Ding Dong, Blago's Gone

So Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, was impeached today

There was an interesting vibe in our office this afternoon as the proceedings played out on the television … No one cared. We’d watched enough of the insanity the last couple weeks. And I’m thinking we were about as unanimous as the Illinois Senate in that we thought he was done.

I could hardly bare watching more than a few seconds of his media blitz blabberings earlier this week …

Yet after I arrived home tonight, I couldn’t get to the TV fast enough to watch his reaction to today’s vote. We stood in front of the TV, mouths agape, watching the live coverage of him blabbering again to news cameras about all the things he accomplished as governor. The more it continued, the more I couldn’t keep from laughing at his foolishness. As one TV newsman noted, he was giving the same campaign speech over and over …

Laughing stock of the country. Though I'm really going to miss every anchor person outside of Chicago mis-pronouncing his name ...It's not that hard people!

And to think I supported his election when I was an Illinoisan in 2002.


We have an Idol

Admittedly, Kates and I haven’t been watching “American Idol” with our usual enthusiasm lately. It seems we’ve always got eyes on other things this season. Or we‘re not even listening.

But tonight as we crammed on our recordings of this week’s auditions …

Megan Corkrey has taken our breaths away … She reminded Kates of Zooey Deschanel; she reminded me of Fiona Apple. Either way she charmed us immediately with her voice and her pep. She’s got good looks. And an inspiring, good backstory -- with her 2-year-old son and her pick-up-the-pieces-and-go-get-it attitude after her divorce.

We’re calling her our favorite.

Random Facts of Life

If you're a Facebook junkie like I've become you know all about these posts of "25 Random Facts" that have become wildly popular on the site's profiles ...

I've had loads of fun reading the stuff posted this week by some of my friends. And the other night, I was tagged in one, which -- per the rules -- meant I had to write one ...

You're only supposed to write 25 Random Facts about your life, but once I got going, naturally, I couldn't stop ...

So here I present to you my expanded list of Random Facts, some of which have been well documented on this blog and some of which I've rarely spoken.

  1. I’ve been voluntarily Tasered.
  2. My work has allowed me to interact with murderers, top-selling singers, professional athletes, politicians and an array of fascinating people from all walks of life. I’ve experienced triumphs and death and destruction the way few people do…. There are times I don’t think I can survive another day of it, and there are times I can’t fathom ever quitting.
  3. Speaking of jobs: During summers in high school I worked at an LCD manufacturing plant. During summers in college I worked at a church camp where my parents lived and managed for five years. Imagine 400 acres of property with a 40-acre, crystal clear lake in your back yard.
  4. I met my wife Kates, who also worked on the staff, at that camp. We’ve been together 10 years and married for five.
  5. I’ve visited 20 states and lived in four of them.
  6. But if you ask me about my hometown, I’ll tell you it’s Olathe, Kan.
  7. I’ve been to 11 Major League Baseball ballparks. And sung the national anthem at two -- The Ballpark in Arlington in 1995 and Wrigley Field in 1996.
  8. During the summer after my high school graduation (I was living in Olathe then), my three best friends and I told our parents we were going camping in Lawrence, but we headed to Chicago instead. Drove all night (8 hours), visited the museums, went to a Cubs game, walked the city, stayed at a hotel on Lake Shore Drive, and spent a night driving back. … I broke down and confessed to my dad the next day when one of my friends’ parents found his ticket stub to the Cubs game.
  9. I’m a master of jigsaw puzzles. Once I start one I can’t pull myself away, and I’ve been known to pull all-nighters just to finish a puzzle.
  10. I have this crazy, awesome talent with which I can name the title of a popular song and its artist by hearing just a few notes.
  11. On 9/11, I talked my way out of a speeding ticket by telling the police officer that I was a newspaper reporter and I was in a hurry to get people’s reactions to the terrorist attacks. It was the truth!
  12. On the night before I left for college, I was driving home late from a friend’s house and realized halfway to my house that I was driving without my headlights on. What made be realize the problem was seeing a police officer turn around and begin pursuing me in my rear-view mirror. To be fair, he didn’t turn on his flashing lights or sirens, but it was obvious he was eyeing me. I knew the neighborhood and it’s winding roads pretty well, and used them to my advantage in eluding him. I pulled into my driveway and was walking into my house just as he was turning on to our street. I know now it was a really stupid thing to do and I’m ashamed I did it.
  13. While I was the editor of my college newspaper, I once got exactly one hour of sleep per night over a span of five days. It was the week of our special homecoming edition. By the end of the week, my eyes had been open for so many hours that it actually hurt to close them.
  14. I consider 1991 the most pivotal year of my life. It was the year I realized the value of family, that nothing in this world can or should be taken for granted, the power of prayer and that change can be a really, really good thing.
  15. Contrary to what a lot of people I know say, I really enjoyed my high school and college days, and if I could do it all over again I would.
  16. Kates and I love the TV show “Friends.” We own the entire series on DVD and we’re almost unbeatable in “Friends” trivia games. Before the days of TV on DVD, I obsessively and successfully recorded all 236 episodes on to VHS tapes, which I’m now recording over.
  17. Contrary to what you might think, our daughter Phoebe was not named after a character in the show mentioned in Random Fact No. 16, but rather after Kates’s great aunt.
  18. I hadn’t realized I could love a person so deeply until Phoebe arrived.
  19. During my youth, I was part of an 80-member youth choir that toured the country each June. We had a knack for singing at random places, including Arlington Cemetery and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., zoos, state capitol buildings, and Major League ballparks (See Random Fact. No. 7).
  20. Three years ago, our house was burglarized and I lost some of my most prized possessions. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, but it reinforced the things I learned during the course of Random Fact No. 14.
  21. Probably my most prized possession -- which wasn’t stolen in the burglary -- is a Los Angeles Dodgers hat I received from my parents as a Christmas present when I was 12 years old. That hat has been soaked, soiled, crushed, ripped and shredded. I took it nearly everywhere I went for about 15 years. I only stopped wearing it a couple years ago because it had become so tight it made my head hurt. But if I can help it, I’ll be buried with the thing.
  22. I’ve never broken a bone in my body. But I’ve had my fair share of stitches.
  23. Kati and I once ate ice cream at a Culver’s with Rosemarie von Trapp, one of the real-life children made famous in the musical “Sound of Music.” Of course, she was no longer a child when we met her.
  24. I saw “Rent” on Broadway.
  25. Five places I must visit before I die: London, the Grand Canyon, the Redwood Forest, Paris, Fenway Park.
  26. I also really want to attend a taping of “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
  27. I waste no time pouring over magazine and newspaper articles. But I’m an embarrassingly slow reader of books.
  28. I balled like a baby when the Kansas Jayhawks won the National Championship in April.
  29. First film I ever saw in a movie theater was the 1985 classic “Follow That Bird.” First “R” movie I saw in a theater was “Crimson Tide” in 1995. I was 16 years old.
  30. First rock concert I attended was for Hootie & the Blowfish. First CD I bought was “Gin Blossoms: New Miserable Experience.”
  31. I think music is the greatest discovery ever made. I can’t fathom a day without it. And that’s why I’d much rather be blind than deaf.
  32. I’m so obsessed with news and current events that I subscribe to a ton of newspaper and magazine e-mail lists and feeds, in addition to recording the “NBC Nightly News,” “The Daily Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman” every night on our DVR.
  33. I can’t swallow pills. I’ve tried. I’ve tried them with water, ice cream, Jell-o, everything you can think of. Can’t do it. So every time I get sick, I’m chugging syrup.
  34. When I was in the fifth grade, my parents took my brother and I out of school for two days (prior to the beginning of our spring break) so we could go to Disney World. I got mad at them because it was the first year I would have had perfect attendance. The next year, though, I started a streak of perfect attendance that lasted the rest of my school days. … At my ninth grade awards banquet, the kid next to me was talking the whole time the principal was introducing that year’s perfect attendance winners. So I never heard him not say my name, but I went on the stage anyway, fully prepared to receive a certificate. The audience laughed and I can’t think of a more embarrassing moment in my life. It turned out there was a glitch in the school’s computer and the principal delivered a certificate to me the next day.
  35. Also when I was in fifth grade, I entered a New Kids on the Block drawing contest, and my poster won. The grand prize was an official “Hangin’ Tough” tour jacket. It was so flashy and valuable at the time my mother feared I was going to get beat up when I wore it to school. I still own the jacket. ... When the New Kids reunited last year I entered that story in a contest to win tickets to their Boston show. I didn't win that contest.
  36. I wash the dishes every night, partly because I can’t stand dirty dishes sitting around the kitchen and partly because I find it therapeutic.
  37. My life motto is “Relax, God’s in Charge.”
  38. In high school, my friend Tom and I were riding home from a day of school in his pickup truck when a Monte Carlo slammed into the back of the truck. The impact forced our heads against the rear-window, which shattered. Miraculously, neither of us had a scratch, but we had terrible headaches the next day.
  39. I wish all writers, books and documents adhered to AP Style.
  40. I really want to be a newspaper editor.


Sunday reading

Kates and I spent the afternoon with her parents, marveling at Phoebe's latest milestones -- primarily her ability to roll all over the floor ...

And tonight I was holding her when she started grabbing my fingers and moving them to her mouth. Not unusual, she's done that a lot ... Only now she has teeth. She took my thumb, put it in her mouth -- and bit.

I yelped in pain and now have a pinhead-sized red mark on my thumb.

Here's some of the reads that caught my attention during the last week ...

Sports ...
a Big and Rich ... sad and true.
a The Hall of Fame Unemployment Line ... This is so fascinating to me, how times have changed these players.
a Sign of the times: Oft-injured Sheets still available ... If you ask me, Sheets is a better deal than Burnett, injuries and all. Though I'm hot surprised teams are hesitating.
a Now's not time for new Cubs owners to start thinking outside the suggestion box
a Tribune Co. departs Wrigley Field without a Cubs pennant
a Wrigley Field's deficiencies obstacle for next Cubs owner ... Yes, there's a lot of things that need fixing. Just don't turn Wrigley in the spaceship that is now Soldier Field.
a Thank you, Kerry Wood
a Insider’s View of What Went Wrong in the Bronx
a Kent calls it a career after 17 years in baseball ... I never paid much attention to Jeff Kent, but this story struck me.

Politics ...
a Oath of Office Is Administered Again ... I found the hub-bub over the Oath of Office totally amusing last week, and that Barack Obama had to take it -- again. For good measure.
a Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages ... This would drive me CRA-zy.
a I Wish You Were Here ... Good stuff on the people who helped 'the change' but weren't around to see it. From the ground anyway.
a Barack Obama's election is a joyful and historic time
a Woodstock Without the Mud
a More Than Charisma
a The BlackBerry accord of 2009
a If Obama Grows Old Before His Time, Stressed-Out Cell Tips Might Be to Blame ... This is fascinating.
a Two Faces of Obamamania

Music ...
a Taped Inaugural Music Is Live Issue ... Some good points raised here that I completely agree with. But, in Tuesday's cold case, I don't blame the performers for going with a recording.
a The Frigid Fingers Were Live, but the Music Wasn’t

TV ...
a Miss America: Does anyone care? ... If you ask me: Nope. I can't remember the last time I've watched.
a John Krasinski: Success after a ‘Hideous’ start

The Internet & media ...
a Free press, with profits
a Let’s Invent an iTunes for News ... This is genius.
a Design Magazines Find No Shelter From the Slump
a That Shrinking Feeling: Time, Newsweek Narrow Their Focus
a In Facebook age: Jobless, but not friendless
a Katie Couric in no hurry for change
a Melding Obama’s Web to a YouTube Presidency

The Onion ...
a Hey Man, You Got A Second So I Can Fire You?
a Obama Inauguration Speech Ruined By Incessant Jackhammering


Advice for Sasha and Malia

In case you missed it ...

NBC showed a moving bit today with a letter the Bush twins wrote to the Obama girls about living in the White House ...

I caught it on Today this morning and made a point to show it to Kates tonight ... It had us both in tears.


Ricketts family is winning Cubs bidder

This looks promising ...

I like it. Go Cubs.

Lost and found

Ah, “Lost.”

By the time we got to watching last night’s mega season premiere it was past 9 p.m. -- two hours after it actually started … But that’s just one of the many reasons we love DVR. Plus, we could fast-forward through the commercials …

Kates and I stopped everything we were doing to zone in. (We also ditched “American Idol” – for the second night in a row! Whoah, this could be serious.)

Typically, the two of us are watching our TV shows mixed with some serious multi-tasking; she grades papers and I’m usually writing or surfing the ’Net … Although, for the record, Kates didn’t make it through the prelude / recap episode that ABC showed before the premiere. She gave in and was in bed by 10, while I stayed up to watch the whole three hours worth; Kates will have to catch it tonight while I’m on assignment …

But let’s cut to the chase. I loved the premiere.

“Lost” has a knack for opening every season with some mind-blowing scenes that unleash a whole new branch of mysteries and lay the groundwork for the new season at the same time … I caught myself wearing an Aw yeah! smile again last night as the scientist guy took a seat in some Dharma studio to film one of the orientation videos we’ve seen so much, and I caught little details like the alarm clock sounding at 8:15 or the infamous blue van pulling up to a Dharma station … (Read: The geeky side of “Lost”)

I’m also really intrigued and glad to see Faraday becoming a pivotal character in the emerging storyline … And I loved the out-of-nowhere appearance of Ana Lucia. Totally didn’t see that coming. Ah, Ana Lucia.

Looking back, the whole 70-hour deadline thing seemed a little too “Heroes”-esque. Sun’s starting to creep me out. Totally knew that Neil dude was going to die. But totally didn’t realize the Charlotte-being-erased thing until now. I thought Juliet's and Sawyer’s attackers might be original Dharma members. And I really sort of dug Hugo’s confession to his mom, along with the fact she said she believed him. And for goodness sakes, somebody find Sawyer a shirt!

EW’s TV Watchmy absolute favorite destination for TV reviews -- mentioned Jack’s “over-emphasis on needing to protect those left on the Island” and how they're virtually protected on a disappearing island … Sure, I got that vibe too, but only for about the minute before I started thinking Well, if this is also a time-traveling island than maybe Jack is subconsciously aware the Left-behinders could go back in time and be killed off with the rest of the Dharma Initiative … But then Faraday started spouting about how the past can’t be changed …

Ah, “Lost.”

Other interesting reads ...
a 10 Key Things to Know for Season 5
a A riveting premiere, and a slew of clues
a The Man Who Makes Sense of ‘Lost’
a To Be Continuumed: Making Up For 'Lost' Time, And Accounting For That Sense Of Deja Vu


The day after

I'm totally suffering from an Inauguration hangover today ...

Kates and I were up past midnight last night watching the day's coverage. And we tuned into some of the live coverage just in time to see the President and First Lady arrive at their last ball of the night.

Today it's all over. And we're back to where we started ...

At least it's fun and fascinating to look at all the day's newspaper front pages and photos ....

There are some great cartoons out there this morning, too ... My favorites come from David Fitzsimmons, Gary Brookins, Kevin Siers and Dana Summers.

And here's some good reading ...
a Obama spoke words worthy of our nation
a The Line? Obama delivers a speech full of choice ones
a After 36 Years, Joe Biden Has a New Job
a In His Moment, Many Feel Echoes Of Their Own Stories
a Turnabouts ... Fascinating. I remember that 2001 Onion story well.
a Obamas dance to 'At Last'
a John Williams's 'Simple' Misunderstanding ... I don't agree with this viewpoint. But found it interesting nontheless.
a Nation’s Many Faces in Extended First Family
a A Day Best Captured by Image, Not Narrative
a Exit the Boy King ... They wanted to make absolutely, positively certain that W. was gone. It was like a physical burden being lifted, like a sigh went up of “Thank God. Has Cheney’s wheelchair left the building, too?” ... Nice.


Inauguration Day

let us mark this day with remembrance,
of who we are
and how far we have traveled.

--Barack Obama

An unusually crabby Phoebe is in bed (Teething, we think), and Kates and I have just filled our bellies with food from our favorite Chinese restaurant (Bonus Chinese tonight, actually, because the restaurant got our order wrong.).

It’s been a great day on multiple levels. A historic day.

Tonight, we’ve ditched “American Idol” auditions to watch our DVR of today’s inauguration coverage. We caught bits of it throughout the day, but we wanted to be able to soak up every minute of this historic day …

(Ok, so we aren’t watching any of the ball coverage tonight. We’re content to watch those highlights on the morning news shows tomorrow.)

The television was tuned into a news channel from the time we woke up this morning …

And as I headed to work, I had decided I didn’t want to be strapped to my cubicle today. I wanted to be where the action was … So I asked my editor if there was something, anything, I could do to contribute to the inauguration coverage …

He sent me to observe and take in the events at one of the local colleges -- which was exactly the kind of assignment I was looking for. If I wasn’t in Washington, D.C., today, the next most interesting place to be, I thought, was a college campus. There’s an energy I always enjoy about that environment …

On my way, I listened to my favorite radio morning show hosts give the play-by-play of what was happening in Washington, D.C., mixed with their comical commentary and shenanigans. And Coldplay’s “Lover’s In Japan” came on -- talk about a sweet pump-you-up song for the dawning of a new era. ...

It was a brilliantly sunny morning, the kind that made your eyes hurt because the sun’s reflection on the snow and roads was so bright … And at one point, I pulled up to a stoplight behind a car with a Barack Obama '08 bumper sticker. I couldn't keep from smiling.

On the campus, I moved from building to building, finding crowds gathered around TVs set up in lobbies and common areas. Students and professors had either moved their classes in front of TVs or canceled them all together. The audio from all the TVs echoed across multiple floors in some of the buildings … I even caught a knitting class that was moved to a TV-watching area. Imagine, a group of girls sitting on couches trading glances from their knitting to the TV …

I also stumbled on an older couple who’d left their home just outside of Washington, D.C., to visit their family here. Three generations of them had campaigned together for Obama and were now gathered around the TV “to celebrate.” What was more fascinating to me was the couple’s stories of attending Jimmy Carter’s 1977 inauguration and watching the parade from a curb on Pennsylvania Avenue. They also attended Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration and found themselves walking among his cabinet members during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

I connected with a woman who sat with her 9-year-old daughter. The woman explained to me how much her daughter, the daughter of an African-born man, admires Barack Obama because, the girl says, “he looks like I do.” The woman, who was white, went on to say that she is now raising the girl as a single parent and noted the similarities of her daughter’s childhood to that of Barack Obama.

When the time for the ceremony finally came, the chills started up my spine and never stopped …

Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “My Country 'Tis of Thee." Watching Joe Biden take the oath with such focus and confidence. The John Williams arrangement of “Simple Gifts.” Seeing Malia Obama taking pictures with her own digital camera. The throngs of people on the mall. And the way the students I was with clapped and cheered when Obama completed the Oath.

When Obama flubbed the Oath, it reminded me of when I flubbed the wedding vows during Kates’s and my wedding ceremony. Only now we know it was Chief Justice Roberts who flubbed the words.

And The Speech. With its striking imagery of “gathering clouds and raging storms.” In the “winter of our hardship.” ... (I heard one analyst say later “He could have read the phone book and it would have been inspiring.” Man, can you imagine that SNL skit!?)

And Rev. Joseph E. Lowery’s benediction. So good, so funny.

I only caught glimpses of the post-ceremony festivities throughout the rest afternoon …

And tonight I watched what was left of the parade in front of the White House inside an auto shop as I waited to have my car’s oil changed. I also caught the Nightly News, which featured two of my favorite news segments of the entire day …

How the Obama girls handled the day …

And the ways people watched the ceremony throughout the country.

No doubt, it has been a day to remember.

A new day.

Here's some good reads from the Washington Post ...
a Obama's Moment Arrives
a Obama Looks to Future With a Nod to His Past
a A Flight Test for All of Us


Can't Trust This Day

I was driving this morning to my favorite classic rock station -- and by that I mean music from the ’60s and ’70s -- when the station played Collective Soul’s “Shine” … From 1994.

Granted, I’ve noticed the station inserting a few more songs from artists and bands I ran with in high school, like REM and Tom Petty (without the Heartbreakers) and The Cranberries … I love all that music ...

But when they start referring to that stuff as classic rock … I know I’m getting older.

* * *

I was leaving our church tonight, having picked up Phoebe so Kates could run her children’s choir rehearsal …

The church lies along a narrow neighborhood street that’s almost always lined with cars on both streets …

As usual, I opened the car door in and bent inside to buckle in Phoebe, my legs clearly protruding onto the road …

When all of a sudden, I hear a car pull up alongside and the driver lays on its horn …

“Excuse me!” yells a young woman, who couldn’t have been more than 20 years old. “Can you shut your door!?”

A few more seconds and I would have had Phoebe buckled and moved out of the way. I duck out of the car and blurt out, “Can you hold on a second …”

But before I could say or do anything else, she was yelling a word that rhymes with ship and bulldozing her way through the street, barely missing me and my car door.

* * *

Today is George Bush’s last day in the Presidential office …

As we look back on the last eight years, I thought it was appropriate to post this bit that David Letterman did a while back …



As one acquaintance put it the other day, “We’re teetering on the brink of insanity.”

The economy is in the tank. We’ve been pummeled with snow this week ….

And today’s high was minus 7 degrees.

Tonight was the first night this week that I didn’t have to clean snow from our driveway and sidewalks after I came home from work. Tonight was the first night this week that I got to spend some time with Phoebe before she went to bed.

Hey, at least the sun was shining today … Tonight’s episode of “The Office” was excellent.

I hate winter.


Going to Kansas City!

Tonight, it’s American Idol in Kansas City, baby!

My kudos tonight go to Matt Breitzke singing Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Jessica Furney -- the sweet girl who lives with her 93-year-old grandma -- singing Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby,” Milwaukee’s own Danny Gokey -- with the heart-wrenching tale of his wife’s death -- singing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and Anoop Desai singing Boyz II Men’s “Thank you” …

But my favorite audition was, hands down, Asa Barnes singing Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” … Seriously, great song, despite what Simon says. Though I’m a little ashamed to admit it, I told Kates last night it’s a song I’d probably pick if I ever tried out for “Idol.” But, as the judges pointed out, few people do it justice … Asa, however, nailed it.

And Michael Castro!? … Seriously, judges!? Do we really need another Castro? Do you really think Jason’s brother is going to fare any better than Jason did!? … Aye. Simon hit on the head when he said he didn’t know what to think about the Castro boys, and wondered if they’re in it for the right reasons.

Oh, and then there's this from last night's auditions.

Rice and Rickey

Kudos to Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson for the nods they received from writers this week to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame ...

Jim Rice was a player whose name I learned only because I had his baseball card during the final year of his career. I had no idea of what a slugger he was until reading some of the things written about him this week ...

Rickey Henderson, on the other hand, was a guy I discovered during his days with the Yankees. I admired him for his base stealing prowess and for his ability to pop a home run any time he led off a game. I remember with fondness the day he stole base No. 939, the same day -- May 1, 1991 -- Nolan Ryan threw No-hitter No. 7. Rickey's poster was stapled on my bedroom wall throughout the 1990s.

Good reads ...
a Rickey Henderson Says He'll Only Join Hall Of Fame If He Can Start
a Sneak peek at Henderson's Hall of Fame plaque
a Henderson Is an Enigma Wrapped in a Record Book
a Rickey Henderson looks back at Yankee days as opportunity stolen
a Getting into Rice numbers
a Long wait ends for Sox slugger Rice
a It takes one to know one: Yaz extols Rice


American Idol

… So I wasn’t sure going into tonight’s “American Idol” whether to be excited or apprehensive about the idea of embarking on another season of the two-hours-a-night, three-nights-a-week, emotional roller coaster and time-sucking marathon that is Idol …

Plus there's this thing with this new judge -- Kara Who, or whatever. And all the tinkering.

Seriously. How could we not tune into the hottest show on television!? We’d never survive these long, cold winter nights otherwise.

The opening montages and glorious images from season’s past (ah, the crying girl) at the top of tonight’s premiere lit smiles on our faces. And my goodness, the home video of those tween girls reacting to David Archuleta’s loss last spring -- it was only the beginning of a night loaded with good belly laughs. Geez, those girls are probably still crying …

We saw long-haired, bandana-wearing rockers crying after a wimpy performance of “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Afro-bouncing, tap-dancing Michael Jackson wannabes. Pink-cowboy-hat-sporting songwriters. And a health does of Simon Cowell eye rolls.

My props for the night got to Deanna Brown singing “Dock of the Bay” (Hello, Amanda Overmyer), Emily Wynne singing Heart’s “Baracuda” and Stevie “After Nicks” Wright singing Etta James’ “At Last” …

You also had to love Scott Macintyre walking into his audition, sight disability and all, and putting out a golden rendition of Billy Joel’s “So It Goes.”

But our favorites of the night was 16-year-old goodie girl Arianna Afsar singing Corrine Bailey Rae‘s “Put Your Records On.” Said Kates: “She’s cuter than a button.”

Bikini Girl? Not even going there … But for the record, Kara’s version was better.

And I'm really liking Kara DioGuardi as the new judge.

Good stuff ...
a Why Is 'American Idol' Taking A Year Off From 'Idol Gives Back'?
a 'American Idol's' high-wire act
a 12 Songs That Should Be Banned from the Show Forever!
a Auditions: 13 Reader Favorites
a The 12 Best Auditions Ever!
a Auditions: Best and Worst of Season 6


9 months and growing

There's nothing better lately than coming home from a frustrating day -- which, in the midst of tanking circulation and a dim economy seems to be a regular occurrence as of late -- and cranking up the music, laughing, playing and dancing with Phoebe.

She turned 9 months old today.

She's still not crawling. But put her on her stomach and she rolls and and tumbles all over the floor.

She also loves the clapping and the peek-a-boo. And her response to everything seems to be "ma-ma" or ba-ba."

Some favorite images from the last couple weeks ...


Sunday reading

We got more snow this weekend ...

At least a foot, I'd say, which is a few inches more than the meteorologist I talked to Friday night said we were going to get ... At the pace it was falling yesterday, it took me almost three hours to clean our driveway and sidewalks, and then shovel the driveway again when the plow came by and stuffed it closed. The piles of snow in some places are literally up to my eyeballs ...

Phoebe appears to be feeling much better. It's no wonder; she also appears to have handed off her cough and cold to Kates and I ...

Which is perfect considering it's supposed to get really cold this week ...

Some of the reads that caught my eyes recently ...

Sports ...
a Old guard squeezed in new market ... A new era is definitely taking hold ...
a A Really Big Deal ... You can't blame a guy for wanting to play for the Yankees. But the money involved here is just sick.
a Apples for a Nickel, and Plenty of Empty Seats
a Pursuit of glory is turning gory

Politics ...
a 'Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived' -- archival bits and pieces forge a fantasy history
a The perils and joys of self-esteem ... From Garrison Keillor
a Palin Pummels the Press
a Sweet on Caroline
a Caroline Kennedy Is No Sarah Palin
a Let Roland Burris have the Senate seat and move on, already!

Media & the Internet ...
a Can America’s paper of record survive the death of newsprint? Can journalism? ... Ugh.
a For newspapers, time's the enemy
a Sunnier Times in New Mainstream Media ... Say what you want about Jay Mariotti, but his debut column for AOL brings up some great points ... Phil Rosenthal has more here.
a For BlackBerry, Obama’s Devotion Is Priceless
a Former Tribune photog gets White House post
a On the Net: 'Tis the season for year-end lists

TV ...
a Paving the way to 'Sesame Street' ... Who doesn't love "Sesame Street."

Music ...
a Katy Perry fills music’s quirky girl void

The Onion ...
a Terror Experts Warn Next 9/11 Could Fall On Different Date

Life & other stuff ...
a Ford's Theatre to Curtail Display of Lincoln Coat
a The Next Next Things ... Some pretty cool stuff to look forward to.
a Milky Way not such a lightweight; new study suggests it's 50 percent more massive than thought

SNL on Sunday afternoon

Favorite sketch on “Saturday Night Live” last night: The Digital Short featuring host Neil Patrick Harris playing a whimsical take on the theme song of “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” with an orchestra comprised of the SNL cast.

Our eyes were welling up with laughter as we watched the sketch play out …

And then the end arrived and the camera closed in on Neil Patrick and a tear streaming down his cheek.

Talk about ending on a high note. I loved it so much I pumped my first in the air when it ended … It's gotta rank among my favorite Shorts with “D*** in a Box” and Peyton Manning's United Way promo.

Kudos also to Kristin Wiig for her spot-on impression of Kathie Lee Gifford. Kristen Wiig is taking hold of the void left by Amy Poehler.


Cold case

So Kates awoke this morning, looked at our thermostat and discovered it was 56 degrees in our house.

She tried bumping up the heat, but got nothing. The furnace kicked in, but there was no heat.

Thus, the first sight I saw this morning was Kates standing over me and tucking Phoebe into our bed beside me so the little one could complete her slumber in warmth … It’s something of a miracle Phoebe was hardly affected by how cold it was in our house. We don’t wrap her in blankets, just her pajamas. And everything was fine when Kates and I went to bed. We were wrapped cozily in our sheets and blankets.

By the time Kates left for school, I was out of bed and getting myself ready for work. I put on multiple layers of shirts and sweats, and bundled Phoebe just the same.

All the while I’m freaking out about how we’re going to solve this latest dilemma, let alone afford it.

I got Phoebe to daycare and reported to my office. I spent much of the day chasing the latest developments in a story I’d been following all week about a woman who drove her car into the lake and hadn’t been seen since.

I also secured an appointment with a heating contractor to come look at our furnace tomorrow morning. Our thinking was Kates and I wouldn’t be able to afford any repairs until then (translation: payday) and our friend Laura had graciously invited us to spend the night at her place.

But before I left work this evening, I got an e-mail from my uncle that triggered a deeper urgency. It read:

Make sure your pipes don’t freeze.

That was followed by a couple frantic phone calls from my parents. And when I drove home tonight I said a heartfelt prayer.

Inside the house, Kates and Phoebe had been home for about 45 minutes, and they were still in their coats, smiling, laughing and playing on our living room floor.

I promptly opened the phone book and started calling for help … I had left about a half-dozen messages when I connected with a man who obviously was running his business out of his home. A child answered the phone, and when the man picked up I could tell he was fumbling for a piece of paper and something to write with while I presented our furnace’s symptoms … He assured me he would gather his tools from his shop and be at our place in a few minutes.

About 20 minutes later a scruffy, well-traveled looking man appeared at our door with a much-younger man, who I later learned was his son. Both were dressed in grungy clothes, as though they’d been fighting with furnaces all day. In fact, the man told me, they were heading to another job after he was done at our place …

I led them to our furnace and immediately the two men knelt down in front of it like they were meeting an old friend. They conversed in their own mechanical language and began taking a part the furnace, exchanging tools and wiggling their hands through its crevices and wires.

Within minutes, they had the diagnosis. The flame sensor and the igniter needed to be replaced … Better yet, this guy promised he would charge me $180 for that parts and labor, and knock off the service charge. That $180 was as much as one contractor wanted to charge me just to take a look at the thing! And for the record, none of the other contractors I left messages for ever called me back.

I told The Man he had a deal and he and his son went to work on the repairs while I ran upstairs to tell Kates our prayers had been answered. Actually, we'd found an angel.

In another 20 minutes or so, they were finished with the repairs and started up the furnace for a test run. It kicked in, and orange flames started fueling the house with warmth. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.

As the men packed their things and we exchanged paperwork, my words of thanks hardly seemed adequate. And still, they seemed just as grateful I had called them … I escorted them to our door and assured them we would keep them in mind for future repairs. The fact our air-conditioner needs to be replaced was on the tip of my lips, but I held back.

I shut the door behind them, backed away and did a little dance in the living room.

Then we went to a hockey game. Where it was about as warm in the arena as it had been in our house.


The cold

It’s been one of those days again …

Up too early to shovel another 2 inches that fell overnight. There seems to be another dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over our office the last few days. And it’s just plain cold and gloomy outside …

On the bright side, a radio DJ reminded me during my drive to work this morning that pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks. Hearing that made me burst into giddy laughter … Where did the offseason go!? It seems like the Phillies were packing it up just a few weeks ago.
By the way, one year ago today? ... We had tornadoes. Fun times.

* * *

Phoebe, aka Our Little Trooper, is still battling her cold …Which has been upgraded to an ear infection …

Kates stayed home with her Monday and took her to the doctor to get the diagnosis first thing in the morning … Phoebe’s been having a teaspoon of Amoxicillin with her breakfast and supper every day since.

Finally, that first night after seeing the doctor she showed signs of returning to her normal, smiley, squirmy self … But we’re still sucking a never-ending supply of snot from her plugged-up nose, and tonight she’s added a horrible cough.

Oh, to get a good night’s sleep again …

* * *

Kates and I had a pretty sweet time last night sitting down with our old friends at Sacred Heart Hospital …

Yes, Scrubs is back, and reincarnated on ABC -- which, when you get down to it, I wonder why it wasn’t there in the first place.

In truth, Kates and I have watched the show closely since its beginning. But I’ve never been much more than a casual fan.

Last night, however, I found myself laughing out loud and loving the show more than ever. Courtney Cox fit in just dandily as the new Dr. Maddox and it made me wish she was stepping onto the show permanently rather than just the three-episode arc that's been reported …

And was it just me or did J.D. have a lot more (comical) narration in last night’s new episodes than he did during the show’s previous incarnation?

Check out Mo Ryan's take on the show here.

* * *

Finally, I’ve never paid much attention to Ann Coulter. I do know she's not a well-regarded person in, ahem, some circles ... But heck, I couldn’t have told you what she looked like …

Until I caught her on the Today show with Matt Lauer this morning. When Kates and I are getting ready in the morning, if Sportscenter isn’t on, then Today is. Typically it’s playing in the background while we’re running around getting ready for work and taking care of Phoebe …

But this morning when I happened to walk by the TV and caught Lauer and Coulter sparring, I stopped cold in my tracks and couldn’t pull my dropped jaw away.

C-R-A-Z-Y is one way of describing her, I guess …

In case you missed it, click here


Poor baby!

Well, 8 ½ months was a good run, right?

We had no complaints. Phoebe was the healthiest, happiest baby ever. She slept through the night. Life was great …

But our run ended this weekend. Phoebe is officially dealing with her first bout of sickness -- a good, old-fashioned cold.

Beginning Friday night, she’s been sleeping barely 30, maybe 40 minutes at a time, before she wakes up screaming again. Then, it takes us another 30, maybe 40 minutes to get her back to sleep. Big tears stream down her face. The fact she’s teething probably doesn’t help either.

All day we watched as she moved between playing and staring blankly from under her droopy eyelids -- because she was so tired. Her nose was running off her face there was so much snot coming out of it. Then, there was her incessant whimper serving notice that not all was well in her world.

It’s aching to see her so uncomfortable, and yet there’s something so adorable about watching her fight through it. All of it has helped us truly understand the origin of the phrase “poor baby!”

I’m afraid Kates and I are in for another rough night … Then she’s going to see the doctor first thing in the morning.

Sunday readiing

Hope your New Year is off to a good start ...

Here are some of the reads that caught my interests over the last couple weeks ...

Sports ...
a Bronx bombshell sends loud message

Media & the Internet...
a Mainstream Media on Life Support
a 'Bible Illuminated': The latest Word. The book uses pop culture images to spread the gospel. a Could We Uncover Watergate Today?
a When the Watchdogs Don’t Bark
a Status Symbol Update
a Recording labels and websites in a music video tussle

Politics ...
a Add Up the Damage
a White House Views on Past 8 Years Diverge
a Some researchers believe Oval Office stress accelerates aging process ... Ya think?

Life & other stuff ...
a The Year of Living Gloomily
a Well, Virginia, It's a Longer Story ... ... Great read!


Learning new things every day

So I learned yesterday that Kates has never been to a Showbiz Pizza or Chuck E. Cheese … (What kind of deprived childhood did you live!? I teased her … I’m not into video games, she said. … It’s not just video games! It’s the dancing bear, and the band, and they sing Beach Boys songs! … She giggled at my childhood reminiscing. )

I also learned yesterday -- as we spent the day enduring the freezing temperatures to catch some post-Christmas sales -- she’s never heard the phrase “It’s boo-boo!” to describe cold weather … (It’s a phrase my parents used all the time and we eventually came to the conclusion the phrase might have its origins in my mother’s native Sheboygan, aka, “Sheboyganese.”)

And I learned today she’s never seen “Independence Day,” one of my favorite movies of all-time …It’s heart-warming, it’s funny, it’s action-packed and it’s got a great cast! I told her. … I have it on a VHS tape. We’re so watching it.