Monday, May 21, 2012

The NATO Protests in Chicago

Well, NATO is over, and the city of Chicago survived. In fact, we all survived so well that there is almost a sense of “Is that it?” in the air. Maybe that’s because of things the media didn’t report, which makes it all seem like less of a big deal than it really was.  Or maybe it's because the city is still standing, no worse for the wear, and a lot less protestors came than anyone thought.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I scoped out a couple of the protest rallies over the past few days, including what was supposed to be the “big one” on Sunday. It may seem strange that I attended such a rally, since I’m not a protestor type at all, and I'm also really conservative.  Why did I go? Primarily curiosity. I’ve never been to any type of a protest rally or march, even for a position I support.  They never really seemed like my kind of thing.  (And after going, I have confirmation that they aren't.)  Overall, I don’t see the point in marching down a street yelling out chants and slogans; it seems like a waste of time, and somewhat zombie-like.  But I figured this was kind of a once in a lifetime event.  The news was going on about how big this protest was supposed to be, and NATO was here, so I figured why not?  I was a little nervous about going downtown, given all the security, but in the end I figured that nothing was going to happen in the middle of the day. 

Sunday’s rally was at Grant Park, in the Petrillo Music Shell. I’ve been here before – for Lollapalooza and other events. The Loop was eerily silent and empty.  A lot of streets were shut off, and while there were still tourists and people milling around, it almost felt like "the calm before the storm," or some other cliche.  In the Loop, there were at least three police officers on the platform at each Brown Line el stop, which didn't completely help my feeling that something bad might happen.  Then again, seeing so many cops also made me feel safer, so there was a big dichotomy going on. 

I entered the park off Jackson Avenue. Just beyond Columbus, the north side of the street was lined with booths, that continued into the stage area. Booths, you say? Yes, information booths – from nearly every radical fringe group in existence. There were people supporting socialism, communism, Marxism, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Israel, Bradley Manning, Che, various political prisoners, illegal immigration, healthcare, wind power, eliminating coal, no wars, vegan lifestyles, unions, transit, Code Pink, Occupy Chicago, lifting the embargo on Cuba, you name it. Even the Hare Krishnas were there. The booth area by that entrance was by far the most crowded area of the park.  There were also some people gathered on the opposite side of Jackson Street with flags.

Once I made it through the entrance area, there was plenty of room to wander around. There was a mix of people of all different ages and races. Some looked radical, others looked like anyone else you might encounter on the street, others looked like your grandma or grandpa. There were some children, but not a huge amount.  Some people were in costumes (Renaissance type was common), others were in all black, some wore handkerchiefs over their faces. The atmosphere was festive.  If you ignored the huge "Socialism" type banners and the people speaking over the loudspeakers to their "comrades," you might think you were at any normal festival.  Everyone seemed jovial and in good spirits. Many people were taking photographs.  Everyone I spoke to was polite and kind. Bizarrely, several socialist groups approached me and tried to sell me their newspaper for $1. Go capitalism?

I hear that bands were playing on the stage from around 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., but I didn’t arrive until about 12:30 p.m. By this point, over 40 people were allowed to stand up and state their piece, on behalf of their group.  I stood for a little while watching, but then decided to sit down in the grass. It was an incredibly hot day, over 90 degrees. There were almost too many loudspeakers in the area – some of the women who spoke were yelling and screaming directly into the microphone ("Down With Imperialism!"), which was not kind to the ear drums, and I wasn’t even sitting close to the loudspeakers. The lady from Occupy El Barrio was the worst.  To me, every position felt radical, but that’s likely because I am very conservative. (I don’t, however, take any issue with people who oppose the wars. That’s a position I can understand, even if I don’t always necessarily agree.)  Nearly every speaker referred to the crowd as “brothers,” “sisters,” or “comrades” which always creeps me out to hear.  There was much talk of “solidarity” and “destroying imperialism.” One speaker quoted Che Guevera. That’s the kind of event it was. Gathering of the fringe.  Many of the speakers – even though yelling at times – had a certain lifelessness to their voices, as they got the crowd to chant with them. 

I watched until around 1:30 p.m., then began making my way out of the area, not only because I was starving, but because I wanted to clear out before the march began. Although I later heard that some arrests were made at the rally, I didn’t see anything there that gave me any concern as far as my safety. I’ve seen estimates that there were 15,000-20,000 people there. Not even close, in my opinion. While I’m not great at estimating numbers of people, the area actually felt somewhat empty except right along Jackson Street. The area in front of the stage was nearly bare. Others, like me, were scattered sitting on the grass. There was no danger of getting caught up in a crowd, at any rate. I would estimate there was maybe 5,000-7,000 there, at the very most. By the time I left, many had started to line up for the 2:00 p.m. march. As I walked west on Jackson, I wasn’t alone. Quite a few people were filtering out prior to the march. The intersection of Columbus and Jackson was packed with police officers – hundreds lined up. More were walking toward the area and getting off buses. I’ve never seen so many police officers in one place in my life. Most appeared to be wearing bullet proof vests.

I walked up to Al’s and got an italian beef sandwich (this is a must if you ever visit Chicago!), then found a bench at the corner of State and Jackson to sit down and watch the march pass. I waited for quite awhile, and heard them well before I saw anyone. Police surrounded the march, from the beginning, to lined up along the sides, to the end. There was a huge, open topped double decker red bus at the beginning where some members of the press were perched, videoing. It’s a funny thing in this day and age of technology to watch something like this. Over half the people marching were taking pictures and video, some with huge, professional cameras. (Amateur journalists?) I began to wonder – what were protests like before it felt like the point of the protest was to simply record it for posterity? What did people do when they actually focused on the protest versus focused on their phones? I got the impression that many people were there just so they could record themselves as being there, rather than that they actually supported “some” position. It’s a strange thing. At any rate, as they flooded by me on Jackson Street, the police tried to corral them into the street. Many ignored them and ran along the sidewalk or cut through the alley to try to move faster. (It moved very, very slowly.) There were babies in strollers, elderly people, and people in motorized scooters. A number of protestors had chosen to cover their faces with bandannas. Due to the number of issues people were protesting, it went by quickly in a blur of color, banners, and chants. I couldn’t understand most of the chanting due to the crowd noise. (Props to Occupy Chicago for the loudspeaker – I could clearly hear you.) There was nothing cohesive about it.

I watched, then went shopping for a little while on State Street, happily finding out that a DSW opened last Thursday. On my way home on the Brown Line, a group of police officers got on. I asked one of them how things were going. He looked exhausted, and just shook his head. I told him that it seemed like they had everything under control. (It really did – there were cops everywhere downtown.) He told me I shouldn’t believe everything I saw, and that things had been really bad the night before. He said protestors were throwing bricks, and that one police officer got hit in the head. He said they expected worse to come, and that their only goal was to keep the protestors contained. You can see that when you watch the footage on the news. I thanked him and told him I felt sorry for them all having to wear all that gear in the heat.

Later on after I got home, I turned on the news, and sure enough, out of the thousands that marched there were some who wanted to cause trouble. After the march ended, they were supposed to leave. Many refused, even after the police officers told them to disperse several times. In my opinion, when you refuse to listen to the police, you are asking to be arrested. The protestors stood in a line, face to face with a line of cops. What were they doing? Why wouldn’t they leave? What was the point they were trying to make? Who knows. These are the people who believe the First Amendment gives them the right to lie down in the street and block it for hours for all of the other people who are trying to pass. These are the people who thought they had the right all weekend to march around wherever they wanted without permits. On Friday evening they marched with permits, snarling traffic on the north side. All day on Saturday they marched without permits, again inconveniencing people, then Sunday the same thing until late at night. Why? Although the majority of the people that participated obviously didn’t want to cause trouble, it’s amazing to me that people would come to a city with what seems to be the sole intent to cause trouble. However, the police kept them all under control. I don’t believe the protestor’s claims that only the police were violent. (These are the same people who, over the weekend have asserted that a protestor died, that police were handing out poisoned water, and that various apartments where protestors were staying had been raided, even though none of this was true.) You can see in the footage that the protestors are taunting and instigating the police officers. You can see some of them touching the police officers. Many of them seem to be what my mom would call “little assholes.” I would add the word “entitled.”

I guess maybe some people do this for fun – go to protest rallies and marches. I can’t see getting arrested for any of these causes. Why not do something productive? Support a candidate who supports your views. Start a business. Write a blog about how you feel. Hell, write a book. Getting arrested doesn’t stick it to Boeing, President Obama, or anyone else you oppose. It just makes your life more difficult. You get to sit in jail for however many hours, have to get an attorney, go to court, possibly have a record. To what end? One guest commentator on CNN last night (at least I think it was CNN) made the comment that most of the people inside NATO probably had no idea what was going on with the protest. They would only see it if they turned on the television set. Do you think President Obama cares that Joe Schmo from Portland, Oregon got arrested protesting NATO? I seriously doubt it. Actually, it’s astounding to me that only 60 something people got arrested in the past few days. If anything, that tells you how much the Chicago police let these people get away with. Or else, it tells you that there weren’t very many protestors. I suppose other people who have problems with our society have other things to do, like work or take care of their families.

At any rate, NATO is over, and Chicago is still standing.  Let's hope I can get home from work without encountering a band of wayward protestors.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Random Thoughts on May 18, 2012

1.  I was at the "big" NATO protest today.  It wasn't nearly as big as the media (or the protestor tweets) would have you believe.  Daley Plaza had people all over, but there was no crowding.  Far less people than at the big Christmas festival they hold each year.  There were barricades everywhere on the sidewalks, but no people to block.  It was just kind of a goofy, hippy, granola rally, where everyone was loving on each other.  About a third of the people watching seemed to be workers from the Loop with a sense of amusement on their face -- just checking it out, since the media represented that this was going to be some Huge Thing.  General crowd was about 1/3 nurses, 1/3 curious onlookers, and 1/3 protestors.  Oh yeah, and a bunch of people were handing out flyers on communism and socialism.  Awesome, right?  At any rate, the rally was nothing.  Later on the entitled protestors decided to do an unpermitted march all over the city streets, and the cops pretty much let them.  (The cops put up with a lot.)  Then the protestors camped out in front of the Chicago Board of Trade on LaSalle and seemed confused about what to do next.  (The cops let them sit in on the street.)  They were "resting."  Then, they left.  The cops just kind of hung out with their bikes and such and watched.  The entire thing was incredibly boring.  Honestly, the Tribune and Sun Times has been preparing us for all these protestors, and if this is it, they are dead in the water.  Maybe at most 2,000 people in Daley Plaza.  At the sit-in on LaSalle?  About 200.  Don't believe the numbers you read on Twitter.  I work right down the street and I saw it with my own eyes.

2.  2-0 on jury trials.  Getting ready for number 3.  After this, I may take the rest of the year off.  Just kidding.  Good to win again, though. 

3.  Mad Men.  This season has been utterly weird, has it not?  I feel a huge sense of doom --something bad is about to happen.  The Snowball/Pig thing in the past episode, makes me think we are heading toward an Animal Farm like revolt.  But from who?  We'll see.  I don't want to be one of those people who puts that much thought into a television show, but I do have some thoughts on this symbolism and reference.  Maybe I'll post about it later.  The thing I love about Mad Men is that everything means something.  Even the fashion.  (If you don't read Tom and Lorenzo's web site about the fashion, do.  They do an unbelievable critique on the fashion in the episodes.  It is awesome.) 

4.  So excited for the Olympics.  I love watching the Olympics.  It reminds me how out of shape I am, and how unathletic I am, yet I still like to dream.  I've started running, which I've never done in my life.  But, I like running around my neighborhood, looking at the houses and such.  Running is hard.  I've been doing an alternate run/walk thing, for three or so miles.  It's about a half an hour or less jaunt.  I need to increase the running and the length and the time, but it's okay so far.  I'm working some muscles -- and having fun.  Frankly, I could walk for miles -- I just need to start jogging/running them more.  I'm using the MapMyRun app on my iPhone, which is incredibly awesome because I start it up, and it follows me on the GPS.  So, I stop here and there to find out how far I've gone, etc., so I can figure out future routes.  Really great app to map out running routes.  I went right for the paid version, because it's only about $3 and I don't like advertisements.

5.    Still not smoking.  Yep, since March 22.  I want one so bad, but at this point I can't ruin it.  You'd think I'd be over it, right?  It's weird.  So weird.  This is such an addiction.  My body feels like it needs it, but I know all the nicotine is out by now.  However, considering I've drank a lot since March 22 and dealt with a ton of stress (trial), I'm well on my way to being smoke free forever.  But goddamn, I would love a smoke!  One of the secretaries, who I trust, tells me that six months in really  decreased it for her, but then yesterday she told me she'd give anything for a cigarette.  ARGH!  Am I ever going to get rid of this?  But, not smoking.  And, saving money.  A lot.  I am going to buy some shoes soon, which I will post, because they will be crazy, splurge, expensive shoes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trial = Won

Big. Now I'm getting ready for the next one in June. At some point I will have my life back. It's looking like July.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Everyone on Game of Thrones Looks the Same

I love the Game of Thrones series on HBO.  However, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't be able to keep track of many of the characters if I hadn't read the books.  (Well, to be fair, I am 3/4 of the way through the second book, so I'm not quite done yet.  But still, the books help a lot.)  There are a jillion characters in this series.  Although HBO has cut down on some of them, there is still a fair amount of people to keep track of.

My problem is, many of the characters look the same to me.  Half of me believes that HBO has put one over on all of us and hired the same actor to play different characters.  (That would be a ridiculous con that would take quite a bit to really pull off.)  For some of these characters, the only way I can figure out who is who is based upon who they are interacting with or where they are.

For example:

Tywin Lannister:

Davos Seaworth:

Two old guys with white hair and beards.  Who is who?  Who knows.

Another example:

Robb Stark:

Jon Snow:

The hair length somewhat gives it away, and their locations are a dead giveaway, but these actors look identical to me.  I don't understand why they would cast two actors who look so similar.  The actor playing Renley Baratheon also kind of resembled these two. 

There are also a number of women with long, dark hair and similar features, and more old men with beards.  I don't know if I'm just getting old, or if it is the dullness of the costuming and lighting, or what, but I'm having the worst time trying to remember and figure out who everyone is.  

Am I alone?

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Work is a funny place.

Before April 10, 2012, I was looking forward to not having to come into the office for awhile.  I've been kind of burnt out, working like a dog since basically around October of last year.  I needed a change and wanted a change, even though I wasn't very thrilled about going off to trial.  Then, a month goes by at trial, and low and behold, I couldn't wait to come back to the office.

I bounced out of bed this morning at 6 a.m. For work!  My little office is just how I left it!  If I could hug my desk, chair, and phone, I would've done so.

Everyone was giving me hugs; you'd think I'd been gone...a month.  I stopped to think about it for a minute.  I've worked here for over eight years, spending 8+ hours a day here five or more days a week.  There isn't a lot of turnover at my firm, even for staff, so the majority of the people who work here I've known that long.  It's a lot of time to spend with people.  They feel like family.  How's this, how's second family.

And I missed them!  Just like I miss the team of 9 of us that were out at trial and spent -- honestly -- every waking second together for over three weeks.  It still feels strange to me to not be seeing my co-workers from the trial every second of the day.  You get close to people when you work in close quarters like that.

Jury's still out...this bodes well for us.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dear NATO Protestors

We know you are coming. It's likely you will begin converging on Chicago next weekend or early next week. It's your right to protest, so I won't comment on that. All I ask is a few things:

1. Chicago is a clean, beautiful city. Please don't do anything to ruin that. Don't throw bricks through windows, litter, or spray graffiti on buildings. Leave the city how you found it.

2. Even though you may be out protesting, many people who live in Chicago will be trying to get to work and/or to go about their daily lives. Please don't interfere with the commute. While I understand that some roads and trains will be shut down, don't interfere with the ones that are running. Commuting will be miserable enough.

3. Stay in the Loop. There is no need for you to venture to the outlying neighborhoods.

4. Don't commit any crimes when you are here. Our police have enough to do.

5. If you are thinking about camping out in Grant, Millennium, or Lincoln Park, forget about it. The city will not let that happen. Also, see number 1.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 4, 2012

Misty Water Colored Memories

I think I posted previously about the massive load of Cabbage Patch Kids and other stuffed animals my mom unloaded on me last Easter.  (Which yes, I cannot bear to throw away.  Are you kidding me?  These were my babies!  They are in a box in a closet in my basement.  Maybe someday.  It's like Toy Story or something, the sheer memories these things have.)  The drill now is that every time I visit my mom's house, I have to bring more of my crap home.  At this point my crap in her basement consists of milk crates of my high school and college papers and notes, and other random boxes of things that never got thrown out. 

So, this morning, I embarked upon yet another journey into the boxes in the corner, and I found the box I packed up after my dad died.  He died when I was 19, and away at college.  My official home was with him at that time, so I went to his house when I  flew home upon hearing the news, even though he obviously wasn't there.  For whatever reason that I barely remember, I packed up some of his things and knick knacks into a box for myself.  I'm not sure I've looked at them since.  It's a random collection of items that I wanted of his when I was 19 years old. 

So, here is what was in the box:

1)  He had a bunch of wood/glass/ceramic ducks on his fireplace mantle.  (You know how people collect these things?  My dad did also.)  I took them all.

2)  He loved old cars, and had a number of model cars.  I took his three favorites.  One of them, I found had hidden inside of it a picture of his mother and her father.  This is, I believe, the only picture we have of my grandmother's father.  Score.

3)  He died on February 13.  On my dresser in my bedroom was the box of Valentine chocolates he had bought for me.  (I was due to come home within a couple of weeks.)  I have the empty box.

4)  The really ugly wooden boat I made for him when I was about eight that has "Dad" written on it in purple glitter.

5)  The bag of sympathy cards from his funeral.  (Which apparently I wrote thank you notes to everyone!)

6)  His camera.  Wow, is this thing big and old!

What a weird box of stuff.  I obviously took other things from his house, mainly photographs, but this was the box of stuff that I thought it important to take.  (In short, ducks and cars.)   

Here is what is really awesome about the box, though.  I found in it an official copy of his birth certificate.  Can I even begin to tell you how long I've been trying to find out the right spelling of his mother's maiden name for this genealogy crap I've been doing?  His brother (my uncle) kept giving me the wrong spelling!  So, this find was golden.  I have no idea why it was in that box, but it was, and it's rather nice to have an official copy of my dad's birth certificate.  And now maybe I can find out some information about his mother.  It's strange because I was really close to her, and she told me all kinds of stories about my grandpa and her life, but I never thought to ask her about her parents, who came to this country from Poland.  Oh, to go back! 

So, the  model cars are up on top of the bookcase in my basement.  They look great, although they don't really go with my decor.  (Who cares!)  However, I have no clue what to do with all of these ducks.  :)  I'm not sure the ducks are going to make an appearance..... 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Thoughts on May 2, 2012

1.  Holy shit, how is it already May 2?

2.  As I said in my previous post, the trial is still going.  I've left after 21 days in California.  Jury selection took two days, there is no court on Fridays, and overall, trials are slow as hell.  I've got another trial starting in June (unless the defendant actually sees reality and settles), so between needing to get ready for that and going to my sister's college graduation, I abandoned my team.  (No, not really.  They are fully staffed!)  I feel guilty, but there's not much I can do.

3.  I never realize how much I miss Chicago until I'm away from it.

4.  My house is still standing.

5.  My car has about a half an inch of dust on it.

6.  My DVRs are nearly full.  (Yes, I keep one going upstairs, and one in the basement -- why do you ask?)

7.  Some weird shit happened when I was on trial.  It's amazing the things you find out when you are getting drunk with coworkers.

8.  My sister H looks like a beauty queen in her official nursing school photo.  I wish I could post it.

9.  This morning I woke up and thought I was still in the hotel room.  My bed is on the same "wall."  There was confusion.

10.  Trader Joe's pick your own six pack feature is one of the best things ever.  I'm trying some new pale ales tonight, before I drive to the Big D in the morning.

11.  I'm still not smoking.  That's 42 days, or $420 I've saved, that I will be spending on a new pair of SHOES!  Go me!

12.  I hate Blogger's new format.  Why was this change necessary?  It's slow as hell.

TSA and Dry Shampoo

I flew home yesterday from the still ongoing trial out in California.  I got to leave because H is graduating from nursing school tomorrow, so I am heading to the Big D first thing in the morning.  There are plenty of attorneys around to pick up my slack, so they are fine out there.  I feel bad about leaving the team behind, but there is no way in hell I am missing H's college graduation.  She's sat through two of my graduations, so it's the least I can do.

Anyway, the point of this post is dry shampoo.  I rather like this stuff.  It's not something to use every day, but on days when you don't have the time to wash your hair, it gives a nice freshen up.  (Or even after working out I sometimes like to put it in my hair.)  I had a bottle of it from Lush with me out in California, because I knew we'd be working late nights and wanted to be fully prepared.  The Lush bottle of dry shampoo looks like a lotion bottle.  Because I was also using the powder in it as a way to freshen up my Skechers that I wore without socks for about 18 days (yuck, right?) I forgot to put it in my suitcase when I packed my enormous, coffin-like suitcase yesterday morning.  So, since it was powder, I just threw it in my carry on.  (I had enough problems trying to close my suitcase as it was, so there was no thought of attempting to open it up again to put in one more bottle.) 

I strategically got in the regular metal detector line, as opposed to the pornographic radiation x-ray machine, thinking all would go smoothly.  Wrong. The astute TSA watcher spotted something in my bag, and pulled me aside.  I actually couldn't even remember what was in my carry-on.  I had just thrown a bunch of crap that wouldn't fit into my huge suitcase into it.  Actually, some of it I hadn't even unpacked since I landed on April 10.  So, when he asked me if there was anything sharp in it, all I could say was "I don't think so."  I mean, who remembers what they did six hours earlier?  Not me anymore.

He pulled out the dry shampoo, and gave me a look like I was a bad person, and reminded me of the 3 ounce (or whatever it is) limit.  Then, things moved along like this:

Me:  It's not liquid.  It's powder.  It's dry shampoo.  Look at it.

He shakes the bottle.  Looks closer.  Points to the label, that says "dry shampoo." 

Him:  Dry shampoo?  What is this?

Me:  It's just powder to soak up the oil in your hair if you don't have time to shampoo.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Him:  Really?  I had no idea they made that. 

Me:  Yes, they do.

Him:  You're right.  It says dry shampoo.  And it's powder.  (He then shook the bottle, amazed.)

By then he was on my side, and informed me that he had to send my bag back through.  He walked over to the astute woman who sidelined me, and showed her my dry shampoo.  I could hear the wonder in his voice as he told her it was dry shampoo. 

Meanwhile, I waited.  Then, he came back with my bag, and asked me more questions about the dry shampoo.  It wasn't anything TSA related; it was just his total curiousity at this product. 

Actually, I found it rather amusing.