Fun with Blake Griffin

Between Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Little Einsteins, I don't get my morning Sportscenter fix much anymore.

But the highlights I've seen of Blake Griffin are quickly turning me into a fan of his ... This clip from a game last night is -- as they say -- sick.



This hasn’t been the greatest week.

It seems as though every man, woman and child in ’The Ville is feeling under the weather.

Co-workers in my office have been in and out all week.

We had to keep Phoebe home from school one day last week because she came down with strep throat. This week, she’s complaining every few minutes that her tummy hurts and her coughing is painful to hear. … The inner debate of do we or don’t we take her to the doctor never ceases. Stupid insurance copay.

Lately, I’m waking up with headaches. A myriad of issues are keeping me awake at night. Work politics. House hunt quandaries. … And I’ve had a couple dreams that are eerily similar to the epic wolf dream that was an impetus for this whole adventure.

Kates, who hasn’t been feeling well either, did check in with the doctor. Turns out she has a hole in her ear drum. Whatever that means.

The doctor instructed her to take Sudafed twice a day. Take an antibiotic three times a day. And blow up a balloon four times a day. Seriously.

Oh, and she’s supposed to pat her stomach with her left hand and pat her head with her right hand. While jumping on one leg. Five times a day.

All of this has had me thinking a lot ... Well, I won't admit what I've been thinking.

Things will get better. Suck it up. Persevere.


About last night's Grammys

Much to my disappointment, I didn’t watch the Grammys live this year.

That’s the way it goes when you have laundry to finish, Kates has to make a grocery run, and a toddler who needs to be put to bed out of fear she might be scarred for life by a large black man in a giant rainbow-colored peacock costume.

Thank goodness for DVR … But dang, it’s so much more fun watching it live, along with a lively real-time discourse on social media.

Such is life.

And so at 8:46 p.m. I began watching the 53rd Annual Grammys. … Just as Cee-Lo Green was jazzing it up on the most anticipated -- and best! -- performance of the night: His "Forget You" with the Muppets and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Some of the tweets were just as amusing ...

@RollingStone If only we got an Animal drum solo here.
@phil_Rosenthal I'm disappointed Cee Lo and Gwyneth didn't segue into Crocodile Rock.
@clairesuddath Apparently Lady Gaga's egg just hatched and Cee-Lo came out.
I continued watching live as Katy Perry (I haven’t been impressed with the stuff on her latest album, but I was surprisingly pleased with her performance), John Mayer, Norah Jones and Keith Urban (Their tribute to Dolly Parton on “Jolene” was splendid) performed. ... And I was a little surprised that Lady Antebellum won Song of the Year over Cee-Lo’s "Forget You." Then again, not really. I really like Lady Antebellum, and "Need You Know" was all over the place last year.

Then a commercial break. I clicked the rewind button on the DVR remote and started at the beginning.

After the Aretha Franklin tribute, which didn't move me one way or another -- I thought Jennifer Hudson was by far the best vocalist of the bunch -- the first award I took interest in was Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. Hands down for Train’s “Hey Soul Sister.” (Although I do like Paramore’s song). Pat Monahan took the stage and said, “Thanks Justin Beiber for not being a duo or a group.” Amen to that!

I enjoyed Lady Gaga’s performance more than I thought I would. It’s worth noting I like “Born This Way” more than anything I’ve heard from her, even though its similarities to "Express Yourself" and "Vogue" annoy me. ... And another thing about Gaga: We watched the “60 Minutes” interview with her prior to the big show. Nothing about her act or music appeals to me. But a master of performance art she is, and I respect that. ... She arrived in a freakin' egg!

I didn’t care for Miranda Lambert’s performance of “The House That Built Me.” I didn’t care for Muse either. ... I skipped Rihanna, Eminem and Dr. Dre performing. Can’t stand ‘em.
Justin Beiber. I just. Don’t. Get it.

Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers -- I loved watching those guys rock out. Bob Dylan -- not so much.

It was wonderful to see Lady Antebellum stake its claim last night as one of music's top groups. … I got chills when Hillary Scott started slowly in on “Need You Now.” Every time I hear or read something about their success now, I can’t help but think of way back when. My interview with Charles Kelley, and then my pass on an opportunity to see them live because I was so sleep-deprived from several nights of Summerfest. … Watching Hillary tear up as they accepted their award for Song of the Year made me tear up a little, too.

Esperanza Spalding for Best New Artist!? Hello, Upset! … Kates and I saw her on Letterman awhile back and were immediately intrigued. I'm thrilled for her.
Mick Jagger's tribute to Solomon Burke? Nice. … Barbra Streisand paying tribute to herself? Not so much.

But the moment of the night occurred when Arcade Fire took the Album of the Year award. Frontman Win Butler stepped to the mic for his acceptance speech and said, "What the hell!?" ... Um, yeah, I think that summed up what all of America was -- certainly Kates and I were -- saying.

To quote another tweet I saw: "Wow indie pushing the glass ceiling."

Good reads ...
a Grammy winners in some major categories
a Esperanza Spalding, Arcade Fire top a night of upsets at 2011 Grammys
a At the Grammys, Spectacles and Upsets

Happy Valentine's Day

I arrived home around 5:30 tonight after another draining day of work ...

As usual, Phoebe was at the top of the stairs, ready and excited to greet me. We embraced and she ran off to retrieve the sock monkey Kates gave her this morning as a Valentine's Day present -- the newest stuffed love of her life. Then she had to show me the bags of candy and valentines she got from her preschool pals today.

I met Kates in the kitchen, where, as usual, we hashed out our days in the kitchen while she cooked dinner. Tonight's menu: chicken, pasta and garlic toast.

We opened our pile of mail; today the mailbox was stuffed full of Valentine's Day cards. Phoebe delighted in opening her cards, tearing away the paper envelopes into small pieces before shoving each card into my face for me to read to her.

Now we're viewing "Enchanted" with Phoebe a-gain. When it's over, Kates will give Pheebs her bath, and I'll be tuning into the Kansas-Kansas State game.

Once Phoebe is in bed, Kates and I will be on the couch, watching the game together; she'll be grading papers, and I'll be reading or writing news material.

So romantic.

Useful dog tricks

For years I've resisted getting a dog ...

This video just might do the trick of changing my mind ...



So we finished watching "Enchanted" this afternoon.

I say finished because we made it a two-part affair. We watched the first half last night but stopped short of watching all of it because it was past Phoebe's bed time. We watched the second half today after finishing lunch -- and then put Phoebe down for her nap. Which was a near-hour-long process of prompting, tears and agony -- but that's a whole different post.  

Depending on your perspective, it's easy to think of the film as a corny fantasy film chock-full of Disney-isms that could roll your eyes on to the floor.

Your perspective changes quite a bit when your almost-3-year-old daughter is cuddled between you and your wife.

We recorded the film on our DVR when it was on the Disney channel several weeks ago. When the timing finally seemed right last night*, we played it up to Phoebe as a special family movie. ... She was transfixed almost the moment we pressed play.

*I spent the entire day working on our taxes -- which, unfortunately, has become a Valentine's Day weekend tradition in our household -- so I was desperate for a diversion last night. We've grown accustomed to filling out two state forms each year because of our work in Illinois and Wisconsin. This year we added Missouri to the mix -- three state forms. ... I'll be thrilled next year when we have to complete just one form for Missouri.

At its core, "Enchanted" is a clever concept that mixes classic Disney animation with live-action to tell the story of the beautiful princess, Giselle, who is banished from the animated fairytale land by the evil queen to the reality of New York City -- a land where there are no happily-ever-afters.

There's Edward, the prince who Giselle is promised to; Nathaniel, the evil queen's bumbling partner; a cadre of animals, led by Pip the chipmunk, who come to Giselle's aid whenever she sings a sweet little tune -- along with the poisonous apples, colorful dresses, a ball, an abandoned slipper and a true love's kiss.

Check out the trailer ...

Amy Adams is immediately charming as Giselle, who is clueless about her new world once she's dropped in Times Square. Adams is over-the-top, but so sincere. She plays the part to perfection, never once giving off a sense that her character -- or the plot -- is just plain crazy.

Between the mix of catchy songs, colorful dancing and some comical turns, Kates and I could hardly stop smiling. Parts of the film reminded me of "The  Princess Bride," while others, however strange this may seem, reminded me of "Godspell" -- and other parts reminded me of the dozens of Manhattan-based chick flicks.

Seriously. Kates and I were tapping our feet to this one and then humming it to ourselves the rest of the night. ...

Seeing the wonder on Phoebe's face made watching the film more worthwhile. And like so many things we do with her these days, she shouted afterward, "I wanna do it again!"

We won't be deleting it from the DVR anytime soon.


This kick is good

Our friend Gina passed this one on to me ... Very cool.


Still celebrating

We've had great fun watching the Packers party continue after the Super Bowl ended Sunday night. ...

The smiles never left our faces as we watched Aaron Rodgers on Letterman Monday night. ...

Then Dan Lauria was playing his Vince Lombardi character -- to perfection -- on Letterman last night. ...

Meanwhile, the NFL seems to have an interesting dillema on its hands as seatgate unravels. Read this.


Say cheese? Say champs!

I just returned home from dropping off Phoebe at her preschool. Kates is back to teaching -- for the first time in more than a week. And her parents, who were in The ‘Ville for a long weekend, are on the road back to Wisconsin.

And I am basking in the glory of watching the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl last night. Along with a day to myself at home.


Indeed, last night’s Super Bowl was a great one. I’ve remained confident in the Packers’ play all season long, but admittedly, I wasn’t as confident going into last night’s championship against the mighty Steelers.

But the Packers started fast, thanks to a couple key turnovers by Ben Roethlisberger. ... Bam! Suddenly it was 14-0. Then 21-3. For most of the first half, the game looked like a shade of the Packers stomping of the Falcons. ...

When the Packers scored the first touchdown, we screamed so loud that we scared Phoebe and sent her running to Kates for cover. She learned to deal with it, and eventually joined in, as the game moved along.

Then Donald Driver and Sam Shields went down.

And when Charles Woodson went down … Gulp.

In the third quarter, the Steelers looked as though they would roll right over the Packers. The breaks were suddenly going Pittsburgh’s way; I thought that contested call early in the fourth quarter was a fair catch. The Packers receivers also seemed to forget how to catch the ball; a couple, if caught, could have been touchdowns.

Jordy Nelson dropped passes that could have been big plays, but he made up for it by making some big plays, too. Rick Reilly had a good video piece on ESPN about Rodgers' passes to Nelson.

Then the fourth quarter arrived. Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall fumbled the ball and the Packers recovered. New life. ... The Packers capitalized with another touchdown. And added a field goal that helped but didn't exactly put the game away.

When the Steelers offense took the field, we could only hold our breath. ... It came down to a 4th and 5. Mike Wallace couldn't hold on Roethlisberger's pass, and with about 30 second left, it was over.

Our living room erupted. I embraced Kates and we sat on our couch grinning from ear to ear as the celebration began on the field. ... We watched the post game coverage, the trophy presentations, all of the interviews, and eventually switched over to ESPN to watch the continuing coverage -- with some cake and ice cream in between to celebrate Kates' father's 60th birthday.


Good reads ...
a They made it to top with stability
a Packers' backup Nelson steps up in Super Bowl
a When Injuries Flared, Packers Had Able Spares
aRodgers repays debt to Packer organization
a Lombardi Trophy goes long way to ease the pain for Packers' Woodson
a Not to be denied, hardened Packers persevere to Super Bowl victory
a Super Bowl Morning After: Mike McCarthy in His Words
a And Bob Ryan: Recovery mission a success
The numbers for Rodgers, which were impressive enough (24 of 39, 304 yards, three touchdowns), truly do not convey the magnificence of his performance. There really were either five or six terrible drops (depending on how strict a pass receiver marker someone is). And a few of his completed passes were either laser-like missiles that squeezed through microscopic openings or perfectly arched floaters that settled into the hands of his receivers. Very little about this performance was ordinary. The Packers came out of this game with a universal declaration that Rodgers has risen to the top of the current NFL quarterback class, and nothing will dislodge them from that belief.
* * *

The social media. I was all over it last night. Planting my laptop in front of us the coffee table. Tweet deck front and center, with a couple running media and advertising blogs running in the background.

Who says the party only includes the people in your living room? ... I was trading thoughts on the game and commercials with friends across town, friends and family across the country and colleagues across the media landscape.

Some of my favorites from last night. Pregame ...

russfeingold: Two of the greatest franchises in football history meet in the Super Bowl, but sorry Pittsburgh, Green Bay has got this one! #GoPackGo

After the Packers were penalized for excessive celebration after their first touchdown ...
SI_JonHeyman: nfl shrugs at 300-plus arrests in a decade, then punishes player for celebrating the moment of his life. #nofunleague
After Ben Roethlisberger started limping from a knee injury ...
EricStangel: After just watching Ben Roethlisberger tweak his knee, Jay Cutler had to be carted out of his living room #LateShowWriters
In the fourth quarter when the Steelers seemed poised to pull it out ...
ThisIsRobThomas: shit! i'm actually watching the game. and i care.
And when the game finished ...
sadjournalist: I'm sad because some poor designer in Dallas had to create a special edition Steelers Super Bowl cover, just in case.

RepPaulRyan: Go Pack Go! A special night for Wisconsinites/Cheeseheads!

And after the game, from my friend Noah: Excessive postgame celebration. 15 yd penalty.

National Post had a good running blog of the game that included some tweets from a variety of people.

* * *

The commercials and other delights ...

I thought the commercials were mostly forgettable, which doesn't surprise me. Our society has hyped Super Bowl commercials so much over the years; the expectations are so loaded that companies can hardly compete.

... The NFL's homage to great sitcoms.
... Chevy Silverado's "Tommy."
... Hyundai's: "Anachronistic City."
... Doritos "House sitting."
... And Bridgestone's "Beaver Intervention"  are going down as my faves.

VW's "Star Wars" kid was my favorite of all the bowl (the boy was unmasked on Today this morning).

And let’s not forget the frenzy over the news that Christina Aguilera flubbed the national anthem (Kates caught it, the rest of us didn't), which was all over the interwebs within minutes of her last note. Or the laughable scene of Cameron Diaz feeding Alex Rodriguez in the suites (We all saw it on our TV and shared a good chuckle).

The Black Eyed Peas halftime show. They’re made for the studio, not the live stage. So I wasn't expecting a stellar, smooth sounding show. ... But I thought it was pretty darn good considering. The lights, Slash in for a cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I was pleased.

Hank Stuever has a good review of all of it.

For me, the game, of course, was the best part.


Super Sunday!

The party started almost as soon as we arrived home from church. ... Yes, we had church today in Missouri. Unlike some Wisconsin churches.

Kates' parents are here for the weekend (Their visit was planned before we knew the Packers were in the Super Bowl) and we've got the whole clan dressed in Packers gear.

We've even got Choe in green and yellow.

I was dressed in Bearcat gear -- still green -- for the other wins. God, I hope I'm not jinxing it by wearing a Packers sweatshirt instead of Bearcat sweatshisrt today.

After I posted the line a couple weeks ago about the Dead Bird Epidemic, my pops delivered this one from one of his coworkers:
When does 4+4+4+4 equal 12? ... Answer: 4 Favre as a Falcon + 4 Favre as a Packer + 4 Favre as a Jet + 4 Favre as a Viking equals 12 Rodgers.
Go Packers.

Good pre-Super Bowl reads ...
a Champion Quarterbacks Sooner and Later
a Texans try to pronounce Wisconsin city names ... I've seen this feature done a few times over the years. It's always good for a laugh.
a Steelers and Packers win, in similar way
a Steelers and Packers are two of a kind in a clash for the ages
a Matchup fine by any measure
a Donald Driver had past selling drugs before Super Bowl trip
a A prayer for Donald Driver answered
a The Packers and the Steelers Broke the Hearts of the Cowboys
a Packers' Rodgers has deep roots in Chico
a Behind the voice: KC’s Kevin Harlan is at home in the booth
a Motivation no problem for hard-hitting Matthews
a Packers’ Nelson has gone from small-town Kansas to Super stage
a The Packers’ Modest G.M. Has Plenty to Brag About
a Vince Lombardi lived here
a Lamar Hunt’s super creation has finally come to his hometown
a Green Bay's Colledge found out how unique town is
a Five myths about the Super Bowl
a A huge presence
a Super Bowl teams feature mystique, tradition
a No doubting Green Bay is Rodgers’s team


Snow days, continued

In a town containing a disproportionate number
of college professors and school teachers,
a heavy winter blizzard really is a snow day.
Morning traffic shrinks to little more than a trickle,
and entire neighborhoods figuratively yawn, stretch
and punch in to the Internet while having a second cup
of coffee over a leisurely breakfast.

-- From the top story about The Blizzard of 2011 in yesterday's local newspaper.

After three days of school cancellations, I returned to work today, and Phoebe was back at daycare.

Kates stayed home for a fourth consecutive day. Snowmageddon 2011 continues for her.

Just as fascinating to me as this once-in-a-lifetime snowstorm is that we learned three out of four nights that Kates' school was closed ... via a local newspaper's Twitter posts. Seconds after seeing the news there, Kates' phone would ring with the official announcement.

Today's reason behind her snow day was that the county's rural roads weren't yet cleared. And tomorrow she was scheduled for an off day anyway.

A whole week without school for Kates. So much for not having a spring break.

Tonight, Kates' parents are with us. Their visit had been planned for weeks before this storm hit, and somehow they still made it, leaving early this morning and arriving around 5:30 tonight.

Tomorrow, Phoebe gets to stay home again with Grandma and Grandpa. Saturday, we'll hang around town and catch the University basketball game in the afternoon. Sunday we'll head to church ...

Then, we'll be all over the Super Bowl. (Insert theme for Monday Night Football on ESPN)


Flickr, don't fail

As a devout user of Flickr and a fan of its infinite art galleries filled by like-minded photography enthusiasts, I shudder to think about an Internet without it.

I much prefer the mantel-caliber display of Flickr photos to the countless blurry and frivolous photos that fill Facebook. Plain and simple.

I also shudder to think about losing all of my photos. The horror! ... Though, I've backed them up on stacks of CDs.

This news comes several weeks after Yahoo announced its plans to shut down my beloved Delicious -- which is another one of those fascinating I could waste hours browsing other users' posts kind-of-website -- not to mention reviewing all the websites I've tagged. But, sadly, it apparently hasn't caught on with a whopping majority of Internet users.


Snow days, fun days

Monday started like any other day.

Kates' alarm went off about 5:30 a.m. She rolled out of bed and started getting ready for school. My alarm went off about 6:15 a.m. I hit the snooze button, and then got out of bed when the second alarm sounded about 10 minutes later. Phoebe could be heard, crying, "Mom-MEEEE!" from her bedroom downstairs. Kates went down to rescue her from the darkness, and I began getting myself ready for work.

Just another morning.

But after I'd been in the shower for a couple minutes, my phone started ringing with some urgency. I ended my shower, returned my messages and learned -- insert triumphant music -- our campus was closing for the day!

In the hubbub of getting ready for her day, Kates hadn't even thought to check her phone for any messages ... Yep, the K-12 schools were closed also.

Fast forward to this morning. My partners in communications just finished dispatching messages to our students, staff and media that our campus is closed for the third consecutive day. ... Kates's school is closed, too, for the third consecutive day.

Today I was supposed to be heading to the capitol for a legistlative trip. That was called off Monday morning.

Monday, the schools closed because of a thick sheet of ice covering everything. Tuesday, it was because of the predicted snowstorm that eventually came roaring through midday yesterday. And today it's because of wicked wind chills, winds and drifting snow.

My task of getting out Monday's weather alerts was a little bumpy because of some problems with our remote email system -- I made three trips to campus between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to deal with it -- but after three days, we've got our system working like clockwork. The last two mornings, the University police chief called me by 4 a.m., I sent a text alerting the others -- within 20 minutes we had nearly 8,000 e-mails going out, phone calls into the regional media, and postings on all of our social media, website and calendar.

Check out my home weather center ...

And we're not just talking about a simple "Classes are canceled" message. We have to coordinate with a multitude of other campus services to make sure our students are aware of what's available -- campus dining, the library, athletics events; last night we inserted a message urging students to check their university email frequently because faculty are trying to communicate with them about class schedules and assignments.

Monday night and last night, I had our school closing messages drafted and ready to go, just in case ... A scroll through the call and texting log on my phone provides a fascinating look -- to me at least -- at the processes and timelines of these last three days.

Unbelievable is one way to put it. No one, it seems, can think of any time a storm of this magnitude has occurred. ... Yesterday morning, after the latest closing alerts went out, a friend asked, "Do you love your job today?" I answered, "Of course, I love my job today! We didn't get snow days in newspaper world."

Seriously. Look at this satellite picture I pulled from a tweet I received yesterday ...

Have I mentioned how much I love watching social media, especially during major events like this? Snowmageddon, snowpocalypse and snOMG hashtags are trending on Twitter. ... On Facebook, faculty colleagues have taken bets each night on when the university would announce the next campus closure, and students are posting a variety of amusing messages, from imploring our university leadership to cancel another day to random musings like this ...

Instead of trying to scrape off the snow, you should surprise us with no classes and an awesome ski resort in the middle of the practice fields. oh and Snowboards for everyone.
One of my favorite status updates -- not from a student or faculty  member -- came from a Facebook friend in Kansas City Monday afternoon ...

State of emergency has been declared ahead of the storm. All Missouri residents are instructed to report immediately to their nearest Wal-Mart.
From a televison friend of mine ...

... putting us up at a hotel near the station tonight to make sure we have all hands on deck for continuing coverage of the winter storm. Chris dropped me off - our drive here was crazy - could barely see because windshield wipers froze and low visibility. Now I'm snuggled in to get some zzz's to head in at 2 a.m. tomorrow.
I've been watching the photos, status updates, story links and school closings roll in nearly non-stop. From Lawrence, Kan., to Wauwatosa, Wis., to Boston. ... The Kansas City airport was closed for much of yesterday. Interstate 70 is closed -- statewide.

I'm not about to break out the shovel. Yet.

And still, we don't have it near as bad as what our friends in K-Town are dealing with. Snow forecasts there are calling for as much as 2 feet, they were dealing with snow thunder last night, my former newspaper suspended delivery this morning and some staffers were stranded there overnight ... Is it wrong that I'm kind of missing experiencing all of that? Check out this video.

And oh by the way, there's a pretty big football game this weekend and some kind of crisis in Egypt.

Then again, these snow days have yielded unending fun and bonding time in our household. ... With all we've been through in the last year, this snowstorm is a welcome adventure. Kates and I wonder often what effect all of this uncertainty is having on Phoebe, but she is absolutely loving staying home with Mom and Dad these last three days.

When all the chaos of Monday's closing announcements settled, she was pulling me to a sheet of bubble wrap she placed on the floor. "Jump wit me, Daddy!" she shouted, and we spent the next several minutes jumping on bubble wrap to the beat of some pop music we'd turned on the iPod.

We've laughed and danced. A lot. ... Kates made muffins. And Chex mix. Last night we roasted marshmallows over the oven burner and made s'mores. ... I've given piggy-back rides. We've stacked blocks and created animal cut-outs with Play-doh. We moved all of her friends to the couch so she could sit and read with them ... I figure I've had some pretty darn good workouts with all the running, jumping and lifting I've done with Phoebe.


During afternoons and evenings, when I haven't been working on other things and Phoebe's asleep, Kates and I resumed our "Friends marathon" -- the one we started last July that slowed during the fall. We've finished Season 3 and started Season 4 last night.

Today, the fun continues. Snowmageddon 2011.

Good reads ...
a Boston Globe: Even children have had enough
a USA Today: Major storm wallops nation's midsection
a The New York Times: Storm Stops Travelers as It Moves Across U.S.
a Time: Midwest Buckles Under Storm