Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hey, Katherine Reutter: the US Flag is NOT a fashion item!

"The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery." (Flag Code, Section 8d)

I heard on TV that Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter (who lists shopping as one of her favorite activities) is now from Northbrook, so I am hoping someone who knows her family will read this and let her know that the American Flag is not a fashion item; it is not a shawl; it is not a scarf to drape around ones shoulders during TV interviews. (And yes, she seemed quite proud of wearing the US Flag around her shoulders) Her disrespect of the flag is surely borne of ignorance and no ill will, but nevertheless it is wrong.

Why doesn't the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) take the time to teach our young athletes that part of representing our country is to treat the flag appropriately and with respect?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chicago's WingFest

Chicken wings are a sickness, worsened by the easy availablity of the delicious little morsels; a cate that Shakespeare himself would have endlessly praised in perfect iambic pentameter if he had eaten only one. The fiery or sweet treats appearing in what surely must be a thousand iterations supposedly were invented in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo failed to capitalize on this perfect opportunity to become a prime tourist destination to where people would travel from far and wide to gorge on this perfect piece of chicken. Surely then it was only a matter of time until another city decided to wrest away the word "Buffalo" from "wings."

And thus Chicago's WingFest must have been born. WingFest is returning this Sunday, February 28, 2010 to the West Loop, for the eleventh year. (Updated info on Twitter) With the admirable goal of raising money for Charity, WingFest features 22 area bar-type restaurants competing for the title of Best Wings in Chicago. Alas, WingFest is something about which I will only dream of attending. It's on Sunday; its far away; and it's cold and snowy out. Will the sponsors please come to their senses and make it a week long Loop based outdoor festival in better weather, more on the order of Taste of Chicago or Chicago's Oktoberfest or Christmas Market? WingFest needs to take its mission more seriously. Hidden away in a location obscure to all but Bulls' fans, plumbers, and Yuppies, it is doing nothing to advance Chicago's world-class reputation (given as a reason why Rio got the Olympics and not us) of fat people eating. If you read the message boards for Chicago on a travel site such as Trip Advisor, you will soon realize Chicago style pizza and hot dogs are potent visitor draws. Why not the wing?

Since Buffalo has taken an ill-advised bye on building its economy on the chicken wing, it is high time for Chicago to bridge the chicken wing gap in a serious way. But on a Sunday? Meeting your friends who work in the loop, or taking an excursion with your work-mates to enjoy lunch or cocktails and perhaps a little music in the fresh air in better weather would be a wonderful addition to Chicago's outdoor life. If only the restaurants and sponsors would get serious about the chicken wing, Chicagoans, tourists and I will come.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oh George Washington, Did We Forget Your Birthday?

It was practically afternoon until I realized it is George Washington's Birthday today, and evening before I could put together this post. My mother warned me, many long years ago, of those who would work tirelessly to end the memory of America's Patriots, and here I am, failing to do my part.

I knew you were counting on me, and today I really fell down on the job. You also could thank AT&T which is doing its best to disconnect me from the Internet every time it rains or snows. And, amazingly, whether or not I call and complain, my connection is restored about as fast either way.

Of course, just when I decided to post this link to Parson Weems famous biography of Washington (who is considered to be the person who first told the tale of the cherry tree that Washington cut down as a boy with his new hatchet) AT&T took away my Internet completely!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods Apology: Sincere but Creepy, Very Creepy

So I watched the Tiger Woods press conference this morning; Tiger was sincere, contrite, and incredibly creepy. Also arrogant. Tiger Woods is very, very sorry that he let his fans down, but keep in mind mostly he has been all about helping those children through his foundation for many years. He was unfaithful, but Elin never whacked him with a golf club and it is horrible anyone would have ever said this. Other than it being horrible that this was said, and that it makes Tiger Woods angry, it is none of your business. Nothing that happens between Elin and Tiger Woods is any of your business, so nothing further will be said about that. Leave his family alone. If you wonder whether Elin and Tiger will stay together, it is none of your business.

Tiger Woods let his business partners down, and he is very, very sorry about that. Tiger knows that was wrong, and he will be returning to therapy because he has had a long time to reflect on the situation and now knows that the rules apply to him. He also knows that he must make amends. Tiger now knows that he strayed from his Buddhist values that he learned from his mother and will be taking more therapy and how dare you think he ever took performance enhancing drugs? He never took performance enhancing drugs.

Nothing says "I'm deeply sorry" to one's friends like inviting the TV cameras over to record it all.

There will be no questions.

I hope you watch the video, too, although it might not be any of your business.

Meanwhile, over at the Tiger Woods' Foundation, Tiger's Action Plan is still undergoing a rewrite to include "new, exciting areas of study," but the additional activities remain. Kids are encouraged to "Take risks and try new ideas. You can’t go wrong!" Okay. Guess it worked for Tiger. A game, Who’s Tiger Woods?, is recommended. "Students survey three to ten people outside the group with the following question: What do you know about Tiger Woods? Back in the group, they share and discuss what they’ve learned about Tiger." Clever, eh? And quite amazing that Tiger is so proud of his foundation.

UPDATE: I ran into a couple of articles which are humorous and lend perspective that I wanted to share. You might enjoy
Jeff Neuman: I Am Not Tiger Woods
Giles Smith: Secret Diary of Tiger Woods - Part 1
Giles Smith: Secret Diary of Tiger Woods - Part 2
Giles Smith: Secret Diary of Tiger Woods - Part 3
Giles Smith: Secret Diary of Tiger Woods - Part 4
Giles Smith: Secret Diary of Tiger Woods - Part 5-1
Giles Smith: Secret Diary of Tiger Woods - Part 5-2 (Final)

While I am sure it is none of my business, even though it was on public TV, the photos of Tiger Woods kissing his mom at the news conference (one is above) are super creepy. It is really creepy (and quite self-serving) to make private apologies at a public event. Tiger hugging his pals on global TV before exiting the stage when his speech was finished was creepy, too.While Tiger Woods may have had plenty of time for reflection, he apparently didn't do any reflecting on inappropriate behavior in general. I mean, I don't think Tiger Woods has been in prison and couldn't contact people privately. His people say he has been in rehab, he terms it "in-patient therapy." For what they didn't mention, but they probably let you make phone calls and have visitors. Whatever the case may be, that is none of our business.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stimulus Timeline

You might be interested in hopping to over to the Stimulus Timeline which details the wild spending in Washington, D.C. and increasing unemployment figures in the past year to see precisely why our nation's lawmakers are choosing retirement over running for another term. A couple of points:

February 17, 2009: $787 billion Recovery Act signed into law. Unemployment rate stands at 7.6%.

September 28, 2009: Reports indicate that Recovery Act spending has reached $102 billion.

November 6, 2009: Department of Labor announces that 190,000 jobs were lost in October and that the unemployment rate rose to 10.2%--surpassing the 10% unemployment mark for the first time since 1983.

February 12, 2010: The press reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent Democrat Members of Congress a memo stating that "The Recovery Act is a hallmark achievement of this Congress…"

The picture is from Monday, February 14, 2010 at a Carnival parade in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Luge Track in Vancouver: Troubling Questions Remain

The sad loss of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili has really dampened our enjoyment of the Winter Olympics at our house, and I suspect we are not alone. Real questions remain about the cavalier attitude surrounding the ultra-fast luge track in Vancouver. Ron Rossi, head of the American luge team has been outspoken about the situation, (though others disagree) including raising an issue on design flaws of the track.

"They [the Canadians] knew they had problems from day one. They had people hitting the wall and going airborne. If you were already concerned about it and you already raised the wall, why didn't you keep going? And why didn't you protect the [metal] posts at the chance that maybe something could happen? I'm not the one to answer but that's the kind of question that needs to be asked."

The financial success of the Olympics depends on fans--those who tune on the TV and also buy all the items endorsed by Olympians and advertised during broadcast coverage. I would encourage all of my readers to speak out of the value of sport and safety, and let it be known that the desire for record-setting should never trump the importance of protecting young athletes from physical harm.

Winter Olympics - Dinner on the Couch

With the Vancouver Winter Olympics in full swing, I suppose your family, too, is demanding to eat on the couch in front of the TV. Sometimes it's better just to give into this practice; the games will be over soon enough. But what to serve?

With three contestants from Illinois competing in the Pillsbury Bakeoff, I took a look at the 100 new and creative recipes from the contest, and found a number of them perfect for dinner while distracted. I thought you might enjoy looking through the recipes, too, for some new ideas. (Pictured above are Jumbo Burger Cups: a muffin with hamburger baked inside. Along with some raw vegetables, how perfect is that?)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Won't You Be My Valentine?

This Valentine isn't so sentimental, but you have to admit it has a certain poignancy! I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day with plenty of flowers and treats! (Click on the picture to see it larger.)


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vancouver Opening Ceremonies Interesting but Odd

The Canada Olympic Games opening ceremony in Vancouver was pretty lame, although it did have its moments. I thought it was a good ad why a pro-marijuana culture--which Vancouver has--shouldn't be encouraged, Somehow I imagined that much of the creative planning for the show must have been done by the stoned. How else do you explain why performers appeared to be be smashed into the floor (instead of exiting the stage) before being turned into whales or why a 20-something fat beat poet should be featured?

Personally, I am glad (ok, amazed, eh?) that Canada didn't set their indoor stadium on fire with the Indoor Olympic Torch, featuring malfunctioning butane torches with enough flaming goodness to appeal to even the most hardened pyromaniac. And I was extremely worried that they might lose Wayne Gretzky, standing up in the bed of a pickup truck Taliban Style, riding through the streets of Vancouver to light the Outdoor Olympic Flame, another testament to what can happen if a firebug becomes a set designer.

I must say I did like all the dancing by the First Peoples. If Illinois was in Canada, I bet we still would have Chief Illiniwek. I also liked the skiers and snowboarders, dressed in all red, twirling in the air. I do think there were more falling maple leaves than necessary. All in all the opening ceremonies were interesting, but not interesting enough to keep me from having a brief snooze while watching.

Many US news commenters weighed-in quite favorably on the opening ceremony, and enjoyed its laid-back, quirky, less-is-more Canadian attitude. The Huffington Post has a comprehensive picture gallery.

Oh, and if you plan to spend a fair amount of time sitting on the couch watching the Olympics, you might want to put your time to good use and knit a reindeer hat like those that the US Team wore at the Opening Ceremonies!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy 201st Birthday: Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin

Happy Lincoln's Birthday! Honest Abe Lincoln was born today, February 12, 1809, 201 years ago. In 1863, Lincoln gave his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, pronouncing those immortal words, "Our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

On the same day and year, a continent away, Charles Darwin--father of the Theory of Evolution-- was born. In his Descent of Man, 1871, Darwin wrote: "Civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate the savage races throughout the world . . . The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla."

Amazing that two men, born of the same age, could see their fellow men so differently, and it is no surprise that, between the two, Abe Lincoln is loved the most.

Last year, for Lincoln's 200th birthday, I took some time to choose some really fine books about Abe Lincoln, no longer subject to copyright and free online for reading or download. If you are interested, just click here.

h/t to The American Minute for the idea for this post.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chicago Area: After the Snow, the Earthquake!

I find myself very awake, very early this morning, and I am beginning to wonder if the Illinois earthquake woke me up, since everyone else in the house seemed to be awake, too. It was blamed on the loud TV in the family room (where I had fallen asleep during the 10 o'clock news, and where the TV had been on for hours). The earthquake happened at 3:59 am, and I don't remember feeling anything. Since the earthquake measured 4.3 on the Richter Scale and the epicenter was only 48 miles from Chicago, it wouldn't surprise me at all if that's what woke everyone up.

In Kane County, people reported being "shaken out of bed," Fox News has the story, and is also collecting videos of damage. So far, no videos have been posted, but they may be on the morning news. Unfortunately, most of Chicago will be outside shoveling the snow and unable to see them in the event some are collected. Mysteriously, I remember being tuned to Channel 5 for the news, but when I awoke, the TV was tuned to Channel 11. How weird is that?

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's Schneechaos! Snowpocalypse! Snowmageddon in Washington, D.C.

Schneechaos, Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, I do love those names applied to the snowstorm in Washington, D.C. What I can't figure out is why people who are out walking in the snow, pictured above, would carry umbrellas designed for rain. I am struck by the curiosity of 2 random walkers not only carrying umbrellas but that they are totally matching large red ones with wooden handles. Hotel issue?

While President Obama is being credited for the term Snowmageddon, which is pretty cute, the word is older, and apparently was used in England for this year's snowstorms. Schneechaos is a favorite term for this year's snowy winter in Europe (especially Germany), and Snowpocalypse dates back to at least 2008.

With widespread power outages in the Washington area, some citizens may be deprived of watching the Super Bowl. For others, a nearly worse fate: many web comments on stories of the storm have the bad news: "Beer is gone."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Seals Over Hamos in IL-10th - but Why?

The real election night shocker in Illinois' north suburban Tenth Congressional District—which stretches from Wilmette to the state line of Wisconsin-- was the choice of Dan Seals over Julie Hamos as the Democrat candidate. The victory for Seals—a two time loser who managed to lose his most recent 2008 bid in a race historically favorable for Democrats--smelled more of crossover mischief than sound party sentiment. But it wasn't.

When Hamos, wildly popular in her native Evanston and a resident of the 9th Congressional District, rented a house just North of where she lived in the nearby 10th District and filed her candidacy, her sheer presence alone began giving fits to local GOP operatives. As an experienced politician, Hamos understands election basics: that it is best to have a residence actually located in the district you seek to represent, and it doesn't hurt to have some voters in your new district who have already voted for you.

It's hard to think that the choice of Seals over Hamos isn't motivated by some sort of death wish for November by the Democrats. You expect to see this type of odd result when legions of one party—faced with a boring primary with few actual choices—attempt to win one for the Home Team months before the actual election takes place by entering the primary of the opposite party and voting for the weaker candidate to oppose their candidate at the ballot box. But this wasn't an election where people had much if any interest in crossing-over. Both parties offered their voters real choices in important races.

Hamos' loss cannot be easily understood. Perhaps Hamos underestimated the vast amount of time opponent Seals had available to spend on his campaign. Possibly North Suburban Dems feared a Martha Cokely effect. It could be that Democrats wrongly calculated that Beth Coulsen would be the Republicans' choice for Congress, thus making Seals an easier-to-distinguish opponent.

With Dan Seals as the Democrat candidate for Congress, Republicans breathed a real sigh of relief. Republicans feared Hamos. Experienced at the State level, battle-hardened, and effective Hamos had local GOPer's on edge and ready to empty their wallets.

There may be many cracks in Hamos' veneer which would have appeared when opposition research began. But from the outside looking in, the choice of Seals, a hale-fellow-well-met kind of guy without community ties and partial to frat-boy political pranks and resume padding, over Hamos, a serious, principled and experienced government official is an odd one. From a cursory glance, Hamos' only weakness was her far left-wing politics. This year that alone may have been enough. Perhaps there really is something after all to those jokes that after a year of Barack Obama, George Bush is starting to look pretty darn good.

Pictured above is a campaign piece on health care from Seals most recent losing Congressional run in November, 2008, when he positioned himself as a Barack Obama clone, featuring Progressive folk wisdom coupled with the change necessarily borne of inexperience, along with Kennedy-style good teeth. You can click on the picture to see it larger.

Proft Urges Supporters to Focus on Shared Beliefs

I am not too much for posting up missives from political campaigns, but this gracious letter from Dan Proft--who never stopped speaking the truth in his recent campaign for governor--is well worth reading.

“What I aspired to be, and was not, comforts me.” - Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra

I take solace in Robert Browning’s words because ours was a campaign rooted in aspirations. We aspired to return the Illinois Republican Party to its rightful heritage as a party of important policy ideas that speak to the economic anxieties of Illinois families.

We advanced ideas like school choice that neither party has been willing to embrace. We fought for a constituency that neither party has sought to serve in a very long time.

We pulled back the curtain to explain how we are scammed by a state government we pay for.

We asked the right question when it came to the extent of policy revolution required, “Are You Ready to Turn Springfield Upside Down?”

We reminded our party that winning elections is a means to policy ends and that we must be ever-mindful of the question, “What do we win when we win?”

We did all that we could with the resources at our disposal. No tears. No regrets. I know this arena very well and knew what I was getting into when I undertook this campaign. I knew the risks.

No campaign stretched dollars better than ours. We were vastly outspent by every single one of our opponents, in some cases by a 10:1 ratio. And, at the end of the day, we simply did not have the necessary resources to crystallize the choice in the minds of enough GOP primary voters to get home.

Regardless, our effort was certainly validated by the support we received from tea party activists to pro-life leaders to suburban GOP organizations to deep thinkers like Steve Rauschenberger, Gary MacDougal, and Richard Baehr to media outlets from the blogosphere to the Belleville News-Democrat.

One of the cool features of politics and running for office is that you get to meet a lot of people from all different walks of life. It is intellectually stimulating. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to meet so many people from throughout Illinois to hear their stories and their ideas and to share mine.

And now is the time we must bring our people together with supporters from the other campaigns to support our nominee for Governor, whether it is Bill Brady or Kirk Dillard, and Republicans up and down the ticket.

Whatever our differences, they pale in comparison to our shared beliefs.

And remember who the enemy is. It is the party that supports job-killing tax hikes; a malaise-making federal takeover of health care, and that thinks bringing terrorists to western Illinois is smart economic development policy.

We must focus with laser-like precision on the Chicago Democrats who have been in charge of this state and whose terrible public policy choices have destroyed Illinois’ economy. I personally will do whatever I can to aid the effort of our nominees from Governor on down and I would encourage you to do the same.

Finally, I appreciate the encouraging words I have received from so many to stay in the arena. I have spent the last 15 years of my life battling to advance the conservative reform flag and I will continue to do so in one capacity or another. Like so many of our supporters, I put in the fight—always. I never give up—ever.

But, remember, it is the ideas that matter, not me. The ideas transcend any individual candidate and any single election.

I close the book on our campaign with more from Browning, “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”

Policy Revolution exceeded our grasp this time but we must continue to strive for the policies we would like to see in furtherance of the principles we hold dear.

Thank you,
Dan Proft

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

It's Bob Dold in Illinois 10th!

Congratulations to Candidate Bob Dold for his victory in Illinois' 10th Congressional District Republican primary! His dad, also Bob Dold, is quite a fan of this "jingle," so I told him I would post it up in honor of the victory. Hope you enjoy it! It was a pretty exciting evening over at Dold HQ, which was loaded with supporters and many Dolds. The children-- up well beyond their bed times--were looking quite sleepy, but the candidate himself looked rested, energized, and raring to go!