Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Amazing Dancing Dog

I've been crazy busy at work lately, even working on weekends. So, no blogging. But I came across this dancing dog that is just about the cutest and most amazing thing you've ever seen.

If this doesn't brighten your day, then you need to be institutionalized:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Was The Dog

Last night at dinner, Miss Healthypants thought this story was really funny and said I should blog about it.

So, I'm blogging about it. . .

When I was a wee lad growing up in south Texas, my mom and grandfather really enjoyed hunting doves and quails. I wanted nothing to do with guns (and still don't) but I and my brother were often taken along on these hunting excusions.

They would find a flock of these birds flying about and BANG! - - you'd see one fall out of the sky. Since I wasn't about to hunt them, it was my job to scurry out in the field and retrieve the dead bird. (This lasted from about age 7 to 11 years old.)

So, essentially, I became a pretty good bird dog. I could also retrieve fluffy rabbits when needed.

Sometimes, the bird (or fluffy rabbit) wouldn't be all the way dead yet and I'd have to "do the deed." I really hated to see them suffer.

Dove and quail hunting usually take place in the late afternoon or evening. We'd arrive home at "dark-thirty" which, as every Texan knows, is a half hour after sunset. (It's illegal to hunt after sunset.)

It was also my job to clean the birds when we got home and I became pretty good at it. We would only keep the breasts as the rest of the little birds are too boney to deal with.

A dozen or so would go in the freezer and every so often, we'd have fried doves for dinner. They have a really dark flesh but frying them like chicken with some cream gravy makes for a pretty good meal.

So, that is my experience in hunting game. . . I was the dog.


The Fast Cat Video

Yeah, I know. Another funny cat video.

But oh-em-gee, this one really made me el-oh-el.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Want This Cake!

This photo was forwarded to me today with an accompanying story of how the cake was produced.

The narration described how a Walmart bakery employee took the order over the phone and wrote what she heard.

I really don't think that's how it happened.

I think that who ever was ordering the cake was the cause of this. They were probably ordering it online and in the section where it asks what you want written on the cake, the clueless person probably filled out the online order with:

Best Wishes Suzanne
Under Neat That
We will Miss You

The bakery-person probably looked at that order, burst out laughing and thought, "If that's what they wrote, that's what they'll get."

That's probably what happened.

At any rate, whenever I leave my current job or retire, I would love a cake just like this one!
(Only with my name on it, not Suzanne's, and with a buttercream-and-fondant frosting.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Most Stupid Product in the World

Have you seen those commercials for the new Dyson "Air Multiplier?" It's a fan. A blade-less fan that produces a stream of uninterrupted air.

In the commercial, the snooty guy with the English accent tries to convince us that conventional fans produce lots of "air buffeting" which, unbeknownst to us, is just about the most dreadful, awful, most unpleasant thing in the world.

I was at Bed, Bath, and Beyond-my-Budget today and they had one on display, the little blue one.
Here they are:

Of course, I had to see how the dern thing worked. I pawed it, poked it, and stuck my face in it until I figured it out.

You see, it actually does have a fan hidden in the base of it. The air is forced out through tiny slits in the ring which draws more air in through the ring. Price? $250.00.

Have we, as a society, become so fragile that we must no longer tolerate the "air buffeting" of a fan?

The public school I attended in South Texas wasn't air conditioned. For much of the school year, it was over 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity. Each classroom had one big fan in it.

I would LOVE for that snooty Dyson guy to have sat in one of those classrooms in August and try to convince us that "air buffeting" was unpleasant. He would have ended up with a Dyson ring around his neck.

But most of all, the phrase about the shit hitting the fan would be totally meaningless with these things.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Morning Scene - Yellow Jackets

Okay, just one more post about the Yellow Jackets and then I'll stop.
I promise.
Still Life: Yellow Jackets in Triplicate

Yellow Jackets Lurking in Dark Alley

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mystery Solved!

While walking to work this morning, I passed by some of the movie crew who were laying down those yellow and black rubber thingies that the electrical cables go through. (Yesterday, I wrote that I really wanted to know what these things were called. Some of you responded with some great answers, too.)

Here's what I'm talking about:

See? What do you call those things??

This morning, I stood there and watched the guys laying down these devices. They had a cart loaded up with them and then I heard one of the guys refer to them as . . . .

. . . . are you ready? . . . .

Yellow Jackets.

Yellow Jackets! What a great name!
See? I knew these things would have an identifiable name.

Well, upon further investigation, it turns out that "Yellow Jacket" is the brand name for these "cable protectors." Yellow Jacket, Inc. is also the exclusive provider of cable protectors for Paramount Studios.

Here's their website.

The Yellow Jacket manufactuing plant is in a suburb of Los Angeles. If I ever go to LA as a tourist, I might see the usual sights. Paramount Studios, Magic Mountain, etc. But the highlight would be getting to tour the Yellow Jacket facility! It's a really good thing I don't have kids.

"Daddy, when are we going to Disneyland??"

"Right after we tour the Yellow Jacket plant, kids."

Next time I go see any movie by Paramount, I'm going to stay while all the credits roll. Toward the very end of the credits, you know, where all the insignificant stuff is, I'll get to see a reference to "Yellow Jacket, Inc."

Seeing that will be a very significant moment for me. The clean-up crew at the theater will probably be wondering why that one, lone guy is watching the very end of the credits with a big smile on his face.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What ARE These Things Called?

The movie-making people aren't done yet with making their explosion-filled movie, Transmutors 3, (or something like that) here in downtown Chicago. They've simply moved all the fake disaster scenes from Wacker Drive to the underside of the EL on Wabash Avenue.

So, once again, there are lots and lots of electrical cables strewn everywhere around the site. In order to keep pedestrians from tripping over them and to keep cars from getting entangled in them, they've employed the use of these rubber and metal devices that the cables go through.

Here's a photo of one in front of a doorway:
See? The yellow part flips up, they lay the cables in grooves underneath it and put the yellow part back down, thus keeping the cables safe and tidy.

Here's a double set of them. (You can hook a bunch of them together)

Now, as a little kid, I would have been incredibly fascinated with these devices. I often became obsessed with obscure things like these. I'd want to know how they were made, the various configurations they came in, their dimensions, where they were made, and the like.

I would have wanted to steal one and keep it hidden in my closet.

But now I'm all grown up and have put these childish notions away.

Oh my gosh, look at this long, double one!

Now, here's the big question: What do you call these things? I have no idea and I really want to know.

The movie-making people employ lots of folks to sit around and make sure none of the movie-making equipment is messed with or stolen. That's all these people do -- just sit there all day drinking bottled water.

So, this morning I asked one of them, "What do you call these things?"

"What things?" he said.

"Those yellow and black things that the cables go through. What are they called?"

He just shrugged. I'm sure he thought I was really strange, wanting to know what they were called and taking photos of them.

If anyone knows, please tell me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Hello, Kettle? You're Black!"


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Dog

Awww! I met her after work today.
Oh my goodness --
What a happy, affectionate, energetic dog she is!
What a great way to spend a Friday afternoon. 

She's between 2 or 3 years old, was a stray in Southern Illinois, and was moments away from being euthanized when she was rescued by a lovely doggy foster-family near Chicago. They fostered her for the past couple of weeks, paid for being spayed, and took a lot of time and care to get her connected with my friends, Jack and Steve.

It was a great connection. 

She's exuberant, ebullient and aims to please. She likes to leap upon you, but is quickly learning the new command of "Off". Once she removes paws from your chest, praise is consistently and duly administered. She already knows "Down" so that really needs to be distinguished from "Off"  --
-- which actually took me a while to learn.

Jack: "No, don't say 'down', say 'off'"
Me: 'Down'! No, sorry, 'Off'' . . . Which is it?
Jack: "It's 'Off'."
Me: "Okay, 'Off, . . no, Down, wait! no, Off! . . okay, now, OFF!'"


As with any Labrador, they are so easy to train and will respond to food or praise.

With Portia, it was carrots. She'd do anything for carrots, as you can see from this video where I taught her to actually play the piano during the course of two weeks.
Many baby carrots were involved.

This dog does not respond to carrots but she does go nuts over a spoonful of peanut butter, though.

I keep saying "this dog" and "the dog" because she really hasn't been named yet. Her foster-family of two weeks assigned the name 'Hannah' simply for i.d. and chip-implementation purposes.

Jack and Steve are considering the names "Chloe" or "Zoey", both of which are awfully cute and suits her perfectly. (I had suggested the name, "Ouiser" after the Shirley MacLaine character in Steel Magnolias --  I'm such a Steel Magnolias fan; I think I would probably adopt any animal or even a child just so I could name it "Ouiser".) 

Here are some photos that I took of this adorable creature:

Such a shiny coat!

Are we about to have a treat?

Still Life: "Large Dog in Repose"

In the meantime, I will begin the adoption process for an orphaned girl or boy that I can name Ouiser.
There are probably thousands of them in Chicago that could benefit from a loving home in a downtown high-rise with a doorman . . .

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chocolate Love has Arrived

I've made many posts here about dear, sweet Portia, the chocolate Labrador who belonged to my friends, Jack and Steve. After she made a calm transition to doggy heaven three months ago, they've experienced a period of doglessness. But that happily ended today. . . .

Meet Hannah!

Hannah is a 2 year old chocolate bundle of squirming love. She had been in a very nice doggy foster home for the past couple of weeks after having been a stray in southern Illinois (time period, unknown.) Her foster parents said she was only moments away from being put down before being rescued. Can you imagine that?

She arrived today, the adoption was completed and she now has a forever-home. She knows the following commands: 'Sit' 'down' and 'paw'. I haven't met her yet, but she did lick the receiver when I called to wish her a happy welcome.

New From Denny's

My dear friend, Miss Healthypants, is a true-blue Wisconsin girl. As a true-blue Wisconsin girl, she loves her cheese.

When I learned about this new Fried Cheese Melt from Denny's, I instantly thought of my friend, Miss Healthypants. Fried cheese sticks inside a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

Yes, she would order it -- with a salad.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Back in the Saddle

It's been a very long time since I've written a piece of satire. But when I woke up this morning to CNN reporting on the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, my mind got going. Most often, I write satire about the things for which I feel the most anger and frustration.
This might well be my best piece . . .

Thousands Protest Nagasaki's Ground-Zero Shinto-Christian Center

A 13-story, $100-million dollar Shinto-Christian cultural center in lower Nagasaki is scheduled to be built two blocks from the center of the city's Industrial Valley -- an area known as "Ground Zero" since August 9, 1945.

For months, city officials have braved a firestorm of protests over the "mega-Christian" site. Masanori Ishikawa, a conservative voice for the local Imperial Shrine said the city rushed to push the project forward and ignored the opinions of Shinto adherents and Japanese citizens who do not think the site is the right place for a church.

Shortly after 11:01 a.m. on August 9, 1945, thousands of innocent Japanese workers were massacred in a second surprise air attack by American forces that unleashed an untested nuclear weapon upon its inhabitants. Up to 75,000 civilians were instantly annihilated in Nagasaki three days after a larger attack was carried out on the innocent residents of Hiroshima.

Although U.S. forces had continually violated International War Crime Laws by dropping weapons of mass destruction on 87 Japanese cities during the previous six months, no warnings were sent by the U.S. military to the thousands of civilian men, women and children of Nagasaki notifying them of the impending peril.

Although the Shinto-Christian center is purported to be a "world-class facility that promotes tolerance, reflecting the rich diversity of Nagasaki," the center will also "serve as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all Nagasakians to enjoy."

It's too soon," said Ishikawa. "America has always proclaimed that it was a Christian nation, built on moral principles. To have a mega-church built within two blocks of where adherents of Christianity ruthlessly killed so many of our citizens would be a slap in the face. Even after sixty-five years, the wounds to our citizens are still fresh."

Ishikawa reiterated that, "although Christians in this nation are free to worship as they please, what they really want is for this center to be a breeding-ground for Christianic extremists."

"And what a strange religion they have!" exclaimed Akira Tokushima, Head Imperial Member. "They claim to worship one god, yet this god sent himself to commit suicide so that he could be resuscitated, and then proclaimed that if you don't believe that he lived forever, then you'll experience eternal torture."

Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, was quoted, saying that, "I really can't understand these tea-ceremony Shinto fundamentalists. Don't they know that our constitution allows for a free expression of religion? If the government or voters inhibit that by denying the Shinto-Christian Center to be built, then the whole meaning of Japan's constitution is worthless."

Kan sighed reflectively. "Is that what the tea-ceremonialists really want?"

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Have you seen those new reality documentaries on TV about people with obsessive-compulsive disorders? One is called Obsession, (people with really weird obsessions, like incessant hand-washing) another is Hoarding: Buried Alive (people who can't throw away anything) and a new one is about people who hoard animals (the woman with 97 cats).

Oh my gosh, I love with these shows! I'll admit it.

I think many of us have a secret fascination with people who are much more screwed up than we are. "How can he DO that?? Why doesn't she just throw something away?" are things we might proclaim while watching these programs. 

I've mentioned it before, but I think I have the opposite problem of hoarding. I'm a little bit obsessed with getting rid of things. I don't know why, because I'm not an exceptionally neat or tidy person. I've no need to keep things hugely organized. I just really really don't like superfluous "things" or "objects" in my dwelling-place.

Here's an example. The other day, I decided to go roller-blading, something I hadn't done in over seven or eight years. I thought I had placed my Roller-blades on a certain shelf in my closet, but they weren't there. So, I just assumed I had tossed them down the trash chute.

You see, tossing things down the trash chute is something at which I'm a bit excessive. If something's taking up any space in my apartment and I don't use it, then it goes down the trash chute -- clunk, clunk, clunk - 50 floors down. It's very satisfying to me.

(Turns out, I hadn't thrown them away. They were in the "Roller-blade section" of my storage bin down on the 20th floor.) 

Clothes, cooking utensils, appliances, electronics, you name it -- If they're not needed, then it's clunk, clunk, clunk. Dress shirts, ties, food items, some grown-up things and a tuxedo all recently got "chuted."

Big deal, right? So I have a "thing" about not having clutter. (Yes, I could donate these things, but I haven't the diligence or discipline for making those arrangements. Besides, those "things" would be "here" and "around me" until then. Brrrrr-shudder. We can't have that.)

The anti-clutter thing is minimal, really. But after watching Obsessed, I realized that I did actually have a bit of OCD after all.

Ever since I was in the fourth grade, I've always known in the back of my mind where my mother was in relation to me (what direction) and I'd never leave a pen or pencil facing in that direction. I felt that if I did, something bad would happen to my mom.

I've always had a really good sense of direction and seem to have an innate sense as to which direction I'm facing at any moment. (North, South, East, or West).  When I was sitting at my desk during the 4th Grade, I faced east. My mom was teaching high school in a classroom to the south so I always kept my pencil facing north, to the left. If I didn't, something bad would happen.

Somehow, I felt responsible for my mom's well-being. For the life of me, I really don't know how that came to be. Both my parents were supportive and loving. Nothing traumatic occurred. Maybe I was kidnapped by a Bigfoot who threatened my mom and I blocked it out. Or maybe I was just a weird kid.(My mom laughs a little too much at the little boy on "The Middle.")

Forty years later, sitting at my office desk at work facing north, I do not leave a pen facing southwest toward Texas where my mom lives. It's not like I would freak out if I was forced to leave a pen facing southwest, but it would make me uncomfortable.

Fortunately, this is not an endeavor that has taken up a lot of my mental or emotional energy over the years. I just automatically know what direction I'm facing at all times (in case I might indirectly cause my mother's death, you know) which has very often come in handy.

I never get lost.

I come out of a subway in New York, Toronto, or Chicago, and boom, southwest is "that way."  If I accidentally drive into St. Louis from East St. Louis Illinois (which I often do) and I'm halfway to Memphis, I know I'm heading south, in error, and need to turn back northeast. If I'm sitting at a banquet table at the convention center in Peoria, I automatically don't leave my pen in the ten-o'clock position. That's southwest.

So, maybe this little obsession has served me well over the years.

In my years working as a substance abuse counselor at an in-patient treatment center back in the late 90s, I've certainly come across worse things. (Lots worse.) Like the guy who spent 18 hours a day obtaining and eating women's hair. There's just no upside to consuming hair 18 hours a day. Not as far as I can tell.

My obsession may take up, maybe, twenty or thirty seconds out of my day. You may see me flip a pen around after signing the credit card receipt at dinner, but that's about it. My mom is alive and well.

At least if you're with me, we'll always know that Houston is "that way."

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

As Seen on TV

The other morning, I was sleeping with the TV on, as usual, and an infomercial for the NuWave Oven came on. The exceedingly upbeat, amphetamine-induced voices of the NuWave hosts woke me up.

The NuWave Oven is a counter-top oven that every home should not be without according to these hyper-vigilant hosts. Your life will be hugely incomplete and a total disaster unless you call within the next ten minutes and purchase one. Here’s the infomercial:

So, I got up and decided to go online and find some reviews about this incredible device. I had no interest in ordering one because it just sounded, well . . . stupid.  I just wanted to see how much of a rip-off it was.

Of course, everyone hated the NuWave Oven. According to these poor folks that actually bought one, everyone remotely associated with NuWave are evil cretins and should be destroyed. I kept seeing complaints about the ninety-dollar shipping charges, rebates that never came, non-existent customer service, exploding NuWave ovens and on and on and on.

Ninety dollars for shipping? I just had to find out more about that. I was now on a NuWave mission.

So I called the NuWave toll-free number and asked what the shipping charges were. I couldn’t get a straight answer so I politely said I wasn’t interested. I called again and after some insistence, I finally got an answer. Here’s the deal.

The shipping costs for the NuWave are $29.95. But wait! You also get a free pizza serving kit AND a free mini-blender. You just pay shipping costs for these free items. How much shipping?
$29.95 each. Nintey bucks total.

Can you believe that? How awful for these poor folks, many of whom are probably elderly and get sucked in to this slick deal. It really made me angry.

But wait! It gets better.

About an hour later someone from NuWave called me and wanted to know why I didn’t want a NuWave and was there anything they could do to “help.” I told them it was because of the shipping costs. That’s when she offered a forty-dollar rebate.

That’s when I pounced. I said that I had just read all these reviews online where people never actually got these rebates.  (She claimed she’d never heard of such complaints.) I also said that their customer service was reported to be horrible and that the NuWave lids were known to crack (explode.)

She still wouldn’t let up. “Is there anything we could do to interest you?” she pleaded.

I said, “Let me send you a postage-paid shipping box so that I don’t have to pay any shipping fees.”

No way, no how,

“Please place my number on your do-not-call list.”

After reading all those frustrated reviews, all those folks who couldn’t contact the NuWave people, it felt so good to hold someone at NuWave accountable, at least for a little bit.
I wanted to dance.

Here’s the thing. These As Seen on TV items are huge rip-offs. (Gee, ya think?) If you find that you want to buy any of these items, go online and read the reviews. If you absolutely must have it after that, go to walgreens.com or amazon.com and buy one of the items for half the price rather than getting a second one “free”.

And if you really want to have some fun, call NuWave at 800-393-1369, ask about the shipping, decline, let them call you back, - - - and then give ‘em hell.

Or maybe you’re unlike me and actually have a life.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Sports Bar

Last Saturday, I met three of my friends for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. I love Ethiopian food, despite the fact that one has to eat everything without a knife and fork. Everything is served on one central dish and everyone digs in, eating the food by plucking it up with moist, sourdough flatbread.

We had a great meal.

Afterward, my friend, Jack pointed out that a club called “Crew” was right across the street and suggested we go there for an after-dinner drink.

“What’s ‘Crew’?” I asked.

“It’s a gay sports bar,” was the reply.

I almost spit out my water. “A gay sports bar? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Oh, I gotta see this.”

So, we headed into Crew.

Yes, it was definitely a sports bar. It sported several big-screen TVs, all of which were blaring a baseball game. (The Cubs were playing -- they're a baseball team in Chicago.)

Several attractive young women were at the bar and groups of guys watching the game were scattered among the tables. I’d never been to any sports bar, gay or otherwise, but I guess this looked like your typical one. I don’t know what I was expecting. Broadcasts of ice-dancing competitions, perhaps?

We sat at a table and ordered our drinks.

At one point in the game, one of the Cubs hit a fly ball. As it sailed toward the wall, all eyes in the bar were on the TVs. It looked like it was going to be a home-run but a fielder caught it at the last moment.

A loud chorus of “AWWWW!” was suddenly heard throughout the bar.

I thought, “Wow, this is so far from being a gay bar.”

Then one of the guys at a nearby table said in a slightly effeminate voice:
“He should have hit it farther.”

. . . And, we’re back.

I noticed a framed copy of Boys’ Life on the wall, the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. (The comedic irony of that was enormous.) It was also signed by the baseball player on the cover. I had to have my photo taken there in order to memorialize the one-and-only time I’d ever been to a sports bar.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Movie Set

A movie continued to be filmed in downtown Chicago this past weekend. I still don't know what movie it is, but it's obviously one of those shoot-'em-up, disaster-type movies with lots of explosions. About every two hours, they'd film a scene and these actors would run around shooting really loud machine guns at each other and a couple of bombs would go off.

It's all very thrilling for pedestrians. Thousands lined the bridges and sidewalks as close as they could get to the action. Of course, everything was completely cordoned off for blocks around. So, I went on the roof of my building, 61 stories up, to get a bird's-eye view of the set.
(click to embiggen)

They had Wacker Drive completely festooned with bombed out buildings, cars and busses. I took this shot on Sunday morning and on Monday, everything was completely gone and back to normal.