Twelve Pictures ’16

Back to posting around January 2, 2017, after I’ve said good riddance to this regrettable year in which a family member and two old friends departed.

I ought to publish pictures at a site for pictures, since I take a lot more than I ever use here, a few of them tolerably good. The following are photos from each month of 2016. No overriding theme, just pictures.

Schaumburg, January 2016

Schaumburg Jan 2016

Libertyville, Ill. February 2016


San Antonio, March 2016

San Antonio March 2016Rockford, Ill. April 2016

Rockford April 2016Dayton, May 2016

Dayton May 2016Nashville, June 2016

Nashville June 2016Austin, July 2016

Austin July 2016Chicago, August 2016

Glencoe, Ill., September 2016

Chicago Botanic GardensPhiladelphia, October 2016

Philadelphia 2016

Schaumburg, November 2016

Westmont, Ill., December 2016

Merry Christmas to all.

Xmas Oddities

From the December 21, 1976 episode of Laverne & Shirley, “Christmas at the Booby Hatch” or “Oh Hear the Angels’ Voices.”

Featuring Michael McKean (Lenny) and David L. Lander (Squiggy). I don’t think I saw it 40 years ago — I only watched the show intermittently — but nothing every really goes away on the Internet.

Next, “Ríu Ríu Chíu,” as sung by the Monkees on their show on Christmas Day 1967.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t see that when originally shown either. But it was an inspired choice for the Prefab Four.

Finally, something not about Christmas: “Sailing to Philadelphia” (2000), sung by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor. It’s about Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason.

We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away from the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
The Mason-Dixon Line

Just how many songs are there about the Mason-Dixon Line? One, anyway. I happened across it not long ago. A delightful discovery.

Uncle Bub’s

Good old Uncle Bub’s. It’s a barbecue joint in Westmont, Ill., and one of my favorites in this part of the country, along with Hecky’s in Evanston. We had dinner there on Saturday with my old friend Kevin — known him nearly 30 years now.

No reason to write much about Uncle Bud’s, when you have a picture that will offer up 1,000 words.
Uncle Bub'sThat’s pulled pork, mashed potatoes, baked beans and cornbread. A fine feast on a cold December night.

Uncle Bub’s is not to be confused with Uncle Bud’s, a catfish joint in exurban Nashville. One strange day in the spring of 1980, two friends and I wound up at Uncle Bud’s for a meal. The catfish was fine, but what I really remember seeing was Gregg Allman and his entourage — including a few very tan, very blonde young women — enter the restaurant and head for a back room.

Sierra Mist Goes Missing

Temps dropped into the subzero kill-you-if-it-could range beginning on Sunday night and continuing through early Monday morning, though they moderated to the balmy teens above zero F. during the day today. The temps didn’t get to me, this being an age of central heating and Gore-Tex, but it did lay waste to some cans of soda in the garage.

Mist Twst

This isn’t the first time we’d forgotten some cans in the garage, only to have them become a chemistry demonstration: solids tend to take up more space than liquids.

We probably forgot them because “Diet Mist Twst” brand isn’t all that memorable. (Where’s the missing i?) We acquired the cans as part of a 12-can package, though I don’t remember why we bought that particular brand. Probably because they were temporarily cheap and represented something different. Worth a try. As a drink, it’s OK. Basic unmemorable lemon-lime.

A year ago, E.J. Shultz wrote in Ad Age that “Sierra Mist is about to the leave the mountains behind. The PepsiCo-owned brand is removing the word Sierra from its name as it becomes “Mist Twst” as part of a major branding overhaul that will put more emphasis on taste…. The change is the latest makeover for the lemon-lime-flavored soda brand, which has undergone multiple overhauls since launching in 2000.”

Ah, it used to be Sierra Mist. I didn’t notice the change. Or any of the “multiple overhauls.” As brands go, it’s no Coca-Cola. Or even Pepsi. But what is?

Tannenbaum ’16

We acquired a Christmas tree last Thursday afternoon, but not at the usual place, a roadside business that’s a nursery during the warm months. It sells Christmas trees and firewood this time of year, but when we went, only a handful of forlorn trees were on the property, and no proprietors seemed to be around. If we were less honest, we probably could have nicked a tree, but then again the leftovers were just that. Maybe they’d sold their better stock before the recent snows and blasts of cold air.

So we did the modern thing, and Lilly looked for Christmas tree lots on Google Maps. The nearest one was about a half mile away. Just a dude from Michigan in a trailer parked on a strip center lot with a modest selection of trees — no pretense of supporting a charity — though better than the abandoned lot. Got us a tree about a foot shorter than usual, but with a nice shape, and for only $35.

Before long, the tree was in the living room, but we didn’t get around decorating it until Saturday. Looks about the same as every year. I put on the lights.
Christmas Tree 2016

The girls put on most of the rest of the ornaments.

Lilly and Ann Dec 2016We had some extra strings of lights, bought last year on the cheap after Christmas I think, so we strung some on the plants in the foyer.

Christmas lights 2016

That isn’t the same as every year. First time.

Nata de Coco Thursday

Picked up Lilly last night where the bus from UIUC dropped her off, near a northwest suburban mall. Fortunately I was there more-or-less on time, so she didn’t have to spend much time out in the bitter wind, because the drop-off point is simply a parking lot. Not a good night to be outside.

Driving home, we did have the pleasure of hearing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by chance on the radio. I like to hear that exactly once every Christmas season. No more than that.

Here’s the packaging from Jubes brand nata de coco. Jubes, we figure, is a portmanteau of “juicy cubes.”


To save a trip to Wiki: “Nata de coco is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like food produced by the fermentation of coconut water, which gels through the production of microbial cellulose by Acetobacter xylinum. Originating in the Philippines, nata de coco is most commonly sweetened as a candy or dessert, and can accompany a variety of foods, including pickles, drinks, ice cream, puddings, and fruit mixes.”

It’s a product of Pt. Keong Nusantara Abadi, located in Lampung Selatan, Indonesia. I had to look that up. It’s on the southern end of Sumatra. I can’t think of anything else imported from Sumatra, at least in my house.

The marketing text, especially the last line, has a Japlish flavor. This Grape flavored JUBES is for those who favour gentle & refreshing taste. But for all I know, that’s Bahasa-lish as well.

Nata de coco is popular in Japan. Some years ago, Yuriko was eating some and Ann wanted to try it. Then she wanted the whole bowl. She’s been fond of it since. At some point I tried it too. It isn’t bad, but it’s probably one of those foods best discovered as a child for a deep appreciation.


Bitter cold days ahead, especially after weekend snow. These things happen in December — this far north, anyway — but it still seems a little early. This is like late January. Are we going to get a break in late January? I have a feeling we won’t.
At least an ice storm isn’t being predicted for this weekend any more.

As an old writing pro, I don’t use too many words that I know the readers won’t understand, just to show off. That’s the mark of an amateur, or even a dilettante. Still, I occasionally float something to my editors to see if it will pass, knowing it won’t. This week, for instance, I wrote a sentence that ended this way:

… an investment firm that does nothing but manage the Brobdingnagian funds of X and his family.

A completely accurate way to describe that particular fortune, believe me. Moreover, Brobdingnagian is a fine word that needs more currency. After all, no one would think twice about using Lilliputian in a sentence.

But I knew it wouldn’t survive the final cut. I was right.

… an investment firm that does nothing but manage the enormous funds of X and his family.

I would have substituted “vast,” but that’s just a personal preference. Probably should have used that in the first place.

More on Swiftian coinages here. I never knew that Yahoo, as in the search engine and related tech-ness, is supposedly an acronym: “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.” I too am suspicious that it’s really a backronym.

RIP, Susan Disenhouse. I never met her in person, but she was a professional acquaintance via phone and email.

Now I Know Who Verne Troyer Is

Ah, Wikipedia. Your charms are endless. I really should give you that $3. Today I was looking at the entry on Seaport Boston Hotel & World Trade Center, a property in the Seaport District of Boston. Among other things, it lists “notable stays,” which looked like a list on a standardized test question — which of these is not like the others?

President Barack Obama
President Bill Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
President George H. W. Bush
President George W. Bush
Vern Troyer

I didn’t know “Vern Troyer,” so naturally I looked him up. Must be this fellow, Verne Troyer. An actor of diminutive stature, he’s best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies, which I’ve managed to avoid since the very first one nearly 20 years ago. And yet I’ve heard of Mini-Me. Some things just burrow their way into the wider culture.

It Flings a Crystal Veil

The other day, I thought to look at NOAA’s forecast for the winter. It seems to be a La Niña year.

“The current seasonal outlook for… 2016-17 favors above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation across much of the southern tier of the U.S., and below-average temperatures and above-median precipitation in portions of the northern tier of the U.S.”

Snowfall Schaumburg Dec 11 2016Uh-oh. Looks like that’s already under way. Snow fell Saturday and Sunday, pretty much straight down. No major storm, but ’tis enough, ’twill do.

Nearly six inches all together, according to my wooden ruler measuring snow on a flat surface. Ann went off on Sunday to go sledding with her friends, something I never did at 13, and reports having a fine time.

That’s not bad, but the days ahead are supposed to be pit-of-winter cold.

Which can make for nice clear-light twilight. Looking east.

Moon Over Schaumburg

And looking west (both pictures taken December 12, about 42 degrees North).

Schaumburg Dusk Dec 12, 2016No more snow pics this year unless there’s a real corker of a blizzard, something along the lines of 2011. I might post dogs or daughters in the snow, though.

Speakers’ Corner

There was a speaker at Speakers’ Corner in December 1994, but I don’t remember what he was speaking about. He’d drawn a crowd, though.speakers-corner 1994

Considering that a pre-1991 Iraqi flag seems to be flying in the background, and probably a Palestinian flag behind that, Middle Eastern politics seems the likely subject. Lots of grist for impassioned public speaking there, at least in places, mostly outside the Middle East, where there’s little risk of official punishment.

I also remember an anti-Ba’athist, or at least anti-Saddam Hussein, parade in London, but that was in 1988 on one of the streets near Harrod’s. It was a thin line of people marching along, and a thin line of people watching, and (I think) some argument between some of the participants, but no fighting. There were some police around, probably wishing they could be anywhere else.

As for Speakers’ Corner, I’d made a point of going to see it one day we were in Hyde Park. Not sure how I’d heard of it, but heard of it I had. Maybe it was the lyrics in the peppy yet pessimistic song “Industrial Disease” (1982).

I go down to Speakers’ Corner, I’m thunderstruck

They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks

Two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong

There’s a protest singer, he’s singing a protest song…

The Royal Parks web site says that “the origins of Speakers’ Corner as it is known today stem from 1866, when a meeting of the Reform League demanding the extension of the franchise, was suppressed by the Government. Marches and protests had long convened or terminated their routes in Hyde Park, often at Speakers’ Corner itself. Finding the park locked, demonstrators tore up hundreds of yards of railings to gain access, and three days of rioting followed.

“The next year, when a crowd of 150,000 defied another government ban and marched to Hyde Park, police and troops did not intervene. Spencer Walpole, the Home Secretary, resigned the next day. In the 1872 Parks Regulation Act, the right to meet and speak freely in Hyde Park was established through a series of regulations governing the conduct of meetings.”