Mark's blog

Sporadic posts about a wide variety of topics.
‘A History of Violence’ (David Cronenberg movie, 2005)

‘A History of Violence’ (David Cronenberg movie, 2005)

A History of Violence had several elements that attracted me. The clip that was shown on the TV talk show circuit — a small town diner scene in which the proprietor's identity is questioned by an intimidating visitor — was very compelling. Viggo Mortensen, who plays...

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Excellent Tuscan chicken and beans recipe

After a couple of days near 70°F. last week, cold weather is back in southeastern Wisconsin this weekend, so we're turning to hearty, savory dinners. Beef is on the menu tonight, and Friday there was a veal meat loaf, so I wanted...

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What’s on my iBook?

Sometimes you can be so busy performing all of your daily tasks on your computer that you never stop to think about how amazing the development of computers has been and how much you have come to depend on them — until your computer suddenly dies. [includeme...

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‘Shopgirl’ (2005 movie, Steve Martin, Claire Danes)

I had imagined Shopgirl would be pretty good. Roger Ebert gave it three and a half stars. Steve Martin wrote the novel and the screenplay, and he's also the leading man. Claire Danes co-stars, and Jason Schwatzman has a supporting role. I like both of them. There's...

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Hummingbirds and hummingbird feeders

Hummingbirds and hummingbird feeders

he radio show I work for is in Mexico this week — and so, with luck, is the little bird at my nifty HummZinger hummingbird feeder in the photo above. The weekend after Labor Day, he was right outside my window. As I have mentioned before, Amy and I...

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Keith Olbermann’s special comments

Keith Olbermann’s special comments

I watch TV news all day long for a living, so it's unlikely that I would want to watch more of it when I'm finally off work at 7 p.m., and yet that's what I find myself doing these days. Radio legend Steve Dahl was a very early enthusiast of Countdown with Keith...

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My website fell asleep

Holy smokes! Six weeks have gone by. There was a phone call at the end of August about developing a small Web site. The next thing I knew, I was sitting down in my office every morning at 6 a.m., walking downstairs for dinner...

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my arms fell asleep

i woke up in the middle of the night, and i must have been lying funny, because both of my arms had fallen asleep. this sort of thing has happened before, and usually there's a painful 'pins and needles' phase while the limbs come back from limbo, but not this time....

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Hungarian Goulash recipe

Hungarian Goulash recipe

My sister-in-law Marianne mentioned our Hungarian Goulash the other day. She says our nephews love it. It's a great, beefy stew that really hits the spot in autumn, or on a rainy evening like yesterday, and the kitchen smells fantastic as it gets close to done....

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Online weather services: Weather Underground, My-Cast

Thanks to the new weather, it's no longer enough to catch a TV forecast before going to bed, and the 7-day outlooks are about as reliable as horoscopes. No, the weather these days is more tempermental than an overtired teenager during a full moon. If you plan on...

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‘Brothers’ (movie, 2004)

‘Brothers’ (movie, 2004)

Monday night we watched Brothers, a Danish film directed and co-written by Susanne Bier. The title refers to two of the main characters. One of the men (Ulrich Thomsen as Michael) is a straight-laced, married soldier with two...

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Earworm infestation: ‘Danny’s Song’ by Kenny Loggins

Lately, I haven't been listening to music as much as I used to. The weather is perfect, all the windows are open, and I want to be a little considerate about inflicting my playlist on my neighbors. Also, sometimes it's just nice to enjoy the natural sounds of chirping...

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‘Step Into Liquid’ (surfing documentary, 2003)

‘Step Into Liquid’ (surfing documentary, 2003)

Last night's Netflix offering was Step Into Liquid, a so-so 2003 surfing documentary by Dana Brown, the son of Bruce Brown, who made the granddaddy of all surfing films, The Endless Summer, back in 1964. Overall, Step Into Liquid...

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‘Tokyo Story’ (1953 movie)

Last night we watched Tokyo Story, a 1953 Japanese movie by Yasujiro Ozu which is often included in lists of the best films of all time. Previously, we had seen Ozu's 1959 work, Floating Weeds, which included a very illuminating commentary by our favorite critic,...

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Tomato hornworm caterpillar? No, tobacco hornworm

Tomato hornworm caterpillar? No, tobacco hornworm

As detailed here in the past, we'd like to keep our yard organic and hopping with life — food plants, flowers, birds, butterflies, earthworms, shrubs, trees. We're not using chemical fertilizers, weed killers, or pesticides. We are using compost, cow manure,...

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‘Cooking Light’ magazine:  It’s what’s for dinner

‘Cooking Light’ magazine: It’s what’s for dinner

"To be or not to be" is not The Question. The real, agonizing, impossible question confronts us every single day of our lives like someone we knew we couldn't avoid running into. It is: "What should we have for dinner?" There was a time when we ordered carry-out...

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Yew shrubs: Toxic taxus, poisonous plants?

Yew shrubs: Toxic taxus, poisonous plants?

ews. We had them at all three of my parents' houses when I was growing up, and there they were again when we were buying our own house — two big ones along the foundation in the back, and some smaller ones at the foundation in front. I had always...

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At home in Racine

At home in Racine

It seems strange now, but growing up in the city immediately south of here, I never got very familiar with Racine. In fact, I spent four years attending middle school in Racine, but never saw much of the city beyond The Prairie School campus out on Wind Point and the...

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‘Sin City’ (2005 movie)

‘Sin City’ (2005 movie)

Amy and I used to go to movie theaters a lot. I would check Rotten Tomatoes, then we'd hop in the car and run down to the Century CinéArts 6 in Evanston or Landmark's Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park, or up to the Oriental Theatre or Downer Theatre in...

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We are gardeners, and it is good

We are gardeners, and it is good

 Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. From the soil, Yahweh God caused to grow every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of...

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Tennis on TV: The French Open, 2006

I'm not a rabid, statistics-quoting sports geek. Growing up, I officially recognized only four sports: Baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. My dad watched hockey; I didn't. All I knew was Bobby Hull. I played a little basketball in school when Kareem...

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Memorial Day: Suddenly, it’s summer

Here in southeast Wisconsin, we no longer have the gentle, blossom-scented springtimes of my youth. Thanks to the New Weather, we now get six weeks of 40-degree fog one year, suffocating heat and humidity the next. This time around we had a hurricane or two,...

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The Bean, Chicago: A shining, elastic success

The Bean, Chicago: A shining, elastic success

Chicago's latest centerpiece was was dedicated at last yesterday, after a protracted birth process that saw it re-enter the womb briefly for a final polishing. (The photo above was taken before that, on September 5, 2004.) Cloud Gate, more popularly known as The Bean,...

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Josh Rouse: ‘Quiet Town’ music video

Josh Rouse: ‘Quiet Town’ music video

The first time I heard Josh Rouse was when "Dressed Up Like Nebraska" was played on the TV show Ed a few years back. It impressed me enough that I Googled the lyrics, determined the artist's name, and bought the song via iTunes. I still love it. More recently, when I...

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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Mastermind AND numbskull?

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Mastermind AND numbskull?

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in the news again yesterday when Multi-National Force-Iraq released outtakes of his recent propaganda video. Coalition officials held a news conference during which Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch ridiculed Zarqawi's weapons-handling skills and...

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Creeping Charlie (ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea)

Creeping Charlie (ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea)

"Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger." — Capt. Benjamin L. Willard in Apocalypse Now (1979)   When we moved here at the end of last August, the drought had baked the lawn pretty well, and it...

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Labeling immigrants — with plastic embossing tape?

As they are wont to do when devoting all of their news-reporting efforts to a single topic, CNN has designed a special title graphic for today's "Day Without Immigrants." There's barbed wire, and there are pant legs and shoes, but what I'm curious about is the font....

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