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  • Archive for the 'Personal Narrative' Category

    Going to Brussels via Dunkirk and returning via Calais

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th September 2015 (All posts by )

    When we originally planned to go to Brussels, we were going to take the the Eurostar to Brussels, which is rather cheap and takes only two hours. However, a Eurostar train was stranded in June by rioting “migrants” in Calais.

    Anarchy erupted in the French port yesterday as striking workers started fires blocking both ferry and train routes.

    As ferry workers shut the port gates, trapping some lorry drivers inside, monstrous queues built up around the train entrace, as passengers and truckers became desperate to get to Britain. The queues still haven’t dissipated.

    Madness continued after strikers, protesting feared job cuts, also made it onto the tracks setting more tyres alight.

    Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar suspended their services due to the disruption.


    After reading that, and at the invitation of our friends, we decided to take the older surface ferry to Dunkirk. The riots were a combination of rioting migrants and rioting French workers who were complaining about the migrants.


    This was much more peaceful and gave us the opportunity to see the site of the 1940 evacuation of the British Army.

    Our return from Brussels was via Calais but also by surface ferry. The reason was interesting.


    This is an enormous wine market, the size of a Costco or WalMart in the states. It turns out that Britain taxes the sale of wine so heavily that most middle class wine lovers travel to France to buy wine and bring it home on the ferry in their cars. Our hosts assured us that this is legal and one wonders what the British government thinks about the incentives they have created. That wine store was one of three or four we saw in the area.


    Here is a sign in the wine store offering to pay the fare for the ferry round trip if wine is ordered online and picked up at the store by the buyer. Since the ferry fare is about 100 pounds, this is a huge promotion, although one our friends were unaware of until I called it to their attention. They bought a year’s supply of wine and loaded it into the VW camper van we were using. The cost was around a thousand pounds and, unfortunately, the offer required advance online purchase so they did not get the deal.

    We then drove on to Calais, passing migrant camps by the road.


    Here is a migrant shanty town seen through the car window in passing. The camps are walled off from the highway by new high fences along the motorway to the Calais ferry terminal. The fences are tall and topped with razor wire.


    Here is the fence along the motorway which seems intended to keep the migrants from trying to break into trucks (lorries) on the highway.

    In the Calais terminal, we did see some people who looked like migrants although they could have been legal residents waiting for the ferry.

    Ferry Terminal

    These small groups were walking through the parked trucks and cars waiting for the ferry. I did not see them enter a car of truck. When we reached Dover again, our friends took us to the train station and we took the train to London. It was an enjoyable and informative trip. We spent another four days in London and flew home on the 21st.

    Posted in Britain, Europe, Islam, Personal Narrative, Terrorism | 11 Comments »

    A Day at Ypres

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th September 2015 (All posts by )

    We spent today at Ypres an the huge military cemeteries from the battles of the Ypres Salient.

    This was an early battle of WWI and the “first battle of Ypres” occurred at the end of “The Race to the Channel.” I have read a bit about the First World War but it really comes home when you are standing the place that consumed the British youth in 1914 to 1918. The First Battle ended the Race to the Sea and began the trench warfare of the next four years.

    We visited the “Sanctuary Wood Museum today, and I took some photos of the trenches which were preserved all these years by then owner of the small cafe where we had a beer.



    These trenches are the originals preserved by the property owner who probably has cleaned out debris over the years. The owners of the cafe are the children of the original owners of the property who preserved these relics. Their museum has many objects no doubt excavated from the fields around.

    Recent highway construction, which has now been suspended, has bodies buried in a trench during the war, which are preserved.

    The bodies of 21 German soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved World War One shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed.
    The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when a huge Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918, causing it to cave in.
    Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter, but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.
    Nearly a century later, French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front in eastern France during excavation work for a road building project.

    The road building has been suspended for now but every construction project in this area uncovered evidence of war dead. Today we visited an enormous memorial for the war dead whose bodies were never recovered. It is called the Menin Gate Memorial and the names of 54,000 dead are posted on the walls representing most of the dead from the Ypres Salient who could not be identified.

    Menin Arch Memorial

    The sheer number of dead whose bodies were destroyed, or lost, is staggering.

    The city of Ypres (pronounced by our hosts as “eep” has been rebuilt as it was destroyed in the war.


    The cathedral was rebuilt from a stump of the tower. The bottom 20 feet to so was protected by rubble and is in better shape. The entire city was rebuilt completely.

    British WW1 Cemetery, Ypres

    The city is surrounded by British war cemeteries of which there are about 150, each with about 500 to 1,000 graves.

    Osler Grave

    One grave that particularly interested me was that of Sir William Osler’s only son who was killed by shrapnel while serving as an artillery officer in 1917. His fathers freehand tried to save him and his last words, reflecting many young men who were wounded, “Surely this (wound) will get me home. ” His last words.

    Today, we arrived at Brussels and will do some touring tomorrow of the Waterloo Battlefield. We passed on the road one of Wellington’s battle fields from the 18th century.

    The TV tonight is all about the “refugees” which we saw a few of today in Brussels.

    Posted in Europe, France, Health Care, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, Photos | 6 Comments »

    Oregon Road Trip Part I

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 20th July 2015 (All posts by )

    Recently I went to Oregon for the first time. In my past work as a consultant and during vacations I’d been to 48 states – but not Oregon or Hawaii. We started out in Portland and traveled around most of the state and it was a good time, with a lot of odd insights.

    The architecture in Portland was spectacular. I am a fan of the “Dwell” type house; a modern look with lots of glass. Portland had many older houses (Victorians) along with a lot of great new construction, especially in the downtown area.

    Oregon in general had many older cars, often in pristine condition. I saw a lot of older pickup trucks off the main roads, still working hard for their owners. Not sure why but generally it must be that they don’t salt their roads.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Personal Narrative | 8 Comments »

    Greek Idylls – Part 3

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th July 2015 (All posts by )

    (I meant to post another chapter of this yesterday – but spent all day at a book event in a mall, and came back exhausted and suffering from an allergic reaction to dust, possibly mold in the AC ducts, and exposure to a LOT of people)

    Christmas in Greece barely rates, in intensity it falls somewhere between Arbor Day or Valentines’ Day in the United States: A holiday for sure, but nothing much to make an enormous fuss over, and not for more than a day or two. But Greek Orthodox Easter, in Greece—now that is a major, major holiday. The devout enter into increasingly rigorous fasts during Lent, businesses and government offices close for a couple of weeks, everyone goes to their home village, an elaborate feast is prepared for Easter Sunday, the bakeries prepare a special circular pastry adorned with red-dyed eggs, everyone gets new clothes, spring is coming after a soggy, miserable winter never pictured in the tourist brochures. Oh, it’s a major holiday blowout, all right. From Thursday of Holy Week on, AFRTS-Radio conforms to local custom, of only airing increasingly somber music. By Good Friday and Saturday, we are down to gloomy classical music, while outside the base, the streets are nearly deserted, traffic down to a trickle and all the shops and storefronts with their iron shutters and grilles drawn down.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, Personal Narrative, Photos | 9 Comments »

    Greek Idylls – Part Two

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th July 2015 (All posts by )

    “Miso kilo, parakhalo,” which means “Half a kilo, please” was the single most useful phrase I learned. Every neighborhood in Athens had its own farmer’s market on a certain day of the week: in Sourmena, it was on Saturday, in Glyphada on Thursday, but in Ano Glyphada, where we lived in a second-floor apartment set in Kyria Venetia’s garden of citrus and olive trees, our market was on Tuesday mornings. Very early in the day, around 5AM, a two-block stretch of road would blocked off, and the venders would set up their small tables, covered with faded canvas awnings, all along the sidewalks, each offering their own produce specialty: piles of seasonal fruit and vegetables, eggs, mounds of lemons and fresh-cut herbs.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Diversions, Personal Narrative, Recipes | 2 Comments »

    Greek Idylls – Part One

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th July 2015 (All posts by )

    My then pre-K aged daughter Blondie and I lived in Athens from March 1983 to September 1985. It was a follow-on assignment to Hellenikon Air Base (now closed) to a year that I spent at Sondrestrom, Greenland, forty miles north of the Arctic Circle. All during that year of separation, I had promised her that we would go to Athens together, and live in a house on a hill, with lemon and olive trees all around and a view of the sea, and we would be happy.
    We did, and we were, and these are the things I learned and remember.

    Athens is a large and mostly modern city, 7/8th of it built up since 1945, with smog to rival Los Angeles and sheer noise to equal New York. All the neat old historic buildings are buried among the modern construction like one of those party favor balls made of crepe, which you unwind to find various little toys hidden in the layers. The park in the heart of the city is the Zappeion garden, lush and green, with a pond of ducks and a tiny children’s’ library. The Zappeion is full of cats, at which we used to marvel, as they were all so fat and tame. One afternoon when my daughter and I were walking back to catch our bus to the suburbs, we kept noticing the cats slinking out of the bushes by the dozen, looking expectantly at us. A young couple came into the gardens by one of the gates from Vassilias Amelia Avenue, staggering under the weight of three or four plastic shopping bags in each hand, and the cats gathered purposefully. The young couple set down the bags, took out can openers and began opening cans of cat food. They did this every other day, or so: the young man was English and worked nearby. He and his girlfriend came to feed the cats every day or so, having taken it over from an elderly Greek lady some years before, and the local ASPCA chapter (composed mostly of other expat English) worked to trap and neuter as many as possible. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Photos, Recipes | 10 Comments »

    Passing It On – II – The Personal – Or How the ’60s Changed Everything

    Posted by Ginny on 6th July 2015 (All posts by )

    Or, the accurate but revealing title, How Moments Lead to Life Time Prejudice, Unmoved by Research

    I loved literature classes. My general fecklessness led to reading 17th century prose on night duty at the mental hospital when I was 20, absorbing little. My choices were seldom sensible – at first I had the excuse of being 17, of hitting college when the world changed fast – but still, I matured slowly. Few I knew experimented with drugs, but we successfully screwed up our lives without them. Simply put, my judgement was lousy in men, jobs, and energy/time management. But I loved going to class (not, mind you, always doing the work – I often hadn’t read the assignment). But in the hot world of adolescence, especially in the sixties, the cool calm of walking into a classroom ordered my days, gave me a separate peace – quiet, cool and cerebral. It challenged my mind as the world outside my emotions.

    That’s why I keep distance. My friend describes my teaching as cool – well, yes. I address students by their last names. I’m not their friend nor entertainer; I don’t want to offer me but the work – deep and textured and lovely. That’s where our eyes focus – on the text. So, that old model persists. Harvey Mansfield’s address notes that formality has its place, signals respect.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Education, Lit Crit, Personal Narrative, Society | 10 Comments »

    One Moment in the Eighties

    Posted by Ginny on 29th June 2015 (All posts by )

    David Foster writes of the “reset” button. I wanted to thank him in a comment, but it lengthened. And as he begins with the mistranslation, I should begin with an apology: I still know no Czech. But a memory from the eighties came so powerfully, I wanted to share it.

    In those years, we hosted various musical and academic visitors. My language incompetence was a difficulty: fluent English wasn’t always an aid in getting those visas. Often a scholar or musical group was substituted for the requested one; visa granting was erratic and subject to bureaucratic whims.

    But I remember vividly a group sent to a conference, around 1983 or so. One of the local Czechs, a family dedicated to the language (the father had taught Czech at A&M, his brother at UT), invited them to visit their farm. The folk singers were given tea and cake; sitting in the farm’s front yard, with grasshopper pumps near the house and broad land and skies behind that, they chatted. But then, they stood and began singing acapella with deep and strong voices an old hymn – one they knew well, but never sang at concerts, they said. The resonance came from their hearts. I didn’t know the language and decades have come between. Perhaps it was this one (or this) . If not, the simplicity and clarity were similar. It was a breathtaking moment.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Music, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    A Bleg.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 16th June 2015 (All posts by )


    I have a new book out on Kindle that is now published. It is called “War Stories: 50 Years in Medicine.”

    I’ve been working on this for 20 years and kept having to revise it as I would put it down and then go back to it after ten years. I finally decided to rework it and publish it two years ago. My students were reading the draft on my laptop while I was editing so maybe it will be interesting.

    It is a memoir of patients. They are all patients’ stories that I have tried to describe accurately and to describe what we did then. Sometimes I screwed up and I tell those, too. Sometimes we did the best we could and we now know better. Some of these cases are still hard to explain.

    Two of them, in the chapter on Melanoma, are about young women who developed major melanoma metastases years after the primary was excised but when they had become pregnant. The melanoma went wild in pregnancy, in one case ten years later. In the other, three years after I had removed the primary, she developed extensive metastases while pregnant. She refused abortion and I thought it would cost her her life. In both cases the melanoma vanished after pregnancy ended. In one case, the woman, last I heard, was free of melanoma 25 years later. The other was free ten years later. The medical literature says pregnancy has no effect on melanoma. Neither ever became pregnant again.

    Another case is an example of the only supernatural near-death experience I have ever heard.

    The book starts when I began medical school in 1961 and describes experiences with patients, including my summer working with schizophrenic men in 1962. I have a series of stories about patients I saw as a student and sometimes intersperse stories from later that are about similar cases and events. One that is amusing, I guess, is about my very first pelvic exam, on a 40 year old prostitute who had just gotten out of prison and enjoyed it thoroughly. I had a dozen student nurses as witnesses. I do have some biography in it but try to keep it to minimum.

    After the first eight chapters, I go on to residency and then finally to private practice. I continued to teach and there are a few of those stories. There is a chapter on ethics including my thoughts on euthanasia and “benign neglect.” Toward the end of my career, I started and ran a trauma center in our community hospital. I also did a fair amount of testifying in court in both trauma cases and some civil cases where I testified for plaintiffs and for defense. I consider it a compliment that Kaiser Permanente had me testify for their defense even though I had also testified against them.

    Anyway, the book is on Kindle and I hope somebody is interested. It has some similarity to my medical history book, which I plan to do a Kindle version of once this one is launched. In this one, I spend some time explaining the diseases in a way that I used to explain to patients and I still do to students. Without some basic understanding, most of these stories would not make sense and I hope the explanations are not too dull. If so, all comments are welcome. If anyone likes it, feel free to post a review on Amazon. Two reviewers from the first book in 2004 told me to let them know if I did another one and I have contacted them.

    If anyone wants to discuss the book here, feel free to add comments.

    Posted in Biography, Blegs, Book Notes, Health Care, Medicine, Personal Narrative | 16 Comments »

    Back to the old neighborhood.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Last month, I posted some old photos of Chicago in the 1940s. I grew up in a neighborhood that has since gone badly downhill in spite of a lot of positive features that should have kept it livable. It is South Shore and here is the previous post. We went back for a visit this week and just returned home last night. I posted some more photos of the old neighborhood Here.

    We even revisited some spots from my post about a week in Michigan from two years ago.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, History, Personal Narrative | 3 Comments »

    It All Comes Down to Chickens

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th May 2015 (All posts by )

    The coop, completed and painted.

    The coop, completed and painted.

    Granny Jessie kept chickens during the Depression – quite a lot of them, if my childhood memories of the huge and by then crumbling and disused chicken-wire enclosure, the adjoining hutch and the nesting boxes are anything to go by. Some of her neighbors went on keeping backyard livestock well into the 1960s – we occasionally sampled goose eggs at Granny Jessie’s house where we could hear a donkey braying now and again. Mom had to help care for the chickens, as child and teenager – and wound up detesting them so much that this was the one back-yard DIY farm element that we never ventured into when we were growing up. Mom hated chickens, profoundly. It seems that keeping chickens is one of those fall-back things, when hard times loom.

    But my daughter and I were considering it over the last couple of years, along with all of our other ventures into suburban self-efficiency – the garden, the cheese-making, the home-brewing and canning, the deep-freeze stocked full, the pantry likewise. I put off doing anything about chickens until two things happened: we finally encountered the woman in our neighborhood who keeps a small flock of backyard chickens, and she took us to see her flock. She told us that it was not much trouble, really, and the eggs were amazingly flavorful. In comparison, supermarket eggs – even the expensive organic and supposedly free-range kind were insipid and tasteless.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Entrepreneurship, North America, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 29 Comments »

    Growing up in Chicago in the 1940s.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th May 2015 (All posts by )

    I grew up in a Chicago neighborhood called South Shore. At that time, 1943 to 1956, it was one of the nicest parts of the city. Now, now, it is a cesspool of crime.

    When my father moved us to the house at 7344 Paxton Avenue, I was 6 years old. The area was quiet and peaceful. Not far away was South Shore Country Club, a beautiful club that offered golf, skeet shooting and a horseback riding to members.


    It was a elegant place and I visited a few times but we were not eligible for membership because my father was in the business of owning and repairing juke boxes. That was not a respectable enough occupation. Prosperity was not the criterion. Los Angeles County Club has barred people from the entertainment business for the same reasons.

    Our home had been built in 1912 and still had gas lighting fittings in the bathroom and living room, as electrical lighting was still a bit suspect.


    This is the house many years after we were gone. It has had the front porch enclosed in brick. Otherwise, it looks much the same. The owner saw me taking a photo and came out to ask me who I was. He insisted on showing me through the house which has had some interior remodeling. He asked if I could send him photos of what it looked like when we lived there but most of my old pictures are home movies.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Personal Narrative | 19 Comments »

    Rockford – At The Top in Illinois

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 4th May 2015 (All posts by )

    I grew up in Rockford, Illinois in the seventies. I lived what would now be considered a pretty rough existence. I ate hot dogs a lot, all of my “new” clothes came from the Salvation Army, our house was perpetually cold in the winter since we couldn’t afford to turn up the thermostat too high, etc. etc. But we all understood what we had to do, and I was never wanting.

    I sincerely feel that growing up in that sort of environment prepared me very well for my later life. Through a lot of hard work, I have become relatively successful, but remain rooted in reality – I would say that I am frugal, but not cheap. I hate waste.

    My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to a private Baptist school, and I later attended a private Assembly of God school. In the seventies and early eighties, certain areas of Rockford were very rough. I saw the neighborhood I grew up in transform from one that would be considered your typical All American Neighborhood, to one that had half torn down houses, open air drug dealing and all the rest. We left that area for a better one out by the airport. When much of the heavy manufacturing base left, so did many of the good things that came with it in Rockford. But the people didn’t really change that much.

    Boy was I in for an awakening when I moved just 70 miles to the north to Madison, Wisconsin. Completely different deal to be sure. It was really quite the culture shock. I still laugh to myself when I see things in Madison that I consider strange. But I digress.

    The video below talks about some of the old manufacturing base in Rockford and even shows the (still) beautiful Sinnissippi Gardens, along with some of the hotels and other buildings that I recognized from my youth that were repurposed by the time I was growing up, and have been repurposed again since. My wife and I had our first real date at the Sinnissippi gardens where I bought her a – hot dog – for lunch. Rockford wasn’t all bad. I made it work.

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Video | 14 Comments »

    The Gypsy Marketplace

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    Over the last year or so, my daughter and I have moved deeper into the world of the gypsy entrepreneur market. Of course, I’ve been dabbling around the edges for a while, as an independent author, once I realized that there was more to be made – and a lot less ego-death involved – by taking a table at a local craft fair, especially those which occur around the end of the year, deliberately planned to enable the amicable separation of their money from someone shopping for suitable seasonal gifts. The first of these that I participated in – strictly book events, like the West Texas Book and Music Festival in Abilene – involved only a table and a chair. It was incumbent on the authors, though, to bring some signage, informational flyers, postcards and business cards, and perhaps eye-catching to adorn the table. But a couple of years ago, my daughter started a little business making various origami ornaments, flowers and jewelry, and last year we decided to partner together at the community market events within driving distance, and within our ability to play three-dimensional Tetris in fitting everything into the back of the Montero. It helps to have two people doing this kind of event, by the way – you can spell each other, make jaunts to other venders, go to the bathroom – and setting up and breaking down is much, much easier.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Conservatism, Markets and Trading, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, USA | 7 Comments »

    History Friday: A Vietnam Meditation

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th April 2015 (All posts by )

    (Posted a bit early, as I have been reminded of the anniversary of the fall of Saigon. I wrote a version of this early on at SSDB, around 2004.)

    Never been there, never particularly wanted to: to someone of my age, it is Bad Place, a haunted place, where ugly things happened. It gave nightmares to friends, co-workers, and lovers for years after it dropped out of the headlines and the six-o-clock news. Today in light of the current war, it seems as far away in time and nearly as pointless as the Western Front. You look, and remember, and wonder, knowing that yes, it really happened, but really, what was the point of it all? Platoon seems as much of a relic as Journey’s End, the image of a helicopter hovering over jungle with “All Along the Watchtower” on the soundtrack an image as archaic as doughboys with puttees and soup-plate helmets, marching along and singing “Mademoiselle from Armentieres”.

    But it was a beautiful place. My friends Xuan-An and Hai brought away pictures of where they lived in Dalat, in the highlands, where they married and lived with their three older children, snaps of cool, misty green pines and gardens of rhododendrons, and a horizon of mountains. Eventually, they had to flee Dalat for Saigon, where their youngest daughter was born, and Xuan-An’s mother came to live with them. Hai had left Hanoi as a teenager when the Communists took over there, his family being well to do, part Chinese, and immensely scholarly. He worked as a librarian for the USIS, and Xuan-An as a teacher of English and sciences, so they were on the Embassy list of Vietnamese citizens to be evacuated in the spring of 1975, with their four children, aged 12 to 2 years old. They were waiting at their home, for someone to come fetch them, on that last day. Perhaps someone from the Embassy might have come for them eventually, but Xuan-An’s brother who was the captain of a Vietnamese coastal patrol vessel came to their house after dark, instead. He had sent his crewmen all to fetch their families, they were going to make a run for safety out to sea, and he came to get his and Xuan-Ans’ mother. He was appalled to find his sister and brother-in-law and the children still there, and urged them to come with him straight away, and not wait any longer for rescue. They brought away no more luggage than what the adults could carry, in small packs the size of student’s book-bags, and the youngest daughter was a toddler and had to be carried herself. Xuan-An’s brother’s motor launch was a hundred feet long, and there were a hundred people crammed onto it, carrying them out to an American cargo ship, the Pioneer Contender, which waited with other American rescuers, just beyond the horizon.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Diversions, History, Immigration, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, Vietnam | 23 Comments »

    I Am Woman …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st March 2015 (All posts by )

    … hear me roar … and then turn around and whine because some cis-male said something, or looked something, and I feel so … so threatened! Look, girls…ladies … possessor of a vagina or whatever you want to be addressed as this week in vernacular fashion; can you just please pick one attitude and stick too it? Frankly, this inconsistency is embarrassing the hell out of me (sixty-ish, small-f feminist in the long-ago dark days when there was genuine no-s*it gender inequality in education, job opportunities and pay-scales to complain about and campaign for redress thereof). This is also annoying to my daughter, the thirtyish Marine Corps veteran of two hitches. The Daughter Unit is actually is very close to losing patience entirely with those of the sisterhood who are doing this “Woman Powerful!-Woman Poor Downtrodden Perpetual Victim!” bait and switch game. So am I, actually, but I have thirty years experience in biting my tongue when it comes to the antics of the Establishment Professional Capital-F Feminist crowd.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Feminism, Personal Narrative | 11 Comments »

    The Game “Doom” and Its Historical Importance

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th March 2015 (All posts by )

    The game “Doom” came out for PCs in the early 1990s. Playing that game was a formative experience for me and its contribution to computers and gaming is very under-rated.

    I recently picked up a copy of the game on my iPad. I immediately was re-immersed in the game, remembering the maps, the monsters, the tactics, and sweating and jerking in my chair as I tried to get through the levels alive.

    Doom was created by Id Software, and it was one of the most successful “first person” shooters. To some extent they invented the genre; their first game was Castle Wolfenstein which was a remake (far superior) of a top-down view game that I used to play on my old Apple II. That (ancient) game was famous for having the characters’ talk – I remember that they would yell “Schweindhund” when you shot the German guards.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Tech | 7 Comments »

    The Next Big Thing

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th February 2015 (All posts by )

    A few weeks ago while sitting around, my wife and I started discussing the Next Big Thing. My new smart phone is simply an improvement over the last one – that isn’t it.

    I will tell you what is the Next Big Thing – driverless cars.

    I had heard about them a few times before reading America 3.0, and they are mentioned in that book. I send Lex links about testing and we have both come to the conclusion that the big hurdle with them won’t be the technology – it will be regulatory hurdles. But this is coming faster than we all think – and there really won’t be much anyone can do to stop it since the demand will be intense.

    I imagine the cops will be trotting out “safety” issues when the real reason will be that their days of writing dumb speeding tickets will be over. That revenue train, along with the DUI industry, will take major hits. I imagine they and others will fight this to the end. Insurance companies will likely see damage done – as crash rates go lower, they will be forced to drop premiums, or people will just go to a simple liability policy and chance the crash.

    As for me, I lose 70 minutes a day of productivity sitting in my car. All isn’t lost since I listen to Bloomberg business news, however if I could have that 70 minutes to catch up on email, or to simply further myself by reading a book it would be a huge plus in my life. How about being able to have more than one glass of wine with dinner with my wife at a nice restaurant or at a wedding reception and not having to worry about a DUI?

    Elon Musk says that we will be ready, tech wise, in five to six years:

    Mr. Musk expects autonomous driving to be safer for riders and pedestrians by a factor of 10.

    I absolutely believe this. In addition, when the computer gets traffic reports, it will choose the quickest way to the destination, and will choose the speed to use the least amount of fuel.

    This article is interesting from CNBC. Here is a quote:

    But for some mass market brands like Chevy, Honda or Volkswagen, Winterhoff says it will tougher to compete and win in a world where self-driving cars usher in the idea of mobility on demand.

    “Autonomous drive vehicles will mean many families will need fewer cars and if you only have one car instead of two, you will likely make it a premium brand,” he said.

    Imagine having only one car for a family of four. In my life, it would drop me off at work, head home and transport the wife if she needs to go somewhere, pick up/drop off a kid at school, head to the market where my groceries will be loaded by a clerk there that I have already paid for with Google Wallet, etc. etc.

    When you get talking heads speaking about winners and losers, you can feel that it is on the way. I just can’t wait.

    Posted in Big Government, Personal Narrative, Tech | 66 Comments »

    Mike Lotus Spoke to the University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society Student Chapter on February 3, 2015 About “America 3.0 and the Future of the Legal Profession”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 5th February 2015 (All posts by )

    UChicago law school

    Huge thanks to the University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society Student Chapter on Tuesday, who invited me to speak to their group on February 3, 2015. I previously spoke at the Booth School of Business, which was also a thrill. I am most grateful for the opportunity to speak at the University of Chicago, my undergraduate alma mater.

    The event was well-attended. I attribute this in part to the drawing power of the free buffet of Indian food, and not exclusively to the appeal of the speaker. The students were attentive and asked good questions. I understand that audio of the talk will be available at some point. I will post a link when it is available.

    My topic was “America 3.0 and the Future of the Legal Profession”.

    First I spoke about some of the themes from America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century, Why America’s Greatest Days are Yet to Come, which I coauthored with James C. Bennett. I discussed the cultural foundations of American prosperity and freedom, the role of our legal profession in American history, in particular in adapting to technological changes, I then discussed some of the major technological changes which are now sweeping our nation and the world. I said that some of them will be general purpose technologies which will cause changes on the scale of the steam engine, railroads or computing itself.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Education, Entrepreneurship, Law, Personal Narrative, Politics, Quotations, Society, Tech, USA | Comments Off on Mike Lotus Spoke to the University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society Student Chapter on February 3, 2015 About “America 3.0 and the Future of the Legal Profession”

    A Random Upper-Middle-Class White Guy Writes About MLK

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 22nd January 2015 (All posts by )

    So, OK, my employer made me burn off some vacation days before the end of the fiscal year, in the form of a cap on the number of PTO hours that can be carried over from FY14 into FY15, which boundary has shifted by 3 months due to our recent change of ownership. Much lower down, my management intimated that due to certain software-release and testing milestone dates, no significant block of time off in February or March would be approved. But thanks to an unrelated M&A a few years back (a spectacularly problematic one, destined to be a business-school case study for decades to come), we now get the MLK holiday off. I decided to take the whole week and head southwest in search of sunlight. After a swing through New Mexico, I am spending a few days at Crow’s Nest, a 10-minute hike from the 6+ acres I own near Bloys Camp. It’s my first visit in four years.

    Mitre Peak (1887m/6190’) as seen from my lot

    Mitre Peak (1887m/6190’) as seen from my lot

    This is what I would write if somebody made me enter one of those hoary MLK essay contests that middle- or high-school students get sucked into. The entries that I’ve read over the years have seemed pretty unimaginative, but it’s hardly realistic to expect much historical perspective from a teenager. The tone I’m aiming for here is, of course, originality combined with some mildly discomfiting assertions, while avoiding stereotypical politics. The structure is a simple three-parter: past, present, and (near) future.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Holidays, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Latin America, Libertarianism, North America, Personal Narrative, Predictions, Society, Systems Analysis, Transportation, USA | 23 Comments »

    Autocomplete: Threat or Menace?

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th December 2014 (All posts by )

    “I’m losing my house.”

    A friend of mine sent me this text message when I was on my way to meet her. Fearing the worst, I called her. She told me she had just left her house and was on her way. Her fancy new cellphone’s predictive-text feature had changed “leaving” to “losing”.

    This kind of thing seems to happen a lot these days.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Working in a Maximum Security Prison (Part II)

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 7th December 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Joliet Illinois, 1992, at a Maximum Security Prison. Here is Part I of the story. This prison is where the Blues Brothers movie was filmed along with “Prison Break”.

    After I got acclimated to the prison, it was time to select the assets that I would audit during the summer. Typically you “randomly select” assets from the asset listing, take a statistically significant sample (perhaps 20-50 items), and draw conclusions about the whole pool of assets based on whether you were able to find the selected assets in the location where they were said to reside. I did this at first and the results came up with many assets titled “XXX-780” and I asked the accountants working for the facility what they were. The accountants said that these were individual prisoner beds and that was the cell number and the way to audit those assets would be to go in and unlock the cells and I could flip up the bed and check the number. I thought about this for a few minutes and then said “f&ck this” and decided that I would use “judgement” to select my assets instead of the random method and I selected 30 assets myself for my project.

    The quest to find the assets took me throughout the facility. If it was a gun that I selected, I would go past the guard into the armory, through the tunnels under the building, and up the ladder into the tower to manually check the serial number of the rifle or other weapon that was picked to be audited against the building records.

    I selected what turned out to be a sniper rifle. These guns were kept in storage at the armory, and they brought out the sniper to show me the weapon himself because they didn’t let other people touch it after he had calibrated the scope. The sniper asked me a question:

    Do you know why they pick snipers out of the staff in the prison?

    No, I said.

    Because in Attica there was an uprising and the prisoners took over the yard and then the prison brought in outside marksmen to ensure they could not escape. During the melee the marksmen shot many prisoners but it turns out that the prisoners had changed clothes with the civilian hostages, so some of the individuals gunned down were actual guards or workers. Thus the snipers were prison guards from that facility because they could pick out the inmates from the guards and workers.

    I said that if he ever saw me in his scope wearing an orange outfit, please don’t shoot. It wasn’t a joke.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Business, Personal Narrative | 5 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Working In a Maximum Security Prison (Part I)

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 4th December 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Joliet Illinois, 1992, at a Maximum Security Prison

    When I was an auditor I worked with utilities and governmental entities. These were the least popular clients because they often required a lot of travel and if you left the public accounting firm you generally worked for a client (or a different firm in the same industry) and this would pigeonhole you into working in regulated industries.

    When I thought I’d seen the least appealing clients possible, a new low occurred – I was assigned to a maximum security prison. The Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. The prison hired an accounting firm to do an audit of their property records and my job was to inventory the physical assets deployed throughout the facility.

    The only guards with weapons were in the towers or overlooking the prison walls. Once you were inside the facility the guards had nightsticks but no guns. This was to prevent the prisoners from overpowering the guards and taking their weapons. The prisoners could seize control of the facility at any time and hold the guards hostage but they could not exit the facility because the guards in the towers had rifles and would be able to fire back and would be difficult for the prisoners to overcome.

    You entered the facility and went into the armory. From the armory you could take tunnels under the facility and then you could go up into the tower via a ladder. Only within the armory and up the tunnels were the guards armed. This facility was built in the 1860s and it was disgusting in the tunnels underneath with standing water and rats. I would go through the tunnel and yell up and then they would let me into the tower via a ladder and I would climb up a couple stories in my suit with my briefcase. I remember distinctly that the guards seemed somnolent and they had a picture of the warden with a hand drawn mustache and graffiti on it; probably because there was no way he could sneak up there for a “sneak” audit. The guards in the tower always knew that you were coming.

    I took an initial tour of the prison with an assistant warden. She was an African-American woman perhaps in her 50s and the predominantly African-American prisoners treated her with great respect. They spoke to her politely and stayed out of our way rather than glaring and intimidating you to move out of their path, which would happen to me later when I walked alone throughout the facility.

    The first thing you noticed in the prison was how LOUD it was; everyone was screaming the word “motherf&cker” in about 250 variants. It was a cacophony of yelling and noise and very disconcerting. The prison cells were very small with 2 inmates each; one stood menacingly at the bars and one was usually on a bunk bed (there wasn’t really enough room for both of them to stand). If you walked too closely to the cell they might spit on you; if you walked below the high tiers they might throw urine down on you.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Business, Personal Narrative | 7 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Small Unit Cohesion

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 28th November 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Chicago, 2010, at a Shooting training center

    In 2010 my dad and I went to an all-day class to learn how to shoot properly. The first four hours were in a classroom and the last four hours were outside when it was a brisk fall day and we learned various techniques of how to shoot and spent over 800 rounds.

    In the beginning of the class, the instructor asked everyone about their background. My dad and I said we were complete amateurs. When the others talked about their experience I didn’t fully understand what they were saying until later but many were ex military who were now contractors in Iraq or elsewhere with very extensive experience. They were attending for what must be some sort of required periodic classroom time.

    The reason that this is interesting is because the instructor went through firearm basics that was all news to me but must have been the most banal and simplistic discussion that these guys have ever heard. It would be like sending me back to school for mandatory training and showing me a balance sheet or explaining the very basics of systems technology. In five minutes of this I would be agitated and distracted and frankly a bit insulted that someone wasn’t properly valuing my corporate and career experience. Because that is how a corporate or business person would view the process, but not a military person. Each of the military guys sat in their seats for four hours and if anything they constructively helped the instructor, who was ex-military himself. In hindsight no one was joking around or making a mockery of anything.

    When we were shooting the guys all helped each other and the team immediately without asking. We had a lot to cover so they leaped up and changed the targets and moved and anticipated and everyone was part of a larger mission. After a while it was completely obvious to everyone that me and my dad (who was in his late 70s at this point) were behind the game so they subtly starting helping and coaching us in addition to what the instructor was doing. Sometimes you had to shoot multiple targets to clear a level and I think a few times guys helped me by shooting my targets too.

    Only in hindsight did I recognize the “cohesion” concepts that SLA Marshall talked about in his famous book. He talked about the value of leadership and training in motivating and getting the best out of the men under your command. While these sound like commonplace lessons, and ones the military has likely long since learned in its recent brutal wars overseas, these lessons are usually nowhere to be found in corporate America and most private businesses.

    I watched “The Last Patrol” (highly recommended) last night on HBO and they had a similar observation. The protagonists are walking across America (even in Baltimore, I was scared for them) and asking people what is great about America. These ex-military guys and ex-combat photographers (with 20+ years in the middle of all of it) were trying to wind down and find their bearings without the adrenaline rush of combat and surviving possible death. They met a woman in an American flag bikini and she said she worked in an old folks home for veterans and she said that they all helped and looked out for each other. However, she said, it wasn’t like that once you left the facility – it’s not like that outside in America today.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Business, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative | 7 Comments »

    Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola Realities and the True Test

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 22nd November 2014 (All posts by )

    as airline stocks tracked – and predicted – Ebola did not become established in the US

    as airline stocks tracked – and predicted – Ebola did not become established in the US

    Although the false alarms might continue for a few more weeks, we have obviously transitioned into the lessons-learned phase of the Ebola non-outbreak in the US. I will list those lessons below, but first, a useful summary of a talk I attended on the evening of Tuesday the 4th.

    [Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series; and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola or Black Heva?]

    The venue was the Johnson County Science Café, a monthly forum sponsored by Kansas Citizens for Science. Johnson County is, by some measures, the wealthiest county in the country outside of the DC and NYC metro areas; greatly simplifying, this is a product of a somewhat unique combination of blue-state salaries and red-state cost of living. Kansas Citizens for Science was founded in the wake of upheavals on the Kansas Board of Education, which resulted in the initial imposition of, and subsequent drastic changes to, science-curriculum standards for public primary and secondary schools for ~300 school districts half a dozen times between the early 1990s and mid-2000s. The most famous was a 1999 board vote to remove key questions about the historical sciences (including astronomy, geology, and paleontology) from assessment testing, but there were several others which either re- or de-emphasized those sciences as the makeup of the board fluctuated with each election. After a decade and a half of chaos, as of now the board is relatively quiescent – its makeup was ironically substantially unaffected by this month’s wave election – and teaching and testing of the historical sciences is in place. I know several of the key personalities involved, and could certainly tell some interesting stories, but that controversy is not the subject of this post. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Civil Society, Current Events, Ebola, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Markets and Trading, Medicine, Organizational Analysis, Personal Narrative, Predictions, USA | 5 Comments »