Saturday, April 30, 2005

Preskool Sine-up

There is a preschool in our area that has a professionally-made sign out in front that says:

"Resister now for Fall '05"

I realize they probably don't teach a lot of spelling to preschoolers, but I still don't think I would send my kid to that place.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Jeffrey Ake Kidnapping

There are more questions than answers surrounding the kidnapping in Iraq of Jeffrey Ake, 47, of LaPorte, IN.

He was shown on April 13th on a video on al-Jazeera holding his passport, with guns pointed at his head, begging for his life and asking the U.S. to open negotiations with Iraqi insurgents. His family pretty much went into seclusion at that point, which isn't terribly unusual.

What is unusual is that he is the first hostage to be forced to make a request that the U.S. negotiate with insurgents. Also, there wasn't any sign of the usual religious symbols or language in the video. So perhaps this is a different group of people behind this kidnapping.

Also strange is that his family asked that a prayer vigil the following day be cancelled just hours before it was to occur. No reason was given for cancelling the vigil (though I doubt prayerful people need a vigil to pray).

There had been no news about this story at all for the last two weeks until today, when it was reported that his family (he has a wife and four children) has put their house up for sale. Once again, nobody is commenting on this.

I don't know what to make of all this, but something doesn't seem right about this story.

Tribune Gets Pie in Face

The front page of the Wednesday Chicago Tribune had a picture of an old man riding a bike under the headline "Have you seen this 'Clown?'" The caption said it was Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, a reputed mob boss who had been indicted earlier in the week. Lombardo hadn't been arrested yet because he hadn't been found.

The next day, the Trib was apologizing all over itself for misidentifying the bike rider. He was Stanley Swieton, age 69, who has no known mob connections. You can probably imagine his reaction when he saw the paper that day. That's a heck of a way to get your 15 minutes of fame.

Nobody's job is in jeopardy at the Trib over this, or at least they haven't said as much, but this seems like a much worse mistake than Mitch Albom's. One thing in the Trib's favor is that they say that Lombardo's lawyer identified the bike rider as Lombardo. The lawyer denies that he ID'd Lombardo.

Here's a link to the Tribune story.

I'm Not Quite Dead Yet

For 60 years, the ivory-billed woodpecker was thought to be extinct. It was the Holy Grail (thus the headline) for birdwatchers who did not believe it was gone. Turns out, they were right. The bird has been spotted in the Arkansas Big Woods forest.

It's 20" long, which makes it the largest woodpecker in the United States. If you think there's a joke in the fact that the largest woodpecker in the U.S. was found in Bill Clinton's home state, you may be right, but I would never suggest such a thing.

Here is a link to the Chicago Tribune story, for you bird geeks out there.

DST Finally Passes

Indiana had finally joined the rest of the country (except Arizona, I think) and adopted Daylight Savings Time. The Eastern Time Zone part of the state, which is everywhere except five counties each in the NW corner (where I live) and SW corner (around Evansville), will switch clocks every March and October after the Indiana House passed the bill yesterday. The House passed a little different bill than the Senate had earlier, so it spent this month in a joint committee working out the differences. The Senate passed the new version on Wednesday, and while it took two votes, the House passed it yesterday. Governor Mitch Daniels is expected to sign it, since DST was one of his campaign promises.

The story from the NW Indiana Times.

YOU Make the Call

Jail time or Packers tickets. That's the choice a judge in Oshkosh, WI gave a woman who had stolen some money from her labor union. The woman has a mini season ticket package for four tickets each to three Packers games. The judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail, but when she complained about the financial hardship it would cause, he gave her the option of going to jail or donating the tickets to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

No word yet on her decision.

The story from the Oshkosh paper

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Frighten your friends and neighbors

Here's a picture of me taken at the WGN radio broadcast of Sports Central from Mike Shannon's steakhouse in St. Louis. I look a bit like I'm watching something horrifying, like perhaps Tom Waddle's steak (not pictured!) getting up off his plate and walking away.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

NFL Draft Notes

  • One more example of potential over production:

    Oklahoma QB and 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White went undrafted. Among the 14 quarterbacks drafted instead of him was USC QB Matt Cassel, whose claim to fame is that he backed up two other Heisman Trophy winners, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

  • While NCAA career receptions leader Taylor Stubblefield had to settle for a free agent deal with the Carolina Panthers, Indiana WR Courtney Roby was a third round choice of the Tennessee Titans.

    When he was picked, one of the experts on ESPN (Mel Kiper, I’m pretty sure) talked about how mediocre he was at IU. He didn’t do anything particularly well, “but he showed up at the combine and ran a 4.36” in the 40. That brought two thoughts to mind. First, how did someone so mediocre get invited to the combine? Second, if he was so mediocre at IU, how does Tennessee figure he’ll suddenly be great in the NFL?

  • Far be it from me to pick on someone else’s hair, but hasn’t Merrill Hoge been out of the league long enough that he shouldn’t have helmet hair anymore?

  • Kyle Orton was drafted by the Bears, which makes me pretty happy. I’m not all that sold on Rex Grossman anyway, so I think Orton can eventually win that job. Maybe not this year, but eventually.

  • When Drew Brees was at Purdue, his center was Gene Mruczkowski. Last year, the Chargers drafted Mruczkowski’s successor at Purdue, Nick Hardwick, who stepped right into the starting lineup. This year, the Chargers drafted Mruczkowski’s brother Scott in the seventh round, presumably to be Hardwick’s backup.

  • I think I’m one of the few people who didn’t feel too bad about Aaron Rodgers’ fall on draft day. He’s still going to make a ton of money, and he’ll get to play behind his idol, Brett Favre.

  • I guess it’s no secret why Auburn was so good. They had three top ten picks, and four total in the first round.

  • Alex Smith of Utah became only the second #1 overall pick from a school not currently in a BCS conference since Dallas took Ed “Too Tall” Jones in 1974. The other was David Carr from Fresno St, who was the top pick three years ago.
  • Sunday, April 24, 2005

    Decaf Poopacino

    As I mentioned in my profile, I'm a huge Dave Barry fan. He has taken a leave of absence (as opposed to having taken leave of his senses, which happened years ago) from the Miami Herald, and while he's gone, they are rerunning some of his classic columns.

    This one is one of my all time favorites.

    Saturday, April 23, 2005


  • Valpo F Kenny Harris was moved to the University of Chicago Hospital's Neurological ICU this week. He has yet to regain consciousness after collapsing during a workout on April 11th.

  • Mitch Albom and four other Detroit Free Press staffers have been disciplined for their roles in an erroneous report on Albom's column on April 3rd. Here is a link to the story in the Free Press, but it's rather short on details.
  • NFL Draft - Production vs Potential

    The NFL Draft has always shown that college production is almost meaningless when it comes to where you get picked. Over the years, we've seen several Heisman Trophy winners get picked late or not get picked at all.

    Here's another example. Yesterday, I wrote about how the NCAA's career receptions leader, Purdue WR Taylor Stubblefield, is thought of so poorly by NFL folks that he wasn't even invited to the combine.

    Today, I read in the paper that Notre Dame TE Jerome Collins was invited, and not only that, he may get picked on the first day. Collins never played TE before his senior year, never started at that position, and finished with a total of 6 catches for 67 yards.

    When ND hosted Purdue this year, Stubblefield had 7 catches for 181 yards and two TDs, while another Irish TE, Anthony Fasano had 8 grabs for 155 yards. Collins had one catch for 13 yards, but it was obvious to everyone in the stadium that he was the best offensive player on the field, except for maybe Kyle Orton. :)

    This is why I would be a lousy GM in the NFL. I would never even have a guy like Collins on my board. They look at guys like Antonio Gates, who was a pro bowl TE last year, but played basketball in college, and see that potential. Because of the success of Gates, you may see a couple more basketball players get a shot.

    And I Thought My Job Was Obscure

    An obituary in the Tuesday's Chicago Tribune noted the death of Deena Burton, 56, with the headline "An authority on rare Indonesian dances."

    Friday, April 22, 2005

    NFL Draft

    The NFL Draft is this weekend, and it’s the one draft that I am actually interested in. I’m sure that has to do with ESPN’s coverage of it over the years, although, like most things ESPN covers, it takes too long. My interest also has to do with the fact that, at least lately, my school (Purdue) has been putting some guys into the league. Also, I’m a Bear fan, and far too often, the Bears have high draft choices. This year is no exception.

    The Bears need help on offense at just about every position, including quarterback, where Rex Grossman is coming off an injury and they have no experienced backups. I’m not entirely sold on Grossman and never have been, but I’m open minded enough to think he should play some first before I give up on him, so I don’t think they should pick a QB in the first round.

    At #4, the Bears figure to have their choice of some impact skill position players. They ought to be able to land someone like WR Braylon Edwards of Michigan, Mike Williams of USC, one of the two Auburn RBs, Ronnie Brown or Cadillac Williams, or Texas RB Cedric Benson. I think it’s interesting that many mock drafts have both Auburn RBs in the top 10, and a few even in the top 5. The Tiger QB, Jason Campbell figures to get drafted on the first day as well. And most people though of Auburn as a defensive team.

    This in an interesting draft in that the consensus is that there is no real super-stud player, but some pretty good depth. That has a lot of teams trying to trade down from the top, but not a lot of interest in trading up. San Francisco picks first, and for the longest time, it looked like they were set on QB Aaron Rodgers of nearby Cal, but this week, they began negotiations with Utah QB Alex Smith. Those two could go 1-2, with the Dolphins taking whoever the Niners leave for them.

    After that, not too many people expect a QB to go in the first round, but there are as many as eight DE prospects (that is, guys who were DEs in college – some may move to OLB in the NFL). The guy I think will get picked too low is Wisconsin’s Erasmus James. That guy tore up the Big Ten this year. In fact, I think he turned in the best individual performance by a defensive player this year when he single-handedly shut out Purdue’s high-powered offense for just over a half before leaving that game with an injury. He’ll go in the middle of the first round, but two or three DEs who aren’t as good or weren’t as productive will go ahead of him.

    There are two other players I’m interested in that aren’t from Purdue. One is Arkansas QB Matt Jones, who may go in the first round, but does not figure to get drafted as a QB. He’s a guy, like Antwaan Randle El, that will likely get switched to WR in the pros.

    The other is former Ohio St RB Maurice Clarett. Like Mike Williams, he sat out last year after declaring for the draft, but having a court deny him access to the draft. Williams still figures to go early in this draft, but Clarett’s prospects would have been shaky even if he had been in the draft a year ago. It will be interesting to see how teams view him a year removed from the game.

    Of course, another player I’ll be watching closely is Purdue QB Kyle Orton, who had a very interesting senior season. He was the leading candidate for the Heisman until he fumbled against Wisconsin. He was injured the following week against Michigan, but played through that and about half the game against Northwestern before finally giving up and sitting down. Once he came back late in the Ohio St game, he more or less looked like his old self, although he had kind of an indifferent performance in the Sun Bowl.

    Orton ranks between third and eighth on most draft experts QB lists, which means he’ll probably go in the second or third round. The basic criticism they have of him is that he has a slow release, which may or may not be true. I’ve also seen him criticized for not being accurate enough throwing downfield, which is a complete crock. That has always been a strength for him, and in fact, I’ve always felt he was more accurate throwing long than throwing short. said that he was benched in his senior season, which is simply not true. He was injured, not benched.

    At Purdue, it was natural to compare him to Drew Brees, but they could hardly be any different. Orton has a more prototypical pro body and arm, but nobody, could read a defense and see the whole field like Brees. Brees was also more accurate, but Orton is OK there as well. Brees’ decision making was better and quicker than Orton’s, but Kyle got better at that as he got older. I’d say he’s average in that area.

    Brees has turned out to be OK as a pro, and I think a lot of Purdue fans are interested to see if Orton can do as well.

    After putting eight defensive players into the NFL a year ago, Orton figures to be about it for Purdue this year. Someone may take a flier on WR Taylor Stubblefield, who owns a ton of records, including the NCAA record for receptions, but is considered too small and slow for the NFL. The league thinks so little of him that he wasn’t even invited to the combine.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    ABC Drops MNF

    Beginning with the 2006 season, ABC will no longer have Monday Night Football. After more than 35 years, the network is dropping its landmark NFL package. ESPN will be taking over on Monday nights, while NBC gets back into professional football (unless you count Notre Dame) by acquiring the Sunday night games.

    Ratings have fallen for MNF over the last few years, mostly because some of the matchups have been dogs. Parity in the NFL, and the fact that schedules are made up before the season, has left ABC with several undesirable games over that time.

    I’m not going to miss MNF on ABC. As much as I like the NFL, those games start and end too late for me, so unless a team I was really interested in was playing, I rarely stayed up until the end. ESPN is going to start the games 20 minutes earlier, but this is the network that stretches 40 minutes of material into 90 minutes of SportsCenter, so the games will probably end later.

    I also haven’t liked most of the announcers on Monday night football, though the current crew of Al Michaels and John Madden has been OK. In fact, I hope that Michaels and Madden move with the show to ESPN, so we can retire the Sunday night crew of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann and Paul Maguire. I liked them at first, but over the last three years or so, they have been pretty tough to take. Unfortunately, because it’s out of season, it’s hard to give specific examples as to what bugs me about this crew, but it has more to do with the way they talk to each other than about the game. It’s like there’s this lovefest going on, and it seems phony to me, and even if it’s sincere, it’s out of place.

    The thing that has always bugged me most about MNF though is its inflated perception of itself. Once again, I can’t remember much in the way of specifics, since we’re not in season, but they always made a big deal of things like how teams, coaches, players, etc did on Monday nights, as if it wasn't a regular season game. Invariably, during each game, some stat or feature would come up about playing on Monday that would make my eyes roll.

    Of course, that part of the MNF tradition figures to get worse with the move to ESPN, which has the most hyper-active promotions department of any network. These are the people that give you “Rivalry Week,” “Judgment Week,” “Throwdown Thursday,” and that’s just for college basketball. I dread what they might do to Monday night football.

    It’s a busy week for me, so I may not get to write much. The NFL draft is this weekend, and I’ll write some about that later this week for sure.

    Saturday, April 16, 2005

    Brain Dump

    Here are a few unrelated things that have been rattling around in my head.

  • Sorry I didn’t post yesterday. It was just one of those days.

  • Since yesterday was tax day, I want to share one of my all-time favorite political cartoons by the late, great Jeff MacNelly.

  • In Chicago, Bulls’ forward Eddy Curry’s heart problems are front page news, but in Valparaiso, Kenny Harris is clinging to life after collapsing during a workout earlier this week. Harris is the starting center for VU. He’s 6’10”, about 340 lbs and has had health problems in the past. His exact problems are unknown per the family’s request, but Harris is in critical condition in a Porter county hospital and his status hasn’t changed in the three days he has been there.

  • I see that Mike Tyson is taking up boxing again. Does anybody care?

  • The WNBA draft is today. Same question.

    I’d actually like to care about the WNBA, but I just can’t. I guess it’s the same thing with the men. I’m a huge college basketball fan, but I don’t care much about the NBA. I keep an eye on the Purdue players, but that’s about it.

  • Atlanta Falcon RB/QB Michael Vick was sued last month by a woman who says he gave her an sexually transmitted disease. In the suit, one of the aliases supposedly used by Vick is Ron Mexico. So, naturally, fans have been trying to buy Vick’s Atlanta Falcon jerseys with the name Mexico on them. The NFL is not allowing that at its website, but I have to believe we’ll be seeing some of those around this fall.

    I feel bad for anyone who is really named Ron Mexico. Those guys may get their 15 minutes of fame, but not in a way they would hope for.

  • Yankees LF Gary Sheffield got hit in the mouth trying to get to a ball hit down the left field line in Boston last week. Major League Baseball is reviewing video (which I haven’t seen yet), but Sheffield supposedly shoved the fan who hit him, and then continued on with the play.

    I guess Sheffield should be congratulated for showing some restraint. This was a potential Pistons-Pacers situation, but he didn’t escalate it.
  • Thursday, April 14, 2005

    False and Shameless Advertising

    If I were a lawyer with too much time on my hands, instead of a computer geek with too much time on my hands, I would sue Dell for false advertising.

    You have probably seen the ad by now. A guy is lying in his bed talking on the phone with a Dell technical support rep. The guy wants to make sure they are always there, and the rep assures him that they are.

    That isn’t false advertising, as far as I know. The part that’s false is that the Dell tech support person speaks perfect English. If you have ever dealt with Dell’s tech support people, you know that is not the case.

    I’ve had more than a few occasions to call Dell’s tech support in the last six weeks, and I have yet to speak to anyone who does not have a very thick, middle Eastern or Indian accent. During every conversation, everything the tech support person says has to be repeated twice before I can make it out.

    The most comical part of these service calls, however, is when the tech support person introduces themselves as “Jack” or “Amy” or, my personal favorite, “Sabrina.” If “Sabrina” is her real name, then I’m the Dalai Lama. I suppose it’s like phone sex in that regard, only less satisfying (I’m guessing here. I have no personal experience in this area. So far as you know. :)

    I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as my problems have all eventually gotten fixed, but it irritates me that service calls take three times longer than they should.

    On the shameless advertising front (is “shameless advertising” redundant?), McDonalds is offering rap and hip-hop artists $5 every time a song mentioning “Big Mac” is played on the radio.

    Some rap and hip-hop songs have included other brand names, like Courvoisier, Dom Perignon, Porsche and Bentley. Add “Big Mac” to that list and we can play a Sesame Street game: (go ahead and sing along) Which of these things is not like the others? Which of these things isn’t the same?

    Those brands get mentioned because the artists are bragging about their riches. How many are going to brag about their Big Macs?

    The sandwich, that is.

    The answer is none, and if any of them tried it, they’d get laughed out of the rappers union. Also, can you imagine a radio station playing that song? Only if they wanted to stick Mickey D’s with the bill, but I doubt it would get played much if that’s the only motive.

    I can't see how anything good comes from this.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

    The official state song of Indiana is “On the Banks of the Wabash,” but it probably ought to be that old Chicago tune, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” That’s because Indiana observes three different time zones. Five counties each in the northwest (where I live) and southwest corners are on Central Time year round. Five counties in the southeast corner near Cincinnati are on Eastern Time year round, and the rest of the state is always on Eastern Standard Time, never observing daylight savings time. That means that for half the year, most of the state is on the same time as Chicago, and for the other half, it is on the same time as Cincinnati.

    It’s pretty confusing. I’ve lived here for 11 years and we still have to think about whether we are on the same time as my Mother-in-law, who lives near Indianapolis, whenever we call at night. For half of the football season, we are on the same time as Purdue, which is in West Lafayette, and for the other half, Purdue is an hour ahead.

    On Monday, the Indiana House of Representatives voted to put the entire state on daylight savings time. Our new Governor, Mitch Daniels (R), made getting on to daylight savings time a priority in his campaign, but the bill passed the house by only three votes. Even though his party controls both houses, passage in the Senate isn’t a sure thing. My rep, who is also a Republican, originally voted against it, but changed his mind under pressure from Daniels. He (my rep) felt that having the rest of the state an hour off from us year round would further isolate us from the rest of the state. I don’t see how that’s possible, but that’s another column.

    One problem the bill faces in the Senate is that there is one provision that violates federal law. That provision allows for counties that border on the ten Central Time counties to opt out of DST. Federal law says that a state with more than one time zone can either observe DST statewide, or in the entire portion of one of the time zones. Technically, the counties near Cincinnati that currently observe DST are violating that law, but they have never been punished for it.

    So, it looks like the state is on its way to joining the rest of America in our semiannual tradition of going around our house and changing our clocks. The next fight is whether or not the rest of Indiana should remain in the Eastern Time zone, or switch to Central, as Daniels wants.

    As an aside, and in keeping with Indiana's tradition of just being goofy, the original proposal stated that DST would go into effect on June 5th, meaning that most of the state would join DST already in progress, and then switch clocks the same time everyone else does going forward. I'm not sure if that part survived into the final version, or why there was such a pressing need to change clocks that it couldn't wait until 2006.

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    Masters Product Placement

    I don’t watch a lot of golf, but I do like to watch the majors, especially if Tiger’s near the top of the leaderboard, and the shot he hit on 16 is why. That was the kind of shot you usually have to make on some kind of sadistic mini-golf course. Not only does he hit the shot, but he places the ball so that the logo is facing the camera during the pregnant pause before the ball finally drops.

    That’s why he gets the big sponsorship bucks!

    Mitch Albom's Troubles

    This story may have flown under your radar. It flew under mine, anyway. Mitch Albom, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, among many other activities, has been suspended from his duties while the paper investigates a fabrication in a story he filed from St. Louis during the Final Four.

    Albom wrote a column about the differences between playing for your college and playing in the pros, and he interviewed two former Michigan St players, Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson, about their experiences.

    At the beginning of the column, he described how the players made a special effort to get to the game and sit together (both are in the NBA) and recapture some of that old college feeling. He even talks about how they got there.

    The problem is they never made it. Schedule conflicts caused them to abandon their plans. They had both told Albom they were planning to attend, so he wrote it into the column that they had attended (past tense) because the column was written on Friday for Sunday publication. The game was on Saturday.

    In journalism, this is a big mistake. The number one thing in reporting is to get the facts right. He should have made sure the players actually made it to the game, and an editor should have probably asked him if they did. He also could have simply written something like “planned to attend” or “scheduled to attend” so it wouldn’t have mattered if they showed up or not.

    Albom is handling this in the best possible way, which is basically to apologize all over himself and make no defense of his actions. He and his editors may lose their jobs over this, but I think that would be a bit of overkill. This is clearly an error in judgment, a “rookie mistake” in Albom’s own words, but it doesn’t rise to the level of, say, plagiarism, which was among the sins committed by Jayson Blair at the New York Times and Jack Kelley at USA Today. The column’s point isn’t impacted by whether the players actually attended the game. He had no ulterior motive like impressing his bosses or advancing his career. This appears to be only a little worse of a mistake than getting the score of the game wrong. That would be pretty embarrassing too. It seems to me that the suspension he is currently serving, and the shame of making such a silly mistake, is punishment enough in this case. If the Free Press feels compelled to fire him, I have no doubt that he won’t be unemployed any longer than he chooses to be.

    Now for my full disclosure. Those of you familiar with my work know that I have a lot of contacts, and even some friends, in the media. Albom, however, isn’t one of them. I’ve never met or talked to him, so I’m watching this story as a disinterested observer.

    Jerry Palm - Expanded Profile

    My Photo

    • I have 4 children, and live in the suburbs. I could hardly be more average in that sense.
    • I a member of (and actually attend) an ELCA Lutheran church.
    • I graduated from Purdue in 1985 with a degree in computer science.
    • I was a four-year All-American at Purdue.
    • That's only partially true. Actually, I was a four-year [member of the] All-American [Marching Band] at Purdue. I played alto sax when I marched and bass clarinet in concert band.
    • Before I had children, I was actively involved in the Purdue Club of Chicago.
    • I have 16 years of experience as an baseball umpire and eight years as a basketball referee. I worked youth leagues, high school, and a little college in both sports, but that is another activity I more or less gave up when the first child came along.
    • Now that I have kids, I do a lot of coaching. I have coached baseball, softball, football, basketball and especially soccer.
    • I am a frequent guest on sports talk radio during college football and basketball seasons. I also have my own show on The Lakeshore in NW Indiana, but I don't listen to a lot of sports talk radio.
    • I almost never watch Sportscenter either. I don't have the patience to watch a 90 minute show that shouldn't take more than 45.
    • I am a political independent. I dislike more than I like about each of our major political parties. I don't like the tone of political discourse in our country and few of the politicians and pundits that create it. However, two of the politicians I do like are Indiana's senators, Richard Lugar (R) and Evan Bayh (D).
    • I'm 6'1", 185 lbs, and shrinking on both counts.
    • As you can tell from my mug shot, I'm having a bad hair life.
    • Find out more in this USA Today feature about me.


    Hi, and welcome to my blog.

    I am pretty well known in the worlds of college football and basketball, and run subscription-based websites for both sports. As a result, unless something comes up that really isn't appropriate for the sites, those two topics will almost never get covered here. Everything else is fair game.

    I'll write as often as the muse strikes. It may not be every day, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't at least once a week.

    Feel free to respond if your muse strikes!

    If you want to find out more about me, check out my profile.