Thursday, May 31, 2007

Quick hits from the jukebox

A few quick thoughts before I call it a night:

I biked a quick 21.5 miles before sunset tonight. I’m way behind last year at this point, but I hope to better my monthly totals from last summer. I think my June through August total last summer was a little more than 1,570 miles. I'd better knock off 2,000 this summer, at minimum.

My eyes hurt. Each year I have an allergy that manifests itself around June 1 for a week or three. I haven’t had a problem until tonight. My eyes have never been so sore and swollen as they were this evening. I’m not sure why this year is so much worse than others in recent memory.

The Brewers went 6-14 in their past 20. We all overestimated their ability, evidently. There likely would have been a “super show” tonight, (a conference call of Chip, Rush and me,) but there was a death in Chip’s family last weekend and he’s readying for his return home for the funeral. The super show will be held sometime next week. It’s time for Chip to face the music, and Rush’s wrath.

I went to Wednesday’s White Sox matinee at the big inflatable toilet and got to see my squad blow a 6-1 lead. Mark Buehrle threw a two-hitter on Thursday evening, but gave up two solo home runs and lost the game 2-0. It’s a frustrating time for the Fonz.

My friends leave for California on Saturday morning...bright and early. (Before sunrise, I think.) They are spending the night in the Twin Cities on Friday, so I will see them after work. (This is German Bear’s family I speak of.) Their son needs surgery, again, for a brain tumor. It is scheduled for July 2. I am not happy. At least they can follow through with their vacation plans.

I would like to spend the weekend of July 20-22 in Fond du Lac County, (that’s in Wisconsin,) but I’m not sure I can justify the cost.

Tesla has a new CD available next week. I’m pre-ordering it this weekend from Best Buy. The band may hail from the hair band era, but they’re better than that.

I am anxious to blog about my five 100-mile bike rides. I hope to do that this weekend.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why we're all here

I can't speak for anyone else, but I know why I'm going to try to make a go of it with this blog.

As I noted recently, I wish I had a journal of our 18 annual camping trips. I have vague memories of our first trip, random memories of several others and distinct memories of 1996, 1998 and 2000, if I have my dates correct, (and I think I do.) But it would be nice to have a few notes from year to year that might remind us of things pictures don’t capture, pictures I haven’t taken in several years.

I don’t intend to use this blog as a place to file memories of my annual camping trips, details about my weekly and monthly bicycling totals or opinions about current events. I will probably write about all those things, but they won’t be the purpose for this blog.

My blog will simply be an excuse to write, be it something pointless and stupid, something personal or something I will want to look back upon years from now. (I’m not saving text files of these blogs, so I’m rather trusting that the content won’t simply disappear some day.)

I’m not concerned about building an audience, but I don’t hide this blog, either. I haven’t told Chip or Rush about it, but I have told one friend. I include a link to it at a site I post comments at, so perhaps somebody will stumble upon it, much the same way I stumbled upon D Cup’s blog, linked above as my favorite blog. For now I’m glad to be writing something periodically that isn’t work related.

Tonight, however, I’m not writing anything entertaining. It’s too late for that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The highlight of this year's camping trip

I wish I was keeping a journal of our annual camping trips.

Off the top of my head I can’t recall much about our 1995 trip. I don’t remember who came that year, how the weather was, what we did that weekend or anything that made that weekend unique. The only thing I remember definitively is that I was living in Canada at that time and had to drive about eight hours to get there.

I won’t, however, have a hard time remembering 2007.

Our annual trip is typically a gathering of four of our charter members. I’m the only one who has been there for all 18. German Bear has missed one. Doug and JayHawk have missed a few each. All four of us were there this year, and each of them had a child or two in tow. Chances are they’ll all remember this trip, too.

Our campsite is on private property. It’s nice because we don’t have to worry about waking the old people in an RV at a nearby campsite. The drawback is that we have to carry our coolers and gear through a field to get to our site tucked inside the trees. We don’t have the luxury of parking 20 feet from our tents.

I rode to Wausau with Doug and his son. Doug hurt his foot a couple of weeks ago and wanted to reduce the distance he had to walk back and forth from his truck.

There are a couple of pseudo-roads through the property. Over the years trees have been harvested from the woods, and trucks need to be able to get in and out of the property, hence logging roads have been created. They’re not easy to navigate, but you can tell that vehicles have traveled them in years past.

We don’t have the luxury of a road to the campsite, but Doug thought we could drive through the field to get near it. The field is uneven, but it’s not as uneven as the wooded area. Decades ago the small fields around the wooded area were farmed by German Bear’s grandfather.

There’s a tiny pond in the middle of the main field, so I knew we had to avoid that. I jumped out of the truck and walked ahead of Doug to try and spot ruts he should avoid as we crossed the field. I thought he should go straight back to the trees and then try to drive across the field while hugging the tree line. I later found that wouldn’t have been much more successful.

As we got halfway into the field Doug decided it was time to start angling across it, toward the corner nearest our campsite. He came to a momentary stop as we were trying to find our way across the field and it ended up being a 24-hour parking space. He was stuck. His wheels sank deep enough into the wet clay underneath the field’s grassy cover that he wasn’t going anywhere. Driving forward or backward merely resulted in the spinning tires settling further into the clay. My attempt at pushing the vehicle from the front didn’t come close to making a difference.

We hauled a couple of things to the campsite, which was slightly further away than it would have been if we had parked on the gravel road where we always park. We had a couple of old boards at the site, so we took those and a couple of logs, as well as a shovel we keep at the site, back to the truck. We tried to dig out the wheels a bit and stuck the wood behind them, but we didn’t come any closer to moving the truck.

German Bear arrived after that and saw us out in the middle of the field with the truck. He was impressed that Doug got as far as he did given that the field is full of wet clay. His added help didn’t get us any closer to pushing the truck out of the ruts.

At this point we wondered who we were going to have to call to come pull us out of the field. A tow truck could hook the back of Doug’s truck to pull it free, but what was to keep the tow truck from getting stuck, even if it was able to keep 100 feet back from Doug’s truck? We thought it might take a tractor, but where would we find one nearby to come and save the day?

While three of us were already at the campsite on Friday afternoon, JayHawk was working that day, so he wasn’t going to be arriving from western Wisconsin until after dark. For the first time in nine years my cell phone worked at the campsite, I learned, so we called him and explained our dilemma. He immediately had two or three ideas of how to get the truck out. He was on his way home and decided to load up a variety of tools to help solve our problem.

JayHawk is a guy who can fix or solve just about any problem that comes along. He knows automotive repair, construction and a million other things, which is exactly what you would expect from a guy who was an art major in college. He brought a small arsenal of equipment with him on Friday.

By late morning Saturday the project was underway. Among other things JayHawk brought a floor jack and several long boards, some with studs. The idea was that we’d jack up the truck, get boards under the wheels and then back it out. Easier said than done.

The wheels were about as deep as the underbody of the truck would let them go, and the ruts that the wheels created were now filled with groundwater. Despite all that, JayHawk was able to engineer a slow, methodical solution. Jacking up the rear of the truck was relatively easy. The front proved to be more challenging. At one point I began to doubt that JayHawk could free the truck, but he eventually built a foundation of rock to support the boards under the front wheels, and about three hours after we started we backed the truck out. Fortunately Doug didn’t get stuck again as he backed out of the field.

It turned out to be quite an adventure I’m sure we’ll never have to repeat, and one we’ll never forget.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Farewell Chuck

It wasn’t by design, but the new game show tape I popped into the VCR while doing the dishes happens to include episodes of Match Game.

I just read this morning that Charles Nelson Reilly died at the age of 76. It saddens me to lose one of the great game show personalities of my youth.

I remember watching Match Game in the 1970s and early ‘80s. It ran in some form or another for about nine years. It was a CBS show for years, and survived a final few years in syndication.

It wasn’t until seeing it as a rerun on the Game Show Network in recent years that I was able to appreciate Chuck’s humor as a celebrity panelist on the show. I enjoyed most game shows as a kid, and was quite entertained by the show, but I certainly don’t remember why Match Game tickled my fancy. A lot of the humor was over my head, and Chuck was responsible for plenty of it.

As a youngster I didn’t know what homosexuality was, so the thinly veiled references to Charles being gay were lost upon me. The way he would give his response, sometimes going against stereotype, sometimes hamming it up, are quite amusing to watch as an adult.

I knew he had a background in acting and the theater, but I didn’t realize he was as successful as he was until I read his obit. That success came before, during and after Match Game, but I can’t claim familiarity with any of it. I only know him from his game show career, which included several appearances on other games shows after Match Game. My appreciation of him is limited to that, and that show may be how he is best remembered. I’m not sure if he’s my favorite celebrity in the history of game shows, but if not, he’s in the top three.

His game show career ended years ago, because of his age, the diminishing number of games dotting the television landscape or a combination of those things. So his passing isn’t going to deprive me of any future entertainment. Yet it always makes us sad to know those who entertained us in the past are no longer here.

But it makes me doubly sad to know that today’s Charles Nelson Reilly’s aren’t entertaining us as celebrity partners on game shows these days. His passing reminds me of that, and that depresses me more than Chuck BLANKING beyond the pearly gates of heaven.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


In nine hours my journey to the greater Wausau area begins.

There were years where we started counting down the days until camping in February. I can remember marking the countdown on my calendar when it was 100 or more days away. As much as I look forward to this weekend, there’s no countdown these days. Part of that reason is that the camping trip is no longer an event, and a few of our regulars/semi-regulars from 10 years ago are ghosts when it comes to Memorial Day weekend.

Times change, people change, so it’s no surprise it has come to this, but part of me wishes that we could recapture the magic of 1998 or 2000. Magic 8-Ball says: Don’t count on it.

Things I purchased today for this weekend’s trip:
• dollar store glow bracelets and necklaces for me and the kids
• Italian sausage links from the grocer’s smokehouse
• hand sanitizer
• one liter of generic spiced rum, distilled in Minnesota
• seven-pound can of butterscotch pudding

Time to finish packing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Short and sweet

Tonight’s blog will be short and sweet, like my next girlfriend.

Like my good friend D Cup, I’m going to prioritize my blogging points in the near future. I bounce around from blogging about what’s stuck in my craw to blogging about topics I have been inspired by, most of those thanks to Dinesh’s comments. I’m going to attempt to create a method for my madness, but don’t hold your breath. (I won’t worry about said method, however, until after this weekend's camping trip.)

A few of my future blog topics: the purpose of my blog, the five days I have biked 100 miles or more, the history of my Wausau camping trip, my thoughts on the future of community newspapers and my favorite Spice Girl. (OK, the last one was a joke, but I own two Spice Girls CD singles, and definitely have three favorite Spice Girls songs. My favorite is “Stop.”)

I donated blood today. It was my second time this year. I’m A-positive, which isn’t particularly special, but I’m not particularly special, either. The bottom line is that they don’t turn me away when I offer a pint or two of Fonzie. But they always stop at one pint.

I rarely bike on Mondays, so today was a good day to donate blood. But I hope to log a few miles on Tuesday. I have to work Tuesday night, however, so we’ll see what happens.

The Brewers and White Sox won on Monday night, and the Twins lost. Not a bad night, but the Stinktown Indians won again. There’s a bit of a parallel between Stinktown’s Indians and Brewers, I have noticed, since 2005. Both teams showed promise in 2005, only to falter. The Indians, however, made quite a run at the White Sox. Both teams had lackluster seasons in 2006, basically from start to finish. Now both teams are flying out of the gates after a lost season last year, although the Indians have a lot more competition in their division.

Chip and I have joked that the Twins/Brewers weekend at the big inflatable toilet is “World Series preview weekend.” We’re starting to question if an interleague series between the Indians and Brewers is more deserving of that billing.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Way to go Fonzie

I'm not going to chart my daily progress here, but occasionally I'll have to celebrate bicycling milestones, if nothing else than to give me something to blog about besides game shows. (At the moment I'm watching an episode of Blackout, a short-lived game show that aired on CBS in early 1988. It was lame, so I'm not surprised it tanked in a hurry. It was hosted by a pre-Entertainment Tonight Bob Goen, who had a great '80s mustache.)

Today wasn't a bicycling milestone, I'm not close to what I'd consider my first milestone for the season, but I'm trying to get out regularly at this point since I'll be bicycling 150 miles in the fight against MS on June 9 and 10. Today I biked 35.5 miles. It wasn't at the best clip I have ever recorded, but it's early in the season, so I can let that slide. It's the longest ride I've done so far this season, yet only half of what I'll be doing each day of the MS150.

The Brewers salvaged a win, and Rush was quick to point out during tonight's conference call that the Twins should never have been leading in that game with Ramon Ortiz on the mound for the God Squad. The Brewers are struggling, but their division is full of cupcakes, so they should be OK, Rush acknowledged. The Brewers are 3-7 since we made our 20-game predictions. I need them to go 9-1 in the next 10 games for my 12-8 prediction to hold up. Chip has already been served his reality check. Rush doubts the Brewers will even reach the 9-11 mark he predicted.

While I'm still pondering my online existence, I thought of something I am passionate about, although I'm not sure when it would be appropriate to blog about it: I don't vote in the presidential elections, primary or general election.

What the hell am I doing?

Today left me wondering why I’m writing a blog.

During the White Sox/Cubs game, the second consecutive game the Sox bullpen blew, I wrote a blog, ranting about things that irritate me regarding The Price is Right, and explaining how the game works. What a waste of time!

I enjoy creative writing. Before I decided to be a reporter, I was a creative writer. I don’t do much creative writing these days, but I would argue creativity seeps into my stories now and then. For me, a blog is a good way to flex my creative muscle, something I stopped exercising many, many years ago.

But when I finished my silly blog about TPIR, I checked Drama’s blog, something I do almost every time I sit down to download porn from the internet. (That’s a joke, I’m too poor to afford online porn.) Sure enough, Drama had written a follow-up to the blog he wrote late last night about the pharmaceutical industry and the reasons he finds it evil and corrupt.

And this chucklehead is writing about a game show.

I never promised a lot of passionate prose about political or social issues, but Drama’s blog made me wonder how deep of a person I am, and question if my time could be better spent. The short answer is yes, my time could be better spent. A lot of my time could be better spent. But am I getting enough of a return on the investments I make with my time to sleep well at night? Tough question. I hate tough questions.

Perhaps taking a few days off from blogging will help me come to terms with what the hell I’m doing. We’ll see.

In other news, I have been slow to get rolling on my bicycle this year, way too slow. I already hate myself, but I can’t change the past. I labored at times while bicycling 17.5 miles tonight, which is sad because in three weekends I’m scheduled to bicycle 150 miles in the fight against MS. I’ll be fine, I am sure, but I hope it doesn’t rain on Sunday, as I expect to log 30 miles, and it’s a training ride I desperately need. It’s hard to believe I biked 2,120 miles last year, you wouldn’t know it by looking at me today.

It’s already an uphill battle, but I haven’t given up on my goal of biking 3,000 miles this year. That goal, however, is highly contingent upon being able to participate in a one-week bicycling trip around Indiana, a trip I could easily be forced to forego if I find a new job. I’m rooting for the new job. If so, then I can lower my goal to 2,500 miles, which is still a long way away at this point.

I’ll close with a TPIR nugget.

I bought a collection of VHS tapes recently, tapes of various game shows. A lot of them are episodes of TPIR. They’re not high quality tapes, but I don’t care. Simply watching old episodes of TPIR from the 1970s and ‘80s is highly entertaining. There are episodes of the show from the early ‘70s featuring cars that sold for less than $3,000. Some episodes feature games that have been retired for varying reasons. It’s a lot of fun to turn back the clock.

One episode contained a great piece of TPIR history, it featured Professor Price, a game that was played twice before being retired. The game was played for a car, and the contestant had to get three right answers before s/he got three wrong answers. It featured general knowledge questions, such as “how many ounces are there in one-half cup,” or “how many outs are there in a complete inning of baseball.” In addition to the general knowledge questions, the contestant had to guess if the answer to the question was a specific digit in the price of the car.

It was an odd game because TPIR games are dependent upon knowledge of prices, not general knowledge. In the episode I watched the audience wanted to help the contestant answer the general knowledge questions, something the producers probably weren’t interested in. (Bob tried to discourage the audience from doing so.)

The game featured a lame puppet that counted the right and wrong answers on his fingers. He would nod or shake his head to answer yes or no to the answers the contestant gave, as well as questions Bob asked prior to commencement of the game. It was rather lame, so it’s no surprise the game was scrapped after two appearances.

At least this blog has lasted longer than Professor Price.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pricing right and making deals

Dinesh Ramde wrote:
...I've never understood the appeal of "The Price is Right."

How does someone get good at that game?

Also, Bob also says he's looking for the retail price, which is different from the sales price. So how do you ever know what the retail price is?

Parts of the game are a matter of luck. The price of cars fluctuates enough between similar models that even if you know the ballpark cost of a Jeep Wrangler, you still have to get a bit lucky. But the bottom line is that you can know enough about the cars on the show to play intelligently.

Are the prices of the cars similar to the price of a Jeep Wrangler in a Minneapolis showroom? I have no idea, I haven't shopped for a new car in my life, so it doesn't matter. I can know what cars are selling for on TPIR, that's what matters. It pays to do your homework.

But when you're trying to determine prices for grocery items, home computers, bicycles and home appliances it can get a bit trickier. Some of us shop for grocery items on a regular basis, so what we pay in our local grocery store may differ from the price on stage. But even if you can't rely upon the prices in your local Jewel grocery store to help you on TPIR, if you watch the show regularly, you have a pretty good idea what the prices are for products currently appearing on the show.

The trickiest thing about prizes like trips and furniture collections is that two similar items can vary widely. I have never known the manufacturers well enough to know if it's a $3,000 bedroom set or a $5,000 bedroom set. Trips are hard to estimate, too. Trips overseas are typically expensive, yet trips to Canada and Mexico are often less than trips to Boston or New York.

During my last trip to Los Angeles a few years ago I spent weeks compiling prize lists so that I had a good idea of the price range for the cars commonly offered on the show, as well as a variety of prizes that show up regularly as an "item up for bid," as a pricing game prize or in a showcase. That didn’t guarantee I would win if I was chosen as a contestant, but I know it would have helped. Yet i failed to get picked in my fifth and sixth attempt at being a contestant.

Another D Cup comment:
...I hate when people turn to the audience to make their decision for them -- if the audience is filled with equally clueless people, why put any more credence in their uninformed suggestions?

I root against a lot of the contestants I see on the show because of their stupidity. The audience typically knows if the right price is higher or lower during a pricing game, but not automatically. If you aren't sure, it may be worth following the audience's advice, assuming there's an obvious majority. When I'm in the audience I'm so bitter about not having been picked that I am tempted to yell what I think is the wrong answer.

But what blows me away is when people are playing games like Spelling Bee. You have to select numbered cards from a board of 30, hoping to select letters that spell the word car. It's completely random, yet I see chuckleheads looking to the audience for advice on what number to pick. There are times you look to the audience and times you simply pick a random number. Some people can't separate the two, and that irritates me.

Another thing that irritates me is when people demonstrate the fact they're not a regular viewer of the show. My favorite example is the game Let 'em Roll. It's like Yahtzee, you can earn up to three rolls of five dice. If all five have cars on them by the end of your rolls, you win a car. When it's time to roll, you go up a few stairs and stand behind a ramp. You dump the dice down the ramp and onto a round table. They give you a big plastic bucket with the dice in them, and you're supposed to roll them down the ramp together. Yet almost every time I see the game the contestant wants to start by rolling the dice one at a time. Bob has to tell the contestant to roll them all at once. That drives me nuts.

To me that says a fair number of contestants are people who see the show once or twice a year. Should they be exempt from playing? No, but it's hard to root for somebody who doesn't watch the show.

So after writing all of that, I think I've only touched upon the tip of my TPIR blogging iceberg. That, ladies and gentleman, is proof that I can blog excessively about the most ridiculous topics in the world. Perhaps it is best that I not promote this blog, or reveal my identity. I'm already mocked and ridiculed enough in life.

One more D Stroy comment:
Is that how "Deal or No Deal" works? I've refused to watch that idiocy so I have no idea how it works.

The show can be exciting, but it's purely a game of luck. There's no intelligence involved whatsoever. All you do is pick a numbered case and try to eliminate small cash amounts from a board containing 26 prizes, ranging from a penny to $1 million. Every so often you get offered a buyout, a total based upon the probability you have the highest dollar amount left on the board. It also takes into account the range of prizes left.

If there's only one big amount left on the board, yet five others less than $1,000, you may take the buyout because opening another case could reveal the last big amount, ensuring you will finish with less than $1,000. (You can’t win more than the highest prize left on the board.) If you're willing to gamble, however, and open a tiny amount, the next offer goes up. It's a simple game, and at times it can be exciting to watch.

The problem with it is that every contestant has a cheering section they bring to the stage, as coordinated by the show, so the contestant is conferring with friends and family each time a buyout is offered. The drama annoys me. And while Howie Mandel is entertaining, I could live without his schtick at times.

That's my biggest beef with most of the recent big money prime time games, they want a comedian to yuck it up during game play. Last I checked, emcees like Tom Bergeron and Alex Trebek were able to lighten the mood, yet didn't need to perform stand-up comedy while hosting a game.

What makes Deal or No Deal weak is that it has no play-along factor. You can look at a buyout of $107,000 and say “I wouldn't risk it, I'd take the offer and end the game.” But you aren't testing your knowledge against contestants, or trying to solve a puzzle ahead of Wheel of Fortune contestants. Because of the lack of a play-along factor perhaps the show would be dull without Howie's hosting or the family drama during each decision, but the bottom line is that DOND isn't a great game. Don't get me wrong, I'd gladly be a contestant, because even if you have bad luck, it's hard to walk away with less than $10,000. Only gambling fools walk away with relative pocket change.

Given the show is highly produced, contestants aren't picked randomly. Plenty of people want to be a contestant, of course, so there's no chance I would be chosen. I'm not beautiful or gimmicky enough to entertain the masses, at least not on paper. But in reality I would geek out if I was a contestant, and probably put on a highly entertaining show.

It’s a very simple game, and only effective because of the $1 million carrot. It can be entertaining, but you’re not missing much, Chachi. I much prefer 1 vs. 100 even though they kept tweaking the game play during the season and still couldn’t get it right. I’m glad it will return to NBC this fall.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Twins win, Sox lose, one week until camping

It would have been nice if the anemic Minnesota Twins could have defeated the Stinktown Indians once this week, instead they have to get their act together on Friday night against the Brewers.

While the other three contenders in the AL Central soundly defeated their NL cupcakes tonight, the White Sox bullpen promptly gave away a lead, again. Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle didn't leave any room for error when he was yanked in the 7th inning, but Mike MacDougal promptly served up cream puffs to the Cubs hitters. I'm staring to think it's time to file MacDougal under J, for junk.

Chip wasn't watching the game at home tonight, and he wasn't in attendance, either. He'll be there for the Saturday night tilt, but he spent Friday night at some place I thought he called Kennedy's, mingling with co-workers. (Perhaps I heard the name wrong, because I can't find an online listing for it.)

The only places I know definitively are Milwaukee Ale House, Centanni, Club Garibaldi (which the locals call "Club G", I think,) Dino's, Taylor's and the Pfister's Blu, where visiting teams can sometimes be found after a game.

Chip called me when he got home, long after Rush called and wanted to gloat via conference call. I'm sorry I didn't get to mediate that.

At times this season I've had to put both of these chuckleheads on suicide watch when their team has struggled. I'm glad I'm still bitter about the 1994 season, otherwise I'd take White Sox losses a lot harder than I do.

A week from now I'll be sleeping in the woods of central Wisconsin, outside of Wausau. I have vague memories of our first trip, and my memories are often hard to sort by year, but little did I realize during that first year that an underage drinking party would wind up to be a tradition that now spans nearly two decades.

In the spring of 1990 one of my college friends, German Bear, organized a camping trip on his family's private property outside Wausau. We piled into any car we had available and headed to Wausau, about three hours away. We had quite a few people who went that first year, and while I don't know what the motivation was for all of them, I suspect it was underage drinking that sold many on the idea. One or two people were 21, but 90 percent of us were underage.

A couple of guys had tents and camping gear, but most of us had nothing of the sort. I don't recall where everyone slept or if I had a sleeping bag that year, but somehow it all worked out. These days we have as many coolers and tents as we have adults, not to mention tons of gear, including a few things we keep tucked away in the woods year round.

In the beginning we had quite the entourage heading to Wausau, but within a few years it was down to a core group of us. We would go in late April or early May, a couple of weeks before finals started, so it was often cold at night, sometimes too cold for me to sleep. I remember sitting up by the fire quite late at night simply because I couldn't stay warm long enough to fall asleep in a tent.

It was a lot of fun, despite the hardships of those early years, so it became an annual tradition. By 1994 we were all out of college, so there seemed to be little reason to plan our trip for early May. We moved it to Memorial Day weekend, and it has remained a tradition for four of us, although we have occasional guest appearances. I'm the only one who is unmarried and unfettered, so I travel solo while my buddies have kids in tow the entire weekend. It's still a lot of fun, but it's definitely a different trip than it was 17 years ago.

And while German Bear owns the land we use, he couldn't make it a couple of years ago due to family obligations, so that makes me the lone participant in all 18 annual camping trips. If you would have told me in 1990 that we'd be heading back to the same private real estate annually through 2005 and I would be the only one to make the trip all 16 times, I would have thought you were nuts.

If our trip continues through 2014 we'll have completed 25 consecutive journeys. While I am not expecting to maintain perfect attendance through 2014, there's no indication it won't happen. If it does, I'm calling the Wausau Daily Herald, because our trip is one of those amusing stories that an enterprising young reporter would enjoy chronicling.

Farewell to Bob

It’s nice to be able to take a step back from ranting about a lousy suburban newspaper group and take a look at a few other things going on in my world.

In no particular order:

CBS did two nights of shows in tribute to Bob Barker during prime time. One hour was the typical “Million Dollar Special” CBS has dropped into prime time occasionally. The other, a tribute to Bob’s 50-year history in broadcasting, was a 30-minute version of the game combined with a variety of clips and tributes. Some of that was entertaining and worthwhile, some of it wasn’t particularly spectacular. Overall, not bad.

Bob hasn’t retired yet, however, he tapes his final daytime episode in early June, and it will broadcast shortly afterward. The show airs repeats through most of the summer, so we’ll still see Bob on CBS all summer long, but by fall we’ll start seeing the new host, whomever that turns out to be.

I don’t have a circle of friends I discuss games shows with, nobody is a fraction of the game show geek I am, but I have heard it suggested that the show won’t be the same without Bob, and I had heard it questioned if the show will go on.

Bob has been a great host, his personality shines through his work as an emcee. It won’t be the same without him, but the show is about the games and the prizes, not the host.

CBS has an institution at this point, there’s no way they’d drop the show simply because Barker is retiring. Sure, the show has become synonymous with Barker, and the two most recent attempts at syndicating a 30-minute version of the show, hosted by someone other than Barker, were not successful. But the one-hour mid-morning version of the show will ultimately persevere with a decent host.

The show’s ratings are not going to grow immediately because Bob departs, they’ll likely drop. But enough people in every demographic enjoy the show and made it a part of their regular routine that they’re not all going to abandon it just because Barker is gone. We’ll all say, “Bob was the best,” in 10 years, but he’s not the reason we tuned in. The game will be fine without him.

I still don’t have handles for my two baseball friends, but I think we’ll go with Chip for the Stinktown Brewers fan and Rush for the Minnesota Twins fan. Chip is a nickname we joking used a few times in college, although my buddy already had a nickname. Chip never stuck, but we haven’t forgotten it, either. My co-worker likes to think he’s right 99.6 percent of the time, he’s a regular Rush Limbaugh. He doesn’t think it’s funny when I call him Rush, but I don’t care. I do.

On Sunday night Rush guaranteed that the Twins would win at least two games in Stinktown this weekend. That was after the Twins unloaded on Detroit for 16 runs. After a four-game losing streak, all was right in Twins territory, he wanted to believe. Then the Twins went to Cleveland and were swept. White Sox fans say “thanks for nothing.”

The Brewers now need to go 12-1 during the rest of the month for Chip’s 14-6 prediction to come true. Good luck with that. I mentioned to him last week that we’d have a better idea of how good the Brewers are after they face good competition, such as the Mets. He scoffed at me for suggesting the Brewers might not win at the same clip as they have playing teams like the Cubs, Nationals, Cardinals and Pirates. If one of those teams has a winning record at the moment, I’m stunned.

It looks like Chip was planning that World Series championship parade route a little soon. That’s not to say the Brewers won’t be there in the post-season, but he’s just like a Vikings fan, when things are going good, he thinks the world is his oyster. That’s a Rush analogy, for the record, and it’s a good one.

I have a feeling there is going to be a conference call after each game this weekend. I, of course, am rooting for Stinktown. A Stinktown victory helps my White Sox.

I’m not feeling as inspired as I thought I was, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The latest

Lately all I want to do is rant about my dysfunctional company, so it’s hard to write about other things that are stuck in my craw.

So after being told on Monday that the reason for layoffs in various holdings around Minnesota is due simply to a financial downturn during the past few months, things took a turn for the humorous on Tuesday, depending upon your point of view.

Of the layoffs, one was an editorial manager. There are four of them in my group of about 38 editorial staffers. The manager with the least seniority was kicked to the curb with a meager severance. Never mind he had been promoted eight months ago and had worked for the company for about five years, that didn’t matter.

On Tuesday one of the three remaining managers announced she was leaving at the end of the month. She has a new job. Allegedly she told the department head on Friday that she could be leaving. This conversation, if it happened as I have been told, was presumably to suggest perhaps if the plug didn’t have to be pulled on our department last Friday the company could save itself some trouble. Our fearful leader couldn’t delay the inevitable, although I doubt she even tried. She’s a real “yes man.”

So on Tuesday the former manager returns to the office. He left on Friday without packing a few personal possessions and they were gracious enough to let him come back and pack them up himself. Allegedly he was asked if he wanted to come back and be part of the new three-headed monster that he was a 25 percent partner in last week. He said no. I love it! After a weekend of mourning he is excited about the chance to find a new and better opportunity, and spend 40 hours a week doing it. He’ll be back on his feet in no time.

In the meantime we have to find a new manager as soon as possible because they can’t honestly expect two people to do the work of four for very long without a lot of things slipping through the cracks. Of course nobody internally is going to want to move up to a management position with this dysfunctional company, so they’ll have to hire from the outside, and therefore bring in somebody who has no idea how we even format a text document. We’re geniuses when it comes to planning.

Oh yeah, one of the paginators decided he has seen enough. His wife works full time and in the past he has considered simply bailing out, taking a little time off to spend with the kids and then finding a new job. Now he will be able to do that, and we have to scramble to find someone we can teach to design several of our papers.

I have a feeling there will be a few more hasty departures in the weeks to come. All I do is sit and laugh.

The good news is that those of us who write are now picking up slack and writing less. That’s OK because we’re pinching so many pennies that we have smaller papers these days. We should still care about our work as much as we did in the past, but that’s not necessarily happening in every case, and with everybody stretched thinner, the quality of the smaller product is going to suffer.

All of this should help boost our stock price when we become publicly traded this summer, eh? Everything in the past few months has been to try and drive the stock price through the roof, as I have noted before, so the honchos get the biggest bonus possible. Then what happens, the stockholders look at our editorial product and develop a strategy for investing in it, even though it won’t provide a direct return on their investment?

Yeah, I'm sure that's what happens. And then happy days are here again. (Pun intended.)

Some of the idiotic decisions remind me of NBC’s “The Office.” The sad part is that our clueless leaders aren't the least bit entertaining. Offensive, yes, entertaining, no.

That’s enough about that place.

On tap this weekend: nothing special.

Memorial day weekend plans: my 18th annual camping trip to Wausau, Wisconsin.

My immediate plans: siesta.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Random thoughts

Today we were told what we all knew, three positions were cut from the editorial department simply because we're not raking in boatloads of cash lately. We're not on the verge of bankruptcy, but we're not getting fatter than we got last year, and contrary to popular belief, gluttony is not a sin.

This story goes a lot deeper than Friday's debacle, and I'd like to chronicle a lot of it, but it's not that fascinating. What I have learned first and foremost is that while newspapers, particularly at the community level, were once considered to be community assets, they're more often than not an investment for people who couldn't care less about community service. You don't invest millions of dollars into a conglomerate for the sake of community service. That seems obvious, but I needed to experience it firsthand to really know our role. It's time for me to think like a rich white guy.

D Lete asked about my geocaching adventures...another good story or two, and proof that I'm a jerk. Perhaps one day I will chronicle the pros and cons of being a techno-geek.

I'm adding a new link tonight...a blog. The writer, also a sports talk radio guy, provided some of the inspiration for comments/ideas I shared in response to D Bunk. Yeah, I steal a little bit, but it's not as if I'm a public figure...or am I?

The Brewers are 1-3 since departing it time to wave the white flag?

I still have to come up with a handle for my Stinktown buddy and my co-worker, as I'm sure I'll blog about them regularly. My co-worker, a rabid Twins fan, guaranteed the Twins would win at least two games in Stinktown this weekend.

I'm Catholic, at least on paper, is it wrong that I have a fascination with Jewish women? I couldn't be less religious these days. I'm not atheist, I just don't thump bibles.

Bob Barker has been sued by several women in the last 15 years....shocking?

Yeah, I still have to blog about the fact I'm a game show geek. Don't get me started down that road.

Time for bed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I am retiring

It was a nice run, but the end is here.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn’t know, I have been a newspaper reporter for more than a decade. I do more than just reporting at my current job, but that’s irrelevant right now.

My good friend D Cup is interested to know exactly what I do and what prestigious organization I work for. As I mentioned previously...I’m not going to name names, as I’ll get myself in trouble. On Friday night I knew I’d blog about my wonderful corporation, prior to D Cup’s inquiry about said organization. You’ll soon see why the Fonz remains nameless for now.

I work for money grubbing scum. That’s the bottom line, (which is all the honchos care about.)

After receiving a journalism degree in the early 1990s I went to work for a small, rural Wisconsin community newspaper. Barely a year later I was moving to a small daily newspaper in a relatively desolate area. It was a great experience and this week I will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of my departure from said publication. (Wow, where did the time go?)

When I arrived at my suburban weekly newspaper chain here in the Twin Cities I was still naive. I foolishly thought that community newspapers existed for the purpose of providing a public service. Over the years I have learned that they’re simply another vehicle for investors to make money, often with little concern for the community service their newspapers provide. The bastards that run my company have proven that repeatedly.

Friday was merely the latest episode in a long list of profit-driven decisions made for the benefit of rich white men. (No, I’m not one of them.)

In my years with this prestigious suburban weekly conglomerate I have witnessed many decisions that have devalued the news product. The latest was yet another reminder that I have passed the point of diminishing returns with this company. That day occurred more than two years ago. Shame on me for not finding a way to better my situation since that day.

It was announced in January that the company was being sold, again. That’s not a shock. The company was last sold in December 2004. I was excited by that news, for about two seconds. I quickly learned that the honchos running the company, honchos I had little respect for, weren’t leaving, as typically happens when the company is sold. The honchos were hired under the previous regime but put together their own investment group to buy the company. That decision ensured they’d remain honchos under the new ownership, which was banking upon them to further the penny pinching they had become known for.

While I hadn’t been around for decades, a former manager had been around long enough to share an important word of wisdom prior to December 2004. She noted that our company would eventually be purchased by investors who determined they could squeeze more lemonade out of the same lemons said lemonade was being squeezed. She didn’t use that analogy, but she couldn’t have been more right.

Her salary was dumped the day of the ownership change in December 2004. A figurehead was appointed, unwillingly I am sure, to replace her. Already under a money grubbing regime for a couple of years, things sucked. Shockingly things went from bad to worse following the ownership change of December 2004.

This past January it was announced we were changing ownership, barely two years after the honchos orchestrated the December 2004 buyout. The big news that day was that we were bought by an investment group that was going to turn us into a public stock. Wow, we could own stock in our own company, how cool!

We were thanked by the honchos for all our hard work. We were thanked for turning the company into a cash cow that was desired by an investment group that pooled money for the simple purpose of buying any private company it could get its hands upon and turning its employees into their whores. OK, not exactly in those words...but we were told nothing would change around the mother ship because of this transaction. (Conveniently we were never told that in appreciation for all of our bleeding during the past two years we’d receive any kind of financial appreciation, either. Shocking, I know.)

Those bastards lied. They told us in January that nothing would change. I assumed that meant for better or worse. I’m an idiot.

Not long after the announcement that the six-month transition from private investment to publicly traded stock would be taking place we were told nobody would get a pay raise of any type until at least June.

D Cup is right, I’m a poor S.O.B., so 3 percent of nothing is not much, but I have yet to receive that annual bump in pay from a company that would laugh at me for suggesting my salary deserves some sort of cost-of-living increase every few years. It was at that point I knew I had to do something else, journalistic or otherwise.

Shame on my candy ass for not forcing that to happen already. On Friday we were told that our staff of about 35 writers, managers, photographers and sports reporters would be reduced by three positions. No reason was given for it, but it was obvious why...the honchos have a truckload of incentive to drive the IPO (I’m sure that’s stylistically incorrect, D Cup, but I don’t have a style book handy.) up as high as possible. They all get paid extra boatloads of cash for doing so, hence they’ll sever my left and right arm to make sure they get paid. Suddenly I feel like a postal employee.

Have I been looking for other jobs in a field of under-valued professionals? Sure, but they’re not that easy to come by, I have learned, and I’m no longer interested in living at the poverty level. I am blessed in many ways, I know that, but it’s time to stop caring about the service I provide to a community that has no idea how hard it is for me to make ends meet, a challenge that increases exponentially each year. When being a trained monkey with regular hours pays thousands more than I’m making, I’ll gladly give up the satisfaction of a compliment from the local police chief for a job well done for the satisfaction of writing a rent check with enough cash to spare for a lavish weekend in Stinktown. You think I’m kidding?

So, am I done with writing? No. But I may take a hard left or right sometime soon, because I’m not interested in moving about the country or going back to school to be worthy of consideration from a respectable daily newspaper that will pay me a living wage, or the prestigious Associated Press. It is time for Fonzie to get paid, even if he can’t pour his heart and soul into his next profession.

To quote a hard rock band I don’t like, “You know it’s sad but true.”

So yes, I am anonymous, but chances are anyone who knows me will be able to identify me by this blog. I knew I’d end up blogging about how much I hate my employer, hence I opted to disassociate my name with Fonzie’s blog. But I never thought this day would come so soon.

Perhaps when I change lanes and start a new career path I can be more candid about who I am and why I hate my employer. For now I’ll stick to the anonymity. (Sorry, D Cup.) If I’m ever in Stinktown, something I hope will occur during the Brewers’ 2007 division championship season, I’ll let D Cup know. Perhaps I can look him up and spill said beans privately.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Check back June 1

My co-worker and my college friend in Stinktown are passionate baseball fans, so much so that I set up a conference call with them periodically, even more so now that the baseball season is upon us. (The two have never met, but that changes the weekend of June 15 when the Stinktown Brewers of Milwaukee visit the big inflatable toilet.)

During last night's conference call we were discussing the competition, or lack thereof, that the Brewers have had through 34 games. The Cubs have big names on their roster, which means the team has the potential to be a winner, but to this point they're 16-15. Los Angeles is the only team that is firmly over .500 thus far. Every other team the Brewers have faced this season is below .500. But this weekend the Brewers face the Mets at Shea Stadium. Between now and the end of the month the Brewers will also face the Braves, Padres, Twins and the Dodgers again. Overall the quality of competition is much better during the next 20 games. Naturally we couldn't help ourselves, we made predictions about the next 20 games.

The giddy Brewers fan said Stinktown goes 14-6.
The grouchy co-worker said Stinktown goes 9-11.
I broke down each series and decided Stinktown goes 12-8.

We'll know who the baseball genius is sometime late May 31.

Question for a grammar cop such as D Cup: Which is correct, "the Dodgers are the only team that is firmly over .500" or "the Dodgers is the only team that is firmly over .500?" It's one team, after all, but the rules do change a bit when it comes to the sports section.

Los Angeles is a good team, but the Dodgers are a great team. Correct, or no?

You never hear anyone say "the Brewers is great" or "Milwaukee are great."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A real man of genius

I haven't figured out how to set up links that open in a separate window, but I'm learning how to link my blog to other pages. I now have a working link to the infamous D Cup blog entry about Stinktown. You can find that link in this previous entry.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The White Sox lose and Fonzie is pissed!

My brother lined up company seats for Tuesday night's Twins/White Sox game at the big inflatable toilet. We had access to a pre-game spread, including beer, thanks to my brother being a mover and shaker with his company. His company seats are in row 24 behind home plate. Very nice.

So the White Sox, who are the worst hitting team in baseball, stake their bullpen to a 4-1 lead after 7-1/2 innings, only to give it up in the bottom of the eighth and lose it in the 10th. Strategically Manager Ozzie Guillen made the right call pitching to the reigning American League M.V.P., but I still didn't like it, and sure enough it cost the Sox the game.

I was not happy, but I'm not the same rube I was in 1993. Living in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin that season I attended six White Sox games in Chicago during four separate road trips, including a playoff game. I followed baseball religiously. Then came 1994. I made a June trip to Chicago, knowing perhaps there wouldn't be another road trip that season. I was right. The 1994 strike canceled the remainder of the season and the World Series. While many fans turned their back on baseball in 1995, many of them forgave and forgot over time.

Not me.

Yes, I have gone to games, mostly at the big inflatable toilet here in Minneapolis. I have been to Stinktown many times over the years since the strike and have caught a few Brewers games, mostly because my buddy still lives and breathes baseball, and I have even managed a few trips to Chicago since 1994 for games (usually via Stinktown.)

But jerk my buddy over again with another strike and see what he does. This is a guy who has been to about 35 different major league venues in his lifetime, including both Comiskeys, both San Diego facilities and as of this summer, both Busch stadiums. He won't hesitate to turn his back on baseball, at least when it comes to buying tickets, if baseball jerks him around again.

So why is baseball down to its last strike with him? Why am I apathetic about going to the ballpark? It's simple. My buddy and I work for a living, and it ain't easy being single guys trying to make ends meet. When you have a lucrative business generating countless millions of dollars, if you can't find a way to divide that big pot of gold amongst the principals and make everybody happy, I'm not going to give you much of mine to fight over. I will buy an occasional ticket when I'm in Stinktown and perhaps buy a ticket for the inflatable toilet when the White Sox roll in, but most of the games I've been to in recent years have been gratis.

Some people consider 1994 water under the bridge. Not the Fonz. He is still waiting to find out if the White Sox can improve upon 1993 and win their first World Series title in 77 years.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Yeah, but is it a sport?

Today I spent 90 minutes geocaching. I could have spent less time by driving to a pair of neighborhood parks, but I wanted the exercise of walking a mile or so to the parks and then walking back to my apartment.

Geocaching (geo-cash-ing) is basically techno-geek hide and seek. Using a GPS receiver and coordinates provided at sites like, participants find plastic containers of trinkets that other participants have hidden in parks and elsewhere. There's a lot more to how it all works, but that's the simple explanation. Other than the cost of a GPS receiver, it's free to play, for the most part. I have never spent a dime to participate in the activity and if I won the lottery this week, I could spend my next 50 years geocaching and never run out of places to go and geocaches to find, and I wouldn't have to spend any money to do it. (Other than for gas, batteries, snacks...) Perhaps I won't be able to make that claim in 10 or 20 years, but as the six-year-old activity stands today, it has always been free, and I'm confident it always will be.

I am one of many people who wrote a story about the activity, which I discovered nearly five years ago. It made for a nice feature story. I liked the concept enough that I bought a GPS receiver and have been at it ever since.

Some people have spent thousands of hours discussing geocaching on forums, both regionally and nationally, hiding trinket boxes for others to find and chasing down new trinket boxes whenever they show up anywhere close to their neighborhood. It's amazing how much free time some people devote to it.

While it's essentially a game of hide and seek, actually finding the treasure chest can take a lot of time. Some people create elaborate, multi-step geocaches, while others have you walk a fair distance to accomplish your goal. And some caches can only be found by solving a logic puzzle first. (I'm not too quick to figure those out, typically.)

All three geocaches I found tonight were close to each other in a pair of city parks and relatively easy to find. (GPS receivers aren't pinpoint accurate, there is a margin of error, sometimes more than 30 feet.) One geocache was a creative hide, the other two were traditional containers hidden in a hollow log/tree. As I was walking, I realized I didn't even mention in my previous blog that geocaching is one of the reasons I have pondered the "is it a sport" question more than once.

Some people like to refer to geocaching as a sport. The website even suggests it is: "The sport where You are the search engine." Since geocaching is an activity, then yes, it is a sport, just like fishing. Anglers use a GPS receiver just as geocachers do. It takes skill to hook a bass, and it takes skill to find a tiny container hidden in the woods. Fishing, however, better lends itself to competition. It's easy to weigh a bunch of fish and determine who did better in a two-hour period. You could set up a geocaching skills test with multiple competitors, but that would be a bit silly. Yet calling geocaching a sport is no less silly to me than calling fishing or hunting a sport. But none of them are particularly sporting to me. It takes physical energy and stamina to hike into the woods and sit in a tree, but shooting a deer with a gun is hardly a sport.

Sport or not, geocaching is a physical activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family, can be challenging if you choose it to be and will help you discover new parks all over your city, and beyond. (Geocaching is the reason I found the Batcave from the 1960s Batman TV series.) I sometimes go months without doing it, but it can be enjoyed year round, and after nearly five years, I still make time to do it now and then. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A random observation before I call it a night

I moved to a new apartment recently, and in doing so I unpacked a few dishes I haven't used in years. One of them was a large mug. Tonight I used that mug for the first time in many years...I poured a 25-ounce can of Labatt Blue into it. What makes the mug so special? It's a Chicago White Sox 1993 Western Division champion mug. That's right, it's celebrating the team's division championship from more than 13 years ago, the last season under the two-division format. Yeah, that's right, I'm hardcore when it comes to my team.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Is it a sport?

Before I speak my mind, a few technical notes:

My computer is an antique. It's an old iMac and therefore it doesn't keep up with today's online technology. I can blog at this site, but I can't always tell if my customizations are working, as these pages look different on my work computer, which is far more modern. I tried to hyperlink my favorite D Cup blog from a previous post, but I can't tell if it's working or not, at least here at home. I'll check the entry when I'm at the office on Monday. I should be updating my home computer soon, so perhaps I won't have these issues. But this website is Greek to me, and my computer doesn't speak Greek, so apologies for any flaws in my postings.

I'm tickled that thus far I've learned how to post links to my favorite blog and my favorite game show news site. Look for more links to come in the weeks ahead, but as I said, it has to be something special to earn a link from me.

I noticed earlier tonight that I had to approve comments before they were posted to my blogs. I think I have eliminated that. I'm not that old, I watched MTV in my formative years, I like instant gratification almost as much as my 20-something co-workers. Future replies to my blogs should offer that same gratification.

So I spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon at Canterbury Park, Minnesota's only horse racing track. The track's live racing season kicked off today, in part because of the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. My co-worker enjoys betting on this race for some reason, so I met him at Canterbury for a couple of hours. (I made random bets on three races, totalling $25, and won one bet, paying $11. I ended up $14 in the hole.)

A lot of chuckleheads go to the track for this race. I've been to the track several times over the years, but I've never seen a crowd like this. Post time for race 1 was 1:30 p.m., and those who showed up early were there for about four hours by the time the Derby was run, so it didn't surprise me to see a significant portion of the crowd depart after the Derby.

I enjoyed the people watching prior to the Derby. There were several women who showed up in their dresses and bonnets for race day. Did they realize they were in Minnesota and not Kentucky? They weren't drinking mint juleps, so that should have been a clue, but they were nice to look at, particularly those who didn't have lame tattoos around their ankle. So as silly as it seemed to me that they were dressed up to watch a simulcast race, I'm not complaining. I'm a fan of eye candy, to some extent anyway.

As I watched the local races and simulcast action from tracks around the country I started to think about one of my favorite questions: Is it a sport?

What is a sport and what isn't? To me, sport has become a generic term, a synonym for activity. I think most of us agree baseball, football and hockey are sports. Yet fishing, car racing, synchronized swimming and poker are sometimes referred to as sports, but are they? I can't say no to any of them.

The "sport" debate has come up around the office on occasion. The sports staff at my newspaper conglomorate doesn't consider cheerleading or danceline a sport, and neither does the Minnesota State High School League, although it holds competitions for both activities, to the best of my knowledge. (I know I've seen danceline competitions on cable access, and yes, I paused to watch a few minutes of them. No, I'm not a level 3 sex offender in training.)

Parents of cheerleading and danceline teams occasionally complain to the sports staff that their daughters deserve coverage on the sports page. I agree that their daughters perform physical activities that require dedication and practice, but their teams are not competing against each other like hockey or softball teams do, they're competing for judges who make an arbitary decision as to which team is the best.

But isn't that how Olympic figure skaters and synchronized swimmers are judged? Those activities are rarely called into question when it comes to determining what is a sport. As a sports collegue once explained, swimming and ice skating take more athletic skill than cheerleading. I don't disagree. You need to be in decent shape to do jumping jacks in a choreographed sequence, but that hardly makes your activity a sport.

Yet poker players like to think their game is a sport. It takes a degree of physical endurance to sit at a table and complete the mental gymnastics necessary to win a no-limit hold 'em tournament, but does it take specialized physical skill? No. Neither does chess, which some treat as a sport.

I have never raced a stock car 500 miles in one afternoon. It takes endurance and focus to race at a high rate of speed for that long, and being able to react to track conditions at 185 mph takes sharp motor skills. But is it a sport?

I'm way too hefty to be a jockey. Even if I was a midget, I'm sure I'd find it takes a degree of physical conditioning to ride a horse for 7-1/2 furlongs. But is it a sport? Would people watch horse racing if there wasn't parimutuel wagering?

I'm not a great athlete, but I can bicycle 2,000 miles in a year. I can play softball on a recreational league team. I can swim laps at the health club pool. Could I race a horse recreationally at a local track? Not that I'm aware of. Even if stock car racing isn't a sport I can own an old Chevy that I could race at a local track on Saturday nights.

Did I mention fishing and darts? Catching walleye on a regular basis at your local lake is definitely a skill. But how does entering a competition where you weigh your fish against those caught by other anglers make it a sport? Hitting a bullseye on a darboard is definitely a skill. When you play a game of cricket with your buddy, there's definitely a winner because one of you has to reach zero first. So is darts more or less of a sport than fishing?

So after deliberating this again all I can do is come to the same conclusion: anything that requires skill and/or physical exertion falls under the broad definition of sport, because sport is simply a synonym for activity. Or am I wrong?

After all that, I realize I'm already exhibiting D Cup tendencies. Shame on me. And like my good friend, I have a list of things I'm looking forward to writing about, such as my observations from watching classic episodes of The Price is Right and why my life is empty and meaningless. The latter topic is not as bleak as you think, so don't hit the panic button.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A funny thing happened at the office today

A member of the sales staff is a raging Red Sox fan, much like my good friend D Cup. The celebrated Minnesota Twins are hosting the Beantown 9 this weekend. Thanks to the brilliant unbalanced scheduling Major League Baseball employs, this is the lone visit the Red Sox will make to Minnesota this year. It's a small price to pay for Twins fans, however, as they get the privilege of watching two East Coast teams battle on national TV 19 times this season, but I digress.

Some co-workers wanted to remind our poor sales rep that she's living and working in Twins territory, so they decorated her cubicle with a ton of Twins decorations. I thought it was rather funny, but she seemed to be a bit too pissed about a modest prank. Silly girl.

And while I'm not a Beantown apologist like D Teriorate, I'm a White Sox fan, so I'm often rooting against the local 9, and this weekend is no exception. Go Sox!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

You asked, I answered

It would be nice to think the reason I'm writing a blog is because I have a lot to say, and a lot of people eager to hear it. But we all know better.

It is an odd sequence of events that lead to this blog, however, so here's the short version of the story.

I live in Minneapolis and at times enjoy reading Craig's List. Well, at least I did. You find great nuggets in the "rants and raves" section, but you have to sift through too much crap. Since I have family and friends in Milwaukee and visit there occasionally, I decided to check out its version of the Craig's List rants and raves. It paled in comparison.

One day there was a link to a blog, written by my good friend Dinesh. We've never met, but I'll call him my good friend anyway. It was a link to his blog about freedom of speech and the right to refer to Milwaukee as Stinktown. I think you can read it here: Click this, genius!

I liked the blog entry and started reading his fresh, new and exciting content. I don't think I'm the only random person who found Dinesh this way, because I'm not responsible for all the anonymous comments he has received. I like to heckle him a bit, but there are a few comments that have been rather harsh. Those weren't mine.

I started the trend of naming him things like D Test, D Brief and D Cup, but a few of those references originated with others. I don't think I was the first person to start linking themed photos and web pages to my "signature," but I liked the idea and have done so a few times. Sometimes I make random comments simply to let him know somebody is reading. Sometimes I ask random questions simply because I recall something he has written before and am curious about his opinion on the topic.

I refer to several people as "Chachi." It's a term of endearment, like buddy or pal. At least that's my explanation. Somehow Dinesh tied that comment to something I had written previously, and suggested I should have a name that ties my comments together. Given that I referred to him as Chachi, Fonzie seemed like an appropriate handle.

When I ranted on one of Dinesh's comment pages recently someone suggested I should have my own blog. I liked the idea, so here I am.

I'm not using my name, at least for now, and that's because there's an outside chance I could get myself in trouble by doing so. I'm rather careful if I have to be, but this way I can live dangerously. I'll spare you the boring biographical details. Anyone who reads this blog periodically will learn a few things about me. I'm a single white male, in my 30s and I live in Minneapolis, that's enough for now. I probably will write shorter blogs than Dinesh, but perhaps I'll get on a roll some night like he does. As Chris Robinson once sang, "You never know, you never know, you never know."

Those are the rules I'm playing by. If you don't like them, sit on it.

I'm going to go watch the second half of the 1999 Jeopardy! teen tournament finals (I'm not kidding) and call it a night.

You asked for it

Well, somebody did, anyway, and this is it, my blog...details at 10!

(Now if I could just figure out how to finish customizing this page.)