Friday, April 30, 2010

Oprah You Never Fail to Disappoint: Oprah's No Phone Zone Pledge

I admit it; I was pretty excited about the Oprah No Phone Zone Pledge which is all the media buzz yesterday and today. Millions love Oprah, doing just about anything she tells them to do from voting the way she suggest to reading the books she recommends. Silly me, I had visions of drivers shaping up and driving safely. Ha! Have you read the pledge? Unfortunately, folks, the Oprah No Phone Zone Pledge is a publicity stunt, a joke. While you can tell people you took the No Phone Zone Pledge, you also get to choose how little you will do as evidence of your virtue.

All the Oprah No Phone Zone Pledge requires is that you stop texting while driving. Nothing more. Here is the pledge:

I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by committing to drive as responsibly as I can: (choose one)

1) I will not text while I am driving; or

2) I will not text while driving and will use only handsfree calling if I need to speak on the phone while I am driving; or

3) I will not text or use my phone while I am driving. If I need to use my phone, I will pull over to a secure location.

Notice how you can say your car is a no phone zone even if you are chatting away merrily on a headset? Anybody see a little something wrong with that? I sure do. Frankly, Oprah could have done a lot better. In fact, I found evidence on a blog posted back in January that Oprah pledge was better, much better, calling for a total ban on cell phone usage by drivers. I have not a clue why Oprah sold out, but she did.

"Committing to drive as responsibly as I can" suggests that only some people can make a meaningful commitment to driving and throughly accepts that you may "need to speak on the phone while I am driving." Seriously? No one needs to speak on the phone while driving. I gave that up a long time ago after the novelty wore off and it occurred to me that talking and driving didn't seem to mix. I hope you did, too. If you didn't, take your own pledge and do your part to be a safe and responsible driver.

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Mañana the 2010 May Day Immigration March

So manaña, May 1st, Spanish speaking Americans (joined by other groups in solidarity) will be holding May Day marches throughout the country to show their support for unlimited and unregulated immigration to the USA. In Chicago, the march takes place at 1 pm, starting at Union Park and ending at Daley Plaza. You can click here for a complete list of where they will be held and who to contact for further information. While these marches will primarily feature those for whom Spanish is their first language, oddly enough an unusually high percentage of the contact persons have names which aren't Spanish at all--and would lead you to believe that their family roots are in Northern Europe. Whether that makes a difference I am not sure, but interesting none the less, and raises the question just who is promoting and profiting from "immirstion reform.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wilmette French Market and St. John's Rummage Sale 5/1/2010

Why not plan a fun and inexpensive family outing to downtown Wilmette this Saturday, May 1, 2010? Get an early start to your day (arrive as early as 8am, or see below if you arrive earlier) . This Saturday will be the first of the season for the Wilmette French Market. All you have to do is take the Metra train to Wilmette and get off! The French Market is right in the parking lot! (and yes, you can practice your French with several vendors) You can buy some nice pastries there or other food, so no need to even eat breakfast first! When you're done at the French Market (or before you even go, if you're a bargain hunter), hop on over to the Rummage Sale, about a block away, at St. John's Lutheran Church, which also has food as well as bargains.

A number of visitors have ended up at this blog looking for info on a "Wilmette Rummage Sale." I imagine what they are looking for is the one that will be held this weekend, May 1, 2010, at St. John's Lutheran Church. The hours are 7 am to 2 pm. (click here for a review from an earlier sale) Since it is located about a block away from the Wilmette Metra Train Station (which can also be reached by taking a bus from the Linden stop on the CTA Purple Line--just ask the driver), it is well located for shoppers who arrive via public transportation. St. John's Lutheran Church is just a few steps away from Greenbay Road, which also has a bus. (Click here to go to the church's website). There is a big sign advertising the sale in front of the church, which is on Wilmette Avenue, one block west of Greenbay. If you arrive by Metra, cross Greenbay Road and head south (toward the skyscrapers you can see in the distance) until you reach Wilmette Avenue, one block away. You will see the sign for Millen's Hardware, and the church is next to that. If you are driving, you can park in the train parking lot, which is free on Saturdays.

Arizona's New Immigrant Law

So everyone is so up in arms about Arizona's new illegal alien law, and things have gotten so bad that illegals undocumented visitors are leaving the state, and that would be in addition to the 100,000 who already left. Consider this:

"Authorities, whether federal, state or municipal ... are required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country, before attending to any issues."

Oh, oops, that would be Mexico's law, not Arizona's.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Ash Cloud Historical Event

I think the European ash cloud resulting from Iceland's Volcano Eyjafjallajoekull will end up being quite the historical event, and could influence history in ways that really aren't yet foreseeable. The entire economy in Kenya is being sorely affected by rapidly deteriorating produce and flowers destined for Europe. Fish stuck at Heathrow is starting to rot. Tulips and other flowers expected from Holland can't arrive in the US for sale. Stranger-danger has evaporated in the face of the human need to get to Point A to Point B. The British Navy may soon be steaming to the coast of Spain to picked up stranded air passengers.

I found out more precisely why the ash cloud is a danger to jet engines via an air pilots' website forum:

Most jet engines will fail quickly if exposed to that Iceland dust. Why? Because the engines' first stage turbine blades run in gas temperatures above their melting point. They don't melt normally because cooling air is blown through a multitude of small holes in the blades. If the unfiltered cooling air contains the Iceland dust this will rapidly clog up the cooling holes.

Result is melted turbine blades which break away to destroy the turbine causing the hapless pilot of the instant glider to pray while he transmit a May Day.

Piston engines will probably be OK for a while until their air filters choke off the induction air flow.

The only safety answer seems to be test flights followed by furiously tearing apart jet engines. Yesterday, the first test flights took place, and the results from commercial airliners on short flights seemed to indicate that the situation might be safe; the test flights and engine teardown from some F-16 fighters from Finland indicated damage.

Meanwhile, most of the news comes from England, where wild differences exist on how many Britons are stranded abroad. Estimates vary from 100,000 to nearly a million, with the current estimate 400,000+.

NOON UPDATE: It looks as if airline service will be starting up again over the next couple of days. There are already a number of flights in the air in Europe

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Iceland: You Can Fly There, but Maybe Not

So I heard that despite the shutdown of European air traffic, planes were taking off and landing in Iceland. I was surprised to hear that because I thought the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano eruption would make that impossible. I decided to go take a look online for a current picture of what's happening in Iceland, and above is what I found, along with the following account . . .

"We tried driving into the darkness and it was like we had stepped into another dimension. We felt it was the end of the world as described in Völuspá, the old Icelandic Poem the tells the story of the end of the world called Ragnarök . . ."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Eyjafjallajoekull: Europe, You are Grounded!

Hope you're not on your way to Europe (well, trying to get to Europe) or in Europe trying to get home, or on some vacation where you had planned to fly around Europe. The huge volcanic ash cloud from Eyjafjallajoekull, otherwise known as the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano, is wreaking real havoc in European airspace and on travelers worldwide. BBC online has a number of stories of affected passengers, and Eurostar, the high speed train between London to Paris is warning travelers not even to come to the station unless you have a confirmed reservation. Twenty-five French airports were closed on Friday, and of course there is a French train strike. At the German Bahn, Lufthansa passengers can use their plane tickets to travel by train. Think you can get around Europe by ferry? At P&O they can't take any walk-on passengers until next Wednesday.

Jens Stoltenberg is governing Norway remotely from New York using his new iPad, and Angela Merkel is governing Germany from Portugal: both are stuck. The Queen of Norway celebrated her 70th, and it almost was a party where no one came.

If you're affected, you might enjoy seeing this data showing carbon emissons from the volcano are far less than the cancelled plane flights. As for me, I was hoping to go to Europe this April--and toyed with the idea of finally seeing Iceland. Unfortunately, my plans were rudely interrupted by the recession. Since today was the day that I was thinking of leaving, and given my fondness for prepaid hotels, perhaps it has worked out for the best after all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blagojevich trial Memo Fascinating Reading

"After Senate Candidate B removed her name from consideration for the Senate seat, Blagojevich’s plans to obtain a personal benefit for the Senate seat were stifled by the fact that nobody appeared willing to pay Blagojevich for the Senate seat. During this time frame, Blagojevich engaged in a number of conversations with a variety of individuals regarding what to do with the Senate seat. Certain of these conversations continued to consider options in which Blagojevich would improperly personally profit from the Senate seat, while other conversations considered legitimate options related to filling the Senate seat." -Memo from US Attorney's office for the Blagojevich trial

If former Governor Blagojevich had spent as much time trying to improve the state of Illinois as he did trying to line his pockets, we would be in pretty good shape. Unfortunately, he didn't. If you decide to read the 91 page memo from the US Attorney's office, you will be well rewarded. Much of it reads like a novel, that is, if you can overlook the fact that some of the characters have odd names such as Official A and Candidate B.

Polar Bears Done With Photos

The polar bears want to make it very clear that they are sick and tired of all those photos of them that have been used for political purposes. This polar bear is doing his best to ensure that any photos taken of him will be a little fuzzy by stealing the photographer's tripod.

Another great picture of the theft is here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

US Debt Owned by Foreigners Growing (and Growing and Growing)

I couldn't bear to post this chart showing how we (the US government) are becoming ever more in debt to foreigners before the weekend, the trend is simply too grim. You can read more about it at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Nike and the Golfing "Love Rat"

Shucks. I really, really wanted to use this picture for this post, but between talking about Easter and the persecuted Christians abroad, somehow it doesn't really seem right. Shows you how religion--or at least Christianity--is a civilizing influence, doesn't it? But I digress.

The picture pretty well sums up the continuing creepiness of Tiger Woods and sports manufacturer, Nike. And the only reason I wanted to post the picture at all was to report that England's The Sun is calling Tiger Woods, a "love rat." Somehow that is too good not to share.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Plight of Persecuted Christians: Open Doors Webinar

With Easter just ended, along with its perfect weather, its hard to get back to these cold, grey days. I had a great Easter weekend, and am pleased to report that I arrived at church early enough to get a pretty good seat. Several times last week I found people asking if I had any special plans for Easter, and these were people who I didn't know at all. Just goes to show how important Easter is to many Americans, and how very comfortable they are discussing this Christian holiday with perfect strangers.

From our American location, we forget how difficult it is for many Christians to celebrate Easter, or practice Christianity at all, in much of the world. These Christians are persecuted minorities in their very own countries. It's hard to think of them suffering today like the martyrs of old, but unfortunately it is not as uncommon as you might think.

What are the signs of persecution? What should we be looking for and what are current trends in the world? These topics will be covered during a one hour webinar hosted by Open Doors USA on Thursday, April 22, 2010, conviently set at lunch time (12:15-1:15) for those of us on Central Daylight Time. Click here to sign up and receive log-in info, and no you don't have to give them your address, your phone number, and all the stuff you might like to keep private. Less than 10% of persecuted Christian leaders have any formal ministerial training, and Open Doors seeks to fill that gap, providing education, training, and other materials to persecuted Christians across the globe.

Early last November, I made a commitment to occasionally blog about the plight of persecuted Christians. These Christians seem forgotten by other Christians throughout the world, and , and Open Doors believes that mostly this is due to a lack of awareness on our part. Interestingly enough, what is most wanted by these persecuted Christians is our prayers. So do take a minute to look at the Open Doors Website (and its press center), see the webinar if you can, and if you have a blog, consider spreading the word.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Census Bureau Encouraging Lies

The census wackiness continues, and I am beginning to think that the census bureau may be totally without one person who has a brain or a education, and I am not kidding. Not only has the census bureau displayed amazing ignorance by confusing ethnic background with race, it is now reaching out to the gay community and telling them that they should check "married" if they consider themselves "married," not only if they are married according to the state law where they live.

That is nuts. The census is supposed to be answered truthfully. Encouraging one identifiable group to lie and and telling them that is okay to lie certainly sends a bizarre message to the citizenry. It is particularly bizarre because only states regulate marriage and not the federal government. It also treats one identifiable group differently than other identifiable groups, which has traditionally been viewed as not the American way, as in no-way.

Is the census bureau instructing renegade Mormons in the outback of Utah to declare all their wives? No. How is that any different from what they are telling the gay community? Both gays and rural Mormons might consider themselves married to people who state law says they can't be married to, but have you heard of similar outreach measures in Utah? Of course not.

It also is strange that the census bureau hasn't instructed man-woman couples to mark "married," if they consider themselves so. Here and there I have run into plenty of man-woman couples who "consider themselves married," (or at least the woman does, the man being possibly less than interested in marrying the woman) but that doesn't mean the couple is married any more than the gay couples are who are not married to each other are, or the old-fashioned Mormons, or that couple down the block who have been shacking up for years.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Friday, April 02, 2010

Solemn Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Church year, the commem- oration of the day Christ was crucified. Christians pause and turn their thoughts to prayer and possibly Stations of the Cross. Pilgrims from around the world travel to Jerusalem where Jesus was killed; some are pictured above.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Too Many Easter Hams

Last night I went to pick up a ham for Easter, but the store didn't have the brand I wanted. They did have a lot of other brands, however and I became overwhelmed. With too many choices, I simply gave up. Today, I will try again, although I am not sure it will be any better. I can get $8 off the ham if I buy $30 worth of groceries, but I can't think of anything I need or even have room for.

When I was checking-out last night, I was in line behind a guy using a WIC voucher to buy some food. After he was done with that, he pulled out a $20 and paid for his 12 pack of Corona beer. When we are subsidizing the purchase of imported beer for some of the population, it sort of makes you think. I told the story to a friend of mine who works in a poor school district. She isn't so sure the students get adequate nutrition at home and they often lack for school supplies, but she says that the parents all seem to have plenty of money for cigarettes. But Easter is fast approaching, the crocus have finally bloomed, it feels like summer outside. and one can't dwell upon the wealth of the poor.