Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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.

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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?!?!?”

_chiro-small

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:

_cnn-octopus

 

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

_cnn-bail-bonds

 

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:

_cnn-conway

 

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:

_firehouse

 

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.

_berkeley

 

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

_silver-bunny

 

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):

_zimbabwe

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

_vintage

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

_bakery

 

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:

_warning-sign

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

_vikings

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

_volcano

. . .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.”):

_berry-o-1_berry-o-2_berry-o-3_berry-o-4_berry-o-5_berry-o-6_berry-o-7_berry-o-8

 

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

_berry-o-mission

 

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:

_sky-water

 

 

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

_luigis

. . 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.

 

_rainwater

 

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:

_memoirs

 

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.

_billboard-2

 

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.

 

_trytten

 

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

_nutrition-center-from-julia

 

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.

_sib-bling

 

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:

_u-of-miami

 

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

_mattress3

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.

2015-01-17 12.46.36

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.

2015-01-17 12.49.33

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:

2015-10-06 07.21.37

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.

2015-06-03 10.13.04

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.

2015-06-07 12.54.012015-06-07 12.54.13

 

 

 

 

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.

2015-06-25 16.58.32

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?

2015-06-25 17.20.17

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!

2015-01-25 11.22.30

A great sign, seen in Seattle:

2015-02-12 17.00.43

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.

IMG_0510

 

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.

2015-07-28 20.29.23

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

2015-10-22 13.15.33

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

2015-11-08 14.06.30-1

 

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.

2015-05-01 11.51.13

 

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

2015-12-07 16.20.39

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?

2015-03-06 15.22.14

2015-12-17 10.51.38

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?”

2015-05-28 07.36.10

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

2015-06-05 License Plate

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

2015-06-03 12.06.22

Another road to leave less traveled:

2015-07-19 09.44.49

 

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!”

2015-06-13 17.39.12

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:

2015-08-02 13.52.55

 

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

2015-10-14 20.44.55

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?

2015-11-28 12.10.33

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

2015-11-28 12.25.02

 

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:

2015-07-10 20.16.54

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.

Start Your Year With A Smile

This is now the fourth consecutive year for this photo missive.  One of the benefits of it becoming a habit is that I’m starting to get photos from friends and family, for which I’m truly grateful.  Takes some of the pressure off.  I’m also grateful for the good fortune of a great scene that presented itself with only 40 minutes left in 2013.  But you’ll have to read on to find it.

Let’s get started.

The following four pictures are all from a single trip to visit a client in Milwaukee.  When I visit that client, I stay at a Crowne Plaza hotel, which is basically an overdressed Holiday Inn.  Nothing wrong with that – it’s clean and comfortable, and the staff is very nice.  But while Doubletrees give their guests a couple of cookies so good you know they have to be bad for you, the Crowne Plaza, gives you this:

Crowne Plaza

The blue bag looks suspiciously like something you might take with you while walking your dog.  On my next visit, the Keebler cookies were gone – replaced by a second bottle of water.

Driving back to Chicago, I saw this sign on a building just off the freeway.  It’s my favorite of the year – does the best possible job of explaining why you wouldn’t want to be this company’s customer.

Milwaukee Light Bulb

A little further south, just before Kenosha, I came across this.  It’s Wisconsin and there’s a party goin’ on.

Milwaukee - Kenosha Bong

(OK, heroism should get its due.  My friend Cliff Porzenheim points out that the sign actually refers to Kenosha native Dick Bong, who was America’s leading fighter ace in WWII.)

When I got to Kenosha (land of the BoDeans and a zillion outlet stores), I stopped to grab a bite at the Tuscany Bistro, which I recommend, by the way – it’s terrific.  And run by people with a sense of humor.  It’s Wisconsin, and there really is a party goin’ on.

Milwaukee Kenosha Tuscany

All of that from one trip to Milwaukee.  If I had any sense, I would quit while I’m ahead.   If I had any sense.  Let’s continue. . .

If you can’t make out the name of the company, it’s Key Sales, Inc.  Apparently, they can dish it out, but they can’t take it.

Key Sales, Inc.

My daughter, Julia, spotted this sign at the Wal-Mart in Hayward, WI.  Might they be better off simply not talking about their safety record?

Safe Shopping Experience

Here, thankfully (and thanks to Victoria Woodarski) is a little truth in advertising.  You gotta love the phone number.

Estate Junk

And courtesy of Scott St. Clair, here’s a smart buy for the not-so-smart.

Glove Deal

If you’re tired of your kids, my friend Steve Smolinsky found out where you can take them.  Of course, if they don’t sell, you may have to take them back.

East Vincent Kid Sale (2)

A couple of travel tales this year:

In January, I visited my daughter in Puerto Vallarta, where she was volunteering in an orphanage (yes, she has a very proud dad).  We took a bus to a nearby town, where we found these people waiting to take the bus back the other way.  I kept hearing a clucking sound, which turned out to be coming from the box in the middle of the picture.

030

Yup. . .that there is a Chicken In A Box.

I go to Detroit once a quarter to visit with my friends at EOS Worldwide.  We meet at the Detroit Airport Westin.  I’m glad I’ve never been given this room, which I suspect is the 10th Circle of Hell.  Note the Do Not Disturb sign.  Demons at work, I assume.

004

There used to be just a few of us at the EOS meetings, but now there are so many that the EOS folks give us really fancy name badges.  Here’s the back of one.  Care to guess what led to the badge-maker adding this legend?

005

This sight raised a bunch of questions.  Starting with who thinks of things like this?  And who buys them?

086

An aside: I had Tetra as a client many years ago.  Their HQ and factory are in the tiny, landlocked town of Melle, Germany.  By tiny, I mean that the only sources of economic activity are the Tetra plant and a Chinese restaurant. It seems like an extremely unlikely location for both businesses, and I have no idea how either one got there.  Thanks to the factory, the entire town smells like fish food.  So it really doesn’t matter what you order at the restaurant.  Like it or not, you’re ordering from the seafood menu.

In the automotive category, I was on my way to have lunch with my friend Julie Roth when I saw this.

010

Yes, that’s an Aston Martin parked in a handicapped spot.  To the owner:  You can afford the car but you can’t afford the valet?  James Bond is going to get you for this.

I saw this while stuck in traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway (a classic misnomer – there is nothing “express” about it).  I swear, I wasn’t moving when I took the picture.  Completely safe.  Really.  That’s my story.

019

It’s a little hard to see, but that thing in the right front seat is a giant, orange plastic cockroach.  There has to be a story behind this.  I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in a situation where the right thing for me to do was put a giant plastic cockroach in any part of my car, let alone in the passenger’s seat.  Worse yet, the cockroach was sitting feet up, head down, and the driver was smiling.  You want to fill in the blanks?  I don’t.

If you’ve been following my year-end posts for any length of time, you know that I have an undeniably juvenile appreciation for restroom humor.  Perhaps it’s because the water closet is one of life’s great equalizers.  Or maybe it’s just because I’m undeniably juvenile.

Whichever, I saw this sign while trying to find a restroom in Mexico.

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And this one somewhere else, maybe on an airplane.  With signs like this, I always wonder what set of events made someone decide it was necessary.  In this case, I think it was the milk bottle that caught my eye.

002

Speaking of wondering what made someone decide it was necessary, I saw this at a Doubletree (yes, the cookie people).  I’d never really thought about what goes into a decision to enter a public restroom.  I guess I’ve always been satisfied simply to know that it was intended for my gender.  Apparently, that’s not always enough information.  I suspect (for the obvious reasons) that this isn’t a standard sign.  Which means somebody thought about this, decided it was important, and had the sign made.  Someone else paid that person to do it.  Perhaps this is the OCDoubletree.

021

This logo made me want to run right out and by the stock:

Swisher

Imagine what the analyst call with the CEO and CFO is like:  “We’re pleased to report that primary demand is up thanks to increasing coffee consumption. . .”

And finally in this category – I got this piece of spam from what appears to be the Vietnamese version of Home Depot.  It was entirely in Vietnamese except for one word.

Vietnamese Spam (Toilet)

Using that as a segue to technology, I found this bit of brilliance while looking for some free Wi-Fi:

FBI Wi-Fi

Now go back and look at the Wi-Fi network below “FBI Surveillance Van.”  Someone was in a bad mood the day they set up their router.

On a much happier note, nature loves a plastic surgeon with a sense of humor.

Sea Cups

Here’s a bit of pith from the Russian playwright Anton Chekov.

035

Editorializing briefly:  I’ve sat through a Chekov play.  Once.  Which was enough.  If you want to know what REALLY wears you out, give that a try sometime.

This is my dog, who doesn’t offer much comfort but has no problem accepting it.

017

And finally (thank you for your patience), there I was at 11:20PM on New Year’s Eve, getting my car out of the alley behind my friends Anne and Doug’s house.  It was 15 degrees, snowing like mad, and this guy came down the alley.  There’s just never a St. Bernard when you need one.

Ice Emergency

Thanks for visiting.  Happy New Year – I wish you a wonderful 2014!

Fifty Years On

Like all Americans my age and older, I remember where I was in November 1963.  I was five years old, living in Arlington, Virginia (in a house my family called the White House because it was. . .well. . .white), attending first grade at a little Lutheran school that my parents sent me to because my near-Christmas birthday put me well past the public school cutoff date and they didn’t want me to wait another year.

The first weekend of that November, we went on an excursion into Washington, D.C.  The reason and the destination are long gone.  What I remember is that we were on Independence Avenue, one of the broad boulevards that border the Mall, when traffic was stopped by motorcycle policemen.  We got out of our car to see what was happening.  As we got to the cross street where traffic was stopped, a motorcade went by.  In the rear window of the second or third car, I saw a young boy sitting on an adult’s lap, and the adult’s hand waving out the window.  The hand was that of President Kennedy and the boy was John, Jr., then known as John-John.

Three weeks later, I came home from school on Friday afternoon, walked into the kitchen, and found my mother sitting on a stool and leaning on the counter.  She was glued to the radio and had tears streaking her face.  I asked her what was wrong and she said, “The President is dead.”

I have earlier memories, but those two stand out for obvious reasons.

Twenty years later, in November of 1983, I was back in Washington, D.C., this time as a Legislative Assistant to then-U.S. Senator Slade Gorton.  He was a moderate Republican back when that term had meaning.  Congress then was more civil, if no more productive, than it is today.  It civilly recessed for Thanksgiving on Friday, November 18.  So the following Tuesday, November 22, was very quiet.

It was quiet enough that around ten in the morning I left my office on Capitol Hill and drove across the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery.  Whatever memorial events may have been planned must have been set for later in the day because the place was deserted.  So on the twentieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, chilly and gray, I had a solid half-hour at his grave site entirely by myself.

Kennedy Gravesite 2 Kennedy Gravesite

I remember trying that day to gin up a good insight or two and coming up with nothing.  Eventually, I pulled my coat around me, watched a few more leaves blow across the grave site plaza and left.   But I’d gotten to be alone with my country for a few minutes.  It turned out that my country was an inscrutable conversationalist, but I was glad for the company.  Sometime today, I’m going close my eyes and head back to that place for a few minutes.  If you have the time, I hope you’ll come with me.

Kennedy Gravesite 3

Start Your Year With a Smile

The fun photos and fails are back for the third consecutive year.  This year, they fell pretty neatly into several categories, so we’ll tackle them that way.  But not quite yet. . .

You can’t tell much from this picture, but the story is worth sharing.

Dunkin and Papa John's

This Dunkin’ Donuts is on Mannheim Road, near one of my clients.  Behind it, you can see a Papa John’s pizza place.  When Papa’s business gets slow, he sends a guy dressed as a pizza slice out to Mannheim to show a little pepperoni and try to attract some business.  On a blistering day in July, I saw the pizza slice walking into the doughnut shop to cool off.

Now, let’s get politics out of the way.  This is a page from an accounting firm’s presentation on upcoming changes in federal and state tax laws.  This one is for Illinois, which is billions of dollars underwater thanks to overly generous, seriously underfunded pensions.  It’s nice to know that our legislators are serious about fixing this problem.  I recently heard this provision described as a “pole tax.”

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Signs are always a favorite, and this year yielded up a few good ones.  Starting with this:  My local bank branch has a fleet of drive-through ATMS, each of which is emblazoned as follows.

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Did I mention that these are drive-through ATMs?

There would be nothing especially remarkable about this sign, except that it happens to be on the wall of an airline lounge.

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As for this one, I can only say that I always thought the debate was strictly about the chicken and the egg.

Children's 2

This one is a little hard to make out because I took it just before dark.  Look closely at the name on the sign.  To help you out, the faint writing underneath the name of the place says “Bar & Ultra Lounge.”

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This year, I’m adding an automotive category.  By coincidence, I took the one below about a minute before I took the one just above.  It was the end of a gray day.  I was heading downtown and took a route I never take in order to avoid a traffic jam.  Perhaps a higher power steered me this way?  It’s hard to imagine that a higher power is all that concerned with my blog.

Despite the green light, I wasn’t moving when I took this.  Anyway, that’s my story.   Also, I don’t speak Spanish, but I’m guessing the legend on the back of the truck says, “How am I driving?”

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This has to be the most expensive used car ever.

Escalade 1

I’m coining a new term – sypo (a combination of “soap” and “typo.”)  To make sure this wasn’t one, I checked the other windows.  The seller seemed to be serious about his price.

Escalace 2026

Those of you who’ve been with me for any length of time know that I’m not above a bit of bathroom humor.  In fact, since I’m 13 years old at heart, I rather revel in it.

Before I get to the actual pictures in this category, let me tell you about the one that got away.  In February, I was on a plane from Chicago to Kansas City and ventured into the lavatory.  I didn’t have my phone because, well, I was on a plane and heading to the lavatory.  More’s the pity because next to the toilet I saw a small plaque that read, “Do not flush while sitting on seat.”  I leave it to you contemplate the power of the vacuum flush and the unfortunate event that must have led someone to create and post that little sign.

On that same trip, my colleague Jake Guterman and I drove from Kansas City to the middle of nowhere in order to spend an hour meeting with a guy.  On the way down, we saw an actual llama and a sign for a town called Humansville that made me think of Soylent Green.  On the way back, we saw this:

Urine Sign

Keep in mind that whoever created that sign first had to actually think of it.  Sort of like this blog post. . .

As always, a few great things showed up on my computer screen.  Early in the year, I received this invitation from some dear friends.  I didn’t attend because I couldn’t bear the thought that it would be the last time I would ever see them.  (Gene and Kevin, I hope you don’t feel like I’ve thrown you under the bus!)

These (guys) too will pass. . . (2)

My Internet connection failed one day, and after tinkering with it, I needed to test whether it was fixed.  I had a Bing window open in my browser (yes, I’m the guy who actually tried Bing) and searched “search.”  Here’s what I got.

Bing Search Fail

That raised an obvious question, so I repeated the search for “search,” but this time I searched “search ” using the acknowledged leader in search, which I found was not to be outdone.

Google Search Fail

I have a small beverage category this year as well.

This is the best wine label I saw all year.  Simple, clear, and to the point.  If this is how it makes you feel before you open it, imagine how you feel when the bottle is 2/3’s empty.

Smiley Wine

And this version of “tea” left me wondering if there’s anything they DON’T put in it.

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If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know of my fascination with airport security.  A while back, I breezed through, while this unlucky couple was treated 50 Shades of Felt Up.  A good thing, too. . .I felt so threatened standing next to them in line.

Airport Security 1Airport Security 2

The following two pictures have no redeeming social importance, but I like them anyway.

This is my arm the day after my first attempt at shooting sporting clays with my friend, Tim Padgett.  I assured Tim that I knew how to shoulder a shotgun.  Obviously, I was wrong.

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And this is the hind end of my dog.  For about 6 months, this was his favorite sleeping posture.  He is an optimist, and he can find something to be happy about just about anywhere.  I haven’t tried sleeping like this to see if it will work for me.  Perhaps I should.  Maybe you should, too.

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Finally, a couple of pictures that are a bit more serious.

On October 30, I drove from Traverse City, MI, back to Chicago under the westernmost rain band of Sandy.  The rain stopped around Gary, but the clouds continued further west.  The bright line you can see in the distance, which was just visible from my neighborhood, is the absolute western edge of the storm.

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Lastly, in June I had the pleasure of helping this gentleman out of his car and into a restaurant where it turned out we were both having breakfast.

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Take a close look at the bottom of his license plate bracket.  This guy was the real deal.  There aren’t many of these heroes left – a living connection with history.

Flying Tigers

That’s 2012 in pictures.  I hope you found something in here to enjoy, and that you’ll accept my wishes for a healthy, happy, prosperous 2013.


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