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Becoming Skippy

Back when I was a teenager, around 16 or so, my friends and I would go to the roller rink. We'd skate around and listen to Motown songs. The person who skated around with us, supervising, was a guy who called himself Skippy.

Skippy was, I guess, 25-30. He was older, to give him that aura of authority. But there was something a little off about him. He had Elvis hair. By that I mean he had an elaborately combed and lightly greased pompadour. You just knew that this was the hair he had wanted to have when he was in high school. Back then, he didn't get to.

At the time, I, like a lot of boys, wanted to look like the Beatles. I didn't get to.

But Skippy, at that moment, could finally look the way he thought was cool. It just wasn't all that cool any more.

Well, a couple of years ago I was walking through an airport and I noticed that I was the only guy in the terminal with long hair. I was washing my hands in an airport restroom and, looking in the mirror, realized, "…

Graceland Cemetery: Women of Influence

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The days was clear-skied and lovely, with just a little chill in the air. I decided I haven't been taking advantage of my Chicago Architecture Foundation membership, so jumped on the Red Line up to Addison, then got connected to their tour of the Graceland Cemetery.

I'm afraid I've already forgotten our marvelous docent's name. The last name might have been Hoag. (I may have conflated this with a name I saw on a tombstone: Uriah Hair. I thought, hmm, take away the first U and you have a palindrome, and what are the odds of that?) She was, like all the docents, knowledgeable and deeply enthusiastic. She's been a docent for 10 years, and has a little badge that said she had won Outstanding Volunteer, and it doesn't surprise me.

We walked through not only a cemetery, but an arboretum, where once, our docent told us, people left the bustle of the city to take their families up to what was then a rural spot. It was a spring day, with everything coming awake. She said…

Pizza diaries: Coalfire

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After my Chicago Architecture Tour of Women of Influence (a Graceland Cemetery Walking tour,) I searched out Coalfire, a craft pizza place at 3707 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613, not far from Wrigley Field.

The verdict? Pretty darn good. The crust was thin, but had a pleasant chewiness. The sausage was sweet and minced. The white mounds you see were whipped ricotta. What else? Red peppers, garlic. And a nut brown ale, which went very well with it.

The only pizza sizes were 14", so I brought half of it home. I'd go there again.

The First Amendment and Religious Liberty

Yesterday, Trump was rumored to be considering signing a "religious liberty" executive order enabling sweeping exemptions on basic civil liberties. Today, it appears that he's just trying to overturn the Johnson Amendment. 501 (c) (3) organizations, as well as churches and universities, don't have to pay taxes; in exchange, they're not allowed to promote or oppose a particular political candidate. Trump seems to feel that restricting churches from endorsing candidates is a matter of both free speech and religious liberty. The Founders would have disagreed.

What's the problem with having specific candidate endorsements from churches?
Churches don't pay taxes, and don't do any financial accounting. What's to stop unscrupulous PACs from laundering money through churches to fund particular candidates? If churches can support candidates, then they should have to report their income. Otherwise, your church is for sale - and you'll never know who boug…

A handbook to the resistance

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At last weekend's indie book crawl I picked up On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University, is also the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, and Black Earth: the Holocaust as History and Warning.

I noticed the book because as an artifact it's a delight. Roughly the size of two packs of playing cards set side by side, it has 126 pages, a Prologue, and 20 chapters, most ranging from 1 to 5 pages. The plain cover has that letter press feel. The typography is gorgeous.


The premise of the book is that history can inform our lives. Snyder's deep knowledge of three periods - the rise of the USSR, the rise of Hitler, and the rise of Putin - provides a playbook for tyranny. It's clear that Snyder believes that our current president - whom he never names - is a sort of pre-tyrannical figure. What should we do about it?
These are the 20 lessons:
Do not obey in advance.Defend i…

Make Twitter more meaningful

I was just reading on Facebook that my son, Max, completed a graphic installation of his thesis at the Redline Art Gallery in Denver. He's wrapping up his degree in Digital Design at the University of Colorado Denver. In brief, he designed an app (not coded, but built the interface design for) that .... well, let me use his words.


THE PROBLEM: The gamification systems in popular social media platforms have become the reason users are addicted to using those platforms. The entire structure encourages getting more likes, comments, and views which in turn lowers the quality of content to get more digital currencies. This creates echo chambers, and generally unsatisfying social media experiences. THE QUESTION: How can we utilize extrinsic rewards to instigate an internal motivation in users to engage in discussions with people outside of their social media circles? THE OBJECTIVE: TO SET A HIGHER STANDARD FOR ONLINE DISCUSSION by providing a platform that makes it easy and enjoyable for peop…