June 2009 Archives

Burnout and Biking

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I've been burned out for a while. Maybe I'm soft, but I haven't been on vacation since February, and I'm tired of the day-to-day. Work is stressing me for no good reason, The Preposterous is stressing me for no just reason, and life is just stressing. Now, today, GROTA, one of my collaborative blog projects is facing the blow-up that's been about four+ years in the making. You can't put volatile personalities together for long without things blowing up. It's amazing that things lasted as long as they did, but we essentially lost two of our longest tenured writers today... and came thisclose to losing a co-founder.

So, I'm stressed, I'm tired of dealing with bickering, and I can't wait for the coming three-day weekend. To deal with all that, I sent in my Coast-to-Coast Wisconsin registration form today.

I'm really not all that jazzed about the ride, but I can't think of too much that will help me decompress better than a week of baking in the Wisconsin sun with a sore back attempting to climb yet another of God's wonderful rolling hills. The ride does wonders for putting your current problems out of mind. Now, if I can only make it the 27 days until the ride, that would be good. Can't wait. Need a vacation. Going to MN this weekend. Monday's almost over.

Music: You can't hurry love - Diana Ross and the Supremes
The Wire: Netflix skipped all of my Wire episodes and sent me two movies I'm not interested in watching, so I went to Blockbuster and rented two and borrowed three from Adam. I watched like seven episodes this weekend and am almost halfway through Season Four. Still good, although I liked the format of seasons one and two where they were gradually eating away at the criminal organizations. The school stuff in season four is interesting, but doesn't really seem like it's going anywhere.
Stringer Bell: Are you f'in kidding me? How could they kill f'in Stringer Bell. He's the greatest criminal since The God Father, and they just let him get done in his f'in condo development?
f'in: They drop the F bomb way too much in the wire. Monkey see - monkey do.

I eat oatmeal most mornings when I am at work. I don't get up early enough to make breakfast, so some hot water in a mug combined with a package or two of instant "cinnamon roll" oatmeal pushes my lunch time back from 11:30:00 to sometime around 12:15 when I think the most people will be in the lunch room. However, today my oatmeal was tasteless. I'm not sure why, but it was disappointing.

In other anomalies, we have our "summer outing" today. Said outing will be at Comiskey in a luxury box watching the Dodgers and Sox. The dress code was relaxed and people are walking around in Sox jerseys and shorts and various summer styles. Life is much more pleasant in comfortable clothes.

Mood: Really good until the tasteless oatmeal gave me a little indigestion. Now, just good. Essentially a half-day at work, White Sox (boo) game in a luxury box (yay!), and two discs of "The Wire" (Season 3, discs 2 and 3) will be arriving in the mail this afternoon.
Music: None. I had to unplug my computer speakers to recharge my camera battery.
THE PREPOSTEROUS: Not sure what's next. We replied on Monday and haven't heard back from my consigliere yet.
The Wire: Perhaps a full post on this later, but Season 2 started a little slowly for my tastes, but it ended well. I saw the first two episodes of Season 3 yesterday and they were better than the first two of Season 2... but still building. Anyhow, I was telling Adam the other day that what makes The Wire so good is how compelling the "bad guys" are. I like the Cops, but I love the crooks!
Dog: Nothing new to report. Still want one. Still can't have one. Have made no progress toward selling my condo, which would be step one in actually getting a dog.

Have you ever wanted a shiny toy so badly that you make a bad decision... a decision you know is bad even as you're making it? It would be as if I went out and adopted a dog while living in my studio apartment... or it would be like trusting Chicago politicians as they put you (the taxpayer) on the hook for any Olympics cost overruns.

That's the situation we find ourselves in as the IOC nears a decision on who will host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Last week, after years of promising that taxpayers would not bear a financial risk if Chicago is awarded the Olympic games, Mayor Daley caved to pressure from the IOC and gave his word that Chicago would backstop any potential Olympic losses.

Perhaps if Chicago were an efficient city government with a track record of good government, that might not be such a disconcerting guarantee, but Chicago is what Chicago is. If we win the bid, I can just see the next seven plus years of headlines announcing corruption in the Olympic preparations, cost over runs, revised budgets, etc.

All of that said, I still try to tell myself that the infrastructure improvements will be worth the hassle and the deceit. Chicago is the city that works, after all. Still, when it comes down to it, if I'm honest, I want the Olympics in Chicago because I love sports and having the Olympics on my front porch would be totally awesome. Plus, I'd have an extra week of vacation by the time 2016 rolled around.

Go Chicago!

Rage against 'The Man'

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Not sure why, but I've been especially surly in the last day or so.

Yesterday, Forest Claypool announced he would not run for Cook County Board President (LINK). This should have alarms ringing in the ears of any semi-cynical Cook County resident. I GUARANTEE something fishy is going on behind the scenes. So, this morning, I imagined volunteering on the campaign of an opponent to Todd Stroger's re-election bid. I was a corruption fighter!

On the elevator, I learned that President Obama is going to offer $4,500 to anyone who trades in their gas guzzler for a fuel efficient car. I promptly declared to my co-worker (after telling him yesterday that I considered my view of President Obama's job performance as favorable) that I now had an unfavorable opinion of President Obama's job performance. I got angry about taxes and government meddling in the economy. I was an idealist!

I read that North Korea is going to launch a missile toward Hawaii on July 4th. I wanted to invade North Korea and slap Kim Jong Il around. I was a nationalist!

I read that Bozeman Montana asks city workers for their login and passwords to social networking sites (LINK) as a pre-condition of hiring them. I got angry. Don't we have a freedom of speech, should the government be able to view our private opinions before they decide to hire us (probably yes)... oh, I was an ACLU supporter.

Anyhow, the man is alive and kicking... and I'm ready to rebel!

Link dujour: This one, compliments of Anne, is a really interesting blog about two characters from Sims 3. You should read, and you should start from the beginning. (LINK).

Life has been normal the last few days, although I have a headache at the mo.

I've been tinkering with my different blogs. I really hate how movable type handles comments. They completely changed how the comments work between version 3 and version 4, and I still can't seem to get them to work. Incidentally, will someone please leave a comment on this post, or email me if you can't and describe what you are seeing?

In other news, the "dog" walking has been going well. Today, "Dagny" and I walked over to da Jewel on Kinzie and Halstead to get hot dog buns and graham crackers. There's a nice park over there with a dog-run. However, if I had a dog and lived where I do, the park would be way too far in the winter. That said, there's several nice condo buildings over there... but then getting to work would be difficult in the winter. I should see if there's a bus line serving the area... I'll bet the Milwaukee bus is close by.

Mood: Ok. Headache and the stupid College World Series kept me from watching the first 61 minutes of the MLS game of the week, but DC United and Seattle are playing a spirited match as I type away.
Watching: MLS. Seattle has a phenomenal fan base. Sounders are up 3-2. Oops. Sounders' own-goal. 3-3 in the 88th.
Cubs/Sox: The first game of the Cubs Sox series was rained out yesterday, and then the Cubs lost today. If they lose tomorrow, I owe my co-worker a King-Size Twix bar. I can no longer win the King-Size Snickers bar I wanted... but if I have to pay-out, I'm buying myself a big Snickers Bar to enjoy.
Earlier: Em turned me onto 'The Wire.' OH BOY! The Wire is so good. It's a cop show that is gripping and addictive. I've been scouting out all the mailboxes in downtown Chicago to find which one picks up the earliest so that I minimize NetFlix turn-around-time.

Had a terrific weekend. Cubs game w\ Eric on Friday. Movie and Soccer w\ Adam on Sat. Panera & Keystone (outdoors) on Sunday. I wish all weekends were so enjoyable/relaxing/long.

Anyhow, two items for today. First, the corruption of Cook County.

County president Todd Stroger's cousin, former chief financial officer Donna Dunnings, gave her former secretary paid time off that he did not earn for workdays he was locked in county jail. Dunnings also signed time cards that claimed Cole worked weekends that he did not show up at the office, county records show.

And it gets even better.

When told county time sheets did not show evidence that Cole worked enough extra hours to warrant receiving that much comp time, Dunnings said a "time keeper" kept track of comp time hours and she just signed off on the time sheets.

A county source close to the situation said Cole was the office time keeper.

Second, the protests of the election in Iran!

Tehran Protests

Futbol (soccer) is a marvelous sport. It's also bizarre because teams regularly sell players from one team to another. Had a bad year or two and need to perk up fan interest? Raid your bank account and bring one of the big names in futbol to your home pitch. It's the way of the Europeans (and the LA Galaxy).

Well, my favorite player for the last few years has been Christiano Ronaldo, and now he's on the move from Manchester United to Real Madrid... wait for it... for 80 million pounds - roughly $120 million US Greenbacks. OMG! That's unbelievable.

So, Real Madrid's going to be strapped for cash now, right? Beats me, but that didn't stop them from buying Kaka from AC Milan, and the rumor is that David Villa (he pronounces his name the Spanish way, so it's Dah-veed like my teddy bear from Puerto Rico) is also on his way to Madrid.

Nate, sorry. I know you will now hate me, but in this I am quite the band-wagon jumper, and I'm now proud to call myself a Real fan.

Link dujour: Rick Reilly calls a serial-sex-discrimination-suer a sleaze. I am particularly fond of these two poetic paragraphs:

Personally, I find Mr. Rava as odorous as a bag of dyspeptic hamsters. He's a greasy manipulator who has found a small leak in American law and stuck an open wallet under it. When they wrote California's Unruh Civil Rights Act in 1959 -- the act Rava sues with -- they never thought soulless creatures like him would someday slink about the earth.

We are not a collection of legal briefs, appellate rulings and city ordinances. We are people. We are grandfathers and sisters and uncles and girlfriends, all woven into the fabric of this wonderful thing called sports. And if once in a while we want to do something nice for each other -- and not want anything for ourselves -- is that so wrong?

Mood: Chill. Sometimes life is fast, sometimes life is slow. It's amazing how one week I'll feel like I have no time after work before I have to go to bed, and the next week, with the same number of hours, I'll feel like I'm just trying to fill up my time. I think the main driver of that is the intensity of work that week.

Dog watch: I've continued to do dog research and am fairly certain I could handle an Irish Terrier (outside of a studio condo living situation). I've also been doing pretty well in my dog-preparation-tests, although I continue to do things I couldn't with a dog and pretend that counts. Example: on my walk the other day, I stopped at a store to use their restroom. I am pretty sure I wouldn't be able to do that if I was actually walking a dog. Anyhow, here's a YouTube of an IT - they're very intelligent dogs. I get excited about all the tricks I'm going to teach my would-be-puppy.

Music: The Sound of Silence - Simon & Garfunkle

Barbershop Physics

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I'm going through some old unposted entries to clean up iByron and some of them seem like they coulda/shoulda/woulda been posted. Here's a gem originally written June 1, 2005. $11 for a haircut, pricey? Ha! The sticker price is now $16, and that's before a tip.

After classes today, I went to get my hairs cut at the local barbershop I've been frequenting since I moved to Bloomington. Its a good place, located down on Kirkwood (technically on Dunn St.) and I like it. Its a bit pricey at $11, but I figure that as infrequently as I have to get my hair cut that I'll pay the extra few dollars to have a real barber.

Anyhow, while I'm in the chair, the barber next to me is cutting some old curmudgeon's hair and they're talking about Danika Patrick, the female Indy car driver who placed fourth on Sunday. Aside from displaying their complete ignorance of the sport (not like I should be judging... but at least I've got the decency to keep my mouth shut.) this fellow decided to inform the rest of the barbershop that because they all had 600 horsepower engines in their cars, the 100 lb difference between Patrick and some of the driver's didn't matter.

All I wanted to do was stand up and start yelling 'F equals M A' and run out the door. Of course her weight matters if all else is equal.

Excuse the rant, go on with your lives.

Live to fight another day

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Justice Ginsburg granted the stay in the Chrysler case. It's now up to the broader court to decide if they want to intervene. WSJ Story.

Now, the question is, why do I care? Why should you care?

The answer is that this case is an avatar for our economic order. It's not so important whether the parties in this case get outcome A or outcome B, what's vital is that we have an established, predictable, lawful way of determining property rights in this country. If you'll remember, I voiced a similar fear when candidate Obama offhandedly mentioned nationalizing oil rights during the campaign. "Obama doesn't understand economics - part I"

The same disregard for property rights I identified at the time is rearing its ugly head now. As President, Mr. Obama wants a particular outcome (Outcome A), but long-established bankruptcy law dictates that the outcome should be Outcome B. (I'll point out here my belief that the major difference between dictatorships and democracy is the rule of law.)

Unfortunately for President Obama, he and Congress don't have the constitutional power to force Outcome A without first modifying the current bankruptcy laws. Instead, the administration is trying to pull an end-around the current laws by inserting itself in the situation using TARP money. Of course, the Indiana pension funds are not only balking at the usurpation of their rights as secured lenders, but they're also objecting to the use of TARP funds in a non-financial institution.

I can't pretend to be a legal expert, (I know just enough to get myself in trouble) but I can see the context of the situation: a group with strong historical ties to the ruling political party is receiving favorable treatment at the expense of others, and this favorable treatment, appears facially to be in violation of long-standing property rights laws.

Right now, the government involvement seems to be confined to the automotive and finance industries, but there are legitimate fears that this unpredictable method of allocating value to stakeholders will persist, and as a result, minority political interests may continue to be harmed.

So, as I said above, I don't particularly care about the outcome of the Chrysler situation, I'm just concerned that we follow the law in this country. The Obama administration has the power to get its way if they really want to, but they need to change the laws, not just the application in one instance. The law is the law and it needs to apply equally to everyone.

Interestingly, this is essentially the same complaint I had with the Bush administration's failure to acquire search warrants before engaging in their domestic wiretapping program. It's not that the outcome was so bothersome, it's that they failed to follow the law in their haste to implement their preferred policy. Like Mr. Bush, President Obama has the tools to implement the change if he wants, but has failed to use the proper constitutionally supplied tools.

One of my favorite quotes from Lord of the Rings is when Faramir's father insanely requests his unloved youngest son retake the city of Osgiliath. It is a clear suicide mission, but Faramir does so anyhow, commenting sarcastically, "Now is the chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to prove his quality."

Well, now is the chance for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice, to prove her quality. The Indiana pension funds that I mentioned a few posts ago have objected to the Chrysler bankruptcy and all of the other courts have refused to hear the case stating they don't have jurisdiction over the central complaint: That the Department of the Treasury is violating both the Constitution and the federal Economic Recovery law (The TARP bailout law from October '08.)

By the rules of the Supreme Court, justice Ginsburg is the one who can decide, all by herself, to refuse the requested stay, which would allow the Chrysler/Fiat deal to go through. If however, she feels the case is worthy of being heard by the court, she can ask her fellow Justices to vote for a stay and then to hear the case. It would take four justices to vote for the stay, and as I mentioned before, I feel it is VERY IMPORTANT that the court intervene in this situation.

Provided that Justice Ginsburg does not reject the request, it will be interesting to see how the conservative justices (Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts) vote. Often times, these Justices are accused of unfairly favoring big business, but they are also the standard-bearers for strict interpretation of the Constitution and legislation.

Here's an interesting summary of the Indiana Pension funds' objection to the restructuring.

President Obama gave a speech in Cairo today, aimed at smoothing relations between the US and Muslims. I didn't see the speech, but I read this annotated transcript of the speech. It sounds like it was an excellent speech. Here's hoping it's effective.

Mood: A bit of cabin fever. Chicago got a cold spell and it's not enticing to go outside... but I'm going out in about five minutes.
Mood II: Mad at myself for being mad at myself. I put a hole in my bathroom door yesterday. Oops.
Watching: DC United vs. NYRB on ESPN2. DC is winning 1-0 in the 89th minute.

Sportsmanship 101

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As some may know, I'm a sportsmanship expert... at least those six essays I had to write in the fourth grade have always made me sensitive to the subject, so it's with a bit of keen interest that I've been casually following the LeBron James controversy. (LeBron lost a game and didn't want to shake hands afterward, so he left rather than do something he felt was insincere, or worse.)

So, it is with happiness that I post today's link, an essay/column on sportsmanship by LZ Granderson of ESPN.

Mood: Good. A little anxious. I've an important meeting today.
Music: L'Arena from Il Mercenario - off the Kill Bill Soundtrack
Work: Very quiet. Three co-workers out of the office today.

The Interwebs are alive with the sound of human interest!

The identity catastrophe of Clark Rockefeller - It's a bizarre world out there.
• For Mom - What is a Grape Nut?
The Obamas go out on a date

The Clark Rockefeller story is just bizarre. The Grape Nuts story is probably only interesting if you or someone you know really likes the cereal, and the Obama date story is off-putting. First, I don't like the gotcha-style of journalism. The President is the President and if he wants to travel anywhere, it's crazy-expensive. So I'm not upset at all with the Obama's, even if a date to New York is a bit extravagant for a DC couple. That said, it's the current reality that a President must travel with such an entourage that is disheartening. In other words, I don't find the trip itself appalling, I find the need for such complexity disheartening.

In other news, I would like the world to be simpler, but I guess it isn't.

Mood: Suprisingly good for a Monday. I guess I'm well rested.
Listening to: Last Kiss by Pearl Jam
Fire: Lost their first game of the year 3-0 to FC Dallas yesterday. First place in the East with 21 points, trails only Chivas (24) for the Supporters Shield
Cubs: Lost 8-2 to the Dodgers yesterday. I left in the sixth inning - disgusted. 25-24 on the season, 4.5 games behind Milwaukee