I spend the day with my sister

June 23, 2010

It has been a little over a year since I married my sister (to her husband), and for their anniversary, my brother-in-law bought my sister a membership for the zoo. My sister works nights, and my brother in law works days, so a lot of times my sister is sleeping until 10 or 11 am, and often times an hour or two walk around the nearby zoo is a good way to spend part of a day. Those who know her know that she loves animals of all kinds.

So, I took advantage of an invitation to join her on a day off and revisit the scene of last year’s wedding. It was a delightful day (a little humid and overcast, but even I could tolerate it). We got to see the zoo’s new bear exhibit which was very cool (a large partially-underwater window on the polar bear pool was really neat). We got to pet some stingrays, and then feed them (very cool). Overall, I waxed rhapsodic about how the zoo has changed over the last 30+ years since I started going there. I have often thought that after I retire, I would like to volunteer at someplace like the zoo or one of Chicago’s other great museums. It reminds me how lucky I am to live around these places. Rather than take a traveling vacation like lat year (enough travel to last a little while), I might just take a few days and go live downtown and take advantage of the museums …. I still have never gotten to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, and very much want to get there soon.


France go Bragh!

June 22, 2010

The United States over the last few decades has managed to piss off a lot of nations. The only nation even in the same league of the US in this regard is France. I mean, deGaulle once managed to piss off the CANADIANS!! Short of calling for Quebec’s independence or blowing up the solar system, it takes special skill to piss off Canadians.

On the other hand, it takes little to piss off the Irish …. being of Irish descent, I am aware of this. The French managed to do this when some football referee, blocked from seeing some Frenchman carry a football and throw it in the goal, allowed some handball that let France go to the World Cup and kept the Irish home.

The end result:

Everyone loves the Irish (except the English). Always the life of the party.

The French just completely screwed le pooch (as they say in France). Their coach, who apparently designs lineups around astrological predictions pissed off his team, they acted pretty typical of urban French going on strike every time something “bad” happens, and managed to not win one single game.

To the rescue, that venerable American institution: Pizza Hut!


Apparently the Irish Pizza Huts are going to have to pay out big, as they pay off their offer of free pizzas for every goal scored against Le Frogs. that total was 4 goals in three games (vs. only one goal scored in three games).

The Irish have something to wash down the beer. The French go home in shame.

The world continues to spin, and life goes on.

Title IX’s revenge: is cheerleading a sport?

June 22, 2010

Back in the dark ages, young boys could play football and basketball and baseball and run track. Women, too slow for things like science club and too fragile and prone to hysterics for things like sports were permitted to dress in floor length gowns and tight sweaters in the only activity they were often permitted to do: cheerleading. Boys and men got sweaty and beat each other senseless, girls and women wore tight sweaters and increasingly went from yelling to jumping up and down … earning the right to date the boys who survived the gladiatorial contests. This was the 1950s, and everyone excepted enlightened folks were happy.

Finally, the 1970s rolled in, and federal Title IX was put in action: if you have sports for boys, an equal number of opportunities for girls must be allowed. It started with volleyball (girls in tight shorts, jumping around … kind of like cheerleading while spiking a ball at 300 miles an hour) and bowling (not too strenuous) and track (the girls were running and jumping so it was like cheerleading) and of course soccer (because to football and basketball players, that was about as girly a sport as there was). To this day, Title IX allows girls to wrestle on boys high school teams if there is no equivalent activity …. every so often a girl will show up playing baseball or football in the absence of the same team for them. Back in the 70’s, there was a brief period of time when it was reciprocal: boys were allowed to participate on a girls team if there was no equivalent: one of the first teams to win the Illinois High School State Bowling championship for girls only had one female member of the team (the rest being boys). The state board very quickly banned boys from playing for girls teams at all no matter the circumstance.

Of course, equality can be reached by adding girls sports, but also by cutting boys sports. At high schools and colleges across the country sports like cross country and wrestling and swimming and diving were cut for boys and men. This was an outrage that men were having to pay a price for the centuries of mistreatment of women.

Lawsuits entailed, Title IX was upheld. Eventually a new medium was reached …. sometimes there were more sports for women, sometimes more for boys, but if push came to shove, Title IX could push things back toward equality.

And then the day came that Title IX came back to bite the hand of those it protected …

Enter Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. In dark economic times, the school had to cut some sports teams … it cut two mens teams and one womens team: volleyball. The problem: the school opted to keep its cheerleading team.

The volleyballers charged that while cheerleading is physically demanding and requires skills, it is simply not a sport, and that the athletic department is violating Title IX in choosing to eliminate a womens sports team while keeping a squad that is not a sports team. The school of course countered by saying that cheerleading is in fact a sport, and they weren’t violating anything. The ACLU is siding with the volleyball team and is pressing the lawsuit. It will be in the hands of a judge to now answer what has been a question for a long time: is cheerleading a sport?. If it is, there could be a repeat of what happened in the 1970s to mens programs, with more expensive womens sports programs being cut to make way for cheaper cheerleading programs. If it doesn’t, could this mean the end for cheerleading in its common form at some schools as it is dropped to make room for womens sports.

Socialism at work?

June 21, 2010


Business Week magazine just published a list of the number of millionaires by country. No shocker that the US still outpaces any other nation (Japan was #2, and China has vaulted to #3), but there was something about the distribution of wealth that I found interesting. In addition to listing the number of millionaires, the list also included what percent of the nation’s wealth is held by those millionaires. That was astounding:

1. Hong Kong (73%)
2. USA (56%)
3. People’s Republic of China (50%)
4. Switzerland (44%)
5. Republic of China (37%)
6. Italy (27%)
7. UK (23%)
8. Germany (22%)
9. Japan (21%)
10. France (19%)

What I am not surprised about: the nanny states of continental Europe have likely driven away a lot of the rich and their assets, allowing the wealthy to control little of the country. The good news is that the wealthy control less, the bad news is that you have to wonder what percent of the wealth marched over the border with them? The noted exception is Switzerland and its creative banking laws.

What shocked me: Despite claims of communism and socialism spreading the wealth, it appears that there is something to the Orwellian precept about communism making everyone equal, just some more equal than others. Hong Kong, under its special arrangement is not unbelievable, but that China has emerged this way is remarkable. It seems that China is almost as capitalistic as the US, and that Taiwan is more socialist than the mainland (at least as far as one limited indicator could assess).

Of course, one wonders how long it will be before the Beijing government steps in and starts collecting on that … I suppose as long as their economy grows, the rich are safe.

I hope the engineers didn’t do this …

June 21, 2010


The recent trend in the deterioration of politics in the United States is seen in two candidates who won their recent Democratic primaries.

One is apparently easy to understand. Alvin Greene won the Democratic primary for the US Senate seat in South Carolina. Given that he has spent less than $12,000 on his campaign, doesn’t have much of a platform, and that he has no political background, and that there is an apparent odor that Mr. Greene is one in a long line of African-American candidates who are financed by the local GOP to scare the local white population into voting Republican. That is currently being investigated, but apparently this fits a long standing piece of South Carolina politics.

Kesha Rogers is a little different.

Rogers won the Democratic primary to represent the 22nd Congressional district in Texas. This was no small win: she carried 53% of the vote in a three candidate race, one of whom was a systems analyst who got the full support of the Democratic Party. This district includes the Johnson Space Center and a number of aerospace companies, and of course their employees who are concerned about recent cuts in the space program. Not surprising, Rogers had as a major plank in her campaign support for colonization of Mars. Unlike Greene who spent virtually no money and made no appearances, Rogers ran a high profile campaign, working the streets and pressing the flesh.

That was not her only plank.

Her other major plank is a call for the impeachment of Barrack Obama as a “mouthpiece of London and Wall Street”. No, she is definitively not a plant by the Tea Party or GOP ….. she is however a member in good standing with the Lyndon LaRouche Youth Movement, which among other things seeks a rollback to the economic policies of FDR and the re-establishment of an education system based strictly on classical education.

Nedless to say, the National and Texas Democratic parties have put this candidate at an arms length, and have refused support of all kinds.

This is hardly the first time a LaRouche supporter threw a wrench into an election. In 1982, Adlai Stevenson III lost a very narrow election for governor (less than 0.2%) to incumbent Jim Thompson. When Stevenson ran again in 1986 there was a sense he would win this time … the only problem was that while he won the Democratic primary for governor, the winners of the Democratic primaries for Lieutenant governor and Secretary of State were both Lyndon LaRouche supporters. Stevenson immediately renounced his candidacy and formed a new party and ran his own slate of candidates (all supported by the Illinois and National Democratic Party). As you can guess, the third party did not work, and Thompson won again. However, in all fairness, in 1986, word that the two candidates were LaRouche supporters did not come out until after the primaries.

In the case of the Texas race, Rogers’ connections to LaRouche were all over the local media.

The article seems to imply that the local engineering community had a hand in this woman winning the election. I do hope this is not the case.

A mission from God …

June 19, 2010

2010 marks the anniversary of John Landis’ epic blus musical, The Blues Brothers. It is a seminal work of Chicago cinema about brothers Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues on a mission to re-assemble their Blues band to put on a concert to raise money to save their orphanage.

Along the way they get into tussles with a Country-Western band, the Illinois Nazi party, Princess Leia, and the Illinois State Police, leading to some of the most ridiculous, gratuitous car chase scenes in the history of filmmaking.

This past week, L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican dedicated a full page to the film, and pronounced it a film in good standing with the Church. So while watching tripe like Titanic may not be sinful, but certainly in bad taste, watching The Blues Brothers can now qualify as watching a religious film along the lines of The Ten Commandments or The Greatest Story Ever Told.

So, the next time I go to confession, I might be asked to say 10 Hail Marys and watch The Blues Brothers twice. I can live with this as penance.

Somewhere, John Belushi is spinning in his grave.

Follow up to “Commit to the Indian …”

June 16, 2010

Apparently, someone at the Chicago Tribune had the same thoughts I did …

Bears, Bulls, White Sox, and Blackhawks celebrate ... but not everyone is celebrating.