Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chocolate Santas, Mortgage Woes & Scopitones

Somehow, the first serious snow of the year always seems to show up around the beginning of meteorological winter, namely December 1, and sure enough snow has been falling most of today, though some of it was rain and some of it has melted. Still, a thin white coating has stuck to the ground.

The Long Grove Confectionery in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, has a moderately interesting factory tour. There was no school on Wednesday, so I took Lilly, Ann and a friend of Lilly's on the tour, which consisted of first watching a commercial for the company (that is, a video about the company and its many fine products), then walking down a hallway with interior windows that looked into various parts of the factory. Certainly it smelled good there in the hall. But there wasn't a lot of candymaking activity in the factory, except in the packaging department, on the day before Thanksgiving.

I did get to see a 500-lb. Santa Claus, a man-sized statue of an Indian -- something like a cigar-store Indian -- and an assortment of famous paintings, all rendered in chocolate. They were worth getting out of bed to see. I also learned that the company has a sculptor on staff to carve such things, along with what he usually does, creating molds for chocolates and other confections: an unusual job description. There were free samples at the end, of course. Long Grove Confectionery makes good chocolate, that's for sure.

This is a photo for our time. History will probably forget that there was a credit squeeze in the mortgage business for a year before the full-blown credit freeze of this fall, but there was, and this company probably fell victim to it. I actually took the picture early this summer, but was in the vicinity of the building recently, and saw that the space is still vacant.

Sometimes I think the Internet was designed specifically for my wandering, tangential sort of mind. Reading about communications satellites led to a whim to listen to "Telstar" on YouTube, which led to this song and its bizarre video. Except that it isn't a video, not as members of the MTV generation knew them, anyway. It's a Scopitone.

If I'd ever heard about Scopitones, which is possible, I'd completely forgotten about them. More than anyone needs to know about this short-lived public audio-video phenomenon is here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Calling Bloody Mary

Been a Decemberish November these last few weeks, after an Indian summer early in the month. This morning a dusting of snow was on the ground, but it didn't last through the daylight hours. We're all expecting hardier white stuff before long.

Some of Lilly's friends came over after school today, and they read about Bloody Mary in the Daring Book for Girls, and about how daring girls could summon her spectre. It got Lilly and her friends all knotted up with dread just thinking about it. I knew that was a good book to buy her.

I'd never heard of the business about chanting Bloody Mary's name in front of a mirror before. But I had my own supernatural dread at about that age. I had to think back, but I did -- mostly from reading paperback books we had around the house that purported to be true stories of supernatural occurrences.

Back to posting after Thanksgiving, around December 1. Regards to all for the holiday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Items From the Past: Central Europe, November 1994

November was a fine month to be in Central Europe, at least in the immediate post-communist years. It wasn't any colder than in the Midwest and various places that would be awash with visitors in summer were a lot quieter, and probably somewhat cheaper.

Toward the beginning of the month, we were in southern Poland. Near Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The "Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland" is a place of gray salt walls, sculptures and other artwork made of salt, and a considerable history in providing a formerly very valuable commodity. This exterior shot hardly does the place justice, but then again my snapshot from inside would do it even less justice.

This is a fall scene from Prague: the Old Jewish Cemetery, a burial ground from the 15th to the 18th centuries. It amazed me that this place survived the Nazis, but it did, and contains thousands of stones and countless other burial sites, including that of Rabbi Loew. The picture isn't his headstone, but of someone else whose identity can be known to readers of Hebrew.

Finally, here's an image from Vienna, that storied imperial capital with no more empire to preside over. We were fortunate indeed to be there for the annual Autohochhaltend Sängerfest. Choirs from all over Austria come to sing while cars were lifted in artful ways. I'd say there's no other festival quite like it anywhere. I managed to get a pic of some car-lifting, but unfortunately none of the singers.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Lament on the Disappearance of the Comic Drunk

More Moo Goo Gai Pan

(All the men are drunk.)

Bob: (Into phone) Hello. Is this the House of Hu? I’d like to order some Chinese food. (To men with him) What do you want?

Jerry: Howard wants pizza.

Howard: No I don’t. I want some Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Bob: (Into phone) Did you hear what Howard wants? Oh. Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Jerry: That’s what I want, too. Dr. Jerry Robinson wants Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Bob: (Into phone) And more Moo Goo Goo Goo.

Jerry: Did you hear what you said, Bob? You said, "more Moo Goo Goo Goo." You said, "Moo Goo Goo Goo."

Howard: That’s right. You said "Moo Goo Goo Goo."

Bob: Maybe I’m ordering Chinese baby food.

"Over the River and Through the Woods,"

Airdate: November 22, 1975.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Salmagundi for Girls

It just occurred to me how much amusement adolescent boys in the Commonwealth nations must get when they hear about the troubles at Fannie Mae. Let's just say that fanny has a rather different meaning in other parts of the English-speaking world than here in North America, where it's a cutesy term for buttocks. Of course, Commonwealth adolescents probably don't pay all that much attention to U.S. financial news, but still. Fannie Mae has been so much in the news that word of this previously little-known entity must have filtered through.

Lilly got two main presents for her 11th birthday: some potato shoes and The Daring Book for Girls. "Potato shoes" is the elementary-school nickname, and for all I know the wider-world nickname, for these shoes. I've forgotten the actual brand name. They're faux-fur lined slippers with light-brown suede uppers. They do have a potatoish look, except for the faux-fur. She asked for them specifically, and we found them at a large retail chain.

As for the The Daring Book for Girls, it's a salmagundi for young girls, patterned after The Dangerous Book for Boys. Contents include the practical -- "Knots and Stitches," "How to Change a Tire," and "Make Your Own Paper" -- and the abstract: "Words to Impress," "What is the Bill of Rights?" and "Greek and Latin Root Words." There are bits of geography (but not that many maps), history, science, art, literature, sports and other odds and ends ("How to Tie a Sari," "Slumber Party Games," "How to be a Spy.")

Some content is girl-empowerment-specific, such as the series on "Queens of the Ancient World," which covers Artemisia of Halicarnassus, Salome, Cleopatra, Boudica and Zenobia. Joan of Arc, Abigail Adams and female explorers, pirates, spies and "Daring Spanish Girls" also receive their own treatments.

She's pleased with both gifts. "I really like this kind of book," she said, and had no idea how much I enjoyed hearing that.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Daring Than the Flying Trapeze

From the Ringling Bros. web site: "While the eight members of the Torres Family, five brothers and three cousins, were growing up (most of them in Caaguaz, Paraguay), they were big fans of the many circuses that traveled throughout South America. The fact that none of their parents had a circus background was no deterrent to their collective wish to perform, and they found a means to do it..."

The circus we attended last week came in two parts, with an intermission. Just before the intermission, a large hollow sphere was moved out to center stage. The sphere was make of steel mesh, so the inside was visible. Ringling calls it a "16 foot globe," which I suppose is diameter.

Consulting my research assistant Google, I see that the surface area of this steel-mesh sphere is 4πr-squared, or 4 x π x 64, or about 804 square feet. Not a very large performance space. The sphere, which was held in place by support beams, also had a hatch on the lower hemisphere that allowed access to the inside.

Ringling continues: "All [the Torreses] began participating as youngsters in the sport of motocross – 'a very popular pastime for kids in Paraguay.' Eventually, each raced professionally on the many circuits that thrive in Latin America, and... a fellow motocross competitor and friend also happened to perform for a local circus. His act involved racing his motorcycle around and around inside an enormous steel globe in concert with several other riders. The Torres family was hooked immediately."

The hatch was opened, and five of the motorcycling Torreses rode into the sphere and waited there, revving their engines dramatically. I'll be damned if they didn't then start riding around inside the sphere. At first all in a row, roughly at its widest part. Then some of them pealed away from the internal "equator" of the sphere and start moving in other circles around the interior that intersected with the riders still going around the "equator." Yet no one hit anyone else.

It seems like an accident would have torn the riders apart. But there were no collisions. How is this possible? I suspected some kind of trick, but the more I watched it, the more I realized it was real, and utterly amazing.

"The Torres family describes their technique inside the globe as 'very much like what pilots do in an air show,' ” Ringling continues. "Blowing a whistle and revving their engines as prompts to one another, each rider embarks upon a set pattern, or path of trajectory, around the interior surface of the globe. Once the riders are in motion, maintaining constant speeds (which can reach up to 65 miles per hour) is critical..."

Then a sixth Torres joining the act; and then a seventh. Seven Paraguayan motorcyclists racing around a 804-square-foot surface inside a steel sphere going as fast as I do on the Interstate. Circuses ought to be about spectacle, and this was spectacle.

Several homemade videos of this are on YouTube, naturally. This one is short but gives some sense of the act at its fastest. The Ringling site has a slide show of still pics that also convey a sense of the act.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things You See at a Circus in 2008

Usually, YouTube editing of mainstream media are stupid. But this one is brilliant.

Tom Dougherty, Ringling's head clown, eventually got on my nerves. He was in fine form when he clowned around and did his pantomimes and mugging and pratfalls. At one point, he wandered into the audience and found a woman who was talking on a cell phone, took it from her, and led her into the ring. Then he spent some time hiding it from her in his pants, or playing tunes using the touch-tone feature of the phone. If she were a plant, she did a good job of pretending not to be, which made the gag all the better.

I can see why he rose in the clown hierarchy. But the running gag was that he wanted to usurp the ringmaster's job, mainly by stealing his hat, and that got old pretty fast. The ringmaster, Chuck Wagner, looked like the beefy fellow that his name implies, and was more of a song-singing ringmaster than I expected. According to his bio at the Ringling web site, he's a journeyman entertainer of long standing, and he seemed to enjoy this gig at Ringling. After all, how many people get to say, "I'm a ringmaster."

Otherwise the circus featured a lot of circus-like acts, such as a troupe of other clowns (but no clown car), acrobats and aerialists, and animal acts, especially the tiger tamer. A live band backed up the acts.

As you'd expect, the acrobats and aerialists were skillful, especially the fellow who practically climbed to the ceiling on what looked like a wide silken rope and did various twirling maneuvers, seemingly catching himself at the last minute using the rope -- with no net. The men and women of the flying trapeze, who did have a net, executed their amazing feats flawlessly, since it wouldn't be a circus without daring young men (and women) on a flying trapeze. Yet the audience was distinctly lukewarm in its reaction. That could be because most of us saw marvel after marvel of aerial precision at the Olympics this summer, and are otherwise used to such marvels. Too bad. It has to be tough for a circus to compete.

Still, there was one act that flat-out astonished me, and I hope the rest of the audience too. I'd never seen anything like it before, live or on film, and it was worth the price of admission by itself. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Rosemont Horizon

Last Thursday I went to the Rosemont Horizon. Actually that isn't the venue's official name, since a really large insurance company paid to slap its name on the structure about 10 years ago. But before that it was the Horizon, a name I always thought distinctive, even though I never actually went there to see anything. For years I associated the name with arena rock acts, college basketball, WWF and other events, and I'm not going to call it anything else.

At about 20,000 seats, it's a large place, and a money-maker for the Village of Rosemont, the town tucked away near the entrance to O'Hare that owns the venue. The arena in fact was built on a parcel adjacent to the airport, and at a distance looks like one of the more artful distribution warehouses in the O'Hare industrial market, white with blue trim. Jets fly right over it at regular intervals.

At a distance is the way most visitors are going to see the arena at first, since it's surrounded by a large amount of parking space that's accessible from Mannheim Road. At least that's the way I drove in, along with Lilly and Ann in the car. We'd come to see the circus. To be more exact, the Greatest Show on Earth, or Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey's circus, a show called "Over the Top."

"Greatest Show on Earth" of course is Ringling's slogan, and a fine one it is, too, echoing (loudly) all the way back to P.T. Barnum and other showmen who are now only dust and glimmers of circus lore. But it doesn't really fit the show we saw. "Not the Greatest Anymore Because the World is Full of Man-Made Marvels, But Very Entertaining All the Same" just isn't catchy enough for a circus, however.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Item From the Past: The Celebrated Little Green Men of Calaveras County

The weekend before Thanksgiving in 2000, we drove to St. Louis for a look-around, and after staying there a few nights, headed upriver to Hannibal, Mo. We'd been warned of its tourist-trap aspects, but went anyway, and found a tourist town that was pretty much drained of its tourists. It was just before Thanksgiving, after all, and besides was already cold.

So we enjoyed certain tourist attractions as practically the only visitors. Once such was Mark Twain Cave. I think our tour consisted of the three of us (Ann wasn't born yet), a childless couple and the guide. It was nice enough, I suppose, but hard to appreciate. Lilly, who had just turned three at the time, was so terrified by the cave that I had to carry her most of the way through. We didn't take her back into a cave until we visited Wind Cave National Park when she seven. (I had to carry Ann through part of that.)

But at the gift shop I was able to buy one of my favorite souvenirs: Mark Twain Cave Martian Spaceship Candy. The name alone was worth the dollar or whatever I paid. The candy and the packaging are long gone, but my scanner was brand-new in those days, and I was seeing what kind of 3D objects would scan. The image turned out fairly well.

The candy itself? I've forgotten. Sweet-tartish dextrose, maybe.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"The Loyalist"

Here's something unusual: a song about a loyalist in the American Revolution. Or to be more exact, it seems to be about the ghost of a loyalist musing on generations of his descendants who lived in the place that he and his family fled to. The place is described in the song as "Shelburne Bay," which I take to mean Shelburne, Nova Scotia, which is known as a settling place of loyalists in Canada.

The singer is Dave Nachmanoff, with some backup by Al Stewart, whom I've written about before (beginning here). Nachmanoff is clearly a fine musician in his own right, but he's also a protégé of Stewart's, and tours with him. His singing style and song content, at least in this case, owe a great deal to Stewart.

Back in May, Lilly and I went out to the Woodstock Opera House to see Al Stewart, and Dave Nachmanoff was playing with him. "The Loyalist" was not on the playlist, but there were plenty of other songs about people and times no one else writes songs about, such as Hanno the Navigator, Joseph Stalin and aviatrix Amy Johnson. So I enjoyed it. Lilly wasn't quite as entertained, probably, but she humored her old man.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

At Madison & Franklin

I was downtown part of the day yesterday for a conference at the Fairmont Hotel in the East Loop. Haven't been downtown in a while, not since it was a lot warmer. Yesterday, in fact, was drizzly and cold, just on the liquid side of freezing.

I didn't have a lot of time to look around, but I did notice that the Jewish Federation Building is being renovated into a La Quinta. The structure, at the corner of Madison and Franklin, dates from 1958 and was in sore need of some kind of aesthetic upgrade. It's still hard to tell exactly what it's going to look like as a hotel, since the work seems about half done. If the Jewish Federation, a charity, in fact owned that property, they're probably glad they inked the deal sometime ago. There aren't too many loans for acquisitions of such properties, or construction loans either, going through just now.

Historical note about the Jewish Federation Building. Immediately after September 11, 2001, concrete barriers went up around a few buildings in downtown Chicago: Federal Plaza (though those might have gone up after April 19, 1995), the Sears Tower, and the Jewish Federation Building.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ninety Years Ago

Letter by Capt. Charles S. Normington, Co. E., 127th Infantry, 32nd Division, U.S. Army, originally posted at First World

11 November 1918

Dear Folks:

Arrived here last night, and was on the street today when the armistice with Germany was signed. Anyone who was not here can never be told, or imagine the happiness of the people here. They cheered and cried and laughed and then started all over again.

Immediately a parade was started on the Rue De Italiennes and has been going on ever since. In the parade were hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the U.S., England, Canada, France, Australia, Italy and the colonies. Each soldier had his arms full of French girls, some crying, others laughing; each girl had to kiss every soldier before she would let him pass.

The streets are crowded and all traffic held up. There are some things, such as this, that never will be reproduced if the world lives a million years. They have taken movies of the crowds, but you can't get sound nor the expression on the people's faces, by watching the pictures.

There is no where on earth I would rather be today than just where I am. Home would be nice, and is next, but Paris and France is Free after four years and 3 months of war. And oh, such a war! The hearts of these French people have simply bursted with joy. I have had many an old French couple come up to Major Merrill and me and throw their arms about us, cry like children, saying, "You grand Americans; you have done this for us."

It is impossible to buy a flag in Paris today. Everyone has one it seems and the old streets are one solid mass of colors from all the allied nations. Paris, that grand old city that has been dark for so long, is now all lighted up. Listen - my window is open - and somewhere there has been an American band assembled. They are playing My Country 'Tis of Thee.

Folks! It's wonderful! So full of feeling and meaning.

Thank God, thank God, the war is over. I can imagine all the world is happy. But no where on earth is there a demonstration as here in Paris. I only hope the soldiers who died for this cause are looking down upon the world today. It was a grand thing to die for. The whole world owes this moment of real joy to the heroes who are not here to help enjoy it.

I cannot write any more.

Lovingly, your boy, Chas.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Fill 'Er Up With Premium Dasani

Not much entertaining spam comes over the transom these days, but I did get this recently:

Hi, my name is Rachel, and I wanted to let you know right away that it's a FACT that cars can drive on water and gas combined! Did you know this?

The gas companies do know this, and they don't want YOU, or anyone else, to ever know this... The executives at the gas companies want to shut me up, but it's too late, my goal is to inform as many people as possible about the TRUTH!

Press here to see why the gas companies want me DEAD.

A car that runs on water. Now that's a story I haven't heard in a long time. Wait, not such a long time.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Item From the Past: Singapore Sling

Once upon a time in the early '90s, while living in Japan, I pitched an article about Singapore -- which I had just visited -- to an editor stateside. She declined the idea, noting that it was "too exotic" a destination for her readers. Which was probably true. In my experience, people are fairly slow to update their stereotypes about far away places. In fact, Singapore is about as First World a city as you can imagine -- too much so, according to the city-state's critics.

I was, an am, on good terms with the editor (who hasn't been an editor in years), so I had some fun writing her back. I dusted off assorted old movie images and borrowed shamelessly from Chandler, figuring it might be one of the few opportunities I would have to do so. This is what I came up with:

Singapore Gothic. Or, True Stores of My Sojourn to Singapore.

It was a steamy mid-afternoon in the Chinese back streets of Singapore, dank, smelling of onions and oil and sweat, each nook and tiny sidepath thick with drying laundry and squalid secrets. Leathery old Chinese men in dingy cafes on either side eyed their mah jong tiles, or nursed their worm-eaten pipes, paying scant attention to the white stranger in their midst -- me.

Now and then a child would tug at my shirttail. "Hey Johnny, Johnny, gimme, gimme," was the chant they all knew. In more lighthearted moments, such as during strolls I'd taken seaside with the Eurasian beauty Andrea Lok Bok on my arm, watching the ships' lights in Singapore Harbour in the cool of the early evening, I'd produce a copper for the little beggars. Now, I brushed them off with a quick wave of the hand. It is serious business, going to see Foo Woo Fatt. Deadly serious.

Soon I found the landmark I was seeking: Two red dragons facing each other, snarling, as if they were going to contend for lordship of the plain black door they were mounted above. The location of the door had been whispered to me in a back room of the British Club, by an officer long in Her Majesty's service -- this was Foo Woo Fatt's door. The officer dared not ask me the nature of my business behind this ordinary yet sinister door.

The door opened with surprising ease. In a moment my eyes adjusted to the dimness within. A huge goon appeared without warning in the shadows, mere inches away. He was as big as a beer truck and dressed like a Mardi Gras fireplug.

"I've come to see Foo," I said, doing my best to snarl. "The name's Stribling." The goon said nothing. For a long moment, he didn't move either, just starring at me with an unreadable poker face. He had an ugly mug. Maybe it was the smallpox scars; or maybe the pallor inspired by too many long draws on an opium pipe. All at once he vanished behind some long silk curtains, exiting as quickly as he'd entered.

I waited. A minute passed. And then another. And another. There was nothing for it but to examine Foo's vase collection. I'm no Sotheby's expert, but I know pricey stuff from the junk they hawk to goo-goo-eyed suckers down as the Central Market. Obviously Foo didn't do his shopping there.

Suddenly my back stiffened up, a reflex pure and fast as lightning. A sharp pain shot from my left shoulder down my shine, reaching my southernmost parts like a telegraph signal. I turned. There was the enormous goon -- and a couple of more. All of them were brandishing Malacca enforcers. I heard a couple of thumps -- turned out to be a couple of enforcers, steel-tipped bamboo rods, making contact. With my head. I ducked to the floor. I grabbed the floor with both hands, and with great effort, pushing and huffing, got the room spinning. Soon I had it spinning real fast. Now there were a dozen ugly goons with hundreds of sticks. I was fast sinking into a big gray swamp. The last thing I remember thinking was -- Singapore ain't no town for tourists...


Thursday, November 06, 2008

No More About the Election After This

Memo to the rest of the world, and a fair number of Americans: You will be disappointed as the new president takes a serious interest in maintaining the substance of U.S. power worldwide. However, as he goes about it, his style will be different from George W. Bush, which may satisfy some people.

Even I had to look up a list of failed Republican vice presidential nominees, whom the governor of Alaska now joins. The list begins with William L. Dayton, Frémont's running mate, and includes more obscurities than notables. Besides Dayton, there's John Logan, Whitelaw Reid, Nicholas Butler, Frank Knox, Charles McHary, John Bricker, Earl Warren, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., William E. Miller (whose daughter is not a Goldwaterite), Bon Dole and Jack Kemp.

But obscurity is mostly the fate even of those who become vice president and not president. Toward the end of this century, for instance, will Dan Quayle be any better known than Levi P. Morton is now? (Morton held the job 100 years before Quayle.) Al Gore has a better chance of being remembered, not for his veep years, but rather for being the Samuel J. Tilden of our time and perhaps for his other post-veep activities.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Frémont to McCain

Another Indian summer day today, but scheduled to be the last one. We discovered a cricket inside the house today and I managed to capture it -- which was no small trick -- rather than dispatch it on the spot, since I didn't consider it a vile pest trying to infest my living space. I returned it to the out-of-doors, which is only a short reprieve for the creature.

The Onion had a fun raft of headlines today, including "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job," "Voting Machines Elect One of Their Own as President," "Hillary Clinton Resumes Attacking Obama," and "McCain Gets Hammered at Local VFW."

It must sting now, but Sen. McCain is joining notable company in the Republican Party, going all the way back to John C. Frémont, the Pathfinder and 1856 nominee for the presidency. The list also includes such luminaries (and I'm not being sarcastic) as James G. Blaine, Charles Evans Hughes, Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole, just to name losing candidates who never were or never became president. One could do worse.

As for the president-elect, no one can tell how any particular presidency will turn out, but I feel optimistic about the potential achievements of a well-spoken Chicago pol who managed such an astonishing rise from obscurity. Also, I have to be cheerful at the thought of a chief executive who was born in 1961, has a funny name, and is the father of two daughters. And who seems to enjoy a good bumper-car ride.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

So Goes the 56th Presidential Election

Another bit of Indian summer today -- even fairly warm at about 9:30 this morning when I walked to the polls. My polling station would not have made anyone's newscast, because there were no visually interesting long lines snaking out the door or obviously haywire voting equipment.

There were a fair number of people there, but not so many that I had to wait very long to vote, about five minutes. Lilly decided at the last minute not to come with me, staying at home waiting for some of her friends to show up. My next-door neighbor was there with her son, who's a year behind Lilly. He played a hand-held video game while his mother voted.

Here in Cook County, we can pick either a touch-screen machine or a paper ballot, which is then read by machine. This time I chose the touch-screen machine, that boogeyman of people worried about voting irregularities, as if you can't tamper with paper ballots. Actually I like the punch-card system, but that seems to be gone. Something satisfying about jamming that stylus into the card repeatedly, then flipping to the next page. The touch-screen machine was reasonably easy to use, and created a paper record of my vote at the end, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over the fear that my votes got lost.

I'm just old enough to remember voting booths. They involved closing the curtain with a master lever, flipping switches, then moving the master lever again to open the voting booth curtain, as well as add the votes to the total. I might remember this wrong, but I'm fairly certain I happened to be in Texas for the primary in early March 1980, and voted that way.

I had a fair amount of work to do today, so didn't pay much attention to the contest until the evening -- before that, it's speculative blather anyway. At about 8 pm, I saw that Ohio and Pennsylvania had gone to Obama, and knew it was game over for McCain. I had a hard time explaining that to Lilly, however, since she has only the vaguest idea of opinion polls or projected winners or that some states aren't in play. Besides, the red states on the electoral maps look so much larger than the blue. Ah, but presidential elections aren't won by square mileage. Maybe in some weird alternate universe they are.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and Tomorrow

Today was an astonishingly warm and pleasant day, considering that a lot of trees are bare already, and that the calendar says early November. It was more like early September today. I sat outside on the deck for a while without a jacket of any kind, and enjoyed it.

This is no place for a soapbox editorial on voting, it's your civic duty blah-blah, but US citizens should all vote tomorrow, if we haven't already, if only because we'll be participating in an historic event. By that I don't this particular election, as important as it might be. I'm not yet convinced it's as important as, say, 1860 or 1932, though there's a slender argument for the comparing 2008 to '32. As usual, only time will tell, but even then there will be arguments about exactly what time said.

I mean participation in the quadrennial election cycle that has been going on since 1789. Come hell or high water, and the water's been pretty high sometimes (1864, and again 1932), the elections go on. I believe that the regularity of the election cycle, whatever its flaws, is an anchor of political stability for the nation, and a stroke of political genius by the Founding Fathers, among their numerous such achievements.

My polling place is Lilly and Ann's school, which has no classes tomorrow for "Institute Day" according to the school calendar, but it's really closed for the election. Lilly asked to go with me to watch me vote in my eighth presidential election, which is the 56th since the adoption of the Constitution, and I will take her.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Hallow's Eve Aught-Eight

Coming on Friday this year, Halloween had some extra punch, at least for the kids out trolling for candy. Visitors started showing up about two hours before sunset, and continued ringing the doorbell until about two hours after sunset. I was giving away individual Reese's peanut butter cups and Kit Kats, which got a few comments of approval. For some reason, Kit Kats rate a remarkably long Wiki entry; not so much for Reese's.

About 30 kids showed up at our house all together, none with outlandish costumes. My own favorite were a couple of very small kids -- 2 and 3, I'd guess, with their dad right next to them, dressed as bees. (The dad wasn't a bee, actually.) They were so small that he had to tell them not to be afraid to approach the door to receive their candy.

I'm happy to report that few high school kids came by. In years past, waves of them would typically turn up later in the evening. I don't have anything against high school kids per se (yet), but by the time you're in high school, you're "too old to trick-or-treat, too young to die." I wonder if Lilly will pay attention to my thinking on this in future years. Probably not.

Lilly and Ann went to a friend of Lilly's early in the game, and did most of their candy-seeking in that neighborhood, about half a mile from here, along with other girls. Since it was Friday, they busied themselves in this way until about 8:30, which suited me. I drove over to pick them up, and they both had pillow cases heavy with sweets. Bulging with candy. Laden down with confection. The mark of a fine time romping around, if you're a kid.