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?