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Thoughts From A Taxi in Chicago

Note: This marks my first handheld posting to my weblog. So far so good...until I hit the 255-character limit on the Blackberry's web browser! DAMN!!

So, upon arriving here in Chicago for a three-day work-related diversion before a big honest-to-God vacation in Vegas, I've come upon a few interesting (or not) thoughts:

(1) I think Alaska Airlines has it in for me when I change seats upon check-in. Every time I've done so, I've wound up next to children, large smelly men, or (today's joy) both. I resolve to accept my preset seat assignment from this day forward (barring free upgrades to first class, of course.

(2) People have an overwhelming sense of entitlement when they're at the airport. I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who watches Airline on A&E, but I got to witness it firsthand today in Seattle. Apparently there were some mechanical problems with a flight to LA, that was resulting in interminable delays - so much that they were making announcements about gate changes, alternate flights, and status updates nearly every 10 minutes. You could hear to complaining, whining, and occasional angry remark, mostly directed not at the airplance (how DARE it break down), but at the people who were in the least position to do anything about it - the service folk behind the counter. There's a reason I couldn't do that job...

(3) Apparently, to the cab dispatchers here in Chicago, not only am I a "Mrs.", but Alaska is only available via international flights:

Dispatcher: "What airline did you arrive on?"
Me: "Alaska."
Dispatcher: "International or domestic?"
Me: "Domestic"
Dispatcher: "Um, ma'am, I think it would be an international flight if you came here from Alaska."

Ugh...the stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me.

How did I live without...

Today's installment of "How did I live without..." is all about DVR. I'd always been skeptical of just how much good a DVR is, even after many of my friends picked up their TiVos. But I still just couldn't justify the cost of one - the initial purchase plus the subscription fee was just too much for me, at least in one single bite.

Then I found out last week that Comcast has launched their dual-tuner, HDTV-compatible DVR in my local area. So I got some more info on it, and they were offering it for what I thought was a reasonable price ($9.95/month, when the HDTV tuner alone would have cost $4.95/month). I picked it up on Thursday of last week, and absolutely LOVE it! It's pretty handy to have digital-quality recordings of all my favorite shows.

But I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have an HDTV television - the broadcast quality of the non-digital channels appears significantly worse through this tuner than it did straight from the cable or through the non-HD tuner downstairs. Maybe it's just the 65" TV that's showing off every little flaw, but I've cautioned my friends against it unless they've got an HDTV.


So...last week I cleaned out the drain in our upstairs bathroom. And by cleaned, I mean "dredged". Pulled out all the hair and goop that had been building up since August. Then on Saturday, a strange smell started to appear. It was faint at first, but got stronger slowly, eventually seeping into the master bedroom. We couldn't figure out where it was coming from, but slowly and methodically tracked it down to the shower drain on Sunday afternoon.

Keep in mind that there are four drains in that bathroom, not counting the toilet: shower, bathtub, and two sinks. So, one would assume that a smell from one of the drains might be evidenced in all. However, that would be a very faulty assumption. Over the course of the week, we tried all sorts of things to get rid of the smell - heavy-duty pipe cleaners, hair solvents, a pipe snake, and more pipe cleaners (not mixing different kinds of cleaners, of course). Nothing seemed to make the smell go away, and in fact after using the pipe snake, the smell seemed worse than before.

So yesterday afternoon, we finally gave in and called a plumber, who asked a few questions before telling us that there's a 98% probability that the smell we're encountering is caused by something that crawled under the shower and died there.


So now we are just supposed to wait until it goes away. In a week or so.

Double Ugh.

Moving Sucks...

'nuff said. At least we're a week ahead of schedule - I guess that counts for something, but I'm tired of boxes.

Mack The Knife -> Threepenny Opera -> Beggar's Opera

One of my favorite classic lounge songs of all time has got to be "Mack The Knife" by Bobby Darin, (though Robbie Williams does a great version on Swing When You're Winning). Many, many have recorded versions of this song, but even Frank Sinatra described Bobby's version as "definitive" -- and that's saying a lot coming from Ol' Blue Eyes himself!

However, I must admit to a large deal of ignorance around the history of the song - where it came from, who MacHeath is, etc. So this morning I finally decide that I'm going to do some research on it, after hearing it on my new iPod here at work. Come to find out it's actually got some interesting roots to it.

MacHeath refers to the lead character in Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, written and composed in 1928. "Mack The Knife" is a loose rendition of the opening song of this play, "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" - as adapted by none other than Louis Armstrong himself.

But it doesn't stop there...The Threepenny Opera is itself based upon a 1728 operatic satire, The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay. It is believed that this opera played a large part in opening the way for those masters of operatic satire, Gilbert & Sullivan.

So, next time you watch The Simpsons and see Sideshow Bob singing the entire score from The H.M.S. Pinafore, you can make the link to 50s lounge music.

Two Decisions, One Newsworthy?

Yesterday, two landmark court decisions were entered in two different Federal Courts, on either side of the country.

In the first, the President was found to not have the inherent power to declare a single US Citizen an "enemy combatant" and indefinitely detain him in military facilities.

In the other, over 600 foreign nationals were found to have the right to habeas corpus petitions (petitions for release from incarceration), seen in most circles as one of the fundamental rights that all are entitled to.

Which one made the news here in the US?

The first - the case of Jose Padilla (now known as Ibrahim), was the one reported in every major news organization. CNN, can find the story anywhere.

Now look for the other, the Guantanamo case involving the Afghanis and other foreign nationals being held offshore (and thus, according to the President, not able to assert the same rights they would have on US soil). Nearly nowhere in the US media that I can find, but it's all over the international media. (Note: This morning MSNBC & Fox News did finally post an article on the Gitmo decision.)

What's even more ironic is that the 9th Circuit opinion comes not from a trial court (as does the 2nd Circuit opinion - originating from panel from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York), and thus actually has more "weight" as legal precedent.

Nothing more to say, really...the decision that had the biggest bite, and the strongest take on our uses of police power have been hidden (at best) from the people who probably don't care about it anyway. You get what you pay for, and you pay as you go.

SDNY Opinion in the Padilla case.

9th Circuit Decision in the Guantanamo case.

10-Year Reunion

Had my ten-year high school reunion last night. It was an incredibly surreal experience, as most of the people I talked to there agreed. While there were obviously people there that fell back into their high-school cliques, I was quite frankly amazed at the number of people who were friendly and talkative to anyone and everyone. I was so glad to see the insularity of high school has dissipated quite a bit over 10 years!

Honestly, when I decided to go (at the last minute for the discounted $75 rate!), I wasn't expecting a lot. In fact, I kinda figured I would spend an hour or two there, then head back to my hotel and fall asleep. Well, that didn't happen!! I actually wound up closing down not only the reunion, but also closed down a local bar (with people I never received a passing glance from in HS), and then sat at Shari's with some people that didn't go to the actual reunion.

So, for those of you who might be facing this soon - I'd say go for it. If you don't go, you never know what you might miss. And if you do go, you'll reconnect with someone, that much I can promise.


View image

This is a picture of the Woodland Park Zoo's new jaguar. Trust me - it's rather cool.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy...

Ack...been awhile since I updated this thing. Probably because Star Wars Galaxies has taken up pretty much all of my free time. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. Hell, I'm paying for it, so I better get my money's worth out of it, huh?

I've really fallen behind in my movie habits lately too. Used to be there were very few movies out that I hadn't seen within a day or two of them opening. Now, the last movie I saw was The Hulk...and what a fine *cough* movie that was.

Anyway, nothing much to talk about really. Sorry.

First Amendment Article

The Chronicle: 6/13/2003: The Free-Speech Follies's astonishing to read an article wherein the author actually understands the First Amendment, and discusses its protections (or lack thereof) in such a compelling fashion. Don't miss this one.