Love is in the air

The temperature nearly made it to 60 degrees today. It was warm and sunny and the feeling of spring was definitely in the air.It brought out something else too as the Killdeer have returned and their mating ritual was in high gear.

Unlike most birds, Killdeer build their nests on the ground instead of up in the trees. We have several vacant lots south of us and every spring we have a number of nests in place. That apparently will be the case again this year judging from all the noise and activity in the lots. A lot of flapping of wings and singing indicates that something is happening. A couple of male Killdeer were trying to impress the ladies and seemed to be battling it out.

I’m sure we’ll have several hungry mouths again soon!

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Disappointed with Fox News

I have to say that I’m  very disappointed with Fox News regarding their coverage of the Japan earthquake and the resulting nuclear crisis.

First of all, let me say that I’m a fan of Fox News as they seem to be the one news channel that “gets it.” As a conservative Republican, they best match my political ideology but, more importantly, they seem to be the one channel that is “fair and balanced” just like their motto says. They seem to bend over backwards to bring in people with different political viewpoints and have a balanced debate on whichever issue is top of mind. They clearly have an agenda, but so does MSNBC who could care less about bringing in different viewpoints. CNN seems to be in the middle and not taking sides with anyone. I watch them second if I’m not watching Fox News.

My complaint about Fox News centers around their evening prime-time lineup. Of their three major night-time shows, only Greta Van Susteren is actually in Japan and reporting on what is happening there. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are staying in-studio, but refer to Japan in passing. They are concentrating more on their usual political reporting, specifically NPR, the Wisconsin union debates and the budget impasse. These are all important topics — and would be important to discuss in “normal” times — but the Japan earthquake and tsunami are major international events with repercussions for all of us. The news crawl at the bottom of the screen is about the only earthquake news they show. To be fair, the Fox News daytime lineup is covering the earthquake and they have many reporters in Japan reporting on it. However, people who work during the day don’t see this coverage and want to know the latest when they are home. Instead, they see John Stossel in front of the Capitol Building pulling a stunt that seems petty in light of the nuclear meltdown that may be happening overseas.

CNN has many reporters in Japan as well as two of their main anchors and seems to be providing the most informative coverage … at least for these eyes.

I’ll be curious to see the ratings over the next few days.

The Event

Anyone watch “The Event” Monday night on NBC? Part of the show’s storyline had to do with the theft of fuel rods from a Southern California nuclear plant. The rods were stolen by aliens. In 1986, the same aliens unsuccessfully attempted to steal fuel rods from a reactor in the Ukraine which ended up causing the Chernobyl “accident.”

While the theft was occurring, the president was meeting with the Japanese prime minister!

You can’t make this up!

NBC is bring criticized for airing the show as events in Japan were developing.

President Obama on cars

From the San Fransisco Chronicle:

At Friday’s news conference, President Obama tried to connect with the common man coping with rising gasoline prices. Instead, the president left little doubt that he is clueless about cars.

“You may want to buy a fuel-efficient car,” quoth Obama, “but you may not be able to afford it. And so you’re stuck with the old clunker that’s getting 8 or 10 miles a gallon.”

Eight to 10 mpg? Which clunker would that be? I wondered. An old Hummer? Your father’s father’s Oldsmobile? A late-model Lamborghini? It takes a luxury brand, a boat-sized machine and/or a few decades to approach those dismal mileage numbers.

Perhaps the president is laying the groundwork for “Cash for Clunkers Part Deux.”

Dark side of the Moon

Amazing mosaic from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter orbiting the Moon from a height of 30 miles. This image is stitched together from 15,000 images and shows the dark side of the Moon — the side we never see.

For more information and additional images, click here.

Obama against defunding of public broadcasting

President Obama came out today against defunding of public broadcasting.

President Obama defended public broadcasting from cuts on Friday, emphasizing that defunding networks like NPR and PBS would do little to rein in spending. 

[…]

“I think it’s going to be important for us to have a conversation after we get the short-term budget done, about how do we really tackle the problem in a comprehensive way,” Obama said at a press conference on Friday.

[…]

Republicans included in their continuing resolution to fund government the rest of this year provisions that would severely cut support for public broadcasting. Calls to defund those networks have only intensified after a conservative activist’s video emerged this week showing a former NPR executive referring to the Tea Party movement in harsh terms. 

Democrats, in turn, have accused Republicans of trying to defund “Sesame Street,” the popular children’s program on PBS. 

I wonder if he would feel the same if Fox News received Federal support!

The Ravinia Festival has some “interesting acts” this summer

The 2011 Ravinia Festival schedule has been announced. Besides the usual wonderful classical music lineup, there are some odd pop pairings this year. For example, on 18 June, classic rock band Deep Purple will play with the Ravinia Festival Orchestra. On 4 September, country-pop artist Carrie Underwood will also appear with the Ravinia Festival Orchestra.

No Kanye West or Lady Gaga, of course, but some of the acts have been around for awhile. On 10 June, The Judds will appear in a farewell concert although I thought they quit performing years ago. Maybe it’s their 2011 farewell concert! Hall & Oates appear on 26 June. Peter Frampton will appear on 5 July for his Frampton Comes Alive 35 tour! I think the “35” refers to the 35th anniversary of the Frampton Comes Alive album (although it could refer to the 35 people who still care!).

Other acts past their prime are Chicago, The Moody Blues, Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I guess Wham! isn’t touring this summer.

There’s even an ABBA cover band presenting the “Music of ABBA.” You really can’t make this up!

To be fair, still-relevant Maroon 5 appears 30 June and 1 July.

Since Ravinia is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I have always found the classical music to be more interesting than the pop acts.

My old bank is turning into a bar

Just read an article about the bank building where I used to work at Ashland and Division in the Wicker Park area. The building is being converted and the old basement vault area will become a bar!

The building was built, if I remember correctly, in the early 1920s and was a solid “old-school” bank building. The vault in the basement was huge and will serve as the lounge for the restaurant that will go in there.

I know I’m sounding like a broken record…

…but I’m so freaking tired of the idiots using the self-service checkout at the grocery store!

I’ve lamented in the past about rude, inconsiderate or unaware people who use these checkout lanes. I use them all the time (I’m none of these people!) as I find it quicker and easier to check out. When I use them, I’m always aware of the person in front of me and I wait until they finish packing up their food. I wish people gave me the same consideration.

Once again today, I checked out and finishing packing up my food and some older woman decided not to wait and send her two cases of bottled water in my direction. This time I firmly asked if she would wait until I finished. She mumbled something about being sorry and she didn’t see me there. What?? I’m right in front of her. Then she said that she didn’t know the conveyor belt would move. Of course she knew, she didn’t want to be bothered waiting literally a few more second for me to finish.

I’m tired of these people. I’m either going to stop using self-service or make an ugly scene the next time it happens. I’m leaning towards the latter!

Skywatchers are in for a treat tonight!

Skywatchers, especially those in the Chicago area, are in for a treat tonight if the weather is clear. Early Monday, the space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station to prepare for its return to Earth. On Monday and Tuesday (and depending on where you live) you can see the two spaceships as they fly in tandem with each other. Tonight (Tuesday) will be the last night to see those two as Discovery is scheduled to land in Florida on Wednesday.

In the Chicago area, the best time to see the two spaceships will be at 6:20 p.m. local time. They will be in the north sky flying west to east. Discovery will be the fainter of the two (at a magnitude -1.1) and the space station will be brighter (at -3.4). The reason the ISS is brighter is because it is much bigger.

They will reappear at 7:56 p.m., but will be in the lower southwest sky and will appear fainter.

It is suppose to rain this evening in the Chicago area, but I hope it hold off until later in the night.

This will be the last time to see Discovery as it is retiring after this flight. There are only two more shuttle flights scheduled — Endeavour and Atlantis will each make their final flights this year.

You can check to see the location of the space shuttle or the ISS or any other satellite by going to Heavens Above and input your location.

Enjoy this NASA video taken Monday morning of Discovery performing the fly-around maneuver of the ISS.