Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Indy 500

The overnight ratings are in and the Indy 500 had its best showing since 1997. Those that watched got quite a show.

There were 22 on-track passes for the lead, including four in the first ten laps. Dan Wheldon made the final such pass on lap 194, going by media darling Danica Patrick. There might have been one more, except that Sebastien Bourdais crashed with two laps left, causing one of the more exciting 500s in recent years to end under yellow.

Patrick was the story though. She showed both her skill and inexperience, and ended up fourth after leading with seven laps to go. She gave a little ground at the start, but still ran in the top five for most of the early part of the race. She actually led lap 56 as a result of the cars ahead of her pitting, making her the first women to lead a lap at Indy. However, when she went into the pits on lap 79, she stalled the car coming out and dropped out of the top five, all the way back to 16th.

On lap 132, her left front tire touched the rear right tire of Kosuke Matsuura’s car, but both drivers were able to maintain control and go on. Often, that kind of touch puts both cars into the wall.

After cleaning up Sam Hornish Jr’s annual mess on lap 154, the cars were coming into turn four ready to go green, when Patrick spun trying to avoid Scott Sharp’s car in front of her. Her nose cone was damaged, but the Tomases (Schectker and Enge), as well as Jeff Bucknum and Patrick Carpentier were not so lucky. All four wrecked trying to avoid Patrick and went out of the race. Patrick pitted and got the nose cone replaced, but had to come back in for a penalty stop because the pits were closed when she came in the first time. That actually ended up working to her advantage, because she got fuel and tires and was set to try to finish the last 40 laps without stopping, which is just a bit beyond the usual range. So, even though she was in 9th after all that, every one ahead of her had to stop at least one more time.

When Roger Yasukawa’s car blew an engine on lap 170, the leaders went to the pits and Patrick had the lead, which she kept after the race went green again until Wheldon passed her the first time on lap 186. As Wheldon was finishing the pass on the front stretch, the yellow came out again for Matsurra’s wreck.

They went green again on lap 190, and Patrick, now running on fumes, shot past Wheldon for the lead into turn one. She was able to hold him off for four laps before the lack of fuel pressure and old tires gave Wheldon the window to reclaim the lead for good. Before long, Patrick’s teammate, Vitor Meira, and Bryan Herta got by her as well.

Up until Hornish’s crash, the race was dominated by Hornish and the pole-sitter (and if you’ve ever sat on a pole, you know how painful that can be) Tony Kanaan. Hornish led the most laps, including all but ten of the laps between 39 and 119. However, his troubled Speedway history added another chapter when he slid up into the wall while trying to give a little room to Bourdais down low. Hornish has never finished better than 14th and has finished running only once in six tries at Indy.

Speaking of frustration, Wheldon finally made a winner of Michael Andretti at Indy. Andretti had a rough career as a driver at the Brickyard, but Wheldon gave him a chance to sip some milk in the winners circle for the first time. Any other year, that would have been the big story at the track, but the Danica show overshadowed even the winner.

Some other notes from Indy:

  • Since I was in the Indy metro area over the weekend, I didn’t get to see the race live on TV. I had to listen to it on the radio. There are two voices I most associate with the Indy 500, Paul Page and Bob Jenkins, and neither was there this year and I don’t know why.

    I forget the guy who did play-by-play on the radio, but that’s because he was mostly forgettable. I do remember that he promised me four times after the race to give us a full field rundown (the final 1-33 standings), but that never happened.

    Also, on the radio, well-past-his-time race commentator Chris Economaki seriously suggested that Dan Wheldon let Patrick pass her on the restart at lap 190 because he heard the boos when he passed her right before the yellow came out a few laps earlier.

    Still, that’s much better than Todd Harris did on television. There was plenty of exciting moments in this race, but none of them passed without Harris making some inane and irrelevant comment (example: after one of Franchitti’s passes for the lead, he commented that his wife, Ashley Judd, would be proud). If that’s all they have to replace a legend like Page, then it’s time to bring Page back. (Another example: when Patrick took the lead late, Harris was making comparisons to Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride.)

    One of the pit reporters seemed pretty inept as well, but I don’t remember her name.

  • Two-time winner Helio Castroneves was never a threat in this race, but he finished ninth and on the lead lap. He has finished running and on the lead lap in all five races, which makes him the polar opposite of his teammate, Hornish.

  • One of the radio pit reporters, Nicole Manske, went to the same high school as Danica Patrick in Roscoe, IL. They are a year apart, but I forget which is older.

  • The winner of the Indy 500 gets his or her face carved onto the Borg-Warner trophy, which is actually bigger than Danica Patrick. The trophy is 5’6”, 110lbs and Patrick is 5’0” and 100 lbs.

  • Speaking of Patrick’s weight, NASCAR driver Robby Gordon whined over the weekend that her weight, or specifically lack thereof, gives her an advantage and that he would not compete against her unless something was done about that. Patrick weighs about 50 lbs less than the average Indy Car driver.

    Gordon used to try to race both the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, but the start time of the Indy 500 was moved one hour later this year, which makes such a feat impossible anymore, so I guess he doesn’t have to worry about Danica yet.

  • Speaking of the Coca-Cola 600, that was the exact opposite of the Indy 500 this year. The Indy 500 was 198 pretty good laps and a lousy finish because it happened under yellow. The Coca-Cola 600 was 395 laps run under yellow (or so it seemed) and a great sprint to the finish, which was won by Jimmie Johnson by a fender over Bobby Labonte. Labonte got out of his car afterward and gave it a good kick.
  • Too little, too late

    The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm in the Enron case.

    Here's the Chicago Tribune story.

    Saturday, May 28, 2005

    Dude, Where's the Pope's Car?

    On Wednesday, a federal court in Ft. Wayne, IN is expected to rule whether or not the car once owned by Pope John Paul II has to be returned to Illinois in accordance with a court order issued there.

    Yesterday, that court ruled that the car was not to be moved or (obviously) sold or otherwise disposed of in advance of that hearing. The problem is, the car appears to have already been moved.

    This story in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette says that "until recently, the car had been on exhibit" at a museum owned by used car salesman Dean Kruse of Auburn, IN. That implies that it's not on exhibit now, even though Kruse has run ads saying that it would be exhibited through Monday.

    Kruse has already thumbed his nose at two court orders, so one has to wonder if he's already packed it up and shipped it to Vegas for the auction. If it hasn't left for Vegas yet and Kruse wins in court on Wednesday (which seems unlikely, but I'm not a lawyer and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), it's a pretty quick turnaround to get that car trucked out to the auction in only two days, but I suppose it can be done.

    Also, it's unclear whether Kruse can actually sell the car if he wins in court on Wednesday. The court may simply say he doesn't have to return it to Illinois, but he may not be cleared to sell it. I guess we'll find out then.

    Cubs without Prior and Hawkins

    As if the Cubs didn't have enough injury problems, Mark Prior took a line drive off his pitching elbow yesterday. An MRI showed a slight break and he'll miss 6-8 weeks.

    With Kerry Wood also out, the rotation now has Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch, Sergio "Meatball" Mitre, and probably Jon Leicester, who is currently at Iowa.

    Other than Zambrano, nobody really scares you. Maddux is still good when he's good, but he's showing signs of age, and Rusch has been pretty dependable. Meatball actually had a good showing against Houston the other day, but who doesn't look good at home against the Astros, which are 3-22 on the road? Leicester got set down after the Mets drilled him a few weeks ago.

    In other news, the Cubs helped their bullpen by trading arsonist and malcontent LaTroy Hawkins to the Giants for a case of beer and a bag of chips. The beer's warm and the chips are stale, but it's still a good deal for the Cubs.

    The offense has picked up the last couple of days, once the hitters were reminded that the rules don't say you have to swing at every pitch. Derrek Lee is still on fire. He had back-to-back two home run games Friday and Saturday and may be the leader in all three triple crown categories in the NL going into Sunday.

    Friday, May 27, 2005

    You mean it does cause blindness?

    Maybe Mom was right after all. Sort of.

    There are news reports out today that say that some Viagra users are experiencing blindness.

    Pope Car Fight Moves to Indiana

    Last week, the car once owned by Pope John Paul II showed up in an Auburn, IN museum after having been removed from a shuttered restaurant near Aurora, IL in violation of a court order.

    The owner of the Auburn museum intends to sell the car in Las Vegas next weekend on behalf of the supposed owner, Jim Rich, but the court is involved because it is not clear if Rich actually owns the car.

    The Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette reported today that the Kane County (IL) court has issued an order for the return of the car, which the museum has no intention of doing.

    Thursday, May 26, 2005

    Time for the Patch

    Here is an AP story about a guy who jumped from a car traveling 55-60 mph because his cigarette flew out the window.

    The doofus survived, which ended his quest to be a finalist for the Darwin Award.

    Fifth and 8

    The BCS is the prime example of how math and football don't mix, as I cover extensively on my website, CollegeBCS.com. The state of North Carolina, which is known for its basketball, provided another recent example.

    The state exam for seventh graders included the following question:

    "If a football team's first six plays of a drive are a 6-yard loss, a 3-yard gain and a 2-yard loss, a 7-yard gain, a 12-yard gain and a 4-yard gain, what is it's average gain per play?"

    The problem many people noticed is that the first three plays result in a net of -5 yards, leaving fourth down and 15 yards to go. The fourth down play only gets seven yards, so the team should have turned it over on downs and not had the next two plays.

    The state's chief test guy (his real title is probably more impressive sounding than that) suggested, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the complainers should get a life.

    Gordon in Elite Company

    The other night, Jeff Gordon joined the ranks of Mike Ditka and Nancy Kerrigan (among others) by totally butchering the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field.

    Or, as he called it, "Wrigley Stadium." He followed that gaffe up by singing the song too fast, forgetting some words and looking them up, which put him way behind so that when the crowd finished, he still hadn't gotten to "1-2-3 strikes, you're out." That gave the crowd plenty of time to boo him loudly as he finished the song.

    I'm a little surprised WGN radio hasn't posted the audio on its website, but you might check later and see if it appears.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    Looking for a Hot Escort

    The legal battle over the potential sale of the pope's former car rages on.

    Here is a link to the latest from the Daily Herald.

    Vote Early, Vote Often

    The Marquette administration came up with ten potential nicknames for their sports teams for people in the MU community to vote on. None of them is "Warriors," so most people will still not like whatever wins.

    Here they are (* - former nickname):
  • Blue and Gold*
  • Explorers
  • Golden Avalanche*
  • Golden Eagles (current)
  • Golden Knights
  • Hilltoppers*
  • Saints
  • Spirit
  • Voyagers
  • Wolves

    Voters will have a chance to "write in" another candidate, but "Warriors" will not be allowed, nor will any name suggesting Native American imagery or references.

    I suppose that rules out the "Casinos."

    I like Golden Avalanche, since that's what the administration was buried under after suggesting the change to "Gold."

    On that note, I'm not sure which name will win, but I'll bet that "Blue and Gold" finishes last.

    The top two vote getters by June 5th will be paired in a run off election, with the winner of that to be announced before the move to the Big East becomes official on July 1st.
  • "City Hall discovers clout"

    That was the headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune today. It was so dripping with sarcasm that I almost called customer service to complain about getting a wet paper.

    Clout, specifically patronage hiring, has been going on in Chicago since the reign of King Richard I, at the very least. Certainly, it hasn't slowed down any under King Richard II, although he has been denying it with a straight face for years.

    Yesterday, the king finally admitted there is a problem. He had to because federal prosecutors have been investigating the problems, so they are going to come out. The media has been reporting on various scandals of this sort, the most recent of which is the Hired Truck scandal, but the king can blow off the media. It's tougher to ignore the feds.

    Last week, James Duff, a big supporter of the king, was sentenced to prison for fraud involving minority set-aside contracts which his company obtained, even though Duff is both white and male, neither of which qualifies him as a minority.

    Just after that, the king hired a new chief of staff, Ron Huberman. Huberman is supposedly a straight arrow who has been brought in to put systems in place so that these kinds of scandals don't happen again.

    Most people would take that to mean that his job is to make sure the things that cause the scandals don't happen again, but around here, that's not what that means. It's not a scandal until you get caught, so his job is to come up with more creative ways of covering up all this graft and corruption so that the media and federal prosecutors will go away.

    The article also pointed out the irony of the fact that the kingdom is currently in court trying to get the Shakman decree overturned. The Shakman decree basically reinforces federal laws against patronage hiring, and specifies which jobs can and cannot be patronage jobs (most cannot). King Richard II feels that the decree is costly to follow and unnecessary because of the federal laws already in place.

    I guess we’ll see if the prosecutors are able to find any violations of those laws.

    Firsts and Milestones

  • Northwestern University won its first national championship in athletics since 1941 when the women's lacrosse team defeated Virginia for the NCAA title over the weekend. NU also became the first school outside the Eastern time zone to win a lacrosse championship, which just shows how regional that sport is.

  • Paula Craemer won the LPGA Sybase Classic last weekend. Craemer is 18, making her the second youngest to win a LPGA event and the youngest in about 50 years.

  • Jon Garland finally lost for the White Sox in Anaheim last night. The Angels beat Garland 4-0, handing him his first loss after he had won his first eight starts.

  • The Cubs faced starting pitchers making their major league debuts in each of the last two games and won both. No such luck tonight when they face Roger Clemens. The Cubs counter with emergency-pitcher-du jour Sergio "Meatball" Mitre, who will be up from Iowa long enough to give up about seven runs in four innings before catching the next bus back.

  • Anastasia Myskina won last year's French Open in women's tennis, but lost in the first round this year. She's the first defending champion of that tournament to tank in the opening round the following year. Only two others have done the same thing in other majors, Steffi Graf and Jennifer Capriati, so she's in pretty good company.

  • On Sunday, former IRL driver Felipe Giaffone was out shopping at the We B Babies in Indianapolis when his phone rang. It was AJ Foyt offering him a chance to qualify for the Indy 500. So he popped over, got in a car, practiced a little, and qualified for the last spot in the field, bumping Arie Luyendyk Jr. Little Arie (it doesn't have the same ring as "Little Al," does it?) tried to bump him back, but couldn't get his car over 210, so he'll have to try again next year.

  • On Saturday at Indy, Kenny Brack came out of retirement to drive defending champion Buddy Rice's Rahal-Letterman car to the 23rd spot on the grid with a faster time than pole-sitter Tony Kanaan. Rice crashed in practice a couple of weeks ago and doctors won't clear him to drive yet.
  • Saturday, May 21, 2005

    From Bad to Wuertz

    Yesterday's Sox-Cubs game was a microcosm of the entire season for both teams.

    Carlos Zambrano had an elbow twinge last week and it was originally thought he might miss yesterday's start, but he looked strong, giving up only one hit through seven innings.

    In the eighth, however, Dusty Baker went to his bullpen arson squad and brought in Michael Wuertz.

    Wuertz got two guys out and had runners on first and third, when Paul Konerko hit a little flare into center field. Corey Patterson ran in on it and dove for the ball, which hit off his glove and two runs scored to give the Sox the lead. Two more runs scored after that and that was the ball game.

    While the diving attempt for Patterson was hardly routine, it is a play he makes routinely. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen him miss on a diving attempt. But that's how the Cubs' year has gone.

    On the Sox side, Konerko is barely hitting his own weight (.219 after yesterday), but he's fifth in the AL in RBIs and had not only the game winning hit, but also the only hit off Zambrano. When things are going well, that's what happens.

    The Cubs try to prevent the sweep today.

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Sox vs Cubs - Revenge of the Simps?

    The White Sox visit Wrigley Field this weekend for their first of two series this season. The Sox have the best record in baseball and the Cubs have, um, Derrek Lee.

    As I've said before, I'm more of a Cub fan, but I like the Sox too, so I don't get as much joy or angst out of this series than most baseball fans around here. These games have always been more important to both the Sox and their fans, and when you combine that with the fact that the Sox are a lot better right now, you can expect the Sox to take at least two of three.

    The only hope for the Cubs is that the pitching rotation has worked in their favor. They have their three best, healthy-ish starters going in Maddux, Zambrano and Prior, while the Sox two best starters so far, Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle, will miss the series. Garland and Buehrle have combined for 15 wins, which is just three fewer than the Cubs' total of 18.

    If the Cubs are to have any success at all, the starters have to pitch well and deep into the games and someone will have to help out Lee, who is putting up MVP numbers early.

    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    Family Feud over Pope's Car

    Last week, there was a story in the Aurora Beacon News about a man in Sugar Grove, IL, who was going to sell the only car Pope John Paul II ever owned, a 1975 Ford Escort. According to the story, he's going to auction it off in Las Vegas on June 4th.

    There was only one problem. He didn't actually have possession of the car. It was in his shuttered restaurant and he didn't have the keys to the place. A week after that first story in the Beacon News, it reported that the son had borrowed $1.7M from his father and used the restaurant and its contents as collateral.

    The son and his father have been in court since last summer over who has possession of the restaurant. At that time, the court appointed an independent party to be the receiver and keep both father and son out of the place without the court's permission.

    This weekend, things really got interesting.

    On Friday, the son filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to release the restaurant from the court's receiver so he could get the car for the auction. Today, the Daily Herald reported that a Kane County judge threw out the bankruptcy petition and granted possession of the restaurant and the contents (including the pope's car) to the father.

    If the father goes to the restaurant, he'll be in for a surprise, because the car isn't there.

    A picture of the car is in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette this morning with a caption saying that the car will be displayed from today until May 30 at the WW II Victory Museum in Auburn, IN (about 15 miles north of Ft. Wayne). The caption also misidentifies the owner as the son, though the Ft. Wayne paper could hardly have known better.

    Somehow, the son must have gotten into the restaurant without the keys, removed the car, and transported it to Ft. Wayne.

    I'm guessing that if you want to see this car at the museum, you better get there quickly. I have a feeling that once its rightful owner discovers where it is, it won't be on display for long.

    Obviously, this story isn't over yet. I wonder what the pope would have thought about all this fighting over his old car. Of course, this is a family fight and probably has little or nothing to do with the car, but it's the car that has it in the news.

    That Didn't Take Long

    I said earlier that I would be using Illinois Governor Blagojevich's phrase "testicular virility" whenever I got the chance, but I wasn't expecting that chance to be tonight.

    That's because I had Bible study tonight. We were talking about how we came to be ELCA Lutherans and making comparisons to the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). LCMS is much more legalistic and exclusionary, and one way that manifests itself is that women aren't allowed in leadership positions. So, I suggested that perhaps the LCMS folks felt that women didn't have the testicular virility to be leaders.

    That actually got a laugh. The people at my church are used to me by now. One of the things I like about my particular church is that I can say things like "testicular virility" at Bible study and not get, um, stoned.

    Man Bites Dog

    Here's the kind of story you don't hear every day.

    Tulsa and SMU are battling it out for the Western Athletic Conference men's golf championship. After 54 holes, the two teams are tied, which requires a sudden-death playoff to settle the issue. The problem is, Tulsa has a plane to catch and finals the next day. That flight is the last of the day, so it's either play the playoff or get back in time for the tests.

    Tulsa's coach, Bill Brogden, chose the tests. After two players out of five from each team had teed off, Brogden pulled the plug and Tulsa left for the airport.

    Brogden and the SMU coach, Jay Loar, talked it over briefly and had agreed to simply call it a draw and have each team be co-champions, but the WAC official overruled and declared SMU the winner by forfeit. Tulsa plans to appeal that ruling.

    Tulsa's players and their parents were a little baffled and even upset at first, but eventually saw it the coach's way.

    Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated had a very funny commentary on this.

    Illinois Governor Touts Package

    Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has had a public feud going with his father-in-law, Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, for the last few months over the status of a landfill in which Mell supposedly has a financial interest.

    Blagojevich wanted the landfill closed because he said it was operating illegally. Mell accused Blago of trading state jobs for campaign contributions (in Illinois?? Never!). Mell later took back what he said, but the state Attorney General is investigating anyway.

    The most recent polls show Blago's approval ratings in the tank and the frustration is beginning to show. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that at news conference, he discussed how standing up to Mell was the kind of tough decision leaders have to make.

    He said, "This is the kind of thing that I think, frankly, separates the men from the boys in leadership. Do you have the testicular virility to make a decision like that, knowing what's coming your way?"

    Frankly, I wish I had thought of the phrase "testicular virility," and I plan on stealing it. However, according to the Daily Herald, female lawmakers in Springfield aren't as amused by it as I am. They have a point, but it's still funny.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    Delusional Dusty

    In an AP story today, Dusty Baker said that he is concerned that six interleague games against the same opponent are too many because it could cause a competitive disadvantage. He's referring to his team's six games against the White Sox (three of which are this weekend), which is currently the best team in baseball, while the Cardinals get to play six games against Kansas City, which is a highly-paid AAA team.

    If the Cubs were a factor in the divisional race, that could be an issue, but right now, Dusty has bigger problems. He can't keep his three staff aces on the mound, and the bullpen is pitching like bull doots.

    Carlos Zambrano is the latest ace to fold. He threw over 130 pitches in a complete game win over Philadelphia last week, but couldn't last past the 4th against the Nationals over the weekend. He left that game with elbow problems and will miss at least one start.

    Kerry Wood is still in the middle of his two-month DL stint and Mark Prior has already done time in the med ward.

    The Cubs are trailing the Brewers by a game and a half and the Cards by six and a half. Until the Cubs appear to be a threat to anyone but themselves, Dusty should probably keep his complaints about interleague play to himself.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    More on Man U

    There was a great column by David Whitley in the Orlando Sentinel about the overreaction of Manchester United fans to Malcolm Glazer taking over the team.

    Glazer has now acquired the 75% control necessary to take the team private.

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    I'll Have What He's Drinking

    Among the many players who have made themselves available for the NBA draft is a little known player from Louisiana State named Curtis Heroman.

    The reason Heroman is little-known is that he didn't play for the varsity team at LSU. He also didn't play on the JV team, if LSU even has one. No, Heroman played intramural ball at LSU.

    Heroman, whose name is derived from the Latin word heroin, meaning severely delusional, says this is not a gimmick or publicity stunt. He's just trying to live the dream.

    On second thought, maybe I won't have what he's drinking.

    Here's a link the USA Today story on Heroman.

    Does Leon Have Game?

    Nigel Thatch, best known as "Leon" in the Budweiser ads, is trying out with the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League.

    Here's the NW Indiana Times story on how it's going so far.

    Sox Trail Wire to Wire

    For the first time this year, the White Sox trailed the entire way in their 6-2 loss to the Orioles. The Sox had led in each of their first 37 games before yesterday.

    The Sox split with the Orioles and still have the best record in baseball.

    Indy Qualifying

    Indy 500 qualifying has a different format this year, which made yesterday’s qualifying session interesting.

    This year, a maximum of 11 cars can qualify on each of the first three days of qualifying, and bumping can occur on each day.

    Also, each car now can have three qualifying attempts per day and bumped cars can attempt to requalify. Previously, cars only got three attempts total, and if a car got bumped, it was out of the race.

    Since Pole Day was rained out, 22 cars could qualify yesterday. Tony Kanaan went out early and grabbed the pole. He then hung out the rest of the day to see if anyone knocked him off. If someone had gone faster, he was going to pull his car and attempt to regain the pole, but nobody ever did.

    Some of the fastest qualifying laps were turned in by rookie Danica Patrick, but she wobbled into turn 1 of her first qualifying lap, so she ended up on the inside of row 2 (4th overall).

    Taking advantage of the new rules, a few drivers pulled their cars and attempted to requalify. Dario Franchitti waved off his first attempt before qualifying seventh on his second try. He felt that wasn’t good enough, so he pulled that one and tried again. The risk was that if anything went wrong (crash, mechanical problem, etc) and he didn’t post a time, he would have to wait for day 3 and could not qualify better than 23rd. That didn’t happen though, and he improved one spot to sixth.

    Sam Hornish Jr. didn’t like his initial qualifying attempt, which put him 11th, so he tried again and blazed into second.

    Scott Sharp joins Kanaan and Hornish on the front row.

    Not everyone was better the second time out. Late in the day, Helio Castroneves pulled his car from the 4th spot to make a run at the pole, but he came in a little worse, and will now start 5th.

    There was also some bumping yesterday. Alex Barron was bumped from the field, but then went out later and requalified the same car. In doing so, he bumped his teammate Patrick Carpentier, who will have to wait until next week to try again.

    I like the new format. It adds excitement to the Pole qualifying because you have drivers risking good positions in the grid to take a shot at the top. Bumping is always good too, but I wonder in a typical year if there would be much excitement on the day that drivers are trying to fill the #12-22 spots. Because of the rain, we’ll have to wait until next year at least to find out.

    The last 11 spots will be filled next Saturday, and once that happens, bumping begins.

    Sunday, May 15, 2005

    Has Anyone Seen My 10-Foot Weenie?

    Some stories just speak for themselves.

    ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) -- Police are looking for a hot dog that's REALLY hot -- as in stolen.

    A sign featuring a giant wiener has gone missing from the Ebenezer Grill. But investigators believe the suspects should be easy to spot.

    "It's tough to hide a 10-foot weenie," Rock Hill police Lt. Jerry Waldrop said.

    The smiling hot dog has welcomed customers for the past 18 months, after owner Loyd Ardrey bought it to replace the aging dog that sat atop the roof for years.

    When Ardrey arrived around 6 a.m. Wednesday, the 30-pound aluminum sign was gone.

    "I figured, well, maybe it blew off because we had some storms last night. We looked around, and it wasn't in any yards next door or across the street or anything," Ardrey said.

    If he has to, Ardrey said he will buy another sign. He's thinking about offering a reward, but isn't sure if he should give out money or hot dogs.

    "I just want my weenie back," Ardrey said.

    Well, who wouldn't?

    Misquote Generates Racism Charge

    According to the NW Indiana Times, The Winchester (IN) News-Gazette misquoted Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter when he joked to a group of republicans at a fundraiser, and that caused one lawmaker to accuse Carter of racism.

    Carter was talking about his vigorous pursuit of public corruption when he quoted as saying that, "A member of the Gary City Council doesn't know whether to answer 'present' or 'guilty.'"

    That really upset state rep Charlie Brown of Gary, who wrote a letter to Carter demanding an apology and a meeting to discuss his "ignorant comment." The Times also reported that the letter said that the comment is based on the assumption that corruption is rampant in Gary because the majority of residents are black.

    The problem is, Carter didn't say "Gary." He said "East Chicago."

    That didn't change Brown's feelings about the comment because most E.C. residents are minorities.

    Brown is one of those "leaders" who assumes any slight against any minority person or group is racist, which is unfortunate, because people like him make real racism (and there's plenty of that) harder to distinguish.

    He is particularly wrong in this case. Brown says a joke about the East Chicago's city council's problem with corruption is racist because the residents of E.C. are mostly minorities. However, Carter wasn't talking about the residents of East Chicago. He was talking about the city council.

    As the old saying goes, "it ain't lyin' if it's true." It's also not racist if it's true. East Chicago is the standard-bearer in the field of government corruption, and those involved span the rainbow of skin colors. What goes on in East Chicago makes the government of it's namesake to the west look like an elementary school student council.

    Prosecutors are finally catching on, as it seems like just about everybody who has ever been in a room with former mayor/ringleader Robert Pastrick (who is white) is has been indicted on corruption charges.

    The current scandal involves a sidewalks-for-votes plan, in which city contractors did free sidewalk pouring and tree trimming for residents right before the 1999 election. Documents were then changed later to make the plan appear legitimate.

    Thirteen people were indicted, including three city councilmen. I don't know off the top of my head how all those cases turned out, but at least two of the councilmen were found guilty. One, Frank Kollintzas (who is white), fled the country right before he was to be sentenced.

    Fifteen other city officials, including Pastrick, were named as unindicted co-conspirators in court documents. Also, Pastrick and 26 others are facing a civil suit to seek restitution for the scheme.

    Ironically, Pastrick is no longer mayor after 33 years because his 2003 election victory over George Pabey was thrown out by a judge because a number of absentee ballots cast for Pastrick were either forged or coerced. Pabey defeated Pastrick in the special election that was called to replace the corrupted one.

    Sorry, Charlie, but if anyone should be apologizing for anything, it’s Pastrick. You’ll pardon me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

    American Invades England

    Malcolm Glazer, who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has increased his share of Manchester United to 71.8%. He's trying to get to 75%, which would mean he could take the club private.

    For those of you not familiar with what the rest of the world calls "football," Manchester United is the New York Yankees of soccer. They have the best tradition, the most money, the biggest fan base, and also like the Yankees, you either love them or hate them.

    Man U fans are very upset by Glazer's attempt to own the team. A fan group called Shareholders United has been staging protests in Manchester and threatening to boycott games if Glazer gets full control of the team. One member of that group told SkySports News, "If that means starving ourselves (of soccer) and starving the club of income in order to make this parasite detach himself from us, then so be it."

    Among fans fears is that he'll raise ticket prices (oh, no! not that!) and sell Old Trafford, their 67,000 seat stadium, which would be like the Cubs selling Wrigley Field.

    I'm not sure where those particular fears are based. I haven't been able to find anything from Glazer or his representatives suggesting that.

    It is also rumored that Glazer wants to market the Man U brand in the U.S., although I can't see how that would be a bad thing.

    My advice to Man U fans is to settle down and give Glazer a chance. He took the Bucs, once the laughing stock of American sports, and made them Super Bowl winners. He's not likely to do anything to screw up something as good as Manchester United.

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    Woods Misses Cut

    Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Byron Nelson Classing in Irving, TX. It's his first missed cut in 143 tournaments.

    I guess he's human after all.

    Ironically, Nelson was the previous record holder with making 113 straight cuts.

    Pole Day at Indy

    Today was supposed to be Pole Day at Indianapolis, but they were rained out, so they’ll try again tomorrow.

    Pole Day at Indy used to be a huge deal, but nothing about Indy is as big as it used to be since the split between the IRL and CART. Most of the bigger name drivers still in the series have come back to Indianapolis, but NASCAR now overwhelms Indy Car racing in the hearts and minds of American race fans.

    That's a shame, not because there's anything wrong with NASCAR, but because it's tough to watch one of the great American traditions suffer so much. Indy Car racing is still great action, and that gives me hope that someday it will make a comeback.

    I've always loved the 500 and I'm sure the fact that I grew up in the Midwest has something to do with it. Once I got to Purdue, it got even more personal for me because I got to participate in the pre-race ceremonies four times as a member of the Purdue band.

    The big story at this year's race is rookie racer Danica Patrick. Patrick is trying to take the road that Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher traveled and go much farther. She has a significant advantage over those previous female drivers in that she is part of a great team, Rahal-Letterman racing. That means she won't have to worry nearly as much about equipment and financing as St. James and Fisher did.

    Patrick is a threat to not only win the pole, but the race as well. She qualified second at the last race in Japan and ended up finishing fourth. She also has the fastest time in practice this month.

    And, how could I not root for a fellow Queen fan.

    I also root for Scott Sharp. We got to meet him once at Disney World and his car is sponsored by the company my brother-in-law works for.

    Back-to-back Puck

    My kids have had a double-dose of Puck the last two days.

    Thursday, they got to meet Chef Wolfgang Puck as part of the celebration of Sue's fifth birthday party. My oldest even got a one-on-one cookie decorating lesson. He was very excited to get to meet someone famous. I guess I have to work on my Q-rating some more. :)

    It was fun to see them on TV, even though it was so early in the morning. The CBS affiliate in Chicago did their morning news traffic segments live from the museum. Their traffic reporter, Susan Carlson, would interview somebody or do something with the kids during each segment. The teachers said she was great with the kids and the kids were pretty well behaved. You never know what you're going to get from kids, especially sleep-deprived ones.

    They also got to do a dance to a song that Al Jarreau sang. "Dance" might be stretching things a bit. It was more like hand motions, but what can you teach kids in a short time.

    Here is a link to Susan Carlson's page on the CBS 2 Chicago website, which has links to a few of the video segments from the museum. You can see my kids best in the one where Al Jarreau sings his new song, but the Wolfgang Puck one is kind of funny, even though my kids aren't in it.

    Last night, I took the kids to see playoff hockey. Many of you may not be familiar with hockey. It's a sport where people skate around an ice rink and try to shoot a small rubber biscuit called a "puck" into a net. They used to play this sport at a high-professional level in this country, but they don't anymore.

    They do still have lower professional levels, and the Chicago Wolves are one of the better teams in the American Hockey League. Last night, they scored four third-period goals to eliminate the Cincinnati Sitting Ducks 4-1. They'll face the Manitoba Moose in the next round.

    My oldest hasn't typically had the patience to sit through an entire sporting event, but he really seemed to enjoy the game last night. My middle son likes sports and will sit with me and watch them on TV, so watching it live was fun for him. They gave out those thundersticks, and those entertained my oldest when the game wasn't.

    I get to one or two Wolves games each year, and this was one of the smaller crowds I've seen at one of their games. They had just over 5,000 people there, and I don't think I've been to a game where the crowd wasn't at least 10,000. The Sox and Orioles played the same night, but that hasn't typically been a problem before. In fact, there have been nights where the Wolves outdrew the Sox when they played at the same time. I wonder if the NHL kamikaze mission has hurt attendance at the lower levels.

    There was a lot of penalties in this game too. Usually, in a playoff hockey game, refs forget to put the peas in their whistles, so you hardly have any penalties called. In this game, though, there were 20 penalties called, all minors and each team had eight power plays.

    Cincinnati was so bad on the power play most of the night that you often forgot which team had the man-advantage. The Wolves were better in the sense that they usually got a lot of shots, but didn't connect until early in the third period.

    While I always enjoy going to these games (in fact, I'd rather go to a Wolves game than an Hawks game), they never fail to remind me that there is a reason why these guys are in the minors.

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Home Runs Down

    The Elias Sports Bureau reported this week that home runs are down this year and at their lowest level since 2002. Through Sunday May 8th, there have been 1.97 HR per game in Major League Baseball. Last year, there were 2.16 through the same number of games.

    Most people draw the conclusion that this is because of baseball's new steroid testing policy and penalties, and that might have something to do with it, but while the drop from last year to this year is significant, I'm not convinced that five weeks is a long enough time to draw a conclusion.

    As an aside, the owners this week endorsed Bud Selig's tougher proposed penalties for steroid use, which are 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

    At this time of year, there are too many other factors that can be considered. Most prominent among those is the weather. I don't know how it's been in other places, but it's been pretty cold here in Chicago this spring.

    We also have some of the big boppers dealing with injuries. The biggest of those, of course, is Barry Bonds, who has yet to play this year. Lance Berkman has played in only a handful of games after starting the year on the DL. Both Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa have been dealing with injuries and are currently on the DL. Moises Alou has also had a DL stint in April and Scott Rolen just went on this week.

    It could also be that pitching is a little ahead of the hitting too. Not only are home runs down, but so is overall run production and batting averages.

    So let's wait and look at it again after the season, when all the outside factors have had a chance to normalize.

    By the way, 2002 was the year after Bonds hit 73 and Sosa hit 64. In 2002, Alex Rodriguez hit 57 and Jim Thome hit 52. Nobody has hit 50 since.

    In May of 2002, when stories like this were being written, the theories centered on a change in the ball, which MLB denied. The HR totals in 2002 never caught up to 2001. In 2001, there were 5455 home runs in MLB vs only 5059 in 2002.

    We'll see what happens this year.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Gas Price Slots

    We have a handful of casinos around here, and I think the gas stations must be owned by the same people that own those casinos. The gas price signs must use the same technology as slot machines. Someone in the station pulls the lever at least once a day, and a new price appears.

    At one Speedway gas station near my house, just since Monday, it has posted prices of $2.03, $1.98, $2.08, $2.25 and the current price of $2.04 for regular unleaded. That is, unless it has changed again since I got home. The last change occurred while I was taking my kids to school for their aforementioned field trip.

    (note: when I went to pick my kids up after the field trip, it was back to $2.25)

    It's like trying to time the stock market. Whenever the gas prices go down some, you fill up, even if you filled up the day before, just so you don't have to try to fill up right after a spike.

    We probably wouldn't care so much if the prices were a dollar a gallon lower. I remember those days as if it were yesterday. Of course, around here, maybe it was yesterday.

    Sue Turns Five

    You'll note by the time on this post that it is a ridiculous hour of the morning to be out of bed, but I am. Even more ridiculous is that my 6- and 8-year-olds are up also.

    That's because they are going to the Field Museum to celebrate Sue the T-Rex's fifth birthday party and their school gets to be the background for the TV coverage on the various network stations in Chicago. They have to leave their school at 4 AM to do this.

    Wolfgang Puck (making the cake) and Al Jarreau (singing Happy Birthday) are going to be there too. That's quite the A-list crowd for the birthday of a bag of bones.

    If you live around Chicago, every station (2,5,7,9,32) is covering it at some level on their morning shows and/or local news programs. If you don't live around here, but get WGN on your cable, you might see coverage there.

    We (parents) were given no specific information as to which channels were showing this when, so we get to spend the morning channel surfing.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Marquette Board Dumps Gold Standard

    The Marquette University Board of Trustees decided to abandon its ill-conceived plan to thrust "Gold" down the throats of its students and alumni, and has created a process by which it will pick a new nickname for its teams.

    The bad news for many is that the board also reaffirmed its decision not to go back to "Warriors."

    Click here for the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

    and here for the Marquette press release.

    Brain Dump again

    Every once in a while, I get a lot on my mind, and I've got to get rid of it to make room for more useless things. This is one of those times.

  • I messed around with the color scheme on these pages. Let me know what you think.

    I also created an expanded profile for myself. Blogger limits the "About Me" segment to 1200 characters, and I wanted to write more than that. So, my profile has two links, one to the expanded profile and one to the Blogger profile. When I get more time, I'll see if I can find a way to combine the two.

  • I was walking around my neighborhood the other day and saw a couple of relatively new girls' bikes left out in a driveway. I'm not sure what brand they were, but the model names of the bikes were "Slumber Party."

    I don't know what thoughts cross a young girl's mind when she thinks of a slumber party, but I'm guessing bicycling isn't among them. What messed up marketing geek came up with that idea?

  • Only in Kentucky: According to the AP, a 42-year-old man was arrested for drunk driving - while riding a horse. He failed field sobriety tests ("OK, sir, spell 'Giacomo'") and blew .244 on the breathalyzer. That's three times the legal limit, and that means he was probably so drunk that he had to be tied to the horse to keep from falling off.

    No word yet on the results of the sobriety tests on the horse.

  • Sergio Garcia tied the record for the biggest final round choke job in PGA tour history by blowing a six-shot lead on the final day and losing the Wachovia Open in a playoff to Vijay Singh.

  • Kellen Winslow Jr. was released from the hospital the other day after his bike accident. He's on crutches because of an injured knee. There is still no word on how long his recuperation will take, or even just how injured the knee is.

  • Six women's basketball players with eligibility remaining left the University of Alaska-Anchorage basketball program. That, combined with the loss of four seniors, means that for now, the Seawolves only have three players on its roster.

    A couple of women left because of nagging injuries, but the others appear to have left because of a nagging coach. Actually, the words used to describe the coach were more harsh than that. Here is a link to the Yahoo! story.
  • Baseball notes

  • MLB is expected to announce the formation of the World Baseball Classic, which will be a worldwide baseball tournament. Assuming the games will be played during the middle of the typical baseball season, I wonder where the US team will get its players. Since the MLB players union had to sign on to the deal, the assumption is that major league players will be used, but which team is going to give up players to play in a tournament? I suppose details like that will be in the formal announcement, which is expected today.

  • This weekend, Sammy Sosa was to make his first appearance in Chicago since being traded by the Cubs this past off-season when the Orioles come to town to face the White Sox. The bad news is, Sosa went on the DL yesterday and will not make the trip. The good news is, that means the media can focus instead on a weekend series between the teams with the two best records in baseball.

  • Not only will LaTroy Hawkins not be the closer for the Cubs, he won't even be the setup man. He's been banished to very long relief.

  • Tony Pena resigned yesterday as manager of the Kansas City Royals, who are off to a 8-25 start. Pena has generally done a good job making chicken salad out of chicken doots during his time with KC, but this year's team is full of AAA players, and you can only do so much with that.

    Another manager in a similar situation, who has done as good a job, is Lloyd McClendon of Pittsburgh. He's had a little better talent and had a little better results, but like KC, Pittsburgh is a place where a fantastic year would be finishing .500. Those franchises in particular just don't have the cash to compete.
  • Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Mother's Day Cooking

    A couple of days ago, I promised to share recipes if my cooking on Mother's Day did not cause any fatalities. I figure if anyone was going to die, they probably would have already, so these recipes should be OK.

    There's nothing ground-breaking or terribly difficult in here, or I couldn't have done it.

    Chicken Piccata

    2 lbs chicken breast, sliced or pounded thin (scallopine style)
    flour to dredge
    4 T Olive oil
    12 T butter
    a few cloves of minced garlic
    1/2 c dry white wine
    juice of one lemon
    1 c chicken broth

    heat oil and 4T butter in skillet on high heat
    dredge chicken and fry until brown - remove chicken to serving platter
    reduce heat to med-high
    add remaining butter
    saute garlic
    add wine and reduce
    add lemon juice and chicken broth and reduce some more
    spoon sauce over meat
    garnish with parsley and/or thinly sliced lemon.

    Fettuccine Alfredo

    1 lb fettuccine
    1 pint heavy cream
    1 stick (8T) unsalted butter
    a few cloves of minced garlic
    1 c parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated

    cook pasta in well-salted water
    melt butter in saucepan and saute garlic
    add cream and heat to boil
    stir in cheese
    toss sauce with pasta
    garnish with more cheese and/or parsley

    Not too tough, eh? I also made a ceasar salad, including the dressing with the raw egg, and still, nobody died.

    I also tried to make bananas foster, but I had a lot of problems.

    The first problem was trying to use an electric skillet, which just didn't heat consistently enough to dissolve the brown sugar in the butter.

    Even using a regular skillet, I had problems because there just isn't enough liquid to dissolve the brown sugar until you actually try to foster some bananas.

    Then, I had problems setting the alcohol on fire. No, the Fire Department wasn't called. I couldn't get it to ignite. I used more liquor the second time and it lit, but had a very strong rum flavor. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Eventually, I ended up with something edible, but I'm not sure you could call it bananas foster.

    At least we didn't end up at the Kwik 'n' Krappy's.

    More on the Marquette Gold

    I had a chance to talk to the two Marquette people I know, a mother and daughter, about the decision to change the nickname of the school's teams to "the Gold." The mother is a Marquette alum and the daughter is a current student.

    Like almost everyone else, they are livid. They can't get over how stupid this decision is. The daughter talked about how their school is a national laughing stock and wondered if this was done to take some of the heat off a $4000 tuition increase. The mother told me she was in touch with other alums discussing what, if anything, they could do about this.

    The daughter talked about how she could not walk anywhere on campus without coming across one protest or another.

    There is also a HS junior in the family who has decided he's not going to Marquette because of this.

    I think it's a good think I brought this up to them at church. After we talked, the daughter said, "I have to go in (to the church) now and repent for all the things I'm thinking."

    Monday, May 09, 2005

    Sox and Cubs

    I wrote earlier that I am a die-hard Cubs fan, but I'm one of those rare birds that's also a Sox fan. I grew up in a family of Sox fans, so I went to several games at the old Comiskey Park as well as Wrigley. I used to joke that if the two teams ever played a game that mattered, I'd root for the Cubs, but what were the chances of that ever happening? Then they introduced interleague play and it now happens six times a year.

    So even though the Cubs are face-first in the tank, I can take some solace in the success of the White Sox, which currently have the best record in baseball at 24-7. In fact, they have had a lead in every game so far, which is a record this deep into the season. It is also their best start ever, tying the Black Sox of 1919.

    They're doing it with great starting pitching and a soft schedule. The starters' collective ERA is just over 3.00, which is a gaudy number for the American League. The schedule so far has included only five games, all with Minnesota, over teams that are currently above .500, although Toronto was above .500 until the Sox swept them last weekend.

    I don't mean the soft schedule comment to diminish what the Sox have done. Great teams take care of business against the bad teams, and the Sox have been better than that. However, we'll find out if the Sox are for real by the end of this month. After three with Tampa, they play six each with Anaheim and Texas and three each with Baltimore and the Cubs. Normally, the Cubs wouldn't rate on this list, but because of the rivalry and the fact that the games are in Wrigley, they're included.

    Hopefully, the better schedule will bring some fans out. Sox fans have been staying away in droves since Jerry Reinsdorf was a key player in the cancellation of the 1994 postseason, in which it looked like the Sox would have been a participant. It also doesn't help that their park is an antiseptic shopping mall with an upper deck that causes vertigo. And, if you have the misfortune of holding an upper deck ticket, you are imprisoned there (maybe that's why the park is nicknamed "the Cell"), so you can't take advantage of any of the few cool things on the lower deck, like the Hall-of-Fame, the CF shower, or the RF bar.

    In the three game series with KC last week, the Sox drew a total of 40,463. The Cubs, on the other hand, are averaging 38,421 per game (about 500 below capacity), and last year had two crowds larger than the Sox drew for the whole KC series. I realize that KC is a glorified AAA team and that was a school-nights-only series, but the time has come for Sox fans to support this team and at least fill the lower deck. I won't ever recommend that anyone sit upstairs.

    On the north side, the Cubs finally won yesterday, breaking a seven game losing streak. Carlos Zambrano pitched a complete game in the 2-1 win. In the ninth inning, Ryan Dempster was warming up, but Dusty Baker left Zambrano in to finish the job himself. When you consider how the bullpen has blown up this year, that's probably just as well, even though Zambrano got close to 100 pitches.

    Baker said after the game that Dempster is the current winner in the anyone-but-LaTroy sweepstakes. He will keep the job for at least one blown save. It good to see that the team's optimism is still high enough to think that at some point, they may need to use a closer.

    Sunday, May 08, 2005

    Roast Pork – Sort of

    As I mentioned in my profile, one of my interests is cooking. That’s a relatively new interest for me, which was born out of watching the Food Network on TV. In particular, I like Good Eats with Alton Brown and Iron Chef. I used to joke that the only thing I could cook was Spaghettios (recipe: open can; eat with spoon). That may still be true, but after watching professional chefs on the Food Network make things look so easy, I’ve tried some other things and, as you might expect, had some mixed results.

    Last night was one of those things. My wife suggested cooking a pork loin roast (bone in) on the grill, which I’ve never done before. In fact, I had never done anything requiring indirect heat. It turned out surprisingly good – so good that I thought I would share the recipe with you.

    Pork loin roast – bone in
    Wife or alarm clock
    Whiny kids
    Potato chips

    Prep time: 30 minutes, not counting nap.
    Cook time: 2 hours, 18 minutes. Approximately.

    1. Take a nap. Have your wife wake you around 3:30 and ask you if you’re going to start the coals. An alarm clock will do if you don't have a wife.
    2. Start the coals in the grill.
    3. Kids start to complain that they’re hungry.
    4. When coals heat up, move them away from the middle of the grill. Put a drip pan with some water in it in the middle of the grill, surrounded by the coals.
    5. Panic because it looks like you used about half as many coals as you need.
    6. Add more coals.
    7. Put the roast on the grill, fat side up.
    8. After about 45 minutes, check the roast. Doubt to yourself that it’s cooking fast enough, but turn it over anyway.
    9. Kids complain that they’re hungry again. Give them a few potato chips.
    10. After another 45 minutes, stick a meat thermometer into the roast. Wonder if the thermometer is working correctly or if the inside is still so cold that the needle doesn’t move.
    11. Kids complain that they’re still hungry. Tell them to quit whining and set the table (in case the roast ever gets ready).
    12. Give up on the grill. Put roast in roasting pan and into cold oven set to 400 degrees.
    13. After about half an hour, take roast out, stick in meat thermometer. Needle should barely move.
    14. Bedtime is rapidly approaching. Kids complain that they’re still hungry. Send them to their room.
    15. Give up on the oven. Put roast in microwave for 5 minutes at 70% power.
    16. Stick thermometer in roast. Needle should move slightly, but still not reach temperature scale. Start doubting again whether the thermometer works correctly.
    17. Put roast in microwave for 6 more minutes at 70% power.
    18. Stick thermometer in roast. Needle should start to offer signs of hope, but it’s not done yet.
    19. Put roast in microwave for 7 more minutes at 70% power.
    20. Cover with foil and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

    We didn’t season or marinate the meat, but you certainly could. It actually turned out pretty good. It tasted smoky, like it had been grilled, but the meat was still pretty tender.

    Today, for Mother’s Day, I’m cooking for the mothers (my wife, my mom and my mother-in-law), who no doubt are wondering if I’ll screw up again and end up taking them out. That could be a problem, since about the only place we could get into on Mother’s Day without a reservation is the Kwik 'n' Krappy’s (“Burgers on a stick!”). If it turns out good, I may share those recipes here.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers! (From someone who is often called a mother)

    NASCAR - Had Him Right Where They Wanted Him

    I wrote yesterday that I don’t pay much attention to the Kentucky Derby, or horse racing in general. I ended up sort of listening to the race because other people in my house watched it. I like the fact that some gazillion-to-1 long shot won. After all, everyone loves an underhorse. Someone told me the horse was a long shot because his jockey rides bareback, but I wasn’t sure whether to believe him. Or whether it was the jockey’s back or the horse’s back that was bare.

    But, enough about that. Even though I don’t care much about horse racing, I do follow auto racing, at least a little bit.

    I used to watch the Formula One races when they were on in the mornings, but now I think they are on a station that I don’t get with my satellite package. I think Michael Schumacher is the best driver in the world, although I understand that his team is struggling some this year with the new rule changes aimed at taking away his dominance. Those changes must be working.

    I also like Indy Car racing and still follow it some even after the CART-IRL split. I’m a big Indy 500 fan, partly just from growing up in the Midwest, and partly from the fact that as a member of the Purdue band, I played in the pre-race ceremonies for four years. It kills me to see what has happened to open wheel racing in this country, but that’s a different column. I do wonder how much longer it can survive on Indy alone.

    I like NASCAR racing too. I have a favorite driver, Ryan Newman, who is a fellow Boilermaker.

    Newman is a great qualifier. I think I heard them say on the race last night that he wins about one in four poles and has started in the top ten of fifteen straight races. When the race rolls around however, he seems to have something go wrong and can’t win with any consistency. In fact, he hasn’t won all year.

    That looked like it was going to change last night. Newman took over shortly after the last round of pit stops (with about 45 laps to go) and had extended his lead to over 3.5 seconds with about six laps left when disaster occurred, at least for him. Mark Martin spun out just a little. He didn’t hit the wall or anyone else, but it was enough to bring out the caution flag.

    You would think that would be a good thing for Newman, but it wasn’t. In fact, it pretty much guaranteed that he would not win the race. Even the announcer said, “The worst place you can be in this situation is in the lead.”

    That’s because NASCAR rules require at least two green laps to finish the race (if more than two laps are left before a caution). That put Newman in a no-win situation. Either he pits for fresh tires, but everyone else stays out, meaning he comes out of the pits at the end of the lead lap (around 20th place), or he stays out, but everyone else pits for fresh tires, and he has no chance of holding them off, even for two laps.

    He stayed out and nearly everyone else pitted. Once the race went green again, Greg Biffle passed the three or four cars that stayed out, including Newman, within half a lap and went on to win. Newman finished fifth.

    I don’t know a lot about racing, but I do know this. If someone can say near the end of a race, without fear of contradiction, that “the worst place you can be is in the lead,” then something is wrong. The whole point of racing is to be out in front. If the rules penalize someone for simply leading a race with five laps left, then the rules need to be changed.

    Meanwhile, Ryan Newman has to wait another week to try to break his 18-race winless streak.

    Saturday, May 07, 2005

    Churchill Downer

    I just remembered that the Kentucky Derby is today. I've never really put my finger on why, but this event just doesn't appeal to me. It's easily the biggest sporting event that I don't care at all about.

    I guess my problem is the hype-to-action ratio is too high. A full day of coverage on television for a two-minute event is a little more than I can take. Also, I'm not a big gambler, and horse racing is nothing if not a gambler's medium.

    About the only thing I like about the Derby is that it gives me a good excuse to drink mint juleps. Which reminds me - where's my bourbon?

    Kenny Harris Regains Conciousness

    Kenny Harris, the Valparaiso University basketball player who collapsed during a workout in early April, has finally emerged from a coma and appears to be on the road to recovery.

    The NW Indiana Times story.

    Au Shucks!

    The decision by Marquette to change its team nicknames to the Gold is still being panned by the university community.

    Yesterday, there was a protest on campus attended by about 100 people in spite of the rain. The university president went out and answered some questions to nobody's satisfaction.

    Opinion polls are running over 90% negative. But, as Father Wild said yesterday, and I'm definitely paraphrasing here, get used to it and get over it, because we're not changing it.

    Also, it occurs to me that I forgot to chime in with my opinion yesterday, which is what I get for doing this when I'm still a little pre-caffeinated. I think it's a dumb name, even worse than the one they had before. I like the color gold, but I wouldn't want it to be my team nickname.

    This is the classic case of a bad idea that is poorly executed. The trustees opened up a can of worms by even revisiting the nickname issue. There is a large constituency that wants them to go back to Warriors, and those people won't be pleased with any other choice. The trustees spent a year supposedly discussing whether to do just that, or stick with Golden Eagles. When the new name was announced, it caught everyone by surprise because nobody knew other names were even being considered, and nobody outside the board of trustees was apparently consulted.

    That's what is going to give this protest legs. You have Warrior people who won't be happy with anything else and you have a new and unimproved name that the rest of the folks feel has been thrust upon them.

    Father Wild may have told them it wasn't going to change, but we'll see. Unless it's a moral issue, it's hard to stick with something when over 90% of the people you serve are against it.

    Here are links to a couple of funny columns about the name change.

    This one has just about every conceivable one-liner about Gold and this one suggests color-coded nicknames for the Big Ten schools.

    Friday, May 06, 2005

    How About Golden Warriors?

    Speaking of all things golden, the Marquette University board of trustees, in an effort to make a bad situation worse, decided against returning to the school’s old Warriors nickname, but also ditched the Golden Eagles moniker that has been in use since 1994. Instead, university president Father Robert Wild (isn’t "Father Wild" an oxymoron?) and board chairman John Bergstrom announced that the school’s athletic teams will be called the Gold.

    The Golden Eagles nickname was never really embraced by anyone. It was considered to be too bland and uninspiring, and there was even another team in its conference (at the time) that was using it already. Of course, the people who liked Warriors weren’t going to like any new nickname, so there may have been some of that dynamic in the complaint.

    Still, nobody was actively thinking about changing the name until someone came forward and offered the school $2M to go back to Warriors. That’s what led to the process that brought about the current change.

    The name change has done one good thing; it has united the Marquette community. Everyone hates the new name. Online polling done by the Milwaukee and school newspapers asking people to vote hate/like/don’t care show "hate" garnering upwards of 98% of the votes.

    An on-campus protest has been organized for tonight. You know the students are serious about this if they are willing to give up some of their valuable Friday night drinking time to go to a protest.

    Here is a link to some of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s coverage of the name change. There is reaction and suggested mascots, some of which are pretty funny. There’s also a priceless photo of some dumbfounded students reacting to the news.

    Yankees in Last Place

    Speaking of pissing things away, or not getting what you pay for, the Yankees have fallen into a last place in the American League East after losing to Tampa Bay last night.

    The Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, but are only 11-18. Only Cincinnati, Colorado and Kansas City have worse records, and while I don't have the figures handy, I would bet that the combined payroll of those three teams might barely eclipse the Yankees' $200M.

    I have May 7 in the "Joe Torre Gets Fired" pool.

    The Really Golden Palace

    I'm not sure I like the trend of today's topics on the blog, but I can't always control the path the news takes me down. :)

    The Golden Palace Casino purchased what is purported to be Britney Spears' used pregnancy test from a radio station in Canada.

    It cost them about $5000 and, of course, they have no way of verifying that what they purchased was actually Britney's. To me, the definition of having too much money is when you are willing to spend $5000 for something that someone famous may have peed on.

    This also begs the question, "is this how the Golden Palace got its name?", but I'm too polite to ask.

    Hypocrisy at Roger Williams (or Dueling Genitalia)

    Here is a link to a funny story in the National Review about the dueling genitalia at Roger Williams College.

    Note: This is definitely an R-Rated article.

    Thursday, May 05, 2005

    Do These Kids Have a Life?

    I’m as big of a sports nut as there is. I always joke that I don’t watch TV unless there’s some sort of ball involved. I was pretty obsessed even when I was a kid. I played baseball for nine years, even though I was the worst player not only on my own team, but in the entire league every season I played (note: I’m not making that up. I was really that bad).

    Still, even the good players did other things. Many were three-sport athletes, which seems to be a dying breed. These days, kids specialize, and they do so at a young age. The Chicago Tribune published an article Tuesday which talked about how some parents pay up to $10,000 per year to put their 12-year-old sons on national traveling baseball teams. These kids pretty much play baseball and do nothing else.

    Some of these teams attract some big sponsorship dollars to help facilitate this activity.

    To me, this is a complete loss of perspective. These kids have had no childhood. They’re pros now at age 12, and to get to this level, they’ve had to pretty much devote their short lives to nothing but baseball. These kids talk about how they are chasing their dreams of the major leagues (which, even for kids this good, is a longshot at best), but when you consider how early they had to start chasing it, you wonder if it was their dream originally, or if they are actually living out their parents’ dreams.

    The kids in this story are from California, where they can play baseball year round, but there’s some of that lack of perspective around here too.

    I have three boys, ages 8, 6 and 1.5. The older two, like most boys their ages, are involved in sports. They have played soccer and baseball, more soccer than baseball. In fact, last spring was the first time they had played baseball. We signed them up for T-Ball in the Dyer Little League.

    Dyer’s Little League 12-year-old team made the Little League World Series in 1997, so we figured they would be pretty organized and know what they were doing. What we found out was that when it comes to the all-star and travel teams, they did know what they were doing. That was because everything the league did was built around those teams.

    The regular season schedule ended a little early, so that the travel teams wouldn’t have conflicts. That applied to T-Ball as well, which as far as I know, didn’t have a travel team. That day is coming, I’m sure.

    Also, teams were “stacked,” by which I mean that the best kids were placed on one or two of the teams, so that the potential travel team kids played together. That led to some really ugly games. I was a base umpire for an age 11-12 game that ended 35-0. Do not adjust your monitor – you read that score correctly. In that game, the stacked team hit eight home runs, and had a stretch where they just missed hitting five in a row (the third kid in that stretch hit the top of the center field fence, but the ball bounced back into the field). How much fun do you think it was to be on the losing team for that game? What is the motivation for those kids? Even for the team that won, it couldn’t have been much fun.

    That wasn’t the worst of it, though. There were even stacked T-Ball teams. We played against two teams that had nearly all older kids (6 and 7, though there weren’t a lot of 7-year-olds in T-Ball), and I would say that 90% of the best players in our league were on those two teams. We had one kid as good as any on either of those teams. The sandlot scouts must have missed him.

    The league picnic/award ceremony (every kid gets a trophy) was two months after the regular season ended to accommodate the schedules of the travel team kids. The whole awards ceremony was built around those teams, although we regular folks did get our brief moment in the sun. We knew it was bad when the league president got weepy with joy and pride when she discussed how the 9-year-old team finished second in the state tournament. I was thinking, “they have a state tournament for 9-year-olds?”

    So, since my kids are not likely to ever be travel-team caliber, my wife and I moved them over to Schererville Baseball this year in the hope that this league devotes as much attention to the fair-to-middlin’ kids as they do to the travel teams.

    Things are so far, so good on that front. Our team has only one kid who appears to have the pressure of his father living vicariously through him. At batting practice one day, while I was working with him, his dad kept giving him pointers too. That wasn’t so bad since we were both saying relatively helpful things. At the end of his session though, I told him he had a nice swing (which he does, even though he doesn’t make much contact), and his dad said something like, “he should; he’s had hundreds of dollars in lessons.”

    No pressure there, kid.

    I wanted to tell him to save his money and just let the kid play, but I didn’t, of course. Of all the kids on our team, though, this one seems to be having the least fun. I can help him work on his swing, but I don’t know what to do for this kid so that the game is fun for him. I’m not sure, but I would guess there are a lot more kids like this one than the ones written about in that Tribune article, and that’s the real shame.

    Winslow Follies

    Cleveland Browns TE Kellen Winslow Jr. was injured in a motorcycle accident the other day when he went flying over his handlebars. He suffered some internal injuries, as well as injuries to his shoulder and knee. The injuries are not life-threatening. He was wearing a helmet, but didn't have it strapped on, so it came off when he flipped.

    Winslow may have violated his contract by even riding a motorcycle. There is standard language in NFL contracts that prohibit players from engaging in dangerous activities. I assume they mean besides playing football.

    Winslow's only played about a game and a half in his rookie season last year because he suffered a broken leg. Now, he may miss a big chunk, if not all, of this season.

    Winslow has a $40M contract with the Browns, but paid back last year's signing bonus ($5.3M) because of the injury, and may be required to do so with this year's bonus ($4.4M).

    In Chicago, when we read this story, we think of Jay (or is it Jason) Williams. Williams was a rookie with the Bulls when he wrecked his motorcycle a couple of years ago and nearly killed himself, not to mention ended his basketball career. It looks like Winslow is a little luckier than that.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2005

    Drop That Burrito!

    Someone saw a kid bring something 3-foot long and wrapped in foil into a school and called 911. Fortunately, no one else overreacted. :)

    Here's a link to the story.

    Monday, May 02, 2005

    Foot-in-Mouth Disease Claims Another Victim

    Oklahoma University baseball coach Larry Cochell resigned yesterday because of the fallout from using a racial slur during an off-camera interview with ESPN earlier in the week.

    According to ESPN, Cochell, who is white (obviously), used the slur while praising outfielder Joe Dunigan, who is black. The network reported that he said, “There is no very bad word in him.”

    Later in the interview, Cochell said “There are honkies and white people, and there are very bad word and black people. Dunigan is a good black kid.”

    Cochell had been the Sooners’ coach since 1991, winning a College World Series in 1994.

    Shockingly, there has been no comment yet from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

    It never ceases to amaze me how people still say things like this publicly.

    Here’s a link to the USA Today story.

    Cubs Done Early – Again

    I’m a die-hard Cubs fan, which is really a misnomer. We should be called die-often Cubs fans, because that’s what happens every year. For the last 97 years, we have been waiting for the next Cubs’ World Series title, and it looks like that wait will be extended one more year.

    This year has been a disaster from the beginning, when Mark Prior (staff ace) and Joe Borowski (closer) started the year on the DL. Prior has come back and pitched reasonably well, or at least until yesterday, when the Astros teed him up. Borowski was expected to be there and he’s still not ready to come back.

    That has left the closing duties to nobody in particular. LaTroy Hawkins has been doing most of the damage, blowing two of his first six save chances. He converted 25 of 34 a year ago, so he’s not far off that pace again.

    After Hawkins’ last blown save, Chad Fox was given a chance and he came through. In true Cub fashion, he celebrated that accomplishment by blowing out his surgically-repaired elbow the next night, and his career may be over. So, now the Cubs are back to Hawkins.

    Meanwhile, Kerry Wood appears to be ready for his traditional two-month trip to the DL. Wood has been pulled early from his last two starts with soreness in his shoulder. A lot of people think the Cubs ought to make a closer out of Wood, but his stuff is so nasty when he’s on, that it’s hard to give up on him as a starter just yet. However, if his arm continues to show it can’t handle the strain of starting for a complete season, maybe it’s time to consider that move.

    In the everyday lineup, much was made about trying to replace the production of Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou, but the Cubs are scoring runs. They are third in the NL in that department. Derrek Lee, who is a notorious slow starter, has been one of the best players in the NL so far. Jeromy Burnitz was brought in to take Sosa’s spot in RF, and he actually has better numbers than Sosa so far this year. Corey Patterson has been pretty good, but I’d like to see him run more. He has only one stolen base so far.

    So they have managed to persevere offensively with the losses of SS Nomar Garciaparra, who was expected to provide some of the punch to replace Alou and Sosa, and who may not be back this year, and Todd Walker, who may be back sometime this month.

    No, the Cubs problem has been pitching. Its super-stud starting staff of Prior, Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux has been anything but super. Prior is the only one with an ERA below 4.00. Wood and fifth starter Ryan Dempster, who is still trying to regain form after a serious injury, are a lot closer to 6.00. Zambrano, who might actually be the most talented of the bunch, hasn’t been able to keep his cool. He’s been ejected from his last two starts (although he got ejected the first time leaving the mound after being replaced). That kind of explosiveness is not helpful. He might even get a suspension, although since none has been handed down yet, maybe he won’t this time. It’s just a matter of time before he gets one though.

    It’s hard to say a team is done when it’s at .500 and only 3 ½ games back of the lead on May 1st, but when you consider the injuries, and the fact that they couldn’t take advantage of a relatively easy April schedule, and the fact that the Cardinals are off to a pretty good start, they’re done.

    At least it doesn’t look like they’ll tease Cubs fans all year like they did the last two years. They have put us into our misery early.

    Sunday, May 01, 2005

    Criminals R Stupid

    My best friend is a cop, so not only do I get to hear some interesting stories, but I also get to hear some of the tricks and techniques used in law enforcement. One thing that is universal is that criminals are stupid, and eventually they will make a mistake that causes their crimes to be solved.

    Often, what happens is that the crooks brag about their crimes to friends and/or family, and those people turn them in. What happened this week was even dumber.

    Three roofers from Massachusetts claimed to have found a stash of old currency buried in the yard of a friend. The story became national news, and a couple of the guys were making rounds at the various network talk shows, telling their story and showing off the loot.

    While they were doing this, the police figured out that these guys had stolen the money from a home where they had done repair work. One of the guys confessed to this, saying they had made up the buried treasure story to cover the theft.

    His lawyer is trying to get the confession thrown out, so we’ll have to see where this story leads. Still, you don’t often see thieves steal something, and then go on national TV to show off their ill-gotten booty.

    Out of the Box Problem Solving

    There were a couple of lessons this week in how to solve a problem by thinking out of the box.

    The first problem belonged to a student at Trinity International University in suburban Chicago. She didn’t like the school, but her parents wanted her to stay there, so she came up with a way to convince her parents to let her leave.

    She sent racially threatening letters to a few of her fellow students, which caused a panic on the campus. The school moved all its minority students off campus for a couple of days while this was being investigated. A couple of days later, the woman, Alicia Hardin of Chicago, was arrested and supposedly confessed.

    Hardin is black, and the idea was that if her parents felt the school was unsafe, they would let her leave. Well, she’s gone now, and she faces charges of disorderly conduct and hate crimes. The hate crime charges may land her some time in a federal pen.

    The second problem belonged to Jennifer Wilbanks of Duluth, GA. Wilbanks was to be married Saturday, but she was starting to get cold feet. Of course, the way most people handle this problem is to discuss her fears with her fiancĂ© and her family and try to work things out, but she didn’t do this.

    She ran away and hid. Literally. She went for a jog and disappeared. Naturally, her friends and family panicked, fearing the worst. They, along with police and volunteers, tore up Duluth trying to find her, but could not. A couple of days later, she turned up in Albuquerque, NM and called home. When she called, she made up a story of a kidnapping at the hands of a middle-aged couple driving a blue van, but she later confessed that she made that up and had taken a bus to Las Vegas, and then Albuquerque, where her money ran out.

    Prosecutors are now trying to decide whether or not to charge her with, perhaps among other things, filing a false police report. Her fiancé has supposedly forgiven her, but it might be a while before the townfolk in Duluth do.

    It's this kind of out of the box problem solving that has made America what it is today - cynical.

    Every incident like these makes people want to look the other way the next time something like this happens, except that next time it might be real. You end up with a story like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, except that it's not one person doing all the crying. Because of the selfishness of people like these, every person or organization who really needs help is looked at skeptically instead of lovingly, and we're all hurt by that.