Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Maybe We Need To Reconsider

The prevailing Yen family belief is that of our two resident cats, Fatboy is the less smart. So when Kim bought a bed for the cats, and they decided that my backpack and other less comfortable things were better places to rest, we began to wonder which one of them was going to figure out that the bed was more comfortable than a bag with books and pens in it.

Since Helga had shown herself to be smarter, in general, than Mingus (aka Fatboy), we assumed she'd be the first to figure it out. We were wrong, as you can see. We thought that maybe, in the end, he's not as dumb as we thought.

But then again, maybe he's just lazier.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Practice Game

The Evil Dictator's baseball season began this Saturday-- sort of. The game was a practice game.

They say that the first at-bat gives a foreshadowing of the season. Let's hope that's true; in his first at-bat, Adam smacked a nice solid single right into the gap in left center.

I was talking to some of the other parents about how the first few games can be painful to watch; the kids are rusty from having not played all winter. This game was no exception. There were misjudgments, misplays and other mistakes. The guys played hard, though, and went up in the score early in the game. It went back and forth until the other team got ahead by a point, beating our guys 8 to 7.

Adam's old coach stopped by to say hello to him.

The day was cold, but I enjoyed the game. As the game ended and Adam joined in the team meeting, I remembered playing whiffleball with a seven-year-old in the backyard. I remembered the day I signed an eight-year-old up for baseball for the first time on cold February morning in 2003. I remembered bringing him to his first practice, another cold, cold day, where he could hardly throw the baseball-- a far cry from the guy who can whip a baseball from right field to second base and put it on a dime.

Season by season, he becomes a little more independent. I'm certain that he's glad that my ex and I go to the games and practices, but more and more it's his own thing. He works on his stance, his fielding, his base-running, making observations and corrections. Every season, he runs into and reconnects with old teammates, who, though they're on other teams, he still shares the bond of a season past. Every season he moves a little more away from me and a little more toward being a man. That's the funny thing about being a parent-- if you do it right, your child is not a little mini-you, but their own unique person. They show streaks of you and the other parent, but in the end, your kid becomes this amazing, unique individual. As I watched him Saturday, it was bittersweet; I saw my little boy leaving and the young man arriving. I saw the day that he had his own life, independent of me, looming on the horizon. It made me happy, and a little sad.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Wonderful and Strange Night

A few weeks ago, Kim told me that we were going out with our good friends Greg and Christina on April 25. We decided to meet them at the Three Happiness Chinese restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown. Last fall, I'd thrown a surprise party there for Kim, in which Greg and Christina, plus the entire Bubs family met us there.

As we approached the restaurant, we were blocked from every street by police officers. When we asked one of them, we were told that there was an automobile accident. I was puzzled why an automobile accident would block off about a mile square area of Chicago.

It turned out that it was not just an accident, but a horrific accident. A semi truck had hit an el station-- specifically the escalator, which, because it was rush hour, was packed with people. There were, unfortunately, fatalities.

The restaurant, it turns out, was only about a block from the scene of the accident. I took this picture from in front of the restaurant; you can see the truck to the far right, about half way up. I was in disbelief; of all the restaurants in Chicago, we managed to be at one that a disaster happened near. I called up Bubs, who told me that he'd just had lunch there a couple of days ago.

Later, Kim echoed a feeling I'd had: we felt almost bad having such a great time with our dear friends.

But we did have a lovely time. Usually I only get to see Greg and Christina if I run into them while I'm picking my stepdaughter from school. It was great having the time to sit and gab with them over a great meal. Shameless plug for the restaurant: the Three Happiness restaurant at 209 W. Cermak. It's right off of the Chinatown el stop (obviously) on the Orange line.

As we talked, the kids talked and played cards...

Work and school have been hammering away at me lately. It was really good to be able to sit and enjoy a great meal with my family and great friends.

We had one other funny thing happen on the way out. The weather had turned bad-- cold and rainy-- while we were in the restaurant. We stopped at a gift shop, where I found some Chinese lanterns to hang on the back porch. Then we walked through the cold and rain (of course I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt) to Kim's car. We got to the parking lot and were stunned to realize that the car wasn't there. We started to ponder the awful thought that Kim's brand new Jetta had been stolen right in front of at least 200 Chicago police officers. Fortunately, it dawned on me that we were looking in the wrong parking lot. As we all got in the car, we and the kids laughed at the notion that the car might have been stolen; it would have been a perfectly bizarre ending to the evening. My stepdaughter said it all best as we drove away: "I love my crazy family!"

Last Man Standing Friday Random Ten

I realized recently that I'm just about the last blogger still doing the Friday Random Ten. No problem-- I still love doing it, and will continue doing it. And when it becomes all the rage again in the future, you'll all be saying "Hey-- Johnny Yen's been doing this all along!"

1. Everybody Plays the Fool- The Main Ingredient
2. Ticket To Ride- The Beatles
3. I Can Help- Billy Swan
4. Never Said Nothing- Liz Phair
5. Mexican Radio- El Vez
6. Give It Away- Red Hot Chili Peppers
7. Me and Bobby McGee- Janis Joplin
8. Little Deuce Coupe- The Beach Boys
9. I Fall To Pieces- Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves
10. Early Morning Rain- Gordon Lightfoot

1. This was The Main Ingredient's biggest hit, in 1972. Looking them up, I discovered that their lead singer was Cuba Gooding Sr., the father of the actor.
2. One of the great opening riffs ever.
3. Another one-hit-wonder.
4. From Liz Phair's first and best album.
5. This guy is so cool-- a Mexican-American Elvis impersonator who sings politicized versions of pop hits.
6. Remember when Flea was a musician and not an actor?
7. Great Kris Kristopherson song done by the late Janis Joplin.
8. I love me some Beach Boys.
9. A rerecording of one of Patsy's hits with another country legend singing with her.
10. Peter, Paul and Mary and Ian and Sylvia did nice versions of this song as well.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Slowly Sliding...

I had a busy week, especially in my Chemistry class. We're studying valences, Lewis charges and formal charges of atoms and molecules.

Each new unit scares the hell out of me, but at the end of each of them, I somehow have managed to grasp the material. As the semester is drawing to a close, I've got a streak of A's going on quizzes and labs. If I can pull a good grade on the last test, in a couple of weeks, I might pull an A in a class I was nervous I couldn't even get a B in.

On Monday, we had a lab. In that lab, we were given an unknown metal, which we were to ascertain the atomic weight, and consequently its identity. How were going to do that, you're asking yourself right now? Well, we had to figure out the unknown metal's specific heat.

By the look and the weight, I was pretty certain that the unknown metal I had been given was lead.

Every metal has a unique specific heat-- how many joules of heat energy it takes to raise one gram of the metal one degree Celsius. The way we figured this out was to raise the temperature of the metal to a known temperature-- in this case 100 degrees Celcius, the boiling temperature of water. We did this by putting the metal, which we had weighed, into a test tube and put that into a bath of boiling water. Then you set up a makeshift calorimeter-- a styrofoam cup full of a measured amount of water with thermometer in it. You dump the heated metal into it and measure the increase of temperature of the water. Assuming all of the increase comes from the metal, you can determine how much heat the metal held, and calculate the specific heat of the unknown metal. Then, using the odd fact that 25 divided by the specific heat is the atomic mass of most metals, I determined that the atomic mass of my unknown metal was 207. I looked up at the period table of elements that is on the wall of the lab, and saw that the atomic mass of lead is 207.2. Hot damn!

I realized afterward that I was just a little too excited about getting the atomic mass nearly exactly right-- I'm slowly sliding toward science nerddom.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Random Thoughts

I've been keeping a little list of things I had a comment or two on, but weren't enough for a full post.

First, as we head into the Pennsylvania primary today, I keep thinking of an article on the front of the New York Times a few weeks ago in which the reporter went to Latrobe, Pennsyvlania and interviewed the almost all-white voters. The town is reeling from the loss of two big industries there: steel and the Rolling Rock beer factory, which has moved to another Pennsylvania town.

The comments ran from mildly encouraging to downright galling. One guy talked about how he liked Obama but felt that the second amendment (that's the gun one) was too important and so he couldn't vote for Obama.

Excuse me-- did I miss some big announcement that Barack Obama was going to try to repeal the second amendment?

Some people talked about how there was something that didn't like about Mr. Obama that they just couldn't pin. One guy got closer to what they wanted to say. He said that Barack Obama was, well, you know, too confident.

Let me help him find the adjective he was really reaching for: "uppity."

It kills me that these people can't get behind the candidate who probably best represents their interests, at a time in which there economic interests in particular are in a tailspin, mainly because forty years after Martin Luther King died for the cause of civil rights, they can't get past the fact that he's black.

Between that and the whole stupid thing about the flag lapel pin, I keep thinking about Adlai Stevenson's quote: "In general, people get the government they deserve."

And then there's poor Alberto Gonzalez, the former Attorney General. According to a recent New York Times story, he can't find another job, despite the fact that he fell on his sword and kept his mouth shut about his part in the Bush administration's attempt to fire every federal attorney and replace them with political flunkies. Apparently the absolute personal loyalty that Bush values so much doesn't go both ways; I guarantee that a phone call from a sitting president would be enough to get him a job. To quote Megan Huang in Old School, "I did something for you; now you do something for me. That's the way bribes work!"

And lastly, the donnybrook over the Danish cartoons that allegedly defamed Islam and Muhammad continues, as fringe radicals, who in no way represent the vast majority of Muslims, threaten to attack Danish citizens and interests over the cartoons. You see, the cartoons depicted some followers as violent fringe fanatics. And of course by attacking and killing people, they will certainly dispel the stereotype of being violent fringe fanatics.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Service Learning #2-- Earth Day Celebration

A couple of weeks ago, my biology teacher announced that there was another opportunity for "service learning," at an Earth Day celebration at Caldwell Woods, a forest preserve on the northwest edge of Chicago. I decided I was going to try to go.

I talked to one of the guys at my lab table, Brian, and we decided that if the weather was decent, we were going to ride our bikes there (it's about an eight mile ride), and if the weather was bad, I'd drive. As the day approached, we checked www.weather.com and it said that there were supposed to be thunderstorms that day. It didn't bode well.

Saturday morning, it looked like it was going to be bad. I called and said I'd run by and pick him up. Okay, celebrating Earth Day by driving on an expressway in a Chevy Blazer is not exactly ideal, but it's what happened.

We got there at 9 am and found our classmates. One of the things I've really enjoyed about going back to school is what a wonderful, diverse, motivated and interesting group of people I get to go to school with. I had a lot of anxiety about going back to school-- particularly being a middle-aged guy going back to school and working as a waiter full-time in to do so. But every day I realize more and more that I made the right decision.

We gathered under that forest preserve shelter and got instructions and equipment. Like the service learning a few weeks ago, we were going after invasive species. We were cutting down buckthorn trees, and also cutting out Japanese honeysuckles, both of which were plentiful.

Buckthorns, as we found them, were from an inch thick to over four inches thick. We cut them with saw, pruners or a combination of them. The honeysuckles were more like bushes, and in some ways more work.

We cut the trees and bushes down and schlepped them up by the bike path that runs through Caldwell Woods, where crews were later going to go through with a shredder. As with the last clear-out, there would later be controlled burns that would keep the forest in a more natural state.

We had a great break-- lots of fresh fruit and, happily, coffee and water. We had a great time chatting, and then it was back to work.

It occurred to me that most of us, including myself, were not the back-packing types, but that we understood the importance we were doing and were having a great time.

We'd been warned that there might be people out there protesting-- they apparently weren't able to make the connection between us cutting out invasive species and the fact that some of Illinois' native Oak forests would thrive as a result. There was even a cop there just in case people came out to harass us, but nobody bothered us.

As with our last foray into the forests, the difference we made was amazing.


And After:

The day was a lot of hard work. I must have hardened up some muscles in the last service learning project though, because I wasn't as sore afterward this time. And it wasn't without it's rewards; I got extra credit points for class and we got a bag full o' schwag, including a couple of energy-efficient light bulbs.

Since the day turned out to be marvelous, Brian and I regretted not biking up there. He'd mentioned a vegan Korean restaurant up that way (he's a committed vegan), so we decided to stop up there and have lunch. The food was marvelous.

One of the things I realized was that he and I are now officially friends. I thought a lot about how one of the things that happens in college, something I've talked to my kids about, is that you make lifetime friendships. I'm closing in on the second anniversary of the death of one of my lifelong friends from my first stint with college, and that day I realized how wonderful and healing it has been to have one more round of college and making friends I'll have for a lifetime. The work I did this Saturday was physically arduous, but the payoff to the environment-- and to my psyche and soul-- was immense.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Occasional Forgotten Video: Heaven 17, "Let Me Go"

The summer of 1983 was, as I've mentioned before, a wonderful time of my life. Occasionally, that summer, this video, Heaven 17's "Let Me Go" would play on the big old color console television in the living room of the house full of guys that I lived in, and I'd have to stop, watch and listen. I know that "New Wave" has become kind of a perjorative over the years, but I still love what came to be called New Wave. Of course I love me some Ramones, Clash and Sex Pistols and other punk rock, but there's still room for the Cure, Modern English and of course, Heaven 17. And god bless the early and mid eighties, because in some ways they were the best years of our lives.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I haven't been tagged in some time. Fortunately Leazwell remedied that with this tag:

Link meme rules:

1. Must be clean, no R rated material.
2. Tell 5 people.
3. Only 5 links allowed.
4. Link back to person who tagged you.

You can link to business, favorite, affiliate sites, etc.

Here goes:

1. http://www.nytimes.com/.

Back in 1989, I was rooming with two of my best friends from college, Dan and Mark, living in Wrigleyville, and having a grand old time. I was working at a restaurant called Minnie's, which was by Depaul University. One day, a customer left a New York Times that he'd finished. I took it home with me, and was never the same; I was stunned at how much better it was than the Chicago papers. I've subscribed to it since then, but often read the online version to catch late-breaking stories.

2. The Internet Movie Database. This sight is amazing-- you can kill a lot of time with it. whenever I do the "where have I seen that actor/actress before" thing, I go to this site and invariably have the answer in minutes.

3. Wikipedia. We have a set of good old-fashioned World Book Encyclopedias in the Yen household, but you can't beat Wikipedia for having an immense amount of entries, with an emphasis on pop culture.

4. Google. Hardly surprising, I know. But it's a great search engine.

5. Sirius Radio. If you have an account with Sirius satellite radio, you can stream it online as well. I rarely listen to anything but Little Steven's Underground Garage. A station that can play the Ramones, the Crystals, MC5, the Rolling Stones, Leslie Gore, Little Richard, Chris Farley, the Boss Martians, Dion, the Maggots, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles and the White Stripes-- all in one hour-- is the best. Sirius has every concievable genre-- sixties, jazz, blues, punk, R and B, as well as talk radio, news and everything else. It's the best $12.95 you can spend a month.

Thanks to Leazwell for the tag. In turn, I tag:

1. My son, The Evil Dictator.
2. Skyler's Dad
3. Distributorcap
4. Lulu
5. Tenacious S

Should We Be On the Lookout For Locusts?

Last year, one of my hip young co-workers clued me in on what a "cougar" was-- a hot middle-aged woman.

This week, though, the other kind of cougar was spotted not too far from my home:


A 150 pound cougar was spotted in Roscoe Village, a neighborhood less than a mile from my house. A teacher at Audubon Elementary, a school I used to teach at, saw it and reported it to the police. Wisely, the school cancelled outdoor recess that day.

At first, most people assumed that it was a pet that some idiot had kept. It turned out that the cougar was wild. There is speculation that it may have come all the way from South Dakota. My biology teacher told me that it's not unusual for a cougar to roam over 500 miles.

Unfortunately, they had to shoot it; there was no practical (or safe) way to capture it and return it to the wild.

As if that weren't strange enough, last night we had an earthquake here in Chicago, and an aftershock later. We midwesterners forget about the New Madrid fault.

What's next-- a locust plague?

Sad Friday Random Ten

Woke today to discover that Danny Federici, who played keyboards, accordian, glockenspiel and other instruments for Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band had passed away.

My brother and I saw Springsteen and band in September, 1981. We had seventh row, center tickets. It was godhead. Federici's organ and accordian were key to the sound of Springsteen's music. He'll be missed.

And of course, a Springsteen song showed up on my Random Ten today.

1. December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)- Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
2. You Can't Kill Me- The Washington Squares
3. Look What They've Done To My Song- Melanie
4. Quiet Man- John Prine
5. In The Ghetto- Elvis Presley
6. The E-Street Shuffle- Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band
7. Tell Mama- Etta James
8. Take The Highway- Marshall Tucker Band
9. Taxi- Harry Chapin
10. Little Miss Can't Be Wrong- The Spin Doctors

1. My stepdaughter brought the house down at the Minnesota State Fair with her karoake version of this song.
2. The Washington Squares were a bunch of punk rockers who formed a political folk band. This was actually the first cd I ever bought.
3. I love when Melanie breaks into the French part of the song.
4. John Prine has long been one of my favorites. I saw him on my 18th birthday, and was lucky enough to see him perform another time with his best friend, Steve Goodman.
5. This was one of a handful of songs Mac Davis wrote for Elvis.
6. This song shows Springsteen with a little funk.
7. My favorite Etta James song is "At Last."
8. Guilty pleasure.
9. Wish I'd have seen Harry Chapin in concert when he was still alive.
10. Love this song and "Pocket Full of Kryptonite."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Proof Of Life

This has been the longest, toughest winter in some time here in Chicago. It seemed like it would never end.

Saturday night, I came home from work and discovered this flower blooming in the front yard. I was so excited about it that I ran into the house, grabbed my camera and snapped a picture.

The real proof of spring's arrival, though, is the beginning of my son's little league practice. Play ball!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mysteries and the Not So Mysterious

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the possibility of the D.B. Cooper mystery being solved. A few days after that, the verdict was in-- the parachute that was found was definitely not one of the parachutes that the authorities gave to "Cooper" during the hijacking. The parachute that the kids found was a World War II vintage silk parachute. The parachutes that were given to Cooper were nylon chutes that were relatively new at the time (1971).

The other night, though, I was thinking: where the hell, then, did the silk parachute come from? It occurred to me that the purpose of the chutes may not have been for his use. His hijacking was meticulously planned. I have trouble believing that he'd have counted on getting the parachutes after the hijacking started. My thought was, then, that the chutes he asked for were red herrings-- that he carried a chute-- which he purchased from an Army Surplus store-- with him onto the flight (remember that in these days, there was virtually no inspection of carry-on luggage-- it was his hijacking that changed that).

Whatever the case may be, the mystery of D.B. Cooper. like The Dude, abides.

Another mystery, however, is coming to light: why the Titanic sank. That is, other than the Captain being pressured to go too fast and run the Titanic through a dangerous icefield quickly.

Scientists are testing rivets taken up from the Titanic wreck and discovering that first, the rivets used were not of the highest quality.


The rivets contained large amounts of slag, which made them much more brittle, particularly as they got colder. Given that the Titanic was going to spend her whole working life in the frigid North Atlantic, that is something the company might have wanted to consider.

If there had been less damage, the ship may have lasted longer; the assumption was that even if she'd been mortally damaged, she would survive long enough for help to get there. Indeeed, if she'd stayed partly afloat for less than two hours more, virtually every passenger and crew member would have been saved.

The reason for the use of the inferior metal, it appears, is that there was a shortage of the top quality metal (as well as riveters). The company was trying to complete three huge ships at one time. And there were some money issues. Surprise, surprise.

There is a long and rich history of companies cutting corners to save money. A couple I have personal connections with.

On May 25, 1979, I was a senior at Lyons Township High School, getting ready to graduate in less than two weeks. I was riding my bike home from school when I noticed a lot of smoke to the north. When I got home, I turned on the television to see what was going on and discovered that a plane had crashed at O'Hare Airport-- American Airlines Flight 191.

It turned out, as investigations showed, that mechanics had been taking a shortcut during routine engine maintainence. Rather than taking the engine off first, then the pylon that it was attached to the wing with, they were detaching the whole thing at once. Over time it cracked the rods that held the pylon to the wing. As Flight 191 went up, the cracked pins snapped and the engine came completely off, pulling out vital hydraulic lines with it. The pilot was unable to regain control and the airplane slammed into the ground, as the horrifying picture that someone in O'Hare snapped showed.

My father was an instructor at IBM back then. One of the other instructors in his group had, that day, had a group that he kept past the normal class time. Because of it, they missed their flight back to Los Angeles. They were supposed to be on Flight 191.

Around that time, my family had two cars. One of them was a 1973 Ford Pinto. In the late seventies, there was a recall for the Pintos. It seemed that if they were struck from behind, the tube leading from the gas tank to the fill-up spout would tear loose and pour gasoline on the pavement.

As this happened, the leaf springs would tear loose at the end toward the end of the car and strike the pavement like a flint, often igniting the gasoline. This was responsible for a number of accidents, including a horrific accident in Indiana in which three teenaged girls were killed and one left horribly burned. This resulted in a personal injury award that set a record the time.

One day, my father asked me to take the Pinto to a nearby mechanic to get an estimate on the "fix" that Ford was paying for. The mechanic showed me a Pinto in the back that had suffered a year-end collision, and why the accidents were so bad, and demonstrated just what the fix would entail-- a piece of plastic under the gas tank that would allow the gas to pour a few inches further back.

Very reassuring. From then on, I kept my eye on the rear view mirror whenever I was at a stoplight.

Later, when I was talking about it to my father, I was thinking of another recall-- around the same time, the Firestone company was recalling their Firestone 500 radials, which would overheat and fly apart at certain speeds. I joked with him-- wouldn't it have been ironic if our Pinto had come equipped with Firestone 500 radials?

It had, he told me. The tires ahd been replaced a couple of years before, when the treads wore out.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

The Bifocals

When I was six years old, and going to first grade at Lincoln Grade School in Chicago, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Griffith, told my parents that she couldn't get me to read.

I had learned all the letters and sounds the previous year in Mrs. Stocking's Kindergarten class. All that was left was to put it all together and read. That evening, my father sat me down with my reading textbook and had me read to him. Though it was over 40 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember my father correcting my pronunciation of the word "grandfather;" I'd pronounced it "grand-fat-her." The "th," he told me, was one sound (a "dipthong", as I learned as a teacher).

By the next day, I'd finished the textbook, and my love affair with reading had begun.

My parents had bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias before any of us could read. My brothers and I would go through the encyclopedia and look at the pictures and speculate on what they were about, and sometimes ask my mother what they were about. I discovered, to my delight, that now that I was reading, I could read those articles myself.

I've read a newspaper just about every day since I was seven or eight years old. I can't eat my breakfast without a newspaper in front of me (sometimes the electronic version of the New York Times). When I was 11 or 12 years old, my father, ironically, exasperated with my constant reading, made me go 24 hours without reading (I cheated, and managed to sneak some reading in).

Last year, I got a new prescription for vision correction. I got new contacts, and put off new glasses. My optician told me that this was going to be the prescription that I'd need reading glasses. Sure enough, when I put my new contacts in, I discovered that everything close to me had gotten blurry.

I was able to use the store-bought reading glasses, but it wasn't that good. A few weeks ago, I finally went to Vision Works and had them fill my new prescription in glasses-- my first bifocals.

I got the call that my new glasses were in, and went to try them on. I was amazed. My father had had difficulty adjusting to bifocals-- he got dizzy. I had no such problem. I had the "progressive" lenses-- no lines.

They had a great deal; I got two pairs of glasses for $207. I highly recommend this company-- the service was great, and the glasses were made faster than promised. Since I got two pairs, I got one pair that's reasonably fashionable, and another pair that is bigger--my "Swifty Lazar glasses," I call them, for when I'm at home reading.

I can't tell you how nice it's been to be able to read comfortably again. I have a lot of reading to do for school, and I love reading my New york Times everyday, but I'm also really enjoying reading for pleasure again. I'm reading Michael Wallis' revisionist biography of Billy the Kid, "Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride," and have previewing what looks like a great biography of Eisenhower. I'm also looking at a book called "Heat," about global warming, and "The Republican War on Science."

Like my growing amount of grey hair and crow's feet, my new need for bifocals is a sign of age. But, as my mother points out, getting older beats the alternative.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reptilefest, Part II

As I've mentioned a few times, my schedule has been crushing. One of the things I've been concerned about was that I wasn't getting out and doing stuff with my son enough lately. In my biology class, my teacher mentioned that "Reptilefest" was being held that weekend. I realized that this was an opportunity to do something with him that could be really fun.

And fun it was. It is billed as "The Nation’s Largest Educational Reptile and Amphibian Show." And big it was. There were hundreds of reptiles of every size, from varying geographic locations.

The highlight was when he got to hold a real live alligator.

One of the things that surprised me was that about 50% of the kids there were girls.

There were a lot of people there to answer questions. The reptile afficionados were definitely hardcore! We're looking forward to next year's Reptilefest!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reptilefest, 2008

Took The Prime Minister Evil Dictator to Reptilefest at University of Illinois-Chicago this afternoon. Don't have time for a post, but got a great pic of him with a real live alligator. Post to follow.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Found It!

Years ago, back when our local "prog-rock" station, WXRT, didn't suck, they'd occasionally play Patti Smith's cover of Debby Boone's "You Light Up My LIfe."

8 or 9 years ago, I managed to find an MP3 of it, but lost it in a hard drive crash somewhere along the way. Luck was a lady today; I threw an old mix cd into my car stereo and what should appear? Yep, Patti in all her glory. I've put it in my Boxnet on the side for anyone who wants to download it.

The "Will Spring Ever Get Here" Friday Random Ten

The weather sucked yesterday-- cold, rainy. This weekend it's supposed to be even worse-- snow. At least there's the promise of decent weather next week.

The semester is winding down, and I'm looking at summer school. The next chemistry class in the progression, which I'll need to take Organic Chemistry, is not being offered at the city college near my home, but is being offered at one farther away. On the other hand, Biochemistry is. I've got a decision to make. In the meantime, here's my Friday Random Ten.

1. Black Jesus- Everlast
2. One Chord Wonders- The Adverts
3. Political Science- Randy Newman
4. Amos Moses- Jerry Reed
5. Queen Elvis- Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
6. Green, Green Grass of Home- Joan Baez
7. Rainy Night in Georgia- Brooke Benton
8. Let Me Roll It- Paul McCartney and Wings
9. The Scorpion Departs (and Never Returns)- Phil Ochs
10. You Are Everything- Marvin Gaye

1. This was one of the first songs I ever downloaded.
2. From the No Thanks! collection of '70's punk.
3. A ferociously funny Randy Newman song, from before he was doing Disney soundtracks.
4. Jerry Reed was a respected country artist before he started appearing in Smokey and the Bandit movies.
5. My late friend Mark turned me on to Robyn Hitchcock, bless his heart.
6. From David's Album, Joan Baez' country album. Jerry Reed was one of the session musicians who appeared on it.
7. I thought for years that this was a Ray Charles song!
8. This song is assumed to be an answer song to "How Do You Sleep?", John Lennon's vicious swipe at McCartney. Ever the gentleman, Paul is much gentler in his ribbing at Lennon.
9. A haunting song about the 1968 loss of the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine the U.S.S. Scorpion. In the great 1999 book Blind Man's Bluff, authors Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew pointed to evidence that a flaw in one of the torpedoes may have doomed the Scorpion.
10. I love me some Marvin Gaye!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Abe Vigoda Check, '08

Oh yes, kids-- it's time for Johnny Yen's annual foray into invaluble public service: the annual check on Abe Vigoda's status!

Checking over at http://www.abevigoda.com/, we find....


Abe Vigoda is STILL ALIVE! Repeat-- Abe Vigoda is still alive!

You may now carry on with your day's regularly planned activities.