Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Streets Trod by Mary Todd

I was in Springfield for a couple of days for a work-related meeting. Here’s the view from my hotel room looking out over the capitol section of the city. Doesn’t it look all Springfieldy?

This is where our most notorious leader, Rod Blagojevich, began his political career. Since Springfield is also the home of Abraham Lincoln, everything is Lincoln-this and Lincoln-that. Whenever I’m here, though, I can’t help but reflect on the life of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Such a tragic figure, she was. Imagine, losing three of your four sons to illness while they were young. Then, your husband gets assassinated. Then your remaining son has you committed to an insane asylum. Finally, your favorite hat designer cuts off your line of credit.

The mind reels.

But looking out over these streets, I like to think of Mary Todd upon her first arrival in this city. She had just completed a college education (a very rare feat for young women in the 1830s) and had left her home in Kentucky to stay with an older sister here in the new, frontier capital city. Aside from being fluent in French, she was witty, politically savvy, beautiful, and the talk of the town. Here, she had her pick of dozens of eligible, young bachelors and she selected one that would make her a First Lady.

And the rest, as they say, is history. . . .

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Praise the Lord!

If any of you have ever been to a Southern Baptist church or evangelical-like church these days, you'll notice that they don't sing hymns anymore. They sing "praise choruses" which are usually simple, inane, repetitive tunes sung to electronic accompaniment. No more hymn books -- the words are displayed on big screens up front.

Whoever invented this practice will burn for it, mark my words.

If you've never heard a praise chorus, here's your chance. Just for you, here's a brilliant example of a typical praise chorus.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Memory Lane on 7th Street

Here’s a Googled street-view of the house where my family and I lived during the sixties when I was a kid. (BTW – I’m totally stealing this idea for a blog from JP's Memory Lane on 9th Street.)

We called this the 7th Street House. It was on 7th street, see? (Obviously, the present owner needs to do a lot of lawn care. My folks would have never let it look like that.)

Even though I was only seven years old when we moved here, I remember this house very well. Architecturally, it was the epitome of a nineteen-sixties brick house. Notice that there are no windows aside from the bay window in front. (I loved that.) The bedrooms only had small horizontal windows near the ceilings.

Speaking of that bay window, right behind it was a real, working fountain that gurgled down into a pool measuring about 6’ x 4’. It was about six inches deep, lined with pebbles and was a great place for releasing lots of my tadpoles (little frogs later jumped out and died.)

Oh, and the living room - - wow what I would give to have one like that. It had a sunken area in the center with deep blue carpet. Those two carpeted steps lining the sunken area were a great place for a Hot Wheels track, believe me. Electric trains, an Erector Set, and a super-sized set of Tinkertoys also made their way across that blue carpeting.

It was in this house that I received the greatest gift EVER on my eighth birthday. I was watching TV when my mom and dad appeared at the door. My dad was holding something behind him. What was it? He and mom were smiling -- and he handed me a six week old Beagle puppy. Oh my gosh, I was just so overwhelmed. I started crying and that surprised me. Up until then, I didn’t know that one could cry from happiness. I named the puppy Snoopy, naturally.

Somehow, my mom even managed to make me a cowboy cake. What a great birthday.

I had an irrational fear that Snoopy would get hit by a car. She’d often get out of the pen in the back yard and I’d spend hours chasing her around the neighborhood. Finally, I’d capture her and carry the wriggling Beagle home in my arms.

Of course, being the 1960s, I remember a lot of TV being watched at this house. My younger brother and I would sprawl in front of the TV most Saturday mornings for several hours of cartoons along with an assortment of sugary cereals. (Lucky Charms, Sugar Pops, Cap’n Crunch - - remember those?)

Scuffles ensued on weekday afternoons between little brother and me over what was to be viewed. Of course, we only had one TV (can you imagine that?) so there was always a battle over who got to watch what. Negotiating turn-taking was seldom successful.

One program that I was absolutely nuts over was Lost in Space. I never missed it. Usually, fish sticks and fries from the nearby Ken Kream were eaten in front of the TV as I got to watch the adventures of the Robinson family each week. Will Robinson was my hero. He was the same age as me but smart and savvy and brave. I wanted to be just like him.

Time marched on and we moved away from this house when I was in the third grade and then to another town. Snoopy got run over by the milk man when I was sixteen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Album Cover Game

Here’s a fun, little game that’s going around on Facebook. I’ll admit to playing around with it.

It’s a cool little way to create record album covers.

Here’s what you do:

1) Go to wikipedia and click Random Article. The first article you get is your band name.

2) Go to and click Random Quote. The last 4 or 5 words ...of the last quote on the page is your album title.

3) Go to and select your photo.

4) Go to to create your album cover.

Here are some that I’ve created. (My friend, Iwanski, took the photo with the pigeons on it – I love that photo.)



Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Virus

Computer viruses have got to be the most vile, evil, insidious entities known to humanity. Those Egyptian plagues that occurred in the Old Testament are cookies-n-milk compared to what’s out there in cyberspace these days.

Here’s a typical scenario: You’re cruising along and suddenly get an alarming pop-up that reads, “Your computer has been infected by a malicious virus and will blow up in 30 seconds. Click here NOW to eradicate this potential threat.” In a state of stupidity, you click on it and there’s another pop-up that wants you to pay $90 for appropriate anti-viral thingie.

Well guess what? That thing you clicked on is actually THE VIRUS. Now the ninety-dollar invoice won’t go away. It takes up the entire screen. You can’t access the internet. Nothing.

I say that’s a scenario because – and I hate to admit it – that’s what happened to me.

Fortunately, I realized what had happened before I paid the ninety dollars.

I read up on this particular virus (on my laptop that I use for work) and found a Trojan-removing program that will remove it. Then, I read lots of reviews to make sure it was legitimate, downloaded it - - held my breath - - and it worked!

My computer must be a magnet for viruses. Even though I had paid for McAfee year after year, my PC must be awfully slutty, for it caught another virus last night. (Stupid McAfee was cowering in the bushes and did nothing in defense.) This time, pop-ups wouldn’t quit popping up and there was another offer to get rid of them. Ha! I had my super virus remover on hand. It found five malicious Trojans (see? slutty computer) but this time, it wanted $46.00 to remove them.

What??? It did it for free last time.

I hopped back on my work computer and read up on it. The reviews were good except for the fact that it now costs $46.00.

I paid it – held my breath – and it worked!

By the way, at work we use Malwarebytes to remove viruses, (it’s free, too) but even it didn’t find these malicious Trojans.

The program that worked is called Loaris. Yes, it costs $46.00 but it’s worked like a charm for me – twice.

I was angry that I had to shell out 46 bucks to get rid of this cyber venereal disease and was venting to a friend of mine. He pointed out that this was a lot cheaper and much more convenient than taking my PC into a store or shipping it off to Dell.

True. Great perspective.

So! I’m passing this information forward to you. If you have a PC with questionable moral discretion, gets a nasty virus that won’t go away, I highly recommend Loaris Trojan Remover.

And don’t click on anything.
It’s bad.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My New Favorite Program

I have a new, favorite program on TV. It’s called My Strange Addiction on TLC. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize there were so many strange addictions; really strange ones. It’s amazing to see how much we humans can screw up human behavior.

Years ago, I used to work at a substance abuse treatment center that treated your garden-variety addictions: Alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and eating disorders. (If you want to see someone completely out of control, delve into the life of a cocaine-gambling-sex addict. Poor thing.) About the strangest case I ever encountered was a fellow who was obsessed with eating women’s hair. "Partial cannibalism" is a pretty strange diagnosis, though he was harmless; no evidence of anything Hannibal Lector-ish going on.

After that, I thought I’d seen it all. However, those addictions pale in comparison to these folks featured on My Strange Addiction, believe me.

We’ve seen a woman addicted to eating toilet paper for sixteen years. Toilet paper! Another has been eating household cleanser for over thirty years, while another poor soul sleeps with her hair dryer in bed with her every night.

I just want to shout, “Oh my god, what did your parents do to you??!!” (Most of the time, their parents divorced and they felt abandoned. Boo hoo hoo.)

Yeah, my parents divorced, too, but that hasn’t compelled me to scarf down Quilted Charmin and cuddle with a blow dryer every day.

So, yeah, be sure and catch My Strange Addiction. It’s a quick, efficient means of feeling just a little bit better about yourself – and mom and dad.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I've always had a "thing" for phones ever since I was a little kid. Now that my carrier, Verizon, will be servicing iPhones, I'm thinking of getting one. However, I'll be making a few changes to mine.

For one thing, I use a Dvorak keyboard instead of Qwerty. And yes, iPhone has an app for that:

Also, I love the retro appeal of rotary-dial phones. There's an app for that too.

Won't it be cool to use an iPhone as a rotary dial phone? Can't you just see me on the subway, dialing away on my phone?

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Like . . . .

I know fully well that the younger generation drives the older generation crazy.

When I was nineteen, my David Cassidy-esque hair probably bugged some of my older relatives. That wasn't so bad. Later, during the height of the New Wave era, I bleached my hair the color of a paper napkin.
At 6' 3" and 155 pounds, I looked like a Q-tip with big brown eyes.

I realize that I'm now fully implanted in the "older generation".

For one thing, I just don't understand these kids nowadays, especially their proclivity toward getting tattoos. I mean, bleached hair grows out and in a few months there's no evidence left of one's youthful, foolish impulses.

But tattoos are so permanent; a perpetual, emblematic, blazing memoir of one's youthful, foolish lack of self-control. I mean, really!

Sure, that red dragon on your neck may look cool when you're 21, stupid and attractive. But someday -- you never know -- you may be considered as a vice presidential running mate and that idiotic red dragon will still be there.  And there you will be with your red-necked dragon, looking more foolish than previous vice presidential running mates.

I'm not so much concerned with the tattoo craze.  Again, yes, I was a once-obsessed idiot at that age but there's a big difference.  I've no permanent, marked-up change to my body evidencing the fact that I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show thirty-five nights in a row on the campus theater in 1978!

Twenty years from now, tattoo-removal will be a multi-billion dollar industry. (I should invest right now.)

What I absolutely cannot stand are these kids and their inability to speak without using the word, "like."

Two twenty-somethings are, like, talking to each other:
"I was, like, telling him, like, 'whatever', like, and he was, like, 'whatever'. . . ."

It's a form of "hedging" during a conversation, similar to using 'um' during a sentence. Grammatically, the modern-day use of the word, "like," is classified as a 'discourse article' -- same as the use of 'um'.

What caused this?? (I love studying linguistics.) My thoughts are that it began in the 1980s in California with "like" meaning "same as" or "what I mean is". Then as the popularity of popular California girls caught on, it evolved into a discourse article.

After that, the obsession with texting, as opposed to actual speaking, further rendered our youth to rely upon the word, "like". It was a quick process, from the Californian 'discourse article'' (where it meant "what I mean is") to what I'd like to grammatically classify as a "pausitive article:" One than has even less meaning than that of "um" or "uh".

Gramatically, the word, "like" now has less meaning than, "uh".

I really wonder what this effect is going to have on human evolution. We'll probably evolve into a sub-species, the discovery of which will be featured on The Science Channel in the year 356785.

If I were a college professor, I would begin each course with the requirement that no one would be allowed to speak the word "like" incorrectly. If any student used the word "like" as a discourse article, or worse, as a pausitive article (see? I really know my grammatical terms) they'd get an automatic 'zero' for that day's participation grade.

Modern Philosophy student: "If Derrida had actually incorporated Heidegger's ontological concept of 'Dasein', wouldn't he have, like, re-evaluated his concept of deconstruction by assimilating a quasi-phenomenological influence?"

Me: "You get a zero for the day. Now get out of my class. Oh and don't forget your Hello Kitty backpack."

God, I would love that!

Here's a recent quote from an interview with Justin Bieber -- that kid that looks like the love-child of Donny Osmond and Monica Lewinski:

“People are always like, ‘So, your hair is your trademark’ and stuff,” he says. “I’m like, no. My voice is my trademark, you know?”
“I see myself being, like, thirty, like married, like probably. I don’t know. It seems far away for me,” he admits.

That last sentence makes me worry about the future of humanity.

Remember my previous conclusion:

Gramatically, the word, "like" now has less meaning than, "uh". 

 I'm sure my parents thought the same thing when I showed up looking like a Q-Tip.

But the future of humanity?

Five hundred years from now . . . .

It's, like,    uh . . .

It's, like,    uh . . .

It's, like,    uh . . . 

 .  .  .  .   poof!    .  .  .  .  

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

TV News Reporters

I’ve noticed a trend with TV news reporters that’s really bugging me.
A lot.

Here’s a typical scenario: Airline passengers have been stuck on the tarmac for ten hours, waiting to get off the plane. Finally, they’re able to de-plane and a reporter breathlessly asks one of the passengers, “How angry were you that you couldn’t get off the plane?”


If I was that passenger, I would give the reporter an angry retort: “How angry was I? Well, tell me first how to quantify my anger, you idiot!”

It seems these reporters just want to egg these people on, trying to obtain a sensational response.

Actually, what I would say is:
“Okay, I was very, very angry, but not very, very, very angry.”

Monday, January 03, 2011

This Week at Church . . .