There'll always be an England

A West Yorkshire grandmother has sold the best seat in front of her TV on eBay for Christmas to avoid family rows.

[From Ananova - Gran sells best seat in front of TV on eBay ]

Sex trials: Small potatoes in Illinois

Embattled Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich is searching for an A-level criminal defense attorney, but apparently he hasn't pulled the trigger just yet....

So far, Blagojevich has been represented on federal corruption charges by Sheldon Sorosky, a family friend who is a little-known lawyer. Sorosky is an unlikely candidate for such a powerhouse political corruption case. Although he represented a co-defendant in former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds' sex trial--and won an acquittal for his client--most of his cases are more ordinary.

[From Gov. spends day at lawyer's office - Chicago Breaking News]

But a step up from parking tickets, nonetheless.

A man walks into a pro shop with underwear on his head

OK, true, the assailant was wearing underpants on his head. And, yes, the weapon was only a kitchen knife. And yes, he did move at the speed of Willard Scott on stilts, but what did you expect? We did say the guy got caught by golfers.

[From Rick Reilly: A man walks into a pro shop with underwear on his head - ESPN The Magazine]

Noted by our Underpaid and Underappreciated Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue.

(Hey, is that a promotion? Looks like a new title to me.)

Worst jobs ever

Noted by our Midwest bureau Cub reporter (who also mentions his own: "no-pay, no-credit-on-the-masthead, no-hope-for-the-future") Paul Knue:

[From Open Salon: You make the headlines ]

Saturday is Windows day around here

It's the day I go out and run errands, so I boot up Windows before I leave so it can have a little quality time to play with itself. Usually it gets done in an hour or so, but it's running slow today. Must have been a lot of patches in the queue. Maybe I'll take a nap.
Key West sunset cruises..

Waiting for the Green Flash.

High hopes

Michael Johnston is a political science professor at Colgate University in New York — which is ranked just after Illinois for corruption convictions. Johnston, who has studied political corruption for 30 years, said places such as Illinois gain a bad reputation that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Expectations build up … and you replicate those expectations when you get to the top of the ladder," Johnston said.

[From North Dakota tops analysis of corruption - USATODAY.com]

But North Dakota is most corrupt state, paper says.

Oh, the shame.

Even Ryan wants to play Blagojevich game

In a statement read by his attorney, convicted former Gov. George Ryan this afternoon said he felt guilty and offered a "truly heartfelt apology to the people of Illinois."...

The apology marks the first time Ryan, who is currently serving a 6 1/2 year sentence in federal prison...

[From Ryan apologizes to people of Illinois - Chicago Breaking News]

Blago: Just another mope

Be like Mike [Royko] and put the emphasis on dumb. It's impossible to know exactly how the great man would be feasting on this story—this one's a 10-course meal. From brazenly selling the Senate seat of Illinois' first president since Ulysses S. Grant (crediting Ronald Reagan to California) when he knew he was being wiretapped, to shaking down Children's Memorial Hospital in front of witnesses, it's an embarrassment of pea-brained riches....

Royko knew that those who were most put to shame were all the dearly departed swindlers, bag men, con artists and assorted ward heelers who would have been spinning in their mausoleum vaults at how poorly Blogojevich played their game. In the old days, they knew how to threaten, grease, skim and shake down with a little finesse. And if a Senate seat was on the block, it would go for a lot more than a job for their old lady with a labor union.

[From Alter: Blagojevich Scam Cries Out for Mike Royko | Newsweek Voices - Jonathan Alter | Newsweek.com]

(Story noted by Paul Knue, Cub Reporter in our Midwest bureau.)


"If I had the floor at the auto rescue talks"

The Freep's Mitch Albom has a few thoughts.

When it comes to blowing budgets, being grossly inefficient and wallowing in debt, who's better than Congress?

[From If I had the floor at the auto rescue talks | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press]

Read the whole piece - click on the link (above).

Noted by our Midwest bureau.

What was that again about electric cars?

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - An ice storm knocked out power Friday to 1.25 million homes and businesses from Maine to Pennsylvania, closing schools and tying up travel, and authorities say it could take days for all customers to get service back.

[From Mobile News Network]

We'll see how many dittos this gets

"I think the party has to stop shouting at the world and at the country,"Powell said. "I think that the party has to take a hard look at itself, and I've talked to a number of leaders in recent weeks and they understand that." Powell, who says he still considers himself a Republican, said his party should also stop listening to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

"Can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh?" Powell asked. "Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?"

[From CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Powell: GOP ‘polarization’ backfired in election « - Blogs from CNN.com]

Noted by Paul Knue, Midwest bureau

Run that by again please?

"We're not selling cheese here," he said. "If we have to break a couple of eggs to make the omelet, we'll do it."

[From A provocative plea from laptop nonprofit - The Boston Globe]

Ahh. Right.

The XO laptop described in this article is, BTW, exceeding cool. It's small, cheap (under $200), colorful, and optimized for children's use. Designed for kids in underdeveloped countries, it features a Wi-Fi networking technology that allows each computer to become an access point for others on the network, thus extending a fixed base station's range.

XO Laptops can be purchased at Amazon.com in pairs, with one of the pair going to you and the other to a child somewhere else.

R's dump Detroit

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday night abandoned efforts to fashion a government rescue of the American automobile industry, as Senate Republicans refused to support a bill endorsed by the White House and Congressional Democrats.

[From Senate Abandons Automaker Bailout Bid - NYTimes.com]



Paper, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

One more thing I didn't want to know

The parts of the body that are hardest to cover - the face and hands - are effectively "the final frontier" in tattooing, says Dave Kimelberg, a heavily tattooed corporate lawyer in Boston who has an ongoing photography project, INKED Inc., that documents fellow professionals and their hidden tattoos.

[From Tattoo's last taboo - The Boston Globe]

Note from another place

So listen up, you amateur psychiatrists from national cable TV land. Don't be alarmed when Chicago machine politicians act like raving lunatics.

It's when they're quiet and reasonable that you've got to worry.

[From By Chicago standards, Blagojevich isn't crazy -- chicagotribune.com]

OK, let's try to keep our mind on the subject here

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich seems to have pulled his own Guantanamo...

The governor, whose predecessor is doing time in what the country singers call the Crossbar Motel...

...they do afford the Tony Sopranos of the world a chance to discreetly transact their business.

But there was the governor on the phone, padding the coffers of Sprint or AT&T...

...as they listened to audio far surpassing anything to be found on the financially beleaguered combine of Sirius and XM radio....

...a too cute-by-half David Mamet hustler....

Obama will see many of their faces as he looks up from his TelePrompter at the Inauguration.

They are the many other reasons for Honest Abe to be rolling.

[From James Warren: Blagojevich's Magnificent Downfall]

Throw out those parking tickets

Attorney General discovers "I thought it was OK" defense

Mr. Mukasey, whose nomination as attorney general last year was threatened by his refusal to say whether he considered waterboarding to be torture, said the lawyers who authorized the surveillance and interrogation programs had done so in the belief that they were following the law.

"In those circumstances," he said, "there is no occasion to consider prosecution, and there is no occasion to consider pardon."


But hey, it's only money

The Treasury Department has invested about $197 billion of the bailout money. About $49 billion more should soon be out the door (see our running tally here). Are banks boosting lending? Are they hording it? Are they using it to gobble up smaller banks?

Who knows. The Treasury Department certainly doesn’t have much of an idea about how that money’s being spent.

[From Follow the Money? Treasury Doesn’t Wanna - ProPublica]

Midwest bureau uncovers

...this parade of pulchritude, picked for year-in-review treatment by the very company that perpetrated Vista...

[From MSN Year in Review 2008 ]

Hold the fries.


When everybody panics on cue

From our Midwest bureau:

The recession was actually not officially declared until last week, but the psychology that drives it had already been e-mailed, blogged and broadcast for months. I used to worry that my TiVo thought I was gay — doesn’t everyone enjoy a little “Project Runway” at the end of a long, hard week? Now I worry that my browser knows I am about to lose my job.

“When everyone is talking about recession, we all feel like something has to change, even if nothing has changed for us,” said Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational,” a book that explains why people do things that defy explanation. “The media messages that are repeating doom and gloom affect every one, not just people who really have trouble and should make changes, but people who are fine. That has a devastating effect on the economy.”

[From The Media Equation - Stoking Fear Everywhere You Look - NYTimes.com]

Good point. Something similar came to mind the other day when one of the papers compared recent job losses to what happened in 1974. The date caught my eye. 1974, it happens, was the year I decided to quit my mega-secure corporate job and go freelance. I had a couple of bad years, but that had nothing to do with the recession that was then in progress. They were simply the pay-your-dues bad years that happen to all new ventures (especially in a line of work where "freelance" tends to be a euphemism for "unemployed"). The recession itself was actually good for me, because corporations were laying off permanent staff and turning to freelancers, used occasionally, to fill the gaps. And I was there.

Working, as I do now, in an office that handles unemployment claims, I see plenty of the recession at hand. It's a tough time to be looking for a job. And cheery advice is not much help there. Still, there's no need to run unless you need to run.

Just about any place you go, state politics is fun

We in Boston take such great pride in our municipal corruption, but we are mere pikers compared to this “crime spree,” as the U.S. attorney described it. Illinois’ big-time crooked governors trump our small-time crooked House speakers.

[From King Con Blago puts our hacks to shame - BostonHerald.com]

One of the reason the Blogojevich story is so big is that it gives everybody else a chance to point and say, "See, they're even bigger crooks than ours are."

Illinois does have a pretty impressive record for busting governors. Even one I campaigned for, way back then, wound up in the slammer - although by the time they caught up with him he was no longer governor. He was a banker, so no big deal.

When I worked in Atlanta, back in the late 60s, I edited an employee newspaper that covered the southeastern states. One election year I set out to do an election piece and wrote to all the gubernatorial candidates for a mug shot and a bio. Over in Alabama that year, George Wallace was trying to finesse a term limits law by running his wife, Lurleen, for governor. The Wallace campaign sent me a photo of the candidate with George standing right behind her, grinning over her shoulder, and the instruction "Do Not Crop." Cropping any reasonable way would have been pretty difficult anyway - it would have left a mystery ear floating next to the candidate's head. So I ran it as instructed with the caption, "Lurleen Wallace and Friend."

They lost, but maybe that's not why.

Beijing takes second place to Palin...

...on the Google Zeitgeist 2008 "Fastest Rising (Global)" list.

And "how to draw" tops "how to kiss." Go figure.

NYTimes sticks to the script

The main problem facing Detroit, overwhelmingly, is not the pay gap....

The real problem is that many people don’t want to buy the cars that Detroit makes.

[From Economic Scene - Figure Skews Debate of a Bailout for Detroit - NYTimes.com]

But, says the Freep (on 11/17/08):


General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC sold 8.5 million vehicles in the United States last year and millions more around the world. GM outsold Toyota by about 1.2 million vehicles in the United States last year and holds a U.S. lead over Toyota of about 560,000 so far this year. Globally, GM in 2007 remained the world's largest automaker, selling 9,369,524 vehicles worldwide -- about 3,000 more than Toyota.

Ford outsold Honda by about 850,000 and Nissan by more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States last year.

Chrysler sold more vehicles here than Nissan and Hyundai combined in 2007 and so far this year.

[From 6 myths about the Detroit 3 | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press]

Oh oh, red to-dos

Maybe that means they're really, really old. Maybe I'll look and see.

I have this to-do app on my iPhone called "Things." Apple has a really nifty notepad on the iPhone, and a really nifty notepad in Apple Mail, but unaccountably, they don't sync. I tried all kinds of clever workarounds but none of them was clever enough. So finally I broke down - actually, I found a note on my desk that said "get a to-do thing" - and got Things. It's easy to use, and it syncs with a desktop thing. Called Things. Too.

I use to-do lists sort of as a time capsule. I just figure some day it might be interesting to look back and see if any of the things got done. Usually - I don't look too often, but usually when I do - they did. Or they don't matter any more, which is nearly the same thing. So it works.

But who knew they'd turn red?


Chicago declares war on winter

City Snow Command has called up 184 Snow Fighting Trucks, which is approximately half of the main Snow Fighting Fleet, and assigned them to patrol their routes on the city’s main streets and Lake Shore Drive, according to a release from the city Department of Streets and Sanitation, as of 5:30 p.m.

[From Snow plows hit Chicago streets :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State]

Our Work Avoidance Top 1

The Top 10 Everything of 2008 - TIME

Contributed by our Midwest bureau's Paul Knue.

(And added to our Work Avoidance list for future reference.)

Librarians rule

FREE Online Learning Sites
If you want to find something, ask a librarian.

Dude, I don't know why Google even bothers.

(Of course it was Google that found this site, so maybe they have some use after all.)

Bad fonts and color photos, commenter says, to blame for Tribune woes

Sadly, the Tribune's best days are way, waaaay behind it. It will never be a quality paper again. The Tribune tried to get more readers by dumbing down, changing fonts, enlarging fonts, uglifying fonts, adding color photos and stupid celebrity news, and nothing worked. That strategy will never work with me or other people who actually want a serious, high quality newspaper. The Tribune is 95% junk and it deserves to go under.

[From Keeping calm about the Tribune's bankruptcy | Steve Chapman]

Not to mention "stupid celebrity news." Dude, how redundant is that?

From context provided by other commenters, it's tempting to think this guy believes ugly fonts and color pictures are somehow "liberal."

The Tribune company, of course, has filed for bankruptcy.

Who knew the banking industry could be so entertaining?

In a stinging note of support for the laid off workers that have taken up residency in Chicago's Republic Windows & Doors factory, the Governor of Illinois has suspended business with Bank of America until it reissues credit to the shuttered company....

Bank of America, Chicago's second largest bank, has received over $15 billion in bailout funds from the federal government. During a Monday news conference, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich insisted that the money was intended to be used for purposes such as this.

[From The Raw Story | Ill. Governor suspends all state business with Bank of America]

You rained on my parade!

Everybody talks about the weather...now everybody can sue about it.

People affected by worsening storms, heatwaves and floods could soon be able to sue the oil and power companies they blame for global warming, a leading climate expert has said....

\He said: "We are starting to get to the point that when an adverse weather event occurs we can quantify how much more likely it was made by human activity. And people adversely affected by climate change today are in a position to document and quantify their losses. This is going to be hugely important."

[From Oil giants could soon face lawsuits over climate, says Oxford University scientist | Environment | The Guardian]


"The Crash of American Imagination"

Here we are, at a moment screaming for new ideas, imagination and reasonable risk and we find ourselves stuck with a Harvard Law School grad whose appointments and pronouncements have been, to date, almost pathetically conventional.

Obama, of course, is not alone. What is truly scary about this crisis is that no one in power has offered a single exciting or appealing idea as to what to do about it. Not Paulson, not Congress, nor the Washington media.


Please make it stop

A New Jersey company says they have gotten federal approval to market a gun to the elderly and hopes to have it subsized by Medicare....

The company's president Matthew Carmel says its "something that they need to assist them in daily living," and has applied to have the gun approved as a Class 1 medical device, the same designation given by Medicare to walkers and wheelchairs.

[From The Raw Story | New gun for seniors could be subsidized by Medicare]

A new entry on the Work Avoidance list

The H2 is the ultimate poseur vehicle. It has the chassis of a Chevy Tahoe and a body that looks like the original Hummer; i.e. it's a Chevy Tahoe in disguise.

[From FUH2 | Fuck You And Your H2]

Noted by our Midwest bureau.

I love the smell of Excel in the morning

No, really. Excel is fun. Really. And even if it weren't it would be a wecome relief from Word. My Northampton Excel class is in the morning this week and that's good.

-- Post From My iPhone

Whoa, how did I miss this?

Tribune has been trying to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team...

[From Deeply in Debt, Tribune Co. Could Be Flirting With Bankruptcy - NYTimes.com]

The Cubs? For sale? Hey, maybe we should pass the had and buy 'em. OK, it would have to be a pretty small hat - but would that be the ultimate collector's item or what? (Can you be a collector if you only own one thing?) I mean, it'd be on a par with owning the world's last surviving Edsel or something.

Of course, maybe the guys down at Billy Goat's should pony up for the team. They've more or less owned it for the last 100 years anyway.

Oh. You haven't heard about the curse?

When it comes to flat-out, bonkers craZy...

"The fact is, the best surfing on Lake Michigan is during the off-season between Labor Day and Memorial Day."

[From Surf Chicago? You can't -- but that may change :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Lifestyles]

...it'd be pretty hard to imagine anything more over the top than winter - yes, Bunky, that's winter - surfing in Lake Michigan.

Eight defreakingrees

Says the Weather Channel widget. Accuweather says 9º so I'm going with them. Still, it's tooooooo cold. Maybe up to 20º during the day, not much better. Or not much better enough.

So now begins another four months of wondering what I'm doing living in a place like New England.

And you thought it was just another gloomy Monday?

Republican Mitt Romney is laying the groundwork for a possible White House campaign in 2012, hiring a team of staff members and consultants with money from a fund-raising committee he established with the ostensible purpose of supporting other GOP candidates.

The former Massachusetts governor has raised $2.1 million for his Free and Strong America political action committee. But only 12 percent of the money has been spent distributing checks to Romney’s fellow Republicans around the country.

[From Romney paves way for possible ‘12 run - The Boston Globe]


On autos

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Nobel economics prize winner Paul Krugman said Sunday that the beleaguered U.S. auto industry will likely disappear.

[From Krugman: US Auto Industry Will Probably Disappear]

What I'm wondering is, if we're going to bail out the auto industry - as we surely, to some extent, will - why can't the government do to it the same thing it did to the old Bell System? Why not break the three big companies into a bunch of smaller enterprises - maybe Chevy, Inc. and Buick, Inc., for example, or Ford Engines Inc. and Ford Transmissions Inc., however it works out? Some might fail; would others have a better chance to survive?

For the record, I'm not one who thinks the breakup of Bell was an unqualified success. But there's no question a vibrant telephone industry has survived, and while the telcos are encountering problems at the moment (isn't everybody?), it's highly unlikely the whole industry will just go away.

Sure, there are other problems to be solved - trade rules, environmental problems, fuel problems, and more. But keeping a significant part of the auto industry not only alive but flourishing could buy a little more time to solve them.

A warm spot on a cold, windy night

Brattleboro, VT. With friends.

If this doesn't give you nightmares nothing will

There's a movie on Hulu called "Last Man on Earth" and it's...Vincent Price.

December balloons

December balloons, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Browsing the App Store

What better thing to do on a chilly Sunday afternoon? And here's one you can't turn down: Multicam Cincinnati, a little web page viewer preloaded with links to all 105 Cincinnati traffic webcams. Put that on you iPhone and see your future. (Same thing for several other cities - search for "Stanton Software.")

If you're not driving - or just like looking at the pictures - there are several apps with subway maps. And of course Google Maps gives directions for all three - driving, walking, and public transit.

If you're not traveling but want to be, there are a number of "fake call" apps for getting yourself out of a dull meeting (or a bad date, not that I would know about that). And if it's real calls you're after, there are a growing number of VOIP apps, as well.

And the most awesomely geek app I've noticed for a while: Kirill Dergachev's random number generator. Who could be without it?

Microsoft "reinvents" its image...with DOS

Microsoft is set to start selling a line of retro-style graphic t-shirts, called "Softwear by Microsoft," on Dec. 15, as part of the company's $300 million campaign to reinvent its image.

[From Microsoft to sell line of "softwear"-labeled shirts]

Check it out.

Vista cracks me up

I start Vista, and the first thing it wants to do is reboot to install updates. Then it tells me my password has expired and I need to dream up a new one. Then it insists it has to do some kind of "quick scan" that takes 15, maybe 20 minutes. And then it says, cheerily...


I hope I never have to see what it says when it's not in a good mood.

Real Estate Tool: Find your "optimal home location"

Disclaimer: The calculations suggest a geometrically optimal solution for your commute pattern. They do not take into account the feasibility of the area for living.

[From Real Estate Tool.]

Oh well. Thanks for playing.

This is just a test...

...more about which later. Maybe. It depends.

From Blogger Pictures

Watch the money go

ProPublica's list of banks lining up for bailout money features a nifty Google map...

Here’s our running tally of the banks that have announced preliminary approval by the Treasury Department for participation in the Capital Purchase Program.

[From Show Me the TARP Money - ProPublica]