My blog

I write in spurts, mostly at random.

Allstate ‘Raccoon Mayhem’ commercial with Dean Winters

The Allstate Mayhem commercial series has burrowed deep into my head. I saw the "Raccoon Mayhem" commercial above a couple of days ago. Then, this morning at about 2:30, I heard either a large raccoon or a small horse tramping across our roof above my bed. All I could...

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TV schedule shell games make it hard to follow shows

As a TV viewer, there are few things which irritate me more than the games played with the TV schedule these days. Despite the ridiculous amount of money we pay to a cable company every month -- and despite our willingness to follow and even promote the few shows we...

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Sound of a chipmunk: Weird chipmunk noise

The chipmunk noise in this video was recorded on our front doorstep a couple of years ago, but we have the same situation in the backyard today. After weeks of air conditioned cabin fever during the Heat Wave of 2011, the windows are finally open here at the...

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‘The Kids Are All Right’ (2010 movie)

Many gentle souls still practice the delicate daily art of rapport with their fellow human beings, despite some whose approach to life is aimed more at "winning" some aggressive marketing campaign. Although a lot of movies today rely on computer-generated robots in...

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Austerity is dangerous class politics

Watching the riots in England these days, one line from the video above keeps echoing in my mind: There's a term for this: "class politics," and it usually ends badly. Speaking about austerity in the video is Mark Blyth, a faculty fellow at...

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3D printing miracle: The 3D printer will change the world

The latest installment of the BBC World Service's Global Business program -- "New Dimensions for Manufacturing - Episode 1" -- kind of blew my mind. It's about "3D printing," which I had never heard of. Apparently it's been around for 30 years, known as "rapid...

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Racine history: 1861 Joshua Pierce home

e were talking gardening with our neighbor Katie last month when she mentioned that her daughter, Mary, has an interest in Racine history and has been researching our neighborhood's past online. I handed Katie my business card and told her I would...

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Japanese Beetle control: Grubs in lawn

We first saw a Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) in our Racine, Wisconsin backyard a few years ago. They were devouring our rose bush. So, after reading about the use of geraniums as a trap crop (since geraniums are toxic to Japanese beetles), we planted a geranium...

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Wedding anniversary, 20 years: Have we got this?

Thirty years ago today, Lady Diana married Prince Charles in an extravagant wedding ceremony that was broadcast around the world. I had just turned 21, and was living back at my mom's house in Kenosha after a short career in door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales and a...

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Jeff Bridges movie: ‘Crazy Heart’ (2009)

I knew I wanted to watch Crazy Heart (trailer above) -- Jeff Bridges won the Academy Award, it was well-reviewed, Ryan Bingham is in it and sings the theme -- but I was also hesitant. It's about an aging alcoholic singer-songwriter, so it might be a terribly tragic...

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Hummingbird moth (Hemaris thysbe)

Watch this video in full-screen, 720p mode. The Hummingbird Moth is difficult to see at first, but it comes closer during the second minute of the clip. The first time I saw one of these, my mind briefly went into a strange Twilight Zone mode because I couldn't place...

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‘Farmer John’ movie documents Illinois farmer’s life

We watched a DVD last night that turned out to be an unexpected delight. The Real Dirt on Farmer John is a 2005 documentary about the life of a farmer, John Peterson of the Angelic Organics farm at Caledonia, Illinois, which is just a little northeast of Rockford,...

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Jackson Browne, ‘The Barricades of Heaven’

Above is a YouTube video of Jackson Browne performing "The Barricades of Heaven" at the Glastonbury Festival in southwest England in June of 2010. The song -- originally released on Browne's 1996 album Looking East -- has been my constant earworm for several days...

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Milkweed Bug infestation of Butterfly Weed

Pictured here is the original idea — purple Liatris spicata spikes paired against orange Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) blossoms in one of our backyard flower beds. Both attract butterflies, both are easy-to-grow perennials, and both have similar tight flower...

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Paul Ryan is Dagwood Bumstead

In the video clip above we see Rachel Maddow, aggravated over Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and the tendency of the news media to portray him as a bright and earnest young man on the rise -- a numbers-whiz with a sharpened pencil behind his ear who has the guts to level...

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‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ (1988 movie)

We watch a lot of foreign films, and always enjoyed movies from Orion Pictures, but somehow Amy and I have never seen The Unbearable Lightness of Being, director Philip Kaufman's 1988 adaptation of Milan Kundera's 1984 novel. We haven't read...

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‘Mad Men’ Season 5: I give up

As Maureen Ryan wrote yesterday at TV Squad, Mad Men Season 5 is now postponed until 2012. Difficult negotiations are reportedly in progress over product placement, cast cuts, and trimming two minutes of each Mad Men episode's length. I give...

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Rick Steves travel bloopers

We have enjoyed Rick Steves and his European tours on public TV for years. We've even used a Rick Steves travel guide or two to find our way around France and Italy. Only through social media, however -- like the Rick Steves Facebook page...

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Stupid Americans found to be dumb and ignorant

A March 20 Newsweek story -- "How Dumb Are We? / How Ignorant Are Americans?" -- found that 29 percent of us can't name our vice president, 44 percent cannot define the Bill of Rights, and 73 percent are clueless about the core issue behind the Cold War. All of these...

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Potassium iodide: Thyroid protection from nuclear radiation

Watching coverage of the Japan nuclear meltdown over the last couple of days -- as well as the related discussion of the risk of nuclear plant meltdown here in the United States -- the distribution of potassium iodide there made me wonder: What does potassium iodide...

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‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (movie, 2009)

We have heard about "The Continuing Mysteries of Stieg Larsson" -- his untimely death at age 50 before the publication of his Millennium Trilogy, and his fourth manuscript, so far unpublished and enveloped in controversy. We are aware that Stieg Larsson's Millennium...

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Evolution, Genesis and creation: Snakes’ legs found

Science fans and people who study the Bible will certainly continue to debate evolution vs. creation for years to come, but for me the question is moot. As a syncretist, when I read those Bible verses in Genesis 1, I see them as a very early theory of evolution....

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NBC’s Kerry Sanders reporting live while driving

This was a very odd sight today. It's NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders reporting live from Wellington, Florida about the dangers of teens and their "car surfing" (also known as "ghost riding"). For both the intro and outro of the story...

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President Obama quit smoking ‘almost a year’ ago

Barack Obama's health initiative is reportedly a success. The president has managed to stop smoking for "almost a year" now, according to First Lady Michelle Obama. Good for him and his family. Quitting smoking has been a struggle for the...

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