What is “evil”?  There are dictionary definitions (“morally reprehensible” “a complete absence of – or opposite of – good“).  There seems to be a general consensus on what is “good” and what is “evil.”  And this consensus crosses religious, ethnic, geographic, political and racial boundaries.  And yet there remains evil.  We read about it every day.    

In looking at our world today, most folks would agree that there are all too many organizations which fall under the definition of “evil.”  ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq & Syria); Boko Haram (the radical Muslims – Hausas – in Nigeria); Hamas in Gaza (especially the military wing); Al-Qaeda; Hezbollah; and so many others are veritable killing machines.   They are dedicated to (and often glorify) murder, kidnapping and torture.   They are dedicated to getting their own way.  Anyone who gets in their way is toast.  Interestingly most of the terrorist organizations today are Islamic.   And curiously many of these terror groups are at odds with each other (witness the vicious conflicts between Fatah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and the 72 sects of Islam).   We also see the abyss of evil in places like North Korea and in things like crime and exploitation. 

It is instructive to note is that most purveyors of evil and their members avow that their task is holy.  Their goals are honorable.  Their objectives just.  Their enemies are evil.   And that’s the rub.  How does one deal with such logic?  How do you rationalize the recent comments of ISIS killers that they feel “closer to God” by brutally torturing enemies?  You can’t.   We can speak out (I wish moderate voices of Islam would object to the current strife).  We can react.  Respond.  But in the end, I think the answer is that every once in a while, there is a large international commode that is full – and needs flushing.


Leg Cramps (Part III)

In my posts of October 24 and 26, 2011, I went into concise detail on the causes of and treatments for leg cramps. Since that time, I have had zero leg cramps. Until last night. . . . .

Let’s set the stage.  It was Friday.  I took the day off.  To play in a 2 day golf tournament (my team won).   It was 90+ degrees.  100% humidity.  I poured sweat.   And drank bottle after bottle of water.  At the turn, when I normally make a pit stop, there was no reason to stop.  I just went on to the 10th tee.  And teed off.  More water.  And I continued to pour sweat.  We had dinner.  More water (no cabernet).  And when I got home, I was tired.  I went up.  Got in bed and started reading.  That’s when it happened.  The biceps femoris (the muscle behind my right knee) began cramping.  Ow ow ow ow.   I rubbed.   Drank some water.  And Donna sped off for some V-8 juice (potassium/sodium).  And she gave me two more things not mentioned in the earlier posts. 

Donna had read that magnesium can help stop muscle cramps.  So I popped a magnesium pill (Metagenics Mag Glycinate – 200 mg).  And she had bought a Health & Wisdom magnesium gel with aloe vera.   And she brought some ice.  Within 10 minutes, the cramp was history.  I went back to reading.  And slept like a baby.  Maybe it was the Dove bar that I tossed under the sheet . . . . *

*Ya gotta read 10/26/11 for context  

The Cemetery of the Books

Years ago, in another life (and over the course of several years), I traveled to Spain and Portugal with some frequency.  I would normally come back with suitcases chock full of handwritten manuscripts. Many dated to the 1400’s. There were the garrison records for Gibraltar (all from the 1680’s and 1690’s), the thousand page manuscript history of the Church in Santiago de Compostela (1540-1822), the Jesuit activities in Goa (India) dating to the early 1500’s and so on.  As we all say when time marches on – “those were the days.” 

In Lisbon, during one visit, I found it.  I found a genuine cemetery of the books.  This was a term made popular by Carlos Ruiz Zafon in his must read book The Shadow of the Wind The cemetery of the books in Lisbon was a 3 or 4 story warehouse.  Chock full of manuscripts, rare books and manuscript books.   It was not a museum or archive.  It was literally a cemetery of rarities.  Which one could buy for a song.  Few people knew about this place.  And somehow I had stumbled upon it.  For those who are squeamish, stop reading here.  The books and manuscripts I would pull off the shelves were literally crawling with lice.  Crawling with insects.  Vermin scooted in the corners  and along the walls.  But oh my – the things that were there.  As good as the Rock Island Railroad warehouse (see May 15, 2014). 

I would load up a suitcase or two with books and manuscripts – carefully wrapping them in plastic bags – and bring them home.  Once home, I would put the plastic bags in a large freezer for a month or two (the recommended Rx for dealing with the creepy crawlers) and later leaf through what I had found.  And then dispose of the items.  But on one sad trip to Lisbon, I went to the cemetery and – it was no more.  It had burned to the ground a month or two before.  I still have an item or two or three left from these forays.  But I am sad that the cemetery of books is no more.  If it was still there, I’d likely be flitting off to Lisbon every few months. . . . . 

Dress Codes

I am sitting in my office at my desk – having lunch (“off the clock” mind you) – and writing this post. I am wearing chinos and a golf shirt. And an old pair of Keen Finlays on my feet. I’m comfy.  My office has no dress code per se other than “business casual.”   It’s pretty much “dress for your day” except on Fridays when jeans are de rigueur.   If we have special visitors or meetings, I’ll put on a suit.  But otherwise, I’m pretty informal.  Though it hasn’t always been that way. . . . .

At my old firm, the managing partner, who ran the office like a personal fiefdom, insisted on suits and ties.  Every day.  On Fridays after noon, guys could loosen their tie.  When our managing partner stiffly observed that “no man can effectively work without wearing a suit” I responded that Michael Jordan did pretty well in his shorts and wife beater.  That brought a titter from those assembled but darkened the countenance of our managing partner.  Once one of my partners showed up without a tie.   Mister Dress Code marched into his office and pitched a twenty dollar bill on his desk.  “Go get a tie and put it on,” he growled.   The partner pushed back and was “fired” on the spot (only to be grudgingly allowed to resume work – the “firing” conveniently overlooked).

I get on the train in a nice suburb of Chicago and truth be told, I see very few suits.  The guys and gals are almost all “biz casual.”   For tomorrow, I already have my clothes laid out – green denim bib overalls with a checkered shirt, high topped boots and a railroad cap.  And a bandana.         

“F” is for “Fireworks”

Every Independence Day, I am embarrassed that Illinois is one of the few states in the Union that disallows any and all kinds of fireworks for private use. This Fourth of July I heard a few neighborhood “pops.”  And saw a few puffs of light.   And I can just imagine police SWAT teams barreling down on the offenders.

I continue to believe that people of Illinois should descend on Springfield and demand equality for buying and using fireworks. As I reported earlier (10/10/12; 10/15/12; and 10/30/13), many kids – like me – grew up with fireworks.  And it was a hoot.  Don’t give me the “oooh oooh – you can get hurt” business.  It does not happen.  And you know it.  Your child has a greater chance of being seriously injured playing soccer than by a firework. 

And while we’re in Springfield asking those who run this state for equality for buying, selling and using fireworks – we might create some fireworks of our own demanding honest government and fiscal responsibility.  Illinois has the worst credit rating in the nation.  And according to a new Thumbtack.com and Kaufmann Foundation survey, Illinois is the worst for business (okay, California tied us).  Illinois got an “F.”  Companies are leaving in droves to the tune of 1,000+ jobs a day.  Illinois is one of the most heavily-taxed states.   Yet new taxes, fines, regulations and penalties appear daily.  Did you know Chicago’s population today is less than it was in 1920?  Illinois leadership has ruined our State.   Yet they keep getting voted in.  Who votes for these people?  How’s that for a segue?     

Creative Cooking

Last Saturday, I volunteered to make dinner. As is my custom, I often go where no man (or woman) has gone before. Translated: I rarely use a recipe.

The meals I create are determined by whatever hunger pangs are pulsing through my body at any given time (usually while prowling the aisles of Fresh Market). Last Saturday was no different. 

I grabbed a handful of Shiitaki mushrooms (the Asian mushrooms are healthiest), a yellow onion and some organic leaf spinach.  After slicing the Shiitakis and chopping the onion, I  sautéed the mix in olive oil with a little pepper.  I tossed in the spinach in the last few minutes of a 40 minute siege on low heat.  I made my fabulous mashed potatoes (organic baby potatoes mashed with garlic cheddar cheese and butter).   And for the piéce de résistance, I got some Bay scallops and marinated them in an Austin’s Own barbecue sauce.  After a half hour or so, I drained and patted them dry (just to keep the hint of BBQ flavor).  These I sautéed in olive oil for about 9 minutes (probably too long). In the last few minutes, I poured in some pure maple syrup.  It bubbled and popped.  I drained and served with a Vidau Rioja red. 

The meal earned a 7-3/4 from Donna.  It was the overcooking of the scallops (making them a tad tough) that brought down the score.  The other dishes were perfect 10’s.  As was the wine and the Talenti pistachio gelato.   

I can’t wait until next Saturday. . . .      

The Boys in the Boat

How about if we read a book about rowing a boat?” This was – in essence – the question put to our book group. Rowing a boat. Sounded like I would sleep well (yawn). But then I started to read the book.  And I could not put it down. 

The Boys in the Boat is a number one bestselling work of non-fiction by Daniel James Brown.  It is the story of 9 young men from varied and humble backgr0unds who attended the University of Washington.  And joined the rowing team.  What they did – together – was nothing short of miraculous.  They defeated – soundly – their arch rival the University of California.  They went on to defeat – soundly – all of the elite Eastern schools.  The Ivy League schools.  And they were selected to represent the United States at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.  And – I’m not giving anything away – they won the gold.   

The book centers around one young man, Joe Rantz, who was literally abandoned by his family when he was 15.  He had no money.  No nothing.  But he was admitted to the University of Washington.  And tried out for the rowing team.  And made it.  The book is incredibly captivating, I had tears in my eyes when it ended.  If you want a wonderful, engaging book that draws you in — The Boys in the Boat is it.  Check out the two and a half minute documenary on Daniel Brown’s website – www.danieljamesbrown.com.   This is “Rocky”Breaking Away” “Chariots of Fire” and “Billy Elliot” — with oars.          


Your wife (or husband), your two daughters, your son and your four grandchildren have been kidnapped by [insert your choice of “Bad Guys”]. Your family has been beaten and abused.  Your daughters raped.  All are put into an air-locked room. The air runs out in 12 hours. 11:59:59. 11:59:58 . . . . .

One of the bad guys has been captured and knows with precision where the air-locked room is. It’s 30 minutes away. Somewhere. The bad guy is seated in front of you. Tied to a chair. And when you ask him where the room is – he smirks and says %&#*x!.  And he asks for a glass of water. And demands some food.

Now there are some who would shrug and be resigned that their family would be wiped out in a few hours. And go get a pitcher of water and a ham and cheese sandwich for the guy. “Not ham – lamb you %#&^*x!  – and don’t forget the chips.” But I’m sure that many of us, given a scenario that is this close to home, might narrow their eyes. And start thinking how can I get this information. I need to save my family.  I just heard Mr. Obama state casually that America had “tortured some folks” and that it’s wrong.  I wonder if confronted by this situation, Mr. Obama might react differently. 

I’m not here to posit a moral judgment either way.  But simply to raise the question of — what would you do if your family was in harm’s way?  How far would you go?  What if you had the chance to save your whole family or someone else’s family?  With “enhanced interrogation.”  What if you had the chance to save 3,300 people from being incinerated?  Let’s say your whole family is in that group.   It is a tough question until it walks in your door.  And sits down at the table in front of you.  The answer may be a simple one.  With an asterisk.  You tell me.   


A game warden is walking through a forest in Northern Wisconsin. He spots a guy skulking through the forest.  The guy is looking right and left.  And he’s carrying a large plastic garbage bag over his shoulder. The game warden watches for a few minutes – then steps out.  “Excuse me” the warden yells.  The guy jumps and the plastic bag falls to the ground.  And opens.  And out slide about a dozen dead loons.   The warden looks at the loons and then at the guy.  “L-l-loons!  You killed loons!  Loons are an endangered species.”  The warden sputtered.   “You’re under arrest.   Killing loons.  That’s terrible.”  The guy was contrite.  Put the loons back in the bag and began walking to the wardens pickup truck.     

The warden looked at the guy.  “Loons.  Loons.  What the heck do you do with loons?”  the warden asked.

The guy looked over.  “Oh I eat them.  They’re delicious.” 

The warden looked at the guy.  And thought.  “All right – I’ve never had a loon before.   What does loon taste like?” 

The guy looks at the warden and responds “well they’re kind’ve a cross between a California condor and a bald eagle.”