:: Ray's Periodic Rantings ::

Political blurtings, personal notes, musings and more from a Chicago area Mac guy, neon artist, Burner, remarried widower, and now father.
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:: Tuesday, May 27, 2003 ::

Memorial Day weekend
For all my griping about the Bush Administration, I don't want to give anyone the idea that I am anything but a patriot, just not a blind one. Bush and his cronies may be taking us down a dangerously wrong path, but I will always believe that the ideals that the United States of America were founded on are worth fighting for (when actually threatened, that is), and on holidays like Memorial Day I am proud to fly a 48 star flag that was my father's before me.

It's also fun to grill burgers and corn and watch WWII movies on cable all night on a Monday.
:: Ray 12:39 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 22, 2003 ::
Comfort Food and Spam
Tonight after working late, I treated myself to dinner at Silver Cloud, a restaurant/bar in the old 'hood. The place was hopping for a Thursday night, which I was happy to see. I went with the special, Chicken Cordon Bleu with smashed potatoes & gravy and peas & corn. Yum. And it washed down nicely with a Summit Heffer Weisen.

I have read a few articles this week about spammers and congressional testimony about spam (please forgive me if I don't link to them). One of the mantras that the spammers continually bleat when interviewed and when testifying, is that "all you have to do is hit the delete key." Of course I have a response to this. When the ratio of offers for viagra and penis enlargement outnumber my actual emails by 15-20 to 1, it's not harmless, it is a nuisance. When they outnumber actual emails by about 200 to 1, as they do on an infrequently used address that I monitor for the medicine lodge, it is a pain in my ass, one that I would love to shove right back up theirs, along with a bill for the collective time I have spent, "hitting the delete key." As they say, there oughta be a law.
:: Ray 11:43 PM [+] ::
My hero
Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) has done it again. He has eloquently put into words before the United States Senate the very thoughts that were on my mind. He delivered this speech, The Truth Will Emerge, yesterday. (via metafilter)
:: Ray 5:25 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 19, 2003 ::
Big weekend and Monday
This weekend my friend from Indy, James, and his wife, Ingrid, were in town. Ingy visited with her mom, and James stayed with me in the Silver Suite, AKA Betty the Airstream, as he is allergic to the cats. Saturday night we took in some culture. First we saw the current Theater Oobleck production, Known Unknowns New Short Works. It consisted of 6 pieces, two of which were puppetry, three were sort of multimedia, and one was a short, humorous narrative, all somewhat themed on the recent Iraq war. I can't recommend it. The other pieces were OK, but the puppetry was awful, I mean really, really bad. The puppets themselves were even interesting, but the guy doing the voice work could have put a manic depressive on a high swing to sleep. Oobleck operates without a director, and this is one case where they really needed someone to say, "Needs work." I won't given up on Oobleck yet, as I have seen some amazing work there. Six years ago they did an outrageous political number in which Al Gore was really Marilyn Quayle in disguise, and Bob Dole was really dead, and had been reanimated by aliens from another planet. See the potential?

Later that night we went to the always enjoyable Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. Operating with a lean cast of five, and a missing tech person, the cast turned in one of the best, most energetic performances I have seen yet, finishing all 30 plays in just under the 60 minutes. Whenever friends are in from out of town and want to experience some unique Chicago theater, I take them here. I even took my mom several years back. I have not been dissappointed yet.

Sunday afternoon, after James and Ingrid left town, I finally made some progress in the garden, weeding and planting my vegetable bed with corn, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. My veggies didn't do so well last year, so I tried some fertilizer this year, and plenty of my own compost. If it doesn't do the trick, maybe I will try a different spot in the yard. Whatever happens, you will read about it here.

Finally, tonight was my last reprieve from my usual Monday nights with the kid I mentor (he has had a group therapy thing for several weeks). So I installed a new battery (the old one had finally died after years of abuse) in my 1978 Honda 550, and took her out for the first ride of the year, wheeeeee! It was a joy to be out riding again. It really does feel almost like I imagine that flying might. Of course I am as safe about it as can be, and won't get on without a helmet and sturdy clothes and boots. And this year I have taken to wearing my silver firefighter's approach suit jacket, which I am sure makes me quite a sight. Happy Monday!

:: Ray 10:15 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 16, 2003 ::
Even worse
Remember Jessica Lynch, the All-American soldier girl taken prisoner by the Iraqis, heroically rescued by US special forces? What if I told you that she didn't, in fact, have any bullet or stab wounds? What if I told you the Iraqis had given her one of the best beds in the hospital, and a full time nurse? What if I told you they had tried to return her to the Americans in an ambulance, only to be shot at when they approached an American checkpoint? Finally, what if I told you that when US soldiers 'courageously' rescued her, they were aware that Iraqi forces had long since fled the area? Would you be disgusted, like I am? Would you wonder why this story has not yet received any significant media coverage in the US, or cynically not be surprised?

Read it and weep, in the UK Guardian, via today's Salon: The truth about Jessica.
:: Ray 3:48 PM [+] ::
Cynical? me?
It is getting harder and harder not to be cynical in the current political environment. The Texas Democrats won their standoff with the Republicans there over some outrageous attempted gerrymandering of house districts, but overall things look bleak. Evidence is amassing all around us that the Bush Administration's fiscal, international, and environmental policies are all major disasters that will take years to clean up. Witness the current unemployment rate, obscene budget deficits, attacks in Saudi Arabia, anarchy in Afghanistan, and depletion of world stocks of large fish, to which Bush and his cronies respond by endlessly cutting taxes for the rich, pushing friends and enemies around with military power, and consuming natural resources as if they were endless in supply.

...all the while lying to us about it. Daily Howler did an excellent four part series this week on the culture of lying in the Bush Administration. Here, for your perusal, are parts 1, 2, 3, and 4

...and expending unprecedented amounts of effort, and money, to make Bush look good on camera. Read today's NY Times article, Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights (registration required).

:: Ray 12:28 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 15, 2003 ::
So I am driving in the car with the kid on Monday evening, on the way to drop him off at his home after a quick Oberweiss ice cream and a game of chess that we fought down to a draw (only two pieces left on the board were the kings). This would be the boy I mentor, by the way, whose name would not be appropriate to publish here. Anyway, I had the radio tuned to a local college station, WNUR, as I like to do sometimes. The DJ was playing an early eighties vinyl import from Japan called Wahaha, which was fairly upbeat, deconstructed enough to obviously not be normal 80's pop, yet downright catchy. It made the kid laugh, saying, "It sounds like a cross between The Jetsons and The Munsters!" Hmmm, maybe it seemed more apt at the time.

Wrong target
Today on Michigan Ave there was a protest against Starbucks. They had signs and big puppets and a giant inflated rat with red eyes and Starbucks logo. The beef was that Starbucks had contracted with some other company that they accused of unfair labor practices.

Their antics were amusing to watch, but I had virtually no sympathy for their cause, which I feel to be misguided. Starbucks may not be perfect, and maybe the company they contracted with really is unfair with labor, but for the most part it seems to me to be about as ethical as a company of its size can be, and they give their employees health insurance! If the protestors want to really make a change for the better, they should target the McDonald's around the corner or the Wally World out in the 'burbs. There are two companies with less than stellar labor records...downright despicable in the case of the latter.
:: Ray 1:13 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 ::
Tools and democrats
Over the weekend I splurged. My cordless drill had disappeared last autumn. After searching for it all winter, I finally acknowledged it was gone, and it was time to replace it. I could have bought another one for about $80 (is it me, or do they keep getting cheaper?), but I had been lusting for a Black & Decker kit at Target that had an 18v drill, circular saw, and saws-all for $200. Sunday I broke down and made the purchase.

And I am glad I did. Recently I cut down some shrubs behind my deck. I wasn't looking forward to hacking out the roots (unfortunately there is no access to use a truck to yank 'em out), but my new saws-all made quick work of the project. 18v...feel the power!

And hey, check out the Democrats making a stand in Texas. According to AP, 58 of 62 Dems failed to appear for Monday's session of the Texas legislature, thus breaking the quorum and upsetting Republican plans to ram through a congressional redistricting bill and a school financing bill, among others. Loyal readers will know just how Texas supports its schools from my March 14, 2003 entry. Why do I suspect that the Republicans aren't about to improve the situation? Go Dems!

:: Ray 11:29 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 09, 2003 ::
Stormy night
I feel a bit bad that the squirrel pups' first night out in the real world was a rough one. Nature did a number on them, as a line of dramatic thunderstorms went through, flashing, booming, and pouring rain. The last thing my neighborhood needs is more squirrels, but I hope the four of them at least managed to find something resembling shelter, as long as it wasn't in my house.

The incident did make me wonder a bit: how relatively consciously do animals such as squirrels think? I mean, of course they feel physical pain and such, and instinctively they seek shelter when it is cold, but do they have any thought process that resembles the idea, on a rainy, crappy night, that "this sucks!"?
:: Ray 4:36 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 08, 2003 ::
Meetups, little rodents, and gambling, oh my!
Last night I went to the Howard Dean Meetup in Chicago. I wasn't feeling very social, and I didn't really chat with anyone, but I liked the atmosphere and the people and I will go again in June. More importantly, I like what Howard Dean has to say as a candidate, and I will be supporting him. He even has a blog!

This morning I fought what I hope was the final battle in the great squirrel feud of 2003. I heard scratching in the attic, yet the little bugger hadn't gotten through the latest patch. So I went up and pulled it off, and lo and behold, a little head popped out, looking around, then another one, another and another one after that. Turns out my squirrel nemesis was a proud mama of four, which would explain why she was so fierce about trying to keep that hole open for these past few weeks. I felt like I was birthing as I waited patiently for them all to take what looked like their first tentative steps outside. They were pretty hungry, having been trapped in there for the past couple of days, and eagerly started chomping on the gutter schmutz that I hadn't cleaned from the gutters on that side of the house last year. Hole is covered back up, now. I'll keep you posted on just how energetically any of them try to get back in, yet again.

Finally for today, Mayor Daley has started pushing big time for casino gambling in Chicago. The budget is tight, what with the poor economy and all the sweetheart deals he has cut with his pals, and the money he currently squeezes out of Chicago taxpayers isn't enough to make ends meet. He seems to think that gambling revenue is the new magic pill that will solve all this. I bet a lot of those same pals of his are salivating at the thought. I think this is a really bad idea. I have nothing against gambling itself, but what it does to the lives of addicts really bothers me, and I don't want any part of benefitting from that.

If the mayor does succeed in bringing gambling to Chicago, I think he should build the casino on Northerly Island, former home of Meigs Field. Manmade entertainment seems a much better use of this manmade island than the artificial prairie park that he and the Mrs seem so adamant on putting there. Wait, that idea won't work. Without Meigs Field, how will the high rollers fly in to spend their money in the casino?
:: Ray 6:21 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 ::
Futz...I just lost a post. I will try it again: Last night I cut out some seriously overgrown shrubs directly behind my deck. In doing so, I revealed new possibilities for my landscaping this year. I have been uncertain how to proceed, because I can't really afford to spend the money on the materials for what I really want to do, which is replace some of the grass with barrier material, pebbles, and flagstone that I have sitting around. Instead, where the shrubs were turns out to be a great place for a flower or vegetable bed (once I pull out the old roots), which in turn creates a pleasing relationship with the beds around it. My flagstone pathway will just have to remain grass for now.

And of course my squirrel friend was at it again this morning, as I left for work. I chased him away, but am quite certain that he is back, right now, gnawing on my house. Ack.
:: Ray 12:03 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 05, 2003 ::
A welding first for Ray
Saturday, for the first time in my life, I stuck two pieces of metal together using an arc of electricity to heat and melt both them and an electrode rod of filler metal, simultaneously burning a flux coating on the rod, creating neutral shielding gases to prevent oxygen from inpregnating and weakening the weld.

OK, this is a very low tech process that happens all over the world millions of times per day, but Saturday was the first time I did it. And let me tell you, those two pieces of metal are not coming apart.
:: Ray 4:00 PM [+] ::
Squirrel war and dems debate
A fair amount of my energy this weekend went toward combatting my would-be housemate. Mr Squirrel chewed right through my flimsy temporary patch, so Saturday I put up a heavier one. He had trouble getting through this one, so he tried going around it, and did more damage, but didn't get back in...yet. Sunday I patched some of the new damage with a piece of aluming fascia material. I suspect that as I write this he is gnawing away at it, and wonder what he will have accomplished by the time I get home. By now he has made a mess of the front woodwork in one corner. If this goes on much longer, I will seriously consider borrowing a pellet gun and taking him out.

I watched some of Saturday night's democratic debate on Sunday, courtesy of Tivo. A bit of feuding between John Kerry and Howard Dean, fueled by the moderator, George Stephanopolous, was unfortunate. Almost any of them would be better than the current president, but the standout of the evening was Joe Lieberman, who in my opinion was on the wrong stage. He came off sounding like a Democrat in name only, with opinions that would win applause in a room full of conservative Republicans. If it somehow comes down to him vs Bush, then the fallacy of the Republicrats will have become real, and I will vote Green, even if it means I am throwing my vote away.
:: Ray 3:36 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 02, 2003 ::
Chickenhawks and Squirrels
I remain unimpressed by President Bush's jet landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln yesterday. The boy in me admires our nation's military hardware, and I certainly enjoy the rush of jets flying by at the annual Chicago Air & Water Show, but I try not to forget that these things are killing machines, not toys for the elite. Besides, if the president really enjoyed flying, you'd think he would have done more of it as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam, intead of missing an annual physical, being suspended from flight status, and failing to report for duty for a year -- not exactly a glowing military record. I doubt any of the sailors or pilots on the Abraham Lincoln would have much chance of becoming president if they did the same. Joe Conason has some additional interesting thoughts about this in today's Salon.

My ongoing battle with a squirrel attempting to reside in an eave of my house continued this morning, with a second eviction. After making sure he (she?) wasn't in there, I nailed a temporary patch over the hole he had chewed through a gap in the wood. I need to borrow a tin snips from a friend to cut some aluminum fascia material for a more permanent and aesthetic cover soon, or I am sure he will get through...again. Nature is a wonderful thing, but I won't share my home with uninvited guests.
:: Ray 1:23 PM [+] ::

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