Tuesday, December 27, 2005

KG and Oprah

The media often ignores the good for the bad. Scoop Jackson says it best in his 2005-in-review column:
How do you make Mother Moses cry? In a year when ball players were getting press for "str8 stupidness" it seemed strange that Kevin Garnett's written appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show went notice-free.

He wrote her a letter. They gave her the letter on-air as a surprise. In the letter, he said he wanted to donate something to her Angel Network, which was building houses for those who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina. His pledge: To build one house per month for the next two years. That's 24 homes! Two seasons of "Extreme Makeover." Financially funded by one person … with no commercial return on his donation. A gesture that should have landed him on the cover of Time alongside Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono as Persons of The Year. A gesture that made Oprah -- read it again, Oprah -- break down.

But still, no member of the media wrote a story about it. USA Today scripted a blurb; ESPN.com made a mention. But overall -- nada.

Now, let Kevin Garnett or any other athlete run a stop light; let them miss a practice unexcused; let them miss a child support payment -- Bam! Lead story on "SportsCenter," forum discussion on "Rome Is Burning," breaking news on CNN.

In an era when it is too often publicly asked: "Where are our kids' role models?"; in a society that is starved for areas of positiveness to come from our professional athletes; in a world where we have been conditioned to believe that every one of these young superstars is unappreciative, ungrateful, undeserving and a void soul, a situation arose that could have shifted the entire perception of their existence. What Kevin Garnett did was just that big.

But guess who dropped the ball? Us. The media, for not saying anything about it, and the public, for not demanding that we do.

The moral of this story: How do you make the media not pay attention to you when you are a superstar athlete? Do something humane.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
And peace on earth to people He favors.
Luke 2:14

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Love Is the Greatest Revenge

Every autumn at the church I go to, their 20's-something ministry has a month-long series where they bring in a different person each week who can share his or her unique experiences from the work that they do. This series is always refreshing because we get to hear stories and perspectives from people who don't live in our geographical area. (Sometimes these people come from overseas, sometimes they're celebrities, etc.)

Anyway, one of the teaching pastors had his brother, Justin Dillon, who's a rock musician, come in and share his story with us back in October.

Nobody on either side of Dillon's family tree had any known musical talent (nobody played instruments, sang, etc.). However, at age 16 he decided he wanted to learn guitar and be a rocker. So he began taking lessons and got to be pretty good. He formed a band and they started playing small gigs, gradually working their way up. Dillon was making progress, but when it came to closing the deal with a record company, he was a strikeout - repeatedly.

Every time he made the 6-hour drive down to L.A. for an audition, the trip got longer and longer; and of course, the rides back home without a record deal were even longer. Many a time he found himself on the phone saying to his brother that it was all over and time to quit music.

One night, when he was a little over 30 years old, he got a prank call from somebody claiming to be from New Line Cinema, saying that they wanted to use one of his songs in a movie. Of course, Dillon wasn't duped by this prankster. However, the caller persisted, "No, seriously, we think you have a hit on your hands." Dillon finally said, "Okay, e-mail me right now if you're legit." So the caller e-mailed him and sure enough, he was legit. This wasn't a prank call afterall.

So Justin Dillon's big break came in the chick flick How to Deal. (His song, Promise Ring, starts to play when Mandy Moore is making out with some guy, which is ironic considering that Dillon wrote the song several years earlier for a friend who was going through a divorce).

Anyway, Dillon sang Promise Ring and Room 139 for us at church. (Room 139 is loosely based on Psalm 139 -- O LORD, you have searched me and you know me...). I can personally testify that Dillon's voice is amazing in a live performance. Also, it's neat that he's decided to give 50% of all his first album's royalties to charity.

Justin Dillon's band is Tremolo. Their album is Love Is the Greatest Revenge. Check them out. (If you act now, you can download O, Holy Night for free on their Web site.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cory Maye

If you don't know who Cory Maye is, my guess is, you will.

Who is Cory Maye? Picture this, if you will: Let's say that...

...cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frightened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.
Interesting. Did I mention this happened in Mississippi? Cory Maye is set to be executed for this crime. Add to this that Maye's original legal counsel was likely quite inadequate and you have a very likely innocent man set to die.

Cory Maye's case is becoming well known after it was discovered by blogger Radley Balko while researching related material. He ran across the case of Cory Maye and blogged his initial findings. Other bloggers across the political spectrum have picked them up and the story has spread. Interestingly, this may someday be one of the first best examples of a story being found by bloggers and eventually picked up by mainstream media and leading to a resolution. At this point, however, the mainstream media has not yet jumped aboard.

You can read all about the story at Balko's blog. I have little doubt from reading the entire story that something extremely fishy has been going on. I suggest reading from the bottom (starting at the beginning) to the top and familiarize yourself with the story if you're interested. Currently, another public defender has taken up Maye's case and Balko's research may have attracted bigwig pro bono representation. Balko recently obtained the original trial transcript and will be posting it online shortly. It seems to me a story that could end up having a documentary made about it (a la Murder on a Sunday Morning). It's shameful that the possibility of injustice still exists in today's courts.

You can continue to follow and read all about the case here. My guess is, though, it won't be only there you hear about Cory Maye for long.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Reading List

One of the things I love to do is to read, and there are always books out there which I want to read (if only I had the time). Most Christmases, I like to put several books on my Christmas wishlist to add to my collection of books I want to read that I haven't. This year is no exception. That being the case, I thought I'd share with you some of the books on my list this year. I should note, I've actually already gotten a couple of these, but I'll still include them anyway.

The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor--and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! by Tim Harford

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity by Ronald Sider

Scandal Of The Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like The Rest Of The World? by Ronald Sider

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Unveiling Islam: An Insider's Look at Muslim Life and Belief by Ergun Caner and Emir Caner

Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God: What Recent Discoveries in Astrophysics Reveal About the Glory and Love of God by Hugh Ross

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

And in case you were wondering, paperback is much preferred. 8^)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Wiki Wiki Wiki

Astute IJAB readers will note that I have already apprised them of the fabulous free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. However, lest any reader find themselves not completely up-to-date on the latest Internet drivel, I thought I'd better fill you in.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that is user-edited. Read the above-linked post for more info if you're confused. To make a long story short, a prankster wrote an article on Wikipedia saying that distinguished editor John Seigenthaler plotted to kill the Kennedys as a joke. Obviously, it wasn't true. And thus, the fuss.

Critics said this was a sign that the resource that Wikipedia is couldn't be trusted. The veracity of all Wikipedia's content was called into question. People called for anonymous editing to end and controls to be put in place. "How," they ask, "could an encyclopedia that lets anyone anonymously create and edit articles possibly be a repository of reliable information?"

I personally think it's a little silly. Wikipedia's a good resource for a first look at a subject. I don't think any reasonable person would suspect that it's fully 100% correct or complete. I myself have made various Wikipedia edits. It is what it is-- a good resource to begin research.

And in fact, that viewpoint has been validated. It turns out that a study conducted by the journal Nature has found that Wikipedia is just as reliable as the Encyclopedia Britannica (a decidedly not free print book).

So, go ahead you Internet warriors, Wiki away, and may the knowledge be with you.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


You may recall after the 2004 election seeing a map redrawn to reflect where the country's population lived rather than the actual geography.

I recently came across a similar map showing the world's population spread. It's somewhat astounding to see the visual reminder of where the U.S. ranks in relation to other places in the world. The overwhelming color on that map is definitely not North America.

Sometimes I think our head knows this, but it doesn't always sink in. As I'm often reminded during flying as I look down at the twinkling lights of the villages passing beneath, the world is a big place. And we are very small in comparison.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Google Transit

A brand new release from Google is a takeoff of their Maps feature called Google Transit. This new program features to and from directions for locations, but instead of via car, via the available public transit. As a proponent of transit, this is extremely exciting. This sort of routemaking efficiency is all that's been stopping many from choosing transit as their transportation mode. I will say, the possibilities this new feature entails seem pretty cool.

Obviously, this first release is very beta, and so there are still bugs. It's exciting, though, for the potential it holds, not for what it is right now. Currently, only one metropolitan region is available, that being Portland, Oregon. I CANNOT wait until this expands to Chicago. At least I hope it will. Having multiple public transit agencies, and different ticket pricing schemes, this is just the place a tool like this would be useful. Whether it will happen here assumes of course that Chicago's agencies will be willing to release their data and work with Google. Some cities are not willing. For now, I won't worry about that. I'll imagine the possibilities this holds instead. At the very least, I hope this means they'll add the public transit locations and stations to their base Google Maps.

Someday soon, if the API is released by Google, I imagine a mashup whereby you could search for homes or restaurants within a certain distance of the el.

Or, for a trip to the suburbs, you would be able to time compare (transit vs. live driving time) and cost compare (fare vs. gas cost) your mode choices. You could select a trip where the first link was via transit and the second via car or vice versa.

You could even begin to add multi-city trips with jumps (airplane trips) in between transit and car portions of the trip. Very cool.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Yeah, I miss da Bulls.

This past Friday the Chicago Bulls retired Scottie Pippen's #33. I watched a video of the halftime ceremony online later that night, and I was overrun with nostalgia.

From May 1993 to June 1998, I was a Chicago Bulls fanatic. I never made it to Chicago Stadium, and I've yet to be inside the United Center, but I watched them on TV all the time. They were just a fascinating team to watch. Sure, it helped that they were winners, but I also enjoyed the team chemistry and personalities (especially for the 2nd 3-peat).

Looking back, perhaps I spent too much time watching the Bulls, but you know what? I sure enjoyed it while it lasted. Just thinking back on the team that won 72 games... wow, what a year. It's hard to compare different teams from different eras, but that '96 Bulls team has to be considered the greatest NBA team of all time if you insist on trying to pick one.

For that '96 Bulls team, having Michael Jordan, the greatest all-around player and clutch performer in NBA history was a good start. (If NBA history teaches us anything, it's that you don't bet against Michael Jordan in the prime of his NBA career.) But while that team started with Jordan, it certainly didn't end there. At the other starting guard position they had Ron Harper, who was bigger than most guards and able to play great defense, yet knew enough to get out of Jordan's way on offense. Coming off the bench at guard they had Steve Kerr (to this day the highest % 3-point shooter in NBA history), and Randy Brown (the quickest defender on that Bulls team, which is saying something).

If the team had a weakness, it was at the center position. However, I purposely used the word if. When people try to find fault with the '96 Bulls, they usually attack Luc Longley as being an average center who would be dominated by the greats throughout history (Wilt, Russell, Kareem, etc.) I disagree. Luc Longley was a good center on offense and defense. Moreover, he fit well into the Bulls' team strategy.

On defense, Longley could typically neutralize the other team's center. On offense, he was a good passer, good jump shooter, and was an accurate free throw shooter (even in the clutch). With 2 minutes left in a close game, if you fouled Shaq, it's hold your breath. If you fouled Longley, it's 2 points for the Bulls.

When Oscar Robinson was asked whether Wilt Chamberlain was the best ever, he replied, "The books don't lie." I couldn't agree more. Chamberlain has two titles. Longley has three.

Okay, so I'm not saying Longley's better than Wilt. But consider this: Wilt played the game back in the 1890s (okay, more like the 1960s and early 70s, but you get my point) when there weren't many centers his size (7' 1" 275 lbs). In short, Wilt wasn't dominating guys like Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, or Hakeem Olajuwon. He was dominating guys like Jack Haley.

As Exhibit A below, I present to you an "action" shot from Wilt's storied 100-point night:

In Exhibit B below, apparently this was the most impressive photo NBA.com could find of Wilt Chamberlain's career:

Wait a second, who's that on defense? Nick Smith?

Furthermore, Wilt's career free throw percentage is two points lower than Shaq's. I'd argue that Shaq is a more dominant center than Wilt; and Tim Duncan is a better team basketball player than either. Yet none of them would have caused Luc Longley to lose much sleep while he was on the '96 Bulls.

Coming off the bench at center, the Bulls had Bill Wennington who was a phenomenal shooter (great jumper and 86% free throw accuracy), but a liability on defense and not as good a passer as Longley. Wennington wouldn't excite you as a starting center, but as a back up, he was one of the best in the league.

At power forward, the Bulls only had the greatest natural rebounder of all time, Dennis Rodman, aka "The Worm." Rodman did a lot of the little things that the average fan doesn't notice on the basketball court. According to some people, Rodman's basketball I.Q. was second to none. He knew how to move without the ball, make the best pass, and get inside his opponent's head to attain a psychological advantage. Rodman could also play defense against guys who were bigger in size. I remember he sometimes would guard Shaq - and relatively well I might add.

Coming off the bench at forward was Toni Kukoc, who would have started on almost any other NBA team in history. Any time he touched the ball on offense, he was a 6' 11" triple threat to shoot, pass, or dribble.

Of course, having all of these talented players doesn't mean anything if you can't get them to work together as a team. Phil Jackson, the head coach, did a masterful job of handling the egos and differing personalities. He and his staff also worked wonders with the X's and O's (six championships speaks for itself).

And if that weren't enough, they also had a guy who started at small forward who wasn't half bad. Sure, he didn't play ball in junior high and he was mainly the water boy his junior year in high school. He ended up going to a tiny college in Arkansas without a scholarship, but somehow made it to the Bulls and did okay. Of course, I'm talking about Scottie Pippen, the most accomplished small forward in NBA history.

Pippen was an amazing athlete. At 6' 7", he had long arms (7' wing span), but was also very quick. While he wasn't the best shooter in the world, he could dribble around people and dunk with the best of them. (Side note: Did you know that Pip taught MJ how to dunk from the corner using his left hand?) (Side note 2: I never hear people comment on this, but I noticed that Pippen had a knack for going glass in the crunch. At about a 45 degree angle from the basket, up to 15 feet away, he seemed to be about 80% accuracy when he chose to go glass. I specifically remember many occassions when the Bulls needed a big bucket, he would go to this play with a high rate of success. However, he didn't do this very often -- only on "special" occassions. Has anyone else noticed this or am I making this up?)

While Pip's offense was great, his defense was exceptional. He was every bit the defender that Jordan was, and ironically, if there was one person in the league whose defensive skills could have slowed down Jordan's offense, it was Pippen. But fortunately for Chicago fans, Pippen and Jordan were working with each other, not against each other.

Job well done, #23 & #33. Rest those numbers in peace.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Commuting Nightmares

As you know if you live in the midwest, Chicago was hit with their first big snow of the year on Thursday afternoon and evening. All in all, we got almost 10" at my house.

Needless to say, Murphy made it certain that the one day I don't get to ride the convenient, on-time-even-in-a-blizzard el was Thursday. Yes, I had to head out to my company's suburban location via the automobile. And, of course, I had a basketball playoff game in my city league that evening. Knowing this had the makings of a problem, I knew I would need to leave early. My game was at 6:30, and so I decided I would leave at 3:30 to make certain I made the normally one hour trip in time.

As indicated above, that's just after the snow began to fall. To make a long story short, traffic began to move slower and slower. The commute was becoming a hectic mess. I still held out hope of making it when, frustrated with the standstill on the interstate, I exited to travel via local roads. Needless to say, after some moments of hope, my time winnowed away.
Now, as you may know, I grew up in Minnesota. Despite the snow we were having, I was not ever in danger on the road, at least from myself, due to my Minnesota experience. In fact, I don't think the snow in and of itself would have added a tremendous amount of time to my trip. The other drivers on the road, however, that was a problem. Let's just say that there definitely were some people I wanted to go around. There were some terribly slow drivers. Now, maybe they didn't have a clue how to drive in snow and were thus taking it safe, which was probably the case, but regardless I sat frustrated in the car.

I finally made it to my destination at 7. I had spent 3.5 hours squirming in the drivers seat. The trip is about 30 miles. I had made a roaring average of under 10 mph. Consequently, I had arrived just in time to see my team be forced to forfeit (I was only our 3rd player to get there).

The lesson as always, don't make plans.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Big and Getting Bigger

What item in America has been constantly increasing since the early 1900's? No, I'm not talking about our waistlines?
It's our homes. In 1970, the average American home was 1,400 sq. ft. Today, in 2005, the average American home is 2,349 sq. ft. while the average household size is 2.
Wow, talk about inflation. Does the average person need 500 sq. ft. more in living space to function today? Despite the large size of our homes today, they continue to grow. In fact, for a segment of the American population, it is their dream to own a bigger house. Says Georgia Psihas,

Bigger bigger, better better, it's just a part of life.
Talk about lofty ambitions.

The sad thing is that the house people think is their dream house doesn't bring happiness. Says Georgia,

I don't know if I enjoy it more. The only room I ever sit in is the office. Then I go to sleep in my bed. I don't even know what my bedroom looks like.
Bonnie Bennett adds in regard to one of the rooms in her 8,000 s.f. home,
It's kind of stupid, because we never sit in here.
Alyson Skinner notes,
The irony is, the bigger the house, the more junk you buy. Then you have nowhere to put it, so you want more storage.
The environmental footprint for the owner of a megamansion such as the one under construction above is undoubtedly giant. The question we must ask ourselves when we consider our living space is, how much is too much? There are alternatives.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Link of the Day -- Citysearch

Most of you may already be aware of today's link, but I thought I'd throw it up there anyway, in case it helps someone.
Citysearch is a nationwide online restaurant and activities guide, which lists reviews and rankings for businesses in most of the nation's metropolitan areas.
Each year they have their own categories for which they produce top ten lists (mostly for restaurants) and people can vote on their favorite BBQ place or burger joint. Those lists are a good resource if you're looking for places to try. I know we check out a city's lists if we're going to visit on vacation.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The dark side of the blog

It’s just a blog.

Just a good old fashioned, fun, lovable, harmless blog. Or so Westy would have you believe.

I, for one, am tired of all the secrecy, and I’m breaking my silence to let you know the truth about this blog. So sit right back and enjoy the ride. This is the post that Westy doesn't want you to read.

(Note: Special thanks to NSX Freddy for hacking Westy’s account so we don’t have to worry about him deleting this post anytime soon.)

Okay, where to start? Well, “It’s Just A Blog” recently had its latest Board of Directors’ meeting. I think it’d be more aptly called “Listen-to-Westy-yell-at-his-subordinates” meeting. Of course, this meeting only consisted of Westy and me, so I guess “subordinates” should be made singular.

This meeting was much like the previous ones. We get all dressed up in business attire and meet in a large, professional boardroom with big comfy chairs and a white board with dry erase markers of all seven colors of the rainbow plus a black one, which happens to be the only one we ever use. Westy then goes on and on about how people won’t take our blog seriously unless we’re “long on words and short on pictures.” He also emphasizes that he’s the one who “put this blog on the map” and how we need to work harder to “make it the capital,” and eventually “wipe our rivals off the map.” In fact, our blog’s motto is, “Taking over the blogosphere, one reader at a time.”

I guess one thing that made this meeting different was that I interrupted his spiel by expressing my dissatisfaction with my current blogger contract. I basically told him that when I signed onto IJAB back in August, I had been na├»ve about the market. I recently learned that what Westy’s paying me to blog on his site is way below fair market value. To this point, he responded by yelling at me. Honestly, I don’t even remember what he said. I just know that he said it very loudly.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be getting a raise anytime soon either. There are two reasons for this:

#1) The contract I signed gives Westy exclusive rights to any blogging that I do for the next 7 years (Westy has the option on years 6 and 7).

#2) IJAB’s readership has remained stagnant the past two months, meaning that this blog is still in the red and will stay there for the foreseeable future.

The second point is the only one that concerns Westy, so that’s what we spent most of our meeting discussing. He’s been very aggressive in this department for quite some time, and he believes that he’s “very close” to “something big.” As somebody who’s in the know, I can fill you in on the latest details (even though revealing these secrets violates my contract and will result in a fine -- and probably a suspension too):

For starters, Westy and Oneway have been in serious negotiations for a major blog merger. At present, the money is right for Oneway, but he’s holding out for more creative control and also hopes that the merged blog will be called “It’s Just A High Fidelity Blog.” However, he’ll likely drop these demands and it’s expected that the merger will be completed by March 2006. In a cost-cutting move, The_Dude will be released. (Sorry, The_Dude, I know this must come as a shock to you, but it’s true. Oneway will soon be counting his 30 pieces of silver while you sit out on the curb, holding a cardboard sign that reads, “Will Blog For Food.”)

Westy wanted to bring Teeftastic on board this fall, but all of his overtures were rather rudely rejected. As such, Westy has vowed to find and doctor a sufficiently embarrassing photo of Teeftastic so as to “destroy his blogging career.”

Ironically, while Westy plots to sabotage Teeftastic’s blog, he’s simultaneously working to get Teef’s brother, Pepperdeaf, to become IJAB’s Spiritual Advisor. Apparently these conversations have been “pleasant,” and Pepperdeaf has indicated that he wishes he had thought of the idea himself. If indeed Pepperdeaf comes on board as Spiritual Advisor, Westy will surely rub it in An Illini Life's face to make him jealous.

[**Note: If you’re a diehard Philthy Phanatic, skip over this paragraph.**] Perhaps the saddest revelation I can disclose is that Philthy Laundry has already been bought out by IJAB. You’ve probably already noticed the changes, such as the site’s re-design, the removal of My Hero, and the topics that it now covers are boring things like schools standing up for their beliefs and obscure Google games that nobody plays. (Oh, how I’m already longing for the days of Philthy uncensored. But I better keep my mouth shut and tow the company line, right?)

Also, you might be surprised to learn that Ben Sheets had agreed in principle to abandon his “For President” and “Leadership Diary” blogs to join IJAB last week. For Ben Sheets, the money was right and the challenge intriguing, but just before he signed on the dotted line, Westy made one more condition: Ben Sheets would have to change his moniker to Johan Santana.

The “Johan clause” proved to be the deal breaker as Ben Sheets backed out at the eleventh hour on principle. However, Westy in his relentless pursuit to crush the spirit of Ben Sheets, insists that “everyone has a price.” Privately, he has told me that he will up the ante and expects “Johan Santana will eventually play ball.” Truly, it will be a sad day in the blogosphere if Ben Sheets changes his name to Johan Santana just so he can change his game to IJAB. Say it ain’t so!

In an effort to increase readership among women, Westy had considered bringing lisa:)
in, but these talks have gone nowhere. Westy’s convinced that she’s too randsane to ever be trusted. I told Westy that maybe he should think inside the box on this issue, but he just looked at me quizzically. I then explained that his wife, SheWesty, is currently in Day 199 of her IJAB holdout and perhaps it was time he paid her fair market value. To this, Westy responded, “No way! I’ve got to show her who wears the pants in this blog.” (To this, I responded, “Well, excuse me, but I thought we all wore pants in this blog. After all, your strict dress code requires it, which is a shame because my lifelong dream is to blog in my pajamas.”)

Westy is surprisingly dismissive of the blogs run by Engy, GQ, and Chairman Gau. In fact, he basically ignores them, saying, “In the blogosphere, it’s a dog-eat-dog world and these guys are wearing milkbone underwear.”

As our meeting came to a close, I joked, “Do I get a Christmas bonus this year?”

Westy didn’t laugh. He called security.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Uhmm, Is that what I think it is?!

My wife encountered this fine pile near the front of the northbound platform of the Chicago Red Line stop.

Many questions are obvious, but most curiously, how in the world did this get there and how long had it been there?

Needless to say, this was not a positive CTA experience. Said her in the e-mail to me, "This is why I sometimes don't like riding the el."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Family Research

Have you ever been working on a research project and reached a dead end in your research? Well, if your research has anything to do with families, look no further than the Why Do I Love These People? Factbook created by Po Bronson.
I'll admit, besides the site's title, this post sounds boring, but the site is truly invaluable. Almost every tidbit on family life can be found. If you're patient enough to mine the data, you'll be able to find something interesting.
Like for instance, did you know that in 1900 the most common household size was greater than 7, but today it's 2? Or that because of rising life expectancies, you're today more likely than ever to reach your 40th wedding anniversary? Search around a bit and if you find something fun, leave a comment.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Death in a Deep Freeze

[Update: Solution has been added at bottom]

A 5-Minute Mystery was e-mailed to me recently by Jack Pachuta. He won't reveal the solution until later next week, so I thought it would be fun to see if we could put our heads together as a blog team and try to solve it. Feel free to post theories and suspicions below.

Here's the mystery:

This is Chief Inspector Jack Pachuta with the case I call Death in a Deep Freeze.

It was an unforgettable scene - a murder unlike any I've ever investigated. The body of recluse woodsman Zachary Parks was found hanging by the neck from a rope tied to a rafter of his secluded cabin in the north woods on a bitterly cold winter day. His hands were tied behind him with his feet dangling about nine inches above the cold wooden floor. The fading embers in the nearby fireplace indicated a raging fire had died many hours before. The cabin was so cold that a frozen circle of ice had formed beneath the corpse.

The crime scene had been discovered about noon by the local postal carrier, Rusty Stubbs, who was making his weekly delivery via snowmobile to the Parks cabin. Stubbs reported looking through the window and seeing the grizzly scene. He used his citizens band radio to notify authorities of the incident. It didn't take long to get a response. Sheriff Joe Hirsch was a licensed pilot, a fact he used to his advantage when patrolling the territory. By one o'clock he had called me and coroner Pierre LaClair. The three of us took off from a snowy runway to make our way to the cabin.

Flying in, I looked out the window of the small airplane and spotted a few hunters in the woods. Several shanties used by ice fishermen dotted the lake near Parks' cabin. They all looked to be empty as no smoke rose from the small stovepipes protruding from their roofs. Landing on the frozen lake, our plane skidded to a halt near the shore about a quarter mile from Parks' hideaway. The heavy snow which had created near-blizzard conditions the night before had covered any footprints that might have been present.

Stubbs greeted us at the cabin. He had managed to open the door and get in, giving him some protection from the weather while he awaited our arrival. "I didn't touch a thing," he reported. "I left Zack's body exactly where I found it to make sure I didn't destroy any evidence." We retrieved the body and laid it on a cot.

LaClair examined the body and reported his initial findings. "Death was definitely caused by hanging," he said, "I'd estimate he died shortly after midnight," By that time, I speculated, the snow had stopped. "Zack had an on-going feud with a local trapper, Gus Tatum, the sheriff told me. "Tatum is pretty careless with his traps and this bothered Zack. Maybe we should find him." The sheriff and I started Parks' snowmobile and headed for the nearby town. Pierre LaClair stayed behind with Stubbs to build a fire and continue his analysis of the body.

It didn't take long to find Tatum at a small hotel. "I've been here all night," he emphasized with a smile, "I was ice fishing on the lake during the day and came into town to let off a little steam. Sue here will tell you I checked in about nine o'clock when the snow started getting heavy. I didn't want to take a chance of getting stuck while trying to get home in a blizzard."

Sue Shanahan, the innkeeper, corroborated Tatum's story. It's true," she confirmed. "What's this all about anyway?" When Joe Hirsch told her Zack Parks was dead, she seemed startled. "Why, we were together two nights ago. We'd been seeing each other for a few months, but had a big argument and decided to end our relationship." Tears came to her eyes as she asked, "Did you find the strongbox?" Sue explained that Parks had been an amateur prospector and, over the years, had accumulated a substantial cache of gold dust. "He kept it behind a loose stone in the fireplace,"she revealed.

Back at the cabin, we joined LaClair and began putting the pieces of the investigation together. Rusty Stubbs had departed. We could see the tracks of his vehicle as they made a path toward the next cabin, about three miles away. Joe Hirsch found the loose stone in the fireplace and peered inside the crevice that had been a secret hiding spot. It was empty - the strongbox was gone.

The heavy snow of the previous night had cleared to a brilliant sunny day. The rekindled fire in the fireplace glowed a rosy red and orange. We sat back to think about the direction our investigation would take. The icy patch on the floor turned to a puddle of water as the cabin heated up. I looked out a window and, in the distance, I could see the lake with our airplane in its secure spot near the shore.

An ice fisherman must have returned to his fishing spot because the smokestack on a shanty spewed a white plume. That's when everything clicked into place. As the sun sparkled on the snowy landscape, I looked at the room one more time and knew I was correct. I knew who had murdered Zack Parks.

** Mystery solved below **

Ice - hard, cold, chilling ice. The icy cabin near an icy lake. It gave both form and substance to this crime. Several facts puzzled me about this murder. First, the time of death. The fresh snow made it clear that no one was near the cabin after midnight. Yet, it was at about midnight that Zack Parks had died.

Gus Tatum, a prime suspect was at a nearby hotel when the death occurred. Certainly, he couldn't be in two places at the same time. And, trusty Rusty Stubbs? If he had made a midnight trek to the cabin, why would he be the one to notify the sheriff? Wouldn't he just say he received no response when he knocked on the cabin door? And why would he select this most unusual method for doing away with his victim? In a secluded spot in the north woods, no one would be around to hear a struggle or the sound of a weapon.

It was the absence of a critical component that pointed me in the right direction. Parks was hanging from a rope tied to a rafter indicating he was not hoisted from the floor. This meant he must have been standing on something which was eventually removed, causing his strangulation and death. But, we found no object at the scene which could have been used for this purpose.

Or, could the circle of ice have been the object? Yes - the ice. Zack Parks had been made to stand on a block of ice - a block of ice that slowly melted as the heat from a fire permeated the cabin. Parks was positioned on the block of ice early the previous evening and must have watched in disbelief as it melted from under his feet. By the time the snowstorm started, the murderer was long-gone with Parks' treasure chest of gold.

As the cabin chilled, the puddle from the block of ice again froze, creating the icy circle we discovered. Who could provide such a block of ice? Perhaps, someone who might cut into a frozen lake to catch fish - someone like Gus Tatum.

Yes, Tatum set up the scenario that killed Zack Parks, then made sure he had an alibi for the exact time at which death would occur. Joe Hirsch and I rushed back to the hotel and arrived in a nick of time. Tatum was loading a vehicle with his gear. Gear which, after a search, revealed a strongbox filled with gold dust. It was Zack Parks' treasure, and the final evidence that enabled us to convict Gus Tatum of murder and close the case of Death in a Deep Freeze.

Friday, November 25, 2005

All Turkey Team

In honor of Thanksgiving, we'd like to share a bit of Chicago sports history.

Thanks to the Cub Reporter for compiling the all-time Chicago Cubs Turkey Day All Star team. The members are:
C - Pickles Dillhoefer
1B - Catfish Metkovich
2B - Rabbit Warstler
SS - Rabbit Maranville
3B - Pie Traynor (Acquired by Cubs from the Pittsburgh Pirates)
LF - Peanuts Lowrey
CF - Turkey Stearns (Acquired by Cubs from the Kansas City Monarchs)
RF - Goose Goslin (Acquired by Cubs from the Washington Senators)

SP - Steve Trout
SP - Noodles Hahn (Acquired by Cubs from the Cincinnati Reds)
SP - Doug Bird (thanks to ELJEFE281 for the heads-up)

RP - Goose Gossage
RP - Sweetbreads Bailey
RP - Ducky Swan (Acquired by Cubs from the Federal League’s Kansas City Packers)

Corner OF - Candy Maldonado
Backup Catcher - Damon Berryhill
Third Catcher - Peaches Graham

Manager - Jim “French” Frey
Third Base Coach - Cookie Rojas

I hope you enjoyed some of the best names ever to grace Wrigley, and I hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Do you Sudoku?

As evidenced below, I am now a Sudoku Grandmaster.

Okay, so maybe the difficulty rating was only 1 star out of 5, but I'm still proud of myself.

If you're interested in playing Sudoku, you can go here. (MSNBC has a new one each day. Looks like the tougher ones come out on weekends.)

Maybe this Thanksgiving, you'll eat turkey, watch football, and play Sudoku?

Note from Greg: Sorry, I meant to have this posted on Thanksgiving but was away from a computer. Just pretend this post is a re-heated leftover.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Afraid of Heights?

Well, then the newest Grand Canyon attraction may not be for you...

This glass-bottomed Grand Canyon Skywalk is being built by the Native American Hualapai Nation. It will hover ~4,000 feet above the Colorado River and extend 70 feet from the cliff.

The question is, would you go out on it?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Movie of the Day

Today I thought I'd link you to one of my favorite video clips that has made its way around the Internet.
Let's just say that this poor kid will think twice before he heads the the concession stand next time...

movie link

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The New Face of Chicago

Will this be Chicago's skyline in the future?

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune featured an analysis of the potential future skyline as shown above. The Trump Tower obviously will be completed as it's already under construction. The Fordham Spire was previously proposed (and blogged about here) but is not yet approved by the city. The ubiquitously named Tall Tower was the most recent proposal. It also has not yet been approved. If all were built, though, the view would be very similar to what's shown above.

For those into architecture, the Trump Tower was designed by Adrian Smith at Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Santiago Calatrava designed the concept for the Fordham Spire, and Cesar Pelli designed the concept of the Tall Tower, which is really only a glorified broadcast tower.

Personally, I think the Trump Tower is well done and will fit into the skyline nicely. The other two, however? Maybe too tall in comparison to the surrounding buildings for my taste. The scale seems wrong. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Going Green

Being a resident of an urban environment, the latest urban enviroscaping news piques my interest. Obviously one of the latest pushes in our country has been in making new buildings 'green'. By this people mean making use of the latest 'green' (environmentally-friendly) technology and building materials.

One component of this that I'm a big fan of has been the movement to incorporate green roofs into especially city dwellings. This can mean anything from not using the typical black tar roofs (which hold in heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect) to creating almost a garden on the roof. This can be done on anything from a small home to skyscrapers.

An example of this is the City Hall rooftop in Chicago. Chicago has become known as a center for green technology and roofs are no exception. For instance, a $5,000 grant from the city is available for anyone who wants to create a green roof.

Lately, the push for usage of this option nationally has grown stronger. A blog called WorldChanging has a pretty extensive rundown here. They say:

Green roofs add so many benefits to a building and its surrounding area, it's astonishing that more roofs aren't green at this point... Although green roofs cost more up front to install than regular roofs, the savings that they accrue over the years quickly pay off.
There are of course future maintenance concerns and concerns about the roof's durability, but to me, the idea of making green roofs more commonplace is a no-brainer. I have to think that the opportunity to lounge on a garden in the sky would be pretty attractive to most people.

For further information or if you're interested in becoming an advocate in your city, you could consider joining the "Green Roofs for Healthy Cities" campaign.

I have the feeling that this is an idea that will only continue to grow.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Angry Attacks on Christianity

Recently, in my jaunts around the Internet, I've come across several downright hostile rants against Christianity.

Take for instance, this guy on Huffington Post. He says that anybody who follows any religion is "stupid":

If You're a Christian, Muslim or Jew - You are Wrong.

If you don't want to be called ignorant or misinformed, then get informed. Learn the real nature of our universe and put aside old wives tales about resurrected Gods, omniscient prophets and a guy who could split the Red Sea but couldn't find where he's going in the desert for forty years.
It's the year 2005. Let's start acting like it

His basic argument is that all religions are myths because their holy books are false. I'm not sure I see any real basis to the argument, though.

So then I happened upon this fellow, who argues specifically that there is not a God.
Do I believe in God? No. As someone who likes to ground himself in reality, I have a hard time believing in something so ambiguous.
He goes on:

Here is something I do know without a shadow of a doubt. If God did exist, he wouldn't be very happy with what people are claiming to do in his name. Do you really think God wants you to be a homophobe? Be hateful and arrogant in his name? Not help the poor? Wage war without end? I doubt it. Don't tell me it's all a part of God's plan. It's part of your plan, and you're just using God as an excuse to do wrong.
And to be honest, there is a sliver of truth in this statement. A follower of God should behave as God would want him to. Do they always? No, probably not, but the key here is that we all remain imperfect. This error carries on:
Want some advice? Here's the one, surefire way to improve your standing if God indeed exists: Be a good person. Be kind to others. Look out for your fellow man...
And sadly, this is where he completely misunderstands what God wants. God seeks his own glory. That's a weird thing to think about, but it's true. John Piper, on his website Desiring God, makes this very point:

Man was made to rely on God and give Him glory.
The Gospel of Christianity says that no matter how good we are, we aren't good enough. That's why our eternal destination does not rest on anything we do, but on Jesus.

Finally, I came upon a site called Why Does God Hate Amputees? This particular guy sets about proving Christianity false. He offers as an indication that God doesn't exist the fact that amputees do not grow back their limbs:
No matter how many people pray. No matter how sincere those people are. No matter how much they believe. No matter how devout and deserving the recipient. Nothing will happen. The legs will not regenerate. Prayer does not restore the severed limbs of amputees.... And we know that God ignores the prayers of amputees through our own observations of the world around us. If God were answering the prayers of amputees to regenerate their lost limbs, we would be seeing amputated legs growing back every day.

Isn't that odd?
This man has basically written a book on reasons he says Christianity is not true, including such topics as the reliability of the Bible and who exactly Jesus was. As far as I can tell, his argument boils down to that he feels if God existed, he would have made himself more obvious. My question to (the appropriately named) Mr. Brain is why are you so bent on proving Christianity wrong? If religion is false, its presence should not be of such great importance to you. Obviously, it strikes very close to him somehow. I'd be curious what his spiritual background is.

The great thing about Christianity, is that it is provable and there are reasons to believe. I'd be more than happy to point towards a few if you're curious.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Perfect Murder CD

A few weeks ago I was franticly running around on a Friday afternoon, trying to get everything ready for a murder mystery party that I'd be hosting later that evening. The previous night my printer had malfunctioned and so I was way behind in printing out all the necessary documents for the guests to play. However, I managed to get off work early on Friday and was trying to make the proverbial "comeback."

When I made it to the grocery store, just a few hours before the party, I was in a major hurry because I still had documents to print and other arrangements to make before 16 hungry people expecting a well-planned mystery would arrive.

I usually like to leisurely make my way around a grocery store, but this time I was all business -- no time to
pout about deceptive advertising, analyze the social dynamics of my surroundings (people watch), marvel at all the colorful cereal boxes, reminisce about how grocery stores were better "back in the day," dream about how grocery stores could be improved in the future, or even take pity on the guy stuck with the messy clean-up in aisle 7 .

Now granted, I'm not one to brag, especially on the World Wide Web, but I've gotta say that I made some great time in that grocery store. I mean, yeah, I still took my sweet time in certan areas, but for the most part, I was bookin' it.

I was so proud of myself that when I was ready to check out, I tried to do a careful calculation as to which line would go fastest so that I could finish the job strong. (Side note: Does anyone remember the Simpsons episode where Abu uses his expertise to guide Marge to the fastest-moving line in the grocery store? I always think about that when I'm getting ready to check out.) Anyway, I soon find what I consider to be the best line and get in it. After about 5 minutes of waiting it's finally my turn to start loading my items onto the conveyor belt while the person in front of me is paying. After a few more minutes all of my items are on the counter and it's about time for my groceries to be scanned. I go to reach for my wallet and -- funny thing -- it's not there. Check my other pocket... not there either. Check my original pocket again, still not there. Wildly check all of my pockets and look suspiciously at the person behind me... nothing.

Now, let me remind you, the last time I was in this big of a hurry at a grocery store was never. If it hadn't been for my unexpected printer problems, I wouldn't be in such a hurry this time either, but no time for second guessing. I hurriedly reload my cart, apologize to the cashier, say that I'll push my cart to the side and get my wallet from the car (long story as to why my wallet was in my car).

Another 20 minutes later, I had finally checked out. One positive that came out of it was that on my 2nd time through the line a nice lady gave me a $5 coupon. However, upon getting home, I realized I had forgotten the ice. (Thanks to Tony the Aussie pirate and Lisa the German Cuckoo
clock maker for picking up the ice!)

I've written quite a bit so far in this post, but I am getting to a point. Now where was I? Oh yes, if Tony & Lisa hadn't picked up the ice, I wouldn't have had time to download and burn five songs onto a CD for the party -- and even at that, I barely managed it. (The purpose of this CD was to provide about 15 minutes of "sleuth music" while the guests wrote up their solutions to the night's mystery game.) While I had researched a few songs earlier in the week, I hadn't made any firm decisions on them until about 20 minutes before the party at which point I started downloading and burning like there was no tomorrow. I put a little thought into the
order in which I'd put the songs on the CD, but not much. Definitely no time for second guessing. In fact, the first time I put the CD in the player and turned it on was at the party... I wasn't even sure it had burned properly. Fortunately, it had.

Okay, so I've now written even more since the last time I commented on this post's length, but I've finally reached my point: This CD that I whipped together in 10 minutes is perfect! (Well, it's perfect for a murder mystery dinner party, anyway.) The only thing is that I didn't notice
this until long after the party was over. So what's the CD you ask?

It's these five songs in this order:

1. The Pink Panther Theme (Original Version) by Harry Mancini & his Orchestra
2. The Peter Gunn Theme by Ray Anthony (Dragnet's music)
3. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror: Christopher Docks by Slovak Radio Symphony
4. Perry Mason TV theme

5. Murder She Wrote TV theme

So, what makes this perfect? Oh, let me count the ways...

Well, let's face it, if you want to get people in the mood for sleuthing, you've gotta start with the Pink Panther. This is a no-brainer.

Second, it turns out that the Pink Panther is the purr-fect table setter for the Peter Gunn Theme. While the Panther is a well-balanced, easygoing song, the Gunn fires much bravado and is in your face; it calls to your attention the seriousness of the matter. After all, we're talking about life and death here.

Third, the Sherlock song is quite a change of pace from the Gunn theme in that it's an orchestra and it's both softer and slower. However, I would argue that the intensity does not drop off. If you pay attention to the song, it's rather creepy. The "story" told by the instruments in the song seems to be that of a man lurking in corridors, slowly moving in on his prey, and ultimately emerging from the shadows -- the inevitable is about to happen.

Fourth, there's this amazing transition from the Sherlock song to the Perry Mason song. I'd like to take credit for this, but I can't because I had never even heard the end of the Sherlock song before I burned it onto the CD. I'm serious. I had been in such a hurry that after I had heard the first minute of the Sherlock song I was like, "Okay, this is both different and creepy, now let's git 'er done!" Anyway, after the Sherlock song ends with the killer appearing, the Perry Mason song begins with the killer making the kill. As a matter of fact, the start of the Perry Mason song sounds as though it belongs at the end of the Sherlock song!

Fifth, once in full swing, the Perry Mason song is both stylin' and smooth. The good guys are now on the case. Things are going to be all right. (Well, things will be "all right" in the sense that you feel confident that the killer will likely be caught. But admittedly, things probably won't be "all right" for Professor Plum who was already found in the Hall with the Knife in his back.)

Sixth, oh, wait a second. I've got to set this one up. Okay, so I originally wanted the Jeopardy song as the last song on the CD. You see, my plan was to play the CD as people wrote up their solutions to the crime, so by placing Jeopardy last, people would (A) laugh and (B) know that time was running out and they needed to finish up. However, I couldn't find the Jeopardy theme on iTunes, so I scratched that and gave up any hope of having a song that would be a good ending. But in hindsight, the Jeopardy song would have messed everything up. Sure, it would have been fine for the party, but it would have rendered the CD "cheesy" in the long run. As it turned out, Murder She Wrote's theme was great (oops, I mean perfect) for the ending. From the song's start, it seems to be working on bringing closure; for the most part, the song is cheery (with a few twists) and after it reaches its conclusion you're left feeling as though you got a good show -- and holding your head a little higher.

But like I've said, I can't take credit for planning this CD. I was only aiming to get about 15 minutes worth of music together so I could play it as people wrote up their answers at the end. After I had hurriedly decided on downloading those 5 songs, I even more quickly decided on how to order them using the following logic:

1. As stated before, Pink Panther going first was a no-brainer.
2. Perry Mason and Peter Gunn were too much alike (in my mind) so they had to be separated by at least one song. Neither seemed like a good ending, so I just randomly put Gunn in the 2-hole and had Mason bat clean-up (4th). I've since come to appreciate the differences between these two songs (hey, I never said I was musically gifted).
3. Sherlock definitely couldn't go at the end because it was "the creepy one" (at least the part I had listened to was creepy), so that had to go in the 3-spot.
4. Only the finale was left, so that's where I put Murder She Wrote, even though at the time I would have much rather had Jeopardy there.

Aside from this long story about the CD, I think it's also worth mentioning that the murder mystery theme I used was "The Disappearance of Death" written by Jack Pachuta. This murder mystery game was well-written, but perhaps the most pleasant surprise was that the author was so available. Seriously, he responded immediately and in detail to both of my e-mails. He also gives out his phone number with the promise of answering your questions for free up to half an hour. Pretty cool.

To top it all off, Jack Pachuta is leading a murder mystery cruise next spring. While I won't be going, I couldn't help but notice that one of the stops is in Costa Rica. =)

And so, there you have it. If you're planning a murder mystery party, perhaps you've gotten a few helpful hints from this post. I'd also like to say that "The Perfect Murder CD" can be played repeatedly in the background as your guests arrive and begin mingling. However, make sure to turn the CD off once the mystery gets into full swing. Don't turn the CD back on until people are writing up their answers at the end. Serves 6-100 people.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Run to Exhaustion

So how far could you run when you were a child? Could you have done 3 miles?

How about over 30 miles? Well, this young man did.

Some have called it too much too fast for just a child. I have a hard time imagining he even did it.

That's pretty far for a kid who's only three after all.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Christian Environmentalists

One of the major national evangelical Christian organizations is continuing to push our country to clean up the environment.

In the NYT, this push by the National Association of Evangelicals is described as bringing a "surprise ally" to the environmentalists. The Association's point man on this topic, Richard Cizik, said,
"Genesis 2:15," citing a passage that serves as the justification for the effort: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."

"We believe that we have a rightful responsibility for what the Bible itself challenges. Working the land and caring for it go hand in hand. That's why I think, and say unapologetically, that we ought to be able to bring to the debate a new voice."
This, of course, is not always a viewpoint conservatives agree with. The NYT quoted Senator James Inhofe (R-OK),

"You can always find in Scriptures a passage to misquote for almost anything," dismissing the position of Mr. Cizik's association as "something very strange."

Mr. Inhofe said the vast majority of the nation's evangelical groups would oppose global warming legislation as inconsistent with a conservative agenda that also includes opposition to abortion rights and gay rights. He said the National Evangelical Association had been "led down a liberal path" by environmentalists and others who have convinced the group that issues like poverty and the environment are worth their efforts.

Will environmentalism become a piece of the Christian political agenda?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

NBA Myths

As NBA fans, we've heard it all before. The sadly typical statement of someone who enjoys college basketball over NBA basketball, saying it's because "it's more of a team game" or "they actually play defense" or "they can actually shoot". It's why we're losing in the Olympics, don't you know? Because we can't shoot or play D...
Ridiculous, I say.
Thankfully, Patrick Hruby at ESPN has set out to debunk those myths. Of these myths, he says:
Too bad they're utterly bogus.
That's right. Much as some don't recognize, the best basketball on the planet is played in the NBA.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Which way should the roll roll?

Believe it or not, a few years ago I read in the newspaper (and saw on the local TV news) that two women had gotten into a fist fight in a public restroom over which way the toilet paper should roll. At the time, the news stunned me for two reasons: #1) Isn't that a pretty petty thing to get into a fist fight over? #2) Isn't it obvious that there's only one right way to do it?

Of course, we all know the "one right way to do it," right?


Hmm... I'm getting worried. Okay, so here are your two options:

Exhibit A (front rolling):

Exhibit B (back rolling):

So which is the correct way? Exhibit A or Exhibit B? (Note: Your answer must be accompanied by an intelligent explanation.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Movie Mash

Ridiculously many Google Maps mash-ups have made their web debut. Obviously I've not been linking to them all since my first look at them. However, don't you worry, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for any cool ones worth noting, and today, I've found one.

Do you ever find yourself annoyed trying to find what movies are showing where and then comparing one theatre's offerings to another? Well, up steps an absolutely phenomonal site called MashMap to solve our problem.

Their site lists, on a Google Map, all the theatres and what each is showing in a format best seen by trying it. I'd say it's worth a bookmark, wouldn't you?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Link of the Day -- Bloglines

So if you're anything like me, you enjoy reading quite a number of blogs. Now if you were jumping from blog to blog to check if there had been any updates, you'd be in for quite the time-waster. Well, lucky for us, there's a service to help us. It's called a blog reader (aka: news reader, RSS reader, or aggregator).
I use one called Bloglines. I like it because it's web-based, and thus accessible from any computer I'm at. Basically, all you do is sign up and add feeds (directions to the blogs you like) and it will show new posts whenever they're made. Very handy. There are several competitors out there, and so find one you like and get in the game.
If you read more than like 3 blogs, it's definitely worth it.
And, of course, add my blog.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is Gold Worth It?

Gold recently reached a 17-year high. It's a pretty precious metal. But has it become too precious? A recent article from the UK calls into question whether the world's lust for golden jewelry is worth the cost to obtain that gold.
A £1,000 wedding ring - equivalent to one ounce of gold - creates up to 30 tons of toxic waste.
To obtain just that one ounce of gold costs the environment dearly. Most of the world's large deposits of gold ore are no longer and mining companies are left to leach out gold particles with a liquid cyanide solution, which is extremely toxic to all living things.
Cyanide is a toxic chemical - one teaspoon of 2 per cent cyanide solution is enough to kill a human being.
Literal lagoons of cyanide are all that remains in areas where all the gold containing ore has been stripped from the earth. Spills from those lakes leak into the area, wreaking havoc on the environment.

All of this for us to satisy our thirst for golden trinkets. Is it worth it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What makes a monopoly?

So this past week has been frustrating. My cable Internet service was out. I returned from NYC and the next day, out went the Internet. Talk about frustrating.
Needless to say, this isn't the first time my ISP has let me down. Shall I name names? Of course, because the service I have is through the only option I have, Comcast.
Let me just say, I know lots of people unhappy with their Comcast service, and especially after the last week, I'm included. After almost a full week of waiting, a tech rep had to come out only to find out that my connection had its place holder on the Comcast server switched and that's why my service was out.
It's frustrating, because Comcast is the only choice I have. Not only that, but their prices are very high. It makes me wonder, are they becoming a monopoly in many of the Chicago areas where a competitor doesn't exist?
Well, Wikipedia defines a monopoly as "a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a kind of product or service. Monopolies are characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods."
Others have also pointed out that Comcast may be behaving more and more like a monopoly.
Comcast is abusing its monopoly status by giving consumers less choice at a higher price.
Personally, I think they're dangerously close to abusing their sole cable Internet presence in my neighborhood. I pay double the price my parents do in my hometown for Internet. That's a pretty high premium to provide the same service in a city. I'd switch if I could.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

New York, New York...

..the city that doesn't sleep.

Last weekend, my wife and I had the fabulous opportunity to take a trip for a long weekend in New York City. We had an absolutely marvelous time. There's not much we love more than some time together trekking through a place we love to visit. We did a lot of walking and eating and saw some of our favorite parts of the city. We stayed down in the East Village and spent much of our time there or in the West Village.

While I won't be able to give a full report on our trip, here's some of my observations from NYC:

  • The city doesn't sleep. The song is true. By our place, on Friday and Saturday night, each block was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of people out and about. And it went on for blocks. It was so cool to be surrounded by such a vibrant place.
  • If you're a store that largely subsists on selling ice cream related products, such as sundaes, it would behoove you not to run out of ice cream for 3 days. (we checked back twice, finally arranging for them to sell us the toppings and we went and got ice cream elsewhere.) Nevertheless, it was still a store we loved. Next time you're in NYC, check out Peanut Butter & Co.
  • Due to the ridiculous prices NYC hotels were running at, we took advantage of a way to find a place to stay you may not be aware of. We rented someone's apartment directly from them while they were gone for the weekend. These sorts of places can be found on that lovely site called Craigslist. Luckily, we found a wonderful place. Thanks Jen. Check out our host's gallery here.
  • This was the first time I had ever been to Brooklyn. We jaunted around the borough for an afternoon. There are parts of it that downright feel like Chicago. (Or do parts of Chicago feel like Brooklyn?) A couple pretty neat neighborhoods were toured.
  • On Sunday, we grabbed some lunch from a deli on the Upper East Side after church and took it down into Central Park. We were soon treated to a show put on by a photographer shooting a couple's (we presume) engagement photo. He directed them all over some rocks near our bench, expressing frustration when other unaware park-goers wandered into the background. Pretty classic.
  • As you probably heard, NYC and the Northeast had been getting a lot of rain. Lucky for us, it only rained on Friday while we were there. That, of course, was enough for us to be glad that was all we got.
  • We ate out a ton of course. The last day, I officially overdid it. But it was worth it. The two favorite restaurants we went to were a cozy Italian East Village dinner place called Supper and a traditional American with a touch of the Midwest Greenwich Village place called Home. They come recommended.

All in all, it was a great weekend trip. We found it both relaxing and fun, a refreshing time together.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A question about The Answer

The NBA has issued a new dress code for its players that will go into effect on November 1. This new code is displeasing to some of the players, but it only applies when they're on official NBA business.

In the picture below, how many NBA dress code violations do you see?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

White Sox in World Series!

Congratulations to the 2005 American League champion Chicago White Sox! Their stellar pitching, stifling defense, aggressive base running, and timely hitting made the talented Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim look like an average team.

If the Sox go on to win the World Series, it will be interesting to see how/if the dynamics between Chicago's two major league baseball teams will change in the future. For a fun trip down memory lane, you can read Westy's post on this subject from June 18.

Who do you think should have been the ALCS MVP? Here's my vote:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Urban Planning Made Fun

Chicago Metropolis 2020, a local planning agency, has released an online game, called Metro Joe, targeted at youngsters to familiarize them with the planning challenges facing the Chicago area. I thought I'd point you towards it, because lo and behold, it's kinda fun.
As a civil engineering/urban planning dual major student, I have to admit that there might have been at least a little push towards those degrees from the wonderful game called Sim City, which gained popularity right as I was going through junior high and high school.
Maybe this game will do the same for some kid out there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Commoditization of Today's Young Athletic Stars

Today Andy Katz of ESPN had an interesting blog post pointing out that former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is still recruiting the top junior basketball player in the country, O.J. Mayo.
Former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is still recruiting top 2006 recruit O.J. Mayo. We're just not sure for whom.
Why is that a big deal? Because Bob Huggins was fired and doesn't have a job. So he's recruiting this player to whatever presumed job he's going to land. Does anyone else feel like that treats young Mr. Mayo like he's just a commodity?

To top that off, notice with what nonchalance Mayo drops to Katz the names of his other suitors:
Who else is calling Mayo?

"Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Michigan State and just about everybody else," Mayo said Tuesday.
Is this too much too soon? Hmm, it must be easy for this young man to keep his head small and on his shoulders.

Well, maybe not. Apparently Mayo and fellow big-time baller recruit Bill Walker have made some enemies at their school. Is this related to the awestruck treatment they've received since they were kids and maybe come to expect? I don't know the circumstances, so I can't say, but you be the judge.

It's a fine line between exaltation and exploitation.