Perrier for President!

If you don’t like political rants, here’s a spoiler: This is one.

I am sorely disappointed with the current field of presidential candidates. Third party candidates are hardly worth considering, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have any viable candidates I'd be excited about voting for. It’s almost like watching “Last Comic Standing” early in the season, though I fear that once the “lame” ones are weeded out, there will be no one left standing. Do I need to run? Do you?

There will always be those fringe candidates in every election who've got it right, or at least have something interesting to say. But, sadly, we are stuck these days choosing between Coke and Pepsi. What if I don't want a doggone political cola?! What if I want...sparkling mineral water? How about that? Yes, I want Perrier for President! Someone to cleanse my political palate. Someone who won't cause weight or deficit gain. Someone who won't leave a funny aftertaste!

Now, don’t give me the Barack Obama Solution. For a time, there seemed to be a sense that Sen. Obama was the Messiah Returned, but that seems to be fading as he gets more exposure and is forced to take stands on more issues. Don’t get me wrong. He is an appealing candidate in ways, but his roots are in Illinois politics, specifically Chicago politics. And, although I am both an Illinoisan and a Chicagoan, I ask you to please NOT embrace any political exports from here. The one-party political system in Chicago is not known for turning out people of integrity.

Besides his roots in rotten soil, Obama recently came out in favor of expanded government funding of abortion. That’s a deal-breaker for me right there. Alan Keyes, Obama’s opponent in the last senatorial election did not speak the truth in love and was rightly derided for it. He did, though, take Obama to task on that issue and a number of others. Did Obama engage him in an intelligent debate on these issues? No, he brushed Keyes aside and tried to characterize him as a “nut.” To me this was cowardice and “politics as usual.” Let’s see the “audacity of courage” for a change.

The sad thing is that all candidates like to say that they’re not going to do “politics as usual.” Ever heard that one before? If you’re not in Illinois, you may not be familiar with Governor Rod “Santa Claus” Blagojevich. He made that same promise while campaigning and has turned out to not only do politics as usual but is likely to exceed convicted Governor George Ryan on the corruption scale. Believe what they do, not what they say. And for Pete’s sake, please join me in ignoring anyone who says they support “common sense” anything.

OK, back to the election. Dick Morris, former advisor to President Clinton, has made a very interesting prediction. He believes that Hillary Clinton will be the next president. She will be the worst president we’ve had in some time giving the following election to the Republicans. But, due to demographic shifts in the U.S., that will be the last Republican president we see. Chew on that one for a bit. Regardless of your political persuasion, what would it be like to live in a one-party country? It’s not produced good things in Chicago.

Let me know your thoughts.


"Once" Stars Performing in Chicago This Weekend

Yes, it's true. The stars of the movie Once, which I recommended very highly last month, are going to be performing here in Chicago at the Old Town School of Folk Music this weekend.

Details here:

Who: Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova performing as The Swell Season
What: Concert, $16-20 tickets, 773-728-6000
When: 8p.m. Saturday, July 28
Where: 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. (near Lincoln & Wilson)
Why: Because they make beautiful music & someone needs to go so they can tell me all about it

Sorry out-of-towners.


I'm Giving You $4, 1 hour and 50 minutes

Yep, that's the money and time you'll save by not seeing Premonition. Please don't see this movie. Even if you like Sandra Bullock. Even if you like gripping, psychological thrillers (which are supposed to have a payoff). Even if it's free on a flight cross-country.

I have recommended some great movies on this blog before and will do so again in the future. I usually don't waste my time warning against the bad, but I must warn you against seeing this one. People will think, "Oh, kind of like Sixth Sense..." or "Sandra Bullock's such a charming actress, and I don't want to watch Saw IX again..." Resist!

Perhaps these quotes from RottenTomatoes.com sum it up best: "At least all this uncertainty is leading up to a spectacular twist ending -- oh, wait. No, it's not." And, "breathtakingly stupid movie."

Battlefield Earth, you have company.

As you were.


What are You Reading?

I've always been curious to know what people are reading, what their presets are on the car radio, what's on their iPod, etc. It says a lot about a person--sometimes a surprising lot.

So what are you reading these days?

I tend to read several books at a time, usually in different genres and picked up depending on my mood. My current books are:
  • The Bible. I'm in this book daily. It challenges me, encourages me and, yes, even confuses me at times. Worth wrestling with.
  • No Need for Speed: A Beginner's Guide to the Joy of Running by John Bingham. A gift from my wife and a great, enjoyable read on getting into running. Or, as is my case, getting back into running. I'm addicted again...but in a good way.
  • The Politics of Disaster: Katrina, Big Government, and A New Strategy for Future Crises by Marvin Olasky. The title kind of says it all, but it's basically a look at the truth about the Katrina disaster (surprising how many myths are still believed about that), what went right, what went wrong and how to plan for such things in the future. He's looking on the national level, though, not the individual level I'm more familiar with. Light reading ;)
  • Green Shadows, White Whale by Ray Bradbury. I'd never heard of this book, though I enjoy Bradbury greatly. My wife found it at a book fair recently and got it for me. Hilarious! It's a partly fictional account (exaggerations of actual events) of Bradbury's time in Ireland with director John Huston working on the screenplay for Moby Dick.
  • Next up is a recent purchase from Pastor Kevin's recommended list, Church History In Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley.


Building Tangible Margin—Outfitting Your Car

It’s been awhile since I did a Building Tangible Margin (BTM) post. A couple people have requested info on outfitting their cars, so here is the long overdue response.

We’re going to look today at some basic gear you should keep in your car for emergencies. Before we get into the recommendations, let me first say that there is a good chance you won’t ever need all this gear for yourself. But, if you are attentive to situations around you and keep a servant attitude, you may likely find yourself using it to help others. Don’t let chivalry die on your watch.

The most important keys to traveling safely by car are to keep your car well-maintained and to be a defensive driver. Some problems cannot be avoided, however, and for those, the following gear is recommended. I would also add that an AAA membership or other reliable roadside service is a wise investment, particularly if loved ones are going to be driving your car who may not feel confident handling emergencies themselves.

Must haves:

Spare tire—Full-size is far preferable to the “donut” if you can manage it.
Jack—Most cars come with a scissor jack. If yours doesn’t have one, get a hydraulic jack—generally stronger and faster than the factory-issues jacks.
Tire iron—This usually comes stored with the jack. If yours is missing, replace it with a 4-way tire iron/lug wrench. They are faster and more versatile.
Jumper cables—4 to 8 gauge, 10 to 12 feet. Often “emergency kits” will include cables that are thinner (10 gauge or worse). Avoid those.
Spare fuses—Find your fuse box. It’s usually under the dash. Take a look at the fuses used and pick up a few spares. They’re inexpensive and especially important if your gauges (speedometer, fuel, etc.) are electronic, which many are these days.
Gas can—It doesn’t need to be huge. One to two gallons will suffice.
Tire gauge
Flashlight & spare batteries—A headlamp is preferable for keeping your hands free.

Recommended additions:

Work gloves
--I prefer the calfskin type you can get at most any hardware stores.
Gallon of antifreeze/coolant—This generally requires mixing half and half with water, but you can find pre-mixed ones or simply include a jug of water with which to mix. Double-check your owner’s manual to see if your car requires one of the special, long-life solutions.
Quart of oil—Most varieties will do in a pinch, but many cars, like my Honda, require a particular grade. Double-check your owner’s manual. If you know that your car goes through oil, keep more than a quart on hand.
Fix-a-Flat—Canned tire sealant and inflator. Works well on small punctures.
Bars Leaks or similar—A bottle of this can be extremely handy if you find that you have a small coolant leak. It’s actually been a permanent fix for me in the past and works quite well at fixing small radiator leaks.
Duct tape
Electrical tape
Multi-tool or assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers.
The latter may be more comfortable to use, though the former can ride with you everywhere and be handy in other situations.
Compact fire extinguisher
Reflector triangles
—Flares are great and can be seen from a great distance, but they only last about 20 minutes and shouldn’t be used anywhere you think you may have a fuel leak.
Crowbar—Preferably within reach of the driver, this is a valuable tool for extricating yourself from a vehicle or getting someone else out of a burning vehicle quickly.
Seatbelt cutter or compact knife—For the same reasons as previous.
Jumpstarter/air compressor—These are extremely handy tools. It is basically a portable battery with jumper cables, so you can jump yourself or others without having to bother with a second vehicle. Mine came with an air compressor, as well, which is extremely handy for topping off soft tires.
Recovery strap—This is a long, slightly elastic strap with loops on the ends. These are helpful for pulling others out of ditches or getting yourself pulled out. Note that these are different from the tow straps with steel hooks on the ends. Recovery straps are safer (no heavy hooks to come flying loose and break a windshield) and actually do some of the work for you.
Contractor bags—These are large, heavy garbage bags with endless uses. Include a few.
Compass & maps
Spare parts—These can be handy IF you know how to install them or run into someone who does. It may be worthwhile to do a little research and see if there are parts on your make/model that are more likely to fail, then carry a spare, say, water pump or whatever the case may be.
Water and the means to collect it—You might simply consider getting a case of 12 or 20 ounce water bottles and keep them in your car. Be sure to check them for leaks, but I’ve found that they stand up quite well to bumps if you leave them in the case and don’t have any problems standing up to freeze/thaw cycles.
Cell phone w/ car charger
First Aid Kit
—Granola bars or something like Mainstay bars that will keep awhile and give you a boost in an emergency.

I’m sure I’m leaving one or five things out, but this is a good start. Always be sure to tailor your gear to the season and your area. Spare hats, blankets and hand warmers are invaluable in the winter and Rain-X or similar is extremely helpful in inclement weather. Let me know if you have additions or end up putting together a kit of your own.