Thursday, December 30, 2004

New Year's Resolutions

I don't like to make resolutions for the new year. The first of the year seems like an odd time to resolve to do things differently for the entire year. I don't know how many times I've sworn to change some aspect of my behavior only to forget about it days or weeks into the year.

This year I'm going to yield to my human imperfection and make weekly resolutions. Thus, if I can change my behavior for the first week, maybe I can do it for the next week, and the week after that and so forth. Here then are my three resolutions for the week beginning Sunday, January 2nd through Saturday, January 8th:
  1. Smile at least 1 minute every waking hour. (I'm starting off with an easy one since I'm always smiling anyway.) I read somewhere that it take less muscles to smile than to frown and I figure who needs a muscle strain!
  2. Don't procrastinate. If something needs to be done now, just do it! (Hmmm, I wonder if I can trademark that phrase?)
  3. Get a haircut. (Another easy one, but I'm trying to build momentum.)

I'm really going to make these resolutiuons work this coming week. Happy New Year everyone!

Resolution update: I got my haircut Friday!

Monday, December 27, 2004

The power of the Internet

I recently received a first-hand illustration of the power of the Internet. My first girlfriend from 30+ years ago found me using a simple Internet search tool!

Now how cool is that!?

I began this weblog in October. With it, my Google "ranking" increased from who-knows-where to #2. She "Googled" my name and, from the description on my weblog, thought it might be me and sent me an e-mail. That was almost two weeks ago and we've been corresponding trying to catch up on each other's lives.

For all the negatives related to the Internet (Spam, spyware, viruses and so forth), I've found another positive.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas thoughts

I like choral music at Christmastime. I like it anytime, really, but especially at Christmas. My mom was the church choir organist so my job as a little boy was to turn pages for her during the Christmas Eve midnight mass service. I guess when that's one of your earliest Christmas memories it stays with you forever. I like the sound of a well-tuned choir with the various voices blending together to create glorious music.

I have about a 30-minute drive to work and listen to WFMT, the Chicago classical music station, in the morning. This week they've been playing all of the classical Christmas music. It puts a person in a nice, reflective mood when starting the day.

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer has its place too, but I prefer choral music especially on Christmas night.

Happy holidays everyone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Celebrate Festivus

December 23rd is Festivus and a "Happy Festivus" to those who celebrate this holiday...not that there's anything wrong with that!

I checked my local Hallmark store for Festivus cards to send to my friends and co-workers. They must have been sold out because I didn't see any!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Coffee table books

I saw a CNN article today for coffee table book gift suggestions. That got me to wonder if anyone still has a coffee table.

We have a table in our living room, but it only gets used Christmas morning and maybe another day or two during the year. We have a table in our family room and it does hold my coffee mug Sunday mornings when I'm laying on the couch reading the newspaper. Other than that, it holds Coke cans, wine glasses, candles, my son's Gameboy and remote controls. In fact, it's more of a remote control table than anything else. Our TV has a remote, our digital cable has a remote, our VCR has a remote, our Surround Sound receiver has a remote, our DVD player has a remote and even our satellite receiver has a remote (even though we cancelled DirecTV a few months ago). I won't be a bit surprised that someday our remotes will have a remote!

I know coffee table books are there to impress guests -- as if I'm going to visit friends and look at a book! When Madonna has a coffee table book, then I know the trend has gone too far!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Favorite holiday movies

Last week I mentioned that Christmas in Connecticut was one of my favorite holiday movies. Here's my Top Five (in no particular order):
  1. It's A Wonderful Life
  2. Holiday Inn
  3. White Christmas
  4. Christmas In Connecticut
  5. The Bishop's Wife
I must like older movies as all of these movies were released prior to 1955. (White Christmas was released in 1954.)

Holiday gripe

I have a holiday gripe. (Actually, I have several gripes, but why be so negative around the holidays!)

Anyway, my gripe centers around those Styrofoam "peanuts" that are used for packaging. We've received several packages the past few days from online vendors, family members and eBay sellers. Most of the items come packaged with these Styrofoam peanuts. We have an aggressive recycling program in the northwest suburbs so we do our part by recycling a lot of material. However, Styrofoam isn't recyclable, at least not here. So Wednesday morning when the garbage is picked up, I'll have a couple of large garbage bags filled with nothing but Styrofoam peanuts. They should look great in the landfill.

Of course I would rather have the item arrive unbroken, but can't we invent something that is more earth-friendly? For example, packages from Amazon.com are packed with plastic Baggie-like packaging that contains air. Once I remove the item, I pierce the baggie to let the air out and then put it in with our plastic bags that a local grocer recycles. We've been buying from Amazon for several years and nothing has been broken yet.

It just seems like the smart people who sent a man to the moon or make an iPod can create something safe, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly.

OK, end of gripe. I have garbage bags to fill.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

"Baby, it's cold outside"

I'm listening to the Brian Seltzer version of this song as I write this. It's going to be cold here in the Chicago area beginning Sunday. We'll have subzero wind chills on Sunday with subzero lows Thursday and Friday. This is suppose to be the coldest December since 1993.

Lake effect snow began about a half hour ago. That's a good sign since it shows that it's still relatively warm. Lake effect snow is caused by the wind coming off of Lake Michigan. Usually Indiana gets the real heavy snow, but we're getting the puffy flakes and fortunately it's not accumulating. The snow will taper off as the temperature falls.

I guess a white Christmas would be nice.

Update: It's 3 above zero right now (Sunday morning)!

Friday, December 17, 2004

2004 list of banished words

Since 1976, Lake Superior State University has published an annual list of "banished words." This year's edition is headlined by the words "metrosexual," "punked" and "embedded journalist."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Newspapers with RSS feeds

Click here for a list of U.S. newspapers that support RSS news feeds. Free newsreaders such as Bloglines or NewsGator use RSS feeds gather, organize and prsent news and, yes, blogs to their subscribers. RSS feeds are web files with an extension ending in RSS or XML. For example the newsfeeds for my two blogs are:

For more information about RSS syndication, click here.


Thursday, December 9, 2004

Students fight for right to bare all

Interesting "tradition" at Bennington College in Vermont! Just a hunch, but I don't think President Bush spent much time here during the recent campaign!

Sperm burn

Just when you thought you heard everything, now comes word that laptop use can damage a man's fertility! Teenagers and young men are urged to limit the amount of time their laptops are on, well, their lap.

So men, surf carefully!

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Thunderbird 1.0 released

Thunderbird 1.0 has been released. I've used various pre-release builds of this great e-mail software and have had no problems whatsoever. I downloaded the new version this evening and it installed flawlessly and recognized my existing profile. I like the fact that you can receive RSS feeds in your mailbox just like regular e-mail. I wish Microsoft would do this for Outlook. (Actually, you can do this in Outlook by purchasing third-party plug-ins.)

Read more about Thunderbird.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Male tradition

Dave Barry has a funny column that says that men have essentially been messing up holiday shopping for over 2,000 years!

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Christmas in Connecticut

At this time of year, Lisa and I dust off the DVDs, VHS tapes and, yes, laserdiscs that comprise our holiday movie collection. I like most of the holiday movies (I guess that's OK for a man to admit!), but one of my favorites is the original Christmas in Connecticut. I say "original" because I refer to the 1945 version, not the 1992 remake. The original stars Dennis Morgan, Barbara Stanwyck and Sydney Greenstreet. Unfortunately, the movie isn't available on DVD yet, but our laserdisc player still works fine so it will have to suffice for now.

Oh, here's some trivia I learned from the Internet Movie Database site: the Connecticut home is the same set used for 1938's Bringing Up Baby starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

Well, time to go pop some popcorn and watch it.

Post-its

While surfing this morning, I came across a weblog that referenced a freeware software program that mimics the functionality of "Post-it" notes. I use "Post-it" notes (the real ones) a lot so I'm going to try this software myself to see how that works. Here's the site where I originally found the reference.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

1914 Baseball Card Set Sells for $800,000

Where do people find the money? I need to check my mother's basement for my old baseball cards.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

My Christmas wish

If there are any kind Santas are out there, this is what I want for Christmas -- a C.F. Martin D-28 Marquis Sunburst guitar. I've also posted my totally unrealistic Wish List on Froogle.com!

Oh...and wouldn't world peace be nice too?

"Blog" was the #1 word of the year

According to Merriam-Webster Inc., "Blog" was the #1 word of the year. Here is the complete Top Ten:

  1. blog
  2. incumbent
  3. electoral
  4. insurgent
  5. hurricane
  6. cicada
  7. peloton
  8. partisan
  9. sovereignty
  10. defenestration

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Da Vinci Code

Last month I bought a copy of The Da Vinci Code on eBay. I like books about drama and intrigue, secret agents and double agents. My favorite authors are Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham plus an occasional Caleb Carr. I heard a lot of good things about The Da Vinci Code, so when the prices got reasonable on eBay, I took a chance. I started reading it a couple of weeks ago.

I usually read about 15-20 pages each night. I find that reading relaxes me, makes me drowsy and is the perfect way to end a stressful day. I'm now two-thirds of the way through the book and so far I love it.

The movie version is suppose to come out in 2005 and will be directed by Ron Howard. Tom Hanks has been cast as Robert Langdon, the male lead. Somehow I see the Langdon character as an older person, more professorial in nature similar to Indiana Jones. (Not as old as Harrison Ford, but he would have been my choice if the book had been written ten years ago.) The role of Sophie Neveu, the female lead, hasn't been announced, but Rachel Weisz seems to me to be the perfect actress for the part. She has been in a number of movies, including The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Enemy at the Gates and The Runaway Jury. I don't have a clue who will eventually get the role.

The book is a definite keeper!

Dead housewife revealed

Mrs. Huber, the nosey next-door neighbor, was the housewife whose demise was revealed Sunday evening on Desperate Housewives.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Blogging with dogs

When I started this weblog, I committed to myself that I would attempt to post something every other day. I haven't quite met that commitment, but I try. Usually I'll put my thoughts down on paper and then start typing away. I'll save it as a draft, go back later and edit, save it again, check for grammar and spelling and then post. I often edit a message after posting to make sure I've accurately conveyed my thoughts.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, we have four dogs in our household. Three of the four are smaller lapdog-type dogs. All are under three years of age. My stepdaughter has three small dogs and when she's over (which seems like a lot!), we have seven dogs in the house! Two of our dogs (Mozart and Katie -- a Papillon and a Maltese) are close to me and compete with each other for my attention. It's not unusual for either or both dogs to be lying with me when I watch television. They lately like to sit in my lap when I'm working on the computer. Add to this mix Ginger -- my stepdaughter's Teacup Chihauhau -- who is definitely a lapdog.

Unless they're sleeping or otherwise preoccupied, I'll bring one of the dogs with me into the den. They know it's "computer time" and immediately find a comfortable spot on my lap, stretch out and lay down. I can then start working. I'm right-handed, but I'm forced to type with my left since my right hand strokes and supports the dog. Ever try to type one-handed with your non-dominant hand? It's not easy.

The result is that it takes much longer to write, edit and post than it would if I could use two hands. But would it be as much fun? I guess if you're a dog- or cat-person, then you'll understand. Those who don't care for pets will think I'm nuts. My record, by the way, is to have the three dogs on my lap at one time while working on the computer.

I posted this solo while they were busy eating breakfast!

Friday, November 26, 2004

TV shows

I have to admit that I am hooked on two new TV shows this season. Both Lost and Desperate Housewives are now part of our standard viewing habit.

I've also gotten into the CSI shows this year. I never watched them before, but I gave CSI - NY a try and now I usually watch it. I'm also watching CSI - Miami. I'm not sure that "watching" is the correct term, I usually taping them on my VCR for later viewing. Maybe we'll break down and get a Tivo next year!

And another season of 24 returns next year!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving morning 2004

Picture of my backyard taken at 7:30 AM, Thursday, November 25th. The sun is peeking between the branches of my Bradford Pear tree that still has red leaves on it.

Behind the fence is a forest preserve. It's mating season for deer and last Sunday there was a large buck with two does running behind the fence. We also have coyotes in the preserve and we often hear them howl late at night.

The Chicago area received a couple of inches of snow and sleet Wednesday and Wednesday evening. The day began with rain and as the temperature got colder, it turned to snow. Thanksgiving morning is sunny, but cold.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban, the eccentric billionaire owner (why is the word "eccentric" always paired with "billionaire" or "millionaire" instead of with "impoverished" or "dirt-poor"?) of the Dallas Mavericks, has a weblog that serves as a forum for his views on the world of sports and the media. His comments are pretty interesting and, as you can imagine, subject to debate. He weighs in with some interesting comments about the recent brawl in between Indiana and Detroit.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Thanksgiving thoughts

Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us and, as usual, my family will gather together for dinner. It's hard to believe that this will be our 11th Thanksgiving in our home. It seems like only yesterday that we crammed the family into the kitchen and extended the kitchen table as far as it could go.

My wife will make her usual wonderful meal. There is, of course, a lot of work involved and we all have our assignments to help the preparation move along. I get the husband's traditional job of carving the turkey and pouring the wine. (My wife will probably say those are the only tasks I can handle!) Even with a double oven, four-burner stove, microwave oven and all the modern gadgets and gizmos that Williams-Sonoma can invent, it still is an effort to pull it all together.

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It's centered around two of my favorite pastimes -- football and eating! It's also one of the few holidays that isn't really weather-dependent. The 4th of July should always be hot and sunny while Christmas, of course, should always be white! But Thanksgiving can go either way -- here in northern Illinois we've had warm Thanksgivings and we had a White Thanksgiving a couple of years ago!

I also consider Thanksgiving to be the forgotten holiday. It's sandwiched between the more popular, participative holidays of Halloween and Christmas. It seems like the stores are all decorated in fall and Halloween colors beginning August 1 and as soon as the jack-o-lantern candles are blown out, the stores switch to Christmas decorations. We were out driving last Saturday evening and a lot of houses had their outdoor Christmas lights on -- and it's only November 20! Two houses even had a fully decorated tree inside! Maybe I'm just "old school" when it comes to Thanksgiving.

I think back to when I was a little kid and my mom would make holiday dinners for us with only a single oven, no microwave and no fancy cutlery (although Dad finally gave in and bought an electric carving knife). We lived in a postwar, 1950s-era tract home with a small, cramped kitchen. To this day, I don't know how she did it, but we always had turkey with all of the trimmings -- and she seemed to do it so effortlessly. I imagine all the moms did that too. I know my recollection is as a child so it's not the most accurate depiction of what really happened, but it's still a happy memory.

Please keep all of our service men and women in your prayers this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

"Desperate" Nicolette Sheridan clip from MNF

I received a link to the controversial Nicolette Sherdian clip from Monday Night Football. I didn't watch the game, so I didn't see it as it happened. After listening to the uproar and outrage the past couple of days, I guess I'm disappointed because it seems pretty tame to me.

You be the judge. Was it pornographic? To me, no. Was it appropriate for the audience? Since the audience is primarily male...probably.

The do-gooders are trying to compare this to the Janet Jackson episode from the Super Bowl. This doesn't compare. It's suggestive, but that's it. I think the Cialis and Viagra TV ads are far more suggestive.

I think the "acting" was more offensive to me! :-)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Great Excel site

I use Microsoft Excel and Word a lot for work (along with Access, PowerPoint and FrontPage). Recently I found a site specializing in Excel tips and tricks. It's called Ask Mr. Excel - Tips and Solutions for Excel. I'm trying to stay current with pivot tables and the site has a wealth of information about using Excel and uncovering some of its secrets.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The art of the deal

Yesterday I went to a garage sale. I usually don't go to many garage sales or flea markets, but this one intrigued me because Depression glass was advertised and I collect it. The sale was in an older home with a detached garage where the sale was held due to the cool outdoor temperatures.

I was looking around and found nothing remotely interesting. Everything seemed to be picked over. I was about to leave when the owner, an older woman in her late 60s or early 70s, came over to me. "Did you find anything that you liked? she asked.

"No," I said, " I was in the area and thought I would stop in. I was hoping you might have some musical instruments such as a guitar."

"Oh," she replied, "I do have a guitar, but I didn't put it with all of this stuff. Would you like to see it?"

I told her that I would be interested although, judging from the quality of the stuff in the garage, I figured it would be a junker.

She said something to a younger woman who I believed was her daughter. She led me outside the garage and through the back door of the house. It was in an area of those 3-story homes with an attic on the third floor. She was telling me that she and her husband bought the house when it was only a few years old and they had lived there ever since. Her husband had recently passed away and she wanted to sell a lot of the old stuff so she could move closer to her daughter and her grandchildren.

We entered the house and walked up an old staircase and into what appeared to be a bedroom that now serving as a storage room. She opened a closet door and I could see the outline of a guitar case leaning against the wall. The case was dirty and dusty, but I could distinctly make out the word "Gibson."

"My husband was a musician when I met him and he bought this guitar in 1959," she said. "He only played it for a year or so before he developed arthritis in his hands. I don't think it's been played since then and I doubt that it's been out of the case in many, many years."

I asked her if I could pick up the case and I nervously approached the closet. There were cobwebs attached to the case and I slowly lifted it up. The case was heavy and definitely old and I carefully carried it into the room and laid it on the wooden floor.

"My husband said it was one of the best guitars that was made at the time. He couldn't play anymore and thought about selling it. He was hoping one of the kids would take up the guitar, but the boys seemed to be more interested in sports and my daughter had no interest at all. Here's a cloth you can use to wipe off the dust."

She gave me a rag and I knelt down and started to clean the case. I could see the words "Les Paul" appear near the bottom of the case! I could no longer contain my excitement. I set the rag down, unlatched the case and lifted the top.

Inside was a Les Paul electric guitar. It was dusty and missing two strings, but it looked like it was in great condition. "Did you say your husband bought this in 1959?" I asked.

"He ordered it new from a music dealer and he had to wait for it to arrive. It came just before Christmas that year. I remember because our daughter was born a few weeks after it arrived."

I lifted it up and turned it over. The back of the guitar, except for dust, was flawless. I lifted it up to eye level and looked down the neck. It was as straight as if it was new!

The 1959 Les Paul is one of the most important electric guitars ever made...and certainly one of the most valuable. The '50s Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters are considered by rock historians as two of the seminal instruments in the history of rock...and I was holding an original '59 in my hands!

Jimmy Page used a 1959 Standard Les Paul as one of his stage guitars during the Led Zeppelin years. Any of the guitar gods from the rock era either owned one in their personal collection or used one in their recordings.

Gibson even makes authentic reissues of these guitars which sell for thousands of dollars. They are even making a reissue of Jimmy Page's guitar.

"Would you consider selling it?" I nervously asked.

"Oh sure," she said. "I just didn't list it because I didn't think anyone would be interested in an old guitar."

OK, I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained. "Um, how much would you want for it?" I asked.

"Would $200 be too much?"

And then I woke up!!!

Damn. Must have been thinking of last night's post!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

1979 Gibson Les Paul 25/50 Anniversary guitar


This is a 1979 Gibson Les Paul 25/50 Anniversary guitar. Based on Gibson's serial number system, the guitar was built in Kalamazoo, Michigan in December 1978.

The guitar commemorated Les Paul's 50 years in show business and 25 years with Gibson. The guitar is the tobacco sunburst model.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

You won't believe this!

Now I've heard everything!

NBA player Ron Artest has been benched for asking to take a month off to rest and recuperate after promoting his rap album. The poor baby needs time to recover from the rigors of his busy schedule before continuing on with his NBA career.

Here's a thought: Try getting a real job where you're expected to show up at least five days a week for 50 weeks out of the year. And you won't be paid millions of dollars either!

It's stories like this that make me question why I follow professional sports.

Veterans Day 2004

Today is Veterans Day and I want to thank all of the veterans for their service to our country and for their personal sacrifice. My grandfather and my father were veterans of World War I and World War II respectively and my grandfather was seriously wounded in France.

A special thanks to those men and women serving in the Middle East and to their families and friends who live with a great deal of uncertainty.

Thanks also to my good friend Henry who, although not a veteran of armed conflict, was stationed with the Air Force in West Germany. In the late-1960s, Henry nonetheless helped save Western Europe from the evils of Communism by keeping those latrines neat and clean for the officers!

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

1971 Martin D-35 S

This is a 1971 Martin D-35 S guitar. The "S" stands for 12 frets (in C.F. Martin's naming system). The 12-fret guitar features a shorter neck while the body is a little larger than a standard dreadnought guitar. The result is a warm, deep sound. It also has a wider neck allowing for some finger-style playing. A lot of bluegrass bands use a 12-fret guitar as a rhythm guitar.

As this 33-year old guitar ages gracefully, it's developing a deep pumpkin-like color at the bottom giving it some "character."

Monday, November 8, 2004

Wrigley Field 1929

I found this neat old picture of Wrigley Field on the Library of Congress photo website. The photo was taken in 1929 meaning that memories of their last World Series championship in 1908 were still relatively fresh!

Click on the picture for an enlargement. You'll notice that, back then, fans could sit on the outfield grass.

Speaking of the Cubs and their fans, I see where they sold out the annual Cubs Convention in record time proving that it's never too soon for Cub fans to begin their summer angst! I wonder if Sammy Sosa will still be with the team.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Who let the blogs out?

I know the title is a cheap way to garner attention and it's definitely not an original headline!

I've been reading about the misinformation spread during Election Day regarding the exit polls that predicted a big win for Kerry. The mainstream media picked it up and it affected the late afternoon financial markets. When I began watching election coverage around 7:00 PM CST, there were still predictions of a big Kerry win.

To quote Maxwell Smart: "Missed it by that much!"

Dick Morris, on Wednesday's "The O'Reilly Factor," opined that the Democrats may have intentionally tweaked the exit polls to make it appear that Kerry was going to win big, thus encouraging Republican voters out west to shrug their shoulders and say: "Why bother." I seriously doubt that. I think the pollsters got some biased data and did not overlay their data with the actual votes. Once the networks figured it out, they stopped relying on them. The exit polls are good for showing what the hot button issues were and why one candidate did better on a particular issue. Bush did better than Kerry in "moral values" and "likeability."

It's been only 24 hours since Kerry conceded and Bush declared victory so, of course, speculation is already running rampant regarding the 2008 election! It sounds like Hillary Clinton has already earned the Democratic nomination so the Dems can save time and money and avoid holding their '08 convention. (I've also seen Howard Dean's name mentioned as Democratic party chairman.) I guess Rudy Giuliani's the choice of the Republicans although the moderates would prefer Arnold Schwarzenegger (if they can just get that pesky constitutional language changed)!

And so it goes...

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Election post-mortem

There's not much to say about this election that hasn't already been discussed around the water cooler or by the national media, the blogosphere, Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms. I guess that's the beauty of this modern information age -- the ability to discuss things with somebody across the room or across the country. This morning I was reading various reactions to the election returns as it was happening last night. I can just imagine someone sitting in their family room watching CNN and typing away on their wireless laptop!

Now that we've completed our quadrennial celebration of our democracy and the election has been won or conceded (depending upon your viewpoint), it's time to refocus on the economy, the war on terror and Bruce Springsteen's political activism.

And ... spring training is only a few months away!

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

I did my part!

I decided to vote this morning before going to work. In Illinois, the polls open at 6:00 AM and close at 7:00 PM. My polling place is at a new school in my subdivision so I drove over there at 6:20 AM to spend a few minutes voting. I knew I was in trouble when I saw all the cars in the parking lot and was further bothered when I saw a line snaking out the door.

Did I mention that it was drizzling and in the 40s this morning? Of course, my place in line was not covered and I wasn't wearing a topcoat.

We've lived in our house for 10 years and our original polling place was a high school that was several miles away. Our precinct consisted of scattered subdivisions, rural farmland and forest preserves so we rarely waited in line to vote. As the population of Chicago expands westward, our area is becoming more and more urban with all the associated congestion. Apparently, everyone had the same idea about voting early (and often!) so I got in line and waited. There was one large line with no signs or instructions regarding where our precinct poll was located (there were two precincts at our polling location). Finally, one of the election volunteers came out and steered several of us to the correct line. I ran into a neighbor who, at 6:45 AM, was finally voting after arriving just as the polls opened. I finally voted at 7:15 AM and as I walked out, the line was much longer than when I arrived.

I'm not sure what to make of this as there are no hotly contested races going on in Illinois. The state was conceded to Kerry several months ago and our Senatorial "race" will be one-sided. (The Illinois Republican Party forced the original nominee, Jack Ryan, to withdraw from the race after some nasty stuff was revealed from his sealed divorce papers.)

Must be the race for the county weed control board that's drawing the crowd!

I'll be watching the news tonight (and probably into the wee hours of the morning) to see who wins. Maybe it will be like 4 years ago when the Supreme Court decided our new president.

Monday, November 1, 2004

Election Day is here!

Election Day is tomorrow. I'm sure I'm in the majority that says that it's about time! Illinois was long ago conceded to the Democrats so we've been spared the nonstop political advertising that the "swing" states have experienced. There are no local elections of merit in my part of suburbia so I've had no door-to-door canvassers knocking on my door this year. Ah, the quiet.

I hope everyone exercises their Constitutional right and votes tomorrow!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

1970 Martin D-28

This is my 1970 Martin D-28 guitar. I've had it for about two years now. Jimmy Page used a slightly newer D-28 (the 1971 model) in the studio version of "Going To California." I also believe the late New Age guitarist, Michael Hedges, used a '71 in some of his studio work. I feel this 34-year old guitar is just getting broke in!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

[The hunt for] A Red October -- Epilogue

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans for their victory over the Cardinals in a 4-game sweep. The BoSox put a new meaning to the term "finishing strong" by winning 8 games in a row after being down 0-3 to the New York Yankees.

A couple of thoughts gleaned from ESPN Radio driving to work this morning:
  • The Red Sox are the first team since the 1961 Yankees to win the World Series with two players hitting 35 home runs or more. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz accomplished this feat for the BoSox with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris last doing it for the Yankees. What it tells me is that pitching and defense still win championships. In this Series, the Red Sox had those too.
  • Would the Red Sox have won if they had traded for Alex Rodriguez as they planned during the last off-season? Instead of Manny Ramirez (the Series MVP) in left field, they would have had A-Rod at shortstop. (If rumors are true, Nomar Garciapara would have been traded to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez so Rodriguez-Ordonez would have replaced Ramirez-Garciapara.) Interesting!
  • Boston manager Terry Francona joined Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenley as managers winning the World Series as rookie managers. Hopefully Francona will have a longer tenure than Brenley enjoyed with the D-backs.
  • As much as Fox TV tried, the Red Sox (1918) had only the third longest drought in baseball (and in professional sports, for that matter). Our beloved Cubs (1908) and White Sox (1917) have gone the longest without winning the World Series. The Red Sox were last in the Series in 1986 with the Cubs playing in 1945 and the White Sox playing in 1959.

Those of us in Chicago can now look forward to the remainder of the Bears season and, of course, the Chicago Bulls! :-)


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

[The hunt for] A Red October -- Part III

To paraphrase a noted New England politician: I picked the Cardinals to win the World Series before I picked them to lose!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

More on the Chicago Cubs 2005 schedule

After I posted the Cubs 2005 schedule, I found out that it now appears on their website in calendar format.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Chicago Cubs 2005 Schedule

From the Chicago Cubs newsgroup. Looks like some great match-ups in June!

April
4-5-6 @ Arizona
8-9-10 Milwaukee
11-12-13 San Diego
15-16-17 @ Pittsburgh
18-19 @ Cincinnati
20-21 @ St. Louis
22-23-24 Pittsburgh
25-26-27 Cincinnati
29-30 @ Houston

May
1 @ Houston
3-4-5 @ Milwaukee
6-7-8 Philadelphia
9-10-11 New York Mets
13-14-15 @ Washington D.C. (or wherever the Expos play)
17-18 @ Pittsburgh
20-21-22 Chicago White Sox
23-24-25 Houston
26-27-28-29 Colorado
30-31 @ Los Angeles

June
1 - @ Los Angeles
2-3-4-5 @ San Diego
6-7-8 Toronto
10-11-12 Boston
13-14-15 Florida
17-18-19 @ New York Yankees
20-21-22-23 @ Milwaukee Brewers
24-25-26 @ Chicago White Sox
28-29-30 Milwaukee

July
1-2-3 Washington D.C.
4-5-6-7 @ Atlanta
8-9-10 @ Florida
11-12-13-14 ALL STAR BREAK
15-16-17 Pittsburgh
18-19-20-21 @ Cincinnati
22-23-24 St. Louis
25-26-27 San Francisco
28-29-30-31 @ Arizona

August
2-3-4 @ Philadelphia
5-6-7 @ New York Mets
8-9-10 Cincinnati
11-12-13-14 St. Louis
15-16-17 @ Houston
19-20-21 @ Colorado
22-23-24 Atlanta
26-27-28 Florida
29-30-31 Los Angeles

September
2-3-4 @ Pittsburgh
5-6-7 @ St. Louis
8-9-10-11 @ San Francisco
12-13-14 Cincinnati
15-16-17-19 St. Louis
20-21-22 @ Milwaukee
23-24-25 Houston
27-28 Pittsburgh
29-30 @ Houston

October
1-2 @ Houston

WebWeiss.com

My brother-in-law's website. Maybe he'll pay me a referral fee!

[The hunt for] A Red October -- Part II

I need to amend my World Series pick. I originally said the Cardinals in six, but I was counting on the Cardinals winning one of the first two games at Fenway Park to take home field advantage.

Didn't happen.

I still think the Cardinals will win the Series (they are the better team on paper), but the Red Sox are on an amazing emotional high right now. Game Three Tuesday night is BIG for both teams, but especially for the Cardinals.

I'll say the Cards in seven games.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Bailey

This is Bailey, our two-year old Lhasa Apso/Maltese mix. She was our first dog and is the queen of the house. She's more Lhasa than Maltese -- both in size and demeanor -- and isn't shy in letting everyone know that there are birds outside, or kids playing out front, or the phone is ringing, or someone is at the door, or the garage door is opening and so forth. Well that's OK, we still love her.

[The hunt for] A Red October -- Part I

Wow, what a baseball postseason so far! I don't usually follow baseball after the regular season closes because: (a) Chicago teams are rarely in the playoffs and (b) college football is in full swing. I didn't watch any of the division playoff games this year, but I did watch both League Championship Series. I think we're in for an interesting World Series.

First, the Yankees are now responsible for the biggest collapse ever in baseball history. Up 3-0 in games, with a one-run lead in Game Four and with three outs left, they found a way to lose. Well, that sometimes happens, but they had a two-run lead with two innings to go in Game Five and still couldn't put the Red Sox away. Then, facing a one-legged pitcher in Game Six, they couldn't get a clutch hit. A team down 0-3 has only come back twice before in professional sports history -- both in hockey. Now three teams have done it. It's ironic that the most-decorated professional baseball team now adds this to their legacy. I wanted to call this a humiliation, but the Red Sox deserve all the credit for hanging together and never giving up. They won the series more than the Yankees lost it!

The Cardinals-Astros series was lost in all the attention given to the ALCS, but it never lacked for drama. Down 2-0 in games, the Astros won three in a row at Houston to come within a game of their forst World Series trip. The Astros won Game Five with a dramatic three-run walkoff home run by Jeff Kent. The Redbirds paid them back with a walkoff home run of their own in Game Six when Jim Edmonds hit a two-run home run in the 12th inning. The Astros had to feel pretty good in Game Seven with a 2-1 lead and Roger Clemens on the mound, but the Cardinals showed why they were the best team during the regular season by coming back and winning to move on to the World Series.

I think America will be pulling for the Red Sox to win. They haven't won the Series since 1918. By comparison, the White Sox last won in 1917 and the Cubs in 1908. (I still don't understand why everyone thinks the Red Sox are more cursed than the Cubs or even the White Sox.) This will be their 4th World Series for the Red Sox since the Cubs made their last appearance in 1945. The Cardinals have won 9 World Series and the Red Sox have won 5 World Series (Source: Major League Baseball).

I'm also pulling for the Red Sox, but I think the Redbirds will prevail in six games. It all starts tonight.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Here's a headline I'd like to see...

WORLD OIL PRICES PLUNGE ON CONSERVATION FEARS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ALTERNATE, RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Sam

This is Sam, our [almost] two-year old sable and white Papillon. Sam is also our miracle dog! When he first came into our lives, he was sickly and non-responsive. Pictures of him as a young puppy are sad to look at. He was suffering from protein deficiency and my stepdaughter nursed him back to health. We later found out that his littermate had died as a young puppy. Today Sam is a healthy, friendly dog with a beautiful coat of fur and ears that betray his emotion.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The wind sprang up...

The wind sprang up at four o’clock
The wind sprang up and broke the bells
Swinging between life and death
These words by T.S. Eliot seem appropriate this Friday evening. The first cold, stormy weather of autumn has hit the Chicago area. The dreaded "S" word was even mentioned by some forecasters earlier in the week, but now they say we won't get any snow ... yet. They were even talking about a Great Lakes storm to rival the 1975 Lake Superior storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I'm not ready for all this nasty weather and I'm the type of person who likes cooler weather. Summer was late to arrive this year and now it's leaving us! Fortunately, I won't be taking the commuter train to work anymore. No more waiting in the wind and in single-digit temperatures for the train!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debates

Is anyone tired of the debates like me? I know that as an American, it's important to be fully aware of the issues so we can elect the better and more deserving candidate to be president.

I watched the first debate a couple of weeks ago to see how each candidate would do and which one would present their argument more clearly and concisely. As I watched each candidate, I got the feeling I was listening to a stump speech from a campaign stop rather than an attempt to address the moderator's question. I thought the second debate had more give and take, but again it still seemed like I was listening to another speech. Now it's an hour or so from the third and final debate and I'm hoping to hear more about the issues rather than a personal attack on each man's character.

I wonder just how good the Lincoln-Douglas debates were in 1860. This was an era where the candidate didn't play for the cameras and soundbites were unknown. I'd hate to think how those debates may have been different if they were televised or covered by Internet news sites! The outcome of the election may have changed and history would have been different.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Mozart

This is Mozart, my year-old tri-color Papillon and companion dog. Like his namesake, he is small in stature, but makes up for it was a zest for life. He is constantly on the move so it was hard to pose him for this picture!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A Whipping

Well my alma mater got chewed up and spit out last night. Nebraska lost 70-10 to Texas Tech Saturday night which is the worst loss in school history -- and that dates back 115 seasons!

There's a lot of great Husker web sites out there, but the most concise site for my money is HuskerPedia.com. It operates a lot like Google News in that it searches for Husker-related news from all over the web. This time of year is especially interesting because of all the recruiting tidbits -- and it's apparent we need to upgrade our recruiting!

I was hoping the new coaches would jumpstart this team to be a contender again, but the West Coast Offense is a complicated offense for a college team to learn in one year. They may still be able to win the Big XII North -- none of the other North teams look very good -- but it's obvious that Oklahoma is the cream of the crop this year. Maybe in '05.

Halloween Decorations

If Hollywood ever wanted to make "Halloween Vacation." I know a good setting for the Griswolds' fictional home!

Saturday, October 9, 2004

Katie

This is a picture of Katie, our Maltese puppy. She will be a year old in December. Katie came to us as a rescue and fits in perfectly with the three other dogs.

Old friends

A couple of weeks ago, an old college friend was in Chicago for a conference. He called me and we got together on a Friday evening. We've been friends for over 30 years, but had not seen each other since my wedding 12 years ago.

It was fun to see him and talk about the "old days" and also reminisce about all the pranks we used to pull on our friends (and even some non-friends!). As we were talking, it did not seem possible that those things happened so many years ago. After all the laughing and giggling, it almost seemed like all those things were happening now!

We were snapped back to reality at 8:30 PM when my buddy announced that he was tired and needed to turn in for the night...on an early autumn Friday evening...in downtown Chicago! The sad thing was that I was also getting tired.

Wow, things have changed for both of us.

Monday, October 4, 2004

September 13, 1998

Sammy Sosa hits his 61st home run on September 13, 1998. Later in the game, Sosa hit #62. He finished the season with 66 home runs. Mark McGwire had 70.

Sammy Sosa

As long as I'm dumping on Sammy Sosa, I might as well share my story about Sammy Sosa and the great 1998 home run chase. As many of you may recall, Sosa and Mark McGwire were running neck-to-neck with each other to beat the (then) season home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris back in 1961. McGwire won the race by hitting home run #62 on September 8, 1998 (ironically against the Cubs).

On September 13, 1998, my wife, son and I had tickets to see the Cubs play the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. In that game, Sosa hit two home runs -- numbers 61 and 62! I had my old trusty old (circa 1980) Canon A-1 film camera with me and managed to get a picture just after he hit home run #61 and snapped several pictures as he circled the bases. The picture for #62 did not turn out as well as I did not use the telephoto lens.

I've posted a picture of #61.

Baseball's over!

Both the Chicago teams ended their season yesterday. The Cubs waited until Saturday to be officially eliminated. The White Sox were officially eliminated over a week ago, but they were effectively eliminated in early August when Minnesota swept a series at Comiskey Park (it's hard to refer to the park as U.S. Cellular Field!).

I actually saw the Sox high-water mark on Saturday, July 24th. We attended the game against Detroit where the Sox had to rally several times before finally winning on Joe Crede's walk-off home run in the ninth inning. Minnesota lost their game the same evening so the Sox were a half-game up. That was it. The Sox lost the next game on Sunday while the Twins won and it was downhill for the rest of the season.

I'm watching with interest the latest development between Sammy Sosa and the Cubs organization. Sammy essentially blew off the last game -- arriving after noon for a 1:00 PM game. He said he was hurt and Dusty Baker told him that he wasn't going to play. Instead of changing into his uniform and cheering on his teammates from the bench, he left early and then ripped Baker in a subsequent Sun-Times interview. Enjoy your next season with the Mets, Sammy. It's been nice knowing you.

Both the Cubs and Sox have a lot of work to do this off-season although the Cubs have a better core of players and should be in the thick of the pennant chase in 2005. Before the Sox can compete with Minnesota, they need to come up with a plan for beating Detroit! It seems like Detroit -- no matter how bad they are -- have the Sox number each year.

Phooey!

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Introduction

Well there's a first time for everything. A number of people I know maintain their own blogs or read blogs of others so I thought I would give this a try. I guess after reading so much about blogs and their recent impact on the politics, I figure there must be something to them. I'm a quiet person by nature, so this is a personal stretch!

I'm 52 and live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I work at a commercial bank in the city (although we're moving to the 'burbs next week). I've been in bank marketing most of my professional life and still enjoy the challenges. Bank marketing has evolved over the years and has become very "cutting edge" in terms of technology. A lot of the stuff we can do now was unheard of 10 or more years ago.

I'm married to a Cub fan who is going through emotional turmoil because of her team's recent collapse. I guess being a Cub fan means you're always looking forward to next year, but this season (like last season) seems to hurt them more than usual. The Cubs were eliminated from postseason today so it's a sad day for all Cub fans. I consider myself a Chicago baseball fan meaning I take sides only when the Cubs and White Sox play each other.

Our family owns four dogs which often feels like four too many! All are under three years of age and are bundles of energy. We have a Lhasa-Maltese mix, two Papillons and a Maltese -- two males and two females altogether.

I attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln majoring in marketing. I'm a passionate fan of Nebraska athletics, especially Husker football. This season marks a big change from the past and I'm looking forward to see how the new offense works.