Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Before clicking on the link, Take a guess!

Zach Wamp

Is it
1) An unsigned jam band?
2) A U.S. Congressman from Tennessee?
3) Harry Potter's latest nemesis?

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Hip deep in homework so a quickie blog here.

First of all, the Cubs won yesterday so we are all very excited here on the North Side of Chicago (southsiders are cranky and bitter because their White Sox came close but not close enough).

Someone on WBBM News Radio spoke with a ticket broker who said his cheapest seat for the playoff game against the Atlanta Braves is $325. The reporter found that 1)There are still tickets available at the box office for the games being played in Atlanta and 2)It's cheaper to fly to Atlanta, stay in a hotel, and see a game there than to buy the cheapest ticket from a broker here.

This is a common story in Chicago...we had the final pre-Broadway previews of THE PRODUCERS and once again, cheaper to fly to New York and see the show there than to buy tickets from brokers here.

I kinda, sorta root for The Cubs (I would have rooted for The Sox as well which marks me as a deeply unserious baseball fan, a charge I don't deny) but I really root for The Democrats which makes me especially proud of The DNC and their new blog which they call DNC: Kicking Ass.

I would prefer living in a culture that had respectful discourse between those who hold differing opinions. But since I live here, I'm thankful that my guys are showing a willingness to brawl.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I was chatting with a friend from high school this evening and she recommended that I look up a mutual, long-lost friend on Google. So I checked out Piper Kirk.

She was in all the musicals in high school and, if you click on her links, you will hear her original, country music songs which I am relieved to say are pretty good (well the one about Black Stetsons that I listened to was good).

Killer analogy AND personal revelation from the website:

If there's anything I recognize, it's a man in mid-life crisis. And I think that's exactly where Nashville is right now.

Also, Piper mentions this fact which she nails more succinctly than I have ever managed to do:

And by the way...Appalachia is spoken with short "a" sounds. The Cherokee had no long "a" sound in their language. Ya get high-falutin' like the weather channel does, and ya show your ignorance.


There have been several stories in the Chicago papers lately about crazy cat ladies, all of which I have intended to link to but I didn't so you'll just have to take my word for it. But I would like to point you to an older story, by Susan Orlean, about a crazy cat lady who keeps tigers rather than house cats. The term for this is animal hoarding and, according to Orlean, cats are the most commonly hoarded animals "although dogs, birds, farm animals, and, in one case, beavers, are hoarded as well. "

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Ooooh Oooooh child, things are gonna get easier,
Ooooh Oooooh child things'll get brighter
Someday, yeah, we'll put it together and we'll get it all done

This is the second day of getting things done.

I have this to say. Even if I have the most tenuous hope that my in-box, which is to say, that space beteween the easy chairs in my living room, never gets processed, I have some new insight into being me.

I don't think it won't get processed, rather, I don't think that it will be in some seamless, 48 hour endeavor.

Is this what it feels like when you are dyslexic and someone finally tells you "hey, here's why you couldn't read "Clifford The Big Red Dog" and here's what you can do about it"


This is what I thought about today, swimming laps:

"What if, actually, I wasn't a quitter and a failure, just someone who didn't get this particular instruction manual"

This is, I think, accurate, I discussed this once with my astrologer friend, Lillian.

"You feel like everybody else got an instruction manual except you," said Lillian, "and you are right, they did. However once you track down these instructions, LOTS of things will fall in place."

This is the other thing Lillian told me, she said, "You will be able to figure this out
in writing, that writing, that making words solid and permanent is your strong point and you will be able to use this to get what you need.

Oblique deck-bloggable yet?

This is more on the nerd tip than on the ultra-self-actualizing tip, but I bought what, I think, may be the ultimate wastebasket.

It is:

1) Bright red!
2) Cheap (less than $3!)
I almost bought it, at full price ($14) a few weeks ago, but the fact that it's on sale is all the better.

it's right here next to me, next to the rolling, 3 decked trolley that probably delivered municipal dinners in a previous life, it now handles my in box.

Let the record show, I toted a big-ass, red wastebasket from Evanston, IL to Chicago.

I like to swim there (Evanston) since their Y is the nicest with both one pool for kids and another pool for lap swimmers) and there is a nice, mall-esque center there next to the Dempster stop what with the faux SPAGGIO'S and the WORLD IMPORTS and the BORDERS and the aforementioned URBAN OUTFITTERS ("do you know where I am?" said a bona-fide shopper this afternoon, "on a chair! In Urban!")

In Urban. In Urban Outfitters, that Pier One of Gen X.

This? This is what I think.

I think the Baby Boomers made baldness acceptible. Have it close cropped or have none at all but no hair is a legitimate option.

I think Gen X will make paunches acceptible.

You've got guts, that's what I like about you.

Opinions? Options? Holla.

D. Reynolds

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Today is a day the nerd hath made.

I realize this is probably not a common Lottery fantasy but if I win The Big Game one of the first things I would do is hire a graduate student in library science, point him or her towards my piles, my files, my stacks and say "Figure something out" I have someone who cleans up my apartment. If I'm hungry I can go to a restaurant. But the organizing thing...papers, forms, on and on - how would I delegate that? "Figure out what I was thinking here and develop a system to let me use it if I want to".

I bought a how to get organized book. Actually it doesn't descirbe itself as an organizational book but rather a Getting Things Done book (that is, in fact, the title Getting Things Done). Surprise-"Organized" and "Effective" are old friends. These are not my strong suits, being organized or getting things done, and it was $5 used on Amazon.

The author, David Allen, makes a nice analogy early on...if you have a folder that you absolutely must bring with you to work then you probably put the folder in front of the door or under your keys. Rather than concentrate on "gotta remember folder, gotta remember folder" you just set up a foolproof system. Anyway the goal is to set up a system so that life's folders are waiting in front of their respective doors when it's time to go rather than keeping all that in your head.

As Allen says, this is more work than (you) have been doing but not as much work as you are afraid it will be.

This sounds good because I've never had much success with getting stuff organized. I have functioned pretty well but it's anxiety filled, the way I ensure that things get done is by worrying about them. I also make lists, keep calendars, track things on notes, etc. but it does not feel systematic or reliable.

He has some nice observations...for instance maintaining To-Do lists sorted not by project but by context (so instead of a to-do list for planning a vacation there are actions that go on the Make Phone Calls list, actions that go on the At The Computer list, actions that go on the Errands list, etc.) There is then a master list of projects, and so forth.

Although he has a large, scary flow chart that gets reproduced several times (If the object is not actionable it is then Garbage, To Be Pondered or Reference, if an object is actionable it is either to be Done, Delegated or Deferred onto a list and on and on) but other than the flowchart itself, he's not too dogmatic about any of this and it is all very common sense sounding, however it's common sense that has thusfar passed me by.

Today I did the first half which was make sure I had enough file space and that it was easy to access (no I didn't have either, again that would be common sense that I hadn't been using...oh yeah! Files! And something to hold them!) a label maker, and picked something to be my in-box.

Then I gathered everything into the in box ("everything" means something out of place that needs action...library books to be returned, a coat needing a replacement zipper, the Master Card bill, an electrical cord I couldn't readily identify...everything that is homeless and not rubbish). And while doing this wrote down on pieces of paper any random thoughts of stuff to do. Tomorrow, Sunday, I have to empty the in box (in reality a box and then an enormous pile in between the armchairs in my living room) and do all the list making, calendar commiting, and so forth described elsewhere in the book.

I'm told that I will really feel satisfied after doing that part, the lists and calendars and so forth, and I'm doubtful (that is one big-ass and unruly looking pile) but I was doubtful that I was going to like this collection part, all the assembling of these random things, that it would make me feel a sense of progress and accomplishment way out of proportion to the effort. But that's totally how I feel. So I'm cautiously hopeful about this next part.

Off to pizza and videos with a friend.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I'd like to be your one-stop blog for news of oversized rodents.

Here's an artist's rendering of a guinea pig the size of a buffalo (alas it lived 8 million years ago and visitors to modern day Venezuela cannot see one) and here's the article which points out that, among the predators this rodent, nicknamed "Goya" had to contend with, there were "huge, flesh-eating birds called phorracoids".

Okay that must be some HUGE flesh-eating bird if it's gonna go after a buffalo-sized rodent. Scientists believe that Goya was too big to burrow (no kidding) and couldn't outrun his predators.

Lastly I'd like to point out that Google does not have any matches for "Phorracoid" and when you inquire about "Huge, flesh-eating bird" you are directed to this site which is a collection of oral histories of Vietnam helicopter pilots.

Why the cover-up?!?

Saturday, September 13, 2003

There was a renovation at the downtown branch of the Chicago Public Library (the one named after former mayor Harold Washington) that took my two favorite departments...the multimedia department and "CPL Express" which had new releases into one large department featuring all the music CDs, DVDs, books on tape, and hot new books a fella could want.

While there I checked out the 4 DVD set of PBS's AN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: CHICAGO CITY OF THE CENTURY (the century, by the way, is 1800-1899) which totally rocks, in spite of being narrated by David Ogden Stiers.

So this is what I'm learning about my adopted hometown...early on Chicago attracted ambitous young men who didn't intend to remain, they just wanted to make their fortunes and leave (most ended up staying). Chicago wasn't necessarily better situated than Cleveland, St. Louis, or Milwaukee but it did have more of these ambitious young men. When the concept of The Railroad first appeared, Chicago had a critical mass of people willing to invest in this new venture with the result that all railroad lines connected to Chicago; it became the hub. If you were gonna go east or west, north or south, you had to pass through Chicago.

Chicago is all about introducing efficiency to America and the world. Cyrus McCormick develops a reaper as a way of harvesting wheat. Wheat apparently is easy to grow-just drop seeds on the ground-but a pain in the ass to harvest. Men would walk the fields whacking away at wheat stalks using sicles and scythes which then had to be collected. Lots of wheat would just die right there in the field. The McCormick reaper looked like a ferris wheel...rotating blades that would cut wheat in a path created by a horse pulling the reaper. This was a huge, huge efficiency. Later, the grain elevator (invented in Buffalo but put into widespread use in the midwest near and in Chicago) meant that grain could go straight from wagon load to storage to freight car rather than be packed into bags and handled in such relatively tiny units (a sack of grain would travel from the farm to a stream, from the stream to a river, from the river to a larger river, from that river's port to a freight car, from that frieght car etc.) thereby increasing efficiency.

Increasing Efficiency, on a large scale, always leads to a ton of money. Think of Silicon Valley, Microsoft, the internet boom and the growth in the 90's. Sure some of that was illusory but those gains in productivity are real. Imagine, for instance, a law firm without benefit of a word processor. Imagine life before computerized billing. What were things like before bar codes?

Chicago had this kind of innovation. How can we collect enough ice in order to process pork year-round and not just when it is cold? And now that we have said ice, how can we get enough pigs to keep busy? And then package those pork products. And then transport those products everywhere.

Steel and Petroleum get all the flashy credit for being old-school multinational industries but Pork was first. Before Chicago, pork was a local, intimate affair. Pork came from your pig or perhaps your neighbor's pig. The idea that pork could be a commodity, like a bolt of fabric or a bag of sugar was a new concept, one developed by Armour in Chicago.

The slaugherhouse was the precursor to the assembly line (Henry Ford visited the stockyards and adapted the ideas he saw there to his manufacturing lines in Detroit) with hogs tied by their feet to lines, their throats slit and their bodies cut into components. The slaughterhouses became attractions for tourists...appalling and impressive at the same time.

All the waste, by the way, was being dumped into the river and the river was so greasy it caught fire during the Great Fire of 1871.

Also some talk in this documentary of the immigrants, mostly Irish and German. The Irish were so loathed that black people would move out of a neighborhood if too many Irish moved in. The Irish came mostly to dig canals and sometimes the city didn't have the money to pay them and would issue bonds, allowing the bearer to buy property. Enough Irish collected bonds and bought property, a neighborhood on the South Side called Bridgeport, and did not remain itenerant, canal-digging labor but put down roots. Bridgeport remains an Irish enclave today. Mayor Daley (Sr.) raised his family, including Mayor Daley (Jr. and current mayor) along with 3 other of Chicago's mayors. In 1997, a black kid named Lenard Clark rode his bike through the neighborhood and was beaten to the point of brain damage by local kids.

Germans didn't speak English but had industrial training back home and generally assimilated more easily than the Irish. Both groups drank quite a bit but they each thought the other had drinking problems. Irish drank in a saloon, standing up and quickly, buying rounds for one another. The Germans drank sitting down, with families and they disdained the practice of buying rounds for one another, noting that it made people drink more than they might otherwise in order to keep pace with the group. Hence the concept of Dutch (Deutsch) Treat...paying for yourself.

The city was all built of wood and it went up quickly in the great fire of 1871. Here's something to think about in the wake of commemorating the disasters of 9/11. After the fire, fully 1/3 of Chicago's population, or 100,000 people were left homeless. This, of course, in the time before coordinated public assistance efforts.
How does it feel to be on the cutting edge?
From a BBC online supplement called "Ten Things We Didn't Know This Time Last Week" says:

Blogs are just the thing, aren't they? Well, no offence intended, but no. Research by analysts Forrester has confirmed that blogs have a mighty long way to go before they can possibly be thought of as mainstream. Just 21% of Americans who have internet access had heard of a blog and fewer than 2% visited them regularly.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Johnny Cash and John Ritter?

a day that will live in infamy

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Sometimes I feel old.

I heard a journalist on NPR this afternoon. She's written a book called NOT MUCH JUST CHILLIN' about middle school kids. One of the topics she was talking about was Grinding which she described as a girl and boy on the dance floor and he stands behind her, writhing into her butt while kids circle around chanting, "Go (girl's name), Go (girl's name)."

I just discussed this with a 20 year old friend of mine who chuckled and said, "certainly you know about grinding?!?" Uhm, no. The circling and chanting isn't mandatory, according to my source, but the dancing "like in a rap video" is pretty standard.

My middle school and high school years were a netherworld as far as dance steps were concerned. You could Dance Like Sting which was a sort of skipping, kicking dance as the once cool singer of The Police did in the video for SO LONELY. Or you could dance like a hippie which I once heard described as Washing The Ball (you've seen it...that wiggly arm motion, as if the dancer was wiping off the bottom of a disco ball). This was before the running man, the cabbage patch, you might get in a little bit of robot or The Wave. But no grinding.

Grinding seems to be a way of being explicitly sexual without actually having intercourse. My middle school seemed to have a lot of making out and Truth or Dare going on (none of which I participated in...middle school was very WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE for me) and while there wasn't any grinding going on, I don't think it would have been out of character for it to have happened.

And hey, you gotta love a youth subculture that can come up with a dance that makes the elders unhappy.

An instructor of mine last term said that culture wars always heat up in presidential election years and that there is always renewed focus on the bad influence of the media on Youth Of Today. So let's see if Bush ignores his Iraq debacle and miserable performance domestically and decides to focus on grinding.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Listening to a mix cd for my pal Alex and feeling sleepy. Went to Evanston today where my high school friend Stoney Westmoreland is shooting a movie, the followup film by the guy who made the first Project Greenlight movie.

Stoney and I haven't hung out in a long time and it was genuinely easy to slip back into conversation...nice when that works. Two hours of walking and an hour of eating made for an excellent afternoon.

I went swimming afterwards...I want to see how close I can get to swimming a full mile by the end of the year. I'm at 1/4 mile now which isn't too shabby...I imagine the track in a park near my job and what it would be like to swim a lap of that. Anyway I swam yesterday and Friday as well and now I'm pooped. Thus endeth today's blog.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Back after far too long away. All work and no blog makes Drew a dull boy. Really.

Listening to the fine, fine Black Eyed Peas song "Where is the love" and happy to have hands on the keyboard. This song features Justin Timberlake...I don't have cable at home but it was in my hotel room in Canada and I feel as though I am now fully caught up on the phenomenon that is Justin Timberlake. So here's my feeling about Justin...is he biting Michael Jackson (or as everyone seems insistent on saying "MJ")??? Yeah sure although Michael Jackson doesn't seem interested in being Michael Jackson anymore so somebody oughta be doing it. Also, Justin Timberlake seems as well adjusted as anyone who is an international pop sensation could possibly be. And when the interviewer asked him about the death of pop I thought he very articulately pointed out that 50 Cent sells a lot of records, Nelly sells a lot of records, Eminem sells a lot of records so it isn't that pop is dead, it's that pop is now largely hip hop. Also, unlike Christina Aguilera, he doesn't insist on referring to himself as an artist every other sentence.

Sorry to be so incredibly shallow but I've found a new place to get my hair cut. For the past three years I've been going to Tonya's...I don't know who Tonya was but she's long gone and it's owned by a Palestenian guy. Everyone smokes and they watch Al Jazeera and it's only $6. And for a long time I was cool with the $6 haircut since it was the same haircut I've been wearing since I was 20...buzzed on the sides and short on the top. Not like boot camp but like a military officer who has enough rank to wear his hair slightly longer on top. This is the thing...nobody wears their hair this length anymore. And I decided I was turning into one of those guys who keeps the same hair cut he had when he was twenty...except the GenX version (instead of the dreaded ponytail). And I've tried talking to the guy at the Palestenian barbershop but it's not really sinking in. So I looked on the web and found Big Hair in Roscoe Village, an easy bike ride from my apartment. A little less than an hour's wait made pleasant by conversations with others waiting about Rockabilly (playing on the stereo) and the book I was reading The Devil In The White City which is 1)Excellent and 2)Sure does make you appreciate living in modern times. Haircut wise I look much more modern, at least 1998, and I've learned how to ask for this hair. This is what you say, "I'd like it clippered with a long guard on the back and sides and textured on the top." Bueno.

A little bit about that book...it's set in the Chicago of the 1890s and, among other horrors, it points out that 1,000 trains entered/left the city every day, all of them traveling at street level. What with all those trains, an average of two pedestrians died every day. It wasn't unusual to come across corpses of human beings, not to mention all of the dogs, cats, rats and horses that died all the time (they would freeze in the winter, bloat up in the summer notes the author). I bet I get asked for spare change twice a day...I don't usually stop. Imagine being that blase about dead bodies. I think I would like to hold the line at this level of callousness and I'm thankful I don't have to step over dead bodies every day. Let's hear it for modern times (and crossing gates and elevated tracks).

Today was the first day I had a chance to check out Al Jazeera's english language website. In mid-August the U.S. State Department launched a pop culture magazine aimed at young Arabs around the world called "Hi." The magazine is premised on the sketchy Bushie idea that they hate us because they aren't into our freedom so let's show them how cool we are and then they will realize the error of their ways.

At the time the magazine launched over the summer, one member of the target demographic said that young Arabs are plenty clued into Western pop culture and that rather than try and get Arabs to think even more about Western pop culture than they already do, maybe Americans should try and think about Arabs.

Well, I'm doing my bit, starting today. I imagine paying attention only to Al Jazeera is like getting all your news from the Fox Channel but it's a start. I really like the headline Turkey to prolong dubious pop contest...hey which pop contest isn'tdubious? The contest in question is The Eurovision Song Contest which is hosted each year by the previous year's winner. Since last year's winner Sertab Erener was from Turkey, that nation gets to hold this year's contest. Okay so who held the contest last time? Latvia. If that's not dubious, I don't know what is.

Still if you would like to find out a little more about the apparent international Turkish pop sensation Sertab Erener you can go to the Sertab Erener official website (which plays a bit of music...She's good but, you know, no Justin) and which, at least on my computer, sensed that I was an English speaking poseur and redirected me to the english version which features one pic of Sertab with her dog and a pic of her with a fella.

See? A little bit of Arabic culture each day goes down smooooooooth.

If you are still in a multi-cultural mood, don't forget about last year's winner Latvia. Latvia's currency is The Lat and they boast one of the world's most valuable coins, a $100 Lat coin (worth around $160 according to the BBC). The capital city and home of last May's song contest is Riga and the official Riga Latvia tourist info website asks "Maybe are you asking some questions about this new increasing Metropolis?" I'm particularly partial to the link to Traditional Latvian Party Foods which breaks it down thusly, "Basically, Latvian food consists of chicken & pork fillets battered in egg and deep fried served with traditional dark rye bread and lots and lots of salads and fresh vegetables". Except for the rye bread, this isn't all that different from Tennessee and I'm full of a warm, We Are The World feeling.

To round out the multicultural feeling, can I just point out that Hi Magazine is published by The Magazine Group who also publish the magazine for Jewish Women International.