Archive for July, 2008

Twelve Temperate Men (and Women)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Jury Duty.

As I took my seat in the courtroom, I saw “F– the police” scratched into the wooden bench.  That’s the kind of classy crowd you’ll find at 26th and California, Cook County’s main criminal courthouse.  I was hoping I’d spend the day in the waiting room watching The Price Is Right (Drew Carey, now?) but in hindsight I’m glad my number got called.  Serving on a jury is quite an experience.  As one of our alternate jurors put it, “It’s really fascinating and really boring at the same time.”  But she didn’t even get to deliberate, so who cares what she has to say?

The trial itself was pretty interesting, if fairly straight forward.  Our deliberation took all of 5 minutes — one vote and we all agreed on both charges.  The lawyers were all equally mediocre.  We felt like they were trying too hard to play lawyer tricks on us, all of which failed miserably.  Law & Order it was not.

During the substantial downtime we chatted about the books we were reading.  One older gentleman had the autobiography of wrestling superstar, Chyna.  “It’s a great book.  I’ve read it four times, and she signed it!  You know she used to do the Jane Fonda workout twice every day?”  When it was over we all went our separate ways with certificates of jury service and checks for $17.20.

Don’t Let The Fame Go To Your Hedge Funds

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

There are film writers who can do a better job reviewing The Dark Knight than I — here’s a good one — but, like everyone else, I sure dug it. As advertised, Heath Ledger steals the show, but I was even more impressed with the performance of our fair city. Chicago wore very little makeup in its portrayal of Gotham, and the city looks gorgeous. I was particularly excited when Batman threw the Joker into a limestone wall that I’m pretty sure was my bank. My bank! A big movie star! I can say I withdrew from it way back when.

I suspect The Dark Knight will join The Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as one of the all-time best Chicago movies. High Fidelity did pretty good too. Oh, and Stranger Than Fiction. And don’t even get me started on John Hughes. What are your favorites?

Bubbie and Zadie Kvelling Over A Spiel

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Months ago, when I got back from building a bridge in Guatemala, my grandmother asked me if I would come to her chavurah and talk about the trip. A chavurah is an extra-curricular activity group for Jews. Loosely translated from the Aramaic it means, “Is this mandel bread parve?” My grandparents have been getting together with their chavurah for years. I’ve known several of them since I was a kid.

I, of course, agreed to be a speaker — can’t say no to grandma — and we set a date. Then I got a phone call telling me I had been bumped for another speaker.They must have gotten Henry Kissinger or Bono or something. We set another date and I got bumped again. Finally, last night, they settled for me. Now I know how Abe Vigoda feels when he gets that last-minute call to fill in for canceled guests on Conan.

I arrived to a multi-tiered, 20-minute argument/discussion on how to buzz into my grandparents’ apartment. Did you push pound? — I pushed three — Wait, did you dial the number? — No, I scrolled through the names? — And then pushed seven? — Someone with a dog opened the door for me — I need to call you? — Someone called — Do I need a cell phone? — Yes, then you push nine.

Eventually everyone made it inside. I gave my spiel, showed some slides, and it went over very well. I had a really great time. They even made a donation to EWB and gave me some chocolate babka, so all in all a pretty nice day.

When Abe Froman’s Hands Are Wet…

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I love the Xlerator. It’s so choice. If you have the means I highly recommend picking one up.

If You Need Someone To Inflate An Alligator Until It Explodes, I’m Your Guy

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Our family has a Betamax video taken at a public swimming pool on a beautiful summer day.  Everyone is outside swimming and having a good time, but my brother Aric and I are notably absent. Later, two pale tweens stumble onto the bright patio, squinting at the bright sun. We were in the game room for who knows how many hours. Aric was probably playing Zaxxon, which he could do indefinitely on a single quarter. I was probably watching him, Tempest having relieved me of all my change long ago.

I was in the lower-middle class of video gamers — nothing to get excited about. I could maybe get to level 4. Last weekend, however, I found myself at an arcade filled with classic games and I owned Dig Dug like I never have before. It was beautiful.

And while I’m on the subject, didn’t old games have the best plot lines? So there’s this guy, “Dig Dug,” and he has to dig holes because there are tomatoes wearing goggles and fire-breathing alligators he has to exterminate by inflating them with a bicycle pump. Kids will love it!

Tiptoe Down The Aisle

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Ah, weddings. Sometimes they’re a chore and sometimes they’re so ridiculously fun that you don’t want them to end. Last weekend was the latter. Apparently my camera was having a good time too as it decided to throw in some peculiar (but festive) blurring and coloring.

I played guitar and ukulele during the ceremony. I’ve played at weddings before and it makes me nervous — I worry I’m going to ruin the whole wedding and, subsequently, the couple’s lives. My brother Aric, who has played piano at his share of weddings, put things in perspective: “Don’t worry, no one is listening to you.”

The bride, Renee, was also a little jittery before the ceremony.

Renee: I’m nervous.
Me: Why? You picked a great guy!
Renee: Pfft. I’m not nervous about Nick. I know I got the right guy. It’s everyone else.

She was worried about the ceremony and the weather and making sure everyone had a good time. Thankfully, the ceremony and the weather and (if I say so myself) the ukulele all went off without a hitch. Congrats, Nick and Renee!

Who Knows What Mysteries Lurk In The Deep

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Outside Jellyvision on Kingsbury Street is a giant puddle — it’s practically a lake — and it is always there. The puddle amazingly resists water’s fundamental properties of evaporation and sublimation. In the winter it freezes, in the spring it swells, in the summer it smells, and in the fall, well, it still smells. Above, Steve-o sums up our general opinion of the giant puddle.

After several years, the city finally came and unclogged the sewer beneath the lakepuddle. Just as the ocean’s receding tide deposits treasures on the beach, the falling waters of our puddle revealed a cornucopia of heretofore hidden wonders. For example, these underpants.

There’s A Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

If you live in Chicago you have to weather the weather, as it were.  I actually appreciate the variety.  Blizzards, thunderstorms, sweltering days and freezing nights are all par for the course.  Then again, sometimes you go out on your porch and there’s a rainbow.  Take it, Dean!

And Now I Only Use My Computer At 2AM

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Months ago I signed up for ComEd’s Residential Real-Time Pricing Program and promptly forgot about it. Then, a few weeks ago I noticed that ComEd somehow managed to install a new digital electric meter in my basement. I have no idea how they got in the building. They must have sent a ninja.

I’m cooler than my neighbors!

A few days later I got an e-mail informing me that I was officially in the real-time pricing program.

Electric companies generally charge people a fixed rate for how much electricity they use. I think it’s currently ¢8.67/kilowatt hour. You get charged that rate at 2 in the morning and at 2 in the afternoon, but the actual cost of electricity changes over the course of a day.

Our power infrastructure must be built to support peak power consumption.  This usually occurs in the middle of the day during the summer when everyone is running air conditioners and office buildings are chugging away.  The more power we consume at this time, the more power plants we need.  During the rest of the day, however, we only use a fraction of our power-generating capacity.

Imagine you share a hot water heater with 100 other people.  If everyone goes to take a shower at the same time, you’d need a huu-u-uge hot water heater to give everyone a warm shower.  If the showers were staggered throughout the day, however, you could get by with one that’s reasonably sized.

The Real-Time Pricing Program uses good old capitalism to encourage people to stagger their showers, figuratively speaking (unless you have an electric hot water heater — then it’s literal.)  Instead of being charged a flat rate for power, the price changes during the day.  It’s cheapest in the early morning and most expensive in the afternoon.  This encourages people to do laundry, wash dishes, and other high-powered tasks at night when electricity is cheaper.  We get lower electric bills and ComEd doesn’t get stressed out that The Grid is overtaxed.  Also, everyone gets popsicles.

The Center For Neighborhood Technology really takes advantage of real-time pricing by freezing ice-balls every night and then using them to cool the building during the day.

How prices fluctuated yesterday

Do You Smell What Barack Is Cookin’?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has an amazing resemblance to Barack “Not The Rock” Obama in both voice and appearance.

I like mayonnaise

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Why is it that people who don’t like mayonnaise feel compelled to mention that they don’t like mayonnaise whenever they see someone eating mayonnaise?