Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Can you hide in 15 seconds?

This is a powerful short film.

Happy birthday to Illinois' indoor smoking ban

News media in Chicago are commemorating the first anniversary of the state-wide ban on indoor cigarette smoking. The benefits are obvious: I can go to any sports event, bar, nightclub or restaurant and not worry about suffering in a smoking environment. I lead a smoke-free lifestyle, and I don’t think I should need to sacrifice that privilege just to enjoy an indoor establishment. So for purely selfish reasons, I love the one-year-old law. I think it has more far-reaching, less obvious benefits as well. It very much dilutes the social aspect of smoking, which for many smokers is the whole point. Some “non-smokers” smoke when they drink, or only smoke when they are out with friends. The new law makes this habit terribly difficult. People have a choice: stay home, smoke outdoors, or go smokeless for the evening. Part of the fun of smoking, as I understand it, is smoking with others, using cigarettes while flirting, and looking sophisticated smoking at the bar. No longer. With fewer opportunities to smoke, fewer people are going to become addicted, and perhaps fewer young people will decide to start.

Has the cigarette machine business fallen on hard times? I remember seeing cigarette machines in restaurant lobbies when I was a kid. (Especially at The Chandelier on Dempster Street in Skokie.) Now the law requires that cigarette machines only be located in an over-21 area, and said areas—bars and casinos?—don’t allow smoking in Illinois. So I was pretty surprised to see a cigarette machine at Nick’s Beer Garden Saturday night. Nine dollars a pack. Wow. I hope it accepts five-dollar bills.

No chance of fans on ice at NFL games this weekend

The NFL schedule shifted two weeks behind what it was in the 80’s, so many years ago. The Super Bowl was often the third Sunday in January; now it’s in February, and the 17-week season starts after Labor Day. This leaves playoff fans in cold-weather stadia braving worse conditions than before. To make matters worse—colder—the NFL shifted its Saturday playoff games three hours later, putting the second game in prime time. The league pushed back the times on Championship Sunday as well, but only by two hours.
Fans became accustomed to bundling up to sit for 3½ or 4 hours in the January chill in Foxboro, Mass.; Green Bay; Philadelphia; and even Chicago a few times. Not so this weekend! The NFL controls game times but cannot decide where the games are. Playoff seeds determine home-field advantage. This weekend, the games will kick off in Phoenix, San Diego, Miami, and the Vikings’ rickety domed stadium in Minneapolis (completed 1982). Shirtsleeves in January—-what a concept! Next week, this weekend’s winners will travel to Nashville and Charlotte on Saturday. Will fans bring light jackets for temperatures in the 50’s? Next Sunday’s games may be more typical of cold-weather games: they’re in East Rutherford, N.J. and Pittsburgh. Brr.

Israel held to a pacifist standard

“This is how you can tell, by the way, an antisemite. There is no other country in the world where someone would expect the country to absorb rocket attacks by the hundreds, injuring and murdering your own populace without a response. Except if it’s a Jewish country, well then yes of course you should keep absorbing the rocket attacks.”

--Michael Medved, The Michael Medved Show, Dec. 29

LL Cool J performs "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf"

A Disney Classic updated to 1991!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Belated Chanukah message from the Rebbe

As Chanukah comes to a close—-shkiyah (sunset) in Chicago is in just a few minutes—I’d like to reprint something Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson z”l (the Lubavitcher rebbe) wrote about Chanukah in 1980:
The Chanukah Lights remind us in a most obvious way that illumination begins at home, within oneself and one’s family, by increasing and intensifying the light of Torah and Mitzvot in the everyday experience, even as the Chanukah Lights are kindled in growing numbers from day to day. But though it begins at home, it does not stop there. Such is the nature of light that when kindled, the Chanukah Lights are expressly meant to illuminate the “outside,” symbolically alluding to the duty to bring light also to those who, for one reason or another, still walk in darkness.
Let us pray that the message of the Chanukah Lights will illuminate the everyday life of everyone personally, and of the society at large, for a brighter life in every respect, both materially and spiritually.

Politically incorrect announcement on Israel

Last spring, we attended a fundraiser for a Knesset candidate, Moshe Feiglin. He had a five-point plan to eliminate Israel’s problems with her neighbors. I loved it. Point #5 was “no peace agreements,” and darn it, I agree with him. It’s one matter to make peace with sovereign states like Egypt and Jordan. That’s bad enough! Egypt spends its billions of U.S. military aid arming itself for a potential war with Israel. Jordan spends all its energy protecting the ruling family from its majority-Palestinian population. It’s another matter entirely to make peace with shadowy terrorist groups bent on Israel’s destruction. Of course I lament the loss of innocent life that occurred during Israel’s initial assault on Hamas strongholds in Gaza Saturday morning. Part of Hamas’ strategy is to maintain its terrorism forces amongst civilians—a clear violation of international law. The Geneva Convention clearly states members of a military cannot mix with civilians in wartime, and if they do, the state, not its attacker, bears responsibility for civilian casualties. I’m very hopeful Israel can achieve its goals, unlike the bad ending the Hezbollah war had a few summers ago. Furthermore, I suppressed a smile when I read the Tribune headline this morning: “What next for Obama’s Mideast plan? Experts say Israel-Hamas violence may be a crippling blow to peace-talk hopes.” In any peace talks with Hamas, the minimum that Israel should accept are: recognition; renunciation of violence; and honoring previous agreements. Hamas will never, ever agree to those terms. So Israel would be forced to settle for less and be strategically weaker as a result. During the upcoming Obama Administration, Israel supporters ought to fear a White House hostile to Israeli security needs; and peace agreements that weaken Israel with “land for peace.” Zionists are afraid the new President’s State Department, like its predecessors, will blame Israel for its own failings and pressure the state to make concessions it simply cannot afford. If Israel’s attempts to stop the shelling of its land—which Hamas had no intention of stopping long-term—end up achieving that goal as well as ending any possibility of peace agreements with Hamas, then Israel is better off on both counts.

As an aside, let’s keep in mind what Hamas considers “peace agreements”: interim waiting periods that allow Hamas to plan and prepare for the next war or attack wave.

Parking space dibs

Friday afternoon was hectic. In the space of 90 minutes, I had to drive from Rolling Meadows to Rogers Park and make three stops: the post office; Jewel for some shabbos lunch items; and the Weinribs to pick up some mail and stuff (don’t ask). I pulled onto my hosts’ block at 1521, T-45 minutes to candle-lighting. Plenty of time to shower, shave and dress, right? Plenty of time if I could find a parking space. Oh, my hosts’ block had plenty of spaces—nearly all blocked off with junk so that residents could reclaim them upon return. What a disgusting, un-neighborly and selfish habit that residents engage in to reserve spots they have cleared of snow and ice. In my rear-view mirror, I saw a van pull out. I pulled to one side thinking I could take his space. But he paused to dump some of his basement garbage (large pieces of cardboard, in this case) onto his spot. If I had parked there, I would have risked vandalism to my vehicle: air out of tires, eggs and honey on the windshield, or worse. I did find a dibs-free spot just a few doors down from my host, so I lucked out. But I was not too happy at my hosts’ neighbors demonstrating just how selfish they can be. (My hosts do not participate in dibs despite owning two vehicles and parking them on the street.)
Reserving parking spaces with basement garbage is technically illegal in Chicago but condoned by the mayor.
One of my friends disagrees with me strongly on this. “What about the grandma who can’t walk far to her vehicle?” he asks. He may have a point. (As an aside, I also don’t think people should be able to reserve 24-hr. handicapped parking spaces on city streets. These spaces typically stay long after the owner dies, happily used by the owners’ children.) But most people who stake claims to parking spaces are able-bodied. If every able-bodied male on a block would simply clear two parking spaces instead of just his own, there wouldn’t be a problem; the street would be clear. I was proud of the fact that my block in Rogers Park was dibs-free. A friend and I “enforced” our dibs-free zone on neighboring blocks last winter by helping ourselves to the junk that people left on the street. (Items left on the street are legally “hefker,” ownerless.) I considered doing that on my friends’ block Saturday night, but I didn’t want to put wet garbage in my car trunk.

Friday, December 26, 2008

MSI acknowledges panel error in space center exhibit

My email message to the Museum of Science and Industry:

A panel in the Henry Crown Space Center near the mockup of the Lunar Module refers to "Saturday, July 20, 1969." The lunar landing actually occurred Sunday, July 20, 1969. --Ken Salkover

The response from staffer Hilary Fruin:

Kenneth: Thank you for your e-mail. I've forwarded your message to the exhibit manger and graphic design team for their review/action. We look forward to your next visit! Happy holidays.

Hilary Fruin

[Me again] If MSI ends up correcting the panel on my account, I think it should send me a complimentary one-year membership.

Elderly driver ruins Chabad Chanukah party


It happened again.

The headline stays the same. Only the details change.

Yet another elderly driver confuses the brake pedal with the accelerator and plows into a crowd of people. This time, it's a Chanukah party with many young children in attendance. Yet another elderly driver who has no business possessing keys, a license or vehicle severely injures or kills innocent bystanders. The reaction is always the same: first he blames the vehicle. A maintenance check reveals no malfunction. Then his attorney says he's heartbroken over the incident. If we're lucky, his home state mandates a driving test for him, which he fails, and the state revokes his license. But there are no criminal consequences for his actions of vehicular homicide or injury.

The youngest victim was 18 months old.

The vehicle entered the store's front and reached the back of the store. Good Lord--how fast was he going? I guess when a driver is trying to hit the brakes and he's flooring the accelerator instead, the vehicle will approach its maximum speed. That sounds sarcastic. It's not funny.

We spend so much time and energy limiting young drivers' ability to drive legally. We haphazardly install stop signs to ban driving the speed limit on major thoroughfares. But we won't address the serious and growing problem of elderly drivers who are no longer capable of driving a motor vehicle.

In Illinois, elderly drivers enjoy the courtesy of cutting to the front of the line at the Secretary of State's driver testing facilities, and their licenses are practically free. They do not undergo annual mandatory testing until 87 years old. Given the evidence of how elderly drivers' judgment is often impaired much earlier than that, it would seem that lowering the mandatory annual testing to 70 or 75 years old makes sense.

Trib columnist Wailin Wong suggests Cyber Sabbath


Or http://tiny.cc/f4zLw

"Take a Cyber Sabbath. Or as one of my friends calls it, a Cyber Shabbat. The concept is simple enough: Take the occasional day to unplug and do something radical like laundry or reading a book. No Facebook, no Twitter, no opening up my Google Reader to see which of my favorite blogs have published new posts in the last 30 minutes.
"Notice I did not include email in this pledge. I'm not superhuman. But maybe next year."

Her email: wawong@tribune.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

SuperPoke me, will you?

It's always nice to open up Facebook and see that someone wrote on my Wall, poked me, sent me a message, or commented on my status or something I posted. But the SuperPokes, throwing snowballs, movie quizzes--please understand if I don't respond in kind. I just don't have time to "Allow" a new application to access all my personal information every time I take another quiz about 80's pop culture. I feel bad, and I just want to make sure there are no hurt feelings. Please continue to express opinions regarding status and posted items. That's why they're there.

Of all the lawyers....Starr joins Prop. 8 defense team

What are the odds? From www.protectmarriage.com:

Prop 8 Names Prominent Legal Counsel, Files Legal Arguments with California Supreme Court
December 19, 2008
Contact: Andy Pugno
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 19 -- The official proponents of Proposition 8 and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com - Yes on 8, filed written briefs with the California Supreme Court today defending the voter-approved initiative against legal challenges. The three anti-Prop 8 lawsuits were initiated by opponents the day after the measure passed in the November General Election.

Joining the legal defense of Proposition 8 is Kenneth W. Starr. Starr formerly served as a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, and as U.S. Solicitor General, he argued twenty-five cases before the Supreme Court. He remains active in the professional and educational legal community. As lead counsel, Starr will argue the case before the California Supreme Court on behalf of Proposition 8's official proponents.

The legal challenges against Proposition 8 claim that the measure could not be added to the constitution by ballot initiative, but rather only by a constitutional "revision," requiring either a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a statewide Constitutional Convention. California has not had such a convention since the last one held in 1879.

"We are confident that the will of the voters and Proposition 8 will ultimately be upheld," said Andrew Pugno, General Counsel for ProtectMarriage.com and the Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund. "The addition of Dean Starr to this legal conversation will provide useful guidance for the Court in resolving these important issues."

Excerpts from today's legal filings include:

"Petitioners' challenge depends on characterizing Proposition 8 as a radical departure from the fundamental principles of the California Constitution. [...] But that portrayal is wildly wrong. Proposition 8 is limited in nature and effect. It does nothing more than restore the definition of marriage to what it was and always had been under California law before June 16, 2008 - and to what the people had repeatedly willed that it be throughout California's history." (Page 16.)

"Proposition 8's brevity is matched by its clarity. There are no conditional clauses, exceptions, exemptions, or exclusions: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." ... Its plain language encompasses both pre-existing and later-created same-sex (and polygamous) marriages, whether performed in California or elsewhere. With crystal clarity, it declares that they are not valid or recognized in California." (Page 37.)
Legal briefing by the parties will continue through January 2009. A hearing on the case could be held as early as March 2009.

Copies of the written briefs will be available online at the California Supreme Court's website: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/supreme/highprofile/ prop8.htm. Dean Kenneth Starr will not be granting media interviews. The cases are Strauss v. Horton, S168047; City and County of San Francisco v. Horton, S168078; and Tyler v. State of California, S168066.


More Blackhawks gloating

Last loss: Dec. 6 at Detroit
Last home loss: Nov. 16 vs. San Jose

They're playing so well now (7-game winning streak, longest since 1981) that I'm concerned about six nights off and a return to home ice against the Flyers Friday night. After losing in Newark, N.J. last night, Philly is tied with the Blackhawks in total points with 43.

Photo: Jonathan Toews ("tays") in action against Detroit.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My visit to Hyde Park

After a quick stop at bagel country to pick up a dozen bagels (15, actually, $9.20 w/Stroger tax), I headed down to Hyde Park in the -6 degree chill to have brunch with my friends S.J. and Michael and their adorable children, Sofi and Oliver. I zipped down the Edens and JFK express lanes, offering sympathy to the driver whose vehicle was getting a lift from IDOT at the express lanes exit around Chicago Avenue. (The lanes dumped me just south of the action, so I avoided the resultant backup.) I took the Stevenson to Lake Shore and exited at 53rd Street to reach my friends' home. The stop signs on 53rd were irksome and unnecessary. Four-way stops, even on a major street like 53rd. Does traffic need to screech to a halt every half-block?

After brunch, I make the short trip to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Christmas Around the World exhibit. The ethnic Christmas trees are pretty. On another point: how is the venerable Museum reaching a 21st Century audience? The Museum is currently in upgrade mode, planning to modernize or replace about 95 percent of its exhibits. That's a relief. It still appears outdated, and maybe that comes in part from being in a massive 115-year-old building. I will admit the new U-505 pavilion is stunning. And I love the train exhibit. (Not decorated for the holidays, I'm afraid.) The Crown Space Center is impressive. "Science Storms" is coming in about 15 months. "YOU! The Experience" is coming in about six months. The Genetics exhibit (boring) looks very new. I'm just wondering if some of the Museum standards should be replaced. Farm Tech? Circus? Fairy Castle? The B-727 (okay, half of it) hanging over the train set seems so outdated and seems to exist mainly to thrill children who have never been on a flight before. Boeing rolled out the B-727 in the mid-'60's, I think, before it started working on its 747 widebody. I didn't mention the coal mine, but that's so beloved and impossible to replicate I'm sure it will be there for eternity.

Blackhawks 3, Flames 2 (OT)

It was -15F (-26C) in Calgary Friday night for the matchup between the host Flames and your Chicago Blackhawks. The Alberta chill couldn't slow the red-hot Blackhawks as they won their sixth straight. Duncan Keith ended the game with a sweet goal 23 seconds into overtime, breaking a 2-2 tie. (BTW that's a PDQ OT.) Highlights are here, thanks to nhl.com. The Blackhawks continued their Road Reign of Terror last night in Vancouver, winning 3-1 for their seventh straight win and fourth straight on the road. They are on Chrismikuh break, and cruise control, frankly, until their triumphant homecoming game against Philly Dec. 26. United Center will be jammed to the rafters for that game.

Here are the highlights from Calgary:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The stop sign debate continues

She feels sorry for my future kids?
When someone tells someone, “I feel sorry for your future children,” that’s typically taken as just about the worst thing someone can say to another—-that she thinks the person will be a horrible parent. So it came as a surprise when a close friend not only told me this, but did so in a public forum, in front of my 100+ Facebook friends. That was deeply hurtful. I did not say, “I believe in corporal punishment.” I did not say, “I don’t think children need seatbelts.” I did not even say, “I think tv’s in kids’ bedrooms slow kids’ mental growth.” I stated my opposition to stop signs on major streets, and repeated that opposition even if I were to have children. And for that she feels sorry for my future children?

That’s a serious charge, and I hope she reconsiders her sentiment. There is no evidence whatsoever that stop signs on major streets make the streets safer for children or pedestrians. I have given a number of reasons for my opposition to stop signs on major streets. I’ll reiterate them here:
1. They stop traffic for no good reason, wasting time and fuel and inflicting additional wear and tear on vehicles.
2. Slower traffic and stop signs on major streets encourage drivers to use side streets, where they are more likely to encounter pedestrians and children playing in the streets.
3. Illinois law already requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. If police enforced this law, we wouldn’t need stop signs to help pedestrians cross major streets.
4. Municipalities often install stop signs to “protect” schools, parks and senior citizen homes that produce pedestrians just a few hours a day. For a school, this is just 180 days a year. Park visitors only use a park in good weather. The rest of the time, the sign stops traffic for no reason whatsoever. This sign that started this discussion is for a school, a whole quarter-mile away (5-min. walk, longer for little kids). No one disputes that the kids are out and using the crosswalk at Touhy just two hours a day on school days. The other 22 hours on school days (180 days), and 24 hours on non-school days, the stop sign stops traffic for…..? One friend suggested, Well, it’s easier to walk to Young Israel of West Rogers Park on shabbos. Yes, it is. And anyone who minds waiting a minute for traffic to stop is being very, very selfish.
5. There is simply no justification for a solitary stop sign within a nine-mile stretch (probably longer—I’ll need to check) of stop sign-free roadway. I’m sure angry residents in Lincolnwood and Morton Grove can come up with a long list of more deserving intersections. But I think there’s an understanding, which alderman have no compunction about violating, that major streets are not to be tampered with.
6. A single stop sign on a major street always draws demands from residents for additional stop signs on “their” intersections. I could give so many examples just off the top of my head of former fast thoroughfares now stop-and-go due to stop signs, just on the North Side alone: California Avenue, Halsted Street, Sheffield Avenue, Clark Street, Sheridan Road, Lawrence Avenue, Randolph Street and Broadway.
7. My friend who fears for my future children mentioned a fatality and “what-iffed” that a stop sign may have saved his life. This is one of those cause-effect relationships that seems logical but doesn’t really exist. Case study: Maya Hirsh obm. Maya was a little girl visiting Lincoln Park Zoo with her family a couple of years ago. As she crossed Cannon Drive, a crazed motorist ran a stop sign, killing her instantly. Authorities determined the driver to be mentally unsound and without a drivers license. (He was also Ald. Stone’s neighbor in Winston Towers.) The stop sign near the Lincoln Park Zoo entrance, which I think should only be in force during zoo hours, didn’t prevent the driver from killing Maya. Funny how drivers prone to vehicular homicide don’t pay too much attention to stop signs.
8. More stop signs reduce compliance among drivers. My friend who fears for my future children may not have visited West Rogers Park lately. The situation is out of control. Almost every intersection has a four-way stop sign. California, once free of stop signs, now has four in 12 blocks in addition to the three traffic lights in that stretch. A T-intersection has a stop sign despite the fact that the cross street that terminates at the intersection is one way “in,” meaning cross-traffic is impossible. (The stop sign “protects” a park.) Of the four high-rise towers on Kedzie Avenue, one inexplicably has a stop sign—the one the alderman lives in. Motorists give up and simply ignore them, making our streets less safe.

Authorities and communities can take sensible steps to make streets and intersections safer without inconveniencing all motorists and their passengers. Enforce crosswalks. Fence off or ban pedestrians from unsafe crossing areas—force them to walk to the nearest controlled intersection. (At Washtenaw, where the new stop sign is, stoplights are one block away in each direction.) Use new technology to highlight pedestrians in crosswalks so vehicles stop for them without forcing vehicles to stop 24-7. More 24-hr. traffic controls (stop signs and lights) are not the answer.


I’m still getting my feet wet with this new online email/bulletin board/news micro-blogging service. Here is one explanation I pulled from a blog called “Two Hard Way Three”:

Messages on Twitter are limited to 140 characters; hence the “micro” part and can be viewed on the Web, through desktop and iPhone software like Iconfactory’s Twitterrific, or on your cell phone via SMS messaging.

The system is based on the concept of “followers” – you sign up to receive someone’s updates into your system of new messages, though the messages are (typically) not private – they are shared for the world to see. This fosters a back and forth on interesting postings – a conversation of sorts.

Twitter has become a popular way for people to share information of current events, ask questions or just to share part of their day.

[Back to me]

As I may have mentioned here, the Chicago Tribune publication RedEye started its own Twitter feed and invited readers to send in Twitter-sized movie reviews. I sent in reviews for Twilight and Madagascar 2, and RedEye printed both Dec. 12. If one knows someone’s Twitter tag, one can view that person’s page and/or begin to follow that person simply by adding the person’s Twitter address to http://twitter.com. Examples:

L.A.T. (Los Angeles Times) has about 20 Twitter pages specific to various subjects. A list is here (with links), along with all L.A.T.’s RSS feeds and links thereto. You can also try:

The Sun-Times started following me. Odd. I’m focusing on media here, but there are plenty of individuals and bloggers. Here are two:

Enjoy and happy Tweeting!


Reply Letter #2: Touhy/Wash stop sign

Look, Alderman-for-Life, why don’t we just install four-way stop signs at every intersection in the ward? Oh, wait, that’s your evil plan, right?

I do believe you are “indulging the wishes of the school.” After all, you are caving in to the school’s request to the detriment of the rest of us.

>>> Thank you for your input, but I have no intentions to remove the sign.

And I have no intention of stopping for it.

My response to the alderman's terse reply

Dear Alderman:

Thank you very much for your kind note. I very much appreciate you taking the time from your busy schedule during this holiday season to respond to my inquiry.

I would hope the Alderman wouldn’t consider my sign removal request out of line in light of the fact he removed the Touhy stop sign at Albany shortly after its installation a year ago.

Students at Rogers School already enjoy the benefit of a crossing guard at the Touhy/Washtenaw intersection during their commutes. Given the guard’s presence there, isn’t the stop sign redundant? And given the sign’s reason for being is just two hours a day, school days only—when a crossing guard is there anyway—isn’t its 24-hr. presence also excessive?

I would support an electric or temporary stop sign that functions only when schoolchildren are present. But a full-time, permanent stop sign isn’t fair to motorists. I disagree that the school’s presence a quarter-mile away justifies installing Touhy’s only stop sign over nine miles of thoroughfare.

Best wishes for Chanukah and 2009.


Kenneth Salkover

Alderman Stone b-----slaps me on the new stop sign

Mr. Salkover,

Thank you for your recent e-mail. I must tell you that you are indeed correct, the sign was requested by the Local School Council for the safety of the students. I would imagine that you can understand my position in putting the sign up for safety purposes. Furthermore, I don't believe my action could be deemed as "indulging the wishes of the school". The safety of the children is the primary reason for the installation of the sign.

Thank you for your input, but I have no intentions to remove the sign.

Please accept my best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.

Alderman Bernard L. Stone

Southern California beagle



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sen. Proxmire obm Golden Fleece Award – Your Tax Dollars at work

Sen. William Proxmire (D.-Wis.) took Sen. Joe “Red Scare” McCarthy’s seat upon McCarthy’s death in 1956 and served until his 1988 retirement. He gave out the Golden Fleece Award to the year’s worst pork barrel project. He died in 2005. From yesterday’s Michael Medved Show, here are a few unofficial nominees from the 2008 budget—signed into law by President George “Conservative” W. Bush (R.-Tex.):
$298,000 – assistance for an Idaho farmer to market specialty potatoes to high-end restaurants
$167,290 – paintings of cabinet officers
$300,000 – skateboard park in California
$3.2 million – spy blimp military didn’t want
$188,000 – research on Maine lobsters
$1 million – tennis court repair in Queens – same courts also received $1 million in 2000
$3900 – Institute of Museum and Library Sciences grant to a Westfield, Ind. library for a Wii, camcorder and games
$22,000 – three nights at a luxury hotel in the Galapagos Islands for five members of Congress for a global warming conference, plus use of an Air Force jet!
$82 million in guaranteed loans by Small Business Administration to 331 liquor stores (quarter-mil per store—those are small businesses?)

The new president’s $1 trillion stimulus package: more of the same?

UFO’s + Terminators = ?

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Fox Mondays 8pm ET/PT
Episode 13: “Earthlings Welcome Here”; Air date 12-15-08
Halcyon Productions

This episode was a little odd but shed some light on Riley’s past. So she came back with Jesse to 2008, and her assignment is to...protect John from Cameron? And Cameron’s assignment is to protect John from cyborg killers. So is Riley a bit redundant? No wonder she is so upset. It’s also a letdown when one finds out a person one thinks is a friend considers one just a peon and lackey. Worth killing oneself over? I don’t think so. Riley knows what Cameron is and really should be more guarded since she should know Cameron is an excellent observer of human behavior. Cameron keeps trying to warn John about Riley but isn’t doing a good job.

I’m a little sympathetic to Cameron’s plight, even though she’s not supposed to have feelings that can be hurt. She exists to protect John, yet Sarah and John treat her like she’s in the way. They’re not very nice. Cameron tries to be the third wheel with Riley and John—doesn’t eat or drink but wants a smoothie—and it’s very awkward.

The guy living in drag kind of freaked me out. I wonder if everyone on his team was hunted down and executed like him. Interesting (a stretch?) that Sarah was able to find the warehouse where he worked. We’ll see if she’s able to get out of there without too much blood loss. Who was the motorcyclist executioner working for? What is the alien connection to cyborgs and Terminators, if any? My curiosity is piqued.

Miss Weaver hasn’t shape-shifted or killed anyone in quite a few episodes. She’s due.

Science fiction tv side note: it appears NBC is ready to cancel Knight Rider, which is not nearly as popular in 2008 as it was when it first debuted in 1982. Too bad—it’s a decent show, especially with Smith Cho helping run operations at CentCom (Knight Industries home base).

Seth and Amy take down Michael Vick

Sadly, Michael Vick is more famous for a more serious crime. But this was pretty funny.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nice Jewish Girl Portman hits the street

Watch for Natalie quoting an Easy-E line; her response to "We like you, Natalie!" NOT for the kids or faint of heart, but man, is this shockingly funny.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My letter to the alderman re: Touhy/Wash stop sign

Kenneth Salkover
Day phone: 847-

Dear Alderman:

The new stop sign on Touhy at Washtenaw backs up already slow Touhy traffic. It sets a terrible precedent for Touhy Avenue, as there will be renewed demands for stop signs at Francisco and Albany. Rogers School is not on Touhy. It is a quarter-mile away, at Jarvis, and already has a crossing guard to help students cross Touhy. It is grossly unfair to force motorists to stop at all times--24-7--when the stop sign protects students for just two hours on school days.

This is the only stop sign on Touhy between Western Avenue and River Road--a nine-mile stretch of stop sign-free thoroughfare. Please consider removing the stop sign. Indulging the wishes of the school isn't fair to other Rogers Park residents.


Kenneth Salkover

Is it okay to use the shampoo?

For the last four months, I’ve been honored to be a guest in friends’ homes every shabbos—Friday afternoon through Saturday night. Sometimes I remember to bring my own shampoo, and sometimes I need to depend on the kindness of my hosts to avoid an unhealthy mix of dandruff and oily hair on shabbos. Is it okay to use my hosts’ shampoo? What if the bathroom has a Shampoo Planet collection? That means enough hair treatment product to destroy the ozone layer. Oh, the plethora of options! Someone admonished me and strongly suggested using soap is fine, but I should bring my own shampoo. Other costs associated with hosting me: laundry for the towel and sheets that I soil for one night’s rest (plus nap). Any thoughts?

What is the purpose of a stop sign?

I think my disagreement with a couple of friends—okay, more than a couple—stems from a disagreement about the purpose of a stop sign. For me, a stop sign is to prevent side street traffic from interfering with traffic on major thoroughfares. It could also be used to prevent accidents at intersections of two side streets, but a four-way stop sign should only be used in extreme circumstances—certainly not at nearly every intersection in a neighborhood, as is found in, say, West Rogers Park. A stop sign should not be used:
To protect a park, which has pedestrian traffic a few hours a day in warm-weather months
To protect a school, which has pedestrian traffic two hours a day, 180 days a year
To help people cross a major street. Illinois law already requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, so a stop sign is redundant.

As I’ve previously noted in this blog, Chicago residents whine to their aldermen about allegedly dangerous intersections. The alderman quickly install stop signs to placate the masses. Former Ald. Burt Natarus (42nd), whom I couldn’t stand, loved doing this. So did former Ald. Bernie Hansen (44th) and his successor, Ald. Tom Tunney. So does Ald. Bernie Stone (50th). Main thoroughfares that motorists once navigated rather quickly are now stop-and-go ordeals that are no better than side streets and often worse. I would support electric or temporary stop signs that were operational only when pedestrians were actually using the crosswalk. But a 24-7 stop sign is terribly unfair to motorists forced to stop and check for pedestrian traffic all hours of the day and night when there are precious few pedestrians to begin with. Why do commuters on their way to catch a train at 7:15am in the dead of winter need to stop for a playground stop sign? It’s ludicrous and a terrible imposition of government—the tyranny of a few determining the laws for the rest of us.
A few final notes:
Streets with bus routes should never have stop signs. That includes Touhy and California Avenues.
Aldermen should not have the right to install stop signs without expensive traffic studies that their budgets cannot afford.
Major streets with traffic lights should not have stop signs.
Streets with long stop sign-free stretches, like Touhy Avenue between Western Avenue and I-294 (9 mi.), should never have stop signs.
Stop signs waste motorists’ fuel and time and inflict more wear and tear on their vehicles. Government and neighborhood groups should be working together to remove stop signs, not install more. Fewer stop signs would mean the remaining stop signs receive more motorist compliance. As it stands, motorists pay less and less attention to stop signs as they continue to sprout like weeds around town. This makes our streets less safe for pedestrians—the opposite of the stated goal of the fanatical stop sign activists.

Phyllis lets the cat out of the bag

The Office
Thursdays 9pm ET/PT
Reveille Productions/Universal
“Office Party” – Air date 12-11-08

I will say Phyllis was mean to Angela in terms of ordering her around for each office party that Phyllis planned. And she was also correct to carry out her threat to expose Angela’s and Dwight’s secret affair. Will Andy find out? Very clever that he was out of earshot when Phyllis dropped her bomb. I hope someone tells him before the wedding.

Meredith is so disgusting, and I suspect that’s why her character on the show is so popular. Funny that she knows every bar in Scranton! Of course, Michael handled this in typically horrible, inappropriate fashion. We’ll need to stay tuned to see what happens with Angela and Andy.

Connors race to woods to save family from Terminator attack

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Fox Mondays 8pm ET/PT
Episode 12: “Alpine Fields”; Air date 12-08-08
Halcyon Productions
Directors: Charles Beeson, Bryan Spicer

This was a tough episode. The directors use creepy music to announce the arrival of another Terminator on the scene. It really does feel like a manhunt when the Terminator kills the family dog (off-screen) and throws Cameron into a plate-glass window. Too bad Cameron accidentally killed Roger, Sidney’s father. Can’t she tell who is a cyborg and who is human? I was wondering about that—specifically, how a cyborg matches up with a human in terms of body weight and temperature. Cameron (Summer Glau) looks like she weighs 100-110 pounds (45-50 kg). As a cyborg, is that estimate accurate?

“She’s not my daughter. She’s one of them.” Sarah could be nicer. Cameron just does her job.

If sending a Terminator back to 2008 to kill people is so easy, why doesn’t Skynet send more than one? Its Terminators are running into resistance here.

Joe Sakic loses fight with snowthrower, breaks three fingers

See? This is what happens when one doesn’t follow safety precautions.
Snowthrower blades are dangerous. There’s a reason the power shuts off when the user lets go of the handle. If the snowthrower jams on a piece of hard snow or ice, sticking one’s finger in there to clear the blockage is fine if the power is off. If the blades resume spinning immediately, that’s asking for trouble.

I salute multimillionaire and future Hall of Famer Sakic, who plays for the Avalanche, for clearing his own driveway in suburban Denver. But please, Joe, be careful next time. If he had been wearing his hockey gloves, this probably would not have happened!

Seth and Amy take down Gov. Blagojevich

Others have been funnier (Gov. Elliot Spitzer), but this was excellent. Also Amy Poehler's last show.

Chanukah starts Sunday night!

Cute idea.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The President-Elect tests his standup act in Chicago

"Here in Illinois, as is true, I think, across the country, there is a tradition of public service in which people are getting in it for the right reasons and to serve."
--the President-Elect

The Wall Street Journal reported: In past century, one-fifth of Illinois governors have been convicted of felonies.

Jimmy Carter watch

The former president, The Worthless One, landed in Beirut Tuesday in hopes of meeting with Hamas and Hezbollah. Next month, timed to coincide with the inauguration, his publisher will release his next book, We Can Bring Peace to the Holy Land.

Was Tuesday a sad day or a great day?

It’s barely once a year when news is worth calling friends about at work. Kerry Wood is pitching a one-hitter and striking out almost everybody (1998); IU Athletics fired Bob Knight (2001); the Feds arrested the Governor (Tuesday). On her Air America radio show last night (Dec. 10), Rachel Maddow made an amusing and unsettling observation: that four of the last eight Illinois governors have been indicted. (I think she is referring to Blagojevich, Ryan, Walker and Kerner. I would need to check.) So she sardonically said something like, “The rest of us are shocked at the sight of a governor being arrested, but in Illinois, they call it Tuesday.” In his usually-interesting blog Change of Subject at chicagotribune.com, Eric Zorn made a fascinating comment about all the Illinois politicians apparently saddened at the downfall of one of their own. (I think they were actually upset that the Governor was caught.) Just a few examples he quoted:

“This is a sad day for the people of Illinois.” --U.S. Rep. Jan “I love big government programs” Schakowsky (D.-Ill.) – my Congresswoman

“It’s a terrible day.” --Former Gov. Jim “Taxaholic” Edgar (almost ten years out of office, and I still can’t stand him)

“This is a sad day for my state of Illinois.” --U.S. Sen. Dick “Pardon Ryan” Durbin (D.-Ill.) No, Senator, the sad day would be if either of these Governors are pardoned.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Congresswoman, Governor, Senator. You are completely wrong, and it shows how disconnected from the public you claim to serve (“served,” in Edgar’s case) that you see this development so differently from the rest of us. I’ll repeat what I previously wrote: This is a great, great day for the people of Illinois. Justice is finally being served.

BTW Jan was also annoyed to find out how far out of the running for the vacant U.S. Senate seat she really was. (She thought her five terms in the U.S. House—has it been 10 years already? Yeesh—would give her some credibility and consideration.) But Blagojevich knew she had no ability to donate $0.5 mil or $1 mil to his campaign war chest. So he didn’t take her interest seriously.

Former Gov. Edgar was on Chicago Tonight last night, Dec. 10—I guess he really has nothing to do besides offer his “Elder Statesman” opinion of everything—opposing the idea of a special election for U.S. Senator, which would cost us taxpayers $12 mil. On this point, I agree with him. I think Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn should be permitted to make the appointment, so long as he picks someone who was not in the initial running. Sorry, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D.-Ill.)—it sounds like you were ready to buy the seat! The appointment should go to someone in business or academia—NOT someone already entrenched in Illinois politics.

On what issues may we agree to disagree?

There was an interesting article in RedEye, I think, a while back, focusing on dating and marital partners and how much political disagreement a couple can tolerate. I married a woman who voted for the current president twice, something I never thought I would do. In terms of friendship and respecting other people: while one may not respect certain opinions of others—because, perhaps, those opinions are stupid and horribly wrong—could we respect the right of the opinion-holders to have them? I once thought pro-life/anti-choice advocates were horrible people. Now that my view on abortion is more nuanced—I personally oppose abortion but remain pro-choice—I am more understanding of pro-life advocates’ point of view. (I still think anti-abortion legislation is wrong for women and wrong for America.) On Israel, I realize that most Americans are less Zionist than I am and that most Jews are less hard-line than I am. On that point I can concede disagreement. If someone advocates for the destruction of Israel, however, I take that person for an antisemite and also someone who is not a patriotic American.

When I carefully announced my support of Prop. 8 in California,* I was called a racist and a bigot. If Prop. 8 is framed as a civil rights issue—and its opponents almost universally attempted to make it thus—that characterization certainly implies its supporters are bigots. That would lead one to conclude that 52 percent of California voters are bigots. It’s a sensitive, hurtful situation. Hardly anyone likes to be called names, and “racist” and “bigot” are generally considered to be the pond scum of Americana. (“Liberal” is enjoying the beginning of an eight-year renaissance.) I don’t believe I am a bigot. Can we respectfully disagree on gay marriage? Or are Prop. 8 proponents reaching for their mouse units to click “Remove as Friend”?

About a month ago, I suggested in a Facebook Note that we give the President-Elect a chance to prove himself, and I included those of us who voted against him. One Friend compared me to Jews of the 1930’s who didn’t notice and didn’t act in the face of obvious signs of imminent Nazi terror. I took offense and asked him to retract his accusation and apologize. He refused, and we mutually agreed we would no longer be Friends on Facebook. (I think it was mutual.) I do believe mentioning Hitler or Nazis is a terrible idea in almost all arguments (unless one is discussing the European Theater of World War II or the German government of that time). I especially recoil at the suggestion that Obama is like Hitler, and that by not opposing him at every turn, I am aiding and abetting an American Holocaust, G-d forbid. (And my aforementioned former Friend was one of two people who suggested such to me.)

*”Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.”

Don’t hang up in a huff on the Michael Medved Show

Conflict drives entertainment, and the Michael Medved Show frequently features guests who disagree with the host. Yesterday, Dec. 9, Medved began the middle hour of his program by speaking via telephone to Shawn Heatherington, who helped start “Day Without A Gay.” Heatherington was stunned to realize in the course of the interview that Medved is a conservative who opposes gay marriage. He hung up on Medved after the first commercial break (at about 17 minutes after the hour, or 10 minutes into the interview). He hung up on the opportunity for more free national exposure—exposure to millions of listeners, many of whom are independent voters who disagree with Medved on a wide range of issues.

This is a strategic mistake. Heatherington could sit for a softball interview and reach a handful of people who may already agree with him; or he could speak to a national news celebrity (new book #1 on NYT) and reach millions. He hung up on the second option. Very disappointing, and it doesn’t make Heatherington or his cause look good.

mp3 up and running

After considerable delay and a minor glitch in setting up amazon.com downloads, my mp3 player is up and running. It works quite well, and I’m pleased that the playlist is like “The Best of Ken’s Favorites.” (Songs I already own are not on the player yet.) I wish there were a better way to use it in the car. I have a transmitter that sends a signal to the vehicle’s FM radio, but it doesn’t work very well. This isn’t entirely the transmitter’s fault. It has settings for the far left end of the dial—88.1, 88.3, 88.5 and 88.7—and here in radio-congested Chicago, there are audible stations on all those settings. When using the transmitter outdoors (in a vehicle), there is more likely to be competition from other radio signals due to the car stereo’s antenna’s ability to pull in signals from far and wide. I wish I had an auxiliary (“AUX”) connection jack in the stereo itself. On my list….

It's that time of year

I'm not sure if the funniest part of this digital short (not for kids or easily offended) is the subject matter or Justin Timberlake dressed as a Hasid. Enjoy.

Waiter! There's a bug in my blog!

Since last night, every time I type in the blog's subject line or tagline, the letters change to unrecognizable characters after I press the space bar. Last night I thought it was because the right-shift key was stuck, but it kept doing that. If I type the subject line or tagline in the blog's message body and then cut and paste them, it's fine. But typing in the subject or taglines currently doesn't work. Odd.

The McCain ad featuring Rev. Wright that never aired

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jon Stewart takes down Gov. Blagojevich

Not for the kids or the frum. But very funny.

Sims and Sigler take down Samberg

Not for kids or frum. Pretty damn funny, though.

Will Sen. Slimeball continue to push for presidential pardon for Gov. George Ryan?

I wonder if U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) is still banging the drum for a pardon for the former governor. With the federal prosecution or plea bargain and eventual incarceration of Gov. Rod Blagojevich increasingly likely, I certainly hope the door has been slammed shut on any chance of the president granting former Gov. George Ryan (R.-Club Fed) a pardon or commuted sentence. That would set a dangerous precedent and would seem to imply that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D.-Mell) could expect a pardon himself. The people of Illinois are furious at Durbin for going out of his way to write a letter to the president on Ryan’s behalf. Blagojevich offered his support as well, not that it means much.
Incidentally, we re-elected Durbin for a third term by a 3-1 margin. (I voted for his opponent.) Funny how he didn’t mention this extremely unpopular move during the campaign.

Ty Coughlin and 50Kamonth.com

One drawback of listening live to the Michael Medved Show is coming across these awful ads for this get-rich-quick scheme. It costs $50 from Coughlin, the self-proclaimed beach bum from Hawaii, via the site just to find out how to make all this money. You can run a Google search or YouTube search to find out for free. It turns out he is not really a beach bum. He is a master at multi-level marketing. The goal with this process is to set up a website and then to use methods to draw traffic to one’s site by showing up on Google responses to vague searches like “New York vacation” or “Florida golf vacation.” People who join his plan buy the right to have their websites set up with his expert marketing strategies in place. The websites sell $3000 vacation club packages. The vacation club is a pretty good deal. But how many people in this economy have $3000 to join a vacation club? Furthermore, Coughlin wants several thousand dollars for an entry fee from each person; he suggests spending twice as much to market the new website, and on top of that he charges a few hundred a month in maintenance costs. Who has all that money to risk on a new business venture that dozens, if not hundreds, of people are in already? What a great scam for Coughlin. He spends a few grand on national radio ads and rakes in the cash from new people who want to become as wealthy as he is.

Club hits

Jon Stewart teaches Colbert about Chanukah

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Help your favorite kosher spots: review them on Yelp

Like most retail establishments, our community's kosher restaurants are suffering these days. One great way to help them is to expose them to the small but growing review site yelp.com. Many people use Yelp to help them determine whether to visit and patronize a particular restaurant. Our kosher restaurants have a surprisingly low number of reviews. The first review for Slice of Life is surprisingly negative and was posted by a woman clearly irritated at driving from Buffalo Grove to Skokie because her husband insists on keeping kosher. The site is so bereft of reviews of kosher restaurants that I posted the first review for Hy Life Bistro today! Several of the reviews of Taboun mention the restaurant's appearance on "Check Please," a local restaurant review tv show. It's just as likely positive reviews on Yelp will encourage non-Jewish and non-kosher restaurant patrons to give our community restaurants a try. More money from outside the community will make it easier for our restaurants to ride out this difficult economic period.

Joining http://www.yelp.com is easy. You can find a complete list of my reviews by clicking "Member search" at the top and keying in "Kenneth Salkover." Once you join, writing reviews is easy. You can disclose as little or as much information about yourself as you like. There is a "profile" area, but you can leave that blank, and of course the site does not disclose your email address to anyone reading your reviews.

I think this would be a huge mitzvah. It doesn't cost much and just takes a few minutes for each review. I'm sorry I hadn't thought of this before. The establishments cannot post reviews on their own, but they can certainly encourage their customers to do so, and I think they should.

Ron Santo and the Incredible Hall of Fame Snub

Ron Santo and the Incredible Hall of Fame Snub
This saga has become tiresome for any number of reasons. Santo himself said he’s tired of dealing with this every two years (when the Veterans Committee meets to select players not selected by the voting baseball writers). I can’t stand the sentimental crap that goes hand-in-hand with anything having to do with Ron Santo: diabetes took his legs; clicking his heels in midair at Wrigley Field; the Cubs retired #10 (after Leon Durham wore it—HA!); and he’s almost as popular with fans as Harry Caray was, despite the fact his color commentary skills seem to be limited to yelling “Yes!” and “Oh, no!”
The Baseball Hall of Fame has lost its validity. A huge percentage of baseball fans, who are terribly wrong, believe Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. A huge percentage of Cubs fans believe Ron Santo should be in the Hall of Fame. There are plenty of players on the outside looking in and constant controversy about their statistics and qualifications for enshrinement. Many of the players who are in the Hall, including Mike Schmidt and Joe Morgan, take offense at the thought of anyone else being allowed in. It’s become a classic restricted club, even though many members are African-American, and at least two are Jewish (Greenberg and Lefty). Enshrinement is entirely arbitrary. For some players, it’s first ballot. For the rest, it’s a waiting game. Why bother? Being excluded from the Hall doesn’t change Santo’s statistics, what he meant to the Cubs when he was playing, or what he means to those of us who have no memory of him at third base.
I may have read my favorite Santo story in the long-suffering Cubs fans’ classic Stuck on the Cubs, a chronicle of the Cubs of the 1970’s. In the story, Santo stepped to the plate with the bases loaded as he was suffering the effects of low blood sugar. He watched the pitch come at him and saw three baseballs. He picked the middle one and swung, hitting a grand slam. Might be apocryphal but a pretty good story.

Illinois governor arrested at his home, indicted

Blago: I shake my head
I’d like to see a show of hands for those who truly thought it would be this bad.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D.-Club Fed) knew he was under FBI investigation, but he continued to work on selling the vacant U.S. Senate seat appointment for his own financial benefit. (Sorry, Jan Schakowsky. You can’t raise that much cash.) He was thinking, Yeah, I’m a Big Shot—I’ll be good for HHS Secretary, or ambassador, or a sweet union job for myself (since Guber doesn’t pay that well) and a sweet corporate board assignment for the little lady.
And wait. There’s more. Our governor threatened “to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s press release. How petty and vindictive, not to mention stupid and immature.
I’m trying to decide who lusted for campaign donations more: former Gov. George Ryan (R.-Club Fed) or Blagojevich. Typical politician: he will do almost anything to keep his job. Rules and laws are for suckers.
G-d bless U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald. By indicting the Governor, I think we can rest assured he is keeping his job, despite the party change in presidents; and I think we can assume the president will not pardon or commute the sentence of Gov. Ryan. So this indictment serves a number of purposes. This is a great, great day for the people of Illinois, who are forced to suffer like house servants at the nonstop political patronage party that continues at their expense.
Thanks to the Chicago Tribune for helpfully (gleefully?) posting Fitzgerald’s press release on its website.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Office 12-04-08 (spoilers)

The Office
Thursdays 8pm ET/PT
Reveille Productions/Universal
“The Surplus” – Air date 12-04-08

Michael Scott is such an idiot. Of course he doesn’t understand the concept of a budget surplus. Did he graduate from high school? And of course he leaves it up to the office to determine whether to replace the copier or the chairs. And of course he can’t calculate 15% of $200 in his head.

What a great episode—especially since it ended with Michael being humiliated by his employees. He thought by giving his employees the choice of how to spend the surplus—copier or new chairs—they wouldn’t decide, and he would keep the bonus (for returning the surplus). Instead, the copier faction conceded to the chair faction, and Michael was out his hoped-for $645.

The Wedding, air date TBD, is shaping up to be a bombshell episode. Angela and Andy, married at Angela’s paramour Dwight’s farm? Recipe for disaster and destruction, attended by everyone.

My dad’s sixth yartzheit – 12 Kislev

My dad’s sixth yartzheit is tomorrow, Dec. 9. I’m sure he would have been supportive of me during this truly difficult year.

O.J. Simpson sentenced Friday

Two interesting points from Richard Abowitz’ blog entry that I thought were worth noting: the first is how closely the Nevada criminal justice system pays attention when a crime includes “gun” and “casino.” The second is how differently the Nevada criminal justice system treats crimes committed in a “tourist corridor,” as Abowitz put it, from the rest of the state. The Palace Station Hotel & Casino isn’t on the Strip. It’s on West Sahara Avenue, a mile away. It is still a tourist hotel with a devoted following. Abowitz used his own personal example of vehicle vandalism near his former apartment, which received no police attention; and vehicle vandalism when he was parked at a casino, which received an immediate response.


Oscar de la Hoya pounded at MGM Grand Saturday night



I saw the final two rounds, the seventh and eighth, which were unusually brutal. But from the two articles I linked above, it sounds like poor Oscar, age 35, was never in the fight to begin with. This prompts the question: what the hell was he doing in the ring? He is a multimillionaire. He has a family and a successful promoting company, Golden Boy Productions. Does he need to risk his health, his reputation, his record, and his good looks for more fame and fortune?

No, he doesn’t. But imagine, if you will, how then-Sen. Barack Obama felt when he walked to the podium at Invesco Field in Denver Aug. 28 to the cheers of 80,000 people. Imagine how he felt as he walked to the podium in Grant Park Nov. 4 to the cheers of more than a million people. Imagine how Oscar felt when he walked or jogged to the ring in the Grand Garden Arena to the cheers of 15,000 people. Intoxicating, I’m sure. Better than….? I don’t know. But I’m sure it makes the prospect of retirement all the more difficult.

Congratulations to Manny Pacquaio, the new best pound-for-pound fighter in the world! I look forward to watching him beat Briton Ricky Hatton in April or May, in Las Vegas, I hope.

Bears 23, Jaguars 10 in the Soldier Field chill

Temperature at noon kickoff Sunday: 19. Wind chill: 9. Attendance: 61,736.
Just as I find the cold invigorating for just a few minutes, some Bears fans love sitting still watching Bears football for three to four hours in this weather. I don’t understand it, but to each his own. I overheard a discussion during kiddush Saturday morning. One person had attended the Nov. 23 Bears game in St. Louis, played indoors. He loved it. The other has season tickets in the family and spent $800 on winter gear for November and December games. They were both saying Soldier Field should have been domed when it was rebuilt in 2002. I would not want the taxpayers stuck paying the extra $100 million, but they’re right. There is no good reason to continue to play games outdoors in Chicago when it is so cold here, and the technology exists for a retractable dome. Fun to watch cold-weather games on tv—I love it—but a miserable experience in person IMHO, and those Bears tickets are expensive. I would much rather attend games in the domes in Detroit, St. Louis, Indianapolis or Minneapolis than attend a game in Soldier Field when the temperature at kickoff is below 50. The stadia in Chicago and Green Bay make the Bears and Packers look like cavemen.

Chicago parking meter rates to quadruple next year

In justifying the quadrupling of parking meter rates when the City of Chicago hands over parking meter management to a private firm, Hizzoner Da Mare Richard M. Daley insisted that 80 percent of the meters are downtown, and the neighborhoods aren’t really affected. Actually, the Tribune reported, the exact opposite is true—80 percent of the meters are in the neighborhoods. This makes the mayor a Big Fat Liar, horribly misinformed, or just plain stupid. I’ll take the first option for $100, Alex.

My mom made an excellent point: by selling off the city’s resources to private firms, the mayor is mortgaging the future of the city for quick financial gain. His financial management of the city is so miserable we have already endured numerous tax increases during his administration, plus the revenue loss from the sale of the Chicago Skyway, Midway Airport, and now all the parking meters. Future mayors are going to be hunting for fresh revenue sources because this mayor is selling all the revenue sources we currently have.

Does everyone in Chicago know someone who knows the president-elect?

There’s an assumption that we’re all connected via six degrees of separation. The president knows so many people that it’s more likely just five degrees for him. For me it’s two—my rabbi in Lakeview has White House Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel as a congregant. I believe other city residents, including those not in government like myself, are similarly more closely connected.

How much for valet parking?

There’s a certain cachet for valet parking—drop off the car right in front, have it waiting when leaving. If there’s no velvet rope line, there’s no need even to bring one’s coat inside. My friends were extolling the virtues of valet parking at Zella Saturday night, on Clybourn near Armitage Avenue. I parked on the street a block away and braved the cold for all of two minutes. Is it really worth $10 plus tip? For me it depends on how bad the parking situation is. In a downtown or heavily congested entertainment district, it’s likely there is no nearby parking. So valet means paying the guy to park one’s car illegally, which he gets away with since he’s the valet. Does that involve "tipping" police? Sounds like a great scam to me. Has anyone had good or bad experiences with valet parking he or she would like to share? And is there valet in Chicago under $10?

Friday, December 5, 2008


O.J. Simpson

Simpson’s sentencing hearing is today, Dec. 5, in Las Vegas. I think the judge is going to give him at least 10 years. I read this morning that the minimum sentence for this crime in Nevada is six years.
For those of us who remember the media circus surrounding the USC and Buffalo Bills’ former football star’s murder trial in Los Angeles that ran from July, 1994 through September, 1995, this is an unbelievably stunning development and final chapter. The jury in that trial delivered its “not guilty” verdicts Oct. 3, 1995, which was Erev Yom Kippur. If the verdicts had been delayed another day, they would have been delivered Oct. 5 because two of Simpson’s attorneys, in addition to the family of one of the murder victims, would not have been able to attend court on Yom Kippur. My entire workplace gathered in the conference room to watch the live broadcast of the jury’s decision.
Thirteen years later, to the day, a jury in Las Vegas convicted Simpson of armed robbery at a Palace Station hotel room. Simpson’s fate rests with the judge, who delivers her sentence today.
I don’t believe there’s any question of Simpson’s guilt in either case. He probably deserved life in prison for the 1994 double murder, and the thinking here (me) is he will leave Las Vegas an old man by the time he serves his sentence there. Justice works in mysterious ways. To the Brown and Goldman families, it comes 13 years late. Nevertheless, he deserves to be behind bars.


I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I want to extol the virtues of RSS feeds. Do you feel like you spend too much time checking news or entertainment websites for new information—items added since the last time you checked? RSS is the answer to your prayers. All the new content of your favorite websites, columnists, bloggers and contributors in one place. Anyplace you see the RSS logo—a series of small concentric quarter-circles (usu. marked “RSS”), you can add that content to your RSS Reader. (I use Google Reader, to which I’m automatically signed in while on email or my blog.) Once your favorite content is loaded into your Reader, you only need check your Reader to be up to date on each site. It’s even possible to have your friends’ blogs (ahem) feed into your Reader. I’m following Change of Subject, Eric Zorn’s Chicago Tribune blog; Steve Chapman’s Chicago Tribune blog; the Movable Buffet, Richard Abowitz’ Las Vegas blog for L.A. Times; The Swamp, Frank James’ and Mark Silva’s Chicago Tribune blog on politics in Washington; and two friends’ blogs—Tim/Amy Dawson, who are living in Quito; and Sharna Marcus.
To get started with Google Reader, from google.com, click on “More” and then “Reader.”

Paradise by the Runway Lights

Either I’ve never seen or never noticed runway lights at O’Hare flashing in sequence until I drove by Wednesday night. That is so cool, I thought. I think the closest runway to the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) is opposite Allstate Arena. I saw the lights flashing on my right, and then a few seconds later I saw the FedEx jet on approach from my left. (I rolled down my window to listen to the engine roar.) The lights are impossible to see as an aircraft passenger because one would need a pilot’s-eye view. I thought perhaps they were only used in inclement weather—it was snowing Wednesday night—but it was clear Thursday night, and I saw them operating again. (American jet.)
I noticed the FedEx aircraft was a trijet—an engine in the tail and one on either side—a rarity in U.S. skies. I concluded it was either a B-727 or DC-10, and the latter even more unlikely due to its large size. I checked, and FedEx does use 727’s. As I discovered when working with aircraft four years ago, old passenger jets never die; they just switch to cargo.

Terminator 12-01-08

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Mondays 8pm ET/PT
Episode 11 (spoilers): Self Made Man
Directed by Holly Dale
Air date: Dec. 1, 2008

All season, I’ve been complaining that the writers sidelined Cameron (Summer Glau), John’s cyborg protector, while focusing on Sarah, John and Derrick—and even Ellison and Weaver. This episode suggests the writers were reading my blog and taking notes. Sarah and John had small parts, and Derrick (Brian Austin Green—the BAG), Ellison or Weaver did not appear. To me, the episode’s time-shifting between the 1920’s and present day eerily recalled the Stephen King classic The Shining. Cameron was busy in a research library tracking down the fate of someone who suddenly showed up Dec. 31, 1920, made a fortune in real estate, and disappeared a few years later. She suspected this mystery man of being a Terminator. She correctly concluded his return date was incorrect—Dec. 31, 1920 rather than Dec. 31, 2010—and set out to determine why he was sent back from the future and how to stop him from completing his mission. Her research and interplay/flirtation with the night librarian was pretty amusing until she correctly diagnosed his cancer return. She flipped through microfilm and pulled the sheet she was looking for without using the magnifier—pretty funny.
One sticking point in my mind: last season Cameron didn’t bother protecting an informant from Romanian underworld assassins. Why was she so interested in being a heroine—protecting the next governor of California from certain assassination—if it didn’t serve her primary mission of protecting John?

The Office 11-20-08

The Office
Thursdays 8pm ET/PT
Episode 8: “Frame Toby” (spoilers)
Director: Jason Reitman
Air date: Nov. 20, 2008

Michael’s hatred of Toby—a very low-key HR employee—is palpable, obvious and pretty amusing. And it took Michael a week to notice that Toby returned to the office? In attempting to produce cause to have Toby fired, Michael commits two acts that could not only cause him to be fired IRL*, but also to have the company sued:
• He asks Pam to pass Toby a note without reading it herself. The note asks Toby to embrace and kiss Pam and continue to do so even if she resists. Pam read it beforehand, and Michael was obviously disappointed.
• He obviously planted what he thought was marijuana in Toby’s office drawer before his lackey Dwight called Scranton’s Finest.
I’m just wondering: how much suspension of reality are we supposed to accept in this show? I just don’t see how Michael could continue to hold onto his job in this situation. Even on the phone call with the D-M corporate office, the guy at Corporate should have warned Michael: “You are not to take any action that would lead to Toby’s dismissal, and we will be wary if any such evidence turns up.”
As for the filthy microwave: as office manager, it was actually Pam’s responsibility to post the note, so she should have signed it. The problem is that since Michael is such an ass, he wouldn’t have backed her up on that. So there’s no point. I wonder if we’ll find out who the culprit is.
Ryan breaks up with Kelly so he can go guilt-free on a sex trip to Bangkok with his friends. Nice.

*In Real Life.

Could an armed citizenry stop a terrorist AK-47 attack?

I’m not sure we’ll ever find out.
I would have been very interested if Mayor Richard M. “No Guns” Daley had a security meeting with Chief of Police Jody Weis after the Mumbai attacks last week. “How can we protect the people of Chicago from such an attack?” One or two years ago, I read a magazine article that suggested several inexpensive soft-target attacks in the U.S. One was launching a heat-seeking missile from a Southern California beach at a passenger aircraft on its takeoff path. Another was the kidnap and murder of a congressman. Two more were detonating bombs aboard approaching ships near New York Harbor and the Houston refineries. The fifth was an automatic-weapon attack by multiple terrorists at a crowded shopping mall in December, with a bomb timed to detonate at the loading dock right about the time the SWAT team would show up.
It’s the last one that most concerns me. Unlike another terrorism-prone country, we don’t have metal detectors at shopping-mall entrances. (They would come after an attack.) How to stop an attack once it is in progress? It only takes a few minutes—often less time than emergency response takes to show up—to inflict high numbers of casualties. A terrorist group would be far less likely to plan an attack on civilians whom they know are likely to be armed, and vice versa. That increases the probability of an attack within the City of Chicago. In Texas, where law-abiding citizens can legally pack heat, I imagine terrorists would be concerned about being shot and take their murderous plans elsewhere.
I never thought I’d say anything complimentary about Texas.

Great parking spot just asking for trouble

I found a great parking space in Lincoln Park last night, just a block from Mad River, my destination. After depositing my last two quarters, I realized the meter didn’t acknowledge my four bits. So I dutifully called “311” (non-emergency) to report the broken meter. The nice lady took down the location and meter number, and then warned me that I would get a ticket anyway, and that reporting the problem proved that I knew the meter was broken, so I shouldn’t be parking there. (So parking there should be permitted IMHO.) I was out of quarters! Happily, the guy in front of me left right after my phone call ended, and his meter had 42 minutes left. That kept me safe until 8:54, and I prayed the PEA and police wouldn’t bother for the final six minutes. No ticket. Phew.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mumbai tragedy message

I think the Jewish message of positive actions and good deeds in honor of the victims is a powerful one. This video emphasizes that message without being preachy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Holtzberg funeral


Apologies if that link doesn't work. I'm sure you can search at the Daily Mail's website for the article.

I'm still stunned from the carnage the terrorists inflicted on Mumbai and the city's innocent victims Wednesday night through Friday. The pictures (from the above article) of the Holtzberg's funeral in Israel are heart-wrenching. I'm truly at a loss for words. If the Holtzbergs were like any of the Chabad shluchim (emissaries) I've met, then they were truly nice, gentle, loving people who went out of their way to make anyone who met them feel right at home. Running Chabad Mumbai may have been a daunting task, but I doubt the Holtzbergs ever considered being anywhere else despite their Western childhoods.

Mrs. Holtzberg was pregnant; Moshe, age two, probably witnessed his parents' murders; Moshe was most likely beaten; his parents may have been tortured. The terrorists were not just cold-blooded killers. They were sadists fueled by unadulterated hatred who inadvertently spared Moshe only because they didn't realize he survived. They certainly didn't hold to the Mob's "No women/no kids" code. The attacks had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy, Deepak Chopra. And no, Stupid Woman on TV, the terrorists didn't much care we elected Barack Obama. This was another Muslim terrorist attack on Jews and Westerners, and yes, it matters the terrorists were Muslim. Most Muslims are peace-loving people who just want to live their lives like everyone else. But almost all terrorists are Muslim, and almost all terrorist attacks are carried out by Muslims. The terrorists targeted the Chabad House because it is a Jewish center and house of worship--a symbol of Judaism and the West in mostly Hindu Mumbai. There is no other reason.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cincinnati visit

I initially planned on adding my narrative about my weekend visit to Cincinnati to my blog but ultimately decided it was family stuff that doesn’t belong in a public or semi-public forum. Here’s the short version: the National Freedom Museum is closed on days the Bengals play at home; and the Taft Museum is fantastic. And visiting family out of town is a great way to spend a holiday weekend.

At the risk of offending government employees, I’m going to revisit my taxation point now that I’ve visited Cincinnati. Here, there’s a budget crisis in Chicago, in Cook County, and in Springfield every time one of those government entities needs to pass its budget. There’s always a deficit and always controversy about how to bridge that gap—what services to cut, which taxes to raise and by how much. Maybe that happens in Cincinnati, in Hamilton County, and in Columbus. But one senses when visiting Cincinnati that the intense pressure to suck revenue from residents and visitors just isn’t the same. The sales tax rate in Cincinnati and surrounding Hamilton County is the same: just 6.5%. My family was astounded when I told them the tax rate here is 10% in Cook County, 10.25% in Chicago, plus an extra 1% for downtown restaurants. Yes, there is a city income tax surcharge in Cincinnati. But it wouldn’t make up a four-point sales tax difference. I had heard Cincinnati speed limits were strictly enforced, but I never saw cops or meter maids. I found a free, legal street parking spot before kickoff that was reasonable walking distance from the Bengals’ stadium—unthinkable for the Bears and the Chicago Park District.

One of my cousins—not the cousins I visited—belongs to a group called “You Know You’re From Cincinnati if….” The last point says it’s a great place to live. It doesn’t rank with Chicago in population; not only is it not Top 5, it’s not even Top 50 anymore. (63rd and falling.) It’s probably not considered a world-class city and is not a must-see for international tourists. Its airport’s airfares are terribly expensive because it’s controlled by one airline. The nearest NHL team is in Columbus. The nearest NBA team is in Indianapolis—both cities about 115 mi. away. But crime isn’t a major problem that sends the mayor into temper tantrums. It’s okay to pack heat. Its residents tend to be politically conservative (G-d forbid, I know). Traffic isn’t such a problem except for the bridges to and from Kentucky at certain times of day. Sure, bright lights/big city has a strong appeal. So does a city of Cincinnati’s size.