Friday, September 29, 2006

How are you?



Doing well, thanks.

Maybe you get a “great” once in a while.
“I’m actually kinda constipated today, Bob, but thanks for asking.”

That’s what I’d like to hear.

Let’s inject a little honesty into our benign daily pleasantries.

It would certainly make things more interesting.
How am I?

Mildly irritated right now.

Mostly because I’m in a meeting that holds very little value to me.

Plus, there was a guy sitting thisclose to me up until about 10 minutes ago who always makes a point to stare at my laptop screen, making it very difficult for me to surf the Internet or write this blog or work on other Very Important Stuff.

My stomach’s a little grumbly right now because I had a handful of peanuts for lunch yesterday and three Michelob Ultras for dinner last night.

And I had to drive into the city today, which always makes me surly.
Did you really wanna know that? Would it have been better if I’d said “I’m fine”?

So how are you today, really?
I am listening to: Bi-weekly sales meeting
I am reading: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
And I am: Mildly irritated

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The pedestrian incident

It happened again yesterday. Another suicide.

A woman this time. Near the LaGrange train stop.

I don’t know why I glanced over my shoulder out the window as the train passed where it happened earlier in the morning.

Two men were lifting up what was left of her body in a blue tarp. There was another tarp covering more remains about five feet away.

I hate those tarps.

It’s the third time this year I’ve seen them.
“This train is running approximately 30 minutes late due to a pedestrian incident. We apologize for the delay.”
I used to complain about those inconsiderate folks who insisted on interrupting our lives in the process of ending theirs.

But I can still hear the sickening sound it makes when someone jumps in front of your train – like a wet tree branch against the car.

I don’t complain any more.
Illinois leads the country in fatalities at railroad crossings.

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times published back in June, there have been 13 apparent suicides statewide, compared with 18 in 2005 and 11 in 2004.

Here’s more:

“Rail safety experts note that Illinois also has more railroad track than any other state besides Texas, making exposure to train traffic more common. Chicago in particular is the busiest rail gateway in the United States, accounting for one-third of the nation's freight rail traffic. About 1,200 trains pass through the region each day.”
I guess people in states with fewer trains have to figure out other ways to kill themselves.

And for us folks in Illinois, these incidents are indeed pedestrian.
I am listening to: KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
I am reading: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (fabulous!)
And I am: Loving life

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


So what’s with the “I won’t share my fries” thing from a few blogs back, Hedy?

Ah, yes.

I’m not big on sharing food.

And not because of the Bad Case of Mono whose ill effects still plague me today.

I just don’t like sharing food.

I want to order something. And I want to eat it.

I don’t want to have anxiety over the fact that I might be taking more than my share. I don’t want to worry about double dipping, as I am wont to do.

And I don’t want to see a perfectly good chicken finger go cold because everyone at the table is too fucking polite to take the last one.

Hey, maybe I’m nuts, but I’m just saying what you’ve thought.
Jim says I have issues when it comes to food.

He’s right.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Hedy’s Food Rules

Does not like eating out of baskets lined with paper
Does not like eating out of divided cafeteria-style plates or trays
Does not like buffets
Does not like eating anything off of a bone (keep your snide comments to yourself please)
Does not like sharing food, especially desserts (see Dessert Corollaries)
Most of my main food rules are due to germs.

When I get something in a basket lined with paper I wonder when the basket was washed last.

Buffets have sneeze guards. The fact that they have sneeze guards gets me thinking about germs and consequently grosses me out completely. Plus, people are touching God knows what and then touching the serving spoons and ladles, which I have to touch to get the food on my plate. Ick.

What about Brazilian steakhouses? Gross. Gaucho guys sashaying around the room with their meat hanging out – walking through who knows how many sneezes and farts and whatever else might be hanging in the air. Double ick.

And don’t even get me started on tapas restaurants. Triple ickety ick ick ick.
Of course there are exceptions to these rules.

I am willing to share things that I do not like – pickles are a great example. I do not like pickles on my hamburger, so I am perfectly happy to part with the pickles on my plate.

My favorite place to eat in the whole world – The Bristol Tap – serves its world famous hamburgers in baskets lined with paper. I’m okay with that. I don’t know why.

Sushi is “clean” food and therefore not germy; I do not have an issue sharing it because there’s usually too much anyway.

Portillo’s ribs are the only food I will tolerate involving bones. Although I insist on eating them with a fork and knife. More on the bone-related issue later.

And two Sundays ago, I experienced what might be considered the Perfect Storm of Food Issues: A shared appetizer of chicken wings piled on a paper-lined tray. I didn’t give it one thought because we were having so much fun with our dear friends Steve and Judy at Yak-zies on Clark after a Cubs game.
What’s the deal with the divided plate thing? How is that germ related?

It’s not.

This is America and I don’t like being controlled.

Divided plates just scream “Segregation!” and “Communism!”

I want my food to be free to mix together as God and the Constitution intended.
“If Jesus was an appetizer, he’d be stuffed mushrooms.” - Andrew, at dinner Saturday night
Hedy’s Dessert Corollaries

Does not like desserts involving bread or rice
Fruit is not dessert, it’s fruit
Bread with fruit in it is not dessert, it’s bread with fruit in it
Desserts, whenever possible, should be chocolate
Cake, whenever possible, should be chocolate
Cake, whenever possible, should be accompanied by ice cream
Ice cream, whenever possible, should be chocolate
Popsicles are the poor man’s ice cream
Soft serve is not ice cream and should be avoided At All Costs except when involved with an Extra Extra Heath Blizzard from Dairy Queen
White chocolate is blasphemy
Chocolate mousse should be made from only dark chocolate
Pudding is a poor man’s mousse
All meals should have dessert, including breakfast
And it’s worth a reminder: Desserts Are Not To Be Shared
Now you might be thinking “Hedy, you are completely nuts.”

Sorta. But I like nuts. So it’s okay.

Except when they’re mixed nuts. I HATE mixed nuts. Add that to the list.

Mostly because the taste of the good nuts (cashews, peanuts) invariably gets mingled with the taste of the Evil Nuts (almonds, pecans.)

But also because it’s simply too much work trying to pick out the nuts I like.
Which reminds me: I don’t like eating things off of a bone for two reasons.

1) It’s too much work
2) I don’t like being reminded from whence the food came.

Maybe I am a little snooty when it comes to this, but the good lord invented forks and knives for a reason. So that I wouldn’t have to rip meat from a bone with my teeth. I like using a fork and knife. It keeps my hands clean (and that’s a topic for another day.)

Plus, bones are little reminders that what I’m eating was once an animal – something that was living and breathing and maybe even loved by someone for a while.

I like my food to look like food, not what it was before it came to the plate.

For these reasons, I do not like crab or lobster or any of those other ugly crustaceans. Of course it is highly unlikely that someone actually loved a lobster.

And now we’re back to the whole Hitler thing I have going with things that I perceive are ugly.

Nuts, eh?

While we’re back on nuts, I like pistachios.

But they’re too much work.
I am listening to: The soft slow noises of the train
I am reading: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
And I am: Completely nuts – but cashews, not almonds

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fighting global bullshit

Quick, read this:

“The Earth has been warming at a rate of 0.36 degree Fahrenheit per decade for the last 30 years, according to the research team led by James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.” – Today’s Chicago Tribune
Now without reading it again, how much has the Earth warmed over the past 30 years?

A) 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit
B) 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit
C) 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit
Be honest.

If you guessed the last one, you got it right.

Yep, the Earth has warmed a little more than one degree according to that article.

So why didn’t that journalist just say “The Earth has warmed 1.08 degrees over the past 30 years?”

Because it doesn’t sound nearly as scary.

And if you didn’t read it very carefully you might not even notice the “per decade” part.

Either way, 1.08 isn’t much over the course of 30 years. But there are ways to make it sound like way more than it is.
I’m not a journalist. But I’ve had the classes.

They teach you how numbers and statistics can be manipulated to create an impression.

They also teach you that it is dishonest.
What sounds longer: Three decades or 30 years?

It's all the same, but 30 always sounds like more than three, doesn't it?
But Heather, Global Warming is real!

Maybe it is.

I’ve read enough on it to believe that the Earth is in fact getting warmer, but who’s to say it’s because of us silly earthlings?

My point today is that journalists do not help matters.

Since we can no longer rely on the fourth estate to provide unbiased reportage, we have to work harder to get through the bullshit.

Because one thing is certain: The bullshit is getting deeper.

And I don't need statistics to tell me when something really, really stinks.
I am listening to: Traffic
I am reading: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
And I am: Still sick (can you believe it?)

Friday, September 22, 2006


I had mono in high school.

I wasn't making out with anyone at the time so the doctor said it was probably from sharing french fries in the cafeteria, as we were wont to do back then.

Today I wouldn't share fries with anyone -- not even you -- but that is a story for another day.

The point is, I was completely wiped out for six weeks. And crashed in bed for at least a week. My Mom could probably tell this story better since she was the one who waited on me hand and foot the whole time.

The doctor also said that any colds/flus I get later in life would wipe me out more than most because of the bad mono episode.
So here I am at home for the fourth day in a row, fighting this ugly illness that has left me achy, sleepy, stuffy, fevery and crabby, in that order exactly.

I like the fact that I can still get work done. I don't like being away from the office.

And I don't like the fact that my brain is turning to mush from all the medicine.
Here are random thoughts from the listless web surfing I've done today:

Madonna is a complete idiot:

"NBC programming officials are expected to ask Madonna's camp to cut the scene in which she's hung on a cross wearing a crown of thorns while singing 'Live to Tell.' Madonna's camp is expected to reject the change and then pull the show from NBC completely." On Friday, Madonna defended herself: "It is no different than a person wearing a cross. My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. It is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another," the 48-year-old pop diva said in a statement. "I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing." []

Right. Jesus would be up on a stage, singing bad pop tunes while hanging on a cross emblazened with thousands of lights.

Somehow I'm thinking he would find better ways to occupy his time.
Whah whah to the poor California pear growers who lost $10 million because they couldn't find any illegals to work for them.

“After a while, you get done being sad and start being really angry,” said Toni Scully, a lifelong Republican whose family owns a pear-packing operation in Lake County. “The Republicans have given us a lot of lip service, and our crops are hanging on the trees rotting.” [NY Times]

That's right. Let's blame the Republicans.

Your profits were based on a business model that relied on paying illegal immigrant laborers, but let's blame the government.

I am listening to: Nothing
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Mush

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In dog we trust

It was like a scene from Lassie.

“Gromit, what do you want? C’mon, tell me.”

He’d been standing next to the couch staring at me for 20 minutes while I worked on my laptop. Every once in a while he’d tap the cushion with his paw as if to say “Hey! I’m here!”

“C’mon, Grom,” I pleaded. “What’s up?”

Realizing he obviously needed something Very Important, I finally got up.

I followed him out of the living room and down the hall to the laundry room. He looked up at his leash and harness hanging on the hook, looked at me, and then I swear he smiled.

“Walkies? Is that what you want?”

So we went for walkies.

On a Wednesday morning when I should’ve been working.
That’s how it goes. He’s the dog. But he thinks he’s a god.

And in our world, sometimes I think he is, too.
This one’s entirely my fault.

I take a glass of water up to bed every night in case I get thirsty during the night.

One day while we were at work, Gromit climbed up and drank out of the glass sitting by the bed.

Now he gets a glass of water every night, too.

Sometimes I try to trick him with water leftover from the night before, but he won’t drink it.

He turns his head, sniffs, and waits for a fresh glass.
Lately I’ve noticed that if I have to yell at him for something, he yawns.

“Gromit, stop that!”


“Gromit, get over here.”


“Gromit, get down!”


I’m starting to take it personally.
I am listening to: Nothing
I am reading: Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel
And I am: Sick

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pope on the ropes

Let’s agree that some Muslims can be a teensy bit reactionary when it comes to public commentary on their religion.

And while ‘off-the-charts bat-shit insane’ is probably more accurate, I am concerned that HedyBlog might incite riots in Ankara, so I will refrain. Ahem.
So why do they have their undies in a bunch this time?

According to CNN, the pope quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who said: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
First of all, raise your hand if you’ve read the complete text of the Pope’s speech.

No? I didn’t think so. I hadn’t read it until about an hour ago.

And this is just a hunch, but I’m thinking that most of the Muslims burning Pope Benny in effigy haven’t read it, either.
The pope’s speech was about two of my favorites: faith and reason.

Here’s his central theme (taken directly from the text):

“Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?”

Is God reasonable? Or is that something that Christians, because of Greek influences, have assumed about God?
He’s brilliant. The pope is brilliant.

It’s an awesome question because it points to the fundamental differences between the Christian and Muslim faiths.

I could call Muslims bat-shit crazy for using violence to spread their faith. Or I could learn the differences between what Christians and Muslims perceive as their God’s will.

As westerners, we have a hard time understanding why certain Muslims use violence to spread their religion. Like recently, when those two kidnapped journalists were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint. Seemed rather silly, didn’t it?

But according to the pope’s speech, “for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.”

So it’s easier to understand why Muslims would convert people by whatever means necessary – including violence – because to their God it doesn’t matter how they get there as long as they get there.
It’s thinky shit, for sure. And I’m not doing it justice here.

Before I read the full speech, I thought the pope was an idiot for using that quote, knowing what could happen. I’m quite certain he knew.

But I get where the pope was going with his speech.

He was trying to open a dialog, trying to help us understand why Muslims do the things they do.
It was a courageous thing to do.

And he deserves credit for not apologizing for what he said.

He’s expressed regret that his words were misunderstood, but he hasn’t apologized yet.

I never thought I’d say this but: Yay, pope.
So does the pope answer his own question? Is God reasonable? Is faith bound by reason?

Yes, he answers it. And yes, as a Christian, he believes that God wants us to come to faith through reason and not violence.

But the pope wasn’t attacking Muslims so much as pointing out our need to understand them better. Here’s how he summarized his speech:

“In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions.

A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”
I am listening to: A Debussy Recital by Philippe Entremont
I am reading: Paint It Black by Janet Fitch
And I am: Getting sick

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

So avast me buckos: batten yer hatches and swab yer poop decks (when translated that isn’t nearly as offensive as it sounds.)

Check out the English-to-Pirate translator among other things at the official web site:
I am listening to: Another friggin' conference call
I am reading: Paint It Black by Janet Fitch
And I am: A scurvy wench

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Communist Towel Dispenser

The place where I work out is pretty nice. Lotsa machines. Not too crowded. And clean.

Really clean.

Everybody’s good about wiping down machines after using them – and the health club makes it easy to do that by strategically placing towel dispensers and spray disinfectant around the gym.

You wave your hand in front of the little red sensor on the front of the towel dispenser and voila, a towel rolls out. You get it good and wet with disinfectant. Then you give your machine a thorough wipe down so it doesn’t smell like sweaty ass for the next person.

It’s a good system.
But a few weeks ago I noticed the towel dispenser was being stingy with the amount of towel it gives out. It was exactly half of what we used to get.

So I made do with less towel by compensating with more disinfectant.

But the recumbent bike I like to ride every morning just didn’t feel as clean.
“We’re spending too much money on paper towels!” cried some bureaucratic bean counter hidden in an office piled with invoices in the bowels of the athletic center.

This is a man (why are accountants always paunchy old men?) who has never actually used the machines at the health club and has no concept of why the towels are necessary in the first place.

So the pudgy little bean counter orders some lackey to recalibrate the machines so they release less towel per wave.

Not so much.

Over the weekend I noticed several people double-waving. Like me, they don’t like making do with less, so they circumvent the tyranny of the towel dispenser by waving twice.

And waving at the machine twice actually gives them more towel than what was emitted during what shall be known as the Pre-Communist Era at my health club.

So instead of saving money, the new towel system is actually costing them more.

How do ya like that Mr. Smarty Pants Meany Bean?
People will always find a way to circumvent a system that attempts to save money by controlling human behavior.

At least here in the United States, anyway.

I’m thinking that if they actually had fancy shmancy automatic towel dispensers in Cuba, the people there would be happy with however little towel they received to wipe down whatever 1950’s style workout equipment they’re using.
A quicky iTunes browse on “free” in my library resulted in the following impossibly eclectic and ugly trio of songs:

Freek-a-Leek by Petey Pablo
Radio Free Europe by R.E.M.
Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
I wonder if those machines had always emitted the smaller towel would people still double wave?

Is the towel not enough because we were accustomed to having more? Or is a bigger piece of towel really necessary to clean the machines?
My dear friend Nelson says that in Tokyo you can buy beer from vending machines.

“Oh really? How do they keep minors from buying?” said Jim, always the thinky one when it comes to procuring alcoholic beverages.

“They just don’t,” said Nelson. “They would never think of doing that.”
Does freedom make us more likely to break the rules?


But I think it has more to do with having freedom and then losing it versus never having it at all.

So until the day when Freedom Reigns in every corner of my health club, I’m waving twice.

Give me liberty or give me towels! Or something like that.
I am listening to: Nothing good for sure
I am reading: Paint It Black by Janet Fitch (author of White Oleander)
And I am: Free

Friday, September 15, 2006

Good things

I am sipping cranberry juice waiting for the conference to begin.

Cranberry juice is a good thing.

For some reason I don’t think about drinking any juice, ever. But there’ve been carafes of it at the breakfast buffet here two days in a row.

It’s delicious. Cold and fresh and (apparently) very good for my kidneys.

Right now, my glass of cranberry juice is half full.
Speaking of glasses that are half full, tonight Jim and I are bartenders.

No, we’re not leaving the thrilling world of high tech marketing to open a neighborhood bar & grill.

We’re volunteering to pour beers at the 7th Annual DANK Oktoberfest in Elgin, Illinois.

It’s a blast. So much more fun than marketing.
More good things:

Watching thunderstorms roll in from the screened porch
A Mom who calls you Cupcake because “Who doesn’t love a cupcake?”
Napping next to Gromit with his soft ear flopped over my ankle
Reef flip-flops
Cutting the grass
Old friends who know everything about you and still love you
The Underground on Showtime
L’Occitane lavender soap
Neil Steinberg in today’s Chicago Sun-Times
A debit card for the parking lot so I no longer need quarters
A husband who tells you you’re pretty every day, not just when you’re PMS’ing
I do this silly little mind-game when I’m feeling kinda down on myself.

Some folks call it counting your blessings. I just write out a Good Things List.

I don't know why, but it seems like it's much easier for people to focus on the negative things in their lives. Life could be great -- we could have the world by the short hairs -- and we'd still focus on that one little thing that isn't quite going our way.

That's why I keep a Good Things list. It reminds me that life is so good.
People ask you for a beer. You give it to them.

There’s nothing political about it. There’s no strategy and no spin. There’s no need for a web site, a white paper or a press release.

There’s no convincing anyone that they really need a beer -- they already know that.

It’s beer. It’s a good thing.

And for one night, once a year it’s our good thing.
I am listening to: People talking quietly in the hotel lobby
I am reading: A friend’s thoughts on Keith Olbermann’s 9/11 commentary
I am: Good

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trade show

It's 10:10 a.m. and already my feet hurt.

It's all the same faces wearing different logo shirts standing in front of different booths. I've been doing this way too long.

As a marketing chick, I should like trade shows -- it's an opportunity to reach a lot of potential clients in a short timeframe. The best part is talking with the people who stop by the booth.

But I get tired of all the blah blah.

In fact, it's only been a few hours but being here has effectively squelched any ounce of creativity I had to spare this morning.

I'm sitting on a couch in the lobby because the wireless access is better here.

Five people I know have stopped by in the past 15 minutes. Two sat down to chat.

I am trying very hard to look Serious and Busy to discourage these types of interruptions but it's clearly not working.

And so, neither am I. Working, that is.
I am listening to: Conversations about PeopleSoft implementations & upgrades
I am reading: The session schedule
And I am: Jaded

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Idiot lights

I was driving north on Route 31 less than a mile from my house when it died.

The engine shuddered sadly and stopped, then all the lights flashed in the dash.

My heart was pounding. It had to be something Very Serious.

I called Jim in a semi-panic. He had just left for work so he wasn’t too far away.

It took him less than a minute to figure out it wasn’t so serious after all: I had run out of gas.

“But the light never came on,” I said with an extremely unattractive combination of incredulity and embarrassment.

“Maybe it’s not working,” he replied. “That’s why they call them idiot lights, ya know?”
That was four years ago.

Even now, the fuel light in my car works when it feels like it. And I’m always a little bit nervous when it gets below a quarter tank.

But lately I’ve been wishing for idiot lights for my life.

Just like my car, my life’s little warning signs seem to be malfunctioning lately.
It’s been small things. Like leaving my wallet, and then my lunch bag on the train.

Yep. And it was a really great lunch bag.

Worse, it’s been really big things, too.

Like pissing off my Best Friend in the World to the point where he’s not talking to me for a year. Telling off the wife of Jim’s Best Friend in the World to the point where things might never be the same again.

I’m great at identifying the faults in others. But not so quick when it comes to seeing my own.
On the news yesterday morning they were talking about a new Lexus that helps you park. It has a display like a video game with arrows to guide you into a parking space.

Question: If you can’t park a car without help should you be trusted driving it?
Idiot lights for your life.

Wouldn’t it be great?

I’m picturing a little light down low in the corner of my sight line – like those semi-transparent (yet still irritating) logos reminding you which TV channel you’re watching.

The idiot light in my head would glow a soft orange when I’m about to say or do something particularly offensive or stupid. It would turn bright red and angry when my ego gets in the way of seeing the truth.

And it would dance around like the evil twin of that manic yellow Wal-Mart dot to keep me from hurting the people who love me so well.
I am listening to: KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
I am reading: The World is Flat
And I am: An idiot

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sorry folks

Tuesday was an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. meeting with no breaks, so HedyBlog will be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
I am: Not listening to or reading anything and my head's about ready to kersplodey from too much talking.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Where were you?

We’ll be asking each other all day.

And we’ll hear mostly ordinary stories. I was working out. I was at home watching the news. I was on my way to work.

Ordinary moments made unforgettable by men we didn’t know who hated us because of where we live and what we believe.
I was listening to WLS on my way to an appointment with my chiropractor.

The morning DJs Don Wade and Roma were talking to someone in New York. I distinctly remember hearing “probably some idiot in a Cessna” when the man on the phone starting screaming.

The memory still gives me chills.

He was screaming because he just saw United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.
Later, at my office in Schaumburg, everyone was glued to that infernal TV in the conference room. Some of the women were crying. It was very quiet.

I couldn’t stay in that room. I don’t know why. I just didn’t want to be in there.

So I’d wander back to my desk, look at the crisp Chicago skyline to the east and wonder what was happening next.

Each time I went back to the TV, it was chaos. That giant billow of smoke from one tower crashing. And then the next.

I waited until 10:30 before heading home. There was no point in working.
It’s been five years. And it’s no surprise that the good things are what I’m remembering most.

I liked having that little American flag in the back window of my car.

I liked that there was solidarity here for a time.

I liked being reminded that there are heroes among us – everyday people placed in extraordinary circumstances whose instinct tells them to give up their own lives for the safety of others.

I liked the fragile kindness that encapsulated everything we did during those few precious weeks after the attack.

I wish we could get that back.

And I really wish it didn’t take acts of hatred to make us love each other a little more.
I am listening to: CNN streaming 9/11 coverage
I am reading: The World is Flat (finally got back to it yesterday)
And I am: Quiet

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Sandwich Fair

It’s mostly farm roads getting there.

Yellowing soy fields; tall corn turning brown. The sun is setting big and orange over everything.

Then you’re there, at the entrance: Two long gravel roads lined with flagpoles every 30 feet or so. The American flags remind us (as if we could forget) where we are and what we’re about to do.
The Sandwich Fair is in Sandwich, Illinois.

It’s an old-fashioned country fair that hasn’t changed in the 15 years we’ve been going.

Well, the price has gone up a little. It used to be $5 and now it’s $7. But parking is free.
The animal exhibits are near the entrance so we always do that first. Bunnies. Beef. Dairy. Sheep. Swine.

There are rabbits called Hotots. And a giant 15-pounder from Australia. Lion-faced rabbits. Lops. French lops.

The cows are my favorite. I like their big compassionate eyes.

I don’t like the sheep as much because they always seem so nervous.
Next: Corn.

There’s a booth near the funhouse that has the best sweet corn on the planet.

“Do you want butter?” asks the guy working the booth.

Of course we do. We stand off to the side in the grass, the buttery salt dripping down off the cob to our fingers.

“I think the corn we got from that farm stand on Bliss Road is a little better,” says Jim.

“No, this tastes better because we’re here,” I say.
The sounds.

Engines revving every few minutes from the tractor pull that always draws a crowd to the grandstand.

Barkers telling us we can win a:

• 175 lb. pig “that’s a lotta pork chops!”
• Fire engine red Ford pickup
• Harley fatboy
• 50/50 raffle “You’ve got a 50-50 chance – you either win or you lose!”

The screams and laughter rising up over the latest hip-hop blaring from the rides in the midway.
Tip: The Sandwich Fair is dry. No alcohol. And as much as a nice cold beer would taste good wandering around in the dust for a few hours, it’s not an option.

So we bring a small flask of Jack -- it’s just the trick for adding a little zip to a Lemon Shake-Up.
“Let’s go look for our next house.” Jim says.

So we work our way over to where the RV dealers have set up a mini-camp at the fair.

It’s one of our favorites because it always gets us wistfully wondering what it would be like to be unfettered by everything we’ve got now.

We agreed that the $76,000 RV was best this year. It had two TVs and a ceiling fan.

But I was drawn to the teeny tiny trailer in which you’d have to make breakfast for yourself while you were still in bed.
Next, the obligatory stop for a hotdog at the stand featuring Rheem’s Elburn Market “Award Winning” meats.

Then Jim has a pork chop sammich while we watch the same band play the same song (George Jones) two years in a row. They’re not great, but they’ve mastered all the old country favorites – the ones that I love most – the ones you just don’t hear on the radio anymore.
There are booths for sun porches, decks, and hot tubs. Leather, engraved wooden signs, and decals for your car.

I always find it interesting how they group the religious “Jesus Loves You!” and political booths together.

I’m thinking out here in the country they’re never too far apart.
We wander through the exhibits. Agriculture. Crafts. Commercial.

In the agriculture exhibit there’s everything from corn and squash to wheat and flowers. There’s a giant cabbage that looks like something out of Little Shop of Horrors.

And that’s me next to the biggest pumpkin I’ve ever seen in my life.

The crafts hall has paintings and photos and woodworking and jewelry. Our eyes are drawn to the ones with the purple ribbons indicating a “Sandwich Fair Special Award.”

Then there’s an odd little exhibit we can’t help but visiting every year: Collections.

Shot glasses. Oil cans. Crocks.

“How the hell do they judge this stuff?” Jim wonders.

We agreed that this year’s strangest was a collection of old yardsticks. An inexplicable blue ribbon on that one.
We end our night with a giant elephant ear. It’s fresh and hot – too hot to eat right away – so we pick at it, our fingers once again sticky from the treat.
Like always, the fair works its magic and I’m a kid again: sleepy-eyed and dusty, watching the full moon chase me all the way home.
I am listening to: George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Content

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Six other dead kids

Yesterday former Illinois Governor George Ryan was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison on corruption charges.

Have you heard about this?

It all started back in 1994.

Six children in the Willis family were killed when a loose piece of steel fell off an 18-wheeler that struck their minivan causing the gas tank to explode.

This is how it was described on ABC’s 20/20 during a segment aired back in 1999:

“Asleep and strapped into their seat belts, five of the children, including 6-week-old Pete, died in a matter of moments while their father watched helplessly.”

The sixth child, Benny, died from burns in the hospital later that night.
The driver of the truck, Ricardo Guzman, ignored other trucker's attempts to warn him about the loose piece of steel.

Turns out, Guzman was involved in six other accidents in the two years prior to the one that wiped out most of the Willis family. He couldn't speak English, either. Truck drivers need to be able to speak and read fluent English under federal law.

He had no business driving that truck. And those kids didn't have to die.
The accident launched an investigation that eventually would become the Licenses for Bribes scandal – a scheme in which thousands of unqualified applicants were able to receive commercial driver’s licenses by paying bribes to George Ryan’s campaign fund. George Ryan ran the secretary of state’s office at the time and later became governor of Illinois.

The jury that convicted Ryan earlier this year also found him guilty of racketeering for trying to quash the investigation into the licensing scheme that killed the Willis children.
“This is the saddest day of my life,” said George Ryan yesterday after his sentencing.

Then he went to dinner with family and friends at a Greek restaurant on Halsted in the west Loop.
Scott and Janet Willis – the parents of the six children – will never forget the saddest day of their lives when they watched their kids die in a burning minivan along I-94.

Six and a half years of Ryan’s life versus a lifetime without six children.

Six and a half years in a minimum-security prison isn’t justice.

It’s a joke.

And I’m disgusted to be saying it again this week: Those kids deserved better.
I am listening to: A very quiet house
I am reading: Steinberg in the Sun-Times
And I am: Disgusted

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I struck a bit of a nerve with yesterday’s rant.

The HedyBlog commitment to you:

1) I will always publish your comments
2) I will admit when I am wrong
3) I will never, ever get personal when responding to your opinions

Regarding those last two, I sure hope you’ll do the same.
I was wrong to say that given their living conditions, those six children who died so tragically were probably better off.

That was me being stupid and angry, and I’m very sorry.

And it’s not a lame-ass ‘I’m sorry if you were offended’ either.

I’m sorry I said it. It was offensive and wrong.
It’s called personal responsibility.

I’m taking responsibility for my actions and my choices and I’m not looking to anyone else to shoulder the blame or cost if I occasionally find myself in deep shit.
Some folks would like to make this about poor people. It’s not.

If you work hard and do your best to take care of your family – no matter how many kids you have – that’s fabulous. And if you have a large family and working hard doesn’t quite cut it (not surprising these days) I hope you’re getting the help you need to make ends meet.

Because there’s help out there if you need it.

But ya gotta say something. Ya gotta at least ask.
I have a big problem, however, with parents who don’t do everything they can to keep their children safe and happy.

And I’m sorry, but those kids didn’t have to die.

Let’s break down the situation: Six children died from smoke inhalation. There was no smoke alarm to alert the family to the fire. The fire was caused by a candle. The candle was lit because the power was turned off. The power was turned off because the bill wasn’t paid. The bill wasn’t paid because the family didn’t have enough money.

Now at this point, we could say that the family didn’t have enough money because our Evil Capitalist Society keeps them in an endless cycle of poverty.

Or we could say that the family didn’t have enough money because they had eight kids and that’s an ass-load of children who need feeding, clothing and care.

The answer isn’t that easy. It sits somewhere on the continuum between our government and personal responsibility.

If your government isn’t doing its part to offer programs to help you, then yes, there’s a problem.

But if you don’t even bother asking when help is readily available, who’s responsible then?
Does being poor prevent you from keeping your children safe?

Not today. And certainly not here in Chicago, one of the most compassionate cities on earth.

The fact is, it would’ve cost the family nothing but their pride to have that electricity turned back on if they’d only contacted Chicago’s Department of Human Services. Or the Illinois Department of Human Services.

(And to you smartasses who will say they didn't have Internet access, I'm providing the links for you, not them. There are other ways to get in touch with these organizations besides a computer.)

It would’ve cost nothing but time for them to get a free smoke detector from their neighborhood fire department (a little more than a mile from their home according to MapQuest) to replace the one that was mysteriously missing from their apartment.

And most smoke detectors don’t even require electricity, just a 9-volt battery (also provided by the fire department.)
"Why didn't they say something to me" about their power being turned off, said Beatrice Hutcherson, a social worker who knows the family. "All this time. Since May? I am sad and hurt and mad all at the same time. That is something that could have been resolved."

That was from the Chicago Sun-Times.
Why do we have to blame anyone, Heather?

Because children suffered and died needlessly.

And there’s only one thing that makes me Fuck-You-God angry more than anything: When kids are hurt.

But rather than looking at our society or our government or the landlord to take responsibility for it, this time, I’m saying the parents were negligent.

Sure they’re poor. But that doesn’t mean they’re exempt.
Easy for you to say, Heather.

Like Mr. Barrett said, “Are you just another well-to-do American who thinks homeless people have no right begging for food?”

Let me give you a little Hedy history lesson.

I was the working poor.

When I first moved to Illinois, I had nothing. No job. No money. No credit cards. No degree. And for a little more than a week, nowhere to live.

Moving to Illinois was my choice and I didn’t expect or want anyone to help me.

So I found a job. Three, to be exact. Because I had very little experience, these were minimum wage jobs with no room for advancement.

I worked these jobs – one during the days, one in the evenings, and one on Saturdays – so that I could pay my rent, buy food and get gas.

I struggled.

But working my ass off and making good decisions was key to getting out of that situation.
So your heart bleeds for all those tired illegal Mexican immigrants, but you’ve got no compassion left for the parents of those dead kids?

Those tired Mexican immigrants want to work to take care of their families. If I lived in Mexico and coming here illegally meant that my kids would have a better life, you bet your ass I’d break the law. In a heartbeat.

The parents of those six dead kids have been living in the U.S. for 16 years according to the Associated Press. They had resources available to them and for whatever reason – pride, ignorance, or apathy – they chose to put their children at risk. And now their children are gone.

Personal responsibility, dear friends. That’s all I’m asking for.

A little personal fucking responsibility.

Those kids deserved better.
I am listening to: Green Day – American Idiot
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Still pissed off

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Darwin's Big Weekend

Six kids died in a fire in Chicago over the weekend. Have you heard about this? It made national news.

The family – two parents and a total of eight kids – were living in an apartment with no power since it was shut off by ComEd back in May. They were using candles, which fire officials believe caused the blaze. No smoke detectors were found in the apartment.

First of all, if you can’t afford to pay your electric bill, I don’t know, maybe you should STOP HAVING KIDS.

Second, smoke detectors are free from your local fire department. Even if your apartment didn’t come with them as is required (and more on that later) there’s no excuse for not having a smoke detector in your home.

Third, there was at least one social worker in that neighborhood who could’ve helped the family get the power back on if only the parents had told someone about it.

There’s no reason those kids, ages 3 to 14, had to die.

But given their living conditions, I’d say they’re probably better off at this point.
Then we have silly Steve Irwin, that crikey crocodile dude who died yesterday because he got too close to a stingray.

He was 44 years old. His two children get to grow up without a father.

Maybe no father at all is better than a stupid reckless one, eh?
No smoke alarms in that apartment. I’m sure the lawyers are swarming.

Of course, we wouldn’t want to hold the parents responsible for this tragedy – that would be tactless and crass given their immense grief.

It’s much easier to blame the landlord who swears there were smoke detectors in the apartment when those tenants signed the lease.

Or we could blame the building inspectors as has happened before with tragedies like this in Chicago. But according to the Chicago Tribune, an Alderman in that district said the building was cited during an inspection May 12 for only "minor violations" such as a broken screen door, broken locks and pigeons roosting.
But Heather, where’s your compassion? With eight kids, I’m sure these parents were stressed to the max and worried about other things besides smoke detectors.

Um, no.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the father was at band practice when the fire started. If he can’t pay his fucking electric bill, he’s got no business being in a band. He should be working.

And apparently other apartments in the building had functioning, hard-wired smoke detectors but investigators found only a brace where a smoke detector should have been mounted in the family’s apartment.
We’ve got all these great social programs and laws and regulations to protect people, but we can’t seem to outlaw stupidity.

Darwin was right about Nature having a way of weeding out the weak.

But goddammit, Nature really needs to step it up and start catching these folks before they breed.
I am listening to: Eminem – Lose Yourself
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Tired of stupid people

Friday, September 01, 2006

Cookie F*cking Friday

It was 9:30 last night when I remembered that today is Cookie Friday in my office.

Cookie Friday was my idea. We got a toaster oven. I bring in those ready to bake Tollhouse cookies. Voila, Cookie Friday.

Nice, huh?

Except for the one time I forgot to bring the cookies.

“You FORGOT? How could you FORGET Cookie Friday? What the HELL is WRONG with YOU? FINE! I guess we don’t get any cookies TODAY!”

All day. And again on Monday.

Me and my bright ideas.
Now I don’t forget. But I usually remember at the very last minute. Like last night at 9:30.

So this morning I get up a little earlier than usual and head to the grocery store. It’s on the way to the train station and usually not busy that early so I figure it’ll be zippy.

Not today.

One lane open with a checker and there are five people ahead of me. There’s a self-checkout lane open, too, but there’s a woman with an overflowing cart camped there for what one can only presume will be the entire day.
“This is an out of state ID,” says the frazzled old man behind the counter.
“Yes?” replies the Asian woman from Indiana.
“Your check has to be for the exact amount,” he tells her.

Five more minutes re-writing the check. And five minutes putting her driver’s license information into the cash register to make sure she’s not part of some Asian crime wave crossing our borders from Indiana writing bad checks for tampons and chewing gum.

Next up: a tiny Hispanic woman who is buying lettuce and the biggest bottle of Christian Brothers brandy I’ve ever seen in my life. Her order comes to $19.79.

She hands the cashier a bulging Baggie filled with quarters. For a moment I actually feel bad for the cashier as he splays the change on the counter to count it. She's short four cents and my head is about to explode as she scrambles through yet another Baggie for the pennies.

My transaction takes less than a minute, but I’ve just wasted 20 minutes of my life in the grocery store for what I am now calling Cookie Fucking Friday.
C’mon, Heather. It’s cookies. Why stress out?

Exactly. It’s supposed to be a nice thing, but it’s turned into a Royal Pain in the Ass.

Has this ever happened to you?

You do something nice for somebody. Then they come to expect it. And it sucks all the joy out of doing it.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to get the fuck out of Cookie Fucking Friday.
I am listening to: Bi-weekly sales meeting
I am reading: Steinberg in the Sun-Times
And I am: The Cookie Monster