Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Stella Awards hoax

Somebody else sent me that silly email about frivolous lawsuits today. It's probably the tenth time I have received it over the last two years. Usually, it's upsetting to read about the outrageous awards in the courts for seemingly-stupid behavior, but today it just seemed all too familiar -- like I had seen the same five examples in 2003.

So I looked into it and found the whole email was another hoax. Check out Snopes.com to read the phony email and the research that debunks it.

There really are True Stella Awards, named after the elderly woman who burned her thighs on a flaming-hot cup of McDonald's java. The site does go into some detail regarding Stella Liebeck, and how contrary to popular belief, she actually was found to be partially at fault for the incident.

Friday, March 25, 2005

2x4 Cross Man is at it again...

According to the Star Tribune, Aurora resident Greg Zanis made it all the way up to a Minnesota Indian Reservation where seven people were killed in a shooting rampage at Red Lake High School. He goes out putting little white crosses to remember people who died under high-profile circumstances. However in a display of true Christian concern, Weise decided against throwing some spray-painted lumber together for the shooter, Jeff Weise, who sadly turned the gun on himself to conclude the shooting spree.

"I didn't want to come down here and hurt anybody's feelings,'' he said.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

When the suburbs come to the city

This is from the blotter in the Chicago Journal:

Calling all cars: Kicking, hitting, fighting, biting

Bozena J. Fedorowicz, 42, of 511 Stratmore in suburban Barlett, and Jennifer M. Hawthorne, 28, of 2708 Killarne Dr. in suburban Cary, were arrested for battery on March 14 at 11:40 a.m. at 60 E. Lake. According to police reports, Hawthorne was walking in front of a parking garage when a car containing Fedorowicz pulled into the driveway of the parking garage. Hawthorne told police the car struck her leg, at which point she got in an argument with the people in the car. According to Fedorowicz, the contact between Hawthorne's leg and the car occurred when Hawthorne happened to give the passing car a kick. Fedorowicz sad she and her friends then confronted Hawthorne, who attacked them. A witness riding in the car with Fedorowicz told police Fedorowicz grabbed Hawthorne and they began to fight. Hawthorne refused treatment to her leg, and Fedorowicz declined treatment for a loose tooth.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"The bunk stops here"

Or so says the Web site of Purportal.com, an Internet search-based urban legend/spam email debunker. I'm sharing this with anyone who will listen, particularly those friends of mine who get roped into sending sad or mysterious stories on to five of their friends. Using this site won't get you a free ipod or bring you years of good luck, but it should save you some embarrassment.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Semper ubi sub ubi (reprise)

Thanks to all (read: Janet) for playing. It's a joke among Latin students that translates to "Always where under where." Which of course, sounds funny when you hear it, but not so much when you read it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Making good on that balcony resolution

I took this picture from my balcony looking northwest at sunset on Thursday. In the summer, you can't really see through all the trees but there is my creek and the lake and some of the other buildings in my condo complex.

Marge, I need to use the camera...

These are my cats. Jasper's on the left and Stan is on the right.

Not a bad weekend

Friday night I went to the Jovial Club for Friday night fish dinner with my mom and aunts and uncles. While I was there I realized that as of yesterday, I've been engaged for an entire year. Sheesh, less then five months remaining. I remembered because we went to Jovial Club last year the Friday after St. Patrick's Day and that was the night I proposed.

Saturday, KT and I piled in the car headed north to Milwaukee for a Rusted Root show. They are a hippy-type jam band that I wasn't all that familiar with but I enjoyed the show anyway. The best part of the night was the venue itself. It was at the Eagles' Ballroom at The Rave. Of course, at least seven people told us the same story regarding the history of the place.

Apparently, it was built and owned by the Eagles fraternal organization. At some point in the 1970s -- so the local lore says -- Milwaukee city rules were going to force the club to admit women into its membership. Rather than have the government tell them what to do, the club shut down and left the building. Some years later it was converted to a concert venue that can host as many as five shows at one time. Yikes! The place is a time warp right back to the 20s. I'd imagine the actual structure has changed little if at all but the new owners have covered every square inch in dark purples and black so the place is actually kind of spooky.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Just got back from the Coliseum in Mokena where Mike and Joe were playing. They’re one of my favorite bands because they’re good and it’s usually cheap to see them. $1 Pabst Blue Ribbons! Anyway, this place was far too crowded. I am fairly certain this place exceeded their maximum occupancy limit, but hey, it’s Mike and Joe! Anyway, we left early.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The crazy rabbit

I saw this online. since I refuse to send out mass emails of kitchy crap, I can post it on here. Check out the crazy rabbit.

Stay outside for da night!

What do I want? Who can answer such a speculative question?
What do I want? I want to raise the model tone of the nation.
What do I want? I need a pitcher, not an underwear stitcher.
I want Fred Flintstone in the house, Fred's cat out the house.
Stay outside for the night!
I want shoes on Fred and Barney! Every time, take that big stone car down the street, through the courtesy of Fred's two feet! Say it with me! Yabba Dabba Doo!

--Darrell Hammond doing his best Jesse Jackson (as best I can remember it).

"I got soul but I'm not a soldier..."

I can't stop listening to Hot Fuss, an album by The Killers. I guess I have been so disappointed with today's music that it was a pleasant surprise to hear this one. It's a Las Vegas band that tastefully draws their influences from 80s new wave pop. The song quoted is "All these things that I've done."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I resolve to use my balcony more

The song "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James and Shondells is playing on the radio right now and my coworker has labeled it "music for just chillin' in the backyard in the summer." I don't have a back yard anymore, but I do have a balcony. It's a nice one -- a real humdinger. I didn't spend enough time out there enjoying the outdoors this last year so I resolve to spend more time out there this year. There. I said, it. Now hold me to it.

This is a picture of Katie and me out on said balcony before her 25th birthday party in August.

Semper ubi sub ubi

How well do you know your Latin? Any takers? No cheating!

I am Chicken-Fried Smurf

Some friends and I at the office have always looked to the Smurf Name Generator to provide a few laughs here and there. One coworker's Smurf name is Erectile Dysfunction Smurf. I know the Smurfs aren't even relevant anymore when making pop culture references, but it's still somewhat amusing, especially if you ever watched the show as a youngster on Saturday morning.

Monday, March 14, 2005

No white crosses for me, please!

Have you ever noticed when someone dies tragically, someone else always comes along and displays a little white cross near the spot where the other person died? I think it's nice but I don't care for it.

I have instructed my family not to erect any little white crosses fashioned out of two-by-fours and Krylon if I should (God forbid) die in some tragic accident. Not only that, but have also left specific instructions for them to remove any such impromptu memorials.

Listen, in my eyes, I think it's a nice gesture but it's just plain tacky. Before you get your undies in a bunch, I'm not knocking Christianity but I am not one to wear my faith on my sleeve. I think there are other things one could do that might be more useful.

Following last week's hotel/church shooting in Milwaukee, the Journal-Sentinel published a story about a man who makes and displays the two-by-four crosses at death scenes.

I didn't go to the parade

Again, I have skipped both of Chicago's significant St. Patrick's Day Parades, namely the one put on by the South Side Irish. I had a long day and night Saturday and didn't feel like dodging traffic and people to see a parade I've probably seen 15 times before. My cousin invited me to meet some friends of his at a local bar but I fell asleep. By the time I woke up and got my bearings, it was too late to make a go of it.

Why you shouldn’t wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day

Thursday is St. Patrick’s Day, a religious holiday popularly secularized in America, that celebrates the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint. Traditionally here, those mostly derived from Irish ancestors, sport green-colored everything and use the day as an excuse to drink like sailors on shore leave and stand on street curbs watching enormous parades.

From time to time someone will decide to be cute, funny or defiant and wear a bright orange shirt because they know it will royally piss off Irish Catholics. Though most descended from Irish Catholic lines have forgotten why the color orange is such a sore spot, they have remembered enough to know that it’s a slap in the face.

You see, the Orange Order is a fraternal Protestant organization that has taken its name and color in honor of the Protestant King William of Orange, who in 1690 militarily deposed James II, the Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland.

The order played a part in the formation of Northern Ireland in 1920 as a Protestant-majority state. Since then, the Orangemen have been at odds with the IRA and its political arm Sinn Fein that is for ending British rule and uniting Northern Ireland with Ireland. Clearly, it is an anti-Catholic organization.

For those who don’t know, the Protestant British have caused years of untold suffering and division in Ireland. I won’t go into details because this isn’t a rant against England. I do however, think it is important for the Americans of Irish lineage to remember what their predecessors and kinsmen have endured.

True, the color orange is present in the Irish flag, but worn by itself, Orange represents something much more devious and hateful. Wearing an orange shirt on St. Patrick’s Day is almost the equivalent of wearing a pointy white hood on Martin Luther King Day. It’s not cute, it’s not being different, it’s something much, much more.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Busy night, but fun

A lot going on today. Spent the morning and afternoon 'throwing rock' -- or hanging drywall -- at my local Habitat for Humanity house. I can't begin to explain what volunteering here has done for me. Sounds cheesy but I really enjoy spending my Saturday helping out. I also did a tiny bit of framing to make a box-out around some heating ducts. It wasn't pretty but it will get the job done. I used the new hammer, rasp and linesman pliers I bought. The Daily Southtown recently wrote a story about this house and the family that will occupy it called No more house of blues.

Katie had summoned all of her available bridesmaids to go shopping for fabric to buy her dresses for the wedding. I was called after the fabric was picked out in order to pay for the materials. A friend's mom will sew them together and they will be nice.

Then I had a family party to celebrate a couple of birthdays and St. Patrick's Day. I wasn't very comfortable there but I lucked out because I had plans to hang out with one of my friends.

Brian came over and we stuffed ourselves at Outback and played two games of Cosmic Bowling at Centennial Lanes in Tinley Park. I rolled a 164 and a 178, finishing the second game with four consecutive strikes. Feeling pretty good right now. Brian's a good guy and fun to talk to, but time doesn't allow regular outings. I was sort of ordered out of the house because Katie and her friends were borrowing my pad for a girls' night in. They're still here watching a movie but they're fading fast.

I on the other hand have sheetrock boogers. That's when you breath in drywall dust and it takes a day to get it all dislodged from inside your beak.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Cross one thing off the To-Do list.

I was home last night preparing to spend the evening alone in deep thought in front of the television when the phone rang. It was my old friend from college days, Jim B. Just the other day, I wrote here how I missed all my old friends from college and that I promised myself I would start calling some of them to catch up.

Anyway, he's loving the life he leads in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with his wife and 10-month-old son. Surprisingly he's lost the bit of Indiana twang formerly employed by his voice but he hasn't picked up on the throaty Canadian-like U.P. accent. Lots of snow in them there parts -- far more than I'd ever care to deal with outside of the occasional snowstorm.

Wednesday night, I'd go over to Jim's to overcook hamburgers and split a small case of beer. We'd hang out on the porch of his rented college slumicile and blast music out of very expensive speakers that he'd purchased with cash saved up for a very special day. We got some good mileage out of them. When I implied slum, I didn't mean that Jim and his roommate Nick didn't keep a good house, because they did a pretty good job. Most of the homes in this college town rented out to students were built in the 1800s and hadn't seen much by way of updates except for an occasional new coat of paint. My senior year apartment fell into this category.

Anyway, it was good to catch up. We're making plans now to visit Jim et al in the Upper Peninsula this spring.

Story of Man lives on

The Story of Man was an informal project started by the staff of the Illinois Edition of the Times of Northwest Indiana. Spearheaded by editor Harry, the Story of Man took off and the entire staff was soon scouring other newspapers for headlines that contained the word "man." When assembled together, the headlines detailing Man's exploits can be quite humorous.

In addition to inciting thoughtful and enjoyable conversation, the Story of Man was also a testament to how not to do journalism. Harry despised "man" headlines. We suspect he found them the tool of lazy writers and editors who could not come up with something more original and meaningful. He often hunted down editors who had forgotten this and mildy ridiculed them before their peers.

Some former staffers that were part of the original Story of Man -- all of whom have since moved on to other assignments -- have decided to continue the legacy online. The Story of Man Blog.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A good time had by all

I had a great time last night dinning out with old friends from when I worked at The Times as a news reporter. I laughed so much that my stomach and my face cheeks ache from laughing. There was good food, good Mariachi music and everyone liked this place that I recommended. You wanna see pictures? Check out Janet's Blog. More on this later

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hey, did you guys hear about this?

Check out this link: Viagra spill revives Lake Michigan.

Other Mumbo Jumbo...

I found this interesting Web location called IdiomSite.com. It takes common phrases used in modern conversation and tells of their supposed origins. I think a lot of it is the kind of bunk you find in chain emails. Some of it, however, is interesting. For instance:

Mumbo Jumbo -- From Mama Dyanbo, a Mandingo god...meaning 'nonsense.'

Peeping Tom -- A peeping tom or 'a voyeur' comes from the story of Lady Godiva's ride in the nude through Coventry, when a tailor named Tom spied on her.

College was six years ago?!

The old college radio station finally has a decent-looking Web site. Makes me proud but I understand the old radio station is struggling. Working there was so much fun. I enjoyed that more than anything else I ever did in college. I so looked forward to jamming all my cd's into a duffle bag (as well as a couple bottles of beer wrapped up so they didn't clink together) and climbing that eternally-long staircase to the radio station.

I miss the old partners Rob and Chris and helpers Tony and Kevin. Actually, I miss all my friends from college, especially from the last couple of years. It's amazing that I haven't talked to some of them in three years or more. I swore that wouldn't happen, but it did anyway.

I've resolved to contact them -- and not just because the wedding is coming up but just to talk. It would be nice to learn what everyone's been up to.

There is definitely a bra showing.

So I went and found the pictures on the blog of the woman featured in my last post. They were kind of suggestive so I can see why Delta had to let her go. I can't imagine what would happen if somebody from my company did that. Actually, I can but it makes me ill -- most people on that end of the business are pot-bellied, middle-aged men. Ew.

This is interesting (excerpted)

Fired For Blogging
NEW YORK, March 7, 2005

(AP) Flight attendant Ellen Simonetti and former Google employee Mark Jen have more in common than their love of blogging: They both got fired over it.

Simonetti had posted suggestive photographs of herself in uniform, while Jen speculated online about his employer's finances. In neither case were their bosses happy when they found out.

Though many companies have Internet guidelines that prohibit visiting porn sites or forwarding racist jokes, few of the policies directly cover blogs, or Web journals, particularly those written outside of work hours.

"There needs to be a dialogue going on between employers and employees," said Heather Armstrong, a Web designer fired for commenting on her blog about goings on at work. "There's this power of personal publishing, and there needs to be rules about what you can or cannot say about the workplace."

On blogs, which are by their very nature public forums, people often muse about their likes and dislikes — of family, of friends, of co-workers.

Currently, some 27 percent of online U.S. adults read blogs, and 7 percent pen them, according to The Pew Internet and American Life Project.

With search engines making it easy to find virtually anything anyone says in a blog these days, companies are taking notice — and taking action.

Last fall, Simonetti posted photographs of herself posing in a Delta Air Lines uniform inside a company airplane, her bra partly revealed in one. She was fired weeks later.

And in January, Jen was fired by Google over a blog that discussed life at the company, even though he said "it's all publicly available information and my personal thoughts and experiences."

Upon reflection, Jen said, he understood Google's concerns, given readers' tendencies to read between the lines and draw conclusions based on "random comments I made."

He said he hoped his case would prompt workers to "talk to their managers at length about blogging before they begin."

Simonetti said she still doesn't know what she did wrong, saying that plenty of employee Web sites and dating profiles identify Delta and include photos in uniform.

"If there is a policy against this, why weren't all these people punished before?" she said.

Delta and Google officials would only say that Simonetti and Jen no longer worked for them.

The First Amendment only restricts government control of speech. So private employers are free to fire at will in most states, as long as it's not discriminatory or in retaliation for whistle-blowing or union organizing, labor experts say.

A few companies actually do encourage personal, unofficial blogs and have policies defining do's and don'ts for employees who post online. They recognize that there can be value in engaging customers through thoughtful blogs.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The wedding marches on

August 6, 2005. That's when Katie and I will be married, and time is quickly running out. That's exactly five months from yesterday. Yikes! We booked the reception hall and church, and lined up most of the wedding party fairly early on. Thinking we had more time to prepare, we sort of put everything else off until now. But there was progress this weekend. On Saturday we booked a video guy and I'm really looking forward to the finshed product. He does this on the side, but he's really quite good at it.

For those who don't know, my brother is getting married on the same day. Plans are progressing swimmingly. Anyway, he and his lovely bride-to-be are coming in at the end of the month to do some wedding-type planning and to order cakes and flowers and yadda yadda yadda. Should be fun. My mom is throwing them a shower at the Jovial Club in the old neighborhood, were my mom and most of her generation had their their respective wedding receptions. It's kind of a throwback to the old days. Nice.

Friday, March 04, 2005

More blogging fun

My trusted friend and former colleague, Janet, has her own blog. It was "Janie" who inspired me to hasten plans for my own blog after seeing how well hers was done. I'll probably borrow ideas from her from time to time. Check out Janet's Blog.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

I will not be shellfish!

That's it. After some laborious soul-searching and a thorough examination of my conscience, I have decided to take the plunge and become a member of PETA. Before you scoff when you remember that I love steak and hamburger, you may wonder what PETA actually stands for. People Eating Tasty Animals. Hand to God, it's a real group -- or at least they have their own PETA Web site, so they must be legitimate. Right?

I think it absolutely hysterical that a smart-thinking lover of meat would come up with an idea so crafty as to play off that popular anti-cruelty bunch using a similar acronym. Let it be known, I am against cruelty to any thing in general, but these folks seem more interested in wacky publicity and radicalism than they do in preventing cruelty to animals. It's the method I disagree with, not the message.

In a recent news story from a Seattle television station about that freakishly-large Lobster that was found in New England, both PeTA and PETA were quoted. That other group urged the lobster's handlers to release Bubba back into the briny deep. People Eating Tasty Animals had another idea, offering the lobster's owner top dollar for the gargantuan crustacean. At Tuesday's price of $14.98 a pound, Bubba would retail for about $350, the story said.

If you want to read about Bubba, click here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Metra to open doors on top executive's salary talks

By Virginia Groark
Tribune staff reporter

March 2, 2005

Metra board members will take action on the 2005 salary of its executive director for a second time at an upcoming board meeting, but this time it will be done in public.

Agency officials made that decision at the request of an Illinois assistant attorney general who said a previous decision made in December violated the Open Meetings Act. Though Metra officials do not agree with the opinion, the board will abide by the request at an undetermined future board meeting, agency spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said Tuesday.

"Because the attorney general's office is making the recommendation that we do this in a public forum, certainly we will comply with the recommendation, and we will take an official vote on the matter at a future meeting," she said.

The first decision on the salary of Executive Director Philip Pagano and Deputy Executive Director Richard Tidwell was reached in a consensus during executive session Dec. 17. After a reporter complained, the attorney general's office looked into it and decided the action should have been taken in public, according to a Feb. 28 letter from Assistant Atty. Gen. Terry Mutchler.

In the letter, Mutchler said even though Metra Chairman Jeffrey Ladd has the authority to grant the raises he does not do so without informing the board and receiving its approval.

"It is our position that board action was necessary to move forward with the salary changes, and as such, the board was required to take action in an open meeting," Mutchler wrote.

Mutchler asked the board to correct its behavior by taking up the issue in public at a regularly scheduled board meeting and offered to conduct a training session on the Open Meetings Act.

From 1996 to 2004, Pagano and Tidwell received bonuses in addition to base pay increases. In the December executive session, the board agreed the level of pay was appropriate but decided to eliminate the practice of giving bonuses, or so-called non-based payments.

Ultimately, Ladd decided to pay Pagano $243,678 for 2005, up from the $238,900 he received last year, which included a $40,000 bonus. Tidwell's salary was increased to $217,770, up from the $213,000 he received last year that included a $35,000 bonus.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Railfans on the warpath

I was quoted in the latest edition of "Train's," the most well-known railroad fan magazine. I used to be a railfan once. Remember that? Well, not any more. Having worked for a major railroad that runs real trains, I have seen firsthand what a bunch of buffoons these railfans are.

"It is my understanding that the policy is not to obstruct anyone from photographing our trains from public areas," I was quoted in the article as saying. "It has been communicated to the Metra police that there is a working understanding that individuals taking photographs on the platform is acceptable, within reason. Safety [of customers and employees] is the No. 1 concern. Any individuals posing a safety threat to themsleves or others will be reprimanded."

Listen, we live in different times. If you wanna take pictures of trains, be prepared to have a chat or two with police who want to know what you're doing. It isn't normal for someone to stand at a roadside at all hours with a camera around his neck waiting for trains to come by so he can photograph them. There's nothing wrong with the fact that you do enjoy these types of activities, but please try to understand, most people don't share your enthusiasm for those noisy nuisances that tend to block streets for long periods of time.