Monday, April 30, 2007

Slow News Day

I say we ban Mondays. Let's have double Saturdays instead.

I'm done with the whole "yakking about my days as a wee lad" thing for now, I'm not really ready to face politics yet, and I'm at a loss for something to blog about.

I mean... sure, I could talk about Bob Woolmer being poisoned, and I could probably tie it into a somewhat amusing anecdote about the time I narrowly missed killing a frat boy with a cricket ball, or the time we made the university remove all their novelty "EIU Cricket Club" shirts from the university bookstore. But do any of you care about cricket? Probably not. I used to enjoy playing cricket, and even I'm not interested in cricket.

I could talk about the fact that the Supreme Court just said it is OK for US companies to violate US patents as long as they do it outside of the United States, and I could turn it into a rant about how much Microsoft sucks or how retarded the Supreme Court has become. But you all know that Microsoft sucks and that the Supreme Court has the moral authority of a goat molester, and the whole thing borders on politics anyway.

You also know that the goverment lies about progress in Iraq, that Wolfowitz is a corrupt hypocrite, and that Pollyanna Petraeus has completely sacrificed his credibility in order to support the administration. Politics, Politics, Politics. Not today, OK?

And I should really let Johnny blog about the Chelsea Flower Show's tribute to Iggy Pop, especially since it involves Lust For Life.

I'm at a loss.

Suggestions, anyone?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Variations On A Theme

One more school post to finish out the week. My mother was mortified when I told this story on a recent visit home. It was the first time she'd heard it.

Again with the background... I'll be quick because there are only a two relevant facts that my mom knew that you don't. a) Once upon a time, my brother was a painter. He was pretty good at it; he ended up getting a fine arts degree. b) There were two art teachers at my high school. I had them both. There was Mrs. Lathrop, the redheaded divorcee with the sporty red vintage Mustang convertable. I'm guessing she had a good lawyer. I had her first. Then there was crusty old Mrs. Lowe, who had been at the school forever. I had her second.

See, I said I'd be quick. Now that you're up to speed...

One day after school, I was walking down the hall, minding my own business, when I passed the two art teachers, deep in conversation. Out of nowhere, Mrs. Lowe interrupted their conversation to tell me "You know, you're not nearly as good a painter as your brother."

Without missing a beat, I responded "That's OK, you're not nearly as good an art teacher as Mrs. Lathrop," and kept walking, leaving poor Mrs. Lathrop in stitches while Mrs. Lowe just stood there at a loss for words.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

His Royal Highness, The Second Lieutenant

Friends of Prince Harry have said that he will not quit the Army if he is given a desk job in Iraq instead of dodging IEDs. He will merely be "very disappointed".

Hundreds of British troops in Iraq responded "We can quit?"

The First Assignment I Ever Blew Off Out Of Boredom

(But not the last...)

Continuing on the educational theme, I thought I'd tell you about one of my earliest run-ins with the educational system. For some reason it made a strong impression on me. It probably has something to do with my genetic predisposition toward holding a grudge. I was going to pop in a link there, but I haven't talked about it yet, so you'll have to take my word for it. It's closely tied to my family's genetic predisposition toward jackassery, as you may well imagine.

In any case, a little background: Kindergarten was optional in my school district, and because I was the last child (Surprise, Ma!), my mom decided to skip it so she could spend more time with me. Go figure...

So it came to pass in the first few days of first grade that my teacher gave a little pep talk to impress upon us the benefits of a public education. Her talk progressed in the vein of asking a series of rhetorical questions about things that we were unable to do, but would be able to do after first grade. You know, things like "How many of you could change a tire before you came to school?" or "How many of you could solve differential equations before you came to school?" or something along those lines... my memory grows dim. The one that sticks in my mind is when she asked "How many of you could read before you came to first grade."

I had not twigged to the fact that these were supposed to be rhetorical questions, so I raised my hand, prompting the kind of response that one normally associates with Dickensian stories about orphans and workhouses. In front of the whole class she snapped back that I most certainly could not read before I came to school, and proceeded to chew me out for interrupting her spiel.

I was taken aback, but because I was raised in a household where one did not tell grownups when they are acting like an ass, I held my tongue.

A few days later, we began doing assessments for reading and math placement and being able to walk along a board without falling off. I guess that last one was for P.E. placement. I never figured that one out. One of the tasks was, and I kid you not, to count as high as we possibly could. She made a big deal over the kid who first reached 100. And the second.

It came to my turn. I started counting. Around 20 or so, I realized how staggeringly pointless this was. I briefly considered explaining place values to her. However, given her reaction to the whole "I can already read" thing, I thought that bringing up "I already understand place values" would probably not go over well. I started wondering at what point I should stop counting. I don't recall my exact thought process, but I'm pretty sure that it went something like this: "I could keep going with this pointless excercise until I hit a hundred to get the praise that she'd given the other kids, or I could show everyone up and just count until she has to ask me to stop... or I could just stop now and spend the rest of the time until lunch thinking rude comments about the really dumb kids."

I stopped and sat down.

Now, one would think that she would have the grace to apologize for her outburst when the reading aptitude results came back. One would be wrong. However, she did borrow a reading book from the fifth graders and let me have my own reading group. It was the closest she came to admitting she was wrong.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chinese Students Are Good At Math

The BBC reports that the Royal Society of Chemistry says Chinese kids are better at math than English kids. Racist bastards! Somebody at the Royal Society of Chemistry should get fired. I think we can do without hurtful racial stereotypes in this day and age. I don't see why a chemistry society is commenting on math anyway.

They're offering 500 pounds to someone who can answer a question from a Chinese university entrance exam, so sharpen your pencils. That's nearly 227 kilograms!

It turns out that they cut the American math test from their original story. Lucky for you, my sources at the BBC had access to the unedited version of the story. Here it is, in a Dead Spot exclusive:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

That's All Right, That's OK...

Let me warn you now. There will be rambling.

I've been thinking a lot about my soccer team recently. One of the kids on my team had his Bar Mitzvah about a week and a half ago. He talked about soccer in his speech, and lots of people talked to me about soccer that day. People I had never met knew me as the soccer coach. I think the nicest thing anyone said was that the soccer team has been the core that has held his group of friends together for so long. I've been coaching many of these kids since they were 5, and I've only got 2 and a half seasons before I turn them over to the high school.

Let the rambling begin.

I have a soccer game this afternoon, and I'll be missing about a third of my team. There's a band concert that starts right about the same time our game ends, and the kids will be there. The kids on the team are nice, smart kids, and they're into a lot of stuff.

Being nice is a great trait for future citizens. It's been a thorn in my side since day one. They aren't going to run through the ball, because it means that the other kid is probably going to end up knocked on his ass. The kids on other teams don't have this same concern. My kids have broken through the defense and stopped to make sure that the other kid is OK instead of heading for the goal while I gnashed my teeth on the sideline. It doesn't matter how often I repeat the referee's mantra that you play hard until the ref blows the whistle, and then you play a little less hard the next time. They just won't foul the obnoxious little psycho on the other team no matter how much he deserves it or what the ref is allowing. They don't talk smack on the field, and they get mad when the other team does. They're nice kids. Oh, they'll kill each other in practice, but they'll only treat their friends that way.

Ramble on...

We were playing Taboo with the kids and in-laws a couple of weeks ago. I nailed "sunglasses" with a pretty credible imitation of Corey Hart that lasted all of three words. But the weirdest moment for me was when my son got "lawyer" with this exchange:

"My friends' parents are these."
"No! The other one!"

How weird is it that lawyer is "the other" profession after professor/scientist? I have a lot of really bright kids on my team. Sports is usually not their top priority, they're into lots of stuff.

Crap. I literally just had another parent email to tell me that their kid is going to be at the band concert. I can't field a full team now no matter what happens, even if everybody else does show up. I'm down to 10 players for the first half, 8 for the second. Two players are going to race from the field to the concert at half-time.

So where was I? Other activities? One of my players just came back to the team after taking a couple of years off from soccer. Part of the time, he had a conflict with fencing. Fencing, how cool is that? I should take up fencing. That would totally rock. Maybe in about 13 months. If Lex still played violin, we'd have at least half the team playing a musical instrument.

Here's the thing: there was a time, not so long ago, when we were the dominant team in our park district league. Then the league gutted our team to "balance the teams". They took most of our best players and gave them to other teams. None of our kids play club soccer, because they don't like the attitude of the kids that play on the local traveling club. To be fair, most of those kids are assholes. Don't look at me like that. There are plenty of adults who are assholes. They probably started out as kids that were assholes. Some kids are assholes. We all know it, I'm just the one saying it out loud ...metaphorically speaking. I also get a lot of the kids who are just starting soccer, probably because the parents know that I'll give their kids the same amount of playing time as everyone else on the team. We're a rec league; we're supposed to do that. If your kid plays on another team, good luck with that.

We've gone for a while without a good season. In fact, we've gone a couple of seasons without a win. Honestly, this will probably be another one. Now, the most competitive kids (or at least, the kids with the most competitive parents) develop "scheduling conflicts" and end up on another soccer team. That's OK. I'd rather have players with a great attitude and a terrible record than a terrible attitude and a great record. That said, I wouldn't mind winning one now and then. This year we're all seventh graders in a seventh and eighth grade league. Those eighth graders are huge. Maybe next year when we're all eighth graders, unless the park district decides to balance the team again.

A long time ago, I named our team after the Chicago Fire (the soccer team, not the disaster... Stop that, I do the jokes here.), but I'm beginning to think that I named them after the wrong Illinois team. I think maybe we're Northwestern...

OK, that's what I get for not following college sports. It appears that Northwestern may actually have a pretty good soccer team. Lord help us, I think we might be the Cubs.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sheryl Crow: Toilet Fascist

It appears that the Beeb reported a joke as a serious suggestion. Sheryl Crow stated yesterday that the suggestions quoted from her website were a joke. What is the world coming to when we can no longer mock our celebrities with the assurance that their foolish statements have been accurately reported in the correct context? Because my journalistic standards are so much higher than the BBC's, I've beaten them to the punch with a retraction.

Well played, Ms. Crow.

Sheryl Crow has decided to weigh in on important world issues. Finally, a B-list celebrity who has thoughts on world events and is unafraid to share them. Now we can make some progess.

First up: she's decided that you should only use one square of toilet paper per visit. Come on, even Rimmer used three: one up, one down, and one to polish. She spent "the better part of her tour" working on this, and this is what she has come up with to stop global warming: We should all smell of ass.

"I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting," she said. I'll not make a joke about the paperwork involved in legislating and enforcing this. I'm sure you can write your own.

Next up: We should wear clothing with detachable "dining sleeves" so that we can wipe our mouths on our sleeves at dinner instead of using napkins. Um, Sheryl... manners don't cause global warming.

Coincidentally, Sheryl has designed a line of clothing with dining sleeves. I'm guessing she won't face much competition in the niche demographic of "People who are uncouth enough to wipe their face on their sleeve, but still care enough not to want everyone to know what they had for dinner."

No word from Sheryl on the waste and ground water polution generated in the production of vaguely folkish alterna-rock CDs and fake blondes, but maybe she can work on that during her next tour.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Buddha Meets A Hot Dog Vendor On The Road

He says "Make me one with everything."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

IMDB Can Just Go To Hell

I was following Vikki's link to Brick when IMDB decided that what I really wanted to see was a full page flash ad for Disturbia.


In fact, I'd go so far as to say "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!" and smack them on the nose with a newspaper like a dog that just peed on the rug, if that was the kind of thing one could do to a website. (Note to self: Invent remote, web-enabled, newspaper-smacking computer peripheral. Deliver smacking. Make millions.)

I mean, thanks for the glimpse into a freakish horrible parallel universe where Rear Window was made by talentless hacks, but no thanks. I have my own freakish horrible parallel universe flashbacks to deal with. I don't need your help.

What I want from you when I click on a link to information about a movie is, in point of fact, information about that movie, not information about some completely different movie. If I want information about random shit, I will click on a random shit link. Until then, make with the info and make it snappy, Sunshine.

Hey, DJ, Spin That Wheel!

You know the drill because you've probably already done it on your blog: seven songs you're into rightaboutnow, funk soul brother. Not your seven favorite songs ever. Not seven songs that will make you seem cooler to your blog friends.

I consider myself a punk rock kind of guy. In fact, I briefly toyed with the idea of naming this blog "White Suburban Punk Like Me," after one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie. However, I find a somewhat disturbing lack of punk in my list.

In an effort to actually list the songs I'm into and avoid any street-cred salvaging posturing, I've enlisted the help of my iPod. By checking my most frequently played songs and highest rated songs, I think I have a list that represents what I'm actually looking for when I'm cycling through the artist list. The first four were easy. The next two were pretty clear. Deciding the last song was tough. Anything I put in there would knock all of the other options off the list. I played musical chairs until I decided to stop writing.

In case you haven't heard them, I put in youtube links, just like you're going to rush off and listen to them on my recommendation. Hubris!

Bull in the Heather: Sonic Youth
Kim Gordon offers up a master class on counting by tens. The other woman in the video? Jump down three slots, it's Kathleen Hanna.

Destroy Everything You Touch: Ladytron
Sing me Bulgarian techno. Hurray for the end of the cold war.

Jumpers: Sleater-Kinney
I love the crunchy distortiony guitars in the chorus. Yes, that is too a word... now. I'm also taken with the phrase "the golden spine of engineering." I believe I've already mentioned that I'm a geek.

TKO: Le Tigre
If I didn't know better, I'd almost think this was a mid-eighties song, but I'd be off by a couple of decades. I do know better, and now, so do you. You know... if you didn't know before I told you. Just so we're all on the same page here.

I Just Wanna Have Something to Do: Garbage
My Favorite Manson covers the Ramones, what more could I want? The link is to a crappy bootleg live version, the one on my iPod is off the We're A Happy Family tribute CD, so I win!

Tribulations: LCD Soundsystem
I also like North American Scum and Daft Punk Is Playing At My House, but this is my go-to song by LCD Soundsystem.

Caramel: Suzanne Vega
OK, I've changed this last spot over and over. This is the one I had down when the time ran out. There are lots of other songs that could go here. The link is to a live version which is, in my opinion, not even remotely as good as the original. She's fine, but the band sucks. What can you expect from a Swiss jazz festival, besides pocket knives with a scat attachment? Her voice is the best thing about this song anyway.

The tag stops here. You've already done it, don't feel like doing it, or don't like being tagged. Am I Wrong? (OK, that was just cheating... and the link sucks) If I am wrong, you're next.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Excerpt From an Iraqi Blog

I will not be posting today out of respect for the victims of yesterday's tragedy.

I will not be posting today out of respect for the victims of yesterday's tragedy.

I will not be posting today out of respect for the victims of yesterday's tragedy.

I will not be posting today out of respect for the victims of yesterday's tragedy.

I will not be posting today out of respect for the victims of yesterday's tragedy.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Note to Self:

As an image hosting service, tinypic sucks.

I don't care if it is free. Suck is as suck does.

OK, enough with the whining. I logged in this morning to find that tinypic screwed up my new layout (which, now that I've seen it on a decent monitor, is a little more "tomato soup" and a little less "curry spicy hot" than I was looking for. I believe tweaks are in order...) I spent the morning fixing broken stuff, breaking unbroken stuff, and adding technorati to my sidebar, which is as far down the blogwhore road as I am willing to go at this point.

I may have real content later, but I have to coach this evening, so I may be preparing for our game instead of blogging. In lieu of actual entertainment, I offer up this not-entirely hypothetical question:

Say you're from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and you somehow stumble across this blog. What the hell do you make of it?

Because I'm an accomodating guy, here is a little Belo Horizonte content for my unknown chum from Brazil, just in case he comes back. Better late than never...

Did you know that when the United States beat England 1-0 in Belo Horizonte during the 1950 World Cup, many newspapers in England assumed the scoreline was a mistake? Many papers reported it as a 1-0 win for England, while others (assuming a typo in the wire feed), reported it as United States-1, England-10. Ha! Silly British persons! Joe Gaetjens owns Stanley Matthews.

Belo Horizonte is the capital of Minas Gerais. It turns out that Minas Gerais is neither that guy from The Office nor the capital of Gondor, but is actually a state in Brazil.

Now you know... and Knowledge is Power!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Family Swap, Next on Fox

Hey, everyone, meet my new Uncle Fafo. I got him from Tanya Espana for a third-round draft pick and a relative to be named later. It turns out Tanya is my identical cousin from Canadia. Who knew?

For a limited time only, you too can become a member of my family by sharing one of your relatives, or you can simply foist off one of your relatives on me. The ideal relative will be low-maintenance, have entertaining stories (either stories to tell me or for me to tell about them, I'm not picky), and be far enough away that we won't actually be expected to drop in on each other. Hop over to the comments section and start negotiating now!

I still have my former brother-in-law Jimmy the Terrible up for grabs. He's actually much quite a bit ...err... slightly more tolerable now that we've housebroken him and he's stopped peeing in the garage. For some reason, Tanya didn't want him... but I'm sure someone will. Every family needs a good black sheep.

I have a nephew in a punk band, but I'm keeping him unless a really good offer comes along. Teenagers who are influenced by the Dead Kennedys and the Ramones are hard to come by.


I was busy fiddling with my layout, but I promise I'll have some actual content later.

In the meantime, what do you think? Better? Worse?

Once I fix this, I might even get around to updating other things too. Go me!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Ha. It turns out I had something to share on Monday after all. Witness the glory that is the Monkey Chant:

I found this over at Megan's blog while blog hopping the other day. I'd been planning to post it on Monday and then completely forgot about it. I'm posting it now to distract you from my substandard Vonnegut post cheer everyone up.

Hey, look! A monkey!

Breakfast of Champions

The Bush Administration are assholes. Assholes look like this.

Goodbye, Kurt. We'll miss you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Theater! Theater!

Johnny Cash's old house, now owned by one of the Bee Gees (You'll have to figure out which one. I can't tell them apart.), burned down yesterday. I'll leave the Ring of Fire jokes to less sophisticated media outlets.

Apparently, it burned really quickly because they had applied a flammable wood preservative. Now, I'm no expert in home renovation, but I do know this much about wood: it's made of wood. Making it more flammable is probably not your best preservation option.


I'm not wild about our presidential candidates' chances.

Don't hate me.

Have you seen the Republicans' numbers? Wow, those assholes are screwed. They have drunk deep from the River Suck. We'd have to do something monumentally boneheaded to blow this next election. So why am I already getting depressed, aside from the real possibility that they might just steal yet another election?

Because what we really need to do this election is to kick their ass hard. I mean, really, really crush them; get their faces down in the dirt and just grind it in. We need to put our foot on their neck and keep those fuckers out of power for at least the next twenty or thirty years, because it is going to take a long time for those right-wing assholes on the Supreme Court to die, and it would be just spiffing if we could hold onto the other branches in government to keep them on a short leash while we wait. I don't know about you, but I'd like my kids to still have a few civil liberties left when they're my age. I'd feel good about that.

If we want to hold onto power for twenty or thirty years instead of four or eight, we're going to have to convert some middle-of-the-road Republicans into middle-of-the-road Democrats. There are a lot of disillusioned Republicans right now. If we can get them to vote Democrat and not have it all turn to shit, then there is a good chance that they'll re-elect the person they voted for. And then, well, they've been voting Democratic for almost a decade... if they still like the person they elected twice, they might vote for another Democrat. That's how you stay in power.

So who are the Democratic front-runners? Oh... right. Shit.

What do all of the past presidents have in common? Can you spot it? They're all white. And they're all dudes. At this point, the record of political parties running white dudes can be called, without fear of contradiction, "fairly solid".

Unless I missed a conference call on the eradication of racism and gender-bias, this probably isn't going to help our chances. Why is it that Democrats are so much better at actually running the country, but don't know the first thing about running an election campaign? Do we really have to start by handing them a wedge issue?

Candidates, meet me over at camera three...

I know I said in the past that you should run, Hillary, and I was serious then. It's not like the Republicans can find any new dirt on you at this point, right? But the American people, they're not so into you. Some of us are, baby, don't look at me like that, but those other guys just don't like you "that way". You know, the voting way. Any other election, and I'm behind you, babe. But the stakes are high, and we just can't afford to take a chance on this one. We couldn't get Geraldine Ferraro elected vice-president, and people didn't hate her nearly as much as they hate you.

And Barak, dude... Seriously? You're still a freshman congressman. Freshmen don't get to be homecoming queen. I know all your advisors are telling you to capitalize on your popularity. But you know what? If you've already peaked in your first term, I'm not so sure I want you to run the country. If you even think that you've peaked, you're probably not the right guy for the job. When you're going toe-to-toe with Putin, you don't want to be wondering if your best years are already over. You have no idea how angry it makes me that you are pissing away a great political career by running for president now.

Just think about what I said... and Hillary, hon, if you ever dump that skirt-chasing doofus, call me.

OK, I'm back.

Look, I'm what one of my old poli-sci professors described as a Yellow Dog Democrat: I'd vote Democrat even if they ran an old yellow dog. I'll vote for them. That was never a question. I like both of them. They'd probably both be good presidents, but they're lousy candidates. If one of them wins, I'll be happy as a clam. ...probably because I'll also be counting my lottery winnings with my supermodel trophy mistress at my villa on Mars.

Just promise me this. When they lose, nobody on either campaign ever gets to work in politics again, OK?

Let something good come out of this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Around the World in 80 Words

'Woman' Bomber Hits Iraq Police - Nobody reports good news from Iraq: they're making progress toward women's rights.

Weblogs 'Need Content Warnings' - Fuck you, Tim O'Reilly.

Many Dieters 'Finish Up Heavier' - More news from the nutrition journal Duh.

China Slams US Piracy Complaint - US files complaint with WTO. Chinese complaint nearly identical, much cheaper.

Text Message Boss Killed In Crash - Oh, I hope he was talking on his cell phone...

Australia to Double Afghan Force - Now sending six baby-eating dingoes.

Heard In The Car

Lex: "It's not my legs, I just don't have the lungs."
Zoe: "I have the lungs, it's just my knees."
Lex: "Put us together and we're a great runner."
Zoe (incredulous): "What are you talking about? Put us together and we suck!"


Zoe: "Oh... Wait. I see what you mean. (laughs too) I guess I was doing the glass-half-empty thing..."

Monday, April 9, 2007

Monday Morning Blahs

Blah, blah, blah. It's a dismal gray morning and I don't feel funny at all. So, instead of my usual snarky take on the news, adventures in editing, or tales of some childhood trauma, you get another episode of Cooking With Deadspot. Enjoy!

A few posts ago, I mentioned in passing that my daughter Zoe and I made something for her world studies class that my wife described as Indian Salsa. It's actually kind of a chunky yogurt-less raita, more salsa in form than flavor, but it is pretty tasty. Zoe's class is covering southern asia right now, and they all brought in something to share. This was her contribution. WP (Three blogs?!? I'm barely interesting enough for one...) wanted the recipe ...and since I'm strapped for content today (it was this or another round of "What's on my iPod"), I'll share it with everyone instead of posting it in the comments.

(This was from memory, so I had to fix it later. Let me know how it turned out if you tried it the other way...)

Indian Salsa
1 cucumber
2 tomatoes
6-8 green onions

Peel the cucumber and dice into roughly salsa-sized chunks. (I didn’t measure, but the biggest slices ended up as 16 pieces, 3 cuts in each direction.) Ditto for the tomatoes, except they’re going to be even sloppier. Slice the green onions into thin rings. Toss all of these in a bowl.

1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro

Just before serving, mix, pour the dressing over the veggies, and toss again.
(You could probably double everything but the cilantro in the dressing and be fine. There isn’t a lot of liquid for the amount of veggies, and it all settles to the bottom anyway. More dressing would make it easier to mix the flavors, but if you double the cilantro you probably won't taste anything else.)

2 Tablespoons salted dry-roasted peanuts, crushed (we used the back of a wooden spatula on a cutting board to crush them, and it was easy-peasy.)

Sprinkle over the top at the last minute and serve.

It works as a nice cucumber salad by itself, but Zoe said that her class loved it as a dip for tortilla chips (no, I don't know why there were tortilla chips on hand unless someone was badly confused about their geography), and I bet it would be good on top of flatbread or in a pita.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

How Is That Even Possible?

It's official: conditions at Guantanamo are actually getting worse. Is there nothing the Bushies can't make worse? Where do they go from here? I fear that this can only end in show tunes.

I find it profoundly depressing that I live in a country that has to be told by Amnesty International that, "While the United States has an obligation to protect its citizens... that does not relieve the United States from its responsibilities to comply with human rights."

I don't like living in a country with secret courts. I don't like living in a country that ignores international law. I don't like living in a country that is a violator of human rights. Aren't these the sorts of things that we are supposed to be against?

Wait... did you feel that? I think that was the Axis of Evil shifting.

Chitown Weekend, part 2

We found the Yen place right where Johnny had said it would be. Adam answered the door, and Lex and I finally met Kim and Mel. (They're nice. You'd like them.) Johnny appeared from the back yard to announce the fire was lit, I shared my new-found knowledge about the Kennedy and the Dan Ryan (which resulted in confusion all around, as I failed to provide any context), we found out just how much slack Kim and Mel had in their schedule (not much), and Johnny and I dashed off to the Jewels for provisions.

I think it was at about this point, on the road to the Jewels, that we first used what would become something of a catchphrase for the weekend. “All it takes is to not be a dick.” “That’s all it takes.” (The other catchphrase was, of course, “Did you know that the Dan Ryan and the Kennedy are the same highway?”) It seems like such obvious advice, and it applies to so many situations in life, but some people never learn this simple lesson. Tony Blair, old roommates, assorted family members... all of you take note; it’s not that complicated. How do people get through life without learning this?

We got back, swapped supervisory roles with Kim, and I whipped up a batch of burgers while Johnny made a great little cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. Lex wants me to get the recipe. He denies that I’ve ever made anything similar: “The tomato makes the dish.” (Oddly enough, Zoe and I ended up making an Indian dish that uses a lot of the same ingredients a few days later for her world studies class. Sue described it as Indian Salsa. It was a big hit with the class. Zoe said it was fun and that she wants to help cook sometimes. We’ll see how long this enthusiasm lasts…) With the coals ready, we retired to the back yard to grill and catch up, and yak about things in the real world and the blogiverse.

After dinner, Johnny and I retired to the backyard to fire up the fire pit and take a stab at watching Shaun of the Dead on his laptop next to the fire. Alas, the volume couldn’t compete with the ambient noise, so we ended up watching it inside. (Note to the Department of Homeland Security: Equip every home with a cricket bat ASAP.) The boys hung out by the fire pit for a while before joining us for a little zombie violence (which is so much better than the regular kind).

After the Meat, Fire, and Violence trifecta, the only thing the evening needed to be the complete Boy’s Night Out™ was Booze. Johnny and I tromped off to imbibe, just beating the catastrophic downpour. Johnny introduced me to his colleagues, including Phil (of God’s Own Suburb fame), we had a few libations, and moved on to another bar after the rain died down.

We had a few more drinks, I admired the art in the men’s room (cartoony smoking bunnies, which is a pretty narrow niche for an artist to choose when you think about it), and we eventually made it back to the Yen place for some hard-earned rest.

I did not die crossing Western Avenue in either direction (Kim was worried).

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Weirdness and Wonder in the Deutsches Museum

Part 2 of Adventures in Chicagoland will come later... meaning that it will take longer to blog about them than it actually took to have them.

In any case, Johnny was talking about museums and airplanes and Germans and stuff, and it reminded me of something weird and wondrous and cool so I'm going to blog about that instead.

I love museums. I believe I've mentioned before that I'm a geek, so this should come as no surprise. So it transpired that when I went to Munich, I found myself in the Deutsches Museum. My German was, as they say in Deutschland, ganz rostig... (Do they really say that? I don't know. I said it there. Because I'm a geek.) ...still, given time, I could puzzle out some of the descriptions. I rarely got the time, because my colleague was less of a museum fan than I was, but we shambled through the museum admiring the displays and sometimes stopping to figure out half of what the display was about.

Now, in retrospect, the weird and wondrous thing should have come as no surprise, but I have been in so many museums that I have come to expect to see all the usual suspects. And so, when I turned the corner into the aerospace section of the museum, I was totally taken by surprise. I was in the 1940s part of the aerospace collection.

In Germany.

Instead of the usual Mustangs and Corsairs and B-17s on display, there were Junkers and Messerschmitts and Heinkels, oh my. There was an Me 262, the first jet fighter. There was a stubby little rocket-powered Komet, one of only ten left in the world (and now I'd seen 2 of them). The whole museum display paradigm that I was used to was tossed on its head because, of course, this was German aviation history, not American aviation history.

I was exhausted and jet-lagged and filled with wonder.

My coworker was ready to go to the giftshop.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Chitown Weekend, part 1

Saturday morning Lex and I had his first soccer game. Ouch. We drove back across town to catch Zoe's game. Ouch. Then we hit the highway for our road trip to Chicago, and everything turned around. The weather was great. The Ramones came on the radio right as we got on the highway, and then, once we got on I-57 (the alimentary canal of Illinois interstate highways) we listened to the History of the World Cup book on tape (combining our loves of history and soccer into one neat package).

I-57 between C-U and Chicago, if you haven't driven it, is about 2 hours of mind-numbing boredom. There are two kinds of scenery. You have your cornfields. And you have your bean fields. At this time of year, they are indistinguishable squares of dirt. I feel secure in stating this because, if you are a farmer who wishes to weigh in on the subtle differences, you probably aren't reading my blog.

Johnny had warned me about the construction on the Dan Ryan...

Let me digress, for those readers who are not from Illinois. Chicagoans love their interstate highways. They have names for them, like pets. All of them. Most are named after politicians great and small: The Kennedy, The Eisenhower, The Stevenson, The Dan Ryan, The Edens... but there are exceptions, like the Skyway. I think it started out as a scheme to confuse out of towners, but most Chicagoans that I've asked no longer have any idea what numbers go with what name either, so well done. Once you get them off the highway, their directions are fine, but until then, they might as well be speaking Swahili.

So... Johnny, construction, Dan Ryan, mapquest. Did I mention mapquest? Consider it mentioned. I hit mapquest to doublecheck the connections from I-57 to my exit to fill in the bit between "yeah, yeah, yeah, I drive here all the time" to "Oh yeah, street names, I should listen to this bit". On mapquest, they thoughtfully provide both the numbers and the names of the highways (or "expressways" in Chicagospeak, despite the fact that they often move more slowly than "roads" once enough people are actually using them...). I scrolled over to the highway. 90/94... Kennedy. Fabulous. Why was Johnny talking about the Dan Ryan? I'm coming in on the Kennedy.

I made great time, sailing up 57, changing to 94, and I was home free. I started seeing detour signs for Dan Ryan construction. Ha. Poor bastards. They ought to be driving on the Kennedy, like me. Then all forward motion sort of ground to a halt. The Dan Ryan? What the hell am I doing on the Dan Ryan? Stupid mapquest. I had Lex dig out the map and figure out how to use it to find out what highway we were actually on. Then I taught him how to fold a map. (First, find the crease that doesn't change from an up-crease to a down-crease. Fold there first. Now look for one that doesn't change after making that fold. Lather, rinse, repeat.)

The Dan Ryan and the Kennedy? Same highway. 90/94 is the Kennedy, but only north of the Loop. South of the loop, it's the Dan Ryan. No problem. I wasn't lost, just confused.

We made it through the bowels of the Interstate Highway system depite IDOT's best efforts to the contrary, onto the Kennedy and off it again, followed Johnny's directions, serendipitously found the only parking space on his street right at the corner, grabbed our stuff from the trunk, and sloped off toward the Casa del Yen to see Johnny and Adam and meet Kim and Mel.