A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Friday, October 29, 2010

partial repost of item from a couple years ago because of my mood.

The Dark Irish

The term generally refers to Irish with dark complexions and black hair. I heard it theorized once that they descended from sailors from the Spanish Armada who swam ashore and stayed in Ireland. I think it's the Celtic strain, the old Irish from before the fairer Gaels and later the Vikings invaded. Even though the Celts were spread all over modern Europe 2500 years ago the bloodline and culture remain purest in the remote corners of the continent, Galicia in Spain, the Vendee in France and in the west of Ireland. The music and dance of these regions reflects a common heritage.

But, the phrase to me brings to mind the darker side of the Irish psyche. The inclination to wish ill to the prosperous, to suspect that their misfortunes result from conspiracies against them and betrayal, and to turn bitterly on their fallen heroes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I think so too

Blarney Green posted this at Rock's House. It touches on the core of my doubts about ND. That the school and the population it serves have evolved away from the working class roots and become effete

"Our problems for the last 8 years have gone far beyond scheme -- we changed from a tough team to a soft team. (One thing I will grant Bob Davie is that his teams weren't soft -- poorly coached, but not soft. But I digress...)

Scheme does play into whether or not you're tough. Weis had soft teams, and that softness was enhanced by the scheme (pass protect, finesse, etc.). Kelly seems to be paying lip-service to increasing our toughness -- and hell, maybe he means it. But you cannot morph a soft team into a tough one when they have to play this scheme.

Scheme isn't the only issue though. Our whole University is soft. Being a "Notre Dame Man" used to mean something -- there was pretty heavy emphasis on the "Man" part. Now it is meaningless, or it means you're a dork, or a rich kid with pussified ways and designer clothing. Our University leadership is not tough in any way, and so they don't breed toughness. All the stupid Disney-land shit we have to witness -- the fund-raising and pep rallies and the ability to buy an ND-logo-emblazoned Barco-Lounger for only a quarter millions dollars -- it all contributes. The fact that our coach has to schmooze stupid alumni clubs, and we can't tailgate properly because of fear of litigation, and "Legends" -- its all symptomatic of a deep malaise

ND is no longer ND. Its not even Stanford. Its less about character and more about GPA, less about being an athlete/scholar/leader and more about getting research dollars. ND doesn't breed toughness in its student body, why should we expect it in the football program?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three Reasons

Three reasons not to buy a new TV:
1 We already have three TV's, smallish, appropriate for my viewing habits
2 Janett's worried about money (that one's too easy)
3 We're moving in a week and it'll just be one more thing.

So today we went to Costco and brought a TV. They had a big display of Vizeo flat screen LCD's (redundant?) by the front door when Janett was there last week, and they were priced very reasonably. She mulled it over for a few days, then we googled Vizeo, the brand name, and the reviews were good. So off we went.

I'd had a couple of things I wanted to get done today, but volunteered to go along and help. A lot of husbands shop with their wives at Costco, maybe something in the Costco ambiance or profile appeals to happily married couples. Or maybe the other guys go along for the samples like I do. Today I had a gyro style cucumber sauce on a cracker, then a buffalo wing while Janett had guacamole. I complemented the buffalo wing chef so enthusiastically he said I could have another, but I didn't. Then I had a little piece of quiche. Then I had a something else I don't remember, then some kind of fried potatos that you bake in the oven and finished up with a new kind of Dorito chip and a few pretzel crackers. Very generous of them, but it worked out OK for everybody. Janett bought a three-pack of the guacamole and a big bag of the chips, and the guacamole lady told Janett she could probably get hired as a sample lady too if she wanted to.

Oh, yeah and the TV. Well, the display was gone, and we felt a momentary misapprehension but browsed the TV aisles and found the same models even cheaper, so we brought the next size larger screen for the same price Janett had been prepared to pay. And feeling like successful shoppers we splurged on a little insulated zipper front vest with faux fur trim for Janett, for those days when neither a sweater or jacket really fills the bill.

We checked out and, maybe this will surprise you, stopped for a late lunch on the way out of the store. (I can't pass up a polish sausage priced at $1 and Janett feels the same way about a slice of supreme pizza.) And as we finished, a good day got even better with a phone call from daughter Kim, residing now with husband Ross and baby Remy in Las Vegas. They commiserated briefly over sleep lost to a teething baby, and then Kim asked Janett to warn me that my Facebook had been compromised. Pause. Janett listens to Kim, then asks me if I called Mark an idiot. "I called somebody an idiot, and his name might have been Mark, but it wasn't our (son in law) Mark, and it was a comment on a yahoo news post, not on facebook. They both admonished me that I shouldn't call people idiots.

I checked when I got home, and yahoo news had apparently rejected my comment, but there it was on facebook. Andy replied to Mark's comment "Mark, you're an idiot."
revealing to my entire facebook community the sort of guy that lurks behind the affable mask.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

play list

It's kind of a quiet cloudy Sunday. Janett and I went for a little ride just to get out of the house. We're still uncertain about our plans to move, but the realtor hasn't been able to show us the least expensive alternative (maybe the current tenant doesn't want to leave), so the house around the corner now seems our likeliest destination.
Yesterday Notre Dame lost to Navy,a mild disappointment, though in previous games including the few wins, the Irish haven't looked good to me. On the Notre Dame boards some posters are blaming the coaches, some the players. I'm blaming bad offense on the players and bad defense on the coaches. In any case our problems don't appear to be near solution, and now we'll have to worry about some of the better players recruited for next year beginning to hedge on their commitments.
I posted a couple of items to Facebook expressing my dismay about the current state of our nation. I won't get into it here. It's nice to express myself in facebook shorthand rather than with a longer blog, although I run the risk of annoying more readers there than here.
So I didn't really have anything to write about when I opened my blog today and decided to check my musical playlist. I'd lost the connection to at least eight of the previously linked songs, so I reconnected to a few of those, and addded links to a few different selections. Then I scrolled through the list playing only the first few bars of each song. That's a thing about my favorites, they got me right from the get go. The exception is Wildwood Flower by Reese Witherspoon which has a very nondescript opening. I might check to see if there's a version by the Carter family that starts with the melody, but I suspect the soundtrack version pretty well copies the original. Maybe I'll scroll through again to see if I think of something I missed. Then maybe I'll go read for a while.


Being interupted briefly to nibble cheeses and crackers while Janett and I watched an episode of a HomeTV show about how to rent an apartment, I did some reading. Alas, I didn't escape the internet but went to Wiki and read up on the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-1913), and then on Serbia's struggle for independence in the first quarter of the previous century. The Balkan Wars were significant events in the lead up to the First World War.

Now, I'll try again to escape the internet.


Janett Prepared a fine dinner teryaki chicken, some kind of dirty rice also with bits of chicken, green beans, and little yellow potatos mashed with the skin on. Then we watched a most enjoyable Masterpiece Theater mystery presentation of a contemporary Sherlock Holmes. You can see why I feel I'm the luckiest man in the world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Acquaintances know Janett and I are now engaged in seeking a new apartment. We've been very happy in the current premises, the second floor of a very large house, complete with a ten by twelve roofed porch where we could enjoy a pretty day, chat and drink coffee. Janett is somewhat agorophobic and sometimes has anxiety attacks, so the porch was an easy way to get out of the house without having to deal with people, and she enjoyed tending a garden of potted plants.
Our landlord, (like our previous landlord) apparently overextended himself in the boom days, and ran into trouble. He probably hasn't made a mortgage payment in a year and the building is on the the sherriff's auction block. Janett, while saddened, is accepting, suggesting that this is God's way of helping us cut our rental expense before we start relying on social security for most of our income in January.
We'd like to rent a two bedroom for under $900 per month. That may sound unrealistic but remember we live in Elgin where such things are possible. So far we've considered three options, having looked at 5 or six other options that were unsuitable due to lack of space, a ban on pets, or some other reason. The three options priced out at roughly $700, $800, and $900. I think yesterday we eliminated the middle option, an apartment in a four flat, nice building, nice neighborhood, nice landlord, but not overly spacious, priced a little below market due to the time of year. Janett had an anxiety attack while looking at the apartment which suggests she felt a little crowded.
The upper rent place is right around the corner from our current address, newly renovated, not quite as commodious as our place here, but on the first floor. We sent the landlord an application and expect to hear back any day now.
We're not hounding him because we haven't yet been able to arrange a visit to the third and lowest priced option, the second floor of an older home on the other side of the river. The building appears well kept, but is not as large as the more expensive unit. We've driven by a couple times and Janett says she likes the neighborhood well enough, and has a good feeling about it. The realtor says the former tenant has not turned in the keys, and she's arranging for a locksmith to come out and change the locks so she can show the place. I told her we had another application pending and would appreciate her calling to let us know as soon as the unit is available for viewing, which she said she would do.
I think we'd be happy enough with the premises around the corner, and it would be less expensive than our current residence since here we pay all utilities, and there would pay only for electricity, but it would be nice to feel sure we'd made the best choice. I guess we're a little nervous and unsettled, but not really stressed out yet over the search. One small concern is that the utilities here might soon be shut off since the landlord has stopped asking us for our payments and presumably has stopped paying the bills.:o(
We hope a few close friends and relatives will be feeling the need on Nov 1 to work off the snickers bars, and I suspect they would vote that we move to the first floor around the corner.

PS. The around the corner rental features a little room across the hallway from our front door, which would serve nicely as a home office should we want to spend an extra 50 or 60 dollars per month. Hmmmm?

Monday, October 18, 2010


Larry Lives. I went to IMDB and pulled up the Banger Sisters and found the screen credits, including "Man in bar", Larry Trask. I pulled up pictures, and they sure looked like our Larry, though a touch buffer, and credits were listed for this Larry as recently as last year. The earliest credits date back to the approximate time of Larry's move to the west coast. Unfortunately, no bio information on Larry Trask was offered.

So, either Larry Trask is our Larry and is still alive and getting by in Hollywood, or Larry Trask just looks like our Larry, who died in a car crash. Or neither. If I had subscribed to IMDB Pro I could have contacted Larry's agent and maybe requested biographical notes, but I didn't.

Maybe someone else who Googles Larry Trask will see this post, and perhaps have more information to share. Until then, let's go with the alive and getting by theory.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

R Bar

is the one establishment I've had experience with (under 3 different names) over 2 (2 1/2?) decades. It came up in conversation today because Janett ran into an old friend and former owner at Target and he said he was reaquiring the bar and asked her to let any of the former clientele she ran into know the old management would be returning. His name is Stan, and he was the fourth owner in our experience there. He sold the bar 4 years ago to Ernie, the week-end disco guy, and we haven't been there since. Ernie's purchase of the bar was a small, but not insignificant, part of our detachment.

In the year and a half prior to his acquisition Ernie would DJ at the bar on week-ends, I wasn't sure why they needed a DJ since they had a pretty good juke box. Maybe because guys like to visit bars where girls hang out and girls like to dance and the girls couldn't dance to the music I'd play on the jukebox, so maybe it was all my fault.

But Janett missed the juke box music, too. And she would request Ernie play some of her favorites and was always disappointed. She had accepted that his hoochie mama dance retinue didn't include songs like John Deere Green or David Allen Coe classics like the Rodeo Song or You Never Even Called Me by my Name, but it didn't seem right not to be able to hear the Rolling Stones reminisce about The Girl with Faraway Eyes or Wild Horses. So I'd have to go over to Ernie a couple times a night and remind him he'd told Janett he was going to play some such song. We kind of got on each other's nerves.

When Ernie took over we assumed he'd like to attract a younger, maybe a more hispanic crowd, not native to West Dundee, but drawn from near-by towns, and we and a lot of the old patrons probably would not be missed. Also about that time we'd moved from Dundee to Elgin. We'd lived a short block from the bar in West Dundee and that contributed to our identification with the place. And about that time Janett's closest friend and partying partner, the wife of my good friend, became very ill and subsequently passed away. Then they made it illegal to smoke on the premises. So for a lot of reasons the bar lost our patronage, and we missed it less than we might have expected.

I've observed that the crowd frequenting a bar seems to turn over every five or so years, so in our 20 plus years I guess we'd gone through three or four generations, and I'd survived the shifts in pretty girls and young scrappers pretty much with my grand old man status in fact. I'd even given up the pool table for the Golden Tee Game. But even without the advent of the Ernie years, maybe I was beginning to feel like it wasn't really my place any more.

Still, we'll probably call a few friends and go back to congratulate Stan, and to lift a glass to Larry and Celia, the spirited 30 somethings who owned the bar. then the Scot's Inn, when we'd first dropped by. They sold the bar and moved west because Larry wanted to be an actor, and legend has it, Larry even got a part in a movie, The Banger Sisters, I think. The legend goes on that they were killed in a car wreck not long after. The movies credits identified Larry as "Man in bar" Fair enough.

PS I think Rule 1 in Stan's "How to Run a Bar" book would be to hire really pretty bartenders, so if you like really pretty bartenders drop in and see.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Randall Road

A drive on Randall Road in the northwest suburbs of Chicago leaves me with a feeling of incredulity. From Lake in the Hills to Crystal Lake, a stretch of more than five miles, shopping centers and strip malls line the six lane highway. On the same road, further south there's another similar stretch from St Charles to Aurora, as well as a shorter strip in Elgin and South Elgin, in between the two longer stretches. I haven't done the numbers, but I feel there must be a thousand retailers in shiny new stores(most built in last eight years), and hundreds of dining places. Fast food chain outlets dot this twenty mile drive and a $10+ entree restaurants are commonplace. Maybe the thousand is an overestimate, but is not hyperbole.

Commercial real estate developers and mall management companies are suspected of being in financial difficulty, but with a couple of percent interest rates, they've mostly survived so far. Again an undocumented estimate, but I don't think I observe a vacancy rate of 10% along the entire stretch.

My question is how is this retail expansion supported in a declining economy? 20% comes to mind. The top 20% of income level families are the target market, and Randall Road runs through communities featuring this demographic. (roughly household incomes over $92,000, I would guess the top 10% to have income in excess of $135,000)
It might also be observed that the current economic downturn has adversely impacted a lot more mid-level wage earners that it has the higher earning segment.

The corollary to this thesis is"What about the other 80%? I have not thought these numbers through, but in another post re Malaysia I referred to superfluous workers. My concern is that 50% of the American population (guessing at household incomes less than $45,000) are not only superfluous workers but marginalized consumers as well.

PS Thank goodness for Aldi's

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Genoa City

Driving home from a wedding in Lake Geneva at 2 AM last night, I was trailed for a few miles on Rte 12 and eventually pulled over by a Genoa City WI policeman. Dating back to the time a younger drinking age was in force in Wisconsin than Illinois tales abound of unfortunate traffic stops in this area. I'd had a few drinks, but I've been stopped in a lot worse stages of impairment, and never even been asked to perform a road sobriety test, so I wouldn't have been very nervous except I'd left home without my wallet. A back up squad car arrived as the officer approached my window. The policeman said he'd stopped us for a faulty brake light, and asked for my license, which I explained I'd left at home. He took my name and Janett's driver's license and went back to his car to run a check. He eventually returned and asked if I knew my license was expired. I told him no, but that my birthday was 3 days ago, so it was possible. He was being pretty low key about it, so I still wasn't getting very nervous. It was a relief, though, when he said that he and the other officer would be leaving and no tickets would be issued, and it would be left to my judgement whether to continue on the road. I said thanks, adding that I would like to get home, and he repeated that was up to me. So we drove on home.

I could have been charged on several counts, including the brake light thingy, and could have been subjected to the sobriety test, which might have been disagreeable (though I do occasionally practice reciting the alphabet backwards). Without a license to surrender for bond we would have had to go into town and I probably would have been in the lock-up for a few hours til Janett could recover enough to drive to an ATM for my bail, all in all a real nightmare. So I was grateful for the young man's discretion and forbearance.

This morning I googled "Genoa City WI police" to see if there were comments indicating if others had the same kind of positive experience that I'd had or whether I was particularly fortunate. I found links to several blogs and facebook pages of surprisingly attractive 20-somethings. And they mostly recounted traumatic life stories involving bad romantic choices and mysterious deaths. What had I stumbled across? Was Genoa City the 21st century Spoon River? Unfortunately, no. I eventually linked to a site that identified Genoa City as the fictional setting for a soap opera named the "Young and Restless", and the blogs and facebook pages are apparently for the benefit of aficionados of the series. Mixed emotions again since for a moment I'd felt like maybe a visit to the lock-up in the small Wisconsin town could have been very interesting.