries discuss using of the renewed kinds of energy such as biofuel, energy of the sun and so on. But the issue of saving energy also is of great importance. In a view of it energy conservations is needed vitaly. One of perspective aims is the technology hydrogen. But Proton Exchange Membrane is required in order to modernize this technology. It's developing now by the following company…”

It’s Boris and Natasha again. They’re behind some of the best near-English spam.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Teresa Jennings Show

If nothing else – and you should learn a little something most days – I now know who Teresa Jennings is. She writes songs for kids: “She is most interested in writing music for children to sing, and her extensive work with jazz and rock has helped her develop a unique style,” avers Music 8-K magazine. “Beyond her wide vocabulary of musical styles, Teresa fills her music with emotion and strong values, though she always tries to remember that music should be fun to perform if it is going to affect the performer.”

This evening Lilly and the rest of the third grade – and, separately, the first and second grades – sang at the gym/auditorium of the junior high down the road, and the place was packed with immediate family members, Lilly’s sister and mother and father included. No fewer than nine Teresa Jennings songs were on the program, including “Big, Big Dreams,” “Make a Difference,” and “Feelin’ Good!”

That last one goes: “I wanna be healthy, I wanna be happy/I wanna feel good, good, good, good, good/Yeah, I wanna be cheery, I wanna be snappy… I wanna walk through my life with lots of style and with grace/and know that I’m always okay!”

I’d say Jennings has done well in the K-8 music realm. And I can’t say much more, because that kind of song is entirely too easy to make fun of. It seems like the sort of thing that The Simpsons, along with a host of lesser comedic lights, take on regularly. But I can’t help thinking – hoping, really – that when the self-esteem movement has finally passes out of fashion, songs like that won’t be sung quite so often in school auditoriums and gyms.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Down Antarctica Way

Yesterday we had cold rain, then freezing rain and sleet, then snow: a full array of wintertime precipitation, for your sensory pleasure. Much of the time the air was slightly above freezing, so water flowed from the driveway into the gutter. Or it did, at least, after I removed some of the icy slush at the base of the driveway, to drain a huge puddle of icy water. Today, just snow. Dealing with plain old snow is a lot more simple, and I have a foolproof method -- don’t go out in it. (That almost worked, but I did have to take Ann to pre-school.)

An e-mail from traveler Ed, who’s gone south for a while -- really far south, Antarctica: “Got the passport stamp at a Ukrainian research station (which used to be a British station, which was where they discovered the hole in the ozone layer) at 65 degrees, 15 minutes south,” he writes. “Shy of the circle, but as far south as we go on this trip. Penguins, fog, ice. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect.”

We’ve got ice, and sometimes fog, but no penguins around here. Though from my home office window, I do see a variety of things go by, so one of these days a waddle of penguins might wander by.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

RIP, David Samuel Bommer

An old friend of mine died recently, one of those childhood friends you don't see or hear much about after you're grown. I believe I first met him in the fifth grade, but I might be wrong; and I believe the last time I saw him was in Dallas, by chance, nearly 25 years ago, but I might be wrong about that too. Things are a little fuzzy at this distance.

There was a time in late elementary school when I went over to his house fairly often, where we spent a lot of time playing pool. Perhaps my fondest memories of David, however, were in junior high, when he and I and another fellow, Steven Lozano, made movies -- silent movies -- with an 8mm camera that David had access to. This was 1974 and '75, long before video cameras became ordinary household equipment, so that camera was a novelty. At least, David was the only person I knew who had one.

Our movies were mostly juvenile spoofs. We did a couple of science fiction stories, such as the one in which "Tedees of Titan" (David, in a bald wig) came to Earth to kidnap an earthling (me), a genius at "physics and poker." Special effects included a model spaceship -- it might have been an upside-down model Enterprise -- traveling by crude stop-motion photography against the backdrop of the pool-table velvet, with the cue ball as a planet.

My own favorite was The Assassin, in which as Hans Lan, a Swiss spy, I wore an overcoat and a red hat with a feather in it. The entire plot of the movie was Steven, the assassin, trying to kill Hans Lan, and failing each time, though inadvertently killing a number of innocent bystanders, each played by David in a variety of clothing. For one scene, we set the camera on a tripod and filmed me reading a newspaper while sitting in a patio chair. Steven, with a huge rubber knife in hand, sneaked up behind me. At the last second, I threw the paper behind me and into Steven's face, and then walked away. He fumbled with the paper for a few seconds, not noticing that David (wearing that bald wig again) had come over and sat down. Then the assassin got him instead of Hans Lan.

In high school, David and I were both in band, but we weren't the friends we had been. He studied music at SMU and as an adult, I understand, he was a professional organist. In band, he'd played baritone sax, and I had no idea he was learning organ at the time too. His obit in the San Antonio Express-News is here. RIP, David.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Al vs. Bing

Lilly seems to have bronchitis. Had to go get her from school at about 11 today, and since then she's mostly been doing what you do when nursing a virus: laying around watching TV. Something in the cathode rays treats the condition. Rays that display game shows, when I was young. For her, cartoons.

With the change to Volume 3, however minor a thing that might be, I'm also formalizing my schedule. No posting on Friday and Saturdays, the true weekend days. But I won't sign off for the weekends without suggesting a link of some kind.

This is "Pistol Packin' Mama" (and "Rosalita") by Al Dexter. I heard it on the radio for exactly the second time last weekend, the first time being a few years ago, so I looked around for it when I got home. And there it was on YouTube. According to the DJ on the extraordinary station WDCB, "Mama" was on Your Hit Parade in 1943, which I was glad to hear. When I heard it the first time, I knew I liked it better than Bing Crosby's version. That must make me some kind of music snob.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Scribble, Scribble, Scribble

Four years = 48 months = 1461 days (including one leap day). An infinitesimally short time, geologically speaking; a yawning eon in subatomic terms, at least if I’m right in my assumptions about those abstractions. But I know I’m right when I say it’s a fair chunk of time, but not a tremendous one, for human beings.

Four years ago today I sat down at the same desk and the same iMac I still have – though these items and I were a few miles south of where they are now -- and converted a long letter I’d recently written about my second daughter’s birth into an entry on Blogspot. I’d been vaguely aware of that blogging thing for a while before that, but vaguely associated it with semiliterate teen writing. Sometime that January, just as Ann was poised to emerge, I read something somewhere about more sophisticated uses of the medium. (“Something somewhere” is where a lot of people get their information, and I’m no exception.)

So I decided to give it a go myself. It was then, and it now, an extension of the diary- and letter- and other-writing I’d been doing for years. And I mean years. In the summer of 1969, when I was 8, I spent a week or so with my aunt and uncle in Oklahoma. One of the things they had me do was write a postcard to my mother and brothers back home. They didn’t explain to me, probably because they didn’t think of it, that you’re supposed to leave half of the postcard blank for the address. I proceeded to fill up the entire card.

Not that I was an obsessive writer as a kid. I didn’t have many people to correspond with until I left for college, and never had the stick-to-itiveness to keep a diary until after September 1, 1980. But I did have bursts of writing energy in the years before that, such as the time in the second grade that I wrote a book, of sorts, about the planets because I’d been given an assignment to do a report about the planet Jupiter. I copied most of my information from the Junior Encyclopaedia Britannica, late-50s edition (“only please to call it research”). Or the numerous comic strips I drew in which the point was to kill off all or most of the characters by the end. Or the pages and pages a thing called The Plane Racers, a stick-figure imitation of The Wacky Racers that, if I remember right, eventually became much more elaborate (in its way) than that cartoon.

In junior high, a fellow named Billy and I created a war game that must have occupied 30 or 40 pages of notebook paper, supposedly spanning a couple of solar systems, with intricate rules of engagement for an array of combatants. In high school, among other things, I invented a farcical pseudo-history of Dark Ages Europe that went on for about 30 double-spaced typewritten pages (and, true to the freelance writer’s impulse, recycled some of that material in college, in a student magazine). In college, I took diary-writing seriously, and wrote student-paper news stories, short stories and other oddities for publication.

So keeping a web log for four years is no big deal. It’s in character. I was going to launch a separate third volume today, but there’s no reason to be so particular. From now on, however, I’ll publish pictures sometimes (but not today). I haven’t had anything against posting images before now, it’s just that my equipment wasn’t really up to it until recently.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dressed for Justice

I had my day in court today. Actually, it was only about a minute. If your time before the judge in traffic court takes longer than that, it's trouble. About six weeks ago, as mentioned briefly here, a suburban cop pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for having a noisy exhaust. The exhaust had been making more noise than usual for a while before that, but inside the car it was a little harder to appreciate its true noisiness. It was also a function of place. In the city of Chicago, I probably wouldn't have gotten a ticket for mere noise.

I had the car fixed a while ago, and took evidence of that to court. The "prosecuting attorney" looked at the paper, told the judge about it, and the judge said case dismissed. So it was a no-cost visit to traffic court this morning, unless you count the egg & sausage biscuit I had for breakfast, but that wasn't served in court.

I saw about a dozen cases adjudicated before mine. Speeding, minor accidents for which the other parties did not show up, no proof of insurance, no drivers license; just another day in one of the utilitarian if not spartan courtrooms in Cook County's Rolling Meadows courthouse facility. The structure dates from the late 1970s or early '80s I think, and it was obvious that at one time people entered through banks of doors without regard to an inspection of their persons. Now all the doors but one set are permanently shut, and access is through a set of metal detectors that look improvised in place. One for men, one for women.

One case was mildly interesting. To watch, that is. I'm glad I wasn't the poor bastard who had to explain to the judge why his kid wasn't exactly in his car seat. Well, he was, sort of, but the seat wasn't quite, you know, anchored to anything. He got a fairly stiff fine.

Aside from a handful attorneys who came and went, I was one of only two men in the room who wore a tie. The other was a young fellow who had dyed his hair bright gold and used a lot of mousse or Dippity-Doo or something to shape a his hair, at least on top, into little points. He wore two gold earrings, baggy jeans, a leather jacket and a bright blue tie. His case hadn't come up before I left.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Open to Legal Residents of the US and Canada

Outside it feels like a heavy weight has been lifted. It isn't spring, of course, just not oppressive near-zero winter: the first step out of the pit. Serious meltage throughout the day, however, leaving puddles that turn to ice at night.

Recently I took a look at the back of a receipt I got at a certain chain of restaurants, let's call it Mickey's, which had on it some of the fine print for a sweepstakes. Among other things, it said: "Open only to legal residents of the US and Canada (other than the Province of Quebec), 15 years of age or older." This was in bold, so it must be important. But why not Quebec? Because the contest has to be exclusively in French to be valid there?

More intriguing, the next sentence says: "In order to win, a Canadian resident must correctly answer a skill testing question." Huh? Is that some federal regulation in Canada? Unless there's a "skill testing question," it counts as gambling? Or maybe it's anti-Canadian bias on the part of Mickey's -- in which case the question might be, "What was the capital of ancient Assyria?"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mid-February Notes

Those familiar with the ways of the atmosphere say that the three-week winter grind, the longest and flattest pit of the season that I can remember, is just about over. Why, it’s even supposed to be above freezing next week. The foot and then some of lovely snow could be headed for liquidation. Good riddance. Winter wonderland is a thing for December, not February.

Despite my minor illness, I managed to watch all of the miniseries version of Battlestar Galactica, and I’m duly impressed. TV science fiction with some brains. Much has been made of the show’s depth of characters, and that’s generally true, but it had some swell battle sequences too, so what else do you need in space opera?

My favorite detail, among many good ones: the crew of the Galatica uses paper. The computers spit out slips of paper and the characters read them (and in one case that I noticed, disposed of it into a memory hole). I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a retro feature of the ship, since it was supposed to be an older vessel, but still. Makes perfect sense to me. The facile thinking that informs much speculative fiction on this point is that somehow paper and that excellent future (or alternate world, in this case) in which people can build fantastic spaceships are incompatible. But why? Because it’s just not futuristic, that’s why.

I doubt that the series will ever be quite so realistic, however, that the ship’s pursuer will warn Commander Adama that their paper supplies are running dangerously low, and that something will have to be done about it, such as raiding a forested planet for wood pulp. Which infests the ship with extraterrestrial termites – and the people on board too, making some them aggressively homicidal – and so on.

I’m glad it’s a SciFi Channel production and not, say, HBO. The BSG miniseries had a bit of (arguably) gratuitous fornication, but not all that much. No doubt there will be more in the rest of the series. Still, in HBO’s hands, there probably would have been a couple of scenes of hot lesbian Cylon action just in that first three hours.

Got a letter from the Behemoth Insurance Co., which insures a couple of aspects of my life. The blarney was thicker than usual: “Behemoth values your business and also values your opinions. In order to better serve and understand what’s important to customers like you, we are asking you to complete the enclosed one-page survey…”

To which I say, “Dear Behemoth, If you want me to do your research for you, consider offering a small discount on my premiums.” Which, of course, isn’t in the offing.

I’ve read most of The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara, by Blaise Picchi, in recent days, an interesting work on a specialized subject: how one Giuseppe Zangara, an Italian bricklayer who became a US citizen in 1929, came to fire five shots at Franklin Roosevelt in early 1933 and nearly kill him just before he was to become president. History is full of what-ifs, and this is certainly one of them. Instead of FDR, of course, he killed Mayor Anton Cermack of Chicago, who for the trouble of dying in office at least got a major east-west road named after him (almost: Cermark is also sometimes known by its previous name, 22nd Ave.). That’s more than Big Bill Thompson ever got posthumously.

Ann’s now calling me “daddykins” sometimes. I like that a lot. I asked Lilly if she’d heard some character or another on TV use that term recently, but she said no.

Friday, February 16, 2007


A virus has been working its way through my system – a real virus through by body, not a computer virus through my machine – but it’s nearly gone now. Nothing too serious, just the sort that makes you feel crummy. Except for a couple of bits of professional writing, I haven’t felt like using my keyboard. More soon.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Finally had time this evening to watch the first hour or so of the 2003 miniseries version of Battlestar Galactica on DVD, which of course I'd heard was an improvement on the original TV space opera. And so it is, judging from the little I've seen.

I was 17 when the original began, and watched it for a time, until its persistently lame storytelling discouraged me. That, and the nagging questions -- why, if the Cylons are machines, aren't they simply built into their spaceships? How was it that, after the destruction of humanity, the refugees led by the Galactica kept running across places inhabited by people? The show became a good idea that suffered in the execution.

Not that it was worthless. The model Galactica itself was a fine example of the modelmaker's art, and the sets were dark and somewhat forbidding, unlike the backlit corridors of the ever-sunny Enterprise. The name Galactica was also a good one, as were many of the character names, such as Count Baltar. If that's not a villainously good name, I don't know what is.

As the original Baltar, actor John Colicos (d. 2000) did a fine turn as a sinister quisling of a character, his motive a lust for power over his fellow men. I've read that the part helped Colicos' career considerably, and was glad to learn it. As for the new Baltar (James Callis) -- hard to say, haven't seen enough of the show yet. In the beginning, though, it's his weakness for nooky that proves the downfall of humanity, seduced as he is by a murderous blonde Cylon in a red dress, something the old show never had.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Variety of Winters

All-day snow today, with wind. It may be falling even now, but I haven't checked lately. The winds made for some odd drifts. Late in the afternoon, I opened the back door and found snow piled up against it. The shovel was leaning against the wall on the far side of the door. So it was a bit of low comedy, getting that shovel so that I could dig out some snow and open the door enough to reach were the shovel was. Fortunately no one was watching.

Heard on the radio this evening that it was 20 below zero Fahrenheit in Fargo. Ah, Fargo, I only have summertime memories of you -- idling under the shade trees by the Red River of the North, pushing a tandem bicycle in the high heat of July, etc. -- and I plan to keep it that way.

In spite of the snow, school was open this morning and I made Lilly walk the short distance, over her protests. You know, builds character, or something. Also cuts down the risk of my car ending up in an odd position at an odd place beside the road; cuts it right down to zero. But I didn't want to be churlish about it, so I walked with her. She used to insist that I do that most mornings, but that faded away sometime more than a year ago.

I had a good walk, never mind the snow and wind. I have no memories of walking to school in the ice and snow, since it never happened in San Antonio. I'd have to say to Lilly, "Why when I was your age, I walked to school every morning and... and... it wasn't ever this cold."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Feng Shui Day

Got a form letter not long ago from the broker who showed us the house we now occupy. His keep-me-in-mind letters are always professionally cheerful and upbeat, and often he includes frig magnets, calendars and pro football and baseball schedules in his mailings. Every item has his picture on it. He’s a pro, for certain.

It had to happen. This time he included a leaflet called “Feng Shui 101.” A thing to make your eyes roll, it is. I’ve posted about feng shui before, but it’s been a long time, so let me reiterate: feng shui no more belongs in North America than banana trees belong in North Dakota.

But I’m just a cynic. The leaflet does have some good home decorating advice. Never put a bed in the bathroom, for instance, because foul chi is known to ooze from water pipes at night; if your door is red, resist the urge to paint it black; and at all costs, align that couch on your porch so that it can’t be seen from the street.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Beer Caves

I was doing some research recently for a story retail real estate article I'm working on -- really, retail is the most interesting of the main food groups in real estate writing -- and came across this description of a certain convenience store chain: "[The stores] are state-of-the-art convenience stores that feature items such as made-to-order sandwiches hot off the grill, touch-screen terminals at gas islands that allow customers to order food while fueling, expanded premium coffee choices, and a walk-in beer cave."

A couple of intriguing things there. Touch-screen ordering of food isn't bad, but I'm waiting for the day when the gas pumps will take spoken commands, so that on a cold day as I pump gas, I can bark, "Tea! Earl Grey! Hot!" and have a cup waiting for me at the replicator inside. Actually, if things were that advanced, why would I need to pump gas manually?

Walk-in beer cave was clearly another concept that needed googling, since it evokes a picture of a chilly Aladdin's cave bedecked not with gold coin and jewels, but imported and domestic bottles and cans. So I looked into it. The reality is more utilitarian, but no less interesting. According to National Petroleum News, " 'They’re catching on like wildfire. All major c-stores are adding beer caves to new locations or adding during remodels,' said Bill Hart, vice president of operations for Quincy, Ill.-based U.S. Cooler. 'The number is growing because of the margins on beer sales. Operators can carry larger amounts of beer in inventory and it sells quicker because it is kept colder.'

"Hart said the beer cave trend took hold about eight to 10 years ago but wasn’t popular at first because customers weren’t used to the concept, but that’s no longer a problem. 'Customers like that they can walk inside the cooler, feel the cold air and get cold beer.' ”

Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Afternoon at Randhust

Visiting the Randhurst Mall a few miles east of here to see the snow sculptures outside seemed like a good idea, and it even felt like a good idea at about noon today. The wind was light and temps maybe about 20 F -- highest they've been in a couple of weeks. A small relief from winter zeros.

But we didn't make it there at noon. We move slowly on Saturdays, and didn't get there till about 3:30. By then, 10 degrees had been shaved over the total, and someone had turned on the great outdoor wind machine. After about five minutes, we gave up on the snow sculptures, though the snow ape was pretty cool, as was the park bench with a man sitting on it, all made of snow. Cool, yes, but also cold, so we went inside the mall.

None of us had ever been inside this particular mall. I have, however, written about it. Some years ago, it lost an anchor tenant. Or maybe it was two anchors. Anyway, it was ailing. A sick mall: What's going to happen to Randhurst? was the thrust of the story. I even went there to take an exterior picture of it for my magazine, just missing the attention of a mall security patrol driving on one of the loops around the mall.

There's still some in-line vacancy in the mall, but it looked reasonable healthy today. People were there. And one of its three anchors is a Costco. That's a fairly new development in the world of malls. But it makes sense. Department stores ain't what they used to be, and something has to go in those anchor positions. The Costco at Randhurst, however, doesn't open into the mall. Guess management doesn't want people rumbling enormous shopping carts through the mall.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Get Me Rewrite!

On Wednesday, I witnessed corporate history. As part of my duties as a real estate writer, I went downtown via train to attend a shareholder's meeting of Equity Office Properties Trust (EOP), the largest office landlord in the country. It's an oversized operation indeed, owning more than 100 million square feet of office space nationwide. Or rather, I should now say, it was oversized.

What I witnessed was the last shareholders meeting of that particular REIT, because it was the subject of what's been called the largest leveraged buyout in history, at least until the next one comes along. I haven't verified that "largest" part, but I work for myself, and don't have time for that. If the Wall Street Journal says largest, I can say "reportedly" or "thought to be" and let it go at that. Anyway, the price was $23.2 billion, plus assumed EOP debt, making a total of about $39 billion. That is, $39,000,000,000.00, just to give the zeroes their due. At the meeting, the shareholders voted to accept the LBO and sell the company in toto to a New York LBO leader that will, surely, sell that unimaginably large portfolio off in pieces.

The meeting was held in the Civic Opera Building's auditorium -- not where the Lyric Opera performs (damn), but a much smaller and more utilitarian space within the office building itself, which also happens to be an Equity Office property. I'd been in that space before. When I had my office in that building, I went to a couple of presentations there, most memorably one by an assistant fire marshall who reminded us not to stay at our desks during fire drills. Because we would DIE if it were the real McCoy.

The shareholders and (mostly, I expect) their proxies filled up most of the place, but the back few rows were for media -- besides me, I noted representatives of the AP, Reuters, the Tribune, Sun-Times and Crain's Chicago Business, and some other publications, two of which I used to work for. I knew some of the media types and have run across most of the rest at one time or another. Alas, there was no moment, right after the meeting was over, when we all rushed to a bank of phone booths to call our stories in.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Flower of Malaya, I Cannot Stay

Too busy to post yesterday. But at least it was the kind of busy that makes, rather than costs, money.

Subzeros continued yesterday, and then snow as well, on a day that should have been "too cold to snow." But I understand that's a myth. Antarctica is plenty cold, colder than here most of time, and it does snow there occasionally, though as dry as the place is, not much. Still, it never melts, hence the really big collection of frozen water on that continent.

But there was enough snow here in metro Chicago to shovel, and out I went early in the evening. It was overcast, but the snow had a peculiar reflective quality to it, glittering a bit from the house- and street lights. It was light snow, airy snow, and thus easy to shovel, unlike the heavy stuff that fell in December.

When I read that Frankie Laine had died, I had two reactions. First, he was still alive? Second, go to YouTube and look for clips. Sure enough, there are some, such as this and this. I became acquainted with his version of "Rose, Rose I Love You" only last year, a song I find charming indeed -- and then was astounded to see the Chinese-language version of it used in The White Countess.

Actually, until I saw the movie, and looked it up later, I hadn't realized the tune was originally Chinese (and probably anachronistic in the movie, since the song was recorded first in 1940 but the movie's set in 1936 and '37). The opening line of the Chinese version -- as I've read, since I have no Mandarin -- is "Méigui o méigui zuì jiāoměi," ("Rose, rose, so stunning"), the first two words of which sound like "make way, oh make way." The writer of the English-language version, who is variously described as British or Australian, cleverly included the line, "Make way, oh make way, for my Eastern Rose."

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

Still cold as Swedish hell. I go on about it this time of year, but it is the determining factor in much daily life. Need to go to a store? Put that space suit on. Need to take someone to preschool? Put that space suit on, and hers too. Need to take the garbage to the curb, a few feet away? Put that space suit on.

I did just that at about 10 pm. At least for the few seconds that I spent looking up at them, the stars were bright and clear for the suburbs. Old man Orion is trending toward the southwest at that time of night in these chilly latitudes, meaning that spring isn't too long in coming. Sixty days: by then, all the snow will be gone. Which isn't to say it'll be warm, exactly, in early April. Global warming doesn't mean warm everywhere all the time.

Speaking of the sky, I now have an urge to go to Colorado some August to see the Perseid meteors. That's a side effect of watching YouTube. I happened on a clip of John Denver appearing on the Tonight Show about 35 years ago, and he described camping not far from Aspen, way up in altitude, and seeing the Perseids. That sounded better than any show money can buy.

I'm middle-aged and can say it now: I've long been fond of John Denver, ever since his songs were first on the radio in the early '70s. But I didn't mention it to anyone then: God no, girls liked John Denver. Boys were mocked for such an opinion. Listening to his performance of "Rocky Mountain High" on YouTube, however, I can see why I liked him -- that mellifluous voice.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007


The National Weather Service has this to say about metro Chicago this evening: "Bitterly cold. Mostly clear. Lows 10 to 15 degrees below zero outlying areas to around 5 below zero downtown. Wind chills dropping to as low as 30 below to 35 below zero. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph."

A very, very localized weather report tonight would say: "Distinctly cool downstairs after you turn the thermostat down to 60. Much warmer upstairs, since heat rises, and the heater is on almost constantly. If the thermostat is set at 68 or even 65 while the temps are below zero outside, it feels like 75 upstairs, though there's been no actual measurement. Too warm for blankets in any case. At 60 downstairs, it's perhaps 68 upstairs, not bad for sleeping under a blanket. No wind, so no wind chill."

Long-term forecast: this awful February blast is going to drive natural gas bills up, up. up.

Chicago might be Mudville tonight, for there's no joy here, but the mud has frozen. I wouldn't have a lot of interest in going to the Super Bowl, but I sure wouldn't have minded going to Miami this weekend. Except maybe no hotel rooms would have been available. Key West, then.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Good Day to Grouse

Blogger has finally obliged me to move over to its new Google accounts, promising no changes. I knew that wasn¹t true, and sure enough, posts cannot be published using OS9, because on the posting page there's no "publish" button. Vanished as completely as money sent to a Nigerian e-mail con man. Or rather, the button's there, but my system can't show it to me, because no software engineer seems to believe in backwards compatibility.

And why do I still use OS9? The machines around here that use OSX don't have decent word processing programs on them, that's why. And why is that? Because I haven't bought any decent programs. And why not? Because I'm a miser at heart. The buck stops there. Anyway, it gets harder to use OS9 all the time.

Just grousing. February is a fine time for that, especially since the cold outside feels like its pressing on the walls of the house, looking for every little crack, just dying to get in and equalize the temps between inside and outside. Inside temps would be the loser in a deal like that, and so would us naked apes living within the walls, living for millions of years as we did in sunny equatorial Africa.

That's the sort of thing you (I) think about when home all day when the air outside doesn't get any warming than about 10 degrees F. But it's been worse (though not in over a year). In fact, it's supposed to get worse. Come Super Bowl Sunday, it might not rise above zero. For real entertainment, the game ought to be played at the new and improved Soldier Field. South Florida is for fair-weather fans, literally. Chicago's the place for the Bears and their die-hard fans. Watch as the players stay to tay warm! See fans huddled over hibachis! No danger at all of a wardrobe malfunction on network TV!