Friday, September 30, 2005


Meteorologists reported today that the cities of Houston and Galveston were spared the worst of Hurricane Rita due to a mysterious connection with FOX News correspondent Geraldo Rivera’s mustache.

“Geraldo’s mustache is always at the center of the storm,” said Michael Clifton of the Academy of Atmospheric Sciences. “Take a look at history since Geraldo has been around, dating back to the chair-launching episode on his syndicated talk TV program. The man is a magnet for all that it dangerous in this world. People think he’s got a death wish for putting himself in harm’s way, but the reverse is actually true. Trouble finds HIM.”

An in-depth analysis by weather control teams tracked the path of both Geraldo Rivera’s mustache and Hurricane Rita, revealing a noticeable change in the course of the storm based on the hour-to-hour movement of Geraldo’s mustache.

“I don’t know if he even knows it, but he’s a hero in Houston. Unfortunately, the folks in Beaumont probably want him dead…or worse – shaved.”

Neither Geraldo nor his mustache could not be reached for comment.


Every once in a while someone says something so utterly offensive and crude I can’t help but laugh. Most of the time that someone is me. Other times it comes from a public figure who really ought to know better. Take the comment made by former Education Secretary William Bennett this week on his radio program. The author of “The Book of Virtues,” said:

"…I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

Yes, my friends – this is an actual statement made by an actual person who probably ought to know better. It’s all over the news if you don’t believe me. In fairness, he did go on to say that it would be “an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do,” then added for good measure, “But your crime rate would go down.”

Bennett made these comments in answering a question from a caller on his morning radio program Morning in America, explaining an argument he put forth in a recent book that crime is down because abortion is up. This argument, I should note, is not entirely without support – or merit, objectively speaking. Race aside, a controversial analysis of crime rates and abortion rates suggests there may be a strong connection between the two.

This controversial concept was most notably brought to light in the book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The basic (if appalling to some) premise is that unwanted children born to hard-luck parents are far more likely to become criminals later in life, ergo the legalization of abortion, which has prevented the birth of unwanted children since 1973, effectively served to lower crime rates over time. Indeed, the authors point to a statistically significant drop in crime in the early 1990’s that has been attributed to everything under the sun – except what they suggest is the primary reason: fewer babies born after Roe V. Wade that would likely have been out commiting crimes.

There are going to be some people so disturbed by this suggestion they will refuse to believe there is any connection at all, almost as a matter of reflex. I’m not going to say anything further about this other than that I personally found the book a very interesting read, full of interesting theories on what matters and what doesn't. Feel free to form your own opinions, but only after a thoughtful synthesis of all the information at your disposal.

And I wouldn’t go spouting off about it on the radio if you’re a well-known public figure. That’s probably not the kind of attention you want.

And here’s a link to an online survey where you can vote on whether you believe there’s a connection. The results may (or may not) surprise you.

Finally, Sir William isn't really that dumb. His comments were most certainly taken out of context, as most controversial statements these days are. He was taking a thought experiment to the next level to make his point. Feel free to read his response to the furor here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


September 28, 2005

Re: Citation# 90578226XX

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to both contest this ticket and file a formal complaint with the City of Chicago and Department of Revenue.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 27, 2005, I parked my Chrysler Sebring (license plate IL-XXXXXXX) on the west side of 120 N. Morgan Street. I have been working in the area for over a year and am intimately familiar with its many special parking zones and restricted areas. This was not one of them.

Morgan Street between Randolph and Washington is zoned for legal parallel parking. There are vehicles parked there every day of the year, all day long. And there are vehicles parked there right now. It is not metered, nor is it zoned for neighborhood parking, rush hour parking, or a time limit. In short, aside from a driveway in the middle of the block, it is not restricted in any way. I have included photographic evidence for consideration.

I returned to my car at 6pm that evening to discover I had been cited for parking in a “No stand, park anytime” zone. I looked around for either permanent or temporary signage indicating that this was a “No stand, no park” zone and saw nothing. I had been unscrupulously ticketed by a renegade employee of the Department of Revenue! Not only that, but the car in front of me had also been given an erroneous ticket.

As I opened my car door, a uniformed Chicago police officer flagged me down. Officer Grabowski informed me he was on foot patrol in the area, noticed my ticket, and wanted to know why I had received a ticket. I told him I did not know and expressed my frustration with the phantom violation. He first inspected the ticket, then inspected the street and told me that I was LEGALLY parked and should NOT have received the ticket. He then suggested I take pictures (see attached) and formally contest the notice of violation.

I inquired as to the possible motives a Department of Revenue employee might have for issuing a fallacious citation, wondering if perhaps they sometimes manufacture violations to meet quotas. It was during this discussion that Officer Grabowski and I noticed a sign on a nearby streetlight. The sign had been turned all the way around to face the sidewalk and was not visible from the street. We immediately investigated.

The sign, which should have been facing the street, was intended to indicate there was no parking in front of a driveway about 20 feet south. But because it had been turned around, the arrow on the sign, as viewed from a pedestrian on the sidewalk, pointed in the direction of the cars that were legally parked – mine included. The ticketing officer had read the sign from the SIDEWALK, not from the street as it had been intended, and issued parking notices for cars that were actually parked legally. If the sign had been turned around, the arrow would have been pointing south toward the driveway instead of toward the cars parked legally north of the driveway. I would like to assume this is an honest mistake, rather than an employee of the city fleecing law-abiding citizens by writing false citations.

As we parted ways, Officer Grabowski said that he would try to find someone from Streets & Sanitation to come by and turn the sign around so that it faced the right direction. Hopefully, he said, this would prevent confused city employees from erroneously handing out violations.


Terry V. Mertens, Jr.

P.S. I have attached a series of photos that were taken with the help and direction of Officer Grabowski.

This is the sign on the building south that indicates no parking. No cars were parked in front of this sign, as the no parking zone was properly observed by all drivers.

This is the no parking sign that bookends the zone on the south. The sign that bookends the zone on the north is the one that was turned around. No cars were parked between the signs.

These are cars legally parked on the west side of the street, north of the no parking zone. My car is the second one in the photo with the door open. The sign on the pole is clearly facing the building. If turned around, the sign correctly indicates that the no parking zone is to the south.

This is the sign that was turned around. The picture is taken facing east, so the arrow is pointing north. Turned around correctly, the arrow would be pointing south.

This is a photo of the backwards sign taken from the middle of the street. Officer Garbauski suggested this one for good measure.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I love this one.

Moses Bittok, 40, immigrated from Kenya to the U.S. to live the American dream – and did he ever. He fucking won the Lotto the day he became a U.S. citizen! Yes, this is a true story.

Shortly after taking the oath of citizenship in Des Moines, Iowa last Friday, Moses discovered he had won $1.89 million in the Iowa Lottery's Hot Lotto game. He cashed in his ticket yesterday, electing to spread out his winnings over 25 years with annual payments of $52,920…AFTER taxes. Sorry ladies, Moses is married and has a 4-year-old little girl.

Like many immigrants, "Mojo" Moses came to the U.S. to attend college, after which he moved to Iowa and took a job at a women's prison. He bought the winning ticket at a West Des Moines grocery store where he used to work part time. I can hear Moses now, declaring his disbelief excitedly in a thick Kenyan accent: “I canno believe it. Is this heaven?”

No Moses – it’s Iowa.



Here's an exciting link for baseball fans and collectors of sports memoribilia...

Don't skip the captions - they're the best part!


I don't know who invented pistachios, but I'd like to buy that guy a beer. Pistachios are hands down the best tasting nuts ever invented. And they're even better when I take the time to get the shells off.

Speaking of nuts, did you know that peanuts aren't really nuts? It's true. Technically, they're classified as legumes (starchy tubers like beans) and come from the same family as peas! Hence the "pea" in "peanut."

Now you know. And do you know what else? I'm not wearing pants. Deal with THAT.


I wanted to give a shout out to Wetnap and the Skipper this week - two good friends who will be tying the knot this Saturday. Congratulations, friends!

In celebration, we took Wetnap (it's better that you don't ask) out for drinks this past Saturday evening for a bar crawl in Wrigleyville, a neighborhood named for its proximity to Wrigley Field - home of the Chicago Cubs. The revelrous event, organized in the spirit of something called a "bachelor party," started with a bunch of friends at a nearby apartment, pounding beers and knocking back shots of tequila while watching college football. By bachelor party standards, and unlike the guest of honor, it was all very tame.

The "entertainment" consisted of a blow-up pig that looked more like Thomas the Train than any swine I've seen. Wetnap was informed it would be his date for the evening and was instructed to carry it closely at all times. He would try to ditch the pig several times that night, to no avail.

At 8pm sharp, the cavalcade of socially lubricated well-wishers hit Clark Street. 6+ hours later I was spotted cutting a carpet at Casey Moran's. What started out a rug ended up requiring a lot more square feet. I'm told it was not pretty, but that's what happens when enough tequila makes it to the toes. I think I cabbed back to Geri's from there where I hungrily stuffed leftover pizza into my face and promptly passed out, but details are sketchy.

Wetnap e-mailed this morning (3 days later) and said he was still recovering. Despite there being no arrests, no embarrassing pictures, and no major injuries, we agreed the evening was a success.

Unfortunately, there's no word on the pig. If anyone sees a stray blow-up pig wandering about aimlessly in the vicinity of Clark and Addison, please let me know. Wetnap would like to apologize and make it up to her.

Monday, September 26, 2005


The views represented within this advertisement in no way represent the views of the editorial staff of this web blog. (We, in fact, think Heineken tastes closer to rectal discharge than any other lager domestic or imported)


Being left high and dry isn't always a bad thing. If God was hoping to just blend in with the rest of us, I'd say his cover is blown.

HUMAN BEING 2029320114: EXPIRES 11/23/2034

A few of us at work got into a discussion the other morning about death - a perfectly natural conversation about mortality over morning coffee. I injected my contribution in the form of a tough “what if” question.

What if someone made you an offer? 70 Years. Take it or leave it. You’d be guaranteed to live until 70, but that’s it. On your 70th birthday you’re done. Gone. Dead forever. The office smokestack immediately responded, “I’ll take it!” A second person said he’d take the sure thing as well. I hadn't realized the question was such a no-brainer, so I downgraded the offer to 60 years. Both of them instantly balked.

“Come on,” I said. “You’re GUARANTEED 60.”

They both, being a lot closer to 60 than I am, declined.

“What about 65?” I asked. I could hear the gears turning in their heads. Hamsters running in wheels. Warehouses full of chimpanzees with abacuses, sliding wooden balls and recording the results with their feet.

Nope. Not good enough, they agreed simultaneously.

“Okay," I said. "What about 69? Everybody likes 69."

They both pondered it, then announced forecefully that 69 didn’t make the cut either.

“So wait a second here. That’s it then? 70 you’ll take, but not 69? The difference seems negligible to me, but you're saying 70 is what you'd need? I guess 70 is your magic number. Everybody’s got a magic number.”

Noting the surprise in my voice, they turned the tables and asked what MY magic number was. At first I stood by my policy of not answering my own questions, but then I started to think about it. I’m relatively young, don’t smoke, drink a lot less than I used to, and eat a lot of soy and sushi. But I’ve also got chronic asthma and a habit of walking into traffic without looking both ways. So, like everybody else, I could live to be 90 or die this afternoon.

My magic number, I thought, would probably be higher than 70 – but not too much higher. If I could be as alert and alive as I am today at 87, that would be one thing. But I understand the aging process can take a lot out of a person. Would living to be 87 or more even be worth it? I’d jog a lot less. My eyesight and hearing would go. Arthritis would set in. I’d start complaining about the weather – even when it’s gorgeous outside. At some point I suppose I’d need to acknowledge a life lived well and cash my chips in, right? So when would I like to die? 72? 75? 89? 115?

But then I circled back and asked considered the mystery of not knowing. Not knowing is part of what keeps us sane, I thought. It keeps us in order. What’s the incentive to obey the law if you’re scheduled to expire in a week? What’s the incentive to do anything? Indeed, one of the biggest incentives in life is not dying. Just ask anyone who's had a gun held to their head.

And yet there was something alluring about that guarantee. The security of KNOWING you’ll be around for 10 more years, 4 more years, 16 more years, 4 more months, whatever it happens to be. I imagined there would be an odd comfort in having an expiration date. It would be good for planning things – like trips abroad, and family reunions. You’d know exactly how long you’d need to make that nest egg last. If I knew I were going to die at 47, I’d stop saving for retirement right now and go buy a plasma television.

An expiration date would also be good for getting things off your chest. Think of all the things you’d like to tell people, but never do. I’m not talking about hateful, mean-spirited things. I’m talking about things that are much harder to say, like “I love you,” and “I’m sorry.” It seems we’re always waiting for a better time to share feelings like these because they make us feel emotionally vulnerable. But when you know your time is running out, you’ll pretty much let spill every sappy thought you’ve ever had. Better to come clean now than to take worldly regrets to the afterlife. It’s almost scary to think of how much love would be exchanged if we took away tomorrow. And why isn’t that loved exchanged today if none of us is guaranteed tomorrow?

The mystery of expiration keeps us quiet.

“My magic number?” I asked aloud. “70 is an attractive guarantee – but I don’t think I could take it. Or 75. Or 80. It might be comforting for a while, but I think, ultimately, knowing would drive me crazy. I think I’d prefer to take my chances and not know. So it could be tomorrow. It could be next year. It could be when I'm 102.”

The tables turned, I got a little of my own medicine. “Come on,” said the smokestack, “Who wouldn’t take 95? That guarantees you a long, long life.”

“That’s very true,” I replied, “But it doesn’t guarantee you a happy, healthy one. What if 30 seconds after you agreed to a 95 year deal you wiped out on a wet floor, cracked your head, and slipped into a life-long coma? Or what if you were unfairly implicated in a crime and wound up behind bars? Or what if a freak accident or terrorist attack left you blind and armless? So much could happen in life – you just don’t know. Nope, I’m going to say I like the mystery. You guys can have 70. I’ll die when I die.”

Twenty minutes later I started thinking about how nice 70 would be. The question was tougher than I thought. Fortunately, I wouldn't have to sign a contract of expiration in this lifetime. God makes the tough choices, I thought. We just have to live with them.

Or die, as it happens...


Just wanted to remind everyone that tomorrow is Bring a Hammer to Work Day. Some people prefer ball peen, others claw. I'm more a sledge man. If you don't have a hammer, feel free to bring a rubber mallet.