Archive for the ‘Casual Friday’ Category

Overheard . . .

Monday, August 9th, 2010

On Franklin, near Madison, guy with English accent to another guy: “They’re uniformly douchebags.”


Friday, June 25th, 2010

A grizzled hawker, outside the Daley Center, yelling: “Porch repair — free estimate!”

Tourist guy to another, across the street from the Weber Grill restaurant on North State: “Is that a Weber grill store?”

Looking good

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

I looked on Facebook to see if Robert Feder has a page. There are a few Robert Feders, but apparently not the Robert Feder.

However, the search pulls up a link to the Chicago Sun-Times, which he left more than a year ago. All that’s there is two colons (::), which has some meaning so arcane Google can’t find it. No hits. Not even like this “::” which looks like an emoticon for a puppy.

And hey! I still have a link too. I not only get the two colons, I also get my face! Tiny, yes, but there I am.

Why the Sun-Times is practicing this blatant favoritism is anybody’s guess, but it’s nice to be teacher’s pet. And anyway, Rob’s photo at his new home is way bigger than mine.

Not so fast

I shouldn’t have dissed Google. Do a search for “two colons” and you get some hits.

It’s a Scope Resolution Operator. If that were a job, I’d apply for it. Sounds sexy and and bit dangerous, just like me. I could be double-colon seven. Then again, maybe it’s simply opaque.

Anyway, my favorite explanation: “The PHP lexical analyzer gives this token the name ‘T_PAAMAYIM_NEKUDOTAYIM.’ It might as well have been written in Hebrew. Wait, it IS written in Hebrew. It means ‘double colon.'”

Snout and about

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Considering we kill them and eat them, the pigs are being pretty good sports about this lipstick business, don’t you think? Not a word about testing cosmetics on animals, no complaints about gender unfairness (do you think anybody checks the sex of the pig before putting the lipstick on? Me neither), not even a random “see how you like it” attack by feral pigs on folksy politicians. I take my hat off to them, the pigs are being classy.

Then again, maybe it’s not that easy to put lipstick on a pig and the pigs are just waiting for the first person to try. Go to your state fair. See any Lipstick the Pig contests? You may find greased pig contests, but not lipstick ones. You can put lipstick on Rudy Giuliani but he’s probably already done that, and you can put lipstick on Fred Thompson but he’s — well, that’s quite a mental picture.

What if we just put Chapstick on the pig? Can we get away with that?

Other pressing questions:

  • How many politicians does it take to put lipstick on a pig?
  • What brand of lipstick does Sarah Palin wear, and if she put it on a pig — or a moose — would that be a good thing or a bad thing for her resume?
  • If you put lipstick on a pig in the forest but nobody hears it, will it make the news?
  • If you lead a horse to water but there’s a pig using the reflection to put its lipstick on, now what?
  • If you laid all the pigs and lipsticks end to end, how many videos of it would be on YouTube by tomorrow?

My fellow Americans, you can travel from one end of this great nation to the other and put as much lipstick on as many pigs as you want, but at the end of the day many of those pigs will be without health care, without jobs, watching their piglets going to inadequate schools and dying in Iraq.

Abe, meet Karl

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but as long as you fool enough of the people on election day, that’s all that matters.


For weeks, I’ve been putting off redoing this page. I have a lovely logo (think of it as the lipstick) thanks to artist, friend and former co-worker Susan Randstrom, but I keep telling myself I’ll need a rainy day to figure out how to get it on the page. I see hours of frustration throwing code at the site and having the same old pig stare back at me. Maybe it won’t be that bad; children can do this stuff, after all. But I’m still dragging my feet.

‘Myths and facts’

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Now that the Children’s Museum’s Ant Farm plan for Grant Park has gotten another rubber stamp from what passes for local government, let’s look at some Myths and Facts about the place. The Myths are straight from the museum’s Web site, but since I’m skeptical of their Facts, I’ve provided my own.

Myth. Green space will be lost.

Fact. Lost space will be painted green. No one will be the wiser.

Myth: The proposal violates open-space protections.

Fact: So?

Myth: The proposal was changed to pass the City Council but it will be changed back later.

Fact: The proposal is changing all the time. There: We just changed it again.

Myth: The park would remain undisrupted without this proposal.

Fact: People walk through the park all the time. If that isn’t disruption, what is?

Myth: The museum has refused to explore alternative sites.

Fact: We just told everybody about a long list of alternative sites kids would love: Pluto, Sesame Street, My Neighborhood, Springfield. But the mayor simply wouldn’t listen.

Myth: The kids are being buried in a dark underground space.

Fact: The kids are being buried in a light underground space.

Myth: The proposal is illegal under Illinois Supreme Court decisions.

Fact: Not until it gets there, and a lot can happen between now and then, know what I mean?

Myth: This violates A. Montgomery Ward’s legacy.

Fact: Dead men can’t sue.

Myth: The plan includes tall structures.

Fact: Yes, but they’re underground.

Myth: The lesson from the book “Forever Open, Clear and Free: The Struggle for Chicago’s Lakefront” is that the museum does not belong in the park.

Fact: Thanks for buying a copy of Lois Wille’s book; she’s one of us now.

Myth: The museum is only used by children from affluent parts of Chicago and the suburbs.

Fact: The museum is used by rich and poor alike, as long as they pony up $9 a head.

Myth: The museum will create local traffic congestion.

Fact: The museum is not there to create local traffic congestion, the museum is there to preserve local traffic congestion.

Myth: The plan incorporates multiple for-profit restaurants.

Fact: Would you want to eat in a money-losing restaurant?

Myth: The museum is going to serve liquor to visitors.

Fact: Nonsense. The museum is going to sell liquor to visitors. But we card hard.

Myth: This amounts to rich people and corporations buying a piece of the park.

Fact: Not if we can get it for free.

Myth: Local taxpayers will be on the hook for the cost of the museum.

Fact: Not just local ones.

Myth: This is a private museum.

Fact: Asked and answered; if you’ve got $9, you can get in.

Myth: There is a requirement that museums in the park not charge admission.

Fact: Children under one get in free! Every day! Can the Art Institute say that? Oh, wait, at the Art Institute, children under 12 get in free. But we’re the ones who are all about the children, dammit!

Myth: There is little support for this proposal.

Fact: There’s support and then there’s support. Look in the mirror: Do you look like a Daley? A Pritzker? We’ll see your support and call.

Myth: The museum is a glorified playground.

Fact: Not quite. Ald. Brendan Reilly hasn’t glorified us yet. But he will. If he knows what’s good for him, he will.

Well, that was fun. Unfortunately, Daley and the museum backers seem immune to mockery. So the thing will probably pass the City Council today and head off to a long litigious period while city crews tunnel surreptitiously under the park.

You know, if they can build the thing underground, they can put it anywhere. How about under the sledding hill near Soldier Field? Indoor and outdoor fun for everyone! Plus, an entrance could be built near the Balbo monument not far away.

That’s the 2,000-year-old column given to the city by “Fascist Italy, with the sponsorship of Benito Mussolini . . . as a symbol and memorial in honor of the Atlantic squadron led by Balbo which with Roman daring flew across the ocean in the eleventh year of the Fascist era.” So says the explanation on the base, in both Italian and English.

If you’re not up on the Fascist calendar, the 11th year was 1933 to the rest of us, and came during the Century of Progress exhibition. The base has two blank panels, so an explanation can be added saying the Children’s Museum was given by Fascist Chicago, under the sponsorship of Richard Daley, as a symbol and memorial in honor of Major Donor in whatever year we wind up being lumbered with the thing.

Is Chicago the only place where Major Donor outranks General Welfare?

Let’s hope she cleans up

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Best business slogan of the year (so far) belongs to Alma’s Cleaning With Joy. A flyer for the company wound up in my mailbox the other day. Alma’s slogan: “If your house isn’t becoming to you, then you should be coming to me.”

Seeing double

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

About three years ago, my wife’s mother gave her a present from Sharper Image. It was a gizmo my wife decided she didn’t need, so she returned it and was given a merchandise credit.

When she read about Sharper Image’s store closings and bankruptcy filing, she dug out the credit slip, thinking we’d better use it while there was still a store left. Looking at the Web site, she picked out a hair dryer and decided two of them would eat up the $76 credit.

I went to the store in Water Tower Place, picked out the hair dryers and handed over the credit. The clerk gave me a look and said there was “a situation” with credits. As part of the bankruptcy agreement, the store will only take credits and gift cards if you spend double the amount. Meaning I’d have to spend $152 to save the $76.

I laughed out loud. Not at the clerk — he actually thanked me for being understanding, and said many customers were livid (hard to blame them) when they were told.

So I called my wife and explained the situation. The upshot: We bought three hair dryers, two heavy-duty umbrellas and two packs of AA batteries, which brought us within about 25 cents of what we needed. The Sharper Image clerk spotted us the quarter.

Any lessons? Look around in your desk drawers for credits or gift cards. Use them. I looked in mine, found five Starbucks cards, checked their value on the company Web site and discovered I have $1.07 coming. A quick scan of coat pockets and I’ve got more than enough for a cup of coffee.

As for Sharper Image, it said the cut-rate redemption program was “purely voluntary,” and said that “customers who do not wish to redeem their cards on this basis can retain them for future use, as Sharper Image is working diligently to be able to honor the cards without condition in the future.”

Last week the future arrived. The company’s assets will be auctioned May 28.


Wing tones

Monday, May 19th, 2008

While the debate over the Children’s Museum continues, let’s take a look at something else that’s for the children and is already on public land: the Children’s Fountain, in Lincoln Park just south of the Chicago History Museum.

It started life on Wacker Drive, in the median just east of Wabash, and livened up that intersection (especially in windy weather, when passersby could expect a shower) until the Wacker Drive reconstruction project, when it was mothballed under Roosevelt Road. Mayor Daley, some suggested, had shuffled the thing away because it had former Mayor Jane Byrne’s name on it.

Mayoral pique or not, in 2005, the fountain was brought out of hiding, refurbished and installed at its new site, between the museum and the Latin School at the northeast corner of North and Clark.

It’s an attractive statue, and would be even more attractive if it sported all its parts. The base used to have four storks spouting water. Only one is there now. According to the Park District, three of the storks were damaged late last year when someone tried to steal them. They are undergoing repairs and will be reinstalled, although the Park District couldn’t say when that will happen. Let’s hope it’s soon.  

Elsewhere on the bird watch, the Park District has its eye on gulls. “The regional population of Ring-billed Gulls has increased dramatically in recent decades,” a press release earlier this month said.

“The high number of gulls in public areas leads to problems ranging from nuisance to property damage and economic losses. Studies by the USGS have suggested a link between fecal droppings from gulls and Escherichia coli in the lake. A Lake County Health Department study of five beaches found that more than half of the E coli bacteria in water samples collected were identified as avian in origin. A 2004 University of Chicago study estimated the City experiences $2.4 million in damages from swim bans.”

By damages, I suppose they mean money and taxes from food that might have been sold if people had shown up at the beach instead of going somewhere with less E coli.

What to do? “The Park District will be continuing their efforts to reduce food sources by setting out covered trash and recycling containers, installing signs urging the public not to feed gulls and utilizing border collies as a Ring-billed gull harassment technique, and daily beach grooming practices.”

I like the border collie idea. I think the Park District should expand it to include statues and fountains as a vandal harassment technique. Mess with a fountain, explain it to Fang.


Hello, lamppost

Monday, May 5th, 2008

If you’ve ever wondered where old lampposts go to die, check out the South Shore Nature Sanctuary. Along the lakefront, there are quite a few of them slowly crumbling.

Keeping them company are large building chunks, old drinking fountains, pieces of steel rail, concrete bench supports, granite pavers and miscellaneous pieces of stone — some carved, some not — that appear to be the remains of old buildings.

Six years ago, the Chicago Park District was awarded a Conservation and Native Landscaping award by the Environmental Protection Agency and Chicago Wilderness magazine for the nature sanctuary. “The peninsula had previously been used for dumping and was overgrown with aggressive weeds and trees,” a description at the time reads.

Who did the dumping? Well, if the initials CPD on the drinking fountains stand for what I think they do, it was the park district. So: cleaning up part of your own dump and getting an award for it — pretty good trick.

To be fair, the sanctuary is pleasant to visit, and it’s hidden at the south end of the South Shore Cultural Center, so has never been crowded when I’ve stopped by.

And if any of the lakefront dumping is recent, I can’t tell. I took a photo of the carved lintel (if that’s what it is) a few years ago, and the surrounding debris looks the same today.

Although it’s clear that not all the people who visit the sanctuary take the trouble to clean up after themselves, the park district could be setting a better example here by cleaning up some of the junk it’s thrown in the lake. Like the drinking fountains. And the lampposts. And the urinal.




Mystery building museum

Monday, May 5th, 2008

This is a town that tears things down. Sometimes, the evidence is left lying around.

For instance, this block in the grass just east of Michigan Avenue and north of Roosevelt Road. It’s huge, it’s carved and it came from something. What was it? The old 11th Street Station was nearby — could it have come from there?

And then there’s this block, just south of the bus turnaround at 47th Street and Lake Park Avenue. Maybe the rest of the church is somewhere under the grass. At least it looks as if it’s from a church.

Elsewhere in town, there are all the buildings named after people. I’ll post some of those as I collect them.

And there’s this curious piece of stone, surrounded by debris on the lakefront at the South Shore Nature Sanctuary. It makes an appearance in another post, about the sanctuary, but it belongs here, too.

Did it come from a fancy house, above the front door or a window? Where? And how did it wind up in the landfill? Nice carving, eh?