January 30, 2003
One Year

B&W is one year old today!

It's been fun leaving these little squirrel tracks across the vast snowy ground of the Internet. Most fun of all has been having my friends come along and watching them develop their own styles. And we've met some friendly strangers along the way.

More to come in 2003, I'm sure...

Posted at 08:17 PM
January 29, 2003
Illegal Art

Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age has started here in Chicago, featuring many interesting people, including our friends from Columbus, Ohio's ECC.

I hope to be able to attend at least one night of the Feb. 7-8 multimedia event and the later panel discussion.

The site is worth checking out for the snazzy "electronic end user license" popup they've got going:

Please read this Agreement carefully. At the end, you will be asked to accept this agreement and provide this Website with a warm, lingering, creepy hug. If you do not wish to accept this Agreement, simply click the "I do not accept" button while forcefully shoving your computer off the back of your desk ("Card Table").

Posted at 09:07 PM
January 28, 2003

Words of wisdom from Listen Missy:

In the morning on the subway in my pre-coffee state when I'm feeling especially annoyed, I meditate by trying to list in my head all of the members of the Wu Tang Clan. It distracts me just long enough that I forget who it is that pissed me off and why.

Posted at 06:37 PM
January 27, 2003
Drink to My Health

Has there been a more germ-ridden winter than this one?

I'm having difficulty remembering one. Pernicious stomach viruses have made the rounds during the last couple of months, as well as various upper respiratory ailments. Eric has been sick since last week and I expect I'm starting to catch the same thing.

There's irony everywhere in this story, of course. My husband, for instance, never takes medicine, eschews doctors, takes vitamins only if badgered and is hit or miss about healthy food. I, in contrast, exercise, eat healthy, go to bed early, and use medicine if needed. Oh yeah, and I did get a flu shot.

Ironically, he gets sick about once or twice a year, but is rarely sick enough to disrupt his daily life. When I get sick, though, I pull out all the stops, with colds that require multitudes of Kleenex, Technicolor intestinal viruses, mysterious fevers, and more.

Here's a sampling:
1999: Laid low by strep throat for nearly a month, possibly contracted from recycled airplane air. Nasty byproduct was exposure to industrial-strength antibiotic that cleared up strep, but left me unable to eat for weeks.
1998: Contracted "throat thing" that induces laryngitis. Nasty byproduct was that I was barely able to speak to anyone at my mother-in-law's funeral.
1989: Endured a winter of chronic bronchitis, brought on by rock & roll lifestyle and smoking. Nasty byproduct was that I managed to graduate from college on time anyway.
1986: Contracted bizarre virus that induces fatigue and dizziness, but no palpable symptoms. Nasty byproduct was multiple visits to the student health center to have blood drawn by people who apparently were still learning this procedure. Had bruises.
1980: Contracted flu that induced a 50% absentee rate at my junior high. Missed a week of school, but in eighth grade, there was nothing going on anyway. Nasty byproduct was that I was so bored at home, I got unreasonably mad at the dog.
1972 or 73: Can't remember what induced a raging-high fever, for which the doctor prescribed putting me in a bath of ice cubes. Nasty byproduct was that I was sick, sleepy, feverish, and COVERED IN ICE.

To be fair, though, none of these things have been seriously debilitating. In fact, I've never been seriously injured or hospitalized in my life, which is a pretty good track record.

But oh, I am not looking forward to the next couple of days. If serious illness results, count on irrational posts such as these:

7 a.m. Called in sick to work again. Listened to voice mail. Cried.
10 a.m. Tried to open bottle of Tylenol. Child-proof cap was uncooperative. Cried.
5 p.m. Still watching television. Got unreasonably angry at cat. Cried.

Raise an echinacea cocktail for me.

Posted at 07:13 PM
Follow Up

When I posted my letter yesterday, I really was not interested in starting a flame war, although I realized this was a possibility. I'm not a warblogger and don't want to be one--nothing sounds more tedious and repetitive to me. What I do believe in, I guess, is the idea of starting a dialogue with the government.

Granted, a letter and a form-letter response is not much of a dialogue. But what's the alternative? You can't hold a peace march every day. Is the alternative, then, silence? Mindful consumption? Quit the party and start your own?

Maybe, maybe not. It depends on who you are. About 80 percent of the time, I am an unrepentant cynic. The other 20 percent of the time, I still believe that our elected officials need to hear the voice of the people. Not the media, not the polls, not radio talk shows. And that's why I wrote the letter.

I almost hesitate to go on in this vein, because finding links that support your point of view can become such a game of one-upmanship. As any researcher or journalist knows, it's not too hard to find an article that supports any crank's point of view.

Similarly, celebrities with opinions are a dime a dozen. But I did enjoy reading this CNN. com interview with Janeane. (via MediaNews)

Now, patriotism is defined as love of country. It's not defined as love of militarism or love of government edicts of any kind. You know, unexamined, unintelligent patriotism, you know, my country, right or wrong, love it or leave it, gets us nowhere and results in bad country and western songs.

Posted at 06:51 PM
January 26, 2003
I Sent a Letter to the Government Today

Not that I think it will do any good. Not that I think it will change anyone's mind. But the news I've been reading in the paper every day has gotten so bad, it has almost become a matter of conscience.

This is not the first time I've done so. I sent letters with similar sentiments, maybe less gracefully worded, in 1991, on the eve of the last Gulf War. (I also remember sending an angry letter ending my subscription to Newsweek, for war-related reasons. That thundering exit was received in silence.) I received, in due time, polite form letters thanking me for my concerns, but here's the reason why we need to do it this way, etc., etc.

That was before anthrax scares and homeland security and a lot of other scary issues. Heck, I'm not even sure these letters get opened any more. But for some reason I am compelled to write them.

I am a shameless peacemonger, as are many of the people I know. But what drove me to write, finally, was not only the threat of war but the relentless belligerence of the administration's rhetoric. I got mad, in short, because I don't like their tone. I don't like it, and I don't want to give the impression that it represents me. In the 11 years since I last wrote such letters I have learned the value of diplomacy. I've also learned that bullying, threatening, and pouting in public are not necessarily the best way to get people to do things, at least not in good faith.

Shameless peacemongering follows. Find your elected representatives' addresses here.

Dear President Bush:
(slightly rewritten letters also went to my Congressmen)
I write to you because I am very concerned about the direction my country is headed under your leadership. I am one of the many Americans opposed to the threatened war on Iraq and one of the still many more who are unconvinced that you and your administration have made a justifiable case, with evidence, that such a war is necessary.

Furthermore, I am concerned about the effect of your administrationís actions on our nationís presence on the world stage. Your administrationís beating the drums of war, abandoning treaties, and applying none-too-subtle pressure on our unwilling allies to join us in an unjustified war are not actions that positively enhance our nationís stature as a leader of the free world. Rather, they make us look like the worldís most powerful bully. As an American, this is not how I wish to be represented.

I would like to see a more thoughtful, generous, and diplomatic approach to our nationís problems. I urge you to abandon your call to war and find a peaceful solution to the Iraq situation. In addition, I ask you to realign your administrationís priorities to address issues that truly threaten our country. The economy, the threats of attack from terrorists, the erosion of civil liberties, and the deterioration of our environment are good places to start.

Thank you for your time.


Posted at 05:46 PM
January 23, 2003
Sign of the Times

Mike writes about the artifact from dot-com days he found buried at home:

I think I'll stick it in a drawer someplace and haul it out to show my niece and nephew when they hit late puberty and are seeking proof that they really do have it harder than anyone else ever did.

Eerily, this week's Onion has picked up on this same idea:

New Economy Wistfully Recalled as Tiny Dot-Com Promotional Object Found in Drawer

According to roommate Bryan Bollinger, a former Flooz.com tech-support supervisor and current delivery driver for Angelo's Pizza, Noyce became sentimental and introspective while gazing at the useless but expensively manufactured trinket.

Yep, my house is full of them, too....

Posted at 06:44 PM
Defeating Winter

At this time of the year--and especially this week, with the temperatures reaching a balmy 12F degrees currently--it becomes necessary to defeat the winter.

Unless you live in some mild climate, you know exactly what I mean. It's a long haul from here until spring break, as all Chicagoans know, because spring will last approximately 20 minutes before it becomes summer and unseasonably hot.

My favorite way to defeat winter is with things that smell good. It seems to me somehow that if I can change the atmosphere indoors a little bit, the outdoors won't seem quite so bad.

So the office of the interior at my house will be requisitioning scented candles from Aveda, fruity glycerine soaps from the Body Shop, and incense from the hippie store down on Clark Street. Also stocking up on easter lillies at the grocery, because their scent always makes me feel like a rich girl, even if I bought them at the Jewel.

Posted at 06:38 PM
January 21, 2003
Shopping in Paradise

If we want to spend eternity in happiness,
well, we're gonna have watch ourselves.

The Mountain Goats tell us, "There are no Pan-Asian supermarkets down in hell" and the same must be said about Fort Myers, I regret to say.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to do. We bird spotted in a nature preserve; genius spotted at Thomas Edison's house; and visited a restored 1928 Pullman car parked outside the Fort Myers Historical Museum.

Not shown: my parents and me standing at the back of the car and waving, like Truman. This actually happened, although it is exactly the kind of thing I would make up if it hadn't.

To have a private car, of course, you had to be well heeled. Mostly because the thing was so well paneled. This hallway led to a dining room, complete with formal dining table.

The kitchen was the size of a telephone booth, and the ventilation, by today's standards, left much to be desired.

Look at all of this leg room! After spending 2.5 hours being jammed into the smallest possible space on an airplane a few days before, surrounded by shrieking and vomiting children (they must send them all to Florida), this seems to me the way to travel.

if thine enemy oppresseth you,
you must let him oppress you some more
so that when you go shopping in paradise,
you'll find those magnificent peanuts from Singapore.

Alas, I did not see the manatee this trip. Maybe next time!

Closer to home, the city of Pullman is also reputed to be a fun area to visit. Who's up for a field trip?

...but the streets of heaven are lined with shelves
and there's billboards of the golden boy everywhere.

Posted at 08:48 PM
January 14, 2003
Do We Know His Parents?

Dear Standard Parking:

Over the weekend, my neighbor noticed that you were towing my car away from its usual spot under the el tracks while I was at dinner.

About an hour later, he realized you had returned it (and parked it backwards, but I'll let that go).

A cynic would say that you towed it in error and then returned it, having realized that it does, indeed, have a legal parking permit hanging from the rear-view mirror.

But I am trying to be less of a cynic and more of a romantic these days. Therefore, I can't help but wonder if your tow truck was inviting my car out for a romantic spin up to Evanston and back.

Make no mistake, I'm flattered. It's not often someone sees beyond the telltale rust and outmoded lines to the great personality within. And it's sweet of you to make sure the car gets home on time, but if you do this again, I'm going to have to talk with you about your intentions. The car is older than most, but it doesn't get around that much. I can't have fly-by-nights like you towing--er, make that toying--with its affections.

One final note: I'm going to be out of town for a couple of days. Back on Monday. While I'm gone, no fair spiriting my car out all night long. It'll just be overtired and cranky when I get home.

Thanks for your consideration.
And don't make me come mess you up.


Posted at 09:51 PM
January 13, 2003
Piece of Work

Death penalty opponents everywhere are praising the former governor's decision to issue a blanket commutation to death row inmates in Illinois. As has been widely reported today, there's even a movement afoot to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

At first I was cynical about his motivation. I am wary of politicians bearing gifts, especially if they are Republican. But as I played with the idea today I realized it probably isn't that simple. Was it an act of conscience or was it a distraction to distract us from the proceedings pending against him and his administration for numerous misdeeds? (Read about the license-for-bribes scandal here.)

I honestly don't know the answer and neither do you, most likely. Hardly anyone would ever be in his position. Still, I wonder. What's it like to make a decision like that? What drives you? Guilt, responsibility, some internal moral code kicking in? A latent god complex? An urge to make a splash during his last days in office? An attempt to redeem his legacy despite his administration's corruption? Was soul searching or political savvy at work? There's something vaguely Shakespearian about all this--remember that though Shakespeare wrote heroes, he wrote venal characters as well.

If you're a liberal, there's not much news to feel good about these days. And death penalty opponents, understandably, want to feel good about this news. They don't really want to know about the "why," I gather. Best not to dig too deep.

But perhaps they are missing the forest for the trees. To me, it's a fascinatingly problematic question--the stuff of novels, or at least TV movies. What would it have been like in his office these last days, even weeks? Imagine having all those lawyers around, carting around reams of paper and fighting over the Starbucks. Who knows what you'd do to get rid of all those people?

Alas, I will never know. I am so cynical, most politicians would have to come to my house and have coffee before I believed a word they said. I would have cream and sugar, and lots of questions.

What a piece of work is man!
How noble in reason.
How infinite in faculties.
In form and moving, how express and admirable.
In action how like an angel.
In apprehension, how like a god.
The beauty of the world.
The paragon of animals.


Posted at 09:21 PM
January 12, 2003
Item 2

For the record, I am a Subway girl, when necessity demands. Something about being able to direct people what to put on my food satisfies a deep-seated need for control. I'll have a six-inch Spicy Italian sub, on wheat, NO CHEESE, with mustard, lots of veggies, and no tomatoes. No oil and vinegar, please, but a few banana peppers are OK.

This entry courtesy not of Subway but of the Osbournes, because I have been sick with the stomach flu (again) for three days, shuffling around like Ozzy and lying around in bed all day like Sharon.

Posted at 12:52 PM
Item 1

An unfortunate observation this morning:

Cover story of today's Chicago Tribune Magazine: (registration required)
"Submarine Warfare: Quizno's Is Challenging Subway for Market Share. And Chicago is Their Prime Battleground."

Cover story of today's New York Times Magazine:
"When the Man of the House Is in the Big House."

As city papers go, I'm glad I get the Tribune, as opposed to many others. But these two cover stories make it clear why we still look like the second city. Is this the best the Tribune can do in terms of social relevance?

Posted at 12:46 PM
January 09, 2003

I'm not one for formal new year's resolutions, but this year, all things considered, I'm keeping it to five.

I recently read about the five precepts of Buddhism, which in their basic form are more like "thou shalt nots" than anything else. (There are more than five precepts, but I understand ordinary people usually start with these.)

Yoga Journal has more user-friendly interpretations, which basically boil down to:

"Do no harm to anyone; Take nothing that is not freely given; Speak truthfully and helpfully; Use sexual energy wisely; and Keep your mind clear."

Previous years' resolutions have been more banal, such as "eat less chocolate" (this one was short-lived) and "read magazines more efficiently" (this one sort of worked) and "get a handle on my finances" (year five for this one).

This year, the emphasis is more on daily life and dealing with others. I'm looking for better ways to deal with stress and anger, more constructively than my usual approach, which often consists of steaming at my desk and randomly throwing pencils. I need to be able to deal with these emotions more sanely, instead of carrying them around with me like some horrible piece of luggage. I'm hoping these five will help.

As for the rest: maybe I need to eat more chocolate.

Posted at 06:51 PM
January 08, 2003
Alas, the Bunny

Sad news from Japan today. Apparently a rabbit's life span is a lot shorter than you'd think, even on the Internet.

Goodbye to a B&W favorite.

Posted at 09:03 PM
January 06, 2003
Vox Populi

I like to hear the voice of people, both musically and verbally. And that of course is one of the big fears of the media priests. One of their objectives is to keep the voice of the ordinary person silenced as much as possible, because ordinary people say things that don't fit into neat, little packages. I think there needs to be more awkward and embarrassing things said in the future. Trouble always comes when you try to silence that stuff because it never works and backfires...

--David Thomas, of Pere Ubu, one of my favorite bands, in The Big Takeover (alas, full text is not available online; worth a subscription, though)

It seems to me that I usually am at the front of the line in the way of saying awkward and embarrassing things. At least, I am often embarrassed; not sure about anybody else.

Posted at 07:21 PM
January 04, 2003
Pink Think

I was heartened to read about Code Pink, a women's group that opposes the war against Iraq. Women in pink are holding peace vigils and fasts to protest the imminent war. The vigils began in November and will continue until March 8.

They also attract some, well, interesting followers. Visit the comments page (belatedly) for Christmas carols rewritten as protest songs, including "Have Yourself a Merry Little Wartime."

I'm encouraged by the number of peace resources online. During the first gulf war, if you lived outside the major metro areas, there was very little in the way of information about what other groups were doing, unless you heard through the grapevine or it was covered by the media, which hardly ever happened.

Posted at 08:49 AM
January 02, 2003
But Can You Do the Fandango?

Riding to work today, I looked around at the bleary faces and dull eyes all around me--the closed, anonymous "train face" city dwellers tend to assume. I have nothing agains anonymity, but today I wanted to see everybody dancing.

Wouldn't it be great if, on the train, everybody could bossa nova?

I'd love for there to be a sound system and some atmospheric lighting, too. Put down that newspaper, Mr. Yuppie, and start moving those feet! Old ladies and kids could dance too, and even that homeless guy, unless he's napping. We'd all be grooving to "The Girl From Ipanema" and the journey to work would be much more fun. (That dreary business of shuffling on and off the train would be much improved by some smooth moves, too.) I bet even the conductors would cheer up; maybe we'd even find that guy who used to call the Howard/Dan Ryan route "The Love Train."

It would require some doing on the CTA's part, particularly getting the sound system in shape, but I think it would improve our quality of life immeasurably. I'll be writing the mayor directly, or maybe he'll stop by here.

Here's how they bossa nova at Club Martini.

I know some of those dance-allergic guys are scoffing. But even Elvis knew the score, and you don't want to get upstaged by Elvis, do you?

"She said, "Hey bossa nova baby keep on workin'
For I ain't got time for that."
She said, "Go bossa nova baby keep on dancin'
Or I'll find myself another cat."

Put on those dancing shoes...

Posted at 06:41 PM
January 01, 2003
Other Hand

Talked to a friend today about why she never read the Lord of the Rings. Apparently, as a child, she found her mother crying over the last book. This made her so sad she hasn't been able to bring herself to read them, ever.

Friend: She told me she was crying because she would never have the experience of reading them for the first time again.

Friend's husband, in background: Well, I was going to buy you a diamond bracelet, honey, but I didn't because then I would never have that experience for the first time again.

Posted at 12:38 PM