Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This Man Is The #1 Show in America

Kelly Clarkson? Carrie Underwood? Chris Daughtry? These are not the people that have made American Idol the ridiculous phenomenon that it is. They've helped, but they are not the reason.

The reason is Simon Cowell. The man is marvelous. For all the hoopla given this show, he does get his fair share of credit, but I think he probably should get even more. There's ample opportunity for him to get pushed to the side with two other judges, an ever present host, and loads of singing talent, but he pushes back. Every week he pushes back and pushes his opinion into our homes.

Always trying to bring down what's on top, critics have cried out that judges are too mean and point the finger at Cowell. To that I say,"Boo freaking hoo." Those who appear on the show know exactly what they are getting into. If you inexplicably have never seen the show, you are bound to figure it out by the time you sit in an arena with 20,000 other people looking to audition. Contestants know exactly the situation and the consequences for a lackluster performance and are willing to take that risk in an attempt to reach the masses. It's a fair trade and one where both sides benefit. Any cries otherwise are misplaced.

For all the flak that Paula Abdul gets for her frequently stoned and odd rants, she serves a purpose. That being to make Simon look even better than he would otherwise. You could put a tube of toothpaste next to Paula Abdul, and it would look brilliant (as well as minty fresh). Juxtapose Abdul with Cowell and Simon looks that much profound. It's not unlike high school where you actually need those jocks and their 15's on the ACT if for no other reason to keep pushing you into a higher and higher percentile.

But it's not as if Cowell needs Abdul to be the star, it merely helps. The one liners are marvelous. After a contestant used "it was dedicated to my dying grandmother who suffers every day from an intestinal parasite bring immense pain except for when I'm singing" as an excuse for a crappy song Cowell quipped, "Can we take this back to a singing show for one second? I know. I know. I love grandmas."

The contestant dragged on the feel good vibe by then wishing his father a happy birthday. Cowell, fed up with this crap, replied,"By the way it's my mum's birthday in November. Happy birthday mum in six months time. What? Just thought I'd mention it. Let's all dedicate something." After everyone jumped on him for being insensitive, he slyly countered, "I like puppies."

Clearly an exchange such as that cannot be accurately captured in writing. The quick witted, camera savvy Cowell though succeeds in making you stay tuned to what will come out of his mouth next. Whether it be one of his unique analogies for poor performance or fending off one of Ryan Seacrest's overly plentiful jabs, the man has a unique, entertaining answer.

And it's the these answers that keep America tuned in while the singers are developing their trade. Nobody knew or cared about Fantasia Barrino a few years ago. Cowell kept people entertained while America persevered through sub par performances and stage presence development, all the while learning and caring about her story. And it's not Fantasia specific. Insert any successful Idol star and the time line is the same. Over the course of the TV season, the audience develops its favorites and sometimes appreciates the talent displayed (sons of bitches missed the boat last season), but it's Simon Cowell who is the steady presence that keeps it interesting while the new stars are born.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is This Interesting to People?

There's a news story making the rounds about former oldest man on the planet Strom Thurmond and Mr. Inject Yourself into Situations You Don't Belong Al Sharpton. Ends up that there may be a link between the two where Thurmond's relatives may have owned Sharpton's. My biggest question here is, does anyone really care? Does it matter? Just wondering your thoughts 'cause I think it's fairly clear I could care less.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Things Missed

So while my trip to the Cayman Islands was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful experience, it does have its drawbacks. While the cable feed to Erie, Pennsylvania assured me some connection to the outside world, I can't say that I made it a point to sit down and watch the evening newscast. I did wonder, albeit for about 12 seconds, what was taking place in the rest of the world. What if something catastrophic like a terrorist attack occurred? It could be days before I knew about it.

Or what if Keith Foulke retired?

What's that? It did happen? Fantastic! Long live the Cleveland Indians 2007 season!

Regardless, how could I possibly exist without knowing about these huge events as they happened. Exist I did. With a beverage in one hand and my wife's in the other (see picture above), I did manage alright, but still some stuff happened while I was away.

-As mentioned, Minneapolis endured a massive blizzard upon my returned. However, the Twin Cities experienced a period of wonderful, warm weather prior to my "winter welcome home." In fact, sources have stated that Minneapolis had their first 45+ degree day in Minneapolis since time began. Of course it occurred while I was away and transformed into a snowy disaster by the time I returned.

-My beloved Valparaiso Crusaders marched triumphantly towards the their final Mid-Con tournament cruising over Southeren Utah and UMKC. They beat down the Thunderbirds and Kangaroos by a combined 103-59 in the second half.

-Tim Hardaway hates LSU. God bless and those classy Kentucky Wildcat fans.

-In real news, the Anna Nicole Smith saga continues. Ok, so that may not be classified as real news. Actually, there wasn't anything new that happened there either. Nevermind.

-American Idol rocks. As mentioned previously, I did have some cable TV access while away and I did see the initial real rounds of the program. I agree with most everything that JR said, but I would like to add his write-up of Sanjaya Malakar ("I wanted to vomit when he sang. I wanted to slit his throat and kill his offspring") that he is a big crying sissy. Shame on the judges for allowing him this far and producers for featuring him at all. A curse on all of you! On the plus side, the show has made up for wronging Chris Daughtry last season. They have guaranteed him a number one hit by making his song, "Home" the "get your ass off the stage, loser" track that will end the program for the rest of the season.

-My absence was described in my closest circle as “Drew is thronging it on a desert island somewhere.” Fairly accurate, actually.

-2/3 of the former tri-blog powerhouse waited until I was out of the country to incorrectly assault the lonewolf that professional basketball is superior to that of collegiate basketball. A dirty sneak attack, but nobly defended Mr. Radcliffe.

-Walgreens stock sits at $45.32 a share. For those novice traders, that's pretty much the exact same thing it was at before I left. For better or for worse, my absence from the company has not crippled it.

-The Office. Ok, so I didn't actually miss it. WICU of Erie, Pennsylvania brought it to me in all its comical glory, but the fact of the matter is that I have not mentioned this show in any of my previous posts. I figured it was time to break the fast and insert an inappropriate reference to it here. But I do look good in a grey Dunder Mifflin baseball cap, don't I? (See picture from previous post).

Things Learned

I have returned from my hiatus, much to everyone's delight. Everyone that is, except my own. While I love all of you, I would rather still be on vacation even if that means no Wolfden V.

My travels took me to paradise, specifically The Cayman Islands. I spent a week there, and I would have spent more if I had the time, money, and means. The place is beautiful and the picture posted in the previous post "Exhausted" was not some random photo grabbed off the Internet. Instead, it was the actual beach where I stayed. I miss it already. Badly. As is, I had to return to Minneapolis, but not without having learned a few tidbits on my journey. Naturally, I am here to share them here with you.

-The Cayman Islands are a British Territory that nobody wanted. Founded in the late 1700s, explorers thought it too small to do much of anything with. Early settlers begged England to give them laws and some sort of authority to prevent the otherwise free-for-all caused by those ornery Jamaicans, feisty non-Disney pirates, and other lost explorers bumping into each other on the tiny island. England ignored them (and probably still does) leading to three somewhat important people writing their own constitution at the recently restored Pedro St. James house. Now, the Pedro St. James home is the only historical anything on the island and is roamed by a tour guide who mumbles and veers off topic. Friendly fella, though.

-Sunsets are stunning. See the photo of Becky and I above. I want to be there again. Now.

-No matter the sample size, the man wearing the speedo is always the hairiest one on the beach. Unfortunately, this proved true on multiple occasions over many days. See, there was something negative about this trip.

-My in-laws love a store called Big Daddy's. Big Daddy's exists to meet all your liquor needs. I love that my in-laws love Big Daddy's. I also enjoying writing Big Daddy's.

-There is a place called Hell, and I'm not speaking biblically. Hell is located on the northern side of Grand Cayman. While its a fairly unimpressive rock formation in the middle of a swamp, the locals have jumped on the opportunity to snag tourist dollars. One gentleman, Ivan, painted his little shop all red and dresses in a cape with devil horns. Really, he does this for a living (Valpo comm degree perhaps?). That and making "hell jokes" which really aren't jokes so much as they are working "hell" into every sentence. A noble man, Ivan.

-Inevitably, Minneapolis International Airport would be under a Severe Winter Storm Warning from Saturday morning until Sunday night making it the second time in my life I have left the United States mainland only to return to a snowy mess. Nothing like a "Winter Welcome Home." I woke up Saturday morning and walked on the beach. By Saturday night, I had to get out of the car to shovel enough snow out of our driveway so Becky could pull into the garage. Stupid, Minnesota.

-Grand Cayman does offer cable television. The city from which it takes it's network feed? Erie, Pennsylvania. That’s right, Erie, Pennsylvania. No joke. "Local" weather forecasts on the nightly news tended to not be relevant to our stay in Grand Cayman, though the city seems very excited about their hockey. Good for them.

-People are wonderfully religious. Ash Wednesday marking the start Lent is a non-Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church. Yet, I have never attended a service where the church was more overflowing than I did this past Wednesday. The fire marshall, if they have those on Grand Cayman, would have been displeased at the people lining every wall, standing two deep in the middle aisle, and spilling out the main door craning to hear the service.

-Tremendous food. I had never had Wahoo, Snapper, Swordfish, or Grouper before, and I’m not sure that I could tell any of them apart even now, but my goodness, they are all delicious.

-There may be nothing more relaxing than a good book, 82 degree weather, a white sand beach, a pina coloda, and an IPod featuring the best of Tantric, Stone Temple Pilots, Our Lady Peace, and Green Day. I did this for days in a row. I realize you hate me, and I’m ok with that cause I would hate you too.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Writing this blog has been brutual, pain staking work. As a result, after approximately 2 weeks of writing, I am taking a hiatus. Your wordy host will return the last week in February with more stories featuring an imbalance of intelligence and sports superstarts saying fun things. Until then, I encourage everyone to use the 90 seconds a day you spend reading this site and do something productive. Perhaps bathe. Just saying.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Also, Happy Birthday to Mr. Radcliffe

While I maintain that Drew Bledsoe's birthday is cause for tremendous celebration, it has also been brought to my attention that 6 (!) years ago almost to the minute this photograph was taken.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

February 14th means only one thing: this guy's birthday. Happy birthday, fella.

But more than that, today marks my favorite Walgreens holiday in the calendar year: Valentine's Day. I like Valentine's Day because it marks the season in which we receive the least amount of speciality merchandise while selling the greatest percentage of it. Inventory control and organization is a tremendous part of my job so anything the involves receiving less and selling more makes me a happy camper.

I have been known to purchase clearance merchandise from our store just so I don't have to move it around any more. And next year, some school child will enjoy 25 backpacks in some back-to-school drive much the same way two years ago Toys for Tots greatly appreciated the donation of 10 overstuffed bears come Christmas time. While my humanitarian efforts should no doubt be lauded, my desire to remove these items from my store and my stockroom had a significant impact on my decision making, too.

The 14th of February also marks what is in all likelihood (no statistical analysis backing this up) our highest percentage of male shoppers all year. No doubt frantic and irritated at this whole day's disproportionate importance, men love the quick in, quick out escape Walgreens can provide them. They want to buy their card, their box of chocolates, and their paper heart signifying a one dollar donation to the American Heart Association (the latter at my "suggestion") as quickly as possible and without much help or chatter. These people do not mess around with coupons or returns. They, quite frankly, don't want to be there at all and are ecstatic when they won't set foot in another Walgreens for 364 days. While I've come to appreciate the needs of the female demographic to which Walgreens cater, it's nice for one day to truly identify with the clientele.

But most of all, Valentine's Day means I get to wear my horribly gaudy tie on my appropriately colored shirt (see photo above). I purchased the tie on a 75% off clearance my first year at Walgreens and dig it out for every Valentine's Day. Becky recently talked me into wearing it once a year at Christmas, thereby doubling it's usefulness. She thought it looked peppermint-esque, and I agreed to look like a schmuck for one additional day of the year. As I'm home alone and cannot possibly manage the timer on our digital camera, you only get to see the stylish outfit on a hangar and not on yours truly. I assure you, it brings out my eyes.


I've come this far into the story, and I can't let it go now. I won't be as wordy as I'm sure everyone is tired of it, but it brings me such pleasure to dig this stuff up.

As a whole, senate seemed very pleased with their work and the changes which will hopefully make the budgeting process run smoother. But considering that review of the finance codes are a standard and yearly procedure, excessive fanfare did not appear necessary.

The Torch's Assistant Editor penned this beauty, which was again masterfully thrown into the paper's news section. For some reason, when I read "senate seemed very pleased" I get an image of 25 Montgomery Burns sitting in Neils Science Center tapping their finger tips together, calmly saying, "Excellent."

Furthermore, when I read that "excessive fanfare" took place, I'm led to believe that balloons dropped from the ceiling and confetti littered the floor. All the while Montogomery Burns slyly looks around waiting to see what will please him next.

In full disclosure, the staff editorial - properly located in the opinions section - praised this year's Senate. It however is well written and therefore provides less entertainment value.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The TV Show Wasn't This Bizarre

Anna Nicole Smith died last week at the young age of 39 and the surrounding circumstances are incredibly tragic. At the core of it, you have a not so bright woman that is so stupidly wealthy that sad, pathetic people do their very best to manipulate the situation to their advantage. It's not to say that she didn't bring a lot (all?) of it on her self because she absolutely did with her bizarre behavior. But as it stands, two people are dead and their is a baby without a mother and too many fathers.

Becky is convinced that Howard K. Stern, Smith's lawyer, is involved in both of the deaths as preliminary reports have methodone and a curious mix of drugs in both Anna Nicole and her son. A shady civil ceremony off in the Bahamas would give Stern as much of a claim to Smith's millions and millions as anyone. Sure none of this could be true but it sure does play out like a well written novel.

Then you've got the other stooges claiming to be Smith's newborn's father.

Stooge 2: Larry Birkhead whose claim to fame is reporter, photographer, and Smith bedroom partner.

Stooge 3: Alexander Denk whose claim to fame is Smith's bodyguard and bedroom partner.

Stooge 4: Howard Marshall II whose claim to fame was making billions in the oil industry, marrying Smith despite her being some 70 years his junior, and who, according to his family, might have had sperm frozen making him Smith's bedroom partner from beyond the grave.

Stooge 5: Prince Frederick von Anhalt whose claim to fame is Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, calling himself a prince, and, yes, Smith bedroom partner. His case is especially dubious considering what I found in this MSNBC article. The highlights are below.

“I have to believe my client, but it’s still surreal,” Ronald Jason Palmieri (von Anhalt's lawyer) told the Los Angeles Times. “I would find it completely implausible that he is the father of that child, to put it lightly.”

Von Anhalt’s royal credentials have been the cause of speculation over the years. According to stories in the British press, he was born Robert Lichtenberg, the son of a German policeman, and bought his title after being adopted as an adult by a bankrupt daughter-in-law of the last kaiser.

How awful.

Who of these five (!) do we really think are looking out for the well being of this baby? 0, of course. They are all after other 0's.

What about Anna Nicole Smith, herself? People tend to have short memories when it comes to a newly deceased peron's past. Reggie White, for example, made a notoriously hateful speech in the last years of his life that was conveniently forgotten about when anyone wrote about his noble and humanitarian efforts right after his untimely passing. But you aren't getting that at all as it pertains to Smith. I have not heard about her wonderful spirit or great friendship from, well, anyone. All we are left talking about are her outlandish, promiscuous and selfish behaviors that has inevitably led to this outrageous soap opera that's unraveling before us.

I'm not sure that this post has much of a point except to show complete disgust and disdain for those involved and a deep sadness for a child without parents that will someday have to sort through this disaster. That and JR is most likely the true father.

Big Z wants Big $$$

Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano demands more money!

"If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go. That's what Carlos Zambrano thinks."

I love it when athletes speak in the third person. It helps further that whole jock image, which I enjoy. I also love it when jocks continue to talk.

"[Cubs general manager] Jim [Hendry] spent a lot of money. I hope he has more for 'Big Z,'" he said."

First name basis with the GM? Fantastic. Using a nickname you probably made up in a newspaper quote, even better.

Big Drew promises he will diversify and his next post won't be sports related.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chicago Bulls vs. Pheonix Suns

There's something lazy about blogging about an NBA game from a day ago, but I must fulfill my homework assignment. I went out of my way to avoid seeing the final score and any other highlights so this will be as "live" as it can be for me. Being that I do not have off days very often, I fill it with non-computer and non-Walgreens things to maximize my overall productivity. As such, I did not have the total amount of time to devote to this project that I otherwise would have. I have taken Professor Gieryna's suggestion and started with the second half.

Alright, I'm settled in and getting ready to begin the third quarter. The halftime statistics seem to suggest the Bulls should be dominating. A look of the score shows that they are up 11. Yay Chicago!

Hey look, there's Luol Deng! Last time I saw him, he was killing Ali Berdiel. Too bad he just missed that dunk. That would have been impressive.

Now there's Kirk Hinrich! I remember when he was a Jayhawk. Too bad he just missed that three pointer. That would have been impressive.

The announcers are talking about Barbosa who is either that guy in my fantasy league or the captain of the Black Pearl. Arrr!

Shawn Marion took a shot in isolation. It barely drew iron. I knew I wasn't making this up.

Raja Bell made a three pointer despite Tyrus Thomas hip checking him. With the 2 minute minor, Thomas went to the penalty box.

Hinrich has the best footwork of anyone on the floor.

At the same time, #38 for Chicago is a big slow white guy. Who is he, and why is he in the NBA?

Furthermore, he just panicked in a double team and dribbled off his foot leading to a Captain Barbosa fast break. If I were in charge of Pheonix, I'd let that guy catch the ball and then swarm him every time.

There's Steve Nash. He's hunched over in street clothes. Perhaps the nachos do not agree with him.

Ben Gordon to the free throw line. Man is he ripped and scary looking.

Isolation set for Amare Stoudemire. He airballed a reverse layup. Ben Wallace dominated that match up.

According to the graphic, Ben Wallace has the worst free throw percentage, pretty much, ever. If Chris Dudley (former Cav!) is your next closest anything, you are not very good.

In my stereotype of the NBA, I thought they didn't call travelling. I'm pleased to see that they in fact do. Greg Anthony said that move might be ok for the disco or the hip-hop club but not on the basketball court. Agreed.

There have been a dozen whistles here as we approach the first commercial break. Choppy game. Is this a typical whistle-happy NBA game or is this abnormal? It's really been every time down the floor.

Yet another travelling call! This pleases me. The announcers disagree, but it absolutely was a walk. Take that Amare.

The blonde in the crowd is clapping joyously as the Suns have cut the lead to 3. Time for another commercial break.

Luol Deng = lanky.

Becky called. I didn't pause. There's a good 5 minutes in this game that I have nothing to say on as a result. 3rd quarter is now over and the Suns outscored the Bulls by 16 that period. Not so good, Chicago.

Does Ben Wallace normally look this disinterested? They showed a shot of him on the bench and I think he was chatting with Steve Nash.

Hinrich is talented. He simply dribbled around everyone for 20 seconds before weaving his way to an uncontested lay-up.

Amare just realized that Ben Wallace was taking a potty break and badly exposed the Bulls interior defense. And on cue, Skiles has Wallace coming back in. There seems to be some toilet paper attached to his right foot.

For the third time this game, I was looking at my computer typing only to look back up and see Ben Gordon at the free throw line. Just an observation.

Ben Wallace missed an uncontested lay-up. I'm beginning to understand some of this disgust I've picked up in other blogs for his offensive play.

Great ball movement leading to a Hinrich 3. He's now 9 of 13 from the floor after draining another jumper. 10 of 14. Another 3. He's fantasic.

Chris Duhon made an oustanding defensive read leading to a steal and a fast break. He promptly missed the ensuing lay-up. So that's why he doesn't start.

I'm not sure why, but there's a shot of John Saunders in his hockey playing days. I knew my earlier hip checking reference was not out of place. Greg Anthony is now grilling Saunders on his hairstyle in the 70s. A shot of the announcers shows Tim Legler completely disinterested, probably doing some statistical analysis. Legler now smoothly transitioned this banter back to the game saying, "One guy who does not have an afro is Raja Bell who is struggling tonight."

Chicago is beginning to pull away, now up 10 with 2:39 to go. We are now taking extra camera shots of Steve Nash gnawing away at a slice of gum. Maybe he'll tear away his street attire and reveal a Superman outfit in leading Pheonix to victory. Or maybe he'll continue to work on those hard to digest nachos. The gum will help the breath but not the digestion process.

The graphic says that Chicago outscored Pheonix 33-15 in the fourth quarter. That's a good way to erase that disasterous 3rd.

I suppose that will about wrap things up. Chicago wins. The NBA is not as miserable as I remember, but it's nowhere near college basketball. 116-103, yay Bulls!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Grab the Damn Ball

Valpo lost yesterday afternoon to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. When I graduated, we were 12-0 all-time against Oakland, but that mystique is long gone. Oakland wrapped up the season sweep of my beloved Crusaders by virtue of a 64-61 win in Rochester, MI.

What peeves me is that Valpo was outrebounded 32-25. In the glory days, Homer could call on some 7 foot foreign guy to go out there and dominate the boards. Oh wait, we have one of those guys.

Meet Callum MaCleod. The man is 7'1" and hails from New Zealand. He played 7 minutes last night and had 2 rebounds. Count them 2. I should also mention that he's 3 inches taller than anyone on Oakland's roster.

Then there's dear old Moussa Mbaye. He played 15 minutes and had 1 rebound. One time the ball bounced his way. He's 6'9" for crying out loud. Put your hands in the air and a ball is bound to come your way once without you having to move.

For the record, the game's leading rebounder was Derick Nelson who stands at a clearly overpowering 6'5". I understand that height is not everything in grabbing boards, but c'mon if I had an 8 inch advantage over the other team's best rebounder, I'm confident that I could at least play even.

Eli, I may almost (not quite) be looking forward to this Bulls game you've assigned me.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Winter Doldrums Part II

As I sit at my computer making my normal rounds, I had Sportscenter on in the background. There was a time when the show was a thirty minute, compact program where some games received little or no attention. To rectify the matter, ESPN decided some time ago to make the move to a full hour long program. On a regular day, this is a non-issue. There are thousands of games and stories worth covering where some good stuff still gets cut. Throw in ESPN's ability to take the last half hour and turn it into a roundtable where various "experts" make predictions and offer analysis, and 60 minutes of show is a breeze to fill. In an extreme example such as the day after baseball's All-Star Game there are no major sporting events, so ESPN went so far as to create their own to cover in the ESPY Awards Show.

Yet, due to what I am deeming the winter sports doldrums, this morning's programming was iffy at best. For the first time that I can remember, but I preface this with my ability to pretend that auto racing does exist at all, there was a round table discussion to cover NASCAR. Seriously?

After a commercial break, Sportscenter returned with an ESPN Deportes update. ESPN Deportes? Why do I need the Spanish language version of the show to jump in and offer programming? Is it a diversification program that will eventually lead to Swaziland and Nepal getting airtime?

The ESPN Deportes break, by the way, offered soccer and boxing highlights. Ugh.

Even as I typed that last line, Sportscenter returned from another commercial witht he U.S. Army Teamwork Play of the Week. It so happened to be Devin Hester's opening kickoff return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Basically, we are now retreading highlights from 6 days ago to fill the hour. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind some old highlights, I just like it when they pretend to try and dress it up in a better package like a Top 10 List. Or better yet they make an entire special as in Sportscenter's 30,000 episode that is going to air Sunday night so that the whole show is composed of retread highlights, and I'm actually looking forward to that.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Qwest: Spirit of Service

My local phone company happens to be Qwest, who as the title of this piece mentions, believes the phrase "spirit of service" represents their customer friendly nature. While the following story does not portray me as the Jeff Daniels-esque duped man of my flat tire story, I feel that it will nonetheless be an entertaining tale.

About this time last year, Qwest decided to make "account review" phone calls to its clientel to maximize our savings (and their profits). I was fortunate enough to receive this call about once a month until I began keeping track in June, when I requested being left off of future account review recaps. From that point on, I received 6 more phone calls, all of which ended with my requesting to not be called again. I tracked the dates on my dry erase board, with the common theme of them coming every four weeks at about the 20th day of the month.

Last Fall, Qwest went so far as to mail (some? all?) customers a "how can we serve you better?" survey. After filling out the usual info, I used the fill-in-the-blank space to reiterate that I did not care for these account reviews. I listed the specific dates that I had been called and that every single one of them was an undesired solicitation. Furthermore, I was considering switching my phone services to another company because Qwest, despite the moniker "spirit of service," was not valuing me as a customer due to their inability to listen to my repeated requests. This was mostly a bluff as I'm generally to lazy to go through the effort to cancel one service and call to establish another one, but they didn't need to know that.

Two months after that, a gentleman called our house to express concern over my survey. I happened to be holding down the fort at Walgreens that night and missed his call. Honestly, I did not want to talk to him, all I wanted was to be left off the damn calling list. If they finally got that through their head by means of a written survey, then so be it.

For around three months now, I have been paying my phone bills and avoiding the dreaded account review. I think that even an amateur reader can tell what is about to happen next.

Thursday morning, the Maple Grove Walgreens had it's floor buffed and waxed, and I was the lucky soul who had to report to work at 5am so that the cleaning crew could get in. The 5am start to my work day meant a 3:30am alarm, leaving me rather tired when I eventually returned home at 3pm. A nap was high on the agenda and it was not long before I was dreaming of a world without the NBA.

Suddenly, the phone rings. Perhaps it was my lovely wife letting me know she was on her way home? Or maybe my mother needing IPod assistance? While both calls were to come later that afternoon, this one would be my favoriteist phone company in the whole wide world wanting to do an account review.

Partially asleep and partially irritated about who the call was from, I decided to take it the whole way through instead of stopping the individual and telling them (again) that I have repeatedly requested to not receive these annoying calls.

"Hi this is Jim (name made up because in my sleepy stupor I have no recollection of the chap's name)."


"I'm calling to do an account review with you today on behalf of Qwest."


"Can you verify (slew of personal information including telephone number which I found odd since he managed to call me)?

"Yep, that's correct."

"Do you have a computer?"


"How much a month do you pay for your service?"


"Well, for $49.99 we can offer you blah blah blah blah."

With absolutely no intention of ever going to DSL from cable speed connection, I politely declined paying more for less.

"Just to let you know (insert deal sweetner here) is yours if you do this today."


I'm very eloquent on the phone.

"Ok, I understand. Can I ask do you also receive cable television from your cable Internet provider?"


"Can I ask you how much you pay for your service?"


"Is that $45 total for both or $45 for each Internet and another $45 for cable."

"$45 for each."

"Ok, let me do some math."

Audible pounding on the calculator.

Me wondering if 45 + 45 warrants a calculator.

"Ok, sir my calculations show that you are paying $90 a month for both services."


"Ok, sir I'm going to do some more math."

"Go right ahead."

"Well sir, if you bundle your Internet plus your cable TV through Qwest it will cost you (insert number here). Just to let you know Qwest can off you X number of channels plus channels Y and Z free for 3 months for a reduced rate of (I drifted into unconsciousness and missed the new "special offer number)."

"No thanks."

"Ok, I understand, but I did want to let you know that if you act today I am authorized to give you a $100 credit to your account."

At this point, I thought I would be polite since this dear, math-challenged man was in a customer service field, and I have pity for one of my own.

"Sir, I appreciate you letting me know of all of your offers, but I am not inclined to make a spur of the moment decision. With the new knowledge of all of your services, I will consider them in future media packaging decisions."

I was trying to sound convincing, but I was really tired.

"Ok, I understand. But just to let you know, sir the $100 gift card offer is only available during this special account review. You are unlikely to receive another account review phone call, so this offer is will pass you by if you do not choose to take it at this time."

Now it was my turn.

"Acutally, sir, I have received 6 account review phone calls in the last 10 months and that's with me requesting to not receive them, so I'll take my chances."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"No biggie, I just like my odds."

"Thank you for your time."

And with that, I slept.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Winter Sports Doldrums

In my estimation, March is the greatest sports month of the year. The NCAA brings you excitement in the form of March Madness and MLB brings hope in the form of spring training. Both are so close, and yet so very far. In the meantime, however, we have to endure the void of February. With the Super Bowl now over, sports fans are forced to endure the National Basketball Association.

I have been fairly vocal of my dislike of the NBA. I think it's directly proportional to how much I enjoy NCAA basketball. The two styles of play are remarkably opposite for it being the same game. In college basketball, the game is all about the team. Guys like Greg Tonagel and Jake Diebler of below average skill are tremendous players because of their team first and leadership attitudes. In the NBA, the game is all about the individuals. Guys like Ali Berdiel are somehow making a living. Isolation sets where everyone stands around letting one guy make a play are the norm, and defense went out the door decades ago. Be that as it may, the NBA is the lead story every day for the next week.

Even worse, the news story of the day is not about great games or key trades. No, the news story making the rounds is that John Amaechi is coming out of the closet. I have absolutely no idea who this guy is or why he's especially relevant. I did minimal research and found that he was a below average NBA player who hasn't dribbled a basketball in years. I'm not entirely sure anyone can vouch that he actually played in the NBA.

Be that as it may, he has decided to make his announcement whose motives I am fairly skeptical of. It's rather nice that ESPN has something to do with his book, as I'm guessing none of you would have purchased if it had been "John Amaechi: NBA Journeyman." A nice TV special and convenient media leaks to build up to a TV special on "Outside the Lines" make the situation questionable at best. We are not talking Jackie Robinson noble here, folks.

Most of all, I hate the NBA for making this a story. It's bad enough that the NBA is stuffed down my throat as a sports fan for the next month. For them to force a retired, mediocre pro's personal life down my throat as breaking sports news is nauseating. Just a wee bit longer until pitchers and catchers report and schools we've never heard of are making the 65 team tournament. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Torch Time

I think it's time to check in with my all-time favorite media publication, Valparaiso University's student newspaper, The Torch.

Let's start with the opinions section and Torch writer Robert Thompson. RT decided to drag up the never ending debate on whether or not the school should swap mascots to be less offensive with its Crusader. In full disclosure, I didn't read the full article. In fact, I rarely read full opinions articles because I generally don't care about opinions. I cease reading them when they stop being entertaining or, as in this case, they max out in the entertainment value early on.

I am for changing the mascot to one that would be a far greater symbol, and would ensure that no negative associations would be made with VU, be it through mascot or headline.

A panda.

There you have it. A panda would fit in nicely with UMKC's kangaroo, but unfortunately we are leaving the Mid-Con for the Horizon league where the more feared animals - panthers and bulldogs - roam. Though Youngstown State does have the penguin...

Next up we have a certain editor-in-chief alum (the pic worth the click) of The Torch making a guest appearance in the very popular (poll of me) Flicker section.

“Hault: U goes there? (I know, it’s a week old...but I’m subscribing from afar and didn’t get my Jan. 19 until today.)”
– Jan. 26

Before the birth of this blog, The Torch had a headline that spelled halt with a "u." I like it that The Torch can laugh at itself. Or, they have no idea what it references.

Elsewhere, Valpo point guard Jake Diebler played high school ball for his coach and has said that he wants to be a coach after his playing days are over. In the article titled "Snuffed by Huff" Josh Weinhold uses two quotes from Diebler and two from Homer Drew. See if you can tell which one said which.

“He just gave his heart and soul and everything.”

“Every game, there’s a different person that steps up to help us. That’s the strength of our team. If Shawn didn’t step up, someone else would have.”

“We were at a must-win in conference. This really builds our confidence.”

“I think Shawn displayed tonight the experience that he has. Don’t let him fool you. He’s a big leader on this team – not so much vocally, but he leads by example. He was due for a night like this.”

You can't tell can you? They are already speaking alike and it won't be long before Jake begins walking to center court trying to get a technical foul at the opportune time. (For the record, the first two quotes were Homer and the last two were Jake.)

Our final stop through the on-line pages of The Torch takes us to my always favorite piece: Student Senate! This week no one decided to put their name on the article, and probably wisely so.

Senate voted to move $10,000 out of its emergency fund to make up for budget cuts of allocated organizations.

So far so good. I was arguing about that for years. What is this emergency fund for, exactly? I was told that, in a relevant example, it was for a worst case scenario like the radio station burning down. I always figured that if Schnabel Hall burnt down (or Brandt Hall with the transmitter) we wouldn't be turning to Student Senate for rebuilding funds, but rather the University and its insurance policy, but that's neither here nor there. At least money is coming out of this emergency fund.

An additional $20,000 still remain in the emergency fund.

If someone at The Torch really wants to do a story, you could find out what happened to the six digit bank account that existed in 2004.

It also came out during the meeting that the fund had not been touched for at least three years making the use of the $10,000 a logical solution to the shortfall faced by allocated organizations.

Now we really have a story because if no one has touched it since my graduation there is a tremendous amount of money missing.

There were concerns during the meeting that such a large transfer of funds should not occur with about a third of the senate missing, as was the case Monday. But with the urgency surrounding the transfer and the fact that a quorum was present made these fears improper.

So where exactly was 1/3 of the Senate? Perhaps the attendance policy is a wee bit lax? I love the idea, though, of moving around large sums of money without a third of the group knowing or voting on it. It's probably that third that would have held it up, anyway. The last sentence, much like last week, is still a wee bit opinionated which is really what I love about this whole article. It's written with a biting view of Senate, not unlike my own, and hidden in the news section. Beautifully done.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

To Infinity and Beyond!

You had to have heard about this bizarre love triangle involving astronauts. In sum, a 43 year old married mother of three who happens to be an astronaut drives from Houston to Orlando to confront another astronaut who is romantically linked with yet another astronaut. Upon arriving in Orlando, police found a steel mallet, pepper spray, a knife, and a menacing BB gun. After breaking up this skirmish, the woman is now being charged with attempted murder.

One would think that the 1,000 mile drive would offer plenty of time to cool off and come to your senses. Perhaps it would be for any normal human being, but this is a space traveler we are talking about. One who someday might wish to achieve light speed travel!
Nowak wore a diaper during the 14-hour drive so that she wouldn't have to stop for bathroom breaks, the report said. Astronauts wear what NASA calls maximum-absorbency garments to collect their waste during space travel.
In the meantime, avoiding rest stops by wearing diapers will shave off a few minutes will have to suffice.

Buy Goodyear Stock; Sell AAA Stock

My greatest fault and probably only fault as a human being rests in my inability to comprehend cars. I am completely ignorant when it comes to vehicles and honestly, I have no desire to learn anything about them. My knowledge ends right after it has an engine and four wheels. The latter part played a critical role in my weekend and in my wallet.

Saturday afternoon, upon returning from that frigid day at work I was whining about with colorful graphics, Becky and I decided to do a little errand running. These wimpy sub zero temperatures were not going to prevent us from our normal course of events! After leaving a local business, I drove my car onto Interstate 35 and peered over my left shoulder to merge into traffic. At this exact moment, one of those ice balls that gather behind your tire in winter weather fell off of a separate automobile and into my path. With no time to react, I smashed it with my front left tire. On lucky days, this ice chunk would be nothing more than slush that would slide away without another passing thought. However, being that Minneapolis was just a touch above Absolute Zero, this particular ice chunk was immovable. Instantly the car began to pull, and I forced the car onto the shoulder with a flat tire.

After a brief expletive break, I decided to get out and look. The tire was not seeping out air slowly. No, this bad boy was gone. I could not change a tire in a domed stadium, and I sure wasn't going to get adventerous with wind chills in the quadruple digits below zero. I quickly hopped back in the car, half frozen from the 30 second viewing and had Becky dial AAA. She explains not once, not twice, but thrice where we are (a major interstate that splits St. Paul and Minneapolis) to the ignorant woman on the other end who is more interested in laughing with her coworkers than offering any real assistance. At the conclusion of this call, the operator says, "We'll have someone there within two hours."

Two hours? Are you serious? This is major metropolitan city! We are on the Interstate, not some desolate road! And it's the coldest day in the history of Minnestoa!

Ok, fine whatever. We have gas, and we have all the time in the world. Merely an inconvienice.

30 minutes into the ordeal, I'm getting kind of comfortable. I have my big winter coat on with some music playing, and remember I was up at 4:30am to unload a Walgreens truck. I start to doze off. Becky, ever vigiliant, keeps watch for the towtruck and/or horrible people who would take advantage of a stalled car. I think Bill Cosby had a kid who was murdered when he broke down on the side of the road, and I with no thought whatsoever mentioned this while we were waiting. All of a sudden, a car pulls over. I jolt up not sure if this is a dream, the towtruck, or my life ending.

A man in a suburban pulls along side and asks if we are ok. I assure him that we are and the kind, concerned citizen continues on. Whew.

50 minutes into the ordeal, a state trooper pulls behind us. I figure that he's not thrilled that a car is on the side of his highway, but I want to be there even less than he does. Probably should get the license and registration ready. The cruiser does that squak thing that it does and I look in my rear view mirror. The officer is motioning for me to come to his car. Are you serious? It's -10 below outside, I'm stranded, and I'm miserable, and he wants me to come to him. Fine, whatever.

I bundle up with the hat and the gloves and whatever else I have to cover myself and go to his cruiser. He rolls down the window not bothering to let me in out of the cold. He is, though, very nice and checks to see that we have help on the way (presumably), gas, and cell phones. Convinced that we are no threat to him, his highway, or ourselves, he carries on.

65 minutes into the pulling over, KS 95 decides to play Nickelback's "Savin' Me." I thought it an approrpriate time for the towtruck to come and save us. Becky hates Nickelback's over exposure and says that if it has not arrived by the end of the song she is calling AAA again. The moment for a tremendous bit of coincidence passes, and we are still stranded.

Becky decides that instead of calling AAA, she is going to call the towtruck company directly. She gets through to the dispatcher who proceeds to tell us that our call has been scratched off as having been completed. I'm confident that my wife could have killed a man with her bare hands at this point. Instead, she as calmly as possible at this point reassures the dispatcher that we are in fact still on the side of the road on this the coldest day in the history of mankind.

Ends up that there was ANOTHER Saturn broken down less than a mile from us that the truck stopped to help thinking that it was us. The kicker here is that the truck would have had to have passed us after helping said Saturn as there were no other exits, but be that as it may, the truck was turning around to come and save us.

So the towtruck guy arrives about an hour and fifteen into this saga, and the first thing he asks for is my Triple A card. Ok, so now we are going to follow protocol after he clearly helped some guy pretending to be Andrew Wolf an hour ago? Fine whatever, here's my card and my license and my signature, just change the tire.

I'm not sure if I'm happy he had it changed in about 30 seconds or embarassed. Probably more happy at that point and embarassed after the fact. With that, we were on our way.

Fast forward two days to Monday morning when my local Goodyear tire shop opens. I like these guys. They are really nice about taking my money, and I think that counts for something. Every time I go in for an oil change they tell me about all these problems with my car that need fixing and instead of a small bill, I end up with a big one. I have a big asterisk next to my name as "the guy who doesn't know a damn thing so sell him on everything." But, like I said, they are very nice and if you are going to steal my money at least be polite about it.

As such, Goodyear had to be licking their chops when I came in with a legitimate problem. I also came in with a counterattack gameplan. I was going to shock them with asking for not one, but four new tires. I figure if I'm being proactive and getting my first new set of tires in 60,000 miles I'll look like I know what's going on.

I mosey on over to the guy and tell him of my incident this past weekend and that I think that it was an omen that I needed to replace all of my tires. Concealing his overstimulated commision exhuberance, he calmly asks which of two types of tires I would like. Knowing absolutely nothing about these tires, I ask hard hitting questions about them with the end result being there is no difference except the second pair are going to cost a helluva lot more. Now I'm feeling pretty good about myself as I have stopped them in their tracks. I politely ask for the less expensive, yet equally black pair of tires.

I head over to the waiting room where I kick up my feet with a job well done. It's 7am in the morning, I'm the only one in the place, and I'm going to be on my way unscathed!

30 minutes later.


Why is everyone calling me by my complete first name in this story?


"Um, your rim is completely damaged and is going to need replacing. Not to worry, I've ordered a new one for you and it's on the way."

This rim took 90 more minutes in making its way from the other local Goodyear who now no doubt has me on file should I try and run to them. I'm also pretty sure that I paid for its transport, labor, the rim itself, and donuts for the guy delivering. It jacked the price of this whole operation up about 25%. The bastards got me again.

There is no moral to this story except some stock market advice should your feel like you need to invest or sell off some of your stock in the two companies discussed. Pity me.

Monday, February 5, 2007

What's Left to Say?

I remember way back in the good ol' days when there only existed one week in between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. Now that there are fourteen full days of break, all fans are inundated with angles and storylines and promo packages and kitchen sinks. By the day after, a general sigh of relief arises from those of us who need no more information on the Chicago Bears or Indianapolis Colts or their extended families. I sat down at my computer and ran through my normal listing of websites breezing through such cleverly titled articles as "Pey-Day" (Northwest Indiana Times), "Raining Champs" (, "Colts Do Reign Dance" (, and "Vomit" (T G 10). I'm left with an emptiness of not knowing what else there is to say about the game.

I suppose a quick rundown of thoughts would be appropriate just so I meet my Super Bowl quota.

-The pregame festivities were interesting. I didn't see most of them until Becky asked, "Are those naked people on those banners?" I'm fairly certain that they were.

-After the weird images were off the screen, I turned away for a few moments only to hear Billy Joel take the mic. In approximately 1.6 seconds another partygoer claimed that he was intoxicated. I'm fairly certain that he was.

-The opening kickoff return for a touchdown was pretty neat. One of the individuals I viewed the game with swore that was the second time that's ever happened as Denver did it "awhile back." Jim Nantz a few moments later said that it was the first time that's ever happened, leading to an awkard silence.

-For all the money spent on Super Bowl ads, I know that I saw the same old Kentucky Fried Chicken ad run twice in the same set of commercials. How does that happen?

-How much money did CBS make on Super Bowl commercials and a covering for their primary camera was unattainable?

-I wonder how Edgerrin James feels right about now? And I'm referencing the fact that his old team won both the Super Bowl and the VUFSA Championship Game.

-I also wonder how many years of schooling broadcasters went through to come up with their "How does it feel to win the Super Bowl (insert Indianapolis Colt)?" question. Wouldn't it have been more fun, entertaining, and inappropriate if Sal Palentonio went up to Peyton and asked, "So you're pretty much twice as good as Rex Grossman, huh?" Or better yet Sal trucked over to the Chicago side and asked Rex, "Damn, that ball was slippery, huh?"

-The partygoers also have already started a pool on where Rex Grossman will end up next season with the Minnesota Vikings being the front runner. Someone spotting my Cleveland Browns sweatshirt proclaimed Cleveland was the runner up.

-Despite the negative temperatures outside right now, it's definitely time for baseball to get rocking.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Fricking Cold

By the time you sleeping beauties arise from your slumber, I will have been at work for hours having unloaded a Walgreens shipping truck. The conditions during said unloading would make an eskimo cold. For those of you geographically challenged, that frigid -30 suggest I may not return to you with 10 fingers and 10 toes.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Super Bowl

It's already happened, and it's already had a happy ending. There is nothing more fulfilling than waking up the day after and knowing that your team is superior in every way - athletically, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. I just wish I could see the game or even hear highlights (cough WVUR) because it was so gratifying to see the box score and know that a long airplane ride awaits the losers.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Uneventful Journalism

One of my favorite Internet stops every Friday is that of The Torch, Valparaiso University's student newspaper. It's a wonderful tool to stay in touch with my alma mater, and the entertainment value is off the charts when you mix in rookie writing. In this past week's issue, the Torch's Assistant Editor covered my least favorite Valpo entity - Student Senate. I had a great number of battles with this frustrating hodgepodge of individuals during my four years in Crusader land, and it brought me great joy when in a news article the author scribed this beauty:

Outside of the report by Benczik, the meeting was uneventful as the senate swore in new members and filled vacant seats on various committees.