Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday 12-24

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would tell a story about how I learned the dirty little secret about Christmas. I can imaging parents rushing to their radios to shut them off before I can go on--but don't worry Moms and Dads--I'm not talking about that secret. I'm talking about the other dirty little secret--that the toy your want so much as a child--the toy that you think will make life perfect--and the toy you think you can't live without--will turn out to be a big old piece of junk.

The toy that taught me that lesson was Super Electronic Football. For those not familiar, Super Electronic Football was a tabletop football game that included little plastic players on little plastic bases that would move around the metal field with the flip of a switch. I can still remember the TV ads that ran during the Saturday morning cartoons showing boys my age completing perfect passes to little plastic receivers and little plastic guards executing sweep plays that would have made Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston jealous. Remeber, this was in the pre-Madden video game era--where kids actually went out to play football in the yard or they used their imaginations in tabletop games.

I included Super Electronic Football on my wish list for probably two or three years until that magical Christmas Day when I was ten years old that the flat, rectangular box finally showed up under the tree. Oh the excitement I felt that day--imagining my team running a wide open offense like the Air Coryell attack of the San Diego Chargers and dominating defensive schemes like the Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh.

Once we were done with breakfast and visiting the Grandparents houses on Christmas day, I was finally able to play my beloved game. Well, I guess play was a bit of an overstatment--because first you had to assemble everything. That included breaking each of the players free from the little plastic tree and sliding them onto their little plastic bases. Then you had to stick the little plastic numbers on them. And why were my players yellow and green? Was this a sinister subliminal message to a child of a Packer Backer family who hated the Pack because they were a bunch of losers?

Anyway, I finally got the players all set up--and the little brown foam football punched out of its perforated sheet--and was ready to play. I set up the little kicker guy--snapped his leg into the ball--and watched the little foam football soar into the brown pile carpeting that just happened to be the same color. I don't remember many NFL games being delayed as officials and players looked for balls that went off of the field--but game one of the Jonathan Krause Football League was in a lost ball delay after the opening kickoff. After brushing my hand over the entire living room floor a dozen times hoping the ball would pop up out of the carpet I finally gave up and punched another one out of the sheet.

GAME BACK ON!! I carefully set up my offense and defense for my first play: a fly pattern bomb to my wide receiver--who would have one-on-one coverage down the sideline. The players are set--the imaginary crowd is roaring--and I throw the switch to put the field in motion. What followed more closely resembled the LA Riot than NFL football. The primary receiver just kept turning in circles as half the offensive linemen fell on their sides and the quarterback decided to head for his own endzone.

Obviously, I needed to adjust the little wheels on the bases of all my players. After a quick adjustment, some of the players actually went where they were supposed to. I flicked the quarterback's arm--and watched the little brown foam football soar into the pile carpeting never to be found again. In fact that was a fate met by all twelve of the little brown footballs in less than a week--forcing my players to use little fragments of the brown foam that was left over from the perforated sheet.

I never did figure out how to get any of the players to go where I wanted them to go--no matter how many times I adjusted the dial in their bases. That became a moot point after I leaned on the thin metal--putting a permanent crease in the field that attracted all of the players on all of the plays. It was just a matter of weeks before the toy I could not live without found a permanent home in the back of the closet.

Don't worry my faith in Christmas was restored the next year when Caleco introduced Head-To-Head Football. Sure the "players" where little red dots on a screen--but you couldn't lose the ball in the carpet. It also taught my parents another dirty little secret about Christmas--batteries are never included.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday 12-22

An article in the Business section of Sunday's Chicago Tribune showed that we are nowhere near learning our lessons from the credit crunch and the economic downturn. The article detailed how businesses catering to teenagers have been largely unaffected by the recession.

Stores selling "teen fashion" like The Buckle saw an increase in sales and profits during the third quarter--unlike many other retailers--including discounters like Target and Kohl's. The article also pointed out that sales of IPods, IPhones and other personal electronic devices have seen little dropoff in sales--despite the difficult economy.

What was most distressing in the article were the interviews with parents who refused to cut back their spending on their kids--despite a loss of income or higher prices for necessities like food and utilities. One mother didn't want her teen to know that the family was struggling--and how it was important they still have "cool" clothes like their friends. The first line of the story quoted a teen who didn't even know what the word "recession" means.

Isn't this how we got ourselves into this mess? Keeping up with the Joneses...spending money we don't have...placing priorities on material things instead of the basics? Now that the chickens have come home to roost--we still live in denial. And continuing to send the message that "you deserve everything you want as soon as you want it even though we really can't afford it and we are mortgaging your future to get it for you" just keeps us spriralling further into the abyss.

You know how everyone complains that schools don't teach enough about personal finance? Well here's a terrific teaching opportunity for parents in their own homes. "Son/Daughter we don't have as much money to spend--or we are no longer going into debt to buy you junk that you don't really appreciate anyway. If you want the latest electronic gizmos or gas for your car you can go out and get a job to pay cash for it."

There were a few teens quoted in the story as saying they were cutting back on their spending--if only because their parents were giving them less. Apparently, they weren't able to find anyone in The Buckle or the IStore who said they were putting all of their money toward paying for college. That's an answer that would have shown some hope for the future generation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday 12-17

I would like to put my name into nomination for the vacant Senate seat in Illinois. I'll admit I don't actually live in Illinois, but if it helps my cause, I could always rent a little place just over the Wisconsin border for a few weeks. How long did Hillary Clinton live in New York before she was elected to the Senate from that state? Two days? I'll even lie and say I'm a life-long Cubs fan if that helps my cause. And since it appears big bribes won't be necessary to get the seat--I think I can afford to apply.

While I'm applying for new jobs, let me announce I'm also interested in the open Senate seat for New York as well. Yes, the weekend commute back here would be arduous--but I am ready to serve however I can. If it helps my cause in New York, I'll even change my last name to Kennedy--it seems to work for everyone else with that surname.

I'm also putting my name into consideration for the open Senate seats in Delaware and Colorado--and any other seat that might open up as President-elect Barack Obama fills his Cabinet and White House staff with Washington insiders who apparently are not responsible for the mess in which we currently find ourselves. Maybe this is why we elect so few Senators to President--because it takes Senators away from several other states as well.

Whereas states have nice clean succession plans if a Governor leaves for Washington--having a seperately-elected Lieutenant Governor ascend to the position--the procedure for replacing a Senator is anything but democratic. What would Illinois Governor Rod Blagojovich have done if Obama's replacement was elected instead of hand-selected by him? Would Caroline Kennedy be so "strongly interested" in a Senate seat if she had to conduct a campaign and publicly answer questions about her stances on important issues?

Fighting Bob LaFollette must be spinning in his grave hearing that backroom negotiations and deals are putting people into the US Senate again. Why did Bob and the Progressives fight for the direct election of Senators during the early 1900's if we are just giving them away now? With as many as five open seats to be appointed this winter, we are seeing the greatest disenfranchisement of the voters since post-Reconstruction southern Democrats passed all of those election laws to keep blacks away from the polls.

I understand the expediency of having a governor appoint a replacement Congressmen--but I wouldn't trust Jim Doyle to pick the other four guys for my basketball team at the YMCA much less one of the two people representing me in the Senate. Although, I'm not sure how the two Senators we currently have represent me--but that is a Two Cents for another day.

The only positive I can see coming from the current system would be if the governors appointed non-millionaires to the vacant Senate seats. Given the rising cost of running elections for these seats--and since most incumbents can self-fund their campaigns--Jonathan the Radio Guy would have no other hope to aspire to the job. Maybe some "regular folks" going to Washington would return some sense to the "Millionaires Club" in Congress.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday 12-09


I'm checking to make sure the snowthrower works properly in October next year.

Is it a snowthrower or a snowblower? In reality, it doesn't "blow" snow at all--it throws it. There's no fan in there. Why do so many people call it a snowblower then?

If global warming is the reason we didn't get much snow for about three or four winters earlier this decade, how can it also be responsible for heavier snow the last two Decembers? We have the expert from the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the air today saying just that. More moisture in the atmosphere due to evaporation of the oceans.

Wait a minute, more evaporation of the oceans? Aren't they rising so fast that they threaten to flood out every major coastal city and island? Do the global warming alarmists assume we just forget everything they said last year when they find a new crisis about which to "warn" us?

I sure hope no one is driving down my street the rest of the winter while I'm pulling out of my driveway--since I won't be able to see them behind the 7-foot tall piles of snow in the terrace. The city is clearing those piles from the downtown areas--it would be nice if they made one pass in "the 'hood" to give us somewhere to put the rest of the "global warming snow" we are going to get the rest of the winter.

I wonder if I'll see kids out building snowmen or snowforts during this day off for them. Or will they all be inside making Wii snowmen and Wii "sledding" on those motion-sensitive pads. More likely, they'll just spend the day texting each other from home instead of texting each other from their school desks.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesday 12-02

I sure hope the people who trampled that worker to death at a New Jersey Wal-Mart last week have a really happy holiday season. I hope that when the "giftee" opens up that present the "gifter" absolutely had to buy Friday morning--at the cost of a human life--they fondly recall the memories of stepping on a fallen man and crushing the life out of him.

I wonder if somehow those shoppers have justified their actions in their minds. "Yes a man died--but they had an eight-megapixel camera for just 65-dollars. You can't expect me to lose out on that deal just because some guy can't get out of my way in time!" Or maybe they think "It's not my fault the guy's dead--he's the one who decided to work at Wal-Mart on Black Friday." The most sensitive of those shoppers likely just assume "He was probably dead by the time I stepped on him."

I wonder if those shoppers will tell the gift-getter the circumstances surrounding that present? "I almost didn't get that DVD player for you--because some guy got crushed by the crowd and the manager wanted to shut down the store so police could question us about our role in his death--but I went through the express lane and snuck out through the grocery exit." Will the person getting that gift think "Wow, my sister must really love me if she was willing to kill someone to get me the perfect gift"?

While we didn't have such an incident here in our area--I'm sure there were plenty of ugliness in the stores last week. Did you maybe snap at a clerk just because the "doorbuster" you wanted sold out before you got to the display? Did you shove another shopper out of the way to get to an item? Or maybe you just cursed out everybody in your way under your breath. You're probably not proud of yourself and you realize that's not really the "spirit of the season"--but hey, at least you didn't kill anyone.