aggregation aggregation aggregation, Current Events, Holidays, Pop Culture

2015 Year in Review: half-assed edition

Every December I think about writing a year in review post but I always forget things that happened in the early part of the year (and by early I mean Jan-early Nov because, old age). This year I tried to keep a notepad file chronicling events as they occurred.  Unfortunately, while that was an improvement over relying on the old memory banks, the effort still fell short since I stopped logging in earnest in early June.

Note: I provided links where I deemed appropriate to content/sources I deemed appropriate.  I strongly encourage you to Google for yourself to find sources you may prefer.

  •  While I did a sucky job, the Tribune keeps an excellent gallery of people who passed away in 2015
  • The Charles Hebdo attacks in January.  Little did we know that in November Paris would once again experience terrorism from extremists.
  • Jackie Robinson Little League team had to forfeit its title.
  • Even in death the White Sox and the Cubs compete as Earnie Banks and Minnie Minoso left us.
  • Speaking of sports pairs, Patrick Kane and Derrick Rose get injured at roughly the same time.
  • The Mayoral race in Chicago extended to a runoff.  If the Laquan McDonald story had garnered more spotlight, the runoff might have turned out differently.
  • 19 inch snowfall was one of the largest in Chicago history.
Photo curtesy of Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Photo courtesy of Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Let’s not forget the really important events like The Dress — was it black & blue or white & gold?  All that proved was something I already knew:  women can distinguish between colors much better than men.  There was something about llamas on the run, which would make a pretty good name for a band.  [hat tip to Kathy Mathews at Quilting Sewing Creating  for reminding me of those.]

Some more random notes from that file:

  •  Hilary Clinton emails,
  • 47 republican senators love letter to Iran
  • On the Ides of March  Elton John Leads Boycott Against Dolce & Gabbana Over ‘Synthetic Children’ Remarks
  • March 27 Horrific plane crash / apparent mass murder in the Alps
  • Indiana and “religious freedom.”
  • Terror suspects arrested in Aurora
  • Bears sign a sketchy player

April 12th:   At the Coachella music festival on Sunday, Madonna  stunned Drake and the rest of the world when she planted a long intimate kiss big one on another celebrity also known for his first name (Drake).  Everyone is quick to remind us that Madonna is 56-year-old.

“Some of us are pausing, uncomfortably, to acknowledge that our response would have been outrage if a man had forced a woman into a kiss. Others among us know that a 56-year-old man kissing a 28-year-old woman would be referred to as no big deal.”

April 18th:   ESPN reporter Britt McHenry is the latest anti-darling of America’s collective rage after video surfaced of her being a huge twat to a tow lot employee.

Earthquake in Nepal.  Two earthquakes in the spring killed over 8,500 and also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 17 people.

4/27/2015 — Protests and Riots in Baltimore because of the death of Freddie Gray.

May/2015  Duggar Scandal.  Joe Biden’s son dies.

6-1-2015  Caitlyn Jenner

Charleston shooter and the Confederate Flag

6/26/2015  SCOTUS rules marriage for all.  Some states tried to force exceptions. And Kim Davis, a county clerk, refused to issue licenses for religious reasons.  It didn’t end well for her but at least she got to meet The Pope.

August: lion gets shot, dentist gets skinned.   Cecil the lion that made your Facebook feed explode after being killed by an American dentist in Zimbabwe. The dentist regrets it. The natives of Zimbabwe, not so much.

Sept: pope visits, House Leader John Bohner retires.

That’s essentially where I stopped.  Luckily I subscribe to the Daily Skimm and was able to augment some of these as well as remember a few more items.  [hat tip to Julia Passamani at Lipstick, Lollipops and Life for turning me onto the Daily Skimm.]

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Sci Fi Fun

Thoughts and Questions about The Force Awakens

The following are my expanded thoughts on something I wrote in a discussion thread on this movie.  I’ve noticed that many fans are going in the same direction so  I wanted to get my thinky-thoughts out before reading more of anyone else’s.   I may update this post once or twice more as things take shape so check back.

Spoiler Alert Ahead!  If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know what happens, stop reading now.  If you don’t care, read on Garth.  For a good summary of The Force Awakens see here, here and here.

I enjoyed the film as much as anyone else.  John Scalzi wrote that a good indication of whether it is enjoyable (I’m paraphrasing here) is if you make it through the film without stopping to nitpick.  I probably had that in mind while watching and I was kinda annoyed with the whole Death Star Starkiller Base segment.


Starkiller Base Planet

The first time we see this weapon, General Hux orders it fired, which sends beam of energy into space that fragment and streak toward multiple Republic planets!  From the planet that Maz Kantana’s temple/bar is on, everyone observes with only their naked eyes several planets being destroyed, presumably in the same solar system.

I’m all for suspending disbelief and taking some liberties with physics to make a scene work, but this was a total abuse of Hollywood Physics.  If just one planet in our system were to explode, all the others would fall out of orbit and life as we know it would be O-ver.  That green tropical planet everyone is one suddenly becomes New Hoth.

 The Politics

Fans are pointing out that it doesn’t make sense that the Resistance and the Republic are two separate entities fighting  the New Order, which is essentially the remnants of the Empire.  My theory is that they glossed over this because Star Wars is for children, first and foremost. Therefore it probably is not the best use of creative resources to develop a plausible political structure of what the galactic government landscape is post-Empire since its just going to be backdrop anyway.  Besides a lot of that has been explained in the Extended Universe, which technically is no longer Star Wars Cannon, Abrams et al are pulling from it liberally when it suits their needs.

Random Thoughts, Observations and Unanswered Questions

maz-kanata-lightsaberLightsabers:   I’m so pleased they figured out a way to hurt wound people without actually severing a hand or arm.  In another thread we are debating whether you have to be a jedi to use a lightsabers.  The answer is not at all, it just helps.  General Grievous used lightsabers quite well and was not a Jedi

The Force:  in the prequels it seemed like the Force was so powerful it turned Jedis into god like wizards.  I’m glad to see it scaled back a bit.

Who is Rey:  Perhaps Luke’s daughter.  I really hope they don’t  make her the sister of Kylo.  when Han and Leia talk about their son they don’t mention other children and as a parent of twins I got to tell you, that isn’t natural.  I suppose they could be under the impression that she died instead of being left on Jakku.  They could have shown her to be more Force-adept, perhaps when she is scavenging she could drop a tool or part and use the force to lift it back.

In the beginning, Poe shoots Kylo Ren from afar and Kylo captures the shot.  At the end of the movie, Chewbacca shoots Kylo from afar and nails him.  Probably because he’s distracted by having killed his father and all the baggage that comes with that.  [Holidays will be awkward to say the least.]


I liked what I did see of Poe.  He doesn’t strike me as a Han reboot but instead as a seasoned warrior who wants to be where the action is.  He was on an important mission at the start of the film and he was part of the battle of planet ice at the end.

  • Finn:  could be a relative of Lando or Windu or just a random newbie.
  • In ANH Luke watches Ben sacrifice his life.  In TFA Rea sees Han do pretty much the same thing.
  • in the OS, you have Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbecca.  In this one we have Rey, Poe, Finn and Chewbacca.
  • how does a base that big with that many storm troopers have so many empty corridors for Rae to sneak around unnoticed anyway?
  • did we really need that gun fight with the smugglers?
  • Why does C3Po have a red arm?  And who was the old man who was killed in the beginning?  Apparently he has a backstory that we didn’t get much of from the movie.

Well we just have to wait until May 2017 for Episode VIII.

aggregation aggregation aggregation, Tech Thursday

5 Simple Tricks to Extend the Battery Life Of Your iPhone

It seems everyone except my crazy aunts and racist uncles have a smart phone these days and they follow you everywhere.  Which means they are always on and always draining your battery.  If you’re a busy parent like me, you are often far away from your charger.

Here are some cool tricks to impress your friends:

5)  Lower the brightness

Can you believe a simply thing like adjusting the brightness level on your device can save battery?  As an extra bonus it makes it harder for peeping toms and nosy voyeurs to see what that text update is about.

4)  Disable Automatic Updates

Adjust your iPhone settings to shut down apps that run automatic updates even when you aren’t using them. – Watch this short video to see how.


How much can the Home Depot app really change every week?

3) Turn off Fancy Features you don’t use like Handoff, Suggested Apps And Push Notifications

Handoff sounds like a cool thing that you’d use and impress your friends by drafting a shopping list on your iPad then having it handy at the grocery store.  Or you start an email on your phone and then pick it up later with your iPad and Bluetooth keyboard.  I don’t know anyone besides Elon Musk who works that way.

You probably don’t need Spotlight Search because until I just mentioned it, you either didn’t know it existed or what it was called.


2)  What are you really using Bluetooth for?

Most likely you are using it to par with your car’s Uconnect or equivalent handsfree device.  Other than that, it’s usually a just a battery suck and really, you shouldn’t drive and talk on your phone at the same time anyway.  Turn it off.

1)  When all else fails, go to Airplane Mode

This obviously is only a last resort option when you are trying to save every ounce of battery life until you can get to a charge.  Say you’re at the mall (do people still go to malls?) running some errands and you just want to be able to use your navigation later to find your way to a friend’s house.  Flip into Airplane Mode for a short time while you finish your errands 1985 style and don’t forget to get a pair of parachute pants.

Want some more great tips to impress your friends while also saving battery juice?  Check these out.  In the meantime, I gotta help my aunts and uncles…they just got a smart phones.

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Holidays, Life Lessons

Why all the hate for the Holiday Newsletter?


These are all from one insurance agent!

Back in the days before social media, there was this animal called the Holiday Newsletter. The basic concept was innocuous enough.  Hello dear old friend.  I’m terrible at keeping in touch throughout the year so here is my annual attempt and reaching out and bringing you up to speed on what’s going on in my life.

I’m one of those rare animals that actually like the Holiday Newsletter or at least the original intention behind it: To connect with friends and family that you haven’t seen in forever. While I acknowledge the gesture, I hate getting a card that just says Merry/Happy Whatever and the only writing is someone’s hurried signature…similar to someone just saying Happy Birthday on Facebook.

But the Holiday Newsletter evolved from friendly Keep In Touch delivery system to BBB (Bragging, Boasting, Bullshiting) vehicle.  Instead of saying your kids took a liking to soccer, they were kicking the winning goal in the state championship.  Instead of writing that Aiden is taking piano lessons, he is a junior Beethoven.

You didn’t start a new job, you launched a new career.  Bought a new house?  No you negotiated the Deal of the Century, bagging a $750K 3500 sq ft McMansion for a song.  Your retirement accounts are outperforming expectations, even though the rest of the country 401Ks have tanked.

Even negative news got a positive spin.  Just got laid off, but more time to spend with the children.  Got an intestinal tapeworm from your Caribbean cruise, lost 10 pounds..  All. About. Me.

We need to go back to basics.  Just a single page letter high lighting some of the Life Achievements unlocked that year without any excessive celebrations in the end zone.  Can you do that Santa?

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Current Events, Forgotten Chicago, This Week on Facebook

Want places like The Alley to stay open? Shop at them more often

After almost four decades of operation, Mark Thomas owner of The Alley said he was going to close his Lakeview shop.

Thomas said the main reason was a long term construction project down the block is essentially killing foot traffic though he also cited online shopping and neighborhood crime as other contributing factors.  It probably doesn’t help that he pays $44,000 in property tax every year.

Now my Facebook feed is filled with people lamenting the loss of another icon from their childhood/Chicago experience. Most of the people haven’t been to The Alley since they were teenagers and now live in exotic and remote places like Plainfield, Naperville and Joliet.

It’s not like The Alley is going away forever.  It will still have an online presence and Tomas said he hopes to open shop in Avondale, an up and coming neighborhood neighborhood that Chicago Transplants have never heard of and assume is next to Plainfield.  Avondale mirrors the edginess of Lakeview when Thomas opened up shop 39 years ago.

I’m sure it’s the same in other cities; whenever some local historic icon from yesteryear closes its doors, people get nostalgic for something they didn’t even give two thoughts about the day before.  It’s fine to reminisce.  But to act shocked and hate on anyone for this happening doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It usually comes down to a business decision and if the money isn’t there, nostalgia ain’t gonna pay the bills.  Sometimes business is fine but there isn’t someone to continue on the family craft and other times its just too expensive to keep up with the gentrification of the neighborhood.

There is a solution for two of these scenarios, however.  It might be too late for The Alley but I bet there are tons of local retailers and mom & pop shops you love but don’t frequent as much as you like, but would surely miss once they are gone.  Why not make an effort to visit them before that happens?

Just go into one of those places and buy something.  Even if you don’t need anything, I hear this is a good time of the year  to give things to other people.

Thank you for reading and I hope you will comment below. Here’s the part where I beg for stuff because we get paid in likes, shares, re-tweets and feedback. Please also do any and all of the following:

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