Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 2009 Cleveland Browns


The 2009 NFL regular season concluded for my beloved Cleveland Browns this past Sunday and the best word that describes the finale has to be mercifully.

The team was absolutely horrible, which is not all that difficult for a hardcore Cleveland fan like myself to stomach. We regularly field bad football teams, and we endure horrible football heartburn. It's fine, it's part of the game.

That said, this might be the worst on field showing of any of the resurrected Browns franchise. In years past, the expectations were non-existent and when the team stunk, the disappointment was minimal. After a decade of languishing at or near the cellar of the AFC Central, the Browns surprised last year by nearly making the playoffs and setting the bar high for this coming season as many key players returned. And then we finished up with a paltry 4 wins.

The season finale was particularly noteworthy in its patheticness. The list of horrific "achievements" is fun to review:

- The Browns had 20 yards passing against the Steelers. Yes, for the entire game.
- Combined with the terrific performance of a week ago, Cleveland finished the final two games with a combined 102 yards passing in the last eight quarters.
- No Browns receiver had more than a single catch.
- The leading receiver was Donte Stallworth who had 1 catch for 12 yards.
- Fourth string quarterback Brad Gradkowski's quarterback rating was 1.0.
- Cleveland hasn't had an offensive touchdown in 6 games (24 quarters) which is an NFL record for futility.
- The Browns were shutout in consecutive games for the first time in their history.
- Coach Romeo Crennel is now 0-8 versus rival Pittsburgh

It's one thing to have a bad season. It's one thing to have an underachieving season. It's one thing to have a disappointing season. But it's a whole other ballgame to have a regularly history shattering embarrassing season. I confess I grow a little tired of the Cubs' fans wallowing in pity, which is sort of what makes this post hard to write without being hypocritical. But that said the Cubbies have had plenty of good seasons that while falling short of the World Series have in fact resulted in regular season titles and recent playoff appearances. The Browns franchise is much maligned, but there has to be a standard of competitiveness that has to exist. We lost that long ago.

Maybe it was the "other" crap that filled the season. The accusations of unsanitary conditions causing staph infections, the quarterback controversy, the defensive player punching out the rookie quarterback, the GM e-mailing profanities to fans. Whatever it was, Cleveland was never in the press for anything positive.

And so with the on the field disaster and the off the field circus, anything short of a complete house cleaning would be baffling to me. Romeo Crennel is almost certainly out as head coach (rightfully so), but there is talk with him inexplicably staying on as a coordinator. How does that work? The GM Phil Savage couldn't do much more to alienate fans than directly swearing at them, but he has also managed to create a team that sucks. He cannot be back either as the players responsible for these low lights are his responsibility. Hell, I'd fire the ball boys at this point. Start over. Again...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kung Fu Panda


Brilliant story on CNN this morning about a man wanting some cuddle time with a cute creature. The 20 year old student decided to hop a fence and get a nice, warm hug from a panda bear named Yang Yang.

"Yang Yang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him."

What's so wrong with that?

Well, most everything. The unnamed student was treated for bites and was saved after passers-by rushed to a "nearby refreshment stand" for assistance. Which begs the question of how refreshment stand workers deal with panda bears. Perhaps they lured dear Yang Yang away with freshly cooked bamboo?

The zoo isn't quite sure what to do next after this the third panda incident in China in the last few months. Zoo goers have been the catalyst for all the panda misdeeds as each attack has been the result of individuals hopping fences and trespassing in panda territory. The CNN caption to the article is a stern reminder that this is a bad idea:

"Don't be deceived. Pandas might look cute but they're not to be trifled with."

Well said. No trifling should take place near these creatures. Even still, the zoo is likely going to put up additional signage thereby increasing the number of asinine warnings on common sense activities. Will we get to a point where signs will read "Enter, please. Darwin's theory at practice?"

Photo from IndiaTimes

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nevermind


Does the image excite anyone else? Click the link for a great before and after photo.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Roger Goodell and the No Fun League


I'm torn on Roger Goodell. I like how he handles drug testing - no messin' around. I dislike how he handles end zone celebrations - don't blink or 15 yard penalty. I watched part of the Titans-Jaguars game yesterday to see a Tennessee wide receiver score a touchdown, drop to his knees, and place his hands on his helmet. Next thing you see is a fireworks show with yellow flags flying form two separate referees. Upon watching the replay, I still didn't see anything particularly egregious. I suppose I don't like the idea that the outcome of a game could be decided because of a stupid endzone celebration, but I guess the players know that in advance. Eh.

Photo from Weblogs.newsday.com

Sunday, November 16, 2008

President he is, racial magician he is not


I have written on the topic of racism a couple of times with stories from both personal experience as well as from the public, political spectrum. The root of the discussion when it comes to American history is founded in the African American slave trade in the 17 and 1800s that took centuries to combat and still lingers today. The part I find fascinating is that the mentality to fight racism was reverse racism and the bizarre standards and crazy expectations that consequently follow.

At the crux of this reflection was a recent CNN article on Barack Obama ascension to the Presidency of the United States. The gist of the piece was that blacks were generally more stunned that an African American could become President while whites were generally more casually interested in the historical significance of the recent election:

The poll also suggests a racial divide among people who thought a black candidate would be elected president in their lifetimes. Fifty-nine percent of white respondents said they thought a black president would be elected in their lifetime, but only 29 percent of black respondents agreed.

Certainly what happened on election night was a moment of historical importance, but the different perceptions among the different races is equally fascinating. The background and life experiences of those in each category suggested a different outcome to this election. So far so good with conclusions.

"Even in polls taken earlier this year, a majority of African-Americans said that a solution to the country's racial problems would never be found; now blacks and whites agree that racial tensions may end."

Ok, now this is a little silly. What changes prejudices are patience, tolerance, learning, experience, and most notably time. Barack Obama as President may mean a lot of things, but in a day and age where we still have the KKK making news headlines, a sudden end all be all to racial tensions is unreasonable. More likely is that this will be another life experience that may shape Americans to appreciate, understand, tolerate, and accept the differences of those that make up this country.

I'm excited for President Obama to begin his Presidency, and I hope good times follow for this country. Instantaneous racial harmony, though, is unrealistic and not something I foresee as a product of the next four years. Improvements, I'll agree with, but an ending of racial tensions is not something this country will see by 2012, if ever. I simply struggle with the perception that a single individual will solve all the problems in this arena. That's an expectation not fair to him or reasonable for Americans to place on President Obama. A smart man, great politician, African-American history maker, and our next President for sure. A racial tension end-er definitely not.

Photo from Newsbusters.org

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Grand Finale



Today marks the end of Major League Baseball's 2008 regular season. Back in the dark winter months, Becky had the opportunity to purchase discount tickets for the Minnesota Twins' first and last home games of the year. Naturally we jumped at the opportunity but never once thought the last game would actually matter. And matter it did with the Twins having to win to stay alive for the AL Central title.

We set off for the Metrodome, crossing the recently completed I-35-W bridge, on our way into downtown Minneapolis. The environment was fantastic as 42,942 fans packed the Dome, by far the largest crowd I have ever seen a baseball game with. Each two strike count was met with applause, each Twins hit a standing ovation, and any Minnesota runner crossing home plate chaos. It was wonderful.

The Kansas City Royals spent most of this series embarrassing the Twins, taking the first two games, after the home town team swept the hated Chicago White Sox. The sweep catapulted the Twinkies into first place the last week of the season sending the town into a frenzy with constant replaces of Denard Span's huge triple and Carlos Gomez springing up after scoring the series breaking run. But the Royals had been a different story, silencing the city which had seemed so close to greatness. Yet, my beloved and hopeless Cleveland Indians kept the Twins alive by further killing the White Sox spirit, mirroring the Royals' spoiling in taking the first two from the ChiSox. As a transplanted Cleveland fan now pulling for the hometown Twins, I loved having the Indians play such a critical role down the stretch.

And so we climbed the many flights of stairs to our nosebleed seats pulling for the Twins and Indians all the while keeping an eye on the NL Wild Card chase. Text messages between JR Radcliffe at Miller Park and I in the Metrodome added to the wild baseball afternoon. The stage was set and as Gorilla Monsoon so repeatedly said, "You could cut the anticipation with a knife!"

The Twins benefited from the Royals inability to catch and throw the ball around the infield, getting out to a quick 2-0 lead. The White Sox would make short work of the Indians on this day, but hey two out of three on the road ain't bad. The Brewers struggled scoring all the way until the very end. Minnesota eventually pulled ahead on Joe Mauer and Delmon Young clutch hits, and Joe Nathan closed the door to the ovation of an uproarious crowd. Milwaukee ended up clinching the wild card after Ryan Braun saved the day with a 2 out, 2 run home run. CC Sabathia, a much appreciated former Cleveland ace who Milwaukee is desperately trying to kill with repeated 100+ pitch counts on short rest, mowed through the Cubs as Florida was completing a second straight season of New York Mets chokage.

It was a wild Sunday of baseball that put the Brewers in the playoffs for the first time ever (something like that). The Twins finished off the regular season in first place but have to wait for a make-up game between the Tigers and White Sox to see if a one game playoff against the South Siders is necessary. The day will be best remembered in pictures with CC going to the playoffs, a city celebrating, and an overachieving Twins club finishing in first without Torii Hunter or Johan Santana. As for me, I got to support my two favorite baseball clubs in a wonderfully mismatched outfit, and it made for one helluva grand finale for the 2008 regular season.


Monday, September 22, 2008

University of Phoenix revisited

Because I cannot stand to look at that brown and orange dawg - symbolizing demoralized, lackluster football - I struggled to find something else to post about. Leave it to my University of Phoenix classmates to help me out. The writing has generally improved since I last whined about it here on Wolfden V. But, this one was a winner. The assignment was to post an approximately 200 word summary about what the student did/learned for the week. I found no fewer than 5 errors in this just under 60 word horse manure. How many can you find?

"This week we discussed how companies can better serve there customers. What companies can do to keep customer's loyal. We have had some interesting conversations about what customers really want, and want companies are willing to provide. A lot of classmates believe that Classic needs to work on there customer service skills."

Just seven weeks away from me and this scholar having our MBAs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The worst football week ever?

This time of year is a grand time for sports fans. Baseball is in the midst of the pennant run. Colleges are back in session leading to a host of fall sports. And yes, of course, football has returned.

While all are great, the fact that the Cleveland Indians gave up on the baseball season back in April meant I was especially looking forward to this football season. After all, the Cleveland Browns were optimistic for their first serious playoff run in oh, twenty years, and the Hulkamaniacs were the defending regular season, VUFSA fantasy football champions. So yeah, what's not to like about a fresh football season with so much to build on?

And with that build up, Week 1 might be the worst foootball week ever. Short of losing some key player for the season, I don't know how I could have done worse.

For starters, I participate in a Yahoo Pick 'Em league in which participants pick the winners of the weekend games with confidence points. There are no point spreads, simply pick who I think will win and rate how confident I am that I will be right. After this week one, I am 25th of 25 teams - behind a pharmacy tech who picked games based on "which city I would rather visit" and a team name of "Howdoesthisthingwork?" Super.

Then I have the fantasy component of the week, which holds disproportionate importance in my life in general. I read somewhere that an estimated $150 million dollars will be lost as a result of Tom Brady's season ending injury because of prize money in fantasy football leagues in which he plays such a critical component. I had the good fortune of playing the team with Tom Brady this week, and yet I still managed to lose by a massive margin. Not only did I lose in blowout proportions, I am dead last in the league thanks to a meager cumulative point showing.

A good reason for that poor point showing is the result of playing two Cleveland Browns, Phil Dawson and Braylon Edwards. Both were superstars last year, but in week one, they along with the rest of the Cleveland Browns took a dump in Cleveland Stadium. With the Browns on TV in Minnesota and me having off a full Sunday from Walgreens for the first time, well, ever, I sat down with the intent to watch the whole game. What a disaster.

Dallas 28
Cleveland 10

Derek Anderson completed 11 passes. This from the Pro Bowl quarterback marking his first opening day. Throw in 91 yards rushing, and I witnessed the offensive juggernaut, the mighty Cleveland Browns, amassing a whopping 205 total yards, which is far less than Michael Turner had by himself in the Falcons game. The revamped Browns defense looked like Brother Martin High School as Dallas could do anything at any time and quite frankly did. The Cowboys had 5.4 yards per rush, which was the strong part of Cleveland's defense. I could go on, but the situation is too depressing to do so.

Well, week two holds promise as there's nowhere to go but up. Phil Dawson's Dawgs, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?, and the Cleveland Browns could not have performed worse in week one, but if there's going to be a bad week might as well get it out of the way early.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A disgruntled voter


In looking at my infrequent posts over the last year while I wrap up this MBA program, I realize that a good number of them have been political in nature. While we are in the midst of a world changing election cycle, I kinda surprised myself, nonetheless, by how much I had posted about this Presidential race. I suppose I have done so because I'm older and wiser and the real world seems to matter more now that I understand it a bit better and it affects me more. Even so, I still can't get fired up about candidates and in particular these conventions.

I have seen some pieces of the conventions and generally speaking I'm unimpressed. I have a few favorites that I like and I could listen to (where the hell is Tom Tancredo, by the way?), but overall these conventions are disappointing. Record numbers have tuned into Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, but I find their handling of this big stage fairly lackluster.

At the pinnacle moment, the grand pronunciation as the greatest person this political party can offer, these candidates continue to rely on propaganda, cutesy oratory and silly name calling. One person has to bring up community organizer and then the other brings up small town mayorship, which while relevant has to be done in a spiteful manner. Why not define what you stand for, explain differences, and let the public decide from there? Is that so much to ask?

For example, let's take the Iraq War.

Pro for war:
-Freeing Iraqi people held under oppressive rule for years
-Fighting terrorism by eliminating a previous save haven for them
-Promoting democracy, a long standing ideal America fights for

Con for war:
-Expensive, driving the country into even greater debt and we've seen the effect too much consumer credit has had on the stock market, let alone things like Medicare and Social Security
-Death toll while down is still high for the overall project
-Misdirected focus where we should be fighting in Afghanistan or not at all if you are peace activist

Look, I think both sides have incredibly persuasive arguments. Presented before me, I know which way I choose and what candidate best represents what I think should happen. Is it so much to ask that the issue is presented this way instead of through black and white TV advertisements that say absolutely nothing while bashing the opponent?

Pro for abortion:
-The Supreme Court a long respected entity has ruled this to be a legal right for a woman to do as she wants with her unborn child.

Con for abortion:
-The Supreme Court ruled erroneously and that life begins at conception.

One candidate falls on one side of this argument and one candidate falls on the other. Would it be so much to ask for a little chart at these conventions that actually say (gasp!) what they believe in and what action they would take when presented with this dilemma? I mean the big American flag in the background, flowing in the breeze that for some reason is supposed to make me think the person is more patriotic (?) is cute, but how about something with substance. How about a plan? A belief? Sure there is some of that in there but the I will do this vague action (wild cheering) while my opponent will do this unthinkable counteraction (voracious booing). You know, there just might be a viable argument for both sides and disrespecting the other side doesn't make yours more right.

Pro for tax cuts:
-People keep more of their own money to spend it as they choose

Con for tax cuts:
-Needed and necessary government programs better the lives of many Americans

Is it so hard to objectively take a step back, present why you think you are for or against tax cuts, and believe that people will move to your side and vote for you because of this. Or do we need 27 speeches building up how wonderful of an American you are because you have ascended to this point. Why not have 27 speeches outlining 27 tangible, measurable things you want to do in office?

As much fun as it is to fill an arena with people who think like you and support you, are all the cross-shots necessary? Are candidates so insecure that they have to take pot shots at one another instead of selling themselves and their values?

The worst movie I have ever seen was undoubtedly Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore. I eagerly rented the film wanting to see the arguments and the reasons why the Bush regime had done wrong. I wanted to learn something. Instead, I got cheesy, way over the top presentation of some stuff that might have been worthwhile but was so condescending and immature in presentation that I turned it off halfway through. Instead of presenting facts and making an argument, I got a warped, outrageous feature that had basis in something but ended with nothing. I feel similarly about these conventions. There's so much potential and so much inspiration to be had, but these feature presentations are just goofy. I guess I'm just a black and white kinda guy.

I look at these conventions and wonder if some circumstances were reversed if they wouldn't still be tearing at one another's throats. I watched a brilliant Daily Show package courtesy of one Eli Gieryna's blog that shows the asinine hypocrisy involved in these political rumblings. In one, Bill O'Reilly defends to the end the right to privacy of Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter and how we should support her and her decision to keep the child. The next clip shows O'Reilly going to town on the embarrassing situation of Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy and that the parents are unequivocally to blame for teen pregnancy (complete with disgusted look). It's worth the click over to watch the clip.

It's pathetic these double standards. And I don't believe for a second that it's limited to Republicans. If roles were reversed, I'm sure we'd be hearing the same pandering and flip-flopping from the other side. It's this crap and these people that keep me, and I think a lot of the indifferent Americans, from getting excited about politics and getting involved. For some reason, there is this continual urge to blindly believe in whatever your guy says or does. Why can't you disagree with something that your preferred candidate believes in? Isn't it ok to be an Obama supporter an be concerned about his lack of leadership experience? Isn't it ok to be a Republican who thinks McCain overlaps some of Bush's system a little too much? Could their be some reasonable dissent at these conventions?

Dissent does lead me to a brief about the embarrassment that these crazy protesters have brought to themselves. I am all for disagreement in opinion, and I was asking for it in the last paragraph. I love a good political discussion, but why is the best way to speak your minority voice to break the law, disrespect others, and make an ass of yourself? Those getting thrown out of the Xcel Center tonight and those throwing feces on one another on the Capitol lawn the last few days are pathetic. The distorted perspective of the First Amendment is so far backwards that they have no concept of what it is or what it means. A basic civics class or better yet an Amendment law class will more than educate you on basic restrictions on the First Amendment, which yes, does include bottling your pee and throwing it through police car windows. Nothing makes a valid point quite like violence and chaos. A proud moment for you and your family, dear protesters.

And so the conventions have ended and both sides had their crazies dressed in red, white, and blue. The speeches have been filed and the "clever" remarks about the other side have been made. Vague suggestions on what the next four years should be are floating around. And perhaps for fear of turning off that oh so critical undecided voter, little to nothing definitive is said, certainly nothing we will hold our next President to. Instead, keynote speeches call out the opponent for something of some substance the other said. Maybe I'm boring, but I don't subscribe to this one-sided meandering and hollow propaganda. No, I'm not swayed by "change" and no I don't believe a "maverick" is going to make things significantly different. Why would I? Instead of saying something, anything, I hear the repetitive tooting of one's own horn and the spitting on the other.

Tom Tancredo wouldn't have stood for this shit.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Good riddance, Saturn

If we could, let's have a moment of silence for my recently departed Saturn. Ok, that's plenty.

Enter, the brand new 2008 Chevy Malibu. I have been introduced to such previously foreign concepts as "power windows" and "CD player." These luxuries are marvelous. To try out these and other new fangled contraptions (butt warmers!) Becky and I drove 2 hours to Duluth for a pretty picture of my new car with a beautiful Lake Superior back drop. Welcome to the family, Mr. Malibu. May your oil changes be far less expensive.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bernie Mac and CNN

The unfortunate passing of Bernie Mac hit major news outlets today. I saw it upon a morning viewing of CNN. CNN's entertainment page, pasted below, had the following screen shot.



I realize that it's tiny, and I'm not smart enough to make it bigger. However, if you click on the image it will blow up and you'll see that on the list of headlines the very last one has "Spokeswoman: Bernie Mac responding well."

Some 7 hours after I originally saw it, it's still there. And now it's worthy of a blog post. Might want to take that down, CNN.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

CHANGE! Obama is behind this post.



Admittedly, I don't get the bumper sticker thing. I just don't have anything that I feel so strongly about that a little two inch by six inch sticker on my crapmobile is the best way to communicate my love to the masses. I mean, I am the only individual in the world boasting a trendy 2004 Source 95.1 orange window cling, but I use that to find my car in a parking lot as much as I use it to advertise my beloved college radio station that no one in Minnesota is within 500 miles to hear.

That being said, can we please retire the 2004 political bumper stickers? None of the four men featured on these displays of election fanaticism are running for office this time around. Let's move on.

Get a nice new Obama "Change" sticker or a McCain "Experience" sticker, or whatever buzzword best sums up a lifetime of work and their future of rule. While I never ever would put a political bumper sticker on my own vehicle, can I least get the United States behind me so that I can at least view fresh new material? What happens when these folks so far behind the times still haven't changed over come November? Then they'll be two elections behind and nothing says uncool like that.

Do your part, change over your bumper sticker today.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

RIP: 2008 Cleveland Indians


I take a little extended Fourth of July holiday with very little access to the outside world (Missouri will do that to you) and even less yet of the sports sphere. Much to my surprise, I return to find the underachieving Cleveland Indians a shadow of their former selves. Joe Blows and CC No Periods are off the team. Woo! The team gave up halfway through 2008 and just like that we're done. I suppose things are back to normal. Man, one game away from the World Series seems like such a long time ago.

So the question definitely turns to what the hell happened?

The only thing keeping me from answering "everything" is Grady Sizemore. The man is marvelous and he's better this year than last. Unfortunately, he's the only thing that has improved has nearly every other position has seen a decrease in performance. You'll have to double the 2008 numbers to get a semi accurate comparison as we are now halfway through the the season. Around the horn:

Catcher, Victor Martinez:
2007: .374 OBP, 25 HRs, 114 RBIs
2008: .332 OBP, 0 HR, 21 RBIs, and DLed (198 at bats)

First Base, Ryan Garko:
2007: .359 OBP, 21 HRs, 61 RBIs
2008: .324 OBP, 6 HRs, 40 RBIs

Second Base, Asdrubal Cabrera*:
2007: .354 OBP, 30 runs, 3 HRs, 22 RBIs
2008: .282 OBP, 16 runs, 1 HR, 14 RBIs
*Asdrubal came up to the majors halfway through the season last year and managed 159 at bats before the season ended. This year, he had 158 at bats before heading back to the minors to stop sucking. The at bats are almost exactly perfect for our comparison.

Shortstop, Jhonny Peralta*:
2007: .341 OBP, 21 HRs, 72 RBIs
2008: .298 OBP, 13 HRs, 38 RBIs
*Jhonny's power numbers are about on par from last year which while unspectacular are seemingly immune from the Cleveland suckfest. Unfortunately, the .50 drop in OBP (sub .300!) was not.

Third Base, Casey Blake*:
2007: .339 OBP, 16 HRs, 78 RBIs
2008: .355 OBP, 8 HRs, 47 RBIs
*Casey ever the average third baseman has seen a tad bit of improvement. The problem being that most of the improvement came in the last 30 days when Cleveland was already playing catch up. As late as June 6th, his OBP was .315.

Right Field, Franklin Gutierrez:
2007: .318 OBP, 13 HRs, 36 RBIs
2008: .269 OBP, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs
*Franklin, like Asdrubal, was a midseason call-up last year. He had 271 at bats last season and has already had 202 this year. Oh yes, he's also hitless in his last 28 at bats.

Left Field, Who Knows:
Kenny Lofton, Trot Nixon, Ed Schillinger, Jason Michaels, and David Dellucci all occupied space here in 2007. This year, Lofton and Nixon were not resigned, Michaels was released midseason, and Dellucci is batting .223 having given way to Ben Franscisco.

Starting Pitcher, Paul Byrd:
2007: 15-8, 4.59 ERA, 27 HRs allowed
2008: 3-10, 5.53 ERA, 23 HRs allowed

Relief Pitcher, Rafael Betancourt:
2007: 1.47 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 4 HRs allowed, .183 Opponent's batting average
2008: 5.67 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7 HRs allowed, .293 Opponent's batting average

Not to say anything of Fausto Carmona's injury and Joe Borowski's release. I have no idea what caused this cataclysmic decline in the entire team, but I'm going to speak in hyperbole and say that it is in fact the greatest collapse of any single team from one year to the next in the history of the world. The numbers are not close. They are all horrible. Cleveland sucks.

The good news is the last time we traded an overweight pitcher for prospects, Cleveland ended up with Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee - the only two players worth a damn on this roster. Oh, and Joe Borowski will never pitch again for the Indians. Begin the Jeff Weaver era!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A quick political lesson


One of the joys at working retail is that I do get to work with a lot of very cool youngsters just entering the real world. These folk are graduating high school, deciding whether or not to go to college, making choices regarding careers, and occasionally no showing for their shift. Many of them also are learning about the political world with this being the first Presidential election they have the opportunity to cast a vote. It was against this backdrop that I had a conversation recently at work with one such youngster.

Photo Tech: "Drew, this sucks!"

Drew: "What?"

Photo Tech: "Look at my paycheck. Taxes always eat a huge hole in what I take home."

Drew: "Vote Republican."

Photo Tech: "What? Why?"

Drew: "Generally speaking, Democrats love to share. They want everyone to have every opportunity to be equal. The problem of course is that someone has to pay for it, which is why you have a huge amount taken out of your paycheck. They are nice people, but they are expensive people. On the other hand, Republicans don't play well with others. They want people to keep what they earn and want individual accountability to reign. The problem of course, is a separation of wealthy and poor not improving, and they are thought of 'protectors of the rich' because they don't want to tax everyone, instead letting people keep what they earn. They are nice people, they just don't want to spread wealth everywhere."

Photo Tech: "Oh."

Drew: "Make sense?"

Photo Tech: "I'm feeling Republican today."

Photo from liumfamily.com

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Handyman

My father is a great man and has many skills and traits which I have inherited and try to emulate. One of them, however, is not household maintenance and repairs. My dad built me a two tiered water bed with dresser built into it and a play tunnel underneath it - without using a single nail. The guy is an engineer and constructs things for fun, and his general knowledge and usefulness around the house is impressive.

I have none of that. A nail falls out of a board? I need help. Air filters need replacing? It's a half a day project. Picture needs hanging? I don't even try anymore after scarring too many walls.

This part of Minnesota has recently been inundated by big box hardware stores, as I have two Menards, three Home Depots, and two Lowes within a 10 minute radius. I fear these stores and have an anxiety attack just driving by them. Huge monstrosities with millions of parts, pieces, and miscellaneous stuff that I don't know what they do or how to use them. Generally, I step foot in these retailers once a year, when Becky wants to see their Christmas stuff.

Yesterday should have been a disaster. I am home alone as Becky is off at an opthalmic conference out of town, which set the stage for my greatest home repair triumph of all time.

The morning started off innocently enough. I woke up, showered, checked the old fantasy baseball team (still stretching for third), and ate some breakfast. I casually strolled into our downstairs half bath, used the facilities, and went to flush the toilet. I pulled down the handle just as I have for the last three years when all of a sudden I hear a massive SNAP. The toilet does not flush and the handle is dangling from the hole.

My first reaction was to panic. Home alone with no ability to flush the toilet, I might as well board up the door and never return. That plan of action, of course, was foolish. I can't use a hammer and nails let alone deal with acquiring the boards. So, after "some time" I built up the courage to attack the problem. I dismantled the top of the toilet and discovered a fairly simplistic lever and chain mechanism that created the oh so familiar toilet flush. I studied the pieces and even played with the plunger thingy inside until I felt confident in my understanding of how this thing works.

The next step involved replacement parts. Already thinking of having to go inside of these massive stores was causing me shortness of breath. Again, after "some time" I took the plunge, hopped in the $aturn, and picked Menards as my behemoth hardware store of choice. I pulled into the lot and set foot inside trying desperately to look confident enough to know what I was doing so as to avoid the sales clerk who would no doubt know me to be a fraud. A quick reconnaissance of the hanging signs revealed bathroom supplies to the left. I scanned for clerks, avoided the Charleys, and made my way into the four aisles with the much needed ammo required for the toilet.

Menards features no fewer than fifteen different arm and levers for toilets. Damn it. I didn't measure, and only because I have lived there for three years did the fact that the lever was even white somehow register in my forgetful brain. In choosing white levers, I eliminated half the possibilities. So many of them looked so similar. What to do? Wait a moment! Some of them looked a little too similar. Relying on my retail background, I flipped over the package and cross checked UPCs. Just as I suspected! Multiple facings of the same item! Score one for the Walgreens assistant!

I narrowed down the selection to two. One a five dollar arm and lever and the other a three dollar. They looked pretty similar, and I considered buying both to avoid making another trip back. I declined this thought pattern, instead opting to roll the dice on the latter one, gambling that this would be my one and only trip to Menards. I snagged the repair piece and headed to check out.

I again surveyed the land for sales clerks, and I successfully avoided all of them. This excitement though, left me parched and I succumbed to an impulse purchase of a bottle of Dasani near the front check out. I paid and ran like hell back to the $aturn.

Once home, I knew I had not the energy to continue the process. I napped. I cleaned. I ate. I did everything but finish the project. 4pm rolls around, approximately 6 hours after the initial crisis began, and I realized now was the time.

First, I detached what remained of the old lever and chain. My hands got wet, which frightened me that somehow this water was contaminated or something, but I strengthened my resolve in conjuring up memories of having scooped poop off the Walgreens' sales floor. This was nothing.

Second, I had to attach the new lever and chain. A feisty bastard, the hook connecting the chain to the lever was an elusive match. I inadvertently flushed the toilet twice in fiddling with the unifying piece. Eventually, I succeeded. All was one. All looked right.

This, though, was too easy. I knew something had to be in error. There was only one way to know for sure if my half a day, four dollar home repair was a success. I had to use the toilet. So, I did. I stood up took a deep breath and pulled the lever, watching the swirl with greater pride than ever before. The victorious pee left me. I had won.

Subsequently, I went to my local Blockbuster and rented Rambo. I feel manly.

Photo from thisoldhouse.com

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take a little of the top and shave back the conversation

Is there a better, more gratifying feeling than walking out of the barber shop with a freshly trimmed head of hair? Sure there is, but for the purpose of the blog post, we'll leave it rhetorical.

I dislike haircuts quite a bit. While I appreciate the end result, I dislike the process. The barber shop nearest the house has three barbers, and I have the same problem with all three. I hate the conversation.

When I lived in Plainfield, I did not have this problem. The barbers could contently trim the head without but a few words of pleasantry, not afraid of silence. Better yet was when they got a TV and they spent more attention to the news than on pointless, in-person talk. For five years, I did not appreciate the glorious-ness of that simple, main street barber shop.

No, in Blaine we just have to have a conversation. I'm not much of a socialist to start, but I do have a pretty decent knowledge of current events. I follow sports more than the normal patron, which in a barber shop you would think would be more than enough to get me by for the 20 or so minutes it takes to give me the same haircut I've had. But no, it's never enough. For there are four types of barber shop conversations that I inevitably fall into.

Conversation #1: Where do you work? I'm notoriously bad at discussing this topic. It's not that I hate work, I simply don't like rehashing it with a perfect stranger. Furthermore, just because I work at a pharmacy does not mean I'm a pharmacist.

Conversation #2: Various weather comments. The most neutral and meaningless of topics is that of the weather. If we could just let it go at "it's cold" or "lots of rain" we'd be ok, but there's always carrying on and some type of historical analysis. Furthermore, this is the conversation I have fifty times a day with the customers of Walgreens, and I'm tired of it.

Conversation #3: The great outdoors. By far the most popular of the barber shop conversations, I frequently get asked about hunting, fishing, camping or whatever else these people do in the wilderness. I don't do any of the above, and despite Minnesota having an unofficial holiday whenever the fishing or hunting season begins, I could care less about whatever wild game these men brought home last weekend.

Conversation #4: Barber shop jokes. Usually crude, not that funny, and poorly told. I don't get this one very often, but when I do it's the worst of the four.

And so the other day when I walked into the barber shop, I dreaded the conversation. I figured we'd end up going with #2 as Coon Rapids (next town over) and Hugo (the town over the other direction) were hit with tornadoes this past weekend. Having an account of the storm to share, I figured I was in good shape. I can talk for a little while about my side of the storm, the barber talks about his side, we exchange cash, and I walk out of there unscathed.

Additionally in my favor was a "new" barber in the shop. This guy isn't new, in fact he's the oldest of the bunch who I've seen a couple times filling in whenever one of the regulars is either sick or on vacation. It just so happened that he was the one available, and I was up next.

Since he did not even recognize me as the others in the shop do, we immediately went for conversation #1. Right away, I was asked if I was a pharmacist. He then promptly told me in a roundabout way he doesn't like Walgreens and doesn't go there. He's the second of the barbers who has told me that. Nothing creates an awkward silence like a man with scissors telling you why he doesn't like your place of work.

With all of 60 seconds eaten up with conversation #1, we glided into conversation #2. Sure enough the recent tornadoes came up. I was already to go with my story when he shared that he commutes in thirty minutes to fill in and not only was nowhere near the storm but hadn't seen any of the footage. Damn! Foiled in my attempt to get by with #2.

That naturally slid into #3 as he was not in town because he was at his cabin over the Memorial Day weekend. I then suffered through another fishing account while trying feebly to feign interest and grunt approvals and disgusts at the right moments in the story.

In a surprising twist, he wrapped up the story and began yet another topic. An unforeseen change! A life preserver! The topic? Sports!

Having seen me wear my Valpo t-shirt in, he quickly ascertained that I was an Indiana fan in all things. I told him that despite the shirt, my allegiances were actually for Cleveland. That presented a problem.

He wanted to discuss hockey and Cleveland doesn't have a hockey team. I tried to meet him halfway and say that I had loosely followed the Minnesota Wild this season even going so far as to knowledgeably know that the Wild lost in 6 games in the first round of the playoffs. He shot that down saying he only really liked high school and collegiate hockey. To which we sat in silence for the final three minutes.

At least I was spared conversation#4. And I look good.

Photo from Insiderpages.com

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Summer Vacation


Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to the summer with many school children soon leaving the confines of a school building for the baseball diamond, which will culminate in many zany adventures leading to a major motion picture called The Sandlot. Others will take luxurious vacations to places with beaches and and blue skies. And yet others will keep the local pharmacy open.

But alas, after beginning my trek toward an MBA last summer, I have been kept busy fending off stupid opinions and poor proofreading. Vacations and time off have been rare and when present have always had that "you should be doing school work" guilty feeling ruining what fun may have been had. For the next six weeks, though, things are going to change.

Having just completed my seventh of ten classes toward the degree, I have taken a class period off. Instead of spending the next six weeks mastering some business topic, I will instead merely commute to Walgreens daily. Odd that while still working full time it'll feel like such a break.

Before I left the comfy confines of the University of Phoenix learning forum, I had one last spirited debate that went right up until the end of the class. You'd think that in a class full of emerging business leaders some good ideas might exist on how to solve the economic funk that this country finds itself in. I present to you a new poster, never before featured on Wolfden V. I'll call her Pocahontas.

I do not think that the stimulus payments are an answer to the economic problems facing our country.

Ok, I can start with Pocahontas' premise. The stimulus payments are a hot topic, especially with many checks just now finding their way into tax payers' accounts. So far so good.

Giving the average working american just between $300 - $1,200 extra dollars in a one-time sum just isn't the answer.

I'm normally a stickler for basic writing skills such as capitalization but given the informal message board post, I'll give "american" a pass, even though this was written on Memorial Day.

I am sure the original tax returns received by the majority of tax payers was more than the stimulus payments.

Citing such key data and reports such as "I am sure" the basis for this statement is shady at best. A better start might have been "my skewed, biased, unresearched opinion suggests..." We don't know this statement to be true at all and is quickly soaring to become the basis for a wild argument.

If the government truly wanted to help out the economy & taxpayers why not give taxpayers an additional payment that is equal to their 2007 tax return.

And here it is. The answer to all of the United States' financial woes! Because Pocahontas received a tax refund exceeding her rebate check, the government should employ this solution to save the world. Never mind that this solution is absolutely asinine.

A tax refund is repaying your own money that you over estimated over the course of a year. It is not free money. The government is giving you back what is yours that you shouldn't have paid in the first place. Pocahontas also is failing to take into consideration all of those who have to pay taxes on April 15th and not receive a refund. I'm sure that her plan would involve them paying back into the government twice over, which as economists all know is a brilliant solution to increasing discretionary spending.

Mercifully, it's vacation time.

Photo from Vadeck.com

Thursday, May 22, 2008

American Idol 2008


Here during the morning after come down, I shall make my one American Idol post for the season. A season in which a rocker finally broke through and a season in which the show is revealing signs of fatigue with declining ratings.

We shall start with the conclusion that aired last evening. The thought of a 2 hour results show usually warrants a sigh and a groan from yours truly as these lengthy programs that could air in 10 seconds are typically painful and slow. Last night, however, I didn't look at my watch every thirty seconds. The producers have done well in making the finale a carnival of variety - in essence the Super Bowl of singing. This night is an event, less about the overall winner and first runner up and more about patting the music industry on its back with new talent mixed in with old favorites being exposed to a whole new audience. The program remembers that in the last five minutes it has to announce a winner, but as we've seen from the commercial successes of fourth place finishers, the victory is the exposure the final contestants have received and the chance to market not just their music but a personality and a face to accompany it.

With that said, for the first time in nearly two years, I gave a damn about the outcome. When Daughtry was erroneously booted to become a fourth place finisher in 2006, I quit caring. I still watched the show, but the hollow feeling following a season that saw soon to be appearing on the "where are they now" segment on Entertainment Tonight winner Taylor Hicks was too much to overcome knowing that the best talent didn't even medal. Last year was fine, but I wasn't crazy about any of the contestants. Even this year with a rocker back in the mix of things, I still preferred Daughtry, but hey, that David Cook guy is pretty good, too.

American Idol has three phases a contestant must master in order to win the show, and David Cook won deservedly having conquered all three. The first phase is the audition round in which a singer must persevere through long lines, weary producers, and attention-needy losers. Simply, you must have some level of singing talent. The second phase is the Hollywood round in which a singer must stand out against a slew of other capable singers. Whereas phase one is sifting creme from crap, phase two is trickier as now you must graduate in the top 10% of the lawyer class at Harvard.

David Cook had no trouble with either of these first two phases. Clearly he can sing, though he did have to overcome not even wanting to tryout as his brother was the one who wanted to go to the audition. The second phase wasn't overly grueling either as rockers tend to be in short supply on the show, and a guy singing anything other than Stevie Wonder is bound to sound different. Through two rounds, though, Cook was not a dominant force or a favorite. He was cruising without screwing up as so many do in these early stages. Cool and consistent.

Phase three catapulted Cook from guy in the background to the 2008 American Idol. This phase is the top-12 round. This phase is the most intensive and well rounded of three. No longer can artists get by on simply singing. Instead, they must have a likable personality, songwriting ability, and this season an ability to play a music instrument. The contestant's overall well roundedness propels him/her forward. In this phase, a charming chap like Taylor Hicks can make it further than he probably should, a musical instrument can hide vocal shortcomings such as the crutch the piano and guitar provided for Brooke White and Jason Castro, or reworking songs to sound original like Blake Lewis. Combining all three into a single person creates the 2008 American Idol.

David Cook has the "everyman" likeability factor. He's got the common man rises to fame and fortune story surging strongly for him. His cool demeanor and self confidence stood out against a befuddled David Archuleta, apathetic Castro, or constantly crying White. Cook could play the guitar which made it easy to picture him as the lead singer of tomorrow's hot rock band, but he didn't need the guitar to excel. The area in which Cook most definitely stood out was his songwriting ability. Whereas many of these contestant love to sing and can very well, American Idol has become a show in which originality lacks and those artists who have the ability to cover a song stand out. Cook had lots of help covering covers, which may or may not be as original as the audience may take it for, but when Idol fans remember stand out performances for originality, "Hello" and "Billy Jean" are at the top of that list. In short, Cook had a personality, played an instrument, and could cover a song like no other singer. No one would have said at the end of round one or two that Cook was the guy to beat, but the dominating way in which he handled phase three is the reason why his face graces the top of this blog post and countless other less prestigious media outlets this morning.

With that said, first runner up David Archuleta was probably the better singer. The kid had an uncanny ability to turn it on when he took the stage. When not singing he was a pip squeak of a kid awkwardly standing in the front of the class, but with a band and a microphone, he was damn good. He outperformed Cook in the finale and had the backing of the judges to win it all. He's a prodigy of a talent, and I fully believe that if he were on the show last year, he would have left Lewis and Jordin Sparks in his wake. It's been replayed quite a bit, but "Imagine" was one helluva performance.

The rest of the field also returned for the final show, which was a nice reminder of what was a very strong top 12. David Hernandez busted out a few moves that made us remember his origins. Amanda Overmyer being forced to dance in line with the top 6 females was a reminder of her very non-traditional techniques. Kristy Lee Cook who actually improved as she went on before ultimately being exposed as being over her head got in her few lines, sounding and looking great in the process. Syesha Mercado who just missed out on making the finale as an active contestant had a self-confidence about her that made her a capable partner for Seal and Donna Summer.

Of the returning group, I am of the opinion that the Michael Johns and Carly Smithson duet and walk down the stage stairs was most memorable. At the start of the process, these two would have been my pick for the finale. Both having had record deals before, they were more polished than the other contestants with distinct voices and strong stage presence. Johns suffered from never finding his niche and probably contributed to Cook winning the whole show when a similar fan base likely flocked from one rocker to another. Smithson was the dominant female voice on the show but had trouble in a variety of categories from wardrobe, to over singing, to caring too much what the judges said, to a rash that appeared to be overtaking her right arm. Overall, these two couldn't quite get it together and instead of a sing-off were instead relegated to a couple lyrics and then the fade into the background.

Despite greatly enjoying this season and the two part finale, I did have a few gripes with the season that I would be unfairly glossing over if I didn't comment on them.

For starters, the quality of judging is deteriorating rapidly. Much has been made of Paula Abdul's snafu in judging a song that has never been song. While the reasons for the boo-boo were later made public (last second changes, dress rehearsal viewing, etc.), it still was baffling that she couldn't tell what was live television and what wasn't. Be that as it may, no one expects anything from her and usually we get nothing in return. Yay for mediocrity. If she didn't follow Randy Jackson and have his comments to gently rework, I don't know if she is capable of an independent, original thought.

And Randy Jackson isn't necessarily a great judge to be echoing. The yo-yo-yo-yo-yo dawg shtick is really tiring on me. Sometimes he has something worthwhile to say which is fine, but the blithering start to his comments is frustratingly irrelevant. Then in the grandest moment of the season, Jackson used the "you could sing the phone book" cliche that if I hear one more time I will claw off my ears. Not only is that cliche stupid, it has been used countless times this season to describe Archuleta. Why not come up with something, ANYTHING different in the way of unique thought or descriptive adjective. Sorry dawg, not feeling it.

Mercifully, producers have said that next season the weekly result show will be scaled back from one hour to two. Those results shows are painfully long. Bring out the contestants, parade them around, remind everyone for the umpteenth time what they sang, take commercials, and have a couple mentors sing. All I need to know is who survived and who is out. Fortunately, we have 30 fewer minutes next year to do just that.

Overall, I loved this season as the diverse talent and optimal outcome contributed to what I thought was the best round of American Idol that I have seen. The minor flaws would appear in any show, especially after seven seasons of a predictable, yet undeniably successful formula. David Cook is a worthy champion who we'll see in a 3 minute performance at next year's finale. I just hope that's not the first or last we see of him in the meantime.

Photo from People.com

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blow up about the blow ups

I know I am a day or two late on this, but I have the day off, and dammit, I want to write about baseball.

The Chicago White Sox, much like everyone else in the AL Central, aren't very good. Specifically, they can't hit, and so the logical way to deal with this problem was to bring a couple of blow up dolls into the clubhouse in a Major League movie-esque way of ridding the team of the bad voodoo spells plaguing the South Siders.

My question is a question I'm sure that a great many individuals have and that is how does Ozzie Guillen still have a job after this?

The man has shown over the years he is ignorant with the slurs and rants he liberally throws around, and this blow up doll incident shouldn't shock too many that it occurred on his watch. He could apologize and this would be brushed under the rug as "Ozzie doing his thing," but he has instead decided to be combative as usual:

"I'm not going to say I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I can't come up with the words, because as soon as I say that, that means I'm guilty of something. I'm not. I'm not guilty. ... We just had a plastic thing sitting on a table and, wow, we're bad people."

The situation has been described by those defending it as "boys being boys" and "it's in the locker room." Even my beloved morning radio show applauded Ozzie for giving the finger to the politically correct and overly sensitive.

What era are these people living in?

How is it that a couple blow up dolls represent the best manner in which to express anything? This is an incident just months after Isiah Thomas, the New York Knicks, and Madison Square Garden were found liable for creating a sexually charged sporting situation. While this Chicago incident didn't involve a specific individual against whom the wrong was done, the legal term is "hostile work environment" by which the employer can be held responsible for negligence in matters just such as these. Encouraging, permitting or even turning a blind eye to this type of behavior puts the entire organization at risk for legal liability. This is to say nothing of the stupid moral behavior this exhibits, though, I understand that's a subjective argument that is difficult to argue or defend.

I know that winning the 2005 World Series and ending centuries of Chicago suffering create a safety net for job security. Since then, however, the White Sox haven't exactly torn it up. 3rd place in 2006, 4th place in 2007, and 2 games under .500 here in 2008. All the while, Guillen throws his weekly temper tantrum, good taste be damned. Even his boss, General Manager Ken Williams knows he's a moron:

"He has a great opportunity to have a voice, not just in baseball but in sports. And I worry sometimes the language he chooses to use sometimes misses the mark on the intent of the message."

But what does it take to fire a man who "misses the mark" so very frequently while continually drawing negative attention to the White Sox team and putting the entire organization in legal jeopardy with the situation screaming "hostile work environment?" The club's performance is deteriorating in such a way since that high in 2005 that Guillen can't rely on that World Series win to save his position. If I were Ken Williams, I'd have taken this most recent blow up doll incident and taken all three of them out to the dumpster.

Photo from the Daily Illini Blog

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm going to say what I need to say


These are slow times at Wolfden V. With Joe Borowski on the DL, I have no goat to pin the blame for the Cleveland Indians' struggles. With a somewhat competent learning team this class at the University of Phoenix, I have no irritatingly ignorant writings to critique. Oh wait, I sorta do.

In high school, I was music crazy. I was all about lists and rankings and whatnot. While many of the lists put Metallica, Nirvana, and Green Day atop whatever musical category I wished to measure, the high school gang did have one other type of list. That list was worst song out there. Now, I must say that the pool of qualifying songs were only those that my beloved 106.7 The End, New Orleans New Rock station played.

Every time a "worst" list came up for any reason, Tal Bachman's "She's So High" topped the chart. I hated and still hate that song. I think it's absolutely horrible, and why it somehow ended up on a rock station is baffling and likely the reason that 106.7 is no longer with us (a hurricane might also have played a small role, too). But Tal Bachman, that one hit wonder, was always the worst. The Beastie Boys threatened with a slew of crap to dethrone Bachman, but not even "Body Movin'" could supplant Tal's big "Ooohhhhhh yeeeeeahhh."

While my musical horizons have been broadened (not much), I frequently listen to the HOT AC format as the station of compromise when driving around with Becky. A nice slew of Goo Goo Dolls and 3 Doors Down mix in with that Fergie chick and the eighteen artists/bands who sound like John Mayer (pictured above being kneed in the groin). It is the latter who now threatens Tal Bachman's place for worst song ever on my radio.

I've never cared for John Mayer. I think he's whiny and horribly superficial with his puffy pop. That said, I've never had a tremendous distaste for him either, as he has a niche and when the rest of the radio is trying to sound like you, clearly you've done something well. He's always just kinda been there. Perhaps the best word I can use to describe him is "eh."

But now, I have something I need to say. And that is that "Say What You Need to Say" is one of the worst songs of all-time. How a song that urges such critically important dialogue manages to say nothing at all is of great quandary. The gist of the song is that Mayer repeats the title non-stop for a grueling 4 minutes. It became such a joke to me and my radio sharing wife that she decided to count just how many times the phrase is repeated.

37 freaking times.

It's as if Mayer isn't even trying to write lyrics. He's laying around his studio too lazy to come up with anything creative and instead got stuck on a potentially good concept only to repeat it a thousand times while thinking of something else to write. This is a guy who's been linked to Jennifer Anniston and Cameron Diaz who are no doubt swept up with his profound take on life. 37 times!

I'm not sure that I'm quite ready to kick Bachman off the lofty perch of most awfulest terriblest song, but if KS 95 insists on continuing to play this crap every time Becky and I are in the car, I may just have to cave in and listen to Becky's country station.

Hmm, on second thought, that's just not going to happen. Ever.

Photo from USA Today

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Univerisity of Phoenix Drama!!!

Oooh! Exciting developments! Developments worthy of multiple exclamation points!!!

My trials and tribulations with the University of Phoenix have been well chronicled on this forum. But there is one incident that has escalated into a fun, typing feud. For those that recall Valpo's Student Senate, I definitely compare that experience with this one. This is an incident in which I am firmly in the right, and people want to debate that fact. What follows is wordy bliss!

Let me take you back in time, dear reader. A week ago, my team had its second team paper due for our course. One of the team members - we'll call him Sean for no particular reason - decided to cut and paste 90% of his contribution to the first team paper and submit it to the group for his contribution to the second team paper. Sean hoped no one would notice, but the acute, ever proofreading eye of Mr. Wolfman noticed this incredibly obvious cut and paste. I said as much to the team.

My original post to the team:

Sean,

I was hesitant yet silent when you mentioned that you wanted to research the same two companies as our first paper. What you have submitted is almost completely word-for-word what was in the first paper with a few sentences at the end throwing in a new twist. I think these sections need reworking to at least show some additional thought or research went into the paper and that we are not cutting and pasting from old documents at a master's level course.


-Drew

A full day passed in which every member of the team posted a new comment to the team forum and none of whom bothered to even acknowledge my comment or the fact that a major incident had taken place. Now close to the deadline, I realized that nothing was going to happen and posted a follow-up.

If we as a team are going to ignore the issue I brought forth last night regarding cutting and pasting, so be it. I still find this to be a severe breach of any type of academic standards, but if it is going to remain in the paper as is, it should at least be cited appropriately. Using a previous paper, one must cite himself and his previous paper compliant to APA standards. At the very least, the reader, in this case the professor, has the right to know where the material was originally published.

-Drew

The paper was submitted, and my name yet again was attached to a paper that would have failed Mr. Nelson's 10th grade English class. So it goes. The professor opted to give Sean a separate grade from the rest of the team, and I do not know what the grade was. I hope he failed miserably.

For the class, we are required to post to the class a final summary of what we learned, liked, disliked, or otherwise experienced. An open forum if you will.

Sean's profound class summary?

Its finally over, believe it or not it seems like we just started last week. The past 6 weeks have gone fast but been very informative. I enjoyed the class and hope to see you all again in future classes.

Getting past whatever the hell that first sentence was (part run-on, part fragment), you see that there was a whole lot of nothing in the overall message. My final summary weighed in at a cool 487 words offering pros and cons of various course features. The part relevant to Sean follows:

The group papers were again largely unnecessary. I don't know that they were so educational that they were/are worth the stresses and hassles of coordinating schedules and pain staking unification. While they do allow a glimpse into other companies that we as a team would otherwise be unexposed to, I don't know that a team paper is the best forum for this information. A discussion thread amongst the class or even the team would have been a better medium, particularly given the lazy tendencies of certain team members.

Apparently Sean's guilty conscious got the best of him - that and my nameless jab. He felt the need to reply to my class summary in the most glorious of fashions.

Once again you over analyze everything and make something out of nothing. Complain, complain, complain...that seems to be what you should have mastering in....

I was giddy when I saw that answer. Unprofessional, incorrect verb tense, and AN EMOTICON! Absolutely stunning. That simple answer was such a perfect microcosm for Sean's entire effort. Of course, I had to respond.

It's unfortunate for this outburst of unprofessional comments (though the emoticon was an especially nice touch). I never mentioned you by name, Sean, but the overwhelming discrepancy in effort between group members was tremendously egregious. In a true academic setting, cutting and pasting from one paper to another would be grounds for failure of the entire course. Truth be told, I was as concerned that the group was apathetic toward the whole event as I was the original effortless second submission.

The incident in this class was a reinforcement of previous classes which have been full of disappointing group experiences where the team setting did not produce the results, I believe, that could have been achieved through other forms of learning. I attempted to convey this fact with other positives of this class, which you clearly took as a personal attack. I will not go so far as to say it wasn't, but it was not the main point of the final summary.


-Drew


Bye, bye Sean. Bye, bye. :)

Photo from SunnyValeChristianSchool First Grade Page

Joe Blows (Save): Part II

I normally am limited to a review of Cleveland's box score, but with the Indians featured on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball game of the week, I had an opportunity to see the final few innings. With a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the 9th, I had a first hand look at the man, the myth, the legend: Joe Borowski. I watched as his blazing 83mph fast ball danced down the middle of the plate to Manny Ramirez who socked it for a game winning home run. I also watched as Jon Papelbon came on and threw change ups at 89mph past Cleveland's hitters. Yes, his slow pitch is 6mph faster than the fastest pitch Joe can throw.

A review of last night's Joe Borowski appearance:

2/3 of an inning; 4 hits; 3 earned runs; 1 HR allowed; and (gasp!) a blown save.

Taking a look at his season statistics:

18.00 ERA and a WHIP of 2.75. Oh yeah, blown save #2.

I realize that my dislike of Joe Borowski is overwhelming, but at what point do the Indians HAVE to make a change. He isn't good, he wasn't good, and something (anything) has to change in the 9th inning.

Photo from ESPN.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Idol Gives Back

I enjoy American Idol. This fact is no secret to you, dear readers. Last night, however, was a departure from the normal format of sing and sling someone. Last night was the now annual charity show where a parade of superstars plead for funds to help the individuals in a pretaped video displaying human beings somewhere in the 6th rung of hell.

I have really mixed feelings on the show. I watched most of it while typing another extraordinarily awesome University of Phoenix paper, and I came away without that heart tugging, please take all my money guilty feeling that a show of this stature is supposed to invoke.

For starters, the benefiting party was scattered among all walks of life. While everyone featured needed a helping hand, some needed it much more so than others. I have way more sympathy for the plight of a starving child in Uganda who was born into a horrible situation, will forever be stuck into that horrible situation due to lack of resources, and will likely die a very young death because of an uncontrollable plight of life. These individuals I feel for and would donate for.

On the other hand, a significant amount of footage featured those in the United States that could use a little boost. Hanna Montana took us on a tour of Clay County and Brad Pitt and Reese Witherspoon (a picture of course necessary) pleaded for funds to rebuild New Orleans. The video then showed a single father of three and in a separate story a single mother of four having a difficult go of it. I realize that I have been incredibly blessed in life to have the resources and situation that I have, but I have a difficult time comparing a poor person in the United States with a poor person in "insert any one of the many third world countries" Africa.

They are completely different ballgames. Those in the United States have food, shelter, education, and an opportunity to advance to a better place. I understand that they will have to overcome obstacles and the deck is stacked against them, but as compared to third world countries, even the poorest Americans are rich. As such, I find it difficult to donate to a lump cause. I want my funds to go to those in the most dire of situations, and I just don't feel that those in the United States compare to those in Africa.

My second issue with last night's program came with the way and the persons asking for contributions. Rob Schneider is apparently still alive and relevant enough to land a place on the star studded charity show. In his brief appearance he threw in a joke that Bono has enough money to fix half of Africa, but we the audience were needed for the other half.

It was somewhat funny but somewhat true. I don't mean to pick on Bono as he has done plenty - like him or not - to advance the cause of those in horrible situations. But, the man can do way more with his pen and his checkbook than 100,000 of us offering $10 or $20 increments. If all the stars on the show wanted to get serious about it, they could be making donations that would put the rest of us to shame.

Miley Cyrus spent time talking to some school children about how much she likes computers, which was an indirect appeal to the children that adore her to contribute whatever they can to this good cause. Teaching children the value of charity and sharing money is an incredibly valuable concept, but each kid watching the show could empty their piggy bank with less an effect than Cyrus buying a computer for every school kid in Kentucky without so much as a dent on her earnings. Again, I struggle with the concept because it passes the buck onto the most fortunate, alleviating the responsibility of all people to help those in need. That notwithstanding, seeing someone with so much beg and plead with those less than they to give money does provide a hollow sense of urgency.

In all, American Idol did a great thing. They used their power and influence to raise funds for those who are in desperate situation. They provided a medium for those who wanted to and who were moved to, to improve the lives of other people in tremendous need. However, the wide brush of need causes me to feel as if the charitable focus is lacking, and the rich asking for money from middle class America rubbed me as questionable. The overall pull thus was lacking and perhaps not what it could otherwise have been.

Oh, and The Office is back tonight.

Photo from etonline.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Early season Joe watch


Perhaps you, the astute baseball fan, noticed that Torri Hunter's rally-monkey pleasing walk-off grand slam, propelling the Anaheim Angels to victory was slugged off of the mighty Joe Borowski.

A quick look of the statistics:
19.29 ERA, runs allowed in two of three outings, 4 walks in 2.1 IP, and 2 HRs allowed

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Opening Day 2008



The gloriousness of Opening Day! A day when hope fills baseball stadiums and fans' hearts everywhere. An opportunity to forget ALCS disasters and think of redemption. A chance for the Kansas City Royals to lay claim to first place. A wonderful, glorious day.

Yes, the wonderfulness of Opening Day spread to Minneapolis where I attended my very first live and in person season starter. The bright sunshine, the freshly cut grass. Ahhh. Heavenly.

Those would have been great, but there was a blizzard in Minneapolis yesterday. A suburb just south of here received eight inches of snow, and the wind blowing at 20 miles per hour made it a pleasant stroll into the Metrodome. People came into the dome drenched from the big wet flakes, rosy cheeked from the gusts between skyscrapers, and shoes soaked from the slop just to get inside. Ah yes, Opening Day in Minnesota. Only 161 more home games until we do this outdoors in the new stadium.

But alas, the game! The excitement! Having commuted straight from work at 30 mph through a sea of red break lights, I was eager to discover the outcome of the Indians' first game. The Metrodome's scoreboard revealed a 10-8 victory over the White Sox. A fine start to the baseball evening.

The Twins took the field to a rousing ovation. An ovation of 45,000+ who said weather be damned it's time to play ball. It was the biggest Twins crowd in nearly a decade and they warmly welcomed back former favorite son Torri Hunter who was greeted to a standing ovation both during staring line-up announcements and his first at bat. Perhaps best of all was the left field banner spanning an entire row that said "Welcome home Torri" to which Hunter, the Angels new center fielder, tipped his hat and smiled. Naturally, the fans booed loudly when Torri made his first catch, retiring a Twins batter in the early innings, and then cheered a little extra loudly when Joe Nathan struck him out in the 9th. Easy come, easy go.

I saw a ball hit the PA speaker high above the Metrodome. Having read about just such a scenario in one of those baseball teasers, I was thrilled to have seen it happen in person and on the first batter of the Twins' season no less. Chris Gomez popped it high above home plate and Jered Weaver ran around, flailing about in a failed attempt to make the grab. I love seeing something new at every game.

Gomez and other new outfielder new comer Delmon Young looked really sharp. Gomez in particular lit up the stadium with his impressive speed (2 stolen bases and 1 bunt single) with Young driving in a few runs in the middle of the Twinkies' line-up. Heck, even Livan Hernandez looked good, even though it's still amazing he's an opening day starter.

In all, a glorious wonderful day that could and would not be ruined by Mother Nature. The Twins took care of business with a 3-2 victory, bringing them into a first place tie with your AL Central leading Cleveland Indians. Projections now have the Twins and Tribe finishing 162-0, which has to be some type of record or something.

Photos from WCCO.com that also features a lovely weather related story and additional pictures from the snow storm and Kare11.com

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl

In five years with my current employer, I have experienced a great many trials and tribulations. Until this week, however, I have never had the pleasure of the repeated overnight shift.

I have always worked at the traditional 8am-10pm store that has a definite opening and ending time. On occasion, I have worked overnights in an attempt to better the store condition, catch up during the busy holiday time, or to keep our Russian floor cleaning crew company as they strip the tiles. While I have not been transferred to one of our many 24 locations, I have, for the first time in my Walgreens career, begun a span of five consecutive overnight shifts.

The purpose? You've never seen a cosmetic wall with such beauty as the one that I, along with four other of my teammates, have ever constructed. Ok, well, you probably will if you visit your local Walgreens in the next couple of weeks. The process involves taking every lipstick, eye shadow, make-up, and other miscellaneous cosmetic item that you didn't know existed off the wall, installing all new fixtures, repricing the new items, and putting graphics in highlighting the wonderful aspect of each product. My team consists of five members from five stores, and we visit each store to tear apart their cosmetic wall and reinstall it by morning before you the customer can say "crap in the aisle."

My body clock is incredibly screwy at the moment, which is the obvious drawback to such a schedule. I don't remember falling asleep this morning at 7am. I was watching an episode of The Office one moment and the next Becky is telling me she's off to work for the day. There's 20 minutes of my life that are unaccounted for, and I blame aliens. My typical breakfast of peanut butter toast still is tasty upon first waking up, even if that's at 2pm. I have a hard time telling what the day of the week is as I start work on one day and finish on a different day - giving "yesterday" an odd meaning.

In all, this experience of which I am two nights out of five into has been an interesting exercise and completely throwing off any semblance of a normal schedule. I don't envy those who do this regularly and will be happy when it's over. But, I can say that this slew of overnight shifts has allowed me repeated opportunities to become familiar, nay an expert at, all things Cover Girl and Rimmel. That's right, Beauty Adviser Drew to your assistance.

Photo from here.