Saturday, October 30, 2010

Morning Scene

You know, I'm sort of captivated by this photo. . .

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Friday, October 29, 2010

I Can't Find My Phone

We've all done it before (at least I have.)

You can't find your cell phone so you call it from a land line. (Cell phone rings in the kitchen or in a back pack.)

But what if you're like a lot of folks who no longer have land lines?

I Can't Find My Phone is the solution. You just go to the website, enter in your phone number, click on the Hello button and it calls your cell phone.

I just tried it and it works. My phone was in my back pack.

(You can also make a voluntary donation through Pay Pal -- which is awfully clever of the designer of this website.)


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm a Texting Convert

For a long time, I have truly disdained this horrible activity called "texting".

Maybe I'm becoming an elitist old fuddy-duddy, but I think texting "ok kewl c u" will truly be the downfall of the written English language. Kids will foget how to speak except for using the word, "like" at least five times in every sentence. Humans will evolve into beings that have little more than two giant thumbs, all because of endless texting.

I hate it when I receive a text that says, "where u at". I want to call the person back and say, "I am at a place where one does not end a sentence with a preposition!"

See? Old fuddy-duddy.

I didn't think I'd ever see any value in texting - - -

- - - until now.

A friend of mine and I often talk on the phone and in our "old age" we've often found ourselves saying, "Oh, there was something I wanted to tell you, but now I can't remember what it was." This has been happening quite a lot and there appears to be no sign of it abating.

She suggested that when we think of something we want to say later on, we text a word or two to each other so that we'll remember later on what we wanted to talk about.

It's worked like a charm. Here are some of the words I've texted:






Later, conversations have ensued in the most efficient manner. I've fully embraced this technique.

Yes, I've always hated texting because I'm of an older generation. The ironic thing is, I've found a use for texting precisely because I'm getting old and forgetful.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Today's Weather

We're under all sorts of wind advisories today and the weather forecasters here in Chicago are having a field day. It's supposed to be the worst weather in 70 years. They live for this stuff.

Right now, the 83-story building I work in is creaking and groaning and making all sorts of noises. I think I saw Elmira Gultch fly by my 22nd story window on her bicycle. It was pretty cool.

So, I looked at the weather conditions online.

Current wind speed: 44 mph.

Temperature: 117 F
Wait . . . what?

Maybe the weather-person needs to pay attention to something besides the wind.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In Effingham

I'm currently in Effingham, Illinois attending a conference. Effingham, for those of you who don't know, is 210 miles due south of Chicago. It's a long, boring drive.

While in these small towns thoughout Illinois, I often like to visit the local Wal-Mart in order to stock up on items at Everyday Low Prices. You see, living in downtown Chicago, we don't have access to Everyday Low Prices.  Or to any big stores at Regular Prices for that matter. So, when I can, I stock up on toiletries, underpants, cheap clothing, bulk items and occasional bath and kitchen doo-dahs and what-nots.

I'm sure you've all seen the "People at Wal-Mart" photos that have been circulating around the interwebs. They're pretty scary and (I'll admit) hilarious at the same time. I was hoping to get some of these photos for myself, but I went to Wal-Mart around 9 pm and I guess the good people of Effingham don't shop at that time of night. I was practically by myself.

The only interesting thing that caught my eye were these two signs.

Does anyone know what the difference between "Hispanic Food" and "Latino Food" is -- especially in central Illinois? These signs were close by each other and I couldn't identify anything identifiable in the food items. I should have asked someone at Wal-Mart but I was tired after the four-hour drive. (Normally, it would take me three hours but I got stuck in Bears traffic after the game.)

I'm looking forward to a Big Slamming Breakfast at Denny's in the morning. If the server asks if I want ham, bacon or sausage, my reply will surely be, "I don't want any effing ham."

. . . like she's never heard that before.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Story of Djaingo, The Praying Dog

Awhile back, I came across a really cute video of a fat little dog that had been taught to 'say grace'. I sent it to a few friends because of the extreme cuteness factor and even thought about posting it on my blog. It was on several different YouTubes but none, apparently, by the owner of the fat little dog. (The prayer that the owner recited, the cadence of it along with the accent definitely told me that this guy was Southern Baptist and from Texas. There was no doubt about that!)

Here’s the video:

Today, CNN posted a story about the owner of this dog which I think you’ll enjoy. It really is just about the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever read. I usually don’t post such touchy-feely stories like this, but this one was truly extraordinary. In this day and age, perhaps we need more of these.

The owner of the praying dog was a mystery.

Until now. . .

The video was meant to simply make some Facebook friends, and his mother in particular, smile.
Steven Boyd, 39, had taught his dog Djaingo how to "say grace," and one late September morning, camera in hand, he coaxed the sleepy pup out to the living room and into prayer.

Front paws on Boyd's thigh, head bowed, man and dog offered up these words:

Thank you for allowing us to be the man and puppy you've allowed us to be. Father, thank you for our friends and family, their prayers and support and energy that they give us… Father, I do ask a special prayer that you help me to not chase the neighbor's cat and to listen to my master whenever he asks me to do anything.

What began as a post on Boyd's Facebook page was passed on and shared. It's popped up all over YouTube, appeared on numerous other sites, and it even got play on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

But the story behind Djaingo the praying dog is deeper than it is cute.

Boyd found his way to the dog just when they needed each other most.

The man was sick - had been for more than a year and a half - when he strolled into an animal shelter looking for a temporary escape. It was September 10, 2003, the day before the second anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the memories of that day weighed heavily on him.

For 12 years, Boyd says, he served in the U.S. Army. He says he was, among other things, a sniper, a paratrooper and, subsequently, a counter narcotics operator. He'd been fearless professionally and personally. He'd jumped out of planes, rappelled down cliffs and mountain biked his way across dangerous terrains.

Now, though, he was losing everything. The hospitalizations kept happening. His career was shot. The relationship with the woman he thought he'd marry had ended. The medical questions loomed large. He was dying.

At the pound that day, he simply offered to walk some dogs. He had no plan to adopt an animal. But then, three hours into his visit, his eyes and the dog's locked. He knew, in that instant, they were meant to be together.

The only problem was the dog was already scheduled to die. It was set to be euthanized the following morning. It was too aggressive and could not be trained, the shelter workers insisted. Boyd didn't care.

He begged. He pleaded. And $75 later, the best investment he says he ever made, the duo went home.

The former military man, who lives in Austin, Texas, put that pup through its own boot camp. The dog began to trust his owner, show affection and within six months he'd been transformed. He was happy, loving, sweet.

"He saved my life as much as I saved his," Boyd says.

Along the way, the Australian Cattle Dog was given a proper name - rather than his given name, "Chip." His owner thought back to the time when he'd done some training with the 3rd Royal Australian Airborne. The men had taught him the term "djaingo" – to "go djaingo," Boyd explains, means to go out, get drunk and rowdy, pick up women and have bar fights. And so that tough little dog was named.

Since he first was hospitalized on February 19, 2002, Boyd has struggled. Because of multiple traumatic brain injuries - sustained through military exercises, a car wreck, a rappelling accident and a grenade detonation - he says he suffers from gastroparesis, a paralysis of the gastrointestinal tract. It makes eating and drinking a form of "Russian roulette," he says. It can cause food to sit in his stomach and rot. He has starved himself, unintentionally. For days on end, he can vomit 10 to 15 times an hour. He's broken ribs in the process.

As a result of this illness and repeated, extensive dehydration, he says his weight - 175 when healthy - has dropped to as low as 98 pounds.

By his side, in sickness and in health, has been Djaingo. Boyd's parents live three hours away, and his mother, Cheryl, says she takes solace knowing the dog is there.

He sticks by her son and keeps watch. When Boyd is too sick to take the dog out, he can leave the apartment door open. The dog will run outside on his own "to do his business," she says, and then guard the open door. If her son is in need of medical attention, the dog will alert neighbors.

Having Djaingo has been source of comfort to Boyd. But there was one time when the animal just wasn't enough.

After several days of vomiting four years ago, he thought he'd end it all. He'd had a friend who years ago had committed suicide by drinking Clorox, and from the bathtub's floor, where he was curled up, Boyd eyed the nearby bleach bottle. With the cap off, he prepared to drink.

"I heard it as distinctive as I hear your voice right now," Boyd, his own voice shaking, says by phone to CNN. "I heard, 'Don’t do this.' It was my father God, and I broke down. I get teary-eyed now talking about it."

He'd grown up in a Christian home, "a proverbial 'Leave It to Beaver' family," he says. His dad had been the deacon of their church. His mother is a Sunday school and Bible study teacher. And though Boyd always considered himself Christian, up until that moment he realized he'd been living the Christian life, as an adult, on his own terms.

The debilitating illness that can leave him homebound much of the time, the loss of everything, had in fact saved him, he says.

"It changed everything. I truly feel as if it was God using a 2-by-4, smacking me in the head and telling me to wake up," says Boyd, who described himself as "callous" after his years in the military. "It's softened my heart in so many ways. It's made me realize the things you take for granted in life are sometimes the most important things in life."

He got involved in church. He attends Bible studies when he's able. And as last year's Christmas gift to his mother, who describes herself as a "prayer warrior," he taught Djaingo how to say grace.

"He's a disabled veteran on a very limited income," his mom says. So in lieu of buying each other gifts, she told her son last year that instead they'd "do something, write something or make something" for one another.

What her son and Djaingo did for her touched her heart, she says. And, with the release of the recent video, she's not alone in receiving this gift.

The response has overwhelmed Boyd. He's received more than 5,000 messages from around the globe - including Australia, Russia, Thailand. The friend requests on Facebook have poured in by the hundreds. Djaingo, now with his own Facebook page, is racking up new friends, too.

Boyd has gotten marriage proposals. A grandmother who is going through chemotherapy and lives alone says she watches the video every morning to help her face a new day. A mother whose son has lost faith is hoping that by teaching the dog to pray, her son will feel the connection again, too. Pastors are using the video in sermons.

And all of this, including what it's done for her son, Boyd's mother says, is proof of "God's hand" at work.

"Steven told us he was so lonely. So much of the time, he's apartment-bound. Now he's getting emails from all over the world," she says. "It's given Steven such a boost to his morale. God can take the tiniest thing and use it for good."

Every evening, Boyd and Djaingo say grace together. It's not that the man believes the roly-poly dog, who's actually been mistaken for a pig before, is actually praying. He knows his faithful pet is just doing what he's told so he can get his dinner.

"But it's an affirmation of my faith to have my dog be able to participate," Boyd says. "Who would have thought God would use my fat dog to spread His glory?"

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Such a Cliché

Have you ever noticed that whenever anyone on TV enters with a bag of groceries, there’s always something green and leafy sticking out the top? This was especially true on TV shows during the 60s and 70s. June Cleaver, Hazel, Alice on the Brady Bunch – they all had leafy things sticking out of their grocery bags.

It was such a cliché.

There are so many of these clichés around and they’re always something that never really occurs. For example, have you ever known of anyone to actually slip on a banana peel? Never happens. What about telling a cab driver to “step on it?” Nope. Never.

Well, today, I entered into the realm of clichés. I had to get some groceries during my lunch hour and had forgotten my handy grocery bag that I usually carry with me. I found a small one in my office so I took that. The plastic bags really hurt one’s hands when carrying heavy groceries back several blocks. And they are prone to breakage in the middle of Wacker Drive. I once lost a cabbage that way. It fell into the river.

At the grocery store, I packed my groceries in my small bag and the last thing to go in was a giant bunch of Italian parsley. And there it was - - THE quintessential TV show bag of groceries.

I was SO embarrassed walking back with that thing. I kept trying to smash down the parsley but it wasn’t budging. I mean, really, who has EVER seen a real bag of groceries with leafy things sticking out the top?

I had to walk through the lobby of the 83-story building where I work with my Brady Bunch bag of groceries. It was just awful.

Here are my horribly embarrassing groceries.

I may just take a cab home from work and tell the driver to "step on it."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Friends, Food, and Fun

On Saturday night, I had my friends over for another Julia Child meal. This time, the guests were the lovely Miss Healthypants, her hubster, Iwanski, and their old college friend from Wisconsin, Diane (She’s been my friend too, now, for years.)

I was looking forward to it all week. A lot.

I knew that Iwanski really like Julia’s boeuf Bourguignon, so that was definitely on the menu. Besides, it’s easy to serve; no fiddly last-minute sauces to prepare.

Here’s a table setting.

Yes, I had a course in napkin folding when I went to restaurant management/cooking school many years ago. This one, the “artichoke fold” is the only one I remember.

Miss Healthypants has to have salad with every meal and here’s one of our favorites: Spinach with grape tomatoes, mangoes, with an orange-balsamic vinaigrette. I like the pretty colors.

And here you go: Heaven on a plate. Julia’s boeuf Bourguignon and asparagus with Julia’s beurre blanc (white butter sauce).

The happy guests.

Iwanski really likes the bourguignon.

Dessert was my favorite (something you’ll rarely hear me say.) I’ve been preparing Julia’s Bavarian creams in all their variations: Orange, strawberry, plain, almond praline, and chocolate. There were no more variations left in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I had done them all.

My favorite cookie is a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie – why not make a white chocolate macadamia nut Bavarian cream?

I melted lots of white chocolate into the custard part which became the Bavarian cream. For the topping, toasted macadamia nuts went into the whipped cream. Here it is.

I need to figure out a way to make it more fancy. This sort of has a Rachel Ray glop-n-slop thing going on here. Next time, I’ll pipe the whipped cream around the sides and mound the nuts on top.

But, holeee COW this was incredible! Somehow the white chocolate caused the Bavarian cream to have a double layer. One layer was fluffy, as it should be, and a larger layer was thick and custardy with white chocolate. It's definitely my favorite dessert now.

I served it with a white chocolate liqueur which nobody liked. Including me.

After dinner, Iwanski and I entertained the ladies with Inuit throat-singing which is an entirely different (and hilarious) story altogether. I honestly don't think I've ever seen Miss Healthypants and Diane laugh so hard. Their tummies were full from eating so much and hurting from laughing so hard.

That, my friends, is a successful dinner party.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh Stewardess, I Speak Jive . . .

Barbara Billingsley, one of TV's most famous moms, recently passed away at the age of 94.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend and lifetime mentor Barbara Billingsley,"  Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver on the sitcom, said in a statement.
"She will live in the hearts of her fans as a wonderful actress and be remembered by her friends as a gracious lady. Barbara was a patient advisor and teacher. She helped me along this challenging journey through life by showing me the importance of manners, and respect for others. She will be deeply missed by all of her family, friends, fans and most especially by me."

As you can recall, many of June Cleaver's lines began with, "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver . . . "

But perhaps her most famous scene was in the 1980 spoof, Airplane! which began with, "Oh stewardess, I speak jive. . . "

I've always thought it was one of the most brilliant scenes in comedy. So, here you go:

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Friday, October 15, 2010


I know I've posted photos of the 80-story "Aqua" building before, but today I was out there on my lunch break, the sun was shining, and I took some more photos. It really is impressive -- but only if you're up close to it like this where the rippling balconies have this effect. If you're standing more than a couple of blocks away, it's actually a very non-descript building. (As non-descript as 80-story buildings can be, anyway.)

Note: Each balcony does have a railing but they're designed in such a way that they "disappear" which is pretty cool.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Had To Do It . . .

As I was watching the hugely extensive coverage of the Chilean miner rescue, I couldn't help but to think, "There's a satire article in there somewhere."  I usually write satire when I'm annoyed by something; making fun of it is a form of therapy.

You've got to admit that the U.S. media has a tendency to go overboard with any sensational story. It took me less than an hour to write this:

Lohan Extrication Trumps Chilean Mine Coverage

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA – Worldwide media coverage of the Chilean miner rescue was suddenly dropped last night upon the news that Lindsay Lohan was about to be released from the Betty Ford Clinic after 18 days of in-patient confinement. As the 29th miner, Juan Carlos Aguilar, emerged from his 69-day entombment, most major networks had left the scene in order to make a sudden dash to Southern California.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, were among 1,500 journalists at the scene as Lohan’s black Mercedes slowly emerged through the gates of the notorious clinic. The famous pop star could be seen tightly squeezed in the back seat wearing a protective jumpsuit and sunglasses as the exuberant crowed cheered “Lind-say! Lind-say!” Repeatedly, groups of spectators broke out into singing the American national anthem throughout the night.

Rescue efforts in Chile were temporarily suspended while a special news feed of the "Lohan liberation" was relayed to the remaining miners.

Immediately upon Lohan's exodus from the confines of the clinic, Cooper breathlessly consulted with Gupta as they speculated about Lohan’s physical and psychological condition.

“Lohan was without the ability to tweet or text for 18 days,” reported Gupta. “That’s got to have an enormous psychological impact on a young woman who has been incredibly used to constant reassurance by means of social networking. Her self-esteem has probably taken a huge tumble and she faces a long road of recovery.”

"What's truly amazing is that she survived this long," observed Cooper, shaking his head thoughtfully.

Immediately after leaving the clinic, a special Larry King Live was aired by CNN for the next two hours. Video replays of the black Mercedes were aired repeatedly as a panel of mental health experts hypothesized about what the celebrity’s future might hold.

All major news networks in the U.S. continued with extensive coverage of the Lohan extrication throughout the night and well into the next day. CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News all reported a ten-fold increase in viewership compared to that of the Chilean mine coverage. Book and movie deals detailing the historical event are reportedly already in the making.

As the last rescue worker, Pedro Rivero, emerged from 2,300 feet below, virtually all news media had left the scene.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

That Tinkertoy Smell

The Braille printer in my office at work smells just like Tinkertoys. It’s a very noisy thing so it sits in a soundproof wooden cabinet that smells just like Tinkertoys.

I can still recall that fantastic smell of a brand new set of Tinkertoys. I was eight years old and had quickly outgrown the regular-sized set, then the larger set and had my eyes on the super-duper, colossal sized set of them that came with an electric motor. It cost a whopping eight dollars and seventy-five cents. I collected bottles and saved my pennies and nickels for weeks until I had enough to make this huge purchase. I can still remember what a brand new set of Tinkertoys smells like – just like the Braille printer in my office.

Isn’t it remarkable how one’s sense of smell has such a keen sense of recall?

Whenever I smell cinnamon, I think of my neighbor’s kitchen when I was nine years old. Mothballs carry me back to my paternal grandmother’s house on the family ranch. I can still recall the minty smell of the paste I enjoyed eating in the second grade. And I can picture my baby-sitter’s kitchen -- the one I had when I was three years old whenever I smell sweet pickles.

I imagine that our keen olfactory sense of recall is buried way down deep in our pre-human DNA. When we were monkey-like beings, one smell would mean “eat that.” Another, “run away from that” while another meant “copulate with that.”

It’s how we survived and evolved into humans that could build things with Tinkertoys.

A co-worker was recently giving a tour to a new employee. While in my office, he pointed out my Braille printer to her.

“It smells just like Tinkertoys,” I said.

“Really?” he said. “The plastic ones or the wooden ones?” (He has three kids.)

“The wooden ones,” I replied. (I didn’t know they made plastic ones.) “Smell it and see.”

He bent down and sniffed it.

“Wow! You’re right! It really does smell like Tinkertoys. That’s pretty neat.”

So, if you ever find yourself next to a Braille printer, take a sniff. It’s Tinkertoys. I promise I’m not making this up.

Smells Like Tinkertoys

Thursday, October 07, 2010

900 Miles of Illinois

My quarterly work-related trip around Illinois continues. I'm writing to you from Springfield; home of Lincoln and Blagojevich.

Illinois is definitely NOT the most exciting state to see. It consists pretty much of nothing but endless corn and soybean fields, all of which are brown and crispy this time of year. I have to make these trips once every quarter and stay in exciting hotels like Holiday Inns (of which I am now a priority club member -- aren't you impressed?). Also, I get to eat in delectable restaurants - - like Applebee's.

In my last post, I was sort of joking and said I'd be writing to you from various Holiday Inns and Applebee's around the state.

Yesterday: I ate at an Applebee's in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. I took a picture of it for you to see:

Frankly, I really do like the blue cheese dressing on their salad bar.

I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Vernon. I took a photo of it for you, too.
Then, I drove to Springfield but had an appointment on the Illinois side of St. Louis on the way. I would have taken a photo of the Arch in St. Louis for you, but gosh, that is so touristy. You don't want to see that.

On the way, I ate at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in some small town. See?
I've never eaten at a Cracker Barrel before, so it was a new, exciting experience for me. The thing about Cracker Barrel is that it was full of elderly white people. So many white people! It even made me a little uneasy. I swear, I was the youngest person in the dining room. Just as I was noticing all the elderly white people, a paratransit bus from Maryville Senior Center pulled up and began dispatching more of them.

The food was really good, though. True to my Southern roots, I had fried catfish, hush puppies, corn on the cob and turnip greens.

Then I drove some more and am now in Springfield at my Usual Holiday Inn. I took a photo of it for you. (The night-exposure thingie on my camera really worked well.)
I've probably stayed at this particular Holiday Inn at least ten times now. It's almost a second home.

I'm enjoying my little rental car. They gave me a brand new Kia Soul -- a kicky little thing. I've already driven about five hundred miles so it's pretty bug-strewn.

Tomorrow, I have appointments in Springfield and Peoria. Who knows what exciting things Peoria will bring! You just never know about Peoria. . . .

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

City Scene - Wabash Avenue

This is looking out the parking garage in the Trump Tower as I head out in my rental car on a 3-day, 900 mile trip around the exciting state of Illinois on work-related matters. I'll try to keep you posted with details of my breathtaking journey as I stop at various Applebee's and Holiday Inns along the way.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Puppy Mass

Sunday was the Feast of St. Francis which means one thing:
Puppy Mass!

St. Francis was the patron saint of animals so on his feast-day many churches offer a Blessing of the Animals. Folks are encouraged to bring their pets to church and they can receive a blessing. (The pets, not the folks.)

I've attended this service many times and it can go one of two ways. (1) It can be a really meaningful service in which the minister gives a touching sermon about God's creatures and the role us folks play in relation to them.


(2) It can be a yapping, howling free-for-all where folks get to bring a snake to church.

Thankfully, the church I sing in had the former. Here are a few furry congregants gathering for the processional:
Yes, that's a Louis Vuitton pet carrier next to the well-groomed poodles. (Click twice on the pic to embiggen. The woman in black next to the Louis Vuitton is carrying a live chinchilla.) Obviously, these are Episcopalian pets.

Meanwhile, my friend, Jack, took Chloe to be blessed at a Lutheran church on the north side of town. You can watch the video here.
It's awfully cute.

Yes, the dogs sit in the pews. And no, I've never seen any "accidents". A growling scuffle, maybe. Accidents, no.

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