August 31, 2004
My family and I went to the fair this weekend and we had a blast. It was by far my best experience at the Fair, and it probably had a lot to do with the weather which was mild and overcast. For those of you that care, here is what I ate:
Fried cheese curds
Pork chop on-a-stick
A frito burrito
Now before you go and think that I am a complete pig, please keep in mind that I have three kids that help ... no beg to help me eat all of this. Of course, that is actually a good thing as they would have had to roll me out if I would have eaten all of this alone.
While at the fair we also took in some of the festivities and sites. You'll note over at Super G I have featured pictures of a couple of the state fair chickens we saw. Honestly, I don't know what it is I like so much about them, but looking at the chickens is one of my favorite things to do at the fair. Go figure. I just think they are amazing. You get a view of chickens in your head from TV and movies, but there are so many beautiful varities. OK, I'm babbling now...
We also saw the 3rd Lair skate show, and the Extreme Team diving show. My kids, especially my middle child, really liked both shows. The skate show featured skate boarding and in-line skating and I was more impressed than I thought I would be. And the dive show, while a little hokey, definitely had me squirming in my seat. I don't know how anyone can climb so high and then jump. I could barely watch.
Both shows also aggravated me. I'll tell you why. In their attempts to get the crowds to cheer louder, both shows constantly used the old "We can't hear you" method to get us to yell and scream. You know what I am talking about:
Announcer: Do you want to see some diving?!?!
Crowd: Yaaaaay! Woooo! Yes! We would like to see some diving, thanks for asking!
Announcer: Oh, come on! I could barely even hear you. Now, do you want to see some diving?!?!?!?
Crowd: YEEEESSSS!!! Please dive for us! Woooo!!!! We are being louder!!
Announcer: I still can't hear you! I swear, we will just pack up and leave if we don't hear some REAL cheers this time! One more time, DO YOU WANT TO SEE SOME DIVING!?!?!?!?
Crowd: WOOOOOO!!!! CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE LET US SEE SOME DIVING!!!! YOU HAVE WORKED US INTO A FRENZY THAT CAN ONLY BE SATISFIED BY PEOPLE JUMPING FROM OBSCENCE HEIGHTS INTO A SMALL POOL OF WATER!!!! YAAAAY!!!!!!
You get the picture. I have come to a point in my life where I find this tactic to be extremely annoying. I might do it once a show, but both the skate show and the dive show went through this cycle at least three times. I just had to stop cheering. That's right, I came to a point where I would risk not "seeing some diving" because I refused to play their little game anymore! So, if any would be announcers are out there reading this please spare your crowds this method of forcing cheers. We can probably handle it once, but three times is a little excessive.
After the dive show we went on the river rapids ride and all got soaked. I think I got soaked the most, but I could be wrong. But that was OK beacause we left right after that. All in all, it was a great day at the Fair.
August 29, 2004
Links of the day
- 1961 view of life in the year 2000. Accurate in some ways, way off in others.
- 100 most challenged books 1990-2000. There are some books I can't believe are on this list: A Wrinkle in Time? To Kill a Mockingbird? Where's Waldo?????
- Write in Mel Gibson for President!
- Place bets on whether the biggest physics experiments in the world will come good before 2010. Feeling pretty good about the Higgs Boson? Care to make a wager?
- What is the Higgs boson, and why do we want to find it?
- 20 Questions to a better relationship. I am an RSIG. Right in some ways, not in others (of course).
- Godchecker.com: your guide to mythological pantheons. A little sacreligious, but still a cool site.
- 64 = 65? A little bit of a mind bender for you.
- If not Mel Gibson, then why not Bea Arthur?
- Janitor accidently throws away "art" that looks like bag of trash.
- Top 10 Sci-Fi films of all time. I wouldn't rank Blade Runner number one and I would put The Matrix higher. What else would you put on? Gattaca? 12 Monkeys? Contact? They Live starring Rowdy Roddy Piper?
August 27, 2004
I don't know why I do it. I get my hopes up, and, as always, they are quickly dashed. God bless the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe, but no matter how much sense their plan makes it probably won't result in any stadiums. Why am I so pessimistic? Pawlenty has already played the priorities card:
Pawlenty said Benjamin's letter "may set the table for more productive talks'' on revenue sharing. He said if the talks were to produce revenue for state projects, he believes there would be higher priorities than building stadiums.
That, in a nutshell, is Pawlenty's view on stadiums in Minnesota: they are not and should not be a state priority. A community priority? Sure, if St. Paul wants to build a new stadium they can raise the money to do it. But the state should be minimally involved. Truthfully when you look at the type of deal the state could probably reach with the tribes they could easily build two stadiums and still have tons of money left over. According to the Star Tribune article on this topic Wisconsin tribes have agreed to pay $200 million to the state over the next two years. One could surmise that a new deal will be struck after two years that will probably increase the state's take. Heck, we could build three stadiums and still have $100 - $150 million left over every two years with a deal like that in Minnesota.
However, a budget deficit looms on the horizon in Minnesota:
Thursday's developments came as the state faces a new budget deficit estimated at up to $1 billion for the 2005-07 fiscal cycle. That has led to speculation that, given political resistance to raising taxes, gambling revenues -- from Indians or non-Indians -- will make up a significant portion of the budget solution reached by the 2005 Legislature.
Wow. Does anyone else get a little twitchy when we may need to use gambling proceeds to make up significant portions of our state budget? That is a very slippery slope that I would hope we wouldn't rely on too much. It makes so much more sense to use this development to take care of our never-ending stadium debate:
- Stadiums could be built without any state or local taxes.
- It takes the stadium debate out of the legislature. Negotiations would be between the tribes and the teams.
- The state legislature could finally focus on more important issues.
- The state would not build any unhealthy reliance on gambling money.
- The tribes who participate would be viewed as saviors to many in the state for finally solving this sticky issue.
Can anyone think of any other reasons why this is, or isn't, a good idea? The Vikings have already said they are willing to negotiate, and even though the Twins have not replied with the same excitement, I think they would come around if the tribes promised large amounts of cash. Again, as I said above, I shouldn't get my hopes up, but I will keep a close eye on this development that is for sure.
August 26, 2004
Casinos and Stadiums
Just a quick note: I have seen the news regarding the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and their overture to the state to share some of their revenue, possibly for a new stadium for the Twins and Vikings. I've gotten my hopes up before, and I don't mind saying that this news article is getting my hopes up all over again! I am giddy about this news. I can't stop smiling. If the Native American casinos in this state shared enough to build new stadiums I would be so happy ... man just thinking about it makes me pause and think about how wonderful it would be to have some outdoor baseball in this state. Oh please, oh please let's all pray that something happens as a result of this! More news tomorrow I'm sure!
Anyway, in case you missed it, Sid wrote another article on the Vikings stadium mess today. In it he makes various points:
- Red McCombs will not spend a dime on stadium lobbying this year.
- Red, Pawlenty, and Tagliabue all feel that a new owner would have a better chance of getting a new Vikings stadium in Minnesota.
- A unnamed NFL owner has told Sid that the Vikings will not be able to compete in the NFL in three to four years without a new stadium.
- Reggie Fowler does not have enough money to buy 51% of the Vikings. Principal owners of NFL franchises must own 51% of the team.
- Glen Taylor is the only "logical" owner for the Vikings.
- Denny Hecker is also rumored to be interested in buying the team.
- $600 million is asking too much for the Vikings, especially without a stadium.
That is what I took away from the article. My summary: Red will not own the Vikings past this year. A local owner, or group of owners, will step forward. We may not hear much about a Vikings stadium at the legislature this year, but I think Pawlenty favors passing a bill that solves this stadium problem once and for all, for the Twins and the Vikings. Oh yes, it should be an interesting session this year. Will something finally be passed? He he, this is still Minnesota ... I put the chances at 10%.
Look, wins are important. But this season there have been two starting pitchers who have simply been better than all the rest. One is Jason Schmidt, and the other is Santana. At this moment, Santana and Mulder are separated by three wins. I don't mean to belittle the importance of three wins, but consider ... On July 10, Mulder got hit hard in Cleveland: six and two-thirds innings, nine hits, three walks, six runs. The Athletics scored 16 runs, though, and Mulder got his 12th win (and please, no e-mail about Mulder "pitching to the score"; after five innings the A's trailed 5-3). The very next day, Santana pitched eight innings against the Tigers and allowed two hits, two walks, and two runs. He lost, 2-0.
Reverse those two results, and only one win separates Mulder and Santana, and your Cy Young choice is easy because of course Santana's pitched better. Yes, I know we can play that reverse-the-results game all day long ... but that's sort of the point. The difference between 17 wins and 14 wins is, in many cases, the result of luck. Just ask Tim Hudson. And if you ask me, Johan Santana is the best pitcher in the American League.
You wouldn't think I read a lot of books based on how much I change the "What I'm reading now" section on this here blog's home page, but I actually read a fair amount. One of my goals with this blog is to keep a record of what I read so without further ado, here is what I've read recently in mini-review form:
The Engines of God
by McDevitt, Jack
I read this over while on vacation on Green Lake. The book centers around the work of space archaeologists and a mysterious alien civilization that has left huge statues around the galaxy. The closest statue, in our own solar system, is a statue of what the aliens actually look like, and they are frightening, reptile like creatures that obviously have a high level of intelligence (or they wouldn't be flying around the galaxy now would they?). So, the archaeologists in the book are both trying to figure out where these aliens are, and why they built such strange statues and monuments. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Unfortunately the book is somewhat boring and anti-climactic. It reminded me of the Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson. Lots of unrealized potential.
The Truth Machine
by Halperin, James L.
Ugh. Do not read this book unless you are a easily amused by small, shiny objects. A complete insult to my intelligence, this book centers around the invention of a "truth machine" that completely changes world government, peace, tranquility, blah, blah, blah. Totally unrealistic. The author also gets around his lack of ability to create plausible dialog by narrating the book as a computer. Yikes! Two weeks of my reading life down the tubes.
The Fouth World
by Danvers, Dennis.
Wow! Now this is my kind of book. This book is about a not to distant future where the Web completely controls people's lives. People don't even go outside or travel anymore since they can experience everything through the Web. Unfortunately there are still the "have-nots" and The Fourth World mainly takes place in Mexico and focuses on the plight of the poverty sticken lower class of that society and the Zapatistas. For those of you without knowledge of this group of people, the Zapatistas are a revolutionary group in Mexico seeking to overthrow the "corrupt" Mexican government in their area of Chiapas. Forgive me if I am making things too simplistic. Anyway, unabashedly leftist in his philosophy the author makes a convincing case for the Zapatistas and their plight. The ending features space stations and Mars and nanotechnology and all sorts of intrigue. Well written and hard to put down.
Get Up Off Your Knees
by Raewynne J. Whiteley, Beth Maynard
I've already talked about this book a little bit, but let me just say again what a wonderful, thought provoking read this was. Full of wonderful sermons on social justice, salvation, and grace I actually found myself reading and rereading some of the passages. Great stuff. One of the chapters began with this passage from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers which I will leave you with now. I was struck by its beauty:
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'
August 25, 2004
Work has been slain!
Work? Pffft ... Work has been vanquished for the day. With my trusty keyboard Stormtyper, and my fingers of fury, I quickly dispatched of numerous projects today like they were nothing more than mosquitos buzzing in my ear. I was like a work vortex, swirling towards unsuspecting projects before enveloping them in a twister of productivity. Oh yes, today was a good day. ILLiad? Your problems cease to exist. Stormtyper crushed your whining "Can't email" messages until they were nothing more than dust under my boots. SFX? No more will your password protected targets plague my dreams. Tonight I will sleep in peace. PEACE I TELL YOU!!! User permissions? Ha! Happy co-workers now bask in the glory of refreshed Samba directories awaiting their every command. Fear me computers! You do my bidding!
I am LEGEND. I am POWER. I am WEBMASTER.
What to write about? Again, I don't feel the need to write about anything. So, this post will be about whatever pops into my head.
August 23, 2004
My life is so boring. I apologize for it. I could talk about the Twins and how Santana dominated the best hitting lineup in the AL tonight (Texas), or I could talk about the Vikings and how their secondary is looking a little thin right now. But you can read the newspapers and get all that news and opinion. What can I offer that is of any actual interest to you, dear reader? Sadly, I don't have much.
My wife and I had this conversation today:
Wife: Let's get a sandwich at Panera. They've got some really good food there.
Me: Panera?!?!? All they've got is soup and crazy bread for sandwiches. I'm not going to spend $10 on soup and sourdough bread.
Wife: They've got more than sourdough...
Me: Yeah, they've got three types of bread: pumpernickel, dill weed, and sourdough. Oh boy, yummy.
Wife: They've got white and wheat, too.
Me: They want me to spend $10 on wheat bread? I've got wheat bread at home.
Wife: (Sigh) The bread doesn't matter, it's what you put on the inside of your sandwich that matters.
Me: Well, I've got ham at home too. I can put ham on my sandwich.
Wife: I don't think they have ham...
Me: They don't have ham?!?!? What do they expect me to eat? Sourdough and pimento loaf?
Wife: You are an idiot.
Obviously, I was just trying to get her goat a little bit. But I love my wife. Almost 11 years of marriage and I still love hanging out with her. We have a great time. I can't believe she can put up with me. And no, we didn't go to Panera.
August 22, 2004
Links of the day
- Really cool interactive map of Washington, DC.
- I am saddened for our society and its values. Which is worse, the "gangsta" culture or the "pimp" culture?
- Link for me. Minimalist web design that I may "borrow" from.
- Interesting admissions from Microsoft on how seemingly small decisions cost them millions.
- Amazon tribe has no concept or words for numbers, or words for separate colors. Wow.
- Interesting internet petition, "God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat." Thought provoking.
- This stuff would be fun for a while before it would drive me stark raving mad.
August 20, 2004
More about Fowler
I recently found this article in the Arizona Republic's website AZCentral:
In the article the author tells the story of how Reggie Fowler was called upon to provide some loan money for an Arizona charter school that was in financial trouble. Seemingly without much thought or negotiation Fowler took a chance and provided $10 million to the school. There is much to read into this story. One possible point is that Fowler has a sympathetic heart. He saw a group of people in need and provided them a substantial amount of cash. Secondly, Fowler seems to act quickly and it sounds like he doesn't mind taking chances. He would definitely need to act quickly and take a chance if he bought the Vikings.
I've read that Taylor is willing to talk to Fowler to be a part of the investing group as long as Fowler agrees to keep the team in Minnesota. I am hoping that Taylor can be involved as a minority partner just to keep the wheels off the team. Perhaps with Taylor, Fowler can raise enough money to buy the team and finally take it away from that snake-oil salesman Red. Sheesh! How did we end up with Red McCombs?
Finally, I can take this away from the article above: it sounds like Fowler has a heart and that he loves the game of football. No one with a heart and a healthy respect for the game can possibly want to move the Vikings. I'm beginning to feel a little better.
Keep it short
Too much to do today:
- You picked a fine time to choke, Mr. Nathan. Especially considering the heroics of Shannon Stewart last night. Oh well, at least he got it out of his system. I expect Joe Nathan will pitch like an animal during this weekend's series with Cleveland. So, as with everything, there is probably a silver lining in this. It sure would have been nice to sweep the Yankees, though.
- An interesting conundrum tonight for all Minnesota sports fans. What to watch? The Twins or the Vikings? I'm sure most fans will do like I do, watch the first half of the Vikings game and switch over to the Twins during commercial breaks and after half time. Or put two TVs side by side ... or watch picture in picture! The options boggle the mind.
- Speaking of the Vikings, I've been thinking more about this Reggie Fowler business. We all know that Reggie is stuck in Minnesota until 2011, and he must know it too. Why else would Red be selling if he 1) doesn't think he can build a stadium and 2) he knows the Vikings are stuck here until 2011? So, the sale to Fowler could actually be a good thing especially considering how quiet he is being. Let's say Red sells to Fowler. I would think this would greatly interest the Minnesota legislature, and maybe even scare our fine public servants into action. Fowler is being so quiet that he has got to be making the legislature a little nervous. And I think the sentiment is true that any owner is better as long as that owner is committed to keeping the Vikings in Minnesota. If that is true of Fowler, then great. I think Fowler is being wise right now, though, by just keeping his mouth shut. The last thing we need is another Donald Watkins.
- Today I'll be writing a speech for the upcoming Internet Librarian 2004 conference in beautiful Moneterey CA this November. They've asked me to speak on UThink, but they require the presentation to be completed by August 25 so it an be included in the conference proceedings. August 25! So, I've got a few days to put something together. Wish me luck.
- One more thing, we should have traded Onterrio Smith when we had the chance. We could have gotten a decent corner out of him I should think. What a waste. I hope this is the wake up call he needs.
August 18, 2004
Links of the day
- Pop and high sugar juices are not good for kids. Click "download" to read a very compelling slide show that makes a great argument.
- U of M and U of Wisconsin will now battle for the "Border Battle Cup," not just infootball but many sports.
- Speaking of the Gophers, SI has picked them to win the Big Ten in football. They have officially been jinxed.
- Tons of "Lists of Bests." Just a really cool site that I've been looking at for about a half an hour.
- Recent interviews with the cast of the cult classic movie Office Space.
- Kevin Garnett's site on adidas.com. Cool stuff about him and the making of his new commercial.
- Chicken of the Sea tuna, now with more "Omega-3!" I heard this on a car commercial this afternoon that Chicken of the Sea tuna has the most Omega-3 of any tuna fish. The most obvious question is what the heck is Omega-3? But it quickly dawned on me that it doesn't matter. It just sounds cool, and if it sounds cool it will sell more tuna. The principal is so simple: think of a cool word and stick a number behind it. So, I'm going to create a new tuna that has more "Octavious-150" than any other can of tuna. Little will anyone know that Octavious-150 is actually my code for "tuna fish." Who is with me?
How about those Twins?
Let's talk about something else for a while. Let's talk about the Twins. The Twins got an exceptionally good performance from Brad Radke last night to take game 1 of their series against the Yankees. There are three things that struck me about the game. First of all, Justin Morneau can really hit the ball far. It has been a while since I've seen a blast that went as far as his did. Watching TV, I thought it was going to hit Kirby's picture in the right field upper deck. Gardy had this to say:
"I said I wouldn't take my eyes off him, and then I look at the lineup card, and he hits that one," Gardenhire said. "Stupid. You can't go to the bathroom or anything when he's up."
It's true. You can't turn your eyes away for a second when he is up because you might miss something special. When was the last time we felt that way about any Twins player? Kirby? Hrbek? It has been a while.
That brings me to my second thought: the Twins lack of a marquee player has also done a lot to hurt attendance at games. I've written about the lack of fans at the Dome before (and again) but I think the fact that the Twins haven't had any big name players has also hurt them at the gates. Look at the last time they drew 2 million fans: Kirby and Winfield were in the lineup. Those were two exciting players to watch. Who has been "exciting" for the Twins in the last three years? Hunter? Jones? Koskie? None of the above. I mean, I get excited when Morneau gets up to the plate. I stop whatever I'm doing to pay attention. He just might be a reason for fair-weather fans to come to the ballpark. Him and Santana, of course.
And that brings up my third thought. I keep on hearing the Twins have no shot at the World Series if they get in the playoffs. Excuse me, but their pitching staff leads the league in team ERA, and Radke and Santana are something really special this year. Especially Santana. He's got a shot to win the Cy Young award and he will lead the AL in strikeouts. When you look at the '87 World Series team all we had was Blyleven, Viola, and Reardon (and Senor Smoke, of course). That, and some timely hitting, was enough to raise the banner. Could this year be the same? I should think so with Morneau and Ford hitting consistently and especially if Mauer comes back from his injury.
Well, with this Vikings mess on my mind I just needed to give myself something to smile about. The Twins handily beating the Yankees last night certainly gave me reason to hope they can go far in the playoffs. Even if Giambi and A-Rod weren't in the lineup.
At this point, the question on everyone's mind is, "What are the intentions of Reggie Fowler?" Does he want to move the team, or does he want to keep the Vikings in Minnesota? The fact that he is from Arizona, a state that already has a team, is sort of a good thing. However, he isn't a Vikings fan. I bet that this last weekend's game was the first time he had ever been to Minnesota. He probably doesn't care about the fans. He probably doesn't even care about the stadium. He cares about turning a profit. Fortunately for us, he would be the lowest member on the NFL ownership totem poll. I can't imagine that owners would turn over the lucrative LA market to such a new owner. But stranger things have happened.
Taylor has already said he will not get into a bidding war. That sucks. What good is it to have a few billionaires in our state if they don't step up in a time of need? Pohlad, God bless his greedy heart, stepped up and bought the Twins. Taylor stepped up and bought the T-Wolves. We shouldn't expect him to step up again, but it sure would be nice. And what about Dick Schulze of Best Buy? I can't believe our local wealthy people haven't jumped into action yet.
Let's look at the bright side. I was watching Minnesota Sports tonight last night (great show) and they were interviewing Jay Glazer, a national NFL writer, and asking him if he thought Mr. Fowler would hurt the teams chances for a stadium and he actually said absolutely not. He said the team is sitting very pretty with the cap right now, and that they should be sitting pretty for another five years. A new owner would spend more money than Red to bring in the talent to win a Super Bowl and perhaps push the team's stadium woes to the forefront of the state legislature. This is what Glazer said, anyway. I'm not sure I agree with him, but would Taylor seriously have any better luck at building a stadium? If Taylor bought the team he has already said the Vikings would never move. There goes his leverage at the state capitol. If the House doesn't think the team is in danger of moving why build a new stadium? So, maybe having Fowler buy the team is a good thing.
Again, the crux of the matter is his intentions on moving the team. Let's just hold out hope that he wants to keep the team in Minnesota. Tagliabue doesn't want the team to move, that is for sure. We are a good market with loyal fans and a lot of team history. Sadly, in all of this Tagliabue may be the best friend that we have. Tagliabue cares about the health of the league and the Vikings staying in the NFC North makes for a much healthier league. McCombs and Fowler may only be interested in turning a profit.
Man is this painful. Why is it so painful to be a fan of Minnesota sports? Man do we suffer. I'm so sick of it!
August 17, 2004
Not good ... not good at all
As Curt points out in a comment below, Viking Update is reporting:
VU has been told that the Vikings have spoken with an investment group from Arizona about purchasing the team. Just as the annual threat to move the team to L.A. comes up, so do rumors of a sale to outside investors. This time, however, it looks as serious as ever and could be sold by the end of the month.
It is officially panic time. I've done some searching for Reggie Fowler in Arizona newspapers but I haven't been able to find anything regarding his possible purchase of the Vikings. I guess what my main question is, is he interested in moving the team? Of course, the Vikings still have the lease until 2011 and the Rozelle letter so there is little doubt in my mind that the team is stuck here until 2011. However, an absentee owner will not be able to build a stadium in Minnesota. Red has proven that. What happens as 2011 approaches?
Glen Taylor where are you?
Randoms and Leave our Vikings alone!
There were also Canadian lynx (lynxes? what is the plural of "lynx"?) at the center, 4 black bears, some owls and falcons, and some foxes. Did you know that there are over 30,000 black bears in Minnesota roaming around? 30,000!!! The coolest thing that happened at the camp was that around 2:00 in the morning the wolves started to howl. And when one of them starts, they all start howling. It was like 30 ambulances going through our tent. It was a complete cacophony of sound and quite amazing. Truly I could go on and on about camping with the wolves, but I'll leave it at that for now. Did you know there are about 3,000 wolves in Minnesota? OK, I'll stop now.
That's all for now. See you soon.
August 16, 2004
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Happy birthday, Mom! Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of my mom at the ready to display on her big day, but she probably wouldn't like her picture displayed anyway. Words cannot describe how much I love my mom, or how much I appreciate everything she does for me and my family. I mean, just last week she took my two boys out shopping for new school clothes and they came home with a ton of new outfits and new shoes. That was awesome and the boys were very excited with all the stuff she bought for them. My mom only lives about a block away from me and most people would consider that to be a problem. Not me. I love having her so close. I hope you are doing something special today, Mom, because you deserve it! I love you!
Links of the day
- Highly addictive game of waste paper basketball. Will take you a little bit to figure out, and then you are off and shooting.
- How to be creative. Rule #1 -- Ignore everybody.
- Top 50 fast food chains ranked by sales. McDonald's is number 1 by quite a bit.
- Empty Olympic stadiums setting off alarm bells. Apparently Greece is hoping for 5 million spectators and has only sold 3.9 million tickets. Sydney had about 9 million spectators.
- Classical Music Library. This is a link to a new database from the Hennepin County Public Library called the Classical Music Library. This database is amazing. With it you can search for thousands of classical music pieces performed by orchestras and symphonies around the world, listen to those pieces, and even download them. Wow. I was just listening to Handel's Water Music and the sound quality is pretty good. You can even create playlists on the site to save your favorite works and easily retrieve them for later use. Unfortunately this link will only be good for residents of Hennepin County in Minnesota with a HC Library card. Anyway, I'll be mentioning this as a possible purchase for the U Libraries. I think the Music Library could make some good use of a database like this.
August 13, 2004
UThink is 4 months old!
Tomorrow will be the 4 month anniversary for UThink, the University Libraries blogging system. With very little advertising and a lot of word of mouth, the system has generated these kinds of statistics:
Total number of blogs: 464
Blog authors: 544
Blog entries: 3804
Comments to all blogs: 1476
I've run some other queries against these numbers and I've found that of the 464 blogs, 72% are "active." This means that 72% of them have had at least one post since June 14. Why did I base this statistic on a two month range? One of the most famous surveys on blogging in general, the Perseus Blog Survey, used that criteria to find that 66% of blogs in general are abandoned. So, right now, UThink has a 28% abandonment rate.
That isn't too bad, but I also ran some queries to deduce how many blogs only have one post to try to figure out how many people are even remotely "consistent" users. According to my query 31% of UThink blogs only have one post. Ha! That is very interesting.
So, where are all the posts coming from? According to some other computations I've made, the top 50 bloggers, the 50 blogs with the most posts, account for 85% of the posts on UThink (3,262 out of 3,804). So in other words, some people really get into it, and other people ... not so much. Actually, that isn't fair. If a person only blogged once a month on UThink they would only have four posts, but maybe that is how they want to blog. Who knows?
Some other interesting stats: about 4 blogs get created everyday on the system and every day there are about 31 posts or entries put on the system. And of the users, the breakdown is thus:
Faculty and P/A: 88
This is a little surprising to me considering how many more undergraduates there are at the U as opposed to graduate students. However, I unveiled UThink at the end of Spring semester four months ago right around finals time. You could argue that grad students are the biggest users because there are more grad students on campus than undergrads during the summer months (?). I'm just speculating.
I also took a hard look at about half of the blogs to get a sense of who these people are and what they are using UThink for. As you might imagine, this took me quite a long time. 55% are male and 45% female so that breaks down as you might expect. Of the blogs I looked at I also found that 28% are personal in nature, 9% are research related (citations, thesis/dissertation discussion), 5% are for a class or class project, 11% are work related, and 47% are just testing or kicking the tires a little bit. It will be very interesting to see how these statistics change as we get into a "real" semester, but I'm going to have to figure out a better and more accurate way of doing random sampling.
Anyway, that is about it. Let me know if I should run some other type of statistic.
Since joining the Boston Red Sox two weeks ago, ex-Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz has nine hits in 32 at-bats (.281) with two doubles and one run batted in. For the season, Mientkiewicz has 79 hits in 316 at-bats (.250) with five homers, 20 doubles and 26 RBIs.
For the Twins, first baseman Justin Morneau has 37 hits in 133 at-bats (.278) with 10 homers, six doubles and 28 RBIs.
Morneau, who is being paid $300,000 this season, has two more RBIs than Mientkiewicz, who is being paid $2.8 million and has 183 more at-bats.
Umm ... yeah. Morneau is a stud. Nice to finally see him get some regular playing time.
That's it for now. Maybe more later.
August 12, 2004
Tags and Stadiums
What's that you say? I forgot about some stadium news last week? How dare you! I most certainly did not forget, I've just been taking some time to mull it over before I spring it on you when you least expect it. As you probably already know Tagliabue had some words about the Viking stadium issue when he was in town last weekend to witness the Chiefs and the Vikings try to kill each other. Tagliabue began his news conference with a little blah, blah, blah before he got to what was on everyone's mind, a new Vikings stadium in Minnesota:
"I know the stadium has been an issue, I have spoken several times with the governor, and met with him. We are just going to keep working on that, and taking advantage of what this team is; a meaningful asset opportunity for the state, and try to continue to work with the authorities to get a stadium done. I have been a bit frustrated, some of the other people have been, maybe not as much progress has been made as we had certainly hoped. We are going to re-double our efforts, and try to make certain that this team is here in a new stadium in the near future."
Roughly translated, Tagliabue actually said:
"Holy cow you Minnesotans sure put up a fight when it comes to publicly financed stadiums! I mean, yikes! But thanks to that dag-blasted lease, not to mention the bane of my existence (aka the 'Rozelle letter'), there isn't a whole lot we can do besides whine and moan some more and hope that you believe our threats that we could move the team to LA."
Tags was then asked if there was any timetable on building a new stadium and he answered:
"Well for me the timetable is last year or the year before. I'll take my lead from the leadership, and from the team. We've been very successful in over 20 cities in responding to the needs of each community, and tailor making solutions to each community; different kinds of public/private partnerships, different kinds of facilities."
Roughly translated he actually said:
"Usually all the NFL has to do is say 'jump' and most cities say, 'How high?' I mean, 20 cities have already ponied up the money to get it done. We just say you need the NFL, or the NFL is going to need to move to LA and it get's done with very little private investment."
Tags was then asked if he is surprised something hasn't been done yet and he answered:
"Nothing surprises me because these are complex projects. They do have to be tailor made to each community, each state, and each franchise. It takes time, but at some point you would think that things would collate, that it seems like some of the solutions would have been out there, merit support, and I would hope that it could get done ... There are three [NFC North] divisional opponents with new stadiums, so that is the reality of the situation. "
Roughly translated he actually said:
"The Green Bay Packers have once again proven that they have better fans and a better tradition than the Vikings. Even the Lions have built a stadium and they haven't been to the playoffs for what ... like 100 years! What is wrong with you people?"
Tags was then asked if he has any comments on the possibility of Glen Taylor buying the team:
"I have met with a number of individuals who expressed interest in the Vikings, as I meet with individuals expressing interest in other teams. Right now my focus is trying to understand from the leadership here in the state; the collective leadership, the business community leadership, as part of that I would put the Vikings ownership, Red McCombs and his executives here. My goal at this point is to understand what the dynamics are that could produce a consensus on a stadium for the Vikings. Hopefully we can get that done sooner rather than later. Whether people want to buy teams or not buy teams is really beyond me. What we can have an impact on as a league is getting stadiums built. At least for now we have the ability to invest some league money in a stadium. I am going to focus on the stadium and not on the ownership."
What he actually said was:
"Well, I'll give you Minnesotans credit for one thing, I wouldn't trust that son-of-a-gun Red McCombs as far as I can spit, and I can't spit worth a hill of beans! I include him in the equation only because I have to, and truth be told he has made a royal mess out of everything with his veiled threats and his phony Texan hospitality. Everytime he mentions the Vikings could move to LA I just about self-combust. He is so far down the list the Packers have a better chance of moving to LA at this point than the Vikings. And I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this whole 'Purple Pride' business Red has come up with. Frankly I'm ... I'm ... well I'm just speechless about the whole thing. On behalf of the entire NFL I offer my sincerest apologies."
Finally, Tags was asked if the NFL would ever consider increasing the money it provides for stadium construction. Tags answered:
"I don't think so. We have a formula that has been followed in all of the situations that we have dealt with in the last five years, it's an unprecedented commitment by the league. There is no other league; basketball, baseball, hockey which does anything like that."
This could be translated as:
"HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Oh my ... seriously you guys have made me pee my pants. That is rich. Let's just put it this way, Major League Baseball will be more popular than football again before we increase the funding. Man, you guys are hilarious!"
If you can't tell, I'm of the opinion that Tagliabue's comments are almost completely meaningless. He's said them before and he'll say them many times again before the Vikings lease expires in 2011. Tags could dress up in a clown suit and howl at Phil Krienke for two months straight and it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Minnesota politicians are so proud of what they've done (or not done) with the Twins that we may never see a stadium built for either team.
Here is what I think is funny, Minnesota politicians actually think the public will back their decision not to build any stadiums. Wow, is that decision going to come back and bite them. The public is a very fickle bunch and once they figure out what not having the Twins and Vikings has done to their state it won't be pretty. If the legislature never passes a bill to build a Vikings stadium and the team actually does move to LA or somewhere else (after 2011 of course) the public is going to be Angry, with a capital A. 75% of Minnesotans have their TVs tuned to the Vikings on Sunday afternoons in the fall. 75%!!!! If a stadium did get built some anti-stadium folk would be really upset, there is no disputing that. But if a stadium didn't get built and the Vikings left? Oh my ... people would come out of the woodwork in condemnation. It would be a bloodbath.
That's what I think anyway.
August 11, 2004
Links of the day
- This woman's story got me a little misty eyed, and I don't even know a thing about her. Ah, the power of blogs.
- The Quantum Sleeper. Wow, if you are really paranoid or in a really bad place, this is the bed for you.
- Excellent post on the dangerours levels of "presidential hatred" in this country right now. Some people should really chill out.
- No surprise here, people prefer margins to no margins when reading, but they read much faster without margins. Interesting.
- Justice has finally been served. My faith in our military court system has been renewed.
August 10, 2004
Every once in a while I like to walk around the beautiful U of M campus and just soak up the history. There are so many buildings on campus that I've worked here for 6 years and I don't think I've visited even 1/4 of them. So, every once in a while I like to walk around and visit some of them. Last Friday's walk around campus was spurred on by a unique event which prompted me to visit the Golden Gopher's football practice facilities. What was the event? I saw Glen Mason jogging across campus. In fact, I didn't just see him jogging, I practically ran right into him. A couple of weeks ago I had a meeting at Walter Library so after the meeting I decided to take the long way back to Wilson. In doing so I noticed a someone jogging towards me as I walked to Coffman Union. At first I didn't recognize him, but then it dawned on me, "Hey, that is Glen Mason! The Mase himself!" Quickly I tried to think of something to say, like "Go get 'em coach!" or "All the way to the Rose Bowl this year, coach!" But as he approached his overwhelming star power came over me and all I was able to get out was "uhhhhhh" as he jogged past. Curses! Why must I be plagued with this Norwegian shyness? I could have given him a high five or something, but now I am only left with the what ifs of our failed encounter.
Then it dawned on me. I thought to myself how strange that I have been all over the campus, but I have never been to the Gibson/Nagurski Football Practice Facility. Here is what I knew about the place. I had heard that it features a life size statue of Bronko Nagurski that rotates 360 degrees, and that it has a nice Gopher football hall of fame so that students can relive the glory years. So, I vowed to visit this place as soon as possible.
Well, I went last Friday and I was a little disappointed. It seems that during the summer they are doing some maintenance on the place so much of the hall of fame was out of order or in disarray. Most upsetting was that the statue of Bronko was gone. For repairs? Forever? I can only guess. But it looks like I just missed it. Bummer. And due to the construction and repairs the rest of the hall of fame was a little underwhelming, too. And a little despressing. Let me explain.The hall of fame features many of the trophies the Gopher football program has won over the years, including their five national championship trophies. That's right, five! More than Ohio State, more than Penn State, certainly more than Wisconsin. It also features the trophies for the four "Trophy Games" that Minnesota plays, or at least where the trophies should be sitting if they were actually in the possession of the Minnesota football team (click on the pictures for larger versions):
|The Victory Bell Trophy. Sorry for the glare. This trophy game started in 1993 and Penn State holds a slight edge over the Gophers in the series 4-3. It is, as you will see, the only trophy that is actually present in the hall of fame at this time.|
|Paul Bunyan's Axe. Given to the winner of the Minnesota-Wisconsin game and currently held by Minnesota. Although as you can see it is not in its case. That was also disappointing. Wisconsing leads the battle for the axe 28 - 24 games (see the comments for results from the overall series and why the axe is not in the case). This is due in large part to the dominance Wisconsin held over the Gophers in the 90s.|
|Floyd of Rosedale is given to the winner of the Minnesota-Iowa game every year. Minnesota holds a commanding lead in this series 38 - 28 although the trophy currently sits in Iowa City.|
|The Little Brown Jug, annually given to Michigan, er ... I mean the winner of the Minnesota-Michigan football game. Michigan currently holds a 61-21 edge in this epic rivalry. The last time the Gophers held the jug was in 1986. Glen Mason often jokes that he doesn't even know what the jug looks like. This trophy is the most depressing of all, especially given how close the Gophers were to holding it last year. The Gophers led Michigan 28-7 in the 4th quarter only to lose 38-35. I watched the game and I tell you I haven't felt so bad since the Vikings lost the 1998 NFC Championship game. It was brutal.|
So, as you can probably guess, I was a little depressed walking out of this place. There is so much history and tradition with Gophers football, but in recent times there has been a whole lot of pain and suffering. I tell you, this is the year to gain some hope back. The Gophers are ranked 24 in the coaches poll even before they play a game, and they've got a real shot at the Rose Bowl, I feel. The game I really want, though, is the Michigan game. I want that stupid Brown Jug more than anything. That alone would make the season all worth while.
August 9, 2004
If you didn't get a chance to see Eller's induction into the Hall of Fame this weekend you missed something special. Eller gave a fantastic speech that clearly showed his focus in life is not on his past glories on the football field, but the positive impact he can have in the African-American community. I wish him all the best and hope that today's Vikings (ahem, Moss) can learn a thing or two from Eller and the way he conducts himself. Congratulations Carl! You deserved it!
Speaking of his football career, though, there is little doubt that he dominated during his era. Look at these stats: a Vikings record 130 sacks, 766 tackles, 202 assists, and 6 pro-bowls. It is nice that he is finally in the Hall. Now if only the final member of the Purple People Eaters can get in: Jim Marshall.
Check out these statistics for Marshall: 127 sacks, 719 tackles and 269 assists. Marshall also holds the NFL record for recovered fumbles with 29, and is, of course, the NFL iron man with 282 consecutive starts over his 20 year career. It is a travesty that he is not in the Hall. His record of 282 consecutive starts will never be broken. Unfortunately it will be even harder for him to enter the Hall now as this was the last year that he could enter as a player from the modern era. From now on, he can only be one of two players nominated from a pool of old timers. I have little doubt that one day he will be inducted. It is a shame that he will have to wait so long.
August 8, 2004
The First Time
Warning! What follows is my first sermon! Sometimes Sundays have that effect on me.
One of the neat things about having a blog are all the comments I receive concerning the stuff I write. Sometimes the comments are nasty. Sometimes I have to delete them. But most of the time the comments are really nice, and even give me the opportunity to meet new people and correspond a little bit. As many of you know, I've been writing about my "Songs for a Desert Island" for a while now (under the category music) in which I've been picking songs that I would want to have with me if I was stranded on a desert island. One of the songs I wrote about was U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Well, on July 21 I received a comment from "Beth" where she said:
Hey, late noticing this, but great take on the song. Shameless self-promotion: Steve Stockman has a sermon on this song in Get Up Off Your Knees where he reads it side by side with Philippians 3. He sees it very much the way you do, I think.
Cool. First of all I met a new person, Beth Maynard, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Fairhaven, Massachusetts; secondly, she liked what I had to say and that is pretty neat; and thirdly she is the co-editor for a book of sermons based on the music of U2 called Get Up Off Your Knees. I have been waiting for a book like this for a long time. So, after reading her message I quickly filled out an Inter-Library Loan request for the book and waited patiently for it. It arrived two weeks later and I have been reading it ever since. What a wonderful book. U2 has certainly impacted a wide variety of people, and pastor's and priests are no exception. The book is full of sermons on social justice and the power of God's grace, and it powerfully demonstrates how popular culture and religion can intersect in a positive way. One thing that disappointed me, though, was none of the sermons dealt with the song "The First Time" off of the album Zooropa. This song, I feel, is ripe for a thought provoking sermon and I can't believe someone didn't tackle it's subject matter. So I'd like to attempt to write my interpretation of "The First Time" by U2. What I have found by reading Get Up Off Your Knees, though, is that I am not a pastor. Some of these sermons are so deep and passionate I almost talked myself out of even attempting to walk in their shoes. But I'll give it my best shot.
Attempts at interpreting "The First Time" have been published before. Most of the interpretations on the previous link are good, but I feel they miss the boat on what Bono is really trying to say. The subject matter is difficult, to be sure, and many Christians have interpreted this song as a sure fire example of Bono renouncing his faith. Again, try to understand that everything a song writer writes is not autobiographical. There could be elements of Bono's life in these lyrics, but to me I think Bono is doing little more than asking some simple questions through this song. What are those questions? Be patient! The lyrics start:
I have a lover, a lover like no other
She got soul, soul, soul, sweet soul
And she teach me how to sing.
Shows me colours when there's none to see
Gives me hope when I can't believe
That for the first time I feel love.
I agree with those people who write that this first stanza is about the Holy Spirit. The giveaway is Bono's reference to the Holy Spirit as a woman, something he also did in the song "Mysterious Ways." Bono expresses his love, and sings that she "teach me how to sing." The Holy Spirit is the giver of gifts, and there is little doubt who Bono credits with his own voice. The next stanza starts:
I have a brother, when I'm a brother in need
I spend my whole time running
He spends his running after me.
I feel myself goin' down
I just call and he comes around.
But for the first time I feel love.
This stanza is obviously, to me at least, about Jesus. Is there little doubt that Jesus is running after us, always ready to help us, always ready to be there when we need him most? Much like the first stanza, though, the singer sings that in spite of all of this, for the first time he feels love. It would seem that the singer has had a more powerful encounter with Jesus this time. That this time he finally understands what it means that Jesus is running after him. Jesus doesn't want a relationship with us only when we need him. He wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives, from sun-up to sun-down and everything in between. Is the singer ready to truly sacrifice himself for that kind of relationship?
My father is a rich man, he wears a rich man's cloak.
He gave me the keys to his kingdom (coming)
Gave me a cup of gold.
He said "I have many mansions
And there are many rooms to see."
But I left by the back door
And I threw away the key
And I threw away the key.
This song springs to mind the story of the Prodigal Son told in Luke 15:11-32. You know the story, the son asks for his inheritance, takes it and spends it all on women and wine, falls upon hard times (to say the least) and comes crawling back to his father thinking that he will become a servant of his father as he is no longer worthy of being his son. The father, however, is overjoyed that the son has returned. His father kills the "fatted calf" and they have a feast of thanksgiving that his son has come home. Jesus told this story to illustrate the love God has for us. What a powerful story of redemption and grace!
Check out Bono's lyrics again, though. The person in this story has returned again to his father's many roomed mansion, and has been given a "cup of gold" and the keys to the kingdom. But what does he do? He leaves by the back door and throws away the key! How heart-breaking! Why in the world did he do this? What is Bono trying to say?
I think Bono is asking some simple questions through this song: how long does God wait for us? How long does he keep running for us? How many times can we expect to be welcomed back into the kingdom after sqaundering our inheritance, after losing sight of him, after turning our back on him? Just how much grace does God really have for us? Bono could have ended the song by staying in the mansion, but he isn't going to make things that easy. Life is not so cut-and-dry. Faith is a constant struggle with peaks and valleys, overwhelming love and terrifying despair. Sometimes we leave the kingdom all together, we come back, and as Bono writes we leave again. How many times can we expect God to put up with this cycle?
I've got good news. God's grace is infinite. As difficult as it is to understand, God is always waiting for us, always willing to wash our sin away and make us into new people. It is mind-boggling to think about, yet beautiful in its simplicity. U2 wrote a song about grace called "Grace" in which Bono sings:
Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
What once was hurt, what once was friction
What left a mark no longer stains
Because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things
One of the best sermons in Get Up Off Your Knees deals with this amazing grace and is called "Grace the Beauty-Maker" by Wade Hodges. In it Pastor Hodges writes:
Our sin is huge. Its consequences are massive. Our rebellion has made a terrible mess of this world. But as large as our sin is, it cannot overshadow the grace of God. There is nothing we can do to make God stop loving us. There is no sin so great as to disqualify us from the opportunity to be reconciled. As our sin increases, God's grace increases all the more. God will not let sin have the last work in His story. No matter how far and wide the stain spreads, or how ugly it gets, God's grace is always big enough to cover the blemish and creative enough to make beauty out of something ugly.
So, to answer Bono's questions, God's grace never ceases. It is a gift we don't have any right to ask for, and yet it is freely given without any strings attached. All we need to do is accept it. "The First Time" is a difficult song that ends with pain and questions, but for me it illustrates the power of God's never-ending love for us. It is a love so powerful, that every time we leave the kingdom of God and return it will feel like the first time we felt God's love.
August 6, 2004
Links of the day
- Map of electoral votes by state and who this guy thinks is going to win based on state polls he has found. He is a Kerry supporter so it is a little biased. Check out the essay on the electoral college though. Fascinating!
- Company name etymologies. Did you ever wonder what Atari actually means?
- Minnesota Twins' at-bat music. Lecroy's is "The South is Gonna Do it Again." Awesome.
- Want to buy an island? Only $1.3 million. That is a steal.
- 25 years of Brown sisters. 25 pictures of four sisters taken every year.
- More about Democrats and religion at the DNC. From Christianity Today.
How lucky we are
Patrick Reusse has written a few articles about this topic, one quite recently, which prompts me to share my own opinion: we are extremely lucky to have Daunte Culpepper as our quarterback. I mean, we are silly lucky to have him. What I don't understand is how anyone can prefer Gus Frerotte or Todd Bauman to Daunte. It is just mind boggling to me. Consider this little tidbit:
A year ago, Culpepper completed 65 percent of his passes. That was a Vikings record. Even Fran Tarkenton, with those forward laterals to Chuck Foreman, never reached that figure. [And] Culpepper rated third in the NFL with a 96.4 quarterback rating.
He also started in the Pro Bowl and broke the Vikings record for rushing touchdowns by a QB in only his fifth year as a player, fourth as a starter! The guy is simply amazing!Also consider the draft within which Daunte was taken. Five quarterbacks were taken with the first 12 picks. Let's take a look at where they are all at:
- Tim Couch -- backing up that stiff Favre for the Packers.
- Donovan McNabb -- starting for the Eagles and still trying to overcome the Chunky Soup jinx.
- Akili Smith -- not even in the NFL, unless he's changed his name
- Daunte Culpepper -- Vikings fans were stunned when he was selected (what about Kearse?), but he will lead us to the Super Bowl.
- Cade Mcnown -- also not in the NFL anymore.
So really, the only QB that can compare with Daunte from that draft class is McNabb. Let's take a look at their career statistics side by side:Daunte:
Daunte and McNabb are arguably very similar players, but Daunte has a better overall passing percentage, more yards passing, a better yards per attempt average, 24 more touchdown passes, 9 more rushing TDs, and a much better overall passer rating than McNabb all in 12 fewer games. Again, his numbers are simply stunning, yet people still want to bench him. Wow! As Reusse says it is either just plain ignorance or racism.
The two beefs most people have with Daunte are his fumbles and interceptions. Daunte showed remarkable improvement in the INT department last year and only threw 11. Also consider that Fran Tarkenton is third in the NFL record books for interceptions thrown with 266. I don't hear many Viking fans complaining about Fran. Daunte's fumbles continue to be a concern, but he improved in that category last year, too, and I expect he'll improve again. And when you think about it, of his 16 fumbles last year the other team only recovered the ball 6 times. Is that really what we are worried about? Six? I tell you what, I'll take Daunte and all his flaws any day of the week over the struggles other teams are having to even find a QB even half as good as Daunte. Look at the Bears, or the Redskins, or Dallas, or the Giants, or the Bengals ... really the list goes on and on of teams that are struggling to find a QB that can play. Do you realize how lucky we are to have Daunte?
August 5, 2004
I have to comment on this
Regardless of your political leanings, you've got to admit that President Bush says some pretty humorous things sometimes. Just today Bush said about terrorists, "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." Huh? I know what he means, but other people are going to have a field day with this. [from coffee grounds] That isn't what I wanted to comment on, though. On top of all these "Bushisms" we have this: I don't know how many of you heard about this, but on a campaign stop in Albuquerque Cheney required anyone who wanted to hear his speech to sign a "loyalty oath." That's right, if you wanted to get in to hear Cheney talk you had to sign a document that said you support Bush for president in the upcoming election. Apparently this was done to thwart efforts by a local Democratic organization from crashing the party. Truthfully, I don't really care about the rights or wrongs about the oath in general, but I do think the form they had people sign must have been put together by a 10 year old. Check out this line:
I, (full name) ... do herby (sic) endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States."
I do "herby"? I think they mean do "hereby." And do we really endorse Bush for reelection of the United States? Is he reelecting the United States for something? Me confused. It later adds that,
"In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush.
You are "consenting to use and release of your name..." Egads! Someone must have been in a hurry when they put this together.
I've got nothing
Have you ever wanted to write something, but instead you just stared at the computer screen for a while? That is where I'm at right now. Just staring. Well, actually I'm typing, but I'm not really saying much. So, what can I say? I'm feeling very blah right now. Not "laid back" type blah, but blah as in "I'm so tired" blah. Which is odd since I just came back from vacation. This probably has to do with the fact that I was recently diagnosed with walking pneumonia. I have literally had a cough for two months now. I swear whenever I cough I sound like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. You know, a deep chest cough with phlegm gurgling in my throat as my body tries desperately to get it out. I finally went to the doctor two days ago and begged them to find out what is wrong with me. So they decided to give me a chest x-ray. Twice. It seems that the first time they gave me the x-ray they missed a good portion of my lungs because my lungs are "so long." Have you ever heard of long lungs? Well, apparently I have very long lungs. So they had to zap me twice.
As a result of this ailment, I think it is making me extra tired. Whenever I sit down to write something on this blog at night I am overwhelmed by tiredness. Then I get here (at work) in the morning and scramble to put something up. I need to find a new routine.
Anyway, I've got to get to work, but enjoy these two links:
- Peasant Quest. An old fashioned type game where you have to tell your character what to do, like "talk man" or "get item." Brings back the memories.
- Roger Waters is writing the "Wall" for Broadway. I really liked the Broadway adaptation of "Tommy." Here is hoping this will be just as good.
August 4, 2004
Things I'm thinking about
Oh, and remember all the people complaining that the Twins traded away Eric Milton for Silva this offseason? Well, Milton has a nice record because of extremely good run support in Philadelphia, but his ERA is 4.64 in 130 innings, while Silva's is 4.23 in 140.1 innings. Milton makes $9 million, Silva makes $340,000. Milton is a free agent after the season, Silva is under the Twins' control for several more years. Great trade.
I hadn't thought about it that way, but he is absolutely right. I also have to give props to Cheesehead Craig for already telling me that Milton is winning so much because of his great run support. It doesn't happen much, but the Cheesehead is right.
[Morneau] continues to crank out the big hits. If one were to extrapolate [sic] this year's 24 games he's played to a full season his numbers would be .263 avg, 41HR, 122RBI. Not too shabby.
Not too shabby at all. Three cheers for the coming of the Morneau era! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!
August 3, 2004
Stadiums and smoke
Stadium news ... yo-hoooooo ... where are you? Ahh, there you are, you thought you could hide from me, but I found you! The past few days have produced a couple of articles concerning my favorite topic, stadiums in Minnesota, and as per usual the news is not very good. Apparently, the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association and other state hospitality groups may withdraw their support for taxes on the hospitality industry for a new Twins stadium if smoking is banned in bars in the metro area:
It seems the hospitality industry is complaining that they have been bearing the taxing burden for too long, and if they also have to bear the brunt of a smoking ban they aren't going to take it anymore:
Bar and restaurant owners say they're worried about the confluence of the two issues and the impact on their financial bottom line. For too long, those who sell liquor have been a scapegoat for politicians unwilling to cut services or go to the public for more taxes, said Jim Farrell, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association.
"We can't do it all," said Farrell, who represents thousands of Minnesota liquor retailers, including bars and restaurants. The association's members have voiced support to help build a new stadium for the Twins in the past. The group "will consider now aligning itself against" any stadium plan that would further tax them, he added.
Farrell also added, "If the anti-stadium folks and the bar folks get together, I believe it's over with." Boy, talk about some horrible long term thinking. I can understand their aversion to a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. They feel fewer people will come to those bars and restaurants if they can't smoke. However, to remedy this potential problem they decide to take away their support for a Twins stadium. I'd like to know just what kind of impact do they think this move and its likely consequences will have ... If the Twins don't get a new stadium and leave town, bars and restaurants in the metro area will lose even more business. How does this make any sense? Steve Kelley, my beloved state senator, seems to agree with my thinking:
Farrell will have a tough time selling his argument. State Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said he is skeptical about alleged financial losses should city bars and restaurants be subjected to both smoking bans and taxes to support a ballpark.
"I'm not getting the economic logic, but the political logic I totally get," said Kelley, who was a chief sponsor of stadium legislation at the Capitol last session. The liquor industry may be using the stadium issue as leverage to kill or delay the smoking bans, said Kelley, who argues that the establishments undoubtedly would earn more revenue should a new ballpark be built nearby.
Unfortunately, this is just another episode in the tragic soap opera of stadium politics in Minnesota. Bottom line: does it hurt the Twins chances of finally seeing a stadium built in Minnesota? Yes. But truthfully, it doesn't hurt that much. Most legislators will see this as a bluff, I should think, and there are still other powerful organizations in the state that support building stadiums, like construction unions throughout the state. But it sure doesn't help.
The Trouble with Air
Unless you don't have any kids or you just don't care, it is difficult to ignore the problem of childhood obesity in America today. There are many, many news stories around the country dealing with this epidemic, and all of them mention the same old reasons for this problem: namely lack of exercise, too much TV, and fast food. All of these are obviously a factor, but I've discovered yet another possible reason for this problem, a much more covert, sinister reason that will be difficult to overcome.
I remember my own childhood well. I grew up in River Falls, WI and I remember the summers being HOT. I remember lying in my bed at night sweating like a dog because 1) it was hot and 2) I always covered myself with blankets because I was afraid of "monsters." But the main reason I was so hot was because we didn't have air conditioning. In fact, I don't remember many people having air conditioning at all. I had one friend lucky enough to have a cool house, and I thought his family was rich. However, as a result of not having air conditioning I think I played outside a lot more. I mean, it was just as hot inside as it was outside so why not be outside?
It is my hypothesis that kid's today are not making the same choice. Kids today avoid being outside in the summer because it is so much more comfortable inside. As a result, they just aren't exercising as much as we did when we were younger. I see it in my own kids. On a relatively hot day, like last Saturday for example, my wife and I tell our kids to go outside and play only to see them return inside after 10 minutes because they are "soooo hot." I can imagine this same conversation taking place in thousands of other households across the Twin Cities. I really feel air conditioning is making our children lazy and fat, and truthfully I don't know what to about it.
In closing, there was a time when air conditioning was a luxury. I think if you studied it long enough you would find a correlation between the rise of air conditioning in cars and homes and childhood obesity that would be hard to ignore. That is all for now. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
August 2, 2004
Land of Fasciitis
OK, this is just getting ridiculous. You probably all remember how it started, when Jimmy "The Pride of North Dakota" Kleinsasser was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis a couple of years ago? We all said, "What the heck is that? Is it contagious?" Of course we heard that its not contagious, but I'm beginning to wonder. I think every Minnesota team but the Wild have had to deal with this mysterious ailment. First, we all know Wally Sczerbiak missed a good chunk of last season due to plantar fasciitis. Shannon Stewart missed a good part of this season because of plantar fasciitis. Randy Moss still has plantar faciitis and expects to play through the pain. Now, Mike Tice himself has come down with the ailment. What the heck is going on? We don't hear about plantar faciitis for years and now there isn't a week that goes by without someone coming down with it. Is it just me or does Minnesota have an inordinate amount of our sports personalities out with plantar fasciitis?
Thanks for the memories
I don't think it was any secret that I wanted the Twins to trade Doug Mientkiewicz. He was batting .240 with 5 home runs and 25 RBI. That sucks, plain and simple. However he has always been one of my favorite players, ever since he tore up AL pitching in the first half of 2001. Do you remember? He flirted with .400 before the All-Star break and Twins fans were just giddy. He has been consistently inconsistent ever since. The biggest reason to trade him, though, was the emergence of Justin Morneau. ESPN is predicting that he'll win the MVP award in five years. That would be amazing and make us forget about Dougie real quick.
Having said that, it was still sad to see Dougie go. I really appreciated his work ethic, and I was happy to see Twins fans reward his time in the organization with a couple of standing ovations. That was nice to see. I wish I could have been there to clap along with them. And I was not at all happy with Gardenhire's bumbling method of handling Mientkiewicz as the trade deadline approached. Seriously, it was stupid even to tell him he was going to be traded regardless of the other stuff he supposedly said to Mint. First of all, it spooked Mint big time and created a less than ideal club house atmosphere. Secondly, and more importantly, it tipped Terry Ryan's hand and forced him into a corner. Gardy told Mint that he was going to be traded because Gardy thought the Benson deal was in the bag. When that fell through, Ryan was forced to find anything to get Mint out of Minnesota. If Gardy hadn't said anything, Mint would have just heard the rumors and if nothing happened, well that would have been OK. Hopefully next time Gardy just keeps his mouth shut. Of course, Mint was probably going to be traded no matter what, but why ruin his last days as a Twin by shoving it in his face a week before hand?
Speaking of Terry Ryan, ESPN is again reporting that the Twins were one of the big losers at the trade deadline. That is just silly. I think Terry should be commended for not giving away "the farm" for a shaky pitcher like Benson. Apparently the Pirates wanted Cuddyer, Kubel, or even Morneau and that wasn't going to happen. So instead Ryan gets another left handed pitching prospect, the Cubs 2002 1st round draft choice Justin Jones. For one thing, this guy went to high school about 10 minutes away from my high school in Virginia Beach, VA, but more importantly he was ranked as the #2 prospect in the Cubs system. So, overall Terry did a pretty good job, I should think. Also consider that Benson got absolutely shelled in his Mets debut and the Twins are coming out of this smelling pretty good. We've got a power hitter at first now who already has as many home runs as Mientkiewicz, and we've got another left handed pitching prospect. Plus the Twins are 5 games above the White Sox, and they just beat the hated Red Sox 2 out of 3 games to take the season series. They are not the anti-Yankees people. I enjoy beating the Red Sox just as much as the Yankees.
Anyway, it is still sad to see Dougie go. I heard he teared up a little in the batter's box on Saturday night. He will always have a special place in the heart of Twins' fans, and it sounds like he will miss us too. However, as Patrick Reusse writes today, bring on the Morneau era. Truthfully, the best part of the trade in my mind is that this will be the last time I ever type "Mientkiewicz." So long Dougie!
August 1, 2004
I'm back from vacation. I had a great time, but it wasn't nearly long enough. Italians get about 2 months of vacation a year, but I am stuck with a couple of weeks in the summer (here and there) and a couple of weeks around Christmas. Could be worse, I suppose. Anyway, my family and I went to Green Lake up by Willmar. Actually, Spicer is one of the towns right on the lake. Man, what a fun time we had! Swimming, fishing, kayaking, grilling, eating smores, relaxing, reading ... I could really get used to a lifestyle like that.
Anyway, I'll be writing more later, especially about the Doug Mientkiewicz trade and Vikings training camp. Lots of good stuff to comment on with those two stories. See you soon.
Links of the day
- Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, has a new book coming out based on this article: "The Naked Face."
- Democrats are people of faith, too. I may have to write more about this as I agree with a lot of what it says.
- An oldie propaganda poster by Allah is in the House. Very, very effective.
- Barack Obama in 2012? This speech is a step in that direction. Too bad he had to talk about Kerry so much.
- Original reviews for Tolkein's Lord of the Rings from 50 years ago.
- In case you missed it, Episode III will be called "Revenge of the Sith." Even with this title, I'm not very hopeful that it will drag the trilogy to levels of respectibility, though.
- New Vikings.com website. Before this the Vikings had the worst website in the NFL. Now they are definitely in the middle of the pack.