Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lakewood FP Hike

Yesterday was a bright sunny day, belying the 32 degree temperature, but a beautiful day for a 5 mile hike in Lakewood Forest Preserve. There were lots of people, and a high-flying flock of over 80 sand hill cranes was massing and squawking, probably preparing for a group migration south.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving in Rehab

Scott and Sarah, Steve, and I visited Mom in her rehab hospital room yesterday as she ate the tasty Thanksgiving meal the hospital provided her.

Then after a few hours, we headed over to Linda and Phil's for our turkey dinner. A good day with family, and we are all thankful Mom is recuperating nicely and has her wonderful optimistic attitude back.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

William Ward eloquently proclaimed, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” So always remember to make “Thanksgiving” a word of action.

Follow-up: The People's Tree Photo

Last week, WGN Radio personality John Williams, after hearing about the City of Chicago scaling back its annual municipal Christmas tree to "only" $100,000, ranted that he could do it for a lot less than that -- as in free -- as I reported here. His rant drew listener support, resulting in "The People's Tree" now standing at Tribune Tower, replete with ornaments made and donated by listeners. (Update: This tree did incur a cost of $250, so it wasn't completely free. The irony: The money was to pay a City of Chicago fee for using a crane!)

Here's the final product...

John is in the middle, flanked by his producer, Beth, and WGN's Mr. Fix-It, Lou Manfredini, who donated all the lights.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Random Facts #24

The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.

No piece of paper can be folded in half more than seven (7) times. 

Oak trees do not produce acorns until they are fifty (50) years of age or older.

The magnetic North Pole changes position by about 20 feet a day.

The Romans ate fried canaries.

An elephant can throw a baseball faster than a human.

In medieval England, beer was often served with breakfast.

If you keep a goldfish in a dark room, it will eventually turn white.

The number one cause of blindness in the United States is diabetes.

The longest recorded sneezing fit lasted 978 days.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who can take your taxes... Yes, The Government Can!

I love satire and political satire is especially good. I don't agree with all the sentiments in this piece, but this musical video by comedian Tim Hawkins is clever, cute, holds way too much truth, and gets high production and creativity scores...

(You have to paste this link into your browser. His site doesn't allow embedding the video.)

From Hawkins' web site:

Want clean comedy with an edge? Tim Hawkins brings the funny.

Hawkins has been accused of being equally gifted and twisted. Whatever your take, he has indeed become one of the most in-demand comics in the country. His arsenal is unique: high energy stand-up, physical comedy, slick guitar skills, a thousand faces and voices, improvisational chops. It all combines to create an insane comedy experience. And yes, the guy can really sing. “People think I live a rock-star life”, said Hawkins. “Believe me, Mick Jagger never gets lost in a Hertz parking lot looking for his Ford Focus.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bikin' Busse and Visiting Mom

The last 2 days, I've biked 36 miles on the Busse Trail before visiting Mom in Alexian Rehab Hospital. Lots of people out enjoying the beautiful weather, and also a lot of deer wandering the woods...

Friday, November 20, 2009

The People's Tree

A few weeks ago, the City of Chicago announced it would scale back on its annual Christmas tree due its high cost of $300,000. The tradition was to construct a huge tree out of dozens of smaller ones wired together. This year only one large tree would be used at a cost of a mere $100,000.

John Williams, WGN morning radio personality, went on a rant, exclaiming he and a few buddies and listeners could put up a 25' tree for only the cost of a carton of Old Style. And the calls poured in. Along with offers of help. Many offers.

This week, John and friends cut down a donated 24' fir tree out in Morris, Illinois. A volunteer with a trailer drove it to downtown Chicago. Another volunteer with a huge crane met them at the Tribune Tower and it was positioned in the courtyard. A maintenance crew from the Tower secured it to the building. WGN's Mr Fix-It, Lou Manfredini, donated 5000 LED lights from his Ace Hardware store, and another listener picked them up and delivered them to the Tower. And countless listeners stopped by the station, dropping off homemade ornaments.

Here's a video of the process...

Here's an audio montage of the on-air conversations that brought about this tree...

Still photos of the process can be found here...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Amazing Auto Ad

And you thought those people that set up a room full of dominoes to knock over were amazing. When this Honda ad was pitched to senior executives, they signed off on it immediately without any hesitation - including the costs. ...-- and supposedly it took over 600 "takes" to film it.

There seems to be discussion over if this was truly filmed or if it has been computer assisted (CGI), but either way, it's pretty amazing...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Not many posts from me this past week. Last Thursday, my mother broke her hip, fell to the floor of her apartment, and lay there yelling for help for 7 hours until she was discovered by the staff when she didn't appear for lunch.

She was operated on Saturday. Fortunately, she didn't need the full hip replacement -- a rod and pin sufficed -- but her age of 85 has her recuperating slowly, and after the hospital releases her, she'll go to a rehab center for a couple weeks.

So I have been, and will be, visiting her for a while, a 30 mile drive each way. I'll post about her progress as developments occur.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Making the stairs fun

Forget the escalator, since some Swedish designers have made taking the stairs fun again.

The campaign The Fun Theory of Volkswagen is a series of experiments, captured on video, to find out if making the world more fun can improve peoples behavior.

Marketing a car doesn’t simply have to be about marketing a car by promoting its performance and efficiency virtues.

Volkswagen has launched a new grass roots experiential initiative in Sweden, which is encouraging local consumers to live leaner and greener lives. Rolighetsteorin – or The Fun Theory – involves a series of ‘social experiments’, videos of which have just gone live on YouTube.

In just four days, one involving the transformation of a stairway into an interactive keyboard has been watched almost 1.5 million times.

The aim was to prove that, if they made it fun, more people would take the stairs than the escalator. And it seems to have worked. The organizers claim that some 66 per cent of people chose to take the stairs rather than the escalator.

“We believe that the easiest way to change people's behavior for the better is by making it fun to do. We call it ‘The Fun Theory’,” explains an accompanying posting.

The VW "fun theory" website is here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Kings Firecrackers - Team Jump-roping

Ever seen team jump-roping with acrobatics? I hadn't either. Watch this performance by the Kings Firecrackers and be absolutely amazed!

The Firecrackers are a performance jump rope team made up of talented 4th-8th graders from the Kings Local School District in Ohio. Coached by Lynn Kelley, they perform at venues across the country. Some notable past performances have been at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a Presidential Inauguration and an appearance on The David Letterman Show.

The Firecrackers grew out of an elementary school physical education exposition. Coach Lynn Kelly was looking for a rhythmic activity that could be choreographed to music. She found some jump ropes, a few interested students and some good music. The response to the activity was so positive, that it was suggested that the group perform at halftime of a Junior Varsity basketball game. More overwhelmingly positive feedback lead the team to perform at more high school games and then eventually college and NBA basketball games.

The team practices approximately two hours a day, five to six times per week.

Here they perform on Jerry Lewis' MDA Telethon...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Points to Ponder #20

Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.

You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.

They divorced over religious differences: he thought he was God and she didn't.

Being over the hill is much better than being under it.

Wrinkled was not one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up.

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.

Consciousness is that annoying time between naps.

He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up three thousand times the computer memory.

Ham and eggs is a mere day's work for a chicken, but a lifetime commitment for a pig.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Alaska Part 8 - 14 Day Sierra Club Outing

Here's the 8th and final video chronicling my 2004 adventures in Alaska. Ten of us Sierra Club members met Nick and Sandy, the outing's leaders, in Fairbanks, and together enjoyed 14 days of outdoor adventures in south central Alaska. We camped nine nights and spent four nights in rustic cabins. Among our activities were two visits to Denali National Park, one to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and a three day backpack in Denali State Park. Here's the video of our "Alaska Autumn Sampler" trip...

McHenry Prairie Trail re-route

The group met in Crystal Lake and biked 18 miles, heading south. The re-route of the McHenry Prairie Trail in Crystal Lake south of Rakow Road is open, and the Pyott Road re-route looks nearly complete. The new alignment takes bikers along the (former quarry pit) lake now -- a much more scenic ride.

The leaves have nearly all fallen, a sad reminder winter is on the way and the end of the biking season. The advantage is improved sightlines into the woods as we bike through these forest preserves alongside the Fox River. This may be the end of the pleasant 60 degree temperatures, as the forecast predicts 50s and 40s as the week progresses.

Family, Food, and Football

Yesterday, Steve and Beth visited, and as we watched the Bears get trounced by the Cardinals, our frustration with their ineptitude was abated by reminiscences of family trips, favorite places across the country, humorous family experiences, and future travel plans.

After the televised debacle was mercifully over, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Dock's restaurant, resuming our conversation and watching two water skiers relishing the 70 degree November weather as they constantly circled Bangs Lake. I hope their wetsuits kept them warm when they toppled into the 40 degree water!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Alaska Part 7 - Biking, Hiking, and Paddling

In 2004, I drove 10,000 miles on an 11 week odyssey to and through Alaska, and this episode features my outdoor adventures while there -- namely biking, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and rafting -- in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Anchorage, Denali NP, Denali State Park, and Wrangell-St. Elias NP.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Riverport Chorus Concert

Last night I drove over the state line to Kenosha, Wisconsin, for a wonderful concert by the Riverport Chorus, a group of about 40 women who excel at singing four-part a cappella harmony, barbershop style. The members reside in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois and are part of a larger organization of 28,000 women worldwide known as Sweet Adelines International, and "Sisters" to the men's component known now as the Barbershop Harmony Society, originally called SPEBSQSA, or the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America.

June, the director of the chorus, is a friend of mine from church choir, where she sings alto, and her husband, Brian, sings tenor in our choir. Brian is also a long-time barbershopper, singing in the New Tradition Chorus in Northbrook, Illinois.

The concert was "cabaret style," meaning the audience was seated at tables and food and drink were available for purchase. The concert was entitled Fall In! and songs followed the themes of "Fall," "Halloween," and "Veteran's Day."

Riverport is a nine-time regional champion chorus and has competed in several international competitions in cities including Houston, San Antonio, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Portland, Phoenix, Detroit, and Calgary, where they have placed as high as tenth in the world.

The ladies of the group assembled baskets of themed items, such as chocolate, car care, salon day, and people purchased raffle tickets which they deposited by the baskets they were interested in winning. Brian won a couple baskets, including this one...

For the final number, audience members who had ever been associated with Sweet Adelines were invited to join in singing the Sweet Adeline theme song, "Harmonize the World"...

After the concert, June made her way back to our table to visit with her husband, daughter-in-law and son, and three grandchildren.

Here are a couple samples of the glorious sound these talented and dedicated singers combine to create...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Alaska Part 6 - Denali National Park

In 2004, I drove 10,000 miles on an 11 week odyssey to and through Alaska, and this episode features Denali National Park. During my two months in Alaska, I visited Denali three times -- once on my own and twice as part of a two week Sierra Club Outing, camping a total of nine nights in park campgrounds. Twice I rode the Denali wildlife bus 86 miles into the backcountry, during which I took the camcorder footage and still photos found in this video. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Alaska Part 5: The Kenai Pensinsula

In 2004, I drove 10,000 miles on an 11 week odyssey to and through Alaska, and this episode features Homer, Seward, and Whittier, with footage of Kenai Fjord National Park and Chiswell Islands Wildlife Sanctuary.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Alaska Part 4: Beyond the Arctic Circle and Back by plane and van

In 2004, I drove 10,000 miles on an 11 week odyssey to and through Alaska reported here. During the trip, I also took camcorder footage which I came across on an external drive this week. So I put together this video of the flight I took over the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks, and then the van ride back on the Dalton Highway, alongside the Trans-Alaska Pipeline -- and all of this while wildfires burned 6 million acres of tundra and trees...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hiking The Hollows

We finally are getting gorgeous fall days, and yesterday we took advantage of one by hiking 5+ miles in The Hollows in Cary with the Rusches and Kortekaases...

Very little foliage remains on the flora so the "look" of fall and winter is upon us...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alaska Part 3: Flightseeing Glacier Bay National Park

In 2004, I drove 10,000 miles on an 11 week odyssey to and through Alaska reported here. During the trip, I also took camcorder footage which I came across on an external drive this week. So I put together this video of the flight I took over Glacier Bay National Park...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Alaska Part 2: Skagway and the White Pass & Yukon RR

In 2004, I drove 10,000 miles on an 11 week odyssey to and through Alaska reported here. During the trip, I also took camcorder footage which I came across on an external drive this week. So I put together this video of the ride on the White Pass & Yukon RR...