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Second Chances – Part II

In response to my post a few days ago about the general misunderstanding of Second Amendment, I was steered to this CNN story, that simply presents the text exchange between two sisters, one of whom was trapped in the high school.

Please take a moment to read it.  If it doesn’t move you to tears and anger, well. . .

My friend Jack Altschuler also steered me to a dissenting opinion on a Second Amendment case written by Justice John Paul Stevens in 2008.

The salient paragraph reads:

“The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.”

You can read the entire opinion here:

It’s a slog, but I recommend reading it.  In case you don’t, here are the headlines:

  • The Second Amendment was intended specifically to give you the right, and almost the duty, to keep a musket in your house in case you were called upon to join your state’s official militia, which is how they envisioned the new nation defending itself, and the states defending themselves.
  • The Framers considered and rejected proposals to make that right broader, but chose to limit it to possession of weapons for military use.
  • It was intended only to limit the Federal government, and was not intended to prevent the states from passing whatever laws they saw fit regarding the possession and use of weapons for non-military purposes (which a few states did, mostly by sanctioning the possession of weapons for hunting and self-defense).

Again, the notion that the Second Amendment is in any way about you having the right to own any firearms you want in order to protect your fierce American independence is a myth.

What we’re really dealing with is not an unlimited right, but bad grammar.  Bad on you, James Madison. (Yes, he wrote the damned thing.  Think “D-; see me in my office.”)

Now, a little common sense about this.

I once heard the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom I’m citing here because he was as conservative a judge as we’ll ever see, say that we should reserve our effort to interpret the Constitution to cover things the Founders didn’t know about, and on which they could therefore not express direct views.

Here’s a partial list of things they didn’t know about:

  • A standing army that has existed for 200 years
  • The institutionalization of state militias in the form of the National Guard
  • The operation of those militias in complete cooperation with, rather than in opposition to, the aforementioned standing army.
  • Bullets (they only knew musket balls)
  • Cartridges (projectile and gunpowder in a single casing)
  • Breech-loading weapons
  • Weapons that could be fired at a rate faster than once every 20-30 seconds
  • AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons
  • 30-round magazines
  • Tanks
  • Missiles
  • Nuclear weapons

A strict interpretation of the back half of the Second Amendment (the front half is where all the confusion exists) would permit individuals to own all of those things because they’re all “arms.”

It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that this isn’t what the Founders had in mind.  They certainly didn’t have in mind dozens of dead children on the floors of our schools.

Repeal of the Second Amendment is a pipe dream. I know that. But I would rather see us spend our time on that than on arguments over exactly what it does and doesn’t allow.  That would free us up to apply common-sense restrictions to gun ownership that would couple entitlement with responsibility.

I would also like to see an insurrection against our real oppressor, which is the NRA.

This is not some noble organization that defends a precious American right.  As described above and in my last post, that “right” is a myth.

The NRA spends around $70 million per election cycle to ensure that we will continue to have dead children on the floors of our schools, on the floors of concert venues, in churches, and elsewhere.  Plain and simple, that’s what it does.

Very little of that money takes the form of actual campaign contributions.  It’s mostly spent directly on ads supporting or, mostly, opposing candidates based on their spinelessness.  That form of spending is largely unaccountable.  Try Googling “how does the NRA spend its money” and see how little of the $70 million you can account for.

If you know how to make the hashtag #NRAmeansdeadchildren go viral, please let me know.  I’m serious about that.

There is a bright spot in all of this.  I’m delighted to see that brave students who survived the Parkland shooting are banding together to organize a nationwide student protest to start making NRA-backed members of the House and Senate face the music.

They picked March 24 in order to eliminate any “now’s not the time” objection.  They are wonderfully, stunningly informed and articulate.  And they have a moral compass of which our elected leaders are sadly devoid.

They are also credible in a way that no one like me will ever be.  I fervently hope that this will start a long-overdue grassroots movement, and bring about a change in the national consciousness.

Perhaps they will be able to accomplish what I wish I could and almost certainly can’t.


Second Chances

I’m a little tired of this.  I’m guessing you are, too.

We’re living in very strange times.  I’ll have more to say about that – from a big picture perspective – soon.  But for now, let’s stay focused.

There have been eight school shootings so far in 2018.  Taking out weekends, when they don’t happen, that’s one every four days, or more than one a week.  They’ve become so routine that you probably don’t know about any of them other than the one in Florida this week.  I certainly don’t.

What’s wrong with us that we allow this to go on?

After the Las Vegas massacre (Remember that? It’s rapidly fading?), the disgraced and disgraceful Bill O’Reilly said, “That’s the price of freedom.”

He couldn’t have been more wrong. Or more ignorant.

It’s a sound, solid, conservative principle that when the need for a law or government program goes away, the law or program should go away, too.

Stay with me. And please know that everything that follows can be validated with very simple Google searches.  Like “Why do we have a Second Amendment.”

The notion that the Second Amendment exists in order to allow fiercely independent Americans to protect themselves and their property from marauders and from the risk of government oppression is a myth.  It has far more to do with John Ford westerns than with anything the Founders said.

The fact (which is a stubborn thing, according to Founder John Adams) is that the Founders put the Second Amendment into the Constitution because they didn’t want to create a standing army.  That’s why the amendment starts with the language about a “well-regulated public militia.”  And it’s why they disbanded the Continental Army immediately upon the end of the Revolutionary War.

What were they afraid of?  They were afraid that a standing Federal army might threaten or overwhelm the states.  (Remember, the word “state” actually means “country,” as in “Department of State.”  The United States was initially a federation of 13 separate countries.)

They were also afraid that a standing Federal army might threaten the Federal government, itself.

So they decided that if armies were needed, they would rather that let the states raise them on the spot through militias.  You kept your musket at home, and if Virginia or Massachusetts called, you came.

In short, the Founders did not put create the Second Amendment in order to protect the people from an oppressive government.  They created it to protect the government from what they feared would be an oppressive army.

Well, the standing army that was disbanded after the Revolutionary War was re-established in the War of 1812, and we’ve had one ever since.  We’ve had a very large standing army since WWI, and a really, really large standing army since WWII.

In other words, that train left the station a long, long time ago.  So long ago that it wasn’t even a train.  It was a horse leaving a barn.

Here’s what the idiocracy of the O’Reillys don’t understand.

The foundation of American liberty is the notion that your right to swing your arm ends at my nose.  Before there was a Bill of Rights, there was a statement of three “inalienable” rights with which we are all endowed.  The first of those is Life.  Notice that they put Life before Liberty.  Why? Perhaps because liberty without life is a non sequitur.

17 people, most of them children, were permanently deprived of their right to life this week.  In October, 58 people in Las Vegas were similarly deprived.  Only 5 weeks after that, 26 people were deprived of their right to life in a church in Texas.  The list goes on and on.

If you consider all shootings in which four or more people wounded or dead, they happen in this country at the rate of nearly one a day.

This – and I’m not going out on a limb here – is crazy.  As The Onion famously said (sadly, four years ago), “‘No Way To Prevent This’ Says Only Country Where This Happens.”

We all know why it happens.  Gun manufacturers fund the NRA, and the NRA uses that money to threaten Congressmen/women and Senators if there’s even a whiff of gun control.  None of this is a secret.  It’s not about liberty at all.  It’s about money, manipulation and tragedy.

This is a solvable problem.  We don’t have the will to solve it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t solvable.  Here’s a formulation that would work:

First, repeal the Second Amendment.  Yup.  S*!#-can it.  Like I said, conservatism calls for the repeal of laws that have outlived their original purpose.  This one is 200 years obsolete.

Second, change our mindset from one of “You have a right to own a gun unless we can find (without looking very hard) an overwhelming reason why you shouldn’t” to one of “In order to buy a gun, you have to prove that you can own it responsibly.”

We could enforce that mindset by requiring three things of anyone who wants to own a gun:

  • Before you can buy a gun, you have to pass the same background check required to obtain a Top Secret security clearance. (Don’t be alarmed.  Top Secret is only the second rung on the security clearance ladder.)  And you have to pay the actual cost of that investigation.
  • Before you purchase, and every year thereafter, you have to obtain a certification from a licensed mental health professional that you are of sufficiently sound mind to own a firearm. No mental health professional who is a gun owner him- or herself will be allowed to provide such certifications.  You have to pay for that evaluation.
  • Just like you do with your car, you have to maintain liability insurance in case your gun is used (by you or anyone else) to do harm to other persons or property. Not only would this create a whole new insurance market, which would be good for the economy, it would actually price the risk of gun ownership.  Of course, you have to pay for that insurance.

That would do it.

We could also simply outlaw weapons capable of rapid firing, which is what the Australians did in 1996.  They did this after a single mass shooting incident because they couldn’t imagine not taking action.  And a bunch of fiercely proud, independent Australians were patriotic enough, and other-oriented enough, that they turned in their guns.  Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting incident since.  Meanwhile, we have one a day.  Again, facts are stubborn things.

We have a second chance to get this right.  The 535 invertebrates who represent us in Washington won’t do it unless we collectively make it clear to them that we’re mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.  We probably won’t because collectively we are more persuaded by tv ads and the Bill O’Reillys of the world than by reason and fact.

But we should.

And we should remember that this week there are 14 more children who won’t get a second chance.  And those are just the ones we know about.

Start Your Year With a Smile – 2018 Edition

Welcome to the 2018 Edition of my photographic year in review.  A couple of modest themes will show up later on, but for the most part we’re just going to dive right in.

Sometimes fusion works really well.  Like with cuisine. And jazz. As a retail concept, though, maybe it can be just a bit too much:


2017-02-01 13.57.58



Everything I know about practicing mindfulness says that it’s a good thing.  But still, I have my doubts.


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For an equally challenging version of staying mindful, there’s this:

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I once heard Eric Clapton say that he is at pains not to repeat himself.  Well, friends, I am no Eric Clapton.  When I first saw this a couple of years ago, I figured it was a rare, one-off experience.  But nope, they did it again! (Look closely – you’ll see what the sign is supposed to say.)

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Dammit, I think the wheelchairs deserve a little privacy!  Don’t you?

2017-07-14 19.33.15


OK, if you’re this guy, how do you go back to your day job on Monday and explain to your colleagues exactly what you did all weekend?  Or this IS your day job.  In which case, what do you say when you’re making small talk at a barbecue and new turns to you and says, “So tell me, Bob, what do you do for a living?”

2017-02-25 18.48.32


At last, the 2AM dry mouth explained!

2017-04-11 16.07.51


This big guy moved into my building just a few days after I did.  Apparently, he prepared for Moving Day by having way too much to drink the night before.

2017-04-30 11.56.06

I have to say, though, that moving can have its benefits.  The bear and I both get to enjoy this view:

2017-04-22 20.15.03


Speaking of being mindful, here’s a healthy approach to life:

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I spent some wonderful time in Italy this year, where I discovered that some things don’t translate very well:

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A pair of relics, side by side:

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My Italian is far from perfect, but this looks to me like the Institute for the Mastery of Filipino Pie:

2017-06-25 20.09.12


You can’t really make it out, but the green sign says “Angri.”  Exit at your own risk.

2017-06-26 17.54.42 copy


That was from southern Italy.  The northern Italians are not to be outdone:

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By the way, the Italians make cars that look like Bugs Bunny:

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This is from the Colosseum in Rome.  They should have added to the sign, “But scratching hieroglyphics on them with a sharp object is totally cool!”

2017-06-28 16.14.21


Interesting name for a leather boutique in Florence.  Someone’s a big James Bond fan.

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To make it even more interesting, the trademark listing for this place starts with “Saddlery, whips and animal apparel; umbrellas and parasols. . .”  And, no doubt, so much more.  Yes, I look these things up.


Best Oxy-Clean Commercial Ever!!!!

2017-07-02 21.16.55


Go ahead, pronounce this.  I dare you:

2017-07-03 14.09.16


These two guys are duking it out for market share in Milan, but in the most civilized of ways:

2017-07-08 17.13.36  2017-07-08 17.13.41


Back home, in the harbor where I now keep a boat, there’s a question. . .

2017-07-13 19.03.29

And just down the pier is the answer:

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Then there’s this guy:

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And yes, this really is the boat he’s on:

2017-08-06 12.45.13


Oh my God!  What are the poor amateurs going to use?!?!

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Oops, they did it again (again)!

2017-10-04 19.47.07


Food fight!!!!!

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OK, this might be a repeat as well.  This little sign reminds me of two things.

2017-10-20 10.58.58

First, many years ago, a colleague of mine, while asleep, managed to swallow his uvula, which is that little thing that hangs down at the back of your throat.  The result was an elongated uvula that required extensive treatment.  And, yes, I’m quite sure you didn’t wake up this morning expecting to encounter the phrase “elongated uvula.”

The consequences of ignoring this sign seem like they would be similar, only a lot more painful.

Second, it reminds me of this:  By the way, be careful of the video channel this will lead you to.  You could disappear in there for days and come out with your sides aching:


Nothing says “Happy 5th Birthday!” like a neon martini sign. . .

2017-11-14 18.56.29

. . .unless it’s the OTHER side of the same neon martini sign:

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Are you willing to entrust your life to an elevator company that counts this well?

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I THINK it won’t fall down! I THINK it won’t fall down! I THINK it won’t fall down.

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I received many great guest photos this year, including some that were wonderfully way too off color to use.  Here’s a sampling of the usable best.  If you sent me one that’s not here, I’m sorry.  There’s only so much time.

From Jack Altschuler:

Altschuler Bunny & Rabbit


From Tony Diaz, there’s this, which manages to turn the word “abut” into a noun.  And please don’t ask me to explain the metal pole.  I can’t.

Diaz Road Abutters


From Lisa Manning:

Manning Puddle


From John Muller:

Muller Shrub (Lake Cook & Waukegan)


And finally, this last minute (literally) gift from Lou Costabile, who answers the question I know you’ve been asking yourself: “Where DOES Jimmy John eat?”

Costabile Jimmy Johns
2017 was a very strange year in many ways.  In the midst of that, however, it’s worth remembering that it’s still possible to be rendered utterly speechless by the works of man. . .

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2017-06-30 11.55.29

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. . .and nature

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I wish you a healthy, happy, joy-filled and prosperous New Year.  If you’ve made it this far in the blog post, you’ve certainly earned it.



A Drop of Hypocrisy

Back in the old days, I used to watch the Today Show a lot.  You will never catch me admitting that I did this because I was a big Deborah Norville fan.  But that’s a story for a different day.

Today’s story is that I remember them having someone from the ACLU on to argue for a museum’s right to display artwork that many people found patently offensive, and just a few days later having someone else from the ACLU on to argue for something – I don’t remember exactly what – that required them to take exactly the opposite position.

It struck me as strange enough that I actually called the Today Show, got a producer on the phone, described what I’d seen and said, “I think it would be really interesting if you got a senior ACLU official on the show and asked them to explain how they could take such diametrically opposed positions only two or three days apart. I’m not anti-ACLU at all, but it seems like there’s at least a drop of hypocrisy in there somewhere.”

The producer agreed it was a good idea.  Alas, it never happened.

But that thought came back to me this morning as I was listening to the news coverage of the Anthem Antics at many of yesterday’s NFL games.

A significant chunk of the American people seems to believe that the First Amendment guarantee of free speech is a wonderful thing as long as the speakers are white and speaking about what they see as “preserving important aspects of American culture,” but that can and should go right out the window when the speakers are black and speaking about preserving something else they see as important – namely the right not to be shot in the back by the police.

Sadly, it goes without saying that the beacon for these conflicting views is the current occupant of the White House, who told us that in August that many of the pro-statue demonstrators in Charlottesville were “good people,” and said last Friday that NFL players who choose to kneel during the anthem are reprobates who should be fired.

Seems like there’s at least a drop of hypocrisy in there, doesn’t it?

Now comes the hard part.  It’s easy to point the finger at the current occupant of the White House because he’s, well, a moron.  But 60 million Americans voted for him.  Once again, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Confronting a Would-Be Tyrant

Years ago, I heard Mel Brooks being interviewed.  He was asked how he, in general but especially as a Jew, justified wrapping The Producers around a faux-musical called Springtime for Hitler.

His answer stuck with me.  As best I recall, he said that one of the best ways to deal with  would-be tyrants is to laugh at them because it just deflates them.

Obviously, he was a little late, as was Charlie Chaplin with The Great Dictator.  But maybe we can learn a lesson.

In that spirit, here’s what’s been going through my head over the past 3 weeks:

I think the Republic is strong enough to survive four years of this.  During that time, the best thing to do may just be to laugh at the news, and then go back to trying to preserve a great nation and build an even better one.

Pass it on.

Start Your Year with a Smile – 2017 Edition

Here it is – Year 7 of the photo blog.  This year, I had 94 pictures to choose from, including a few that were sent by friends and (gasp) family.  I decided to keep it clean – strictly PG. Except, of course, for when I didn’t. Which means that the hardest part of this job is bottling up my inner 13-year-old.

Just remember that this is all about how people express themselves.  Including me, I suppose. And that if you want to see what I left out, I have nowhere near enough self-restraint to stop myself from sending it to you, so just let me know.

Here we go:

I start every year afraid that I’m not going to get anything good, and yet somehow I always do.

And so, our journey begins on January 2, 2016.  I’m in the airport in Huatulco, Mexico, heading home from a holiday warmup (where I was surrounded by Canadians whom I kept assuring over and over that Donald Trump was just a sideshow whom American would never actually elect).  And there, in the airport, I see these two signs:

Here’s the thing. . .one of them points to the airplanes and the other to the restrooms.

Moving on. . .

Check out the t-shirt and imagine your dog coming home from one of those treatments.  It would either be “Ahhh. . .” or “Dude, what the hell?!?!?”


If it was your cat, “Ahhh. . .” would not be an option.

CNN’s mobile app turns out to be good for a laugh or two.

I’m wondering if anyone at the Seattle Aquarium bothered to consult their octopi before this decision was made:



Online ads are targeted, right?  So why did I get this one?



When you open the CNN app, it takes a few seconds for the pictures on the top story to catch up to the headline, which yields some pretty interesting results.  There is nothing – absolutely nothing – I could say to improve on this one:



In local news, this used to be a terrific steak house.  It was located in a retired fire station near where I live and was called, appropriately, The Firehouse.  It was great – right up until it was. . .you guessed it. . .gutted by fire:



In less local news, I spent a little time in Northern California last summer.  This is a spot on the Cal Berkeley campus.  If you can’t make out the sign, blow it up until you can.  And then note that every sign in the row is the same.  Show-offs.



I’m not sure why Napa Valley needs this, but apparently it does.



I always thought it would be good to have this much money, but I never imagined it would fit on a single bill (yes, this is real money):


I didn’t go in this place.  Like you, I’m thinking that maybe I’d rather have food that was fresh?


And what, exactly, does this place bake?  A Revell 1/24th scale Ford Mustang?  Cindy Crawford?  I wish I knew.



The next part of that trip was on the Island of Hawaii, which yielded these. . .

Seems like the upper sign is all you should need:


Nothing quite says “Polynesian Rain Forest” like a band of Scandinavian marauders:


OK, this is just a No Smoking sign. . .


. . .except that what’s smoldering in the background is the crater of an active volcano.


Back home.  Last year, I shared a sign from a frozen yogurt shop that I stop into now and then.  It said, “From now on, you must have intent on purchasing a yogurt to have a sample.” (Sic, sic, sic.).  Apparently that wasn’t enough to get them the customer behavior they were after.  So they upped their game.  A single trip yielded these.  (Note – halfway through, you are going to say to yourself “Really?”  The answer is “Yes.  Really.”):



By the way, this is what greets you inside the front door.



In fairness, I have to say that the frogurt in this place is quite good, and it’s one of the few that has low/no-sugar options.  But there has to be a less stressful way to make a living.


The word choice on this street sign is interesting.  But wouldn’t “Rain” have been simpler and more to the point:




In itself, there’s nothing remarkable about this sign. . .


. . except that that the place down the block – the one with what looks like a small clock tower – is called Mario’s.


On a summer bike ride on the Lakeshore, I passed a sign saying that the under-construction bird sanctuary I was passing would soon be complete and ready for use.  That got me to wondering how the birds would find out that it was available.  The best answer I could come up with:  “They’ll Tweet.”

On that same ride, though, I failed in my attempt, after my January start in Mexico, to avoid bathroom humor for the rest of the year.  And I believe in failing big.

This sign sits above a urinal in a Chicago Park District restroom on the Lakefront, and it makes me worry about many things, including the state of civilization.




Let’s pause here for a second.  I’m always curious what the meeting was like where something like this got approved.  Like the marketing meeting from last year’s blog, when the bike company decided to put the words “Perineal Safety Area” around the opening in the bicycle seat.

I mean, let’s be clear.  I’m sure there’s a risk associated with the fact that the water is untreated rainwater.  But there’s also a risk that if you tried to drink it, you might, while bending over to take a sip, see an image in the water that you thought was Madonna – the singer, not the Blessed Virgin – faint from the shock, hit your head on the concrete and die of a subdural hematoma.

If I had to guess, I’d say the rainwater risk is smaller than the Madonna/hematoma thing. But they’re both pretty small.  And then there’s the fact that the water is in a urinal.  As my dog said when I brought him home from the chiropractor, “Dude, what the hell?!?!?”

But why am I worrying about that?  What I should really worry about is the strange looks I get while taking photographs in public restrooms.


On a separate adventure that was not supposed to involve plumbing, I was in a Lowe’s store and came face-to-face (or maybe it was face-to-bowl) with Kohler’s marketing strategy, which apparently involves giving toilet models profound, thought-provoking names. Like this:



There were two other models I didn’t get pictures of (yes, I actually started worrying about attracting unwanted attention).  One was The Cimmaron, which given it’s Western-ish name, seems it should be more outhouse than in-house.  And defying all explanation, there was the pièce de rèsistance, the sine qua non, the toilette de toilettes – The Biscuit.

And may that be the end of bathroom humor.


But nothing is off limits – or for that matter, private, let alone sacred – anymore.  And so I found this billboard on the road from New Buffalo, Michigan, back to Chicago.  No, not Carl’s Truck Repair.  I love the red circle with the slash through it and the Buy One – Get One Free offer.



Here are three great guest shots:

From my friend and colleague Rene Boer – a picture he took on a beach in Belize.

boer-vacationIf you can’t make out the little yellow sign, it says “Closed for Vacation.”

From my friend Jack Trytten, a road sign that seems like it might have caused lots of accidents.




And from my daughter, Julia, this bit of grocery store irony:



From this year’s holiday warm-up in Miami:

This store in Miami Beach might be owned by a brother and sister?  If so, they have a sense of humor.  I hope so, but I don’t know.  And they don’t have a website, so I can’t look it up.  Or see what they sell.  All I can say is that the name and the subtitle kind of contradict each other.



As the colors might suggest, this sign is by a guard house at the University of Miami.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly whom it excludes from entry:



And finally, for anyone who lives in Chicago (and probably many other places), there’s this:


That’s it for this year.  I hope you found something in here to give you a laugh.  And I wish you a healthy, happy, prosperous 2017.

Start Your Year With a Smile – 2016 Edition

It’s Year 6 of the photo blog and we’re going to dive right in.  This is my annual look-back at the year just ended.  What follows are the best pictures or screen captures I took (and in a few cases, that friends sent me) from all of 2015.  In one way or another, they are all about the things people choose to do and how they choose to express themselves.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I hope you find something that makes you laugh, and that you aren’t offended by the parts that are a little off-color.  As always, I refer you to my blog rule, which is that I never make anything up because I’m not nearly funny enough to come up with stuff as good as what real life provides.

With that, let’s get started.

My journalistic year started in January, when I paid a visit to Kohler, Wisconsin.  And I want to be absolutely clear about something:

Anyone who can turn a toilet factory into a tourist destination has my undying respect.

That said, the Kohler design center has an entire roomful of toilets, including a wall full of them that must be fifty feet high.  Standing atop that wall is this guy.

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I’m really not sure what he’s so joyful about.  After all, he’s gazing down on a roomful of toilets.  He looks like the toilet version of Rocky.  Maybe he’s feels like a king, in which case could this be his Throne Room?

The piece de plumbing resistance of this exhibit is Kohler’s remote control toilet.  Call me crazy, but I always thought the idea of a remote control anything is that you don’t have to touch, or even be near, the device in order to use it.  I’m not sure how that applies in this case.  Anyway, here is the remote’s screen.

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Yes, you can now have a toilet that will serenade you.

While we’re on the subject of toilet humor, there’s a high-rise going up across the street from the building I live in.  I walked out the front door one day and saw a handful of people on the sidewalk gazing skyward.  I looked up and saw this:

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It’s a little dark, but those blue things in the middle are a trio of Flying Porta-potties.  Trust me, there were lots of crossed fingers and a few prayers being said on the sidewalk.

In June, I had the great fortune to take a road trip with my daughter from Scottsdale, AZ, to Chattanooga, TN.  In Scottsdale, I happened to see this sign.

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I was curious, so I pulled in to see what it was for.  Here’s it is.

Lunch Box

As we were traveling, I discovered that there is indeed Welfare in Texas. . .

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. . .and that there are some roads probably best left less traveled.

Bad Route

At the end of the trip, we went up to the top of Lookout Mountain, TN, where we saw this:

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I’m thinking that Starbucks may have become just a bit too important in our culture.

We also saw this.  I’m pretty sure that “Restrooms” would have been entirely sufficient.

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At the bottom of Lookout Mountain, which actually puts it in Chattanooga, we came across this place.

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If you can’t make it out, this is the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum.  Aside from the history of the tow truck, it’s dedicated to those, and there appear to be many of them, who gave the last full measure of devotion.

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According to the website, this year they will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tow truck.

While we’re on the subject of arcane museums,  I was back at the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, ID, this summer.

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Yes, back. Second visit. This time when it was open.  Well, not quite open. I missed closing time by five minutes, but they were still there and opened it back up to give me a private tour. I think I heard someone in the back yelling, “Hey, we got one! We GOT one!!!!”  I picked up a souvenir, a Potato Museum hat, which caused my friend Lynne Marek to comment, “OK, never wear that thing around your kids.”

This is the kind of thing you can find at the Idaho Potato Museum. Where is Garrison Keillor when we really need him?

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Last year’s post contained an ill-advised and regrettable beaver-themed section. So does this year’s.

A Beaver Tail

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In Auburn Hills, Michigan, you can find yourself at the intersection of Big Beaver and Crooks.

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And what year would be complete without Flying Beavers?  I couldn’t get the video code to embed properly.  To see this 1-minute “film treasure” (their words, not mine!), just click here or on the picture below.

Flying Beavers 2

As always, there were a few great signs in, on or near businesses:

I’ll have whatever this place is serving!

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A great sign, seen in Seattle:

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From my friend, author Debra Dean (if you haven’t read her novels The Madonnas of Leningrad and A Mirrored World, do yourself a favor. . .stop reading this, go get them now, read them, then come back here. . .you’ll thank me for it), came this rainy-day picture of our friends at the Neptune Society offering a service that I thought went out with the Spanish Inquisition.



This place is on North Avenue in Melrose Park, right across the street from a gun shop that has assault rifles on prominent display.

Red Star

Go back and take a closer look.  It does not way “Warehouse.” It does say “Bar.” And did I mention that it’s right across the street from a gun shop?

Bad grammar aside, I love seeing the poor, beleaguered Frozen Yogurt people take a stand.

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It is so good to know that that this company, in Elk Grove Village, IL, is keeping things clean.

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For a moment, I thought the T fell off this building, but it was only a shadow. Still, one can hope.

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It was another good year for things seen on, in or from cars.

Check out the model of the car, the license plate bracket and the first 3 letters on the license plate.

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The poor State of Illinois is so broke it is now private labeling vanity plates to neighboring Indiana.

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This one is a little hard to explain.  I only know what “twerking” is because Miley Cyrus did it once while performing on an awards show.  So last year, I thought it was pretty funny when I saw a car with a bumper sticker indicating that it’s owner was a (presumably proud) member of something called the  “Twerk Team.”  Imagine my surprise when this year I saw two more.  After all, I’m only one pair of eyeballs in a metropolitan area of 16 million eyeballs.  What are the odds?

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These people are very proud of their pastime and their membership on this team.  I figure that if there are enough people like this to form a team, then there must be other teams, so that they can hold some kind of twerk-off.

If you’re like I was and are wondering what twerkers do, I have saved you the trouble of Googling “Twerk Team Chicago.”  Click this link and watch any video you like.  I can promise that all of your questions will be answered.  I can’t promise that you’ll be happy about that.

Moving on.

Who wouldn’t give their eyeteeth to be able to go a barbeque armed with this as the answer to the question, “So, Bob, who do you work for?”

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As my friend Mike Paton will attest, I am rarely rendered speechless.  This did it:

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The State of Arizona went to great pains to make sure that this cow is udderly, anatomically correct.

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Another road to leave less traveled:

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Back on the business front, every now and then, I see something that makes me wonder about the conversation that led to it.  Here is this year’s winner.  I’m picturing a team that has been charged with coming up with a new feature to differentiate their bicycles.  They’ve spend a long, frustrating day in the conference room.  They are tired and sweaty, there are empty coffee cups all over the room.  They know that soon they have to go back to the boss with an answer.  Then, suddenly, a member of the team sits bolt upright and cries out, “Eureka!  I’ve got it!”

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If you can’t quite make out the writing around the hole in the middle it says “Perineal Safety Area.”

And the winner in the “Helpful Labeling” category:

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In the ever-popular Animal Hijinks category, here’s a TV show you wouldn’t want to miss:

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If you’re old enough, as I am, you might remember Morris the Cat of 9 Lives fame. It turns out that Morris was adopted from a shelter in Downers Grove. Who knew?

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And in that shelter was this guy, whose motto, I’m pretty sure, is “Because I can.  Sue me.”

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Lastly, thanks to my friend Bruce Onsager, who bought the boat, did all the hard work and invited me to be part of the adventure, I had the opportunity this year to sail the Chicago-Mackinac race. We sailed in the Cruising (read “slow boat”) division, and even then we were the finest ship and crew ever to finish last in their group.  Nonetheless, we crossed the finish line with the same crew we started with, which is a win in my book.

Along the way, I got to see this:

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That wasn’t part of what I expected from the race.  It occurred to me afterward that we can’t force these experiences. All we can do, and we should, is to put ourselves in places where we might have them.

I hope you will in 2016, and that it turns out to be an even better year for you than 2015 was.

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