What my obituary might say

So I just clicked on a link I found to get my obituary, filled out some questions and got this ...


That's nice. But I've always hoped it would be somewhat more eloquent ...

* * *

We had 50-degree weather yesterday, and now the temperature guage reads 6 degrees and it's looking like the second Ice Age has arrived outside. The wind is blowing so hard, I'm fearing Kates and I might wake up tomorrow with no walls around us ...

* * *

Today at work we had to watch an instructional video about how to sneeze properly. That is what it's come to ...


Sunday reading

... So I got my ice skating fix today. Woo hoo! ... It's not a Wisconsin winter without getting on the frozen pond at least once a year ...

That was the highlight of the day. Here was the lowlight ...

When I put my contacts in this morning, I knew immediately something wasn't right. And when I went back to the bathroom to try adjusting them, I didn't do much good ... Nevertheless, I pressed on, and Kates and I attended church, even though I was having so much trouble seeing out of my right eye I could barely make out the words in the hymnal ...

I tried adjusting them once more after we got home. But now the contact in my right eye was stuck to my eyeball -- I thought. I must've dumped almost half a bottle of saline solution on my eye to try getting it out, but nothing seemed to work. Ok, that can happen, I thought, I'll just try to get through the rest of the afternoon and hope it dries out enough that it just falls out ...

So we went ice skating ... And once we returned home again, I was back at it, trying to get that contact out of my right eye. I tried more saline solution. More rubbing my eye ... By the time Kates and I ate supper tonight, I was in such inexplicable pain and agony. I had practically gouged my eye ...

Only to realize at about 8:30 tonight that the contact lense I had been trying to fix all day was never in my eye ...

Oh, the pain and suffering.

Here's some of the good reads that piqued my interest during the last week ...

Sports ...
a Wrigley Field would get new neighbors under developer's proposal for hotel, apartments ... ugh.
a Lets stop pretending Wrigleyville is perfect ... I think this guy is a Sox fan.
a Albert Pujols still angry over being linked to Mitchell Report on steroids ... I'll give him the benefit of the doubt -- and I love the guy, really. But honestly, I was kind of surprised not to see his name on the list ...
a Deal with it: Bud is staying
a Brady's world an altar-nate universe
a Cardinals' unique stadium set to take center stage at Super Bowl

Politics ...
a How Will We Survive Another Year ... this one's a little old, but still relevant.
a Tribune endorses Obama
a The Kennedys embrace Obama
a The man behind the message: When Sen. Barack Obama gets behind a podium, he’s got a 26-year-old speechwriter to thank for his powerful words
a Obama's misuse of history
a Debate gets fiercely personal
a Why stop short? The Clintons are lying about Obama's remarks on Reagan
a A Clinton twofer's high price ... Great column. One thing I've learned in life is good times can rarely be duplicated ...
a President Heckler ... more great commentary on Bill.
a Billary's Adventures in Primaryland ... and more.
a The politics of personality: Do you like these people?
a Transformer candidates: It's amazing to watch the presidential contenders bend and twist into whatever they need to be

Entertainment ...
a Garth Brooks is almost the retiring sort
a Grammy-nominated videos include Feist, Johnny Cash ... The Feist video and Mute Math's "Typical" are by far the videos of the year ...
a Marketers announce ad lineup for Super Bowl
a Marketers going all out to make impression on Super Bowl audience
a NBC's new `Lipstick Jungle' similar to ABC's `Cashmere Mafia,' but neither series measures up ... Too bad. And yet, not surprising. We're still watching "Mafia," but it's starting to wear thin ...
a Ritter's family says he didn't have to die ... very interesting.
a Southern-bred actress has field day with role of devious co-worker ... Angela Kinsey rocks.

Life & other stuff ...

a Dubious title for O'Hare: World's most flight cancellations
a 10 Things Your IT Department Won't Tell You

The Onion ...

Brett Favre Still Taking Post-Game Shower

The Onion

Brett Favre Still Taking Post-Game Shower

GREEN BAY, WI—The Packers confirmed Wednesday evening that quarterback Brett Favre had yet to emerge from the Lambeau Field locker-room shower...


In love with Juno

… It’s been a long, long time since I’ve really, thoroughly enjoyed a movie. Years, I would say. A loooooong time. I was beginning to worry I was losing touch. That the movie industry really was more interested in quick cash and not quality content. That I’d become too jaded …

Never mind. Kates and I saw “Juno” today.

It's the story of snarky 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, who gets pregnant after having sex with her nerdy friend Paulie Bleeker. After getting freaked out of having an abortion, Juno finds the courage to tell her supportive parents and decides to give her baby to a couple who she thinks will be the perfect parents … What ensues is a wonderfully-told story of love, life and growing up -- and "the bumps along the way." … (See the trailer here.)

Quite honestly, I knew very little about the film -- the writer's strike has me all out of whack -- other than it’s been getting a lot of positive buzz. And I’ve seen stories raving about the appeal of the soundtrack … So when Kates and I made plans to see a movie last night, “Juno” was our top choice. But then I got stuck late at work and one thing led to another and we opted not to see it, instead making a pact to see it this evening…

I literally had chills running through my spine as the end credits rolled, I thought it was so beautifully done.

Smart screenplay, check. Great cast and acting, check. Sweet cinematography, check. Soundtrack I’d love to get my hands on, check.

It also helped that Kates and I are going through the whole pregnancy thing right now

The movie is being dubbed a comedy -- and there certainly are a multitude of HA-larious, laugh-out loud scenes. All you had to do was spend five minutes in the theater with our audience this afternoon and you had your proof … But it’s not at all farcical or over-the-top; it’s pretty realistic …

Ellen Page’s portrayal of Juno is Oscar-worthy and it had me hooked from the moment I saw her chugging orange juice in the opening scene and saying, “It started with a chair.” … Allison Janney as Juno’s step mom Bren is, well, as good and talented as Allison Janney always has been … And that’s just the start of what’s about as close to perfect casting as you could have. Rainn Wilson has a memorable turn also as the store clerk who sells Juno her pregnancy tests ...

Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody nailed it, too … There wasn’t a point in the film that I could’ve said to myself, I know where this is going. Even as Juno and Jason Bateman’s father-to-be character, Mark, embark on a somewhat creepy relationship, the dynamics change again and the story takes another turn …

I could go on, but for the sake of trying to keep this post short, I’ll stop. Honest to blog.

And now we’re watching “Little Miss Sunshine” for the second time. Not as good as “Juno,” but still an endearing movie everyone should see at least once. In fact, I'm thinking it's better the second time … Steve Carell so should have won an Oscar for his role.

Good "Juno" reads ...
a 'Juno': This Year's Cinderella May Actually Be Oscar Favorite
a Juno star Ellen Page is expecting - an Oscar
a 'Juno' Soundtrack More Goo-Goo Than Gaga ... I don't completely agree with J. Freedom du Lac's assertions, but he gives a good description of what the "Juno" music offers.
a `Juno' Oscar Ascent Complete With 4 Noms
a A look at 'Juno' and pro-life Hollywood

UPDATE 03.12.08
Some Christian-related reads about "Little Miss Sunshine" ...
a From The World According to Lief
a Little Miss Sunshine and the Christian Facade...
a Who's the True Little Miss Sunshine?


Idiot sightings

Thanks to my mother for this one. I should also note this post for additional idiot sightings ...
We had to have the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a "large" enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, "Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower." I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, "NO, it's not." Four is larger than two.." We haven't used Sears repair since.

My daughter and I went through the McDonald's take-out window and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, "you gave me too much money." I said, "Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back." She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me to repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter, and said “We’re sorry but they could not do that kind of thing." The clerk then proceeded to give me back $1 and 75 cents in change.

I live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road. The reason: "Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore."

My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceburg lettuce.

I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how
would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."

The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged co-worker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind
people doing driving?!" She was a probation officer in Wichita, Kan.

I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the sake of her life, couldn't understand why her system would not turn on.

When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the drivers side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "its open!" His reply, "I know. I already got that side."


Tom Brady's foot

Why!? are we talking about Tom Brady's foot.

So he was spotted walking in a cast. Big deal.

He's Tom Brady. He's with the Patriots. And the Super Bowl is still 11 days away.

David Letterman had the line of the season the other night after his guest Dan Patrick predicted the Giants would win the Super Bowl ... Letterman told Patrick, The Giants could be up 60 to nothing at halftime, and the Patriots would still win the game 67-60. They're that good!

But you know what? I'm with Patrick. I would not be surprised if the Giants did win.

Onion reads

The Onion

Bill Clinton: 'Screw It, I'm Running For President'

CHARLESTON, SC—"My fellow Americans, I am sick and tired of not being president," Clinton announced while introducing his wife at a "Hillary '08" rally...

Jessica Simpson Completes Elaborate Plan To Destroy Cowboys Season

The Onion

Jessica Simpson Completes Elaborate Plan To Destroy Cowboys' Season

DALLAS—Speaking to reporters she had invited into her impenetrable subterranean Texas lair on Monday, Jessica Simpson gloated over the victory she recently achieved after nearly two years of using her personal charms, her unique brand of...

Sports Through With Helping New Orleans Recover

The Onion

Sports Through With Helping New Orleans Recover

NEW ORLEANS—Following this year's BCS National Championship game, held in New Orleans' Louisiana Superdome, commissioners from all amateur...


When news breaks

So Heath Ledger died this afternoon...


My cohort Brian was the first one to get the news alert about 3:30 ... to which all of us responded with reactions of What!? ... No way! ... You're kidding!

The first thing I did to try to get some confirmation was Google his name and then look for Wikipedia ...

Sure enough, there it was on Wiki ...
Heathcliff Andrew Ledger[1] (April 4, 1979January 22, 2008) was an Academy Award-nominated Australian actor. ... Ledger died in New York City on January 22, 2008.[2]
He hadn't been dead for a half hour and Wikipedia already had it, complete with a tag to say the article was about a person who died recently ...

When the proposal came to post the breaking news on our Web site, someone asked if we even had enough to report. I said, "Who cares. Just link to Wikipedia. 'Stay tuned to Wikipedia where our breaking news reporters are on the scene for this developing story!' "

Ah, the Internet.

Calling all baseball card lovers ...

My good friend Matty sent me this blog about ugly baseball cards.

For kids like me and you who grew up collecting these cards in the '80s ... All I can say is this blog totally rocks!

How do you entertain a top entertainer?

Have I mentioned how much I like Frank Caliendo?

Here's some snippets from his homecoming in Milwaukee over the weekend ...


The mourning after

Yeah, we watched the Packers game last night. Wore our Packers pride and cheered our hearts out ...

And lost.

Not a whole lot you can do.

Plaxico Burress played the game of his life. And Eli Manning is finally playing consistently well ...

The Packers didn't establish a running game, and gave up on it way too early ...

It was a game of missed opportunities. Fumbles the Packers had right under their grips and didn't pick up. Balls that should have been intercepted when they sailed over a Giants receiver and dropped in front of four guys in green and yellow closing in on the receiver ...

The Packers watched two missed field goals by the Giants, and still couldn't capitalize ... Given all that had happened -- and hadn't happened -- you knew Lawrence Tynes was destined to hit that winning field goal -- whether it was 47 yards or 77 yards. Another classic championship game ending.

On the bright side ... It was a fantastically-fun season, which few people could have seen coming at this time last year. Brett Favre recaptured some of his old magic, and we discovered some new fan favorites too in Ryan Grant and that dazzling receiving core ... And Last week's "Snow Globe" game was the perfect ride before the crash.

Just like the Brewers so-close-but-not-close-enough season.

Course, me being the superstitious sports fan, I'm finding excuses all over the place ... The Packers being on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week. The fact Kates and I wore our Packers sweatshirts today -- after we hadn't worn them the entire season. The fact that my office prepared and reserved an extra batch of Packers material to last through the Super Bowl...


Nope, not a whole lot you can do.

Except get into rooting for the Jayhawks. And remembering that pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks.

Packers reads ...
a It's the chill of victory
a Bitter pill for Favre, Packers to swallow
a Father arrested for forcing son to wear Green Bay Packers jersey
a Packers fans show their love ... and craziness ... another good one from my friend Raechel.
a Giants, Pats endure cold, advance to Super Bowl
a Packersnews.com


God's country

My mother passed this on today ...

Terry Bradshaw was in New England to announce a football game one weekend when he noticed a special telephone near the Patriots' bench. He asked quarterback Tom Brady what it was used for and was told it was a hotline to God. Terry asked if he could use it. Brady replied, "Sure, but it will cost you $200." Terry scratched his head, then thought, "What the heck, I need help picking games." He pulled out his wallet and paid $200. Terry's picks were perfect that week.

The next week, Terry was in Indianapolis when he noticed that same kind of phone on the Colts bench.He asked what the telephone was for and Manning told him, "It's a hotline to God if you want to use it, it will cost you $500." Recalling the previous week, Terry pulled out his wallet without hesitation and made the call. Terry's picks were perfect again that week.

Last weekend, Terry was in Green Bay, when he noticed the same kind of telephone by the Packers' bench. He asked Brett Favre, "Is that the hotline to God?" Favre said, "Yes, and if you want to use it, it will cost you 50 cents." Terry looked incredulously at Favre and said, "Wait a second, I just paid $200 in New England and $500 in Indianapolis to use the same phone to God! Why do the Packers only charge 50 cents?" Favre replied, "Because in Green Bay, it's a local call...Welcome to God's Country."

Sunday reading

Good reads that caught my eyes during the last couple weeks ...

Sports ...
a Kids' area to be part of Miller Park renovations ... This is great, but shouldn't parents be watching their children and not the game?
a Cubs execs try to calm stomachs
a Hearings confirm success of the Mitchell Report
a 2 wrongs only double the offense
a Atomic apples spoiling this bunch
a Observations from a nearly perfect NFL weekend

TV ...
a Suzanne Pleshette, sexy star of 'Bob Newhart Show,' dies at 70
a If the directors cut the right deal, it could save Hollywood from civil war
a 'American Idol' returns as a bright spot on strike-stricken horizon

Media & technology ...
a Thinly Sliced Laptop Polishes Apple's Image
a Baltimore Sun's 'Wire' Portrayal Fuels a Hot Debate

Politics ...
a Romney and reporter tangle at press conference
a Why Obamamania? Because He Runs as The Great White Hope

Life & other stuff ...
a Chihua-wheels: Disabled dogs get rolling
a The Battle To Remold the Mall
a Band of Scouting Misfits Attains Eagle Ranking
a Is Decade Doomed To Anonymity?
a No Assembly Required: For Ikea's Live-In Weblebrity, Reality Comes at a Discount

Sunday morning

Kates is becoming my little sports fan more and more every day …

This morning, having decided we weren’t leaving the house today (the temperature gauge outside reads 2 degrees, and we’ve got ice glazing our windows …), we ate breakfast while I had “Outside the Lines” and “The Sports Reporters” going on ESPN …

While I mostly just took it in, Kates was spouting her sports opinions on report after report …

On Roger Clemens' upcoming date with congress: “Everyone think Roger’s guilty, it’s McNamee they all believe …”

On Jokim Noah’s rookie problems with the Bulls: He's the problem with the Bulls. He's all we've been hearing about since they got him ..."

And on Golf Week's noose cover: "Tiger said he didn't have a problem with the broadcaster. They're only making it worse..."

Ah, I've succeeded. I've taught her well.

* * *

So we finally got around to watching "Babel" last night -- you know that film that was an Oscar contender last year ...

And so it goes.

Interesting film. I can definitely see the comparisons to "Crash" ... Though I didn't care much for the storyline about the deaf Japanese girl, each of the storylines grew more compelling as the film moved on and there were some good aha! moments when they finally started to fit together ...

* * *

Kates and I watched the final pre-strike "30 Rock" this morning.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Never thought I'd say it a couple years ago, but "30 Rock" is my new favorite sitcom.

The musical finale -- Midnight Train to Georgia! with Gladys Knight! -- in the last episode was awesome! Classic ...


For 'Rent'

So my friend Raechel tipped me off today that 'Rent' will close later this year ...

My jaw dropped and my heart sunk for a moment as I read the news. Dang.

It's like losing a figurative member of the family. Like Ben Folds Five and Toad the Wet Sprocket breaking up, like 'Friends' finally going off the air, like the day I got married -- it's another string to my golden youth being severed ...

Along with my high school gang of friends and a good section of my generation, I fell hard for the rock musical on the heels of its four Tony Awards and Pulitzer. Its inspiring "No Day But Today" message was engrained in me. My friends and I would blast the soundtrack in our high school auditorium, and at home I played it constantly, causing my parents to question my reasons more than once ...

One of the greatest thrills in my life remains actually seeing the production on Broadway ... And seeing the musical finally making it to film was icing on the cake.

Those warm memories and images will always make me smile.

American dreams

Grab your kids. Lock the doors. Grab some popcorn ...

It's American Idol time. Kates and I were rookies last year, but we survived. Now we're back for a second dose, and this review sums it up perfectly ...
The start of the Idol season is a lot like recommitting oneself to fitness excellence after seven months of sloth.

There's at least a little bit of dread: ''Wait, Idol's back already? What if this season is a bust? What if there's nobody in the finals I want to root for? What if Simon makes fun of a mentally challenged kid at the auditions again?'' There's most certainly pain: Milo Turk's ''No Sex Allowed'' was a triple assault on my ears, my eyes, and any love I may have ever felt for novelty songs. There might be a few tears: Oh, Temptress Browne, I'd have joined that group hug in a skinny minute! (More on that in a moment.) But by the time you're finished with the workout (or, yes, the season premiere), you realize something: ''Hey, I'm suddenly chock-full of endorphins. I feel amazing. I'm going to go back tomorrow, and at least twice a week from now until the end of May!''

... So let's get to the point: I wasn't as impressed with last night's premiere as I remembered being last year. I was a little frustrated that last night's show seemed to spend much more time focusing on the bad auditions then the talented singers ...

But there was a whole lot to like. ... Kristy Lee Cook was good. Junot Joyner did one of my favorite Elton John songs well. And Chicago girl Angela Martin, her heart-wrenching back story aside (her daughter has Rett syndrome) shined. But my favorite was easily the final audition of the night, the charming blonde Brooke White. Her rendition of Corrine Bailey Rae's "Like a Star" was better than the real thing. (Check out her MySpace and this blog post.)

My favorite audition bombs of the night: Alexis Cohen was a disaster, but snooty Christina "Princess Leia" Tolisano -- and her rant about Idol only taking models for its contestants -- was plain nuclear.

* * *

... So I had an interesting dream last night.

... I dreamt I was part of some group of agents preparing to carry out an assassination attempt against a leader, possibly of another country (I was up late last night watching a couple fascinating! documentaries about Kennedy's assassination and all of the surrounding conspiracy theories -- none of which, by the way, have held up... Read about the documentaries I watched here and here.) ...

The imagery of the dream is fading this morning. But I remember scenes of preparation and lurking around a ritzy hotel with my partners -- sort of like Danny Ocean's 11 at the Bellagio, though the hotel was more classic 1940s than glitzy Las Vegas ...

And then I remember, just before we were about to carry out this plot, our group was sitting on the floor of a hotel conference room, in a circle, a la Sunday School like we were about to sing Kum-bay-ya... The plot began to unravel right in front of us as opposing leaders, who were previously unaware of the plot, began to question our motives like some sort of congressional hearing ...

Arguing ensued, and suddenly I shot to my feet, pounded my fists on a table in front of me and shouted something like "Enough!"

A man sitting across the table, who I think was an attorney I know, looked at me and asked sternly, "So what should we do?"

I couldn't answer him, no matter how badly I wanted to speak my opinion. I was speechless.

And that's all I remember of the dream ... My lack of aggression and assertiveness in certain situations has dogged me in recent months. I wonder if this has anything to do with that ...


Worth watching

Last night was a good one for Letterman ...

Katie Holmes in her first television interview since marrying Tom Cruise and giving birth to the infamous Suri ... Pretty good stuff. For all the tabloid fodder and gossip surrounding TomKat -- and I was never a fan of Dawson's Creek nor have I ever paid much attention to Holmes -- I found her to be incredibly endearing, charming and down-to-earth ...

And then Frank Caliendo was on too. A can't miss. Love him.

And finally, keeping with the humor, I got this video from my friend Laura. HA-larious ...

Mom sells rule-breaking son's car

This is classic ...

Jane Hambleton has dubbed herself the "meanest mom on the planet."

After finding alcohol in her son's car, she decided to sell the car and share her 19-year-old's misdeed with everyone — by placing an ad in the local newspaper. The ad reads: "OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."

Hambleton has heard from people besides interested buyers since recently placing the ad in The Des Moines Register.

The 48-year-old from Fort Dodge says she has fielded more than 70 telephone calls from emergency room technicians, nurses, school counselors and even a Georgia man who wanted to congratulate her. "The ad cost a fortune, but you know what? I'm telling people what happened here," Hambleton says. "I'm not just gonna put the car for resale when there's nothing wrong with it, except the driver made a dumb decision. "It's overwhelming the number of calls I've gotten from people saying 'Thank you, it's nice to see a responsible parent.' So far there are no calls from anyone saying, 'You're really strict. You're real overboard, lady.'"

The only critic is her son, who Hambleton says is "very, very unhappy" with the ad and claims the alcohol was left by a passenger.

Hambleton believes her son but has decided mercy isn't the best policy in this case. She says she set two rules when she bought the car at Thanksgiving: No booze, and always keep it locked.

The car has been sold, but Hambleton says she will continue the ad for another week — just for the feedback.


Fun and games

I read this passage yesterday on a music blog that was talking about the sorry state of our world and challenging, for a lack of a better description, the little people to do what they can to make things better ...

dream big, you f**kers -- start with an idea, think it through, make it happen
I’m making it my mantra for 2008.

* * *

It's been bitterly cold here the last couple days ... Bring back the 60-degree tornado weather.

* * *

Kates and I have officially started work on the baby’s room. We’re re-doing what once was Kates’ office …

The room is already orange, which we decided to keep because there are bits of orange in some of the décor we’ve picked out

We also thought it would be a great idea to paint the ceiling yellow -- also taken from bits of our décor.

But when the yellow went on the ceiling Sunday night, Kates hated it … And for the record, I wasn’t exactly keen on it at first, either. But the more I studied it, the more I liked it -- it gave the room sort of a cool, whimsical feel, I thought.

Still, after 24 hours, Kates wasn’t bending …

So guess what I was doing last night?

That’s right -- painting the ceiling back to its former wedding cake white.

* * *

I’m still enjoying the respite from trying to keep up with a constant flow of TV shows. Sorry, Writer’s Guild.

Two weeks ago “Desperate Housewives” signed off with the cap on its tornado saga. (How interesting was that -- and then we had an actual tornado the next day!?)

Thursday we watched the final “Grey's Anatomy” -- which, for all my whining about how bad it’s become, actually shaped up decently in its last few episodes.

And Sunday night we caught the final “Brothers & Sisters.” Love it. Wonderful, human drama.

But for all the crying about reality shows taking over the primetime airwaves, so far the networks are doing a decent job of filling some of the slots …

Kates and I do like the new “Cashmere Mafia,” … though reviews have been less than favorable.

And we’re welcoming back “According to Jim,” “Old Christine” and “Lost” -- Lost!! -- with open arms …

That, and bring on the Jayhawk basketball. I watched Saturday’s win at Nebraska and last night’s blowout of Oklahoma with glee (good to see George Brett at the game!) … But I shutter every time an analyst calls them the best team in the nation, because that only sets us up for another choke …

* * *

Time for some Internet fun.

I got this Frank Sinatra spoof from a friend who suggested this be played at all airports ...

I also received this video from a friend. The video apparently is of a phone call placed by a boy to a Houston radio station ...


Sunday reading

What a weekend for football ...

That Packers-Seahawks game!? Awesome ... Kates and I were putting our Christmas decorations away as we watched it, but with all that snow it seemed like we should have been putting them up! Ryan Grant was phenomenal. The whole season has been phenomenal ...

As Kates and I were out for lunch today we over heard an older man say "The only thing the Bears did this year was teach the Packers how to play in the snow." Got that right. If Green Bay would have done just a few things differently in their three losses, we could very well be talking about two perfect teams in the NFL this year ...

And then did anyone think the Patriots were going to lose? Right.

Then today. As we settled in for the games I mused out loud that if everything fell into place, next weekend would be a doozy: Patriots-Colts. Cowboys-Packers ... Ah, but it wasn't meant to be ...

I was rooting for the Colts, though I'm not entirely surprised the Chargers took care of them ... and then! How' bout them Giants!? I'm sure the whole neighborhood heard us hoopin' and hollerin' when R.W. McQuarters intercepted Tony Romo's final pass. Kates and I looked at each other, slapped a high five and chimed "See ya in Green Bay!"

Good stuff.

Catching up on several weeks worth of good reads. Here they are ...

Sports ...
a Which teams got their holiday wishes?
a Dawson getting robbed worse than Santo ... It doesn't matter. They both deserve to get in.
a Price high for Orioles' Roberts: But Cubs seem ready to add Marshall to get quality leadoff man ... Sounds like a good deal to me ... as long as it doesn't include Matt Murton.
a Alderman wary of Wrigley deal ... I kind of side with the alderman on this one. No one wants to see Wrigley turn into some schmaltzy, over-commercialized ballpark -- at least no more than it is already.
a Dope Springs Eternal ... Good stuff from my friend Matt.
a Favre in charge: There's just no beating St. Brett ... Fercripesakes! Have I mentioned how much fun we're having this season!? My friend Raechel sent this one ...

Media & the Internet ...
a Zero tolerance on the air: Even Woods' defense can't keep golf analyst from paying for remark
a Sun-Times wrestles with new reality
a Chicago Sun-Times newsroom layoffs only just beginning
a William Shatner and Priceline.com have both benefited from his stint as company spokesman
a People Are Doing Double-Takes, And Taking Action, As Web Snapshots Are Nabbed for Commercial Uses

Politics ...
a CLASS PRESIDENT 2008 ... a good perspective.
a Obama: Judge Him by His Laws
a Obama Tries to Prove Electability to Blacks in S.C.
a Parties Trading Places
a High-profile backers offer message and momentum
a Presidential Pet Display Finds a Place to Park ... now this is an exhibit I could really dig.
a Playing That '70s Funk Again, but Not in a Good Way ... Interesting how history repeats itself.
a Women Are Never Front-Runners

TV & Entertainment ...
a Ad-Libbing Late-Night Shows' Return ...Letterman and "A Daily Show" haven't been too bad so far ... Letterman shaving his beard during the show and having Goose Gossage deliver a Top 10 list? Not bad at all.
a Letterman, Leno, Conan and Kimmel return to late night talk shows
a Late-night hosts back on schedule: Audience may prove tough to draw back ... I could see it.
a Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had their jokes ready. Clearly there was some writing going on
a A sequel with the same ending: As they did in the '88 writers strike, the studios are pushing themselves out of the picture
a Jamie Lynn Spears is not the first teen to have a baby
a As Scripts Run Out, Reality Kicks In
a A TV Lover's Lament ... Um. I don't miss it so much.
a 'Daisies' is lone new broadcast TV show to earn Globe nod ... Ok. I am missing 'Daisies.'
a Writers' Work Stoppage Will Soon Have Quite an Impact. Here's What's at Stake
a Katherine Heigl: outspoken
a Rainn Wilson: My Life During the Strike

Music ...
a The industry watches Radiohead's experiment as the album arrives on CD months after its online release
a Hannah Montana's double -- Report: Transformation to Miley Cyrus during concert involves stand-in ... interesting revelation. And in related (ludicrous!) news: Mom Apologizes for Hannah Montana Essay

Life & other stuff ...
a City residents can trade in Christmas trees
a Last Air Jordans? Nike unveils 23rd Air Jordan ... and I've never ever owned a pair.
a Tata Reveals World's Cheapest Car
a 15 Weirdest Work Stories of 2007
a Picturing the World, Around Us ... Saw this exhibit several weeks ago. It's good stuff.
a C'mon, Get Happy? It's Easier Said Than Done
a 50 things I've learned in 50 years, a partial list in no particular order
a Make it a new year, not just another year ... a New Year's resolution all of us should live by.


Sounds from the tornado

It's been one heck of a week ... (In case you missed them, here's Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.)

Yesterday, we got our hands on the 911 recordings from the minutes before and after the tornado hit on Monday ...

Fascinating is the only word to describe them. We got two recordings, each unedited and lasting about 30 minutes in real-time. One is a recording of the communications between the county's dispatch center and sheriff's deputies, and the other is of actual 911 calls placed by the public ...

Both start with the report of a traffic accident that occurred minutes before the tornado touched down, just outside the very subdivision that was hardest hit ... What follows is an amazing contrast between deputies calmly taking instructions from a dispatcher and returning reports on what they've found ... and then there are the 911 callers who are first dumbfounded that tornado sirens are going off in January -- some of the exchanges between callers and dispatchers are plain comical. But several minutes into the 911 recordings the lines go eerily silent -- and then, in an instant, the dispatch center is inundated with frantic calls from residents who are trapped in basements, or looking at a neighbor's flattened house. It's a chilling stream of audio ...

For the sheriff's communications, click here. For the 911 calls, click here ... Keep in mind, these recordings are about 30 minutes long; they run in real-time and therefore have some portions of silence. But if you have the time, they're worth a listen ...

During points of listening to the 911 recordings yesterday, I was rolling my eyes at some callers and laughing at others. There was a ridiculous number of people who called 911 to ask why the tornado sirens were going ... Like a sheriff's source told me, No 1, 911 should not be used as an information line; it's an emergency line. And No. 2, if you see menacing skies and it's 60 degrees outside, you don't ask questions; the sirens are going -- that means you need to take cover.

Here are some of my favorite exchanges ...

Woman: “I just want to know why the sirens are going off?”
Dispatcher: “It’s not a test. It’s a warning”
Woman: “Oh. Ok, nothing to worry, though, right.”
Dispatcher: “No, that IS something to worry about.”
Woman: “Well, I don’t see nothing.”
Dispatcher: “Well, it’s there, ok?”

(This person identifies herself as an emergency management worker, which makes it even more amusing that she's calling to ask about the sirens ...)
Woman: “Hi, this is Cheryl, emergency management. I was in (indecipherable) and I just walked out and heard the sirens, um—”
Dispatcher: “Yes, it’s a tornado warning we just got through the time system and our fax.”
Woman: “Ok, and is it in our area here or how does the—”
Dispatcher: “Heading toward us.”

Man: “I’m just trying to find out if the tornado warning—”
Dispatcher: “It’s an actual warning.”
Man: “Ok, so people should—”
Dispatcher: “Take cover. Ok?”

Man: “I’m just trying to find out what that big ol’ siren was.”
Dispatcher: “That’s a tornado warning.”
Man: “It’s a tornado warning?”
Dispatcher: “It’s not a test.”
Man: “Ooooh. So I should get in the basement.”
Dispatcher: “Yes, you should.”

Man: “Yes, I was wondering if there was just a tornado in Silver Lake?”
Dispatcher: “There’s a tornado warning for the entire county.”
Man: “Ok. So there ain’t no tornadoes right now?”
Dispatcher: “No. It’s a warning, meaning that there are.”


More about that tornado

Here's a look at this morning's front page, Day Two of coverage ... and today's top story. There's also some great photos here and here.

Also, we did a search to uncover some of the videos posted on YouTube regarding the tornado and aftermath. Some are homemade; some are from local media. The first one is my favorite, simply for its sheer content and context ...


Destruction and awe

Like one newsman said tonight, we're used to shoveling snow in January. Not this ...

From one big story to another today. I live for these types of days; the stress sucks, the long hours are exhausting and I eat garbage, if at all -- but the adrenaline rush is unbeatable ... I was pulled off the murder trial last night, and this morning I was writing about the county's tornado damage. ... Initially, I had dressed in a good pair of pants and shoes, only to rethink my decision before leaving the house, knowing I could be entrenched in tornado damage ... By 9:30 this morning I was off to a news conference, and surrounded by another huge contingent of media -- I had to chuckle, too, when I saw that some of the reporters I'd huddled with in a basement yesterday were also off the trial and showing up at the news conference ...

As of tonight, we're being told the tornado that touched down in the western part of the county was an EF3 that stretched 200 yards wide and crossed about 10 miles; the one that hit just north of us was an EF1. More than 50 homes were damaged; about 160 people were rendered homeless. And the most amazing statistic is that just 15 people were injured and nobody was killed ... There's some amazing stories being told too -- like a teenage girl who apparently was sleeping in an upstairs bedroom when she awoke and saw the house next door go down and got to her basement just before her own house collapsed. And a pair of sheriff's deputies I talked with tonight were aiding the victim of a traffic crash when the tornado hit, sucked the air out of them like a vacuum and left them literally hanging on for their lives to police cars and fire trucks.

And believe it or not, the temperatures are dropping now and forecasters are predicting snow tonight ...

Here's some of the stuff worth seeing ...
a Kenosha News coverage ... including photos.
a WISN coverage
a Journal Times coverage
a Journal Sentinel coverage ... including today's NewsWatch blog.


Still another day

Up until about 3:45 p.m. today, the word of the day had been anti-climactic.

A couple cohorts and I had spent the day covering the opening arguments for a murder trial. And I had just finished another blog post about the ordeal -- the fact that there we were covering the beginning of a trial we’d been anticipating for years. It’s a fascinating story full of twists and turns and deceit ready-made for a Lifetime movie. The national media has latched on to it … and yet we’ve heard and seen this case evolve so much that when today finally arrived, it all seemed somewhat ordinary to us …

Then, just after the judge had dismissed the jury and was about to settle a dispute between attorneys over a line of questioning, a sheriff’s deputy bursts into the courtroom and instructs us to evacuate to the basement of the courthouse.

“There’s a tornado warning!” he says.

We all looked up with dropped jaws … Right. Nu-uh. You’re kidding. It’s January!

But the court clerk pulled up the weather report on her computer. Yep, there was a tornado warning. The deputy continued to get information: a funnel cloud had been spotted and it was heading our way.

We grabbed our laptops, our pens, our notepads, our equipment and followed several other courtrooms of jurors, judges, attorneys and citizens to the basement -- but stopped first of course to gaze out the window at the darkened sky (Hey, we‘re journalists, we live for this kind of stuff!). A couple camera crews even started rolling to capture the scene …

In the basement we waited for nearly a half hour. But we laughed a lot too, mused about the state of the jurors, and joked about the notion of having to start the trial -- which has already suffered six years of delays -- over again, or even that something as crazy as a tornado in January could be cause for a mis-trial.

By 4:30, we were back to our third floor digs and our media room. Court was back in session (though not for long) and now we couldn’t make contact with anyone back in our office to relay our story. It turned out they had ducked into the basement too, and they were getting hit harder than we had .

By 5 we had learned that parts of our county and the north side of the city were hit pretty hard. Several homes had collapsed and my phone was ringing so fast with pages and text messages I could hardly keep up. Outside the rain was pelting the building …

Yep. It’s rare enough that we get a tornado in this region. But it happened in January. The high temperature today was 63; until today the highest temperature recorded here in January had been like 47.

A little after 6, Kates called and said she was home safe and sound. Meanwhile, I was just about to start my drive home, although not entirely sure how … We were stationed in the next county over, and we had heard the major highway connecting the two counties was flooded and consumed with damage.

All I could do was get in the car and find my way. I drove through battering rain, menacing fog and watched some fiery lightning in the east. Then, sure enough, when I got to the county line there were nearly a dozen squad cars from three different agencies rerouting traffic. It was virtually impossible to get into the county. …

I ended up driving several miles north, getting turned around in a small town, and eventually ended up at a rural gas station, just behind a semi-truck. I filled my gas tank, and went inside the store looking for some food. And the trucker had a map sprawled on the counter as he asked the clerk for directions to another major highway. They looked at me for advice as I walked in.

I threw up my hands. “You’re in the same boat I am,” I said, before joining them at the counter and deciding that the best route was for us to head back south, into Illinois and around the bottom edge of the county until we could hook up with the Interstate.

It took me nearly two hours to get home tonight. But it worked.

Now Kates and I are marveling at the news coverage on the TV, seeing all the damage, and feeling thankful that we’re ok.

Quite a day. I'm tired.


Roger and Mitchell

I promised more about the Mitchell Report. I’m sorry it took tonight’s highly-touted Roger Clemens interview on “60 Minutes” to inspire me (Boy, would I like to see the ratings numbers on that one … I’m not sure I’ve ever received so many emails and text messages on a single subject in such a short time. They were coming in the minute it was over … ).

I’d sure like to believe Roger. The problem is we don’t know who to believe or trust anymore …

I have a bleacher row of friends who disagree with me on this, but I'm a Clemens fan. I can't recall seeing him bull-headed or surly with the media the way Barry Bonds has been. Clemens has had a long, sustained career, without the types of injuries a lot of guys supposedly using steroids have had. He’s also been a great ambassador of the game and a class act -- excluding, perhaps, the whole Piazza-Bat-Gate thing. And yes, I’d still vote for him to go into the Hall of Fame.

Then again, I’m not that naive. I wish I could turn a blind eye, and love the stars the way I did when I was a kid, before I knew any better …

Clemens, like Bonds, has somehow defied the odds and performed far better than guys have his age when his performance should have been declining. The stuff about him in the Mitchell Report is pretty damning, and his reputation is damaged no matter what happens.

Clemens’ biggest mistake was not getting in front of camera and speaking for himself the minute the Mitchell Report was published. Instead he let an attorney speak for him, and the negative public opinions of Clemens swelled while other guys came out and said, 'Yep, I'm in the report, I did it' or 'It's completely inaccurate' ... and when Clemens did start speaking it was hard to take him seriously. I’ve been thinking it all along, and this morning’s “Outside The Lines” illustrated it with some classic clips: Think of all the times we’ve watched someone vehemently deny some allegations only to watch the truth unravel in the weeks or years that followed -- Richard Nixon not being a crook, Pete Rose not betting on baseball, Bill Clinton not having sex with that woman. OJ Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Marion Jones, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and on and on and on …

And though the buzz on the Mitchell Report has simmered, I’m thinking this whole steroids thing is far from over. This is the biggest scandal Major League Baseball has had to deal with since the 1919 Black Sox, and no one's accepting blame

I wish Bud Selig would start accepting some blame. Donald Fehr needs to get out of the way. And the players had better start cooperating for the good of the game -- if only more of them spoke up the way Curt Schilling has ...

Baseball continues to break my heart. And I can't stop loving it ...

And I'm sick of talking about the game's long nightmare, too ... which is part of the reason it took me so long to post about it.

In the moments after "the list" came out I divided the names into a few categories. Here's the way I see them ...

Not surprised (Seriously. Most of these guys are the epitome of overrated, overpaid, injury-prone and forgotten in the blink of an eye. That or it’s just repeating what we already knew.)
Kevin Brown
David Justice
Paul Lo Duca
Mo Vaughn
Rick Ankiel
Barry Bonds
Ken Caminiti
Jose Canseco
Jason Giambi
Jeremy Giambi
Jay Gibbons
Juan Gonzalez
Jason Grimsley
Jose Guillen
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Wally Joyner
Gary Matthews Jr.
Rafael Palmeiro
Benito Santiago
David Segui
Gary Sheffield

Not surprised but still a little heartbroken (I heard the whispers of steroid use and saw the injuries, but still loved what they could do on the diamond.)
Brendan Donnelly
Eric Gagne
Andy Pettitte
Scott Schoeneweis
Miguel Tejada
Derrick Turnbow

I'm in denial he's on the list (Whether it was their abilities or the way they carried themselves … I really liked what they did and had hoped they knew better.)
Roger Clemens
Chris Donnels
Todd Hundley
Lenny Dykstra
Troy Glaus
Matt Williams

Who cares? (I haven’t heard of most of these guys, and the ones that I do know never excited me.)
Chad Allen
Mike Bell
Gary Bennett
Larry Bigbie
Alex Cabrera
Mark Carreon
Jason Christiansen
Howie Clark
Jack Cust
Matt Franco
Matt Herges
Phil Hiatt
Glenallen Hill
Mike Judd
Chuck Knoblauch
Tim Laker
Mike Lansing
Nook Logan
Josias Manzanillo
Cody McKay
Kent Mercker
Bart Miadich
Hal Morris
Daniel Naulty
Denny Neagle
Jim Parque
Luis Perez
Adam Piatt
Todd Pratt
Stephen Randolph
Adam Riggs
Armando Rios
Brian Roberts
F.P. Santangelo
Mike Stanton
Ricky Stone
Ismael Valdez
Ron Villone
Fernando Vina
Rondell White
Jeff Williams
Todd Williams
Steve Woodard
Kevin Young
Gregg Zaun
Manny Alexander
David Bell
Marvin Benard
Ricky Bones
Paul Byrd
Paxton Crawford
Bobby Estalella
Ryan Franklin
Darren Holmes
Ryan Jorgensen
John Rocker
Randy Velarde

And here's some good reads I've collected about the Mitchell Report over the last several weeks ...
a Sifting through the aftermath
a Mitchell Report exposes clubhouse culture and dangers
a Mitchell says naming names was right decision
a Big blast from the past: Report ties Hill, but not current Cubs, to steroids usage
a Sammy Sosa escapes Mitchell Report
a Sosa in clear? Sorry, no way
a Schoeneweis, Parque named: Investigation cites 2 other former Sox, 5 minor leaguers
a Grimsley's sworn statement unsealed
a Facing the lies: List shouldn't be shocking, but betrayal is cold reality
a Say it's so – steroids saved baseball
a The fallout continues: Clemens among big losers; redemption for Duquette
a Clemens for the Hall? Mitchell Report raises doubt
a Ex-big leaguer recalls Clemens' trainer
a Worth the wait: Thanks to Radomski, Mitchell accomplished plenty
a Mitchell Report: The Evidence
a Scandal to alter old ad game: Named players likely to lose marketability
a Time is not right to decide on Steroid Era players
a Fixing baseball
a Ending drug use in baseball a difficult road
a Now What? The Mitchell Report has the potential to change baseball
a Selig support strong, with some owners intending to push for another extension