December 30, 2004
What follows is just a flat out brain dump with little or no value. You have been warned.
Blogging is hard. Maybe not hard for some people, but it is certainly hard for me, or at least it is becoming harder. You see, I'm the type of guy that can't just write something. I have to fret over it. I have to proof read it. I have to analyze what I have written and make sure it is up to par. In college it would take me forever to write even the most simple 2 page reaction paper. I would write maybe a sentence, a couple of sentences perhaps, and then get up and slack off before coming back to my paper an hour later to write a couple more sentences. Then I would get up again. It was a painful process.
You really can't do that with blogging. Well, I guess you can, but you won't have any time for anything else, especially if you write something every day like I try to do. I'm finding that out. I'm finding that writing this stuff takes a lot of time, and when I don't take the time I'm finding that I'm not happy with what I have written. So, I'm in a bit of a conundrum. Either I can take the time and spend an hour (or two) writing everyday something that I can be proud of, or I can take it easy and write something every once and a while when I really have something to say. I honestly don't know what I'm going to end up doing.
Blogging has taught me a lot about myself. Some of the things I have written I have been very proud of, and not necessarily because I really nailed a topic, but because I wrote something well. Maybe I wrote with feeling, passion, humor, maybe a touch of arrogance, but most of all what I wrote was coherent and well constructed (at least to me). Like this. And this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this.
And when I look back on the things I have written that I am most happy with, they almost never have to do with sports or stadiums. As many of you know, I am passionate about stadiums. However, I am finding that maybe I should change my focus a little bit. Does that mean I am going to stop writing about stadiums? No, I don't think that is even possible. I do think it means, though, that I am going to write less about sports in general. Seriously, I'm not very good at writing about sports anyway. I look back sometimes on what I have written about the Twins and Vikings and I think blah, blah, blah. What am I really adding to the discussion? I would argue not much.
So, I'm going to try something new. I'm going to try writing more about my life, my place of work, my family, stuff that is happening around me. Will I still write about sports? Sure. It is kind of hard to separate sports from my life, but I'm going to try to write about sports only when I've got something to say. Something to add to the discussion. This may mean that sometimes I don't write a post for a day or two, but in the end I think it will hopefully mean what I do end up writing will be of a little higher value to me. And that will make me happy.
December 16, 2004
Dave points out in a comment an inaccuracy in my post below that should be addressed, and that I have already fixed. I have also found another. First of all, as Dave points out, Linda Cropp's amendment requires that 1/2 the stadium funding come from private sources, not necessarily the owner(s) of the Washington Nationals. Secondly, a $270 million 30 year loan at 6% interest would cost approx. $19 million per year, not $15. A 5% loan would cost approx. $17 million per year to pay off. A mathematical genius I am not, especially early in the morning when I usually type these things out.
Sigh. The more I think about all this stadium mumbo jumbo the more I start thinking about how many times we've been here before. Another year, another try for a Twins stadium. When will this all end? Some of you may be wondering actually what kind of stadium plan I would favor, since I write about it so much, and truthfully it is tough to really pinpoint since I would support any plan that would work.
For example, I would support the state picking up the tab for the entire costs of all three stadiums if that plan suddenly became feasible. If alien look-a-likes infiltrated the Minnesota legislature and decided to fund all three stadiums by taxing anyone that gets a haircut on Tuesday or drives a Buick Lesabre I would support this plan whole-heartedly. Buick Lesabre drivers like the Twins, don't they? Or, if Pohlad suddenly had a change of heart due to the fact that he was visited by the ghosts of stadium proposals past, present, and future who showed him the error of his ways causing him to not only build his own stadium, but also devote the rest of his life to dancing the hokey-pokey ... well I would think that was just dandy too. I really don't care. The state can pay for it, the city can pay for it, Pohald can pay for it, all three entities can pay for it, I really don't care, let's just figure something out!
Let me get specific and realistic, though. The plan I like the best is if the Native American casinos help build the stadiums. They have already said they are willing to do this and it really is a win-win situation. The state would finally get this mess out of the way, there would be no new taxes or taxes of any kind, and the Native Americans would look like heroes. Secondly, I really liked the plan to extend the recently expired car rental and liquor taxes in the Twin Cities to pay for the stadiums. Extending the taxes would not have been a tax increase at all and people that didn't want participate could have found alternatives. Finally, I didn't think the "racino" idea was too bad either, or just putting slots at Canterbury Downs. I would play those slots every chance I got if I knew they would help fund a Twins stadium.
Of course, there are other financing options as well. In fact, there are tons of options: lottery scratch games, a taxing district around the stadium, game day parking fees, stadium parking ramps that capture revenue even on days without games, sports memorabilia taxes, ticket taxes, personal seat licenses, a tax on food and drink at the stadium. The list goes on and on. Linda Cropp, the D.C. city council chairwoman, has already said that private financing strategies have already been suggested there:
One under consideration involves use of profits from parking near the stadium and another would transfer ownership of the stadium to a private group in a lease-back arrangement.
There are so many different options, I can't believe we, as Minnesotans, aren't smart enough to put together a plan that works.
Because here is what will happen this legislative session. Steve Sviggum and the House will push for the TIF financing method. It is solid and it doesn't increase taxes or use money from the general fund. Secondly, Pohlad will be required to make a $120 million upfront contribution and it will be like pulling teeth to even get him to agree to that. Finally, the host community will be given the chance to vote on a referendum to create taxes on bars, restaurants, or hotels in that community to pay for the rest of the stadium. The handwriting is on the wall.
This plan sucks! I'll take the TIF and Pohald's contribution, but the community taxes will not fly. I would agree with Jim in St. Paul that St. Paul probably has the best chance of passing a referendum, but with the NHL labor strike I would think most of the residents of St. Paul have soured towards professional sports. With all these other financing options why can't we come up with something that doesn't use a tax in the host community? Why can't we combine all of these other methods and create something that works and doesn't tax someone that doesn't want to pay for the stupid stadium?
I don't know where I'm going with this. So, I'll stop rambling now. Let me just end by saying I sincerely hope that the Minnesota legislature doesn't put the fate of the Twins in the hands of the people through a referendum. It won't work and we'll be back where we started next year.
I'm going on vacation for the next two weeks so this will probably be it for stadium rants (unless some really big news comes out). I will still be posting (intermittently) in the next two weeks, but I will probably be focusing on family and Christmas. See you soon.
I'm sure everybody has seen this, but it looks like the Expos move to Washington is in serious jeopardy. Apparently the now famous D.C. city council woman Linda Cropp refused to vote in favor of stadium financing unless the deal included private funding paying for half the actual stadium construction costs. According to Jim Caple, former Twins beat writer for the Pioneer Press:
Cropp's amendment to the stadium-financing bill is a modest and sensible one, requiring that half the actual construction costs of the ballpark be privately funded. Take away the estimated site acquisition and infrastructure costs and that's about $140 million -- a lot of money, sure, but only about one-quarter of what the overall package may wind up costing. It's a reasonable amount when you consider the city is still on the hook for finding a probable $450 million more.
$140 million. That's it, and it does sound reasonable. Read more of Caple's column for some good arguments in favor of this development. Truthfully I can't believe MLB is even fretting about this, but as Caple says it probably means MLB owners will make less money from this deal.
I would be lying if I said this didn't make me a little happy to see D.C. having this trouble. 10 years of stadium wars in Minnesota will make a person a little jaded. I seriously hope, though, that this demonstrates to Pohlad and the Twins organization that it is time to put some serious money on the table to get a stadium deal done here. I've said this before, but the $160 million requirement from Pohlad from the Ventura/Sausen plan of a couple of years ago would be a great starting place and would probably push a deal over the top in the state legislature.
Take a look at this quote from Pohlad in Charley Walters column yesterday:
"We've been losing about $15 million a year the last four years," Pohlad said. "And that's something you have to write a check for; you don't get any tax benefits for it. So you say, 'why should we pay a guy all that money?' Our guys now have to be smart enough to pick up new, up-coming talent."
Let me get this straight, Pohlad is willing to write a check for a $15 million dollar loss every year, but he is unwilling to write a $15 million check to help pay off stadium debt? I think you could easily make the argument that $15 million for a stadium would be a much better investment and one with far better returns. I guess my point is that with a new stadium the Twins would be more profitable. At least that is what they tell us. In fact, I would wager that they would be far more profitable. Instead of losing money they could easily make enough money to make up for Pohlad's $15 million loss and pay off the debt service for the stadium costs.
I spelled out yesterday a very basic model of Twins stadium funding. Right now the TIF contribution from the state would be about $110 million, maybe a little more with inflation. Add a $120 million upfront contribution from Pohlad and you get a total of $230 million. That leaves $270 million left on a $500 million stadium. If Pohlad payed off this $270 million in yearly installments at 6% interest, it would be about $19 million a year. Am I missing something here? Of course, $19 million year is more than the $15 he is paying now, but he would have his new stadium and most likely some new revenue streams.
If the D.C. plan falls through, and Sviggum's prediction for successful stadium legislation doesn't come to pass, it looks like contraction could become an option again. It looks like the owners could make a lot of money by killing even just one team. I am of the opinion that Pohlad doesn't want to go down this route again, but a lot can change in two years when the current CBA expires. Until then, I will keep grasping at straws and desperately hope that someone can figure this all out.
December 15, 2004
Can you believe it? My wife bought me a new TV today for Christmas! And then, she couldn't wait until Christmas to give it to me! Apparently she woke up today and decided that she wanted to do something nice for me. And she got this 32" TV for a bargain too; only $240 at Sears. I am out of the Stone Age! Hallelujah! What did I do to deserve such a nice wife? I will have to repay her with something special. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.
Check out this poll
Check out this Star Trib poll:
As of 4:15 Wednesday afternoon, the statistics favor building a stadium, even if public dollars are used, with a whopping 39% of the vote. Second place is "No. Minnesota has more important needs" at 30%, and third place is "Yes. If taxpayers don't pay" at 20%. But 39% of the respondents have said "Definitely. Even if it takes public money." That is amazing. And I only voted twice!
Ok. I've had a night to sleep on it, and while this recent delopment in stadium politics is certainly something to get excited about, it is still just talk and definitely talk that we have heard before. It also includes all the common themes that we've had in stadium politics in year's past. First we have the optimistic politician, this year played by Steve Sviggum, the Speaker of the House:
"It's going to pass this session," House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, told reporters at the Capitol during the Associated Press' annual preview of the legislative session. It was the first time he has made such a prediction.
Again, we don't exactly know what will pass, or what form it will take, but Sviggum is predicting something will pass. That is significant in itself since I don't think I've ever heard such a high ranking politician make a promise like that regarding stadiums.
Next we have the guarded politicians, or the politicians that won't make any promises, but who also won't say a stadium bill doesn't have a chance. This year that part is played by both Gov. Pawlenty and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson:
Pawlenty, who earlier this year proposed plans for building publicly subsidized stadiums for the Twins and Minnesota Vikings, said sports facilities are "not on the front burner" for him in the coming legislative session. He did say, however, that it is important to resolve the stadium issues soon.
Johnson, who has sponsored Twins stadium bills in the past, said an on-campus Gopher football stadium mostly funded by the university "has the most appeal right now." It's harder to sell public subsidies for a new Twins ballpark, he said, after the team's third baseman, Corey Koskie, signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract Tuesday with the Toronto Blue Jays.
So, here we have Pawlenty giving us the old "not until everything else is done" mumbo jumbo. This is not surprising and it is a statement we should all come to expect now. What Johnson had to say was a little more interesting and could also be construed as somewhat of a hint to the Minnesota Twins stadium contingent. First of all he says that the Gophers have a better shot because they are funding the bulk of the stadium themselves, and then he says that the Twins chances have decreased due to Koskie's departure and signing with Toronto.
What is Johnson getting at here? In the era of free agency players leave teams for new ones all the time. Is he upset that the Twins didn't pony up the money to keep Koskie? Is he upset with the amount of money Koskie received from Toronto? Does he think Koskie leaving is indicitive of the Twins lack of commitment to put a winning team on the field? Whatever the case, Koskie leaving should not impact the Twins chances for a new stadium bill at all. That is just stupid. I may have to write a letter and tell him so. Anyway, what I think Johnson is really trying to say here is that the Twins better get ready to open their wallets and start putting forward some real money to get this done. The U is doing it. Why can't the Twins?
Finally, we have a statement about how the state will make its contribution to the stadiums. Regarding a Gophers stadium, it appears Sviggum is leaving the door wide open for a number of funding possibilities, including borrowing money from the general fund. And regarding the Twins, Sviggum again suggested that the Tax Increment Financing method (a method perfected by the genius and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge) is the way to go to fund a Twins stadium:
The key to winning support, he said, was Pawlenty's proposal to pay part of the cost with a new form of tax-increment financing. Under his method, the growth in future income and sales taxes paid by the Twins would be used to help pay for a new ballpark. Without a new facility, the team theoretically would not pay higher taxes. So capturing that revenue for a stadium would not take tax dollars away from schools, health care or other services financed by the state's general fund.
"I think the increment idea is fairly well sold," Sviggum said.
So, here is where my pessimism comes in. Sviggum promises a stadium bill for the Twins will pass, probably using the TIF method above. However, that still leaves a huge gap in necessary funds to make this happen. We'll have approx. $110 million from the TIF method and $120 million from the Twins. That leaves about $270 million that someone will have to come up with to pay for the rest of the $500 million stadium. The Twins have consistently wanted the host community to pay for this with tax money, and this is where any plan will fall apart. Even if the legislature passes a stadium bill, it will require a referendum for any tax money to be used, and I am of the opinion that a referendum will fail whether it is in St. Paul or Hennepin County. I talked a little bit about this yesterday, but I hope Sid's report of the Twins working on a plan with both St. Paul and Hennepin County includes both more upfront money from the Twins and more private money from the host communities. Because using tax money just isn't going to fly.
Finally, the Star Tribune reported today that Dean Johnson has already nixed the idea of a new Stadium Task Force suggested by Sviggum. What is going on with Dean Johnson? I'm beginning to think he really has had a change of heart regarding this issue. He has gone from sponsoring stadium bills to being downright opposed to them. We'll have to keep an eye on him. However, having said that, a new stadium task force probably would have been worthless anyway. How many times does a committee or task force have to say, "We recommend building a Twins stadium." It has already been recommended, and we have tons of suggested funding options. Now let's get it done.
December 14, 2004
Oh please, oh please, oh please ...
Just wanted to let you know that I have seen this, and this, and I gotta say ... yep, I am very happy about this development. I was going to say, "I've heard it all before" but like a moth to a flame I have chosen to get really excited about this news. Let's dissect what Sviggum has said before the Strib and the PiPress take these AP stories down:
"A stadium bill is going to pass this legislative session,'' House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said at a forum sponsored by The Associated Press. "The time has come, folks, to make a decision.''
The Strib has chosen this quote, and of course they don't say just what stadium Sviggum is talking about. He could be talking about a Gophers stadium (likely), he could be talking about a Twins stadium (probably), but we definitely know he is not talking about the Vikings (Red, sell the team you cheap bastard!).
To balance all this out, Dean Johnson, Senate majority leader, added these little nuggets just so my heart wouldn't explode with happiness. So, I thank him for that:
A football stadium on the University of Minnesota campus has the best chances, Johnson said, adding that the Legislature shouldn't get involved in choosing sites for sports stadiums ... "It's clear the Gophers stadium on campus has the most appeal right now,'' Johnson said. "I would not begin to predict whether a Twins or Vikings stadium will pass the Senate.''
In the past Johnson has consistently said a Twins stadium bill would have no trouble passing the Senate. Maybe Johnson has soured on the idea of a Twins stadium. I'm not sure, but I am still of the opinion that a Twins bill will squeak through the DFL Senate, unless they start playing partisan politics with the Republican Governor and Speaker. We'll see.
The PiPress had a slightly different take on this press conference. According to them, Sviggum was much more forceful and confident that a bill would pass for the Gophers and Twins:
The second-most powerful state official in Minnesota predicted Tuesday the 2005 Legislature will approve funding to construct new stadiums for the University of Minnesota football team and the Minnesota Twins.
"It's going to pass this session," House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, told reporters during the Associated Press' annual legislative session preview at the Capitol. It was the first time he made such a prediction.
I hope that this is finally going to happen. I hope Sviggum strong arms some new Reps and uses his muscle to finally solve this problem once and for all. I like the conviction I am sensing in his quotes and gosh darn it if it doesn't give me too much hope for my own good. Sviggum also added:
"It's going to happen after we do everything else," he said. But he's confident lawmakers will vote to build two stadiums. "The time has come to make a decision," he said.
Amen to that. More tomorrow when the quotes come in from Maturi and Jerry Bell. Stadium season is almost in full swing!
It ain't over till it's over
I just read this little tidbit on Mr. Cheer or Die's Viking Underground and I gotta say that I am shocked. The Vikings still have a chance to win the division. If the Vikings win all of their remaining games, they will win the division, even if the Packers lose to the Vikings and win two more. That is remarkable. The Vikings can play horrible all season, have the same record as the Packers, and still take the division.
I truthfully don't know how I feel about this. After the Seattle game I was practically begging the Packers to beat the Lions just to put me out of my misery. After they won I thought, "Well, I don't have to worry about the Vikings any more. If they beat the Packers on Christmas Eve I will be satisfied." Now I find out the Vikes are still in the running! OK ... you know what, I may be a glutton for punishment but I think I am actually happy about this!
So here is what we know:
- Daunte Culpepper has never lost to the Detroit Lions. I don't see why he would start losing to them this Sunday.
- If the Vikings beat the Lions, I don't see them losing the Packers at home. The Vikings know they are playing for their playoff lives and Mike Tice's job. Beat the Lions and I practically guarantee the Vikes will beat the Packers.
- Again, Mike Tice's job is in serious jeopardy. The Vikings, I predict, will use this to their advantage and play with a little more heart.
- Linehan will never, ever allow Randy Moss to pass again. So, we've got that going for us, too.
The Vikings can win these last three games. So, I cannot give up hope until its all over. I'm a Vikings fan. I'm used to this.
Well, it is over for the Twins and Corey Koskie. Again, this doesn't upset me too much. That is what we get for being Twins fans. The Twins are like a college team. About every four years the team completely changes and we find ourselves with a new set of players to cheer for. Koskie had a good year last year, not great but good. He will certainly be missed, but it is time to give someone else a shot. Is anyone else really upset that Koskie is leaving? I mean he was injured a lot, he is getting old, and the Twins have at least two players that can fill in. I like Aaron Gleeman's take on the situation. One of the biggest negatives to Koskie leaving is that it opens a door for Rivas to still play second. Yikes! For me, though, again being a Twins fan I'm kind of used to this.
One thing that never seems to be "over" is my favorite subject, stadiums in Minnesota. In case you missed it, Sid Hartman reported this Sunday:
Behind the scenes, the Twins are working with Hennepin County and St. Paul in order to come up with a reasonable plan in which each group could present a plan to the Legislature for a baseball stadium. Then a vote would be taken and a committee would decide whether the ballpark is in Minneapolis or in St. Paul. Sam Grabowski, executive director of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, calls the ballpark a top priority, as do officials of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.
See where it says officials from both Minneapolis and St. Paul consider a baseball stadium a "top priority?" Here is what I don't understand: why are Minneapolis and St. Paul so desperate for a stadium if, as we are led to believe, stadiums have such a negligible economic impact on a community? Why? I don't think I've ever heard of a city ever say, "You know what? We don't want a new stadium. There is nothing in it for us." No, over and over again in cities all over America city officials practically beg for professional sports stadiums to be built. If the Minnesota legislature would allow it, the St. Paul city government would tax the wazoo out its people to build a stadium.
I ask these kinds of questions sort of facetiously since I think I know the answer, but still it makes me wonder why cities are always so gung ho about stadium construction and state legislatures are so typically against it?
December 13, 2004
Well, I alluded to this below, but I got into a little car accident this weekend. This would be only my second accident since I got my license 15 years ago. So, my amazing driving record is now tarnished with what could possibly be considered one of my more careless moments. Let me explain.
As many of you know my TV broke about a month ago, and I've been desperately trying to find ways to find the cash to buy a new one (and pay for all the Christmas presents we need to buy, too). Anyway, after trimming the tree this last Saturday my wife had a brilliant idea. About 5 years ago at an apartment complex in St. Paul we were living in at the time, my wife found a diamond ring. Not a big diamond ring, or an expensive one, mind you, but a diamond ring nonetheless. We put a sign up near the mailboxes to advertise the fact that we had found it, but no one came forward to claim the ring. So we have kept it all this time wondering what to do with it.
So, this Saturday my wife told me to take the ring and sell it to a pawn shop. I thought this was a great idea and I was immediately overcome with song: "Pawn America is right for you, Pawn America!!" You know the jingle. Selling the ring would give us some much needed extra cash and allow me to visit a place I had never visited before, a pawn shop. So, I hopped in the car and off I went to make our fortune.
Little did I know that the ring was cursed. It did not want to be sold. It wanted to stay with me. Pawn America is located on Blake Road off of Highway 7. As I a was taking a right onto Blake Road I had to stop for a long line of cars and wait for them to start moving. They started moving, I stepped on the gas, and then I noticed a large man walking on the sidewalk wearing a very frilly hat and bright orange boots that went up to his knees. I thought to myself, "What an odd outfit. What on Earth would posess someone to wear ... " KABOOM!!!! I nailed the car ahead of me at a blistering 5 miles an hour. I looked down, and I swear the ring sparkled at me!!
I threw my hands up in disgust. Why is this happening to me? We pulled into the Walgreens parking lot, we both got out and I said, "Merry Christmas!" Luckily the driver laughed. We exchanged insurance information and I apologized profusely. While the damage on my car was relatively limited, I nearly ripped the bumper off of the other car. Man! I was angry. If you'll recall I was trying to actually make some money off of this trip. Now I was out almost $300 at least which coincidentally is the price of the new TV I want. Is someone trying to tell me something?
I knew it had to be the ring's fault. Ha! I decided I would still sell the ring and be rid of its curse! So, I drove my damaged vehicle to Pawn America to finish what I started. Maybe the ring would be worth $300! Maybe it would be worth more! I gave the ring to the clerk and waited patiently for his decision. He weighed it. He inspected the diamond. And he said to me, "I'll give you $35."
I took the money, happy to finally be rid of the ring, and I vowed to drive more carefully from now on.
On Friday night my son went swimming with the Cub Scouts at the St. Louis Park Central Community Center. This was a lot more fun than I expected. My son's den was working on their Aquanat badges and some of the requirements for this badge are kind of challenging for 9 year old boys. These include both a 100 yard swim using a variety of strokes, and a "dive and four strokes" into the deep end of the pool. It is amazing how happy a father can get over a "dive and four strokes."
Let me explain. After getting warmed up the boys went to the deep end and started working on diving. None of them could get it, including my own son. It was somewhat comical to watch as the boys tried and tried to dive, but most of the time they just ended up doing belly flops. Anyway, after practicing for at least a half an hour my son was getting very frustrated. For probably the 500th time I told him, "You've got to get your head in the water first and kick up your feet. It won't hurt." He grumbled at me, got up on the platform, and actually did a perfect dive (for a 9 year old)! I was stunned and very happy.
So, after he got out of the water the scout leader running the show told him to do it again, but this time stay under water and do four strokes. This is the requirement for that part of the Aquanat badge. I was so sure he wouldn't be able to do another dive so soon after finally doing his first, and under pressure, but I told him to give it his best shot. So, he got up on the platform, put his hands over his head, put his head down, and dove in. Perfectly. Under water he did his four strokes and then he came up. When I saw this I swear tears came to my eyes as I clapped wildly and hooted and hollered at him. Words cannot describe how proud I was of him. I raced over to the pool ladder, pulled him out, and told him he was "the man!" as I slapped and hugged him.
Amazing how wonderful a "dive and four strokes" can be. He was the first to do it in our den, and both he and I were very happy. My son is not the most coordinated boy, and I doubt very much he will make a career in any type of sport. But for this one night he was the best. He was the one the other boys looked up to and were envious of. He doesn't get to have that feeling very often. I was very happy for him.
December 10, 2004
Links of the day
- Timeline detailing how Tom Ridge and Pittsburgh built two stadiums (Thanks Brian!).
- Interesting list of the 100 oldest .com domains.
- College Libraries: The Long Goodbye. There is no doubt libraries' roles and services are changing, but is this article a little extreme?
- This company has developed a plant that will detect landmines by changing colors. Awesome!
- "Why you should always brush your teeth." Good dental hygiene saved this soldier's life.
- Left-handers flourish in violent societies. Very interesting Nature article.
- 45% of Americans attend a religious service at least once a week, as opposed to only 28% for Saudi Arabia. Fascinating.
- Google Suggest Beta. Real time auto-completion of words that you type in. I find this annoying.
- Someone who truly deserves it won a $27 million lottery.
- Marlins meeting with Las Vegas officials about possible move. This is such a crock.
- U courts stadium donors. As far as I am concerned, the only name that makes sense for the stadium is "Pillsbury Stadium."
- McCain demands baseball confronts steroids. The Minnesota legislature is sure to follow suit.
December 8, 2004
It's a conspiracy!
What did I do with all my money before I had a house? A car? Kids? I must have been rich! Sadly I've got nothing to show for it. And now that I am poor and Christmas is coming around the corner, things are just breaking all over the place. So I decided to write about it. What good is having a blog if you can't vent every once in a while?
The first item I'd like to vent about is my mini-van's driver side window. You see, it will go down, but it won't go back up. Of course, I found this out just as I was about to go into a car wash. I clicked the window down, put in my wash code, hit the red button to start moving me forward, and the window wouldn't go up. Let me tell you nothing gets a person moving faster than a free moving van going into a car wash with the window down. Luckily there was no one behind me because I had to back the van out of the car wash mechanism. I then had to manually lift the window back into place, which took about 5 minutes because it will only go up about 1 centimeter per lift. By then my car wash was over. Very frustrating.
Now, I don't know about you, but I am of the opinion that the ability to roll down your window comes in mighty handy. So, I took the van in to get the window repaired and they told me it would cost at least $250. $250!!!! I asked them if the new window was tinted with gold plating, but I don't think they heard me. Then I had a stroke of genius. I asked them if they could take the window motor out of the passenger side and put it into the driver's side. No luck. Apparently car manufacturers, in their infinite wisdom, make right and left window motors. I have come to the conclusion that this is beyond stupid and borders on a conspiracy to suck as much money out of me as possible.
The second item I would like to vent about is my van's rear window washer fluid dispenser. It has also recently stopped working properly. It seems that there is some sort of short in the wiring mechanism because every time it rains now the mechanism just starts whiring away and dispensing washer fluid. Now I can't put any washer fluid in the van because every time it rains the thing dispenses every drop and then keeps on whiring. And it "whirs" very, very loudly. I swear it sounds like the van is about to explode, "Whirrrrrrrrr! .... Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! ... Whir! ... Whir! ... Whirrrrrrrrr!!!!" We have to crank the radio so we don't hear it anymore. Someone drove by recently and upon hearing my van thought it would be wise to warn me that it was about to explode. So, he gave me the "roll down your window" sign. Sigh. I wish I could. I wish I could.
And the third thing I'd like to vent about is my broken TV. I've talked about this before, but I have yet to resolve this issue. I ended up taking my broken TV to a repair shop hoping that they could repair it and I could move on. According to them, my TV broke in such a spectacular fashion that everything basically blew out in a very methodical, cascading manner. They reveled in telling me this for some reason. It seems I missed some sort of 4th of July show inside my TV. Unfortunately, to repair this already piece of junk 27" TV it will cost me upwards of $350. Of course, that is not an option for me around Christmas time. So, I have been forced to return to the Stone Age and watch TV on my 12 year old 19" TV. I swear I need binoculars to see what is going on. And it is so old that it doesn't have any AV hookups for my DVD player. Hockey is nearly impossible to watch. The puck looks like a really fast moving ant. I don't know when I'll be able to rectify this situation, but it will be a while.
So, there you have it. Sorry to be such a whiner, but sometimes you've just got to let it all out.
So, now I will read a whole lot more. Right now, I am reading American Gods and I am enjoying it immensly. I don't want to write about it too much right now, but there is a general feel of "Americana" that just seeps out of the book. Right now the main character is in north central Wisconsin and an old man is telling him about how poor his family was as a child and how cold it was in the winters:
"We were so poor that we couldn't afford a fire. Come New Year's Eve my father would suck on a peppermint, and us kids, we'd stand around with our hands outstretched, basking in the glow."
I don't know why, but I really liked that excerpt. It put a smile on my face.
Yesterday I was getting ready to write a much different post for today. I was fully expecting neither Koskie or Radke to sign. This wouldn't have bothered me much, though. I remember two years ago when Radke was just pitching awful, and some guy joked in the paper that his kids must not love him very much because for Father's Day they bought him tickets to a Twins game with Radke pitching. So, I think Terry Ryan was wise to give Radke only a two year $18 million deal. With pitchers, you never know when they are just going to tank it. Don't get me wrong, though. I think Radke had a very good year last year and I am excited, no thrilled, to have him come back. When I saw the news this morning it immediately brightened my whole outlook.
However, again, losing Radke wouldn't have bothered me that much. That is what we get for being Twins fans. We should come to expect this kind of crap now: losing our best players, watching baseball indoors on a beautiful summer day, losing to the Yankees every year, praying that our minor league system can keep churning out talent, etc. It makes life exciting doesn't it? I love being able to complain about all this stuff. What would I do with my time if I wasn't belly-aching about Pohlad and his cheap ways or those idiots at the state capitol? I have no idea.
Having said that, I gotta also say that my respect for Radke has just gone up big time. How many times have we heard a player say "its not about the money" and then prove to us that it is, in fact, almost all about the money? Too many times (Guardado?). Radke could have probably gotten the 3 year $33 million dollar offer his agent wanted from another team given his track record, but obviously staying in Minnesota is important to him. I can relate. On the librarian free agency market I could probably command at least $500 - $1000 more per year from another library, preferably in a warmer climate, but I choose to stay at the U of M. Oh yeah, it's all about loyalty. Brad and I have something in common now.
With this deal the Twins starting rotation looks like this: Santana, Radke, Silva, Lohse, Mays. Mays, of course, is the big question mark, but if he can come back with his normal stuff I like the looks of this rotation. The TwinsGeek had a great column yesterday talking about what other teams in the Central have been doing and quite frankly it doesn't look like much. With the signing of Radke the Twins may have just become the favorites in the Central again.
What about Koskie and Jones? Again, the TwinsGeek did a nice job in today's column talking about how he expects that Jones and Rivas both will be gone next year to make room for Radke and Koskie. And even with Jones and Rivas gone the Twins payroll will be about $4 - $5 million more than last year. Has Pohlad had a change of heart? Sid Hartman reported on December 5th:
On another subject, Bell said he never has seen Twins owner Carl Pohlad as determined to win another World Series. "Sure, finances are important to him, but he talks much less about finances these days and a lot more about how we can put a team together that can win a World Series," Bell said.
This is good news, and the increase in the Twins payroll may be proof that Pohlad does indeed want another World Series. We shall see.
I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the article in Sunday's Star Tribune that talked about the rumors of a Vikings sale to Glen Taylor. Of course, those rumors "fizzled" out, but the article itself was loaded with interesting tidbits, including news about Reggie "Donald Watkins" Fowler. That isn't really fair, I guess. It appears he is still in the game:
Fowler, whose group of potential partners appears to be growing, met with members of the Anoka/Blaine stadium contingent Nov. 22 at the Minneapolis Club. During the meeting, Fowler and a host of other interested businessmen listened to a presentation of development possibilities for the 740-acre land tract off I-35W.
Good news. Very good news. I think Fowler would have a good chance with the state legislature given that 1) he is a minority, 2) he has said he will move to Minnesota, and 3) he isn't insanely wealthy. It looks like Fowler is waiting patiently until either Red lowers the price or he can line up some investors. The article also had a good explanation of the total cost of buying the Vikings and why Fowler is taking his time:
Private development of a new stadium might prove critical to the team's future in Minnesota. The Anoka County Board, the only public entity to step forward for the Vikings, has approved a county-wide sales tax that would contribute $250-$300 million toward a new stadium.
That total still would leave some $300 million to complete the stadium portion of the project, and the state's $700 million budget shortfall makes it unlikely that any further public money will become available. The conceptual development -- which would include a major shopping area, a hotel, restaurants and a team museum -- is projected to cost $1.5 billion.
The stadium cost would come on top of the Vikings' purchase price for any new owner. McCombs had been seeking $600 million for the franchise, a number that could grow when the NFL completes negotiations on its remaining television contracts. The magnitude of that investment has led Fowler to continue his search for big-money investors to back his candidacy.
Truthfully, I hope Glen Taylor just puts us all out of our misery and buys the team. According to today's Pioneer Press (Charley Walters):
Of his interest in buying the Vikings, Taylor said owner Red McCombs' asking price of $600 million makes it a difficult transaction. He also said there wouldn't be many changes required if he bought the Vikings because the team has been well run and isn't far from becoming a contender.
I wonder what kind of price Taylor would be happier with: $500 million? $550 million? I have a feeling this off season will be very interesting for Vikings fans.
December 6, 2004
So, like I said below, my wife figured out what I got her for her birthday. It literally came to her in a burst of inspiration. So, without futher ado, I got my wife tickets to "A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater. Here is how the clues breakdown:
- Dan Majerle shares something in common.
This clue was the toughest. No doubt about it. But for those of you that know the story of A Christmas Carol, and know how to pronounce Dan Majerle's name, you could have figured it out. "Majerle" is pronounced the same as "Marley," as in Jacob Marley.
- 53 Twins.
Like Curt in Grand Forks said, this was a key clue. If she would have figured this one out, she would have had it. "53" refers to the jersey number of former Minnesota Twin Mark Guthrie. Obviously, I am taking my wife to the Guthrie theater.
- Beatles single released April 1965.
This was a gift to keep my wife in the game. My first two clues frustrated her to no end. Anyway, most of you figured out that the Beatles released "Ticket to Ride" in April 1965. So, obviously, my gift had something to do with a ticket.
- For Christmas last year I got Molly a new coat. I hope she likes what I got her this Christmas. If not there is always next year!
This was my favorite clue and it was actually the clue that my wife finally figured everything out through. So, again, why would I be talking about Christmas when I am giving clues for my wife's birthday present? Reading the clue again, you should be able to see that I am refering to Christmas past, present, and future. My wife and I were watching TV on Saturday night when she just blurted out "Past, present, and future!!!" and I knew she had it.
- Are you afraid of ghosts?
I had this clue posted before she figured it out so it helped her piece things together more and convince her she had finally guessed correctly. Obvioulsy I am refering to the "ghosts" of Christmas past, present, and future.
I had two more clues in the works if these didn't do the trick. In the next clue I would have just listed some of the various actors that have played Ebenezer Scrooge over the years: Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, Kelsey Grammar, Bill Murray (that is a stretch, I know), etc. And the last clue would have been: Hamlet (II, ii, 633). Hopefully that would have sealed the deal.
By the way, my wife is thrilled with the gift. We don't get to too many plays, and "A Christmas Carol" will be perfect given this time of year.
So, thanks for playing "what did I get my wife for her birthday!"
Oh boy was I in a foul mood yesterday. The Vikings were outplayed, outcoached, outhustled, etc. etc. Once again I wanted Mike Tice's head on a platter. But as I thought about it more it became clear that this was just another case of our defense playing poorly and the Chicago defense playing really well. Chicago's defense got to Daunte, they had good downfield protection, and they completely neutralized Randy Moss. I think Tillman really got into his head. The Vikings losing Antoine Winfield didn't help either. I hope he is a fast healer. So, I was still really ticked but really, as Vikings fans we've seen it all before.
Then I watched the Packer/Eagles game. Yikes! That was a "behind the woodshed" type beating. That was a demoralizing, "why do we even try" type beating. For most of the first half I had a big smile on my face watching the Pack get waxed, and then it dawned on me. The Eagles are completely in a class by themselves this year in the NFC. The NFC is their's to lose and it doesn't look like they will lose it anytime soon. If the Pack can't even make a decent game out of it what chance do other teams, especially the Vikings, really have against the Eagles? Not much of a chance at all I would wager. So, unless the Vikings rip off a four game win streak, I will not let my hopes get up too high. Beat the Pack December 24. That will make the season all worth while for me.
Cheesehead, what were you thinking during that thrashing? Could you even watch the whole game?
My wife figure out what she is getting for her birthday, so I will post the rest of the clues and their meanings sometime today. See you soon!
December 4, 2004
The next clue in "what I got my wife for her birthday" is:
Are you afraid of ghosts?
December 3, 2004
From Bad to Worse
Oh my goodness. I think I'm going to be sick. I just found this article on the Star Tribune and it had some of the worst news I think I have ever read in regards to stadiums:
Rep. Phil Krinkie, R-Shoreview, a leading fiscal conservative in the Legislature, will move from chairman of the Capital Investment Committee to chairman of Taxes, a strong signal that House Republicans are as opposed as ever to increasing state taxes to balance the state budget.
Man, I thought Abrams was bad. Now Krinkie is chairman of the Taxes committee? It has gone from bad to worse my friends. Any good feelings I had regarding stadium legislation this year have suddenly evaporated.
Since many of you are visiting primarily to see the clues for what I got my wife for her birthday, I decided to start with that today. Just so all of you know, my wife's birthday is December 11. So, I've got a whole week to give out more clues if no one can figure it out. Yesterday's clue was intentionally easy. Hmmm ... a "ticket to ride?" What could I be talking about? Today's clue is a little more difficult, but like clue #2 it could be enough to unlock the mystery:
For Christmas last year I got Molly a new coat. I hope she likes what I got her this Christmas. If not there is always next year!
If you think you know what I got her, leave a comment below.
I got a comment from "Jim in St. Paul" for yesterday's post which I thought was just hilarious. This is for you Jim!
Tom Ridge for Governor of Minnesotacampaign
While governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge figured out how to build 4 new stadiums for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pitt Panthers. In other words, Tom Ridge is a diplomatic and financial genius. Now that Tom has resigned as directory of the Department of Homeland Security, Minnesota desperately needs his leadership. Please, Tom! Come to Minnesota and lead us to the promised land!
Paid for by the Tom Ridge for Governor of Minnesota Campaign
Jason Giambi and now Barry Bonds. Barry claims to not have known, but in my opinion you would have to be an idiot not to know what was happening to your body. Barry never hit more than 46 home runs before the age of 35. Then in 2000, with an obviously beefed up body, he hit 49. Then in 2001, at the tender age of 37, Barry cranks out 73. 37 years old. Sigh. I don't care about hand eye coordination or the fact that he was a great player before he started taking steroids, his records are tarnished and I will never accept them. It would be a tragedy if he breaks Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. I hope he realizes that.
The sad thing is, this will probably affect the Twins stadium drive. I just know we'll be hearing about how baseball "needs to get its house in order before we build any new stadium for the Twins" from legislative committees this winter. Thanks Barry.
This comes on the same day that Charley Walters actually reported some interesting and good stadium news:
Word within state legislative circles is that chances for a new Twins ballpark and University of Minnesota on-campus football stadium have improved and that there will be legitimate consideration for approval during the next session this winter.
OK, usually this would really put some "pep in my step" but I've heard this all before. I desperately want this to be true. But for one thing you've got to take everything Charley Walters says with a grain of salt, and secondly, again, we've heard this all before and as recently as last year. Actions speak louder than words at this point. Oh well, I will keep fighting the good fight.
That's all for now. Keep on guessing what I got my wife for her birthday!
December 2, 2004
First things first
OK, first things first. I can't believe it, but it appears that Pawlenty is in the midst of creating yet another stadium working group to try to solve this sticky issue. Members will come from both the House and Senate and it will be co-chaired by Andy Westerberg R-Blaine who, according the my voter guide, is pro-stadium. Don't get me wrong, I think this is great news, but this seems to me to be an effort in futility. What is this, the 3rd or 4th stadium working group that has been created? And with a $700 million deficit on the horizon whatever recommendations this group comes up with will, at best, be totally ignored. We've seen it all before. Every stadium working group so far has recommended building two stadiums using a variety of funding sources including ticket taxes, lottery games, taxes on sports memorabilia, taxes in the stadium district, metro area liquor and car rental taxes, etc. etc. This plan is usually thwarted by anti-stadium legislators who amend the resulting bill to death until no one wants to vote for it anymore. That is if the bill even makes it out of committee. I'm beginning to believe that our legislature is incapable of doing anything of value when it comes to stadiums (or possibly anything else I care about, such as funding for higher education) . Curse this Norwegian pessimism!
Ah! But there may be a silver lining in all of this. According to the article above, the Senate Majority leader Dean Johnson may reopen "the door for Indian gambling to fund stadiums." Again, the tribes have already suggested this and appear willing to work towards making this happen. How is this not a good idea? I've already talked a little about why I think it is a good idea, so I don't want to repeat everything, but I will say that this plan would NOT use any new, state, local, metro, clothing, take your pick, it would NOT USE ANY TAXES OF ANY KIND. It would finally solve this huge mess, make the Native American tribes heroes in our state, and keep a good working relationship between the tribes and the state government. Oh well, I'm sure Pawlenty will screw this up somehow.
Having said that, the Minnesota Daily reported something very interesting today:
But if stadium plans will be discussed, Pawlenty said more emphasis will be necessary to complete stadium plans for the Twins and Vikings.
An on-campus stadium would be easier to approve than a professional stadium, Pawlenty said, because the University is a public institution and it will raise a lot of the money.
“They’re the one team that can’t leave,” he said.
I don't want to get too enthusiastic about this, but Pawlenty is right. The Gophers can't leave. And while I wish and hope that every single stadium problem can be solved this session, the Twins and the Vikings (especially the Twins) will not stay in the Metrodome forever. This problem needs to be solved.
Speaking of the Twins, it appears that the Twins will up their offer to Corey Koskie a whole $1 million for a total of $8 million over two years. I'm sure he is getting 3 year deals for at least $5 million per year from other teams. We will soon find out how much he really wants to stay in Minnesota. I'm a little torn about this. While I hope Koskie signs with the Twins, I also think they could do reasonably well with Tiffee at 3rd or by moving Cuddyer to 3rd. Regardless of what happens, the Twins have got to get Cuddyer some consistent at-bats. He has payed his dues. It is time for him to start.
Finally, here is today's clue for what I got my wife for her birthday. And I've got to say, don't expect this to be the greatest gift ever. I feel like I'm hyping it up too much with all of these clues. I think my wife will love the gift, but keep in mind that I am buying this gift on a librarian's salary:
Beatles single released April 1965
Now we are getting a little easier.