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Tuesday, December 17, 2002

...to you and yours

Happy Holidays! Yes, I'm still alive...I sorta forgot about this whole web log thing, and as you can see, I haven't updated it in months. Oh well - it's not like there was any earth shattering news to reveal. But I'm still kicking, trust me. I'm still not in the permanent employment business, but I've been getting along by doing substitute teaching. Other than not working on a regular basis, I rather like subbing - I get to work with kids, occasionally I get to actually teach something, and I never have to stay after school to correct papers or plan lessons. That has to be the best part, even though it is something I would gladly do if I taught full time. It (and lots of other things) just comes with the job, but for now I'm relieved of those responsibilities.

So how goes the search for a "real" job? That seems to be what everybody always asks me about, so I'll tell you. I've been as unsuccessful as I have been patient, which I guess is a pretty good combination. (For myself, at least...other people's patience is understandably wearing thin.) Maybe I set my sights too high, applying for a lot of jobs in competitive markets where I've been one of dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants. They were great jobs, but apparently hard to get for somebody entry-level like me. The last week or so I've hit the market pretty hard again, and I think I have the right outlook this time. I won't go into much detail about what I do and don't want (potential employers are hopefully reading this, after all), but I'm now focusing on jobs that I feel very good and excited about. With a little luck I'll be working soon, doing good things for an organization I believe in. I think it will come sooner than later, so stay tuned...

There isn't much other news to report, so I'll just save up any bits I have and report again sometime in the future. I've been reading some pretty good books lately, so maybe I'll mention those. My family doesn't get too carried away for the holidays, but maybe that will generate some posts as well. In any case, thanks for reading and have a great holiday season!

And snow! Please! I'm serious! Just snow, snow, snow!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Flying Under Radar

With the combination of my lack of quality of internet access and my general desire to not draw much attention to myself, I've managed to stay pretty quiet since the semester ended. I really don't mind - it's given me time to apply for jobs, do some reading, spend some time with family, and relax. Two news stories this week, however, have caught my interest...

Title IX: This week marks the 30th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that said that any institution receiving federal funds cannot discriminate on the basis of gender. While college athletics may not have been the intended target of the new law, athletics is certainly where Title IX's impact has been most public. With the help of Title IX, opportunities for women to participate in collegiate sports has grown immensely. While that is undoubtebly good, many schools try to comply with Title IX through what is known as proportionality - a standard that says the percentages of a school's male and female athletes should equal the school's percentages of male and female students. While adding women's sports has brought many schools closer to proportionality, some schools have found that complying with Title IX can be done by dropping men's sports. Wrestling and men's gymnastics has been particularly hurt, some claim, by Title IX.

When the University of Northern Iowa faced major budget cuts in its athletic program, the decision was made to save money by dropping men's and women's tennis and swimming. Less than two months later, the university was faced with a lawsuit that it did not believe it could win - a lawsuit claiming the women's sports should be reinstated in order to comply with Title IX. With 60% of the university's students being female, but only 40% of its athletes being female, the university immediately reinstated only the women's tennis and swimming teams. The men were told they had no legal grounds on which to ask for reinstatement.

Hmmm...while I won't deny that the University of Northern Iowa has a way to go to meet the proportionality standard of Title IX, it seems strange that the university's cuts were made in a way that affected both genders equally, but yet the decision to reinstate the women's sports were made entirely on the basis of gender. Should we expect equality in such a situation? Here's something else to think about - what if proportionality also applied to race? For example, what if a school with a 95% white student body was required to have 95% of its athletes be white? To what else can we apply the proportionality theory? When does it go too far?

The Pledge of Allegiance: The big news of the moment seems to be the decision by a California court to declare the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because the words "under God" violate our right to separation of church and state. While I'm not sure what inspired the government to add "under God" to the pledge (it was added during the Eisenhower presidency), I've been wondering how people would react if the words were removed or changed. What if it was "under Buddha" or "under Allah" instead of "under God"? (Yes, I know God is considerably more generic than the other words, but many agree it implies a Christian God.) Here's my favorite - what if the pledge was simply changed to say "under Gods"? This could imply the tolerance towards multiple religions, or it could even imply religions with multiple gods. Would that be better?

Monday, May 06, 2002

Final(s) Week

After keeping myself busy the past couple of weeks working on end-of-semester projects, presentations, and other miscellaneous tasks, I am now facing my last week of school. Not just the last week of this semester, but the last week for the foreseeable future. This is the conclusion of my 21st year of school, and for the first time I know I won't be going back in the fall. It's a pretty strange feeling, but I'm excited about the other possibilities I have available to me. I'm not totally walking away from academia - I still have my master's thesis to finish and I have a feeling I'll be going for a Ph.D. someday - but for now it looks like I'm at the end of the road. Fortunately, when you go to school for 21 years, that road ends where a lot of other roads begin. Which will I choose? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Bob Washut and Jazz Band One

George Clinton and P-Funk wasn't the only concert I attended last weekend. Friday night I went to see Jazz Band One, widely regarded as one of the top college jazz bands in the country. I've been going to their concerts since I came to school here, and this might have been my final one. I didn't realize it until I got there, but what was billed as a "normal" Jazz Band One concert was turned into an event called "Celebrate Washut", named for the bands director, Bob Washut. Washut came here in 1980 and by 1982 Jazz Band One had been named the top college jazz band in the nation. He is recognized as a top educator, clinician, composer, arranger...everything you would want in a person in your music program. But after 22 years he's decided to step down as director of Jazz Band One. He'll continue at the university, working with students, writing and arranging music, and directing Jazz Band Two, but now the torch has been passed to a new director (the current director of Jazz Band Two). Things won't be the same without him there on stage leading the band. I'm not saying that the band won't be as good, but Washut always gave this super-cool vibe that eclipsed words, and it always made concerts enjoyable for me, and I think it has a lot to do with what makes him such a good educator.

As for the concert itself, it was probably the 2nd best jazz concert I've seen them do (the concert with Matt Wilson a couple years ago might have been a bit more enjoyable overall). They played quite a few songs written or arranged by former members of Jazz Band One, with one being guest conducted by the composer and another featuring the composer/arranger as a guest trombonist. There were several speeches made about Washut, one from the dean of the college and one by the president of the university. One of the departing seniors spoke for the band, and Washut gave some choked-up words of thanks to the audience. He said he wanted to go out with that years' seniors, and I can't blame him. I've listened to all of them for the past 4 or 5 years and I think I'll miss them, too. Jason Danielson on piano, Greg Aker and Rick Stone on sax...ah, you haven't seen anything until you've seen Rick Stone play the sax. To hear is one thing, but to see is a concert all by itself. But it wouldn't look the same without Washut standing quietly on the side of the stage, not really directing at all. I'm glad I'll remember Jazz Band One the way I've come to enjoy it so much in my time here.

Monday, April 22, 2002

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

Put a glide in your stride, a dip in your hip, and come and join me on the mothership...

I went to the George Clinton and P-Funk concert last night and was very impressed. George might be getting a little old, but he still puts on a great show and gives you your money's worth. The concert started about a half-hour after the posted time, but we ended up getting funked for over 3 hours, and I got the feeling that they went longer than they were supposed to (the lights went on and the microphones got shut off, but they performed for at least 15 minutes after that, just having a good time and shouting lyrics at the crowd). I know a thing or two about P-Funk and what their shows were like in their heyday, and I was glad to see they're still doing some of the same things - guys wearing crazy costumes (or almost no costumes at all), songs that don't seem to ever really stop (I think music stopped about 5-6 times during 3+ hours), and people coming on and off stage at almost any time (I counted anywhere from 5 to 35 people on stage). Now if they could have only gotten the Mothership into the West Gym...

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Robert Fisk

Yes, another speaker! Robert Fisk is Britain's most decorated foreign correspondent, having reported from the Middle East for 25 years. His speech was titled "911 - Ask who did it but for heaven's sake don't ask why." Fisk lives in Beirut and has interviewed Osama bin Laden 3 times. At first, Fisk's speech struck me as anti-American, but I quickly saw his point - the journalism that we're used to hearing is far from unbiased. The events of the Middle East are often heavily skewed in Israel's favor and many people are led to believe that injustices are only committed by one side, which simply isn't true. For an example of Fisk's view of the world, check out this interview of Fisk conducted shortly after September 11th. The title of his speech was very appropriate, and it made me realize that the world is an easier place if you don't ask yourself why people commit such horrible acts. But they have their reasons, and we should all open our minds and try to understand what they are. If you are interested in watching the Middle East from Robert Fisk's point of view, you can check out the Independent, the London-based newspaper for which Fisk writes.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Sir Ernest Shackleton

No, the university isn't bringing in Sir Ernest Shackleton to give any speeches (see previous two entries). Shackleton is best known for what I consider to be the greatest survival epic of all time. On December 5th, 1914, Shackleton and his crew of 28 men left South Georgia Island and headed for Antarctica. They would not set foot in civilization for another 497 days. Forced to sit out an Antarctic winter while stuck in the sea ice, Shackleton and his men eventually abandoned ship and pushed their lifeboats across the ice and into the water and headed for the nearest land. From Elephant Island, Shackleton and 5 of his best men took one of the boats and headed across nearly 800 miles of stormy ocean for South Georgia Island. The trip took 17 days and was followed by a grueling 36-hour march across the island to the whaling station. From there it was another three months before a ship could be secured and the weather was suitable to return to Elephant Island for the remainder of the crew. Not a single man died during the entire ordeal.

I read Caroline Alexander's book about Shackleton and the Endurance a couple years ago and I've since been fascinated with the story. Last night and tonight, cable station A&E is showing a movie about Shackleton and his failed expedition to the South Pole. It stars Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton and so far I am quite impressed. I recommend the movie and just about any other book or video about the expedition, as it's a truly amazing feat of courage and survival. If you missed the movie, don't worry - A&E is acting fast and releasing it on both DVD and VHS tomorrow (Tuesday). This set will include the movie, a behind-the-scenes documentary (they filmed in the Greenland ice pack), a 2-hour History Channel special about Antarctic exploration, and the A&E Shackleton biography. I'm picking mine up tomorrow at Best Buy, of course.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

My university brought in yet another fine speaker last night - General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. This one was a much bigger occasion than Greg Gumble on Thursday night, complete with valet parking, non-free tickets, and about 50 or so protesters. Protesters at this university are somewhat amusing - when it comes to campus activism, we aren't exactly Berkley, Iowa City, or Madison. The focus of the protest were the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died since the Gulf War, assumably because of the sanctions the rest of the world places on that county. I believe our sanctions are the result of a distrust of Saddam Hussein, a man we essentially chose to leave in power. If you're going to protest Schwarzkopf, I really don't think this is the right topic. I read his autobiography twice and I know how he felt about not "finishing" our military action in the Gulf War. The decision to leave Saddam in power was clearly made higher up. Oh well, I suppose some people just need something to protest. Just think - if it weren't for the leadership of Schwarzkopf and men like him, they could have been protesting the continued occupation of Kuwait.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Greg Gumble

Tonight I went to listen to Greg Gumble, the CBS sportscaster, give a speech about "The Spirit of Competition". He was pretty good - he balanced funny and serious stories and showed some video clips, but where he really shined was in the question and answer period. Here was my big chance to ask a question first posed by Bill Simmons, ESPN's Sports Guy in his article "Diary of a March madman:

"4 p.m. New topic: Why doesn't Clark Kellogg ever look at the camera? We can't figure it out. It's like he just saw the Blair Witch. Clark, Camera Two. Camera Two!"

Since Clark Kellogg is Greg Gumble's broadcast partner, this was my big chance to get to the bottom of this. I sent the results of my inquiry to the Sports Guy:

"In your "Diary of a March madman" you asked (at 4 pm) why Clark Kellogg never looks at the camera. Greg Gumble spoke tonight at my university, and during the Q&A time I decided to risk embarrassment by asking him to solve your mystery. He's not sure what Clark is looking at, either. He said he'd ask Clark, so if you ever run into Greg someday, hopefully he'll have your answer."

Yep, that's me just trying to help my fellow man and make the world a better place.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Think before you shoot

Here's an interesting story from the Denver Post. Apparently a couple of young males thought it would be fun to go out into the street and shoot their paintball guns at people passing by. Unfortunately, one of the people they shot at was a kid (probably 15 or 16 years old) who was carrying a real handgun. He fired back, hit one of the paintballers in the head, and now their little prank has put somebody into intensive care. Just sad. You can easily find enough blame to spread it around to everybody. I'm left to wonder where the kid with the handgun developed that kind of aim...maybe he just got lucky...or unlucky...

Monday, April 01, 2002

A great day? Almost...

There are so many good things about today that could be so much better. First, it snowed this morning, but I know it will melt away within a few days. Second, it was Opening Day for the Cubs, but they lost in the bottom of the 9th. Third, the NCAA basketball tournament championship game is tonight, but Kansas didn't make it so I'm left to grab a seat on the Indiana bandwagon. I think the ramifications of April Fool's Day extends a little farther than we all might think...

Sunday, March 31, 2002

Easter

Happy Easter! I've always thought Easter was somewhat of a strange holiday. For starters, I didn't know the religious background behind the holiday until rather late in my upbringing and even now I find it humorous when people so casually say "Oh yeah, Easter is when Jesus rose from the dead." Just like that, like it happens every day. No different than when people say "The garbage men pick up our trash on Tuesday." The other major thing I realized this year is that Easter is one of the four major "candy holidays" along with Halloween (which is probably the biggest), Christmas, and Valentine's Day. Notice that all those holidays are pretty close together and there's a relatively long span between Easter and Halloween. I guess some candy makers are starting to make special treats for the 4th of July, and I suppose I don't blame them. Candy makers have to have something special to look forward to and Wal-Mart has to have something with which to stock seasonal shelves.

I wonder if the original Easter fell on April Fool's Day? If so, are there any religious implications?

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Cael Sanderson

The most dominant collegiate athlete of all time? I've followed him, watched him, studied him...I don't think there's any doubt. I realize that most people don't follow college wrestling, but Cael Sanderson of Iowa State University grabbed the spotlight as he finished his college wrestling career with 159 wins, zero losses, four national titles, and four NCAA Championships Outstanding Wrestler awards. The Des Moines Register has a nice summary of Cael's career. What amazed me most about Sanderson was how much he improved each year, especially from his junior year to his senior year. I think about it and I'm still thinking that I've imagined the whole thing, but just when I didn't think a guy could get any better, he proves me wrong. Is the guy unbeatable? In wrestling, nobody is unbeatable - even the great Dan Gable and Alexander Karelin had their long unbeaten streaks ended. I'm guessing that to beat Cael Sanderson you'll have to be either incredibly strong (which Cael is not) or super funky. (For those not familiar with wrestling lingo, "funky" usually refers to somebody with an unorthodox style. When I think "super funky", I think of Nick Flach and, especially, of Ben Shane, a guy from my hometown that could pull off more offensive moves from his back than anybody I've ever seen.) Now that Cael has finished his unbelievable college career, the pressure on him will change. Not only are we looking for him to dominate in freestyle wrestling, but we are looking for him to carry the torch for a sport that really needs more exposure. I'm sure Cael's public speaking ability will improve (he's very modest to the point of being shy) and he'll feel more comfortable in that role. I think he puts more pressure on himself than most of us can even imagine. The great ones often do that...

Monday, March 25, 2002

Back to school and other random thoughts

Yes, I got back across Nebraska last Thursday without incident and now I'm back to school. It's a little strange to think that I'm facing my last few weeks here at the university, but I'm ready to move on. Where will I go next? It's hard to say - I've started applying for jobs and the prospects look pretty good so far.

I caught the last part of last night's Academy Awards. Was I the only one who thought Halle Berry was going to pass out before she even started her acceptance speech? Denzel Washington displayed the type of class you'd expect from somebody who is "following" in Sidney Poitier's footsteps. I've been a fan of his ever since he did such an outstanding job in Spike Lee's "Malcolm X". Unfortunately, I hadn't seen any of the movies that won the bigger awards, but I did see "Lord of the Rings" several months ago and was glad to not see it fall short in some of the major categories. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, I just didn't think it was Best Picture material.

Right now I'm working in the computer lab and we have a policy that states that users can only print one copy per document. How many documents is that? Does one copy actually imply that the user ends up with two identical documents? How can you have one of something and call it a "copy"? If that's the copy, where is the original? This logic closely follows Carlin's "don't make the same mistake twice" idea (in that it implies a total of 3 mistakes).

Although I think my NCAA tournament bracket would be a long shot to win in any pool, I did manage to pick 3 out of the 4 final four teams correctly. (I missed on Duke - I had Indiana being beat by USC...whoops...) Seeing how I only had 4 of the 8 regional final teams picked correctly, I'd say I had a pretty decent weekend.

I've never been a big fan of the kinds of bands the university brings here for concerts. We've had a few notable ones, like Smash Mouth, but about half the time the bands are somebody I haven't heard of, and 100% of the time they're bands I don't listen to. Until now. Just in time before I leave this place, the university is bringing in a legend - George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. If you aren't down with P-Funk, check out the Dr. Funkenstein portal. (Thanks to www.gongol.com for the link.) My only question now - how are they going to get the Mothership into the West Gym?

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Typical Wind Tunnel / Reflector Oven Mountain Weather

I opted for snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park over all my other options. The weather was interesting - when I got there it was still quite early and the wind was gusting at least 40-50 mph. By the time mid-morning came, the wind had died down some but bright sun and white snow can bake you past golden brown in a hurry. Don't worry - I still had fun.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Risk = Probability * Consequence

I haven't gotten too adventurous yet - yesterday afternoon I headed out to Rocky Mountain National Park and drove around in the snow. The clouds were pretty low and it was snowing heavily enough that picture-taking wasn't very good, but I did drive through a herd of about 150 elk, so my trip did have a few highlights.

I've been trying to decide what to do with my time today and tomorrow. Option one (the lower-risk option) is to rent some snowshoes and make a few more day trips to RMNP. Option two (the higher-risk option) is to attempt to climb Mt. Evans. Evans is supposed to be a "novice" winter fourteener, which is good because I'm certainly a novice at winter climbing. I have all the gear, I know what the altitude looks like, and for Evans, I've even seen the route. But I'm just not convinced that it's something I should do. If I needed to cast any more doubt on the situation, check out the latest avalanche warnings from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center:

"ZCZC DENSABCO
TTAA00 KDEN DDHHMM
COZ004-009-010-012-013—18-019-033-034-060-061-161800-

SPECIAL AVALANCHE ADVISORY
COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DENVER/BOULDER CO
315 PM MST FRI MAR 15 2002

...BACKCOUNTRY SNOWPACK IN COLORADO IS EXTRAORDINARILY WEAK AND AVALANCHE PRONE...

TWO FATAL AVALANCHES ON THURSDAY IN THE BACKCOUNTRY NEAR ASPEN TESTIFY TO THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE UNSTABLE AND AVALANCHE PRONE SNOWPACK IN THE COLORADO MOUNTAINS AT THIS TIME. THIS IS A RESULT OF MANY MONTHS OF LIGHT SNOWFALL AND SHALLOW SNOW DEPTHS ... CREATING A SNOWPACK INCAPABLE OF SUPPORTING MUCH WEIGHT ... FOLLOWED BY STRONG SNOWFALL AND WINDS IN THE MONTH OF MARCH.

THE COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER HAS AVALANCHE OBSERVERS IN ALL MOUNTAIN AREAS OF COLORADO. MANY OF THESE HAVE 20-30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE ... AND NONE HAS SEEN A SNOWPACK THAT IS SO WEAK SO LATE IN THE SEASON. AND IT EXISTS IN EVERY MOUNTAIN RANGE OF COLORADO EXTENDING FROM STEAMBOAT TO TELLURIDE.

THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL MARCH SITUATION. USUALLY BY MARCH THE SNOWPACK HAS BEGUN TO WARM AND SETTLE AND STRENGTHEN. BUT NOT THIS YEAR. THIS SNOWPACK IS NOT PRODUCING LARGE NUMBERS OF NATURAL RELEASING AVALANCHES. BUT IT IS EASILY SUSCEPTIBLE TO A TRIGGER AND IT WILL BREAK TO THE GROUND. LASTLY IT WILL NOT STABILIZE ANYTIME SOON. THAT MEANS THE BACKCOUNTRY COULD BE UNSTABLE FOR WEEKS TO COME.

TRIGGERED AVALANCHES CAN BE EXPECTED ON SLOPES OF 35 DEGREES AND STEEPER AND AVALANCHES CAN BE TRIGGERED ON SHALLOW SLOPES WITH STEEPER SLOPES LYING ABOVE. EXTRA CAUTION IS MANDATORY FOR ALL BACKCOUNTRY USERS.

THIS STATEMENT IS OF PARTICULAR INTEREST TO PERSONS USING THE BACK COUNTRY OUTSIDE DEVELOPED SKI AREA BOUNDARIES. WHEN NECESSARY SKI AREAS USE AVALANCHE CONTROL METHODS WITHIN THEIR BOUNDARIES.

FOR ADDITIONAL AVALANCHE INFORMATION...IN FORT COLLINS CALL...970-482-0457 ...IN COLORADO SPRINGS...719-520-0020...IN SUMMIT COUNTY ...970-668-0600...IN DURANGO...970-247-8187...IN DENVER...303-275-5360 OR VISIT OUR WEB PAGE AT www.geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche.

WILLIAMS
COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER
2001-02
"

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Ft. Collins

Nothing like a little jaunt across the Great Plains to start a spring break...but now I'm in Colorado and within sight of snowy mountains, so all is right with the world. Nebraska is still Nebraska, but crossing the Great American Desert was relatively painless this time around. Tomorrow's events are still up in the air, and I hope to take a few days to "tour" and take an obscene number of pictures. Hey, it's a hobby... Otherwise, I'll save my other comments for a large writeup when I get home. I'm already thinking about what it would take to write a book called "10 Things to Keep Your Mind From Going Numb As You Drive Across Nebraska".

Friday, March 15, 2002

24/32

I did considerably better with my predictions today, correctly identifying 13 of the 16 winners. I missed on Hawaii, Florida, and Texas Tech. The Texas Tech loss hurt the worst - I had planned on some Bobby Knight magic to take them to the round of 8. I'm quite happy about the Creighton win - I didn't think they'd do it, but this puts both Kansas and Creighton one win away from playing each other in the round of 16. My hometown would go nuts over a Kansas/Creighton matchup because we have a hometown kid playing for each team - Nick Collison for Kansas and Mike Lindeman for Creighton. Creighton is going to have to beat an awfully tough Illinois team that more than a few people think could make it to the final four, and Kansas is going to have to get over this "funk" that they've been in and play the kind of basketball they played most of the season.

In other news, I decided today that I'm going to take a trip for Spring Break (which started today). Nothing quite like planning in advance, eh? Anyway, I'm headed for Colorado on Sunday and I'll be gone for 5 days. I have no real specific plans other than to get across Nebraska as quickly and painlessly as possible - really, I'm just anxious to visit with a few old friends and to see a skyline of snowy peaks. I'm sure I'll check in at least once or twice while I'm away.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

For those of you scoring at home...

Today wasn't a bad day of basketball - Missouri played great, Kansas won ugly, and by the time the last games of the day came around I decided I'd seen enough and watched the movie "Donnie Brasco" instead. I correctly picked 11 of the 16 games today, missing on USC, Oklahoma State, Gonzaga, Marquette, and Pepperdine. I think Missouri was the biggest upset that I predicted, so I'm glad that I at least got that one right. I'm not expecting anything too exciting to happen tomorrow - I'm going with the higher seeded team in every game except the Hawaii-Xavier game. Go Rainbows!

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Bracketology

I've never been real big on entering NCAA basketball tournament pools. I know some people who do a ton of research and enter dozens of brackets. I entered two brackets a couple years ago and won, so I figure my luck has run out and there is no need to ever enter another. But it's still fun to fill out a bracket and follow along, even if there isn't anything at stake.

Here's all you need to know about my NCAA tournament bracket. First, I'm a fan of college basketball, but I don't watch a ton of it. I usually only watch if it involves Kansas, my favorite team. Occasionally I'll watch an Iowa game, but beyond that I don't see much. Second, because I'm a Kansas fan, I'll root for them and many of the teams that I've seen them play. And that's about it - no specific research, RPI ratings, history of past matchups...none of that extra stuff. I guess all I can say is, "Go Jayhawks!"

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Road Killing

Ugh. I was on my way home today when, on the highway, I noticed what appeared to be very fresh and undisturbed road kill right in the middle of my lane. I didn't have room to swerve around it because of oncoming traffic, but no problem, I thought - I'll just straddle it. I bet I wasn't more than 30 feet away when the carcas decided to stand on its hind legs and look straight at me. Thump! Too late. I caught one twitch in the rear view mirror and that appeared to be it. I'm not even sure what it was - a woodchuck, badger, muskrat...I'm not too good with critter identification, but I can usually identify if something is dead or alive. Well, I thought I could, anyway... What a way to ruin a perfectly good day.

Monday, March 11, 2002

Being a TV critic is easy because there's so much about which to be critical

If you didn't already know, most of the TV I watch are time-tested sitcoms brought back in reruns - M*A*S*H, Cosby, and Cheers are my current favorites, and I went through a long Roseanne phase there for a while. Otherwise I'll watch the news or sports, and very few new shows. Given that I'm recovering from Monday Night Football withdrawl (I'd even take a Seahawks vs. Bengals game right now) I thought I'd try a few new shows tonight. There seems to be a theme with some of the new programming. First, ABC's "The Wayne Brady Show" and second, NBC's "The Colin Quinn Show". Yes, Wayne Brady is talented. Does that mean he should have his own half hour of sketch comedy? I'll let you decide for yourself, but don't be surprised if I've already forgotten who Wayne Brady is by next Monday night. As for Colin Quinn, well, I think I hold him in a little higher regard because although he's never really been great, he sure has stuck around a long time. Plus, he's doing his show live and it sounds like he has some good writers (including SNL's Tina Fey). Remember Remote Control? It used to be that game show that MTV played when they weren't showing videos. (Remember videos on MTV? That's another issue altogether.) I remember Colin Quinn from that show, then he sorta disappeared, then he had some good recent years on Saturday Night Live, and now he has a new prime-time TV show. Maybe the trick for Colin Quinn is not for him to change and possibly get funnier, but for him to be the same funny he's always been only in different situations. What am I trying to say? I'm saying that he'll be funny on this show, but somehow we'll get tired of it, then he'll show up somewhere else, and we'll all still think he's funny. This seems to be what he's done so far, and it's worked (to a degree), but if you're the new biggest fan of "The Colin Quinn Show", you'd better tape it so you have something to watch a year from now.

Too bad I'm not old enough to have seen "The Flip Wilson Show". I think I'd have some greater insight into all this. I have tapes of "The Red Skelton Show", but maybe that's a little dated for comparison. Or maybe it's just too good for comparison - I'll take Gertrude and Heathcliff over Wayne Brady's Posse Troi skit any day.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

Viewer discretion is advised...

For not having HBO or Cinemax or any of those premium cable channels, I sure seemed to hear a lot of foul language on TV today. You have to listen closely, but there's the occasional expletive to be heard during a college basketball game. I always wondered if the networks cringe or smile when they know that the people at home just heard something that would normally be bleeped out. Then ESPN premiered "A Season on the Brink", the story of Bobby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers during the 1985-1986 season. Interestingly, ESPN went no-holds-barred on the language on their main network, but offered a simultaneous edited version of the movie on ESPN2. I thought the movie was pretty interesting, but during a commercial my attention was solidly grabbed by the CBS special "9|11". It was by far the best documentary I've seen about last September's attacks, and if you missed it, then hope for a DVD release or at least yearly replays. The documentary was a project that began long before September 11th and followed a new firefighter in the New York fire department. The fateful events of that day turned that project into much more than was ever envisioned, and CBS did a very nice job in airing it with a minimum of interruptions. I'm sure I'll see the rest of "A Season on the Brink" someday, and I wonder if ESPN will take much heat for the language. Given the nature of their broadcast, I'm sure CBS won't (or shouldn't).

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Is I-80 your Mason-Dixon line?

I was just discussing with a friend of mine the differences between northern and southern Iowa. I've seen a good share of this state and met people from all over, and I don't think my perceptions are totally my imagination. You can make your own opinions (I encourage it - it can be fun, especially if you know a southern Iowan who deserves a good teasing) but my friend asked me to summarize southern Iowans in one word. In a self-admitted burst of creativity and clear thought, I came up with this:

Northern Iowans = granola
Southern Iowans = gravy

I don't know if there's much I can add to that. The whole thing makes me want to go to Davis county for some reason, though... (For a very temporary stay, I'm sure. I'm not changing my spring break plans.)

If it wasn't old news before, it has to be now...

That's funny - I went to all that trouble to talk about the Grammys and to bring up George Carlin and I didn't even talk about the fact that I caught his show in Davenport a couple weeks ago. Maybe I was just too steamed about the whole Nelly Furtado thing. Seeing Carlin live was a bit of a pilgrimage for me - I've been listening to him since middle school and I have about everything he ever recorded. Sure, he's crude, but he's highly observant and willing to point out things most people would like to ignore. (If you've heard his "First Enema" bit, you realize how bizarre some of these things can get.) Anyway, even though it was a late night and the theater seats were very uncomfortable, it was definitely worth it to see him in person. He's getting up there in age - 70 or 71, I think, and despite his current amount of energy it wouldn't surprise me if he doesn't go on too many tours after this one. Now that I've seen the master, it would be great to catch some other shows - Louis Black, Mitch Hedberg, Brian Regan, John Caponera, John Pinette, Kathleen Madigan...so many comics, so many laughs...

Late content is better than no content, right?

What exactly is "old news"? For something to be "old news", does the news just have to be old? What if what happened, the subject of the news, is something that happened some time ago, but there was no way to know about it until now? Is it still "old news"? Was it even news until you heard about it? Case in point...

About a week ago the Grammy Awards were held and two Grammys were won for albums I own - Best Spoken Comedy Album for George Carlin's audiobook of "Napalm and Silly Putty" and Best Album Notes for Richard Pryor's "Richard Pryor...And It's Deep Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992)". Notice that neither of these really have anything to do with music. There's a bit of an analogy to be made between the music I listen to and the baseball teams I support. Even though I like the Cubs and watch them whenever I can, I realize that winning championships isn't much of a habit for them, but I watch them anyway. You can say something similar about Tori Amos - she can contend for the playoffs, but never brings home the goods, and I'll still listen to her anyway. I shouldn't complain too much - my oddball listening tastes have given me some satisfaction over the past several years - Johnny Cash has won Grammys for work related to his last three albums, Barry White won a Grammy for his last album, and Fiona Apple won a Grammy for a song off her first album. I'd like to see all of them at the podium at the same time.

Lastly, did anybody else realize the irony in Nelly Furtado winning Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "I'm Like A Bird"? Best vocals? From my limited experience listening to that song, I think I heard a total of about 4 notes and 8 words. Maybe I just couldn't hear very well over the gnashing of my teeth...

Looking good

After messing around with my Blogger template and my CSS I got this page looking how it should. If you didn't see the previous messed-up version, you didn't miss much. I still have to get the archives figured out, but that can wait until later (maybe later today after some sleep) when I figure out what other things I'd like to link off this page. If you're curious why I'm "suddenly" putting significant effort into this site, it's because I'll be leaving the university in a couple of months and I want this to be all set before I'm gone, especially when I list this site on resumes. Yes, the job hunt continues...

Broken site...

I just uploaded a bunch of content for downclimb.com and I encourage you to go check it out. There's always more to do, but I'm pretty satisfied with it for now. Unfortunately, the transitioning of this section of the site didn't go quite as well, so it will take some time to figure out where things are broken. After that's done then I can catch up on making updates to this part of the site in terms of actual content. See ya then...

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Skin cancer for your health?

Ever get that feeling that you just read something really, well, so naive it's disturbing? There's an article (full text found here) in today's Northern Iowan (our campus newspaper) by Katie Hammitt, NI Features Writer, that talks about the health benefits of using tanning beds. That's right, the benefits. Did somebody skip too many biology classes? The article claims that tanning is a "healthy activity", saying that tanning strengthens the immune system and even fights cancer. You've got to be kidding me. A freshman female was quoted as saying "I know it can be bad for your skin, but you only live once. I figure by the time I get skin cancer, if I would, they'll have a cure, so I don't have to worry about that." You only live once? You only die once, too, and there are many opportunities for painful and expensive surgeries and other cancer-removing treatments. This article is part of a series dealing with "health and happiness" - what's next, an article talking about the benefits of anorexia and bulimia? How about the strength-giving magic of anabolic steroids?

Just to make sure I wasn't behind the times, I did a little checking and found a recent article by the Associated Press claiming that people who use tanning devices are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to get skin cancer than those who do not use the devices. If you start tanning before age 20, the study cited claims you are 3.6 times more likely to get skin cancer. The National Library of Medicine has many more facts and figures about skin cancer at their website. A quick search on Google will provide a whole lot more helpful information.

Aside from science, I realize that people are concerned about looking "white and pasty", assuming that looks "unhealthy". I think vanity is unhealthy, a life-long, unattractive illness that can be worse than any cancer. Maybe cancer is a cure for the conceited...

Monday, February 18, 2002

Where there's a helpful smile...

If you're an observer with attention to strange details you can make a trip to your local grocery store or large discount shopping chain an entertaining experience. I went to our local Hy-Vee food store (the famous one where St. Louis Rams' MVP quarterback Kurt Warner used to work) and, among other things, noticed that when you check out the first item shown purchased on your receipt is the name of your cashier, and the price is $.00. I wonder if Christie K. knows I bought her for nothing?

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Blogger Pro

Okay, I know downclimb.com isn't taking shape as quickly as I would have hoped, but that is the way web development generally goes. If you remember when I first put up this section, you'll recall I was using a service called "Blogger". I've been pretty pleased with it, pleased enough that I just signed up for their "Pro" service. It won't make what I post here any more interesting, but things are a little nicer from my end. Check out what they have to offer at http://www.blogger.com.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

I've been really quiet lately. I should have made a post about that guy in Colorado who got strangled by his pet python. That meets my definition of noteworthy news. Anyway, I've been working on some web stuff, doing some programming, making some thesis progress, and doing some job hunting. I can't say that I've made any truly significant progress in any of those areas, but I've gained in each one. I guess that's just how it goes sometimes...

Friday, February 01, 2002

There's a great article at the Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune about University of Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson. I've had a few brief encounters with J Robinson, and I've heard many more stories, and I think the article gives a good description about the general feelings towards this very successful but contraversial man. I don't know what it feels like to have J Robinson on your side, but as an opponent he makes you uneasy because you have no reason to question his desire to beat you. And I'm sure that's exactly what he wants you to feel.

Thursday, January 31, 2002

MSNBC.com is running a story about Super Bowl commercials. Included are clips of noteworthy past commercials, including the famous "Macintosh" ad that Apple ran in 1984. Is it just me, or is that commercial still one of the coolest commercials you've ever seen? They could play it this Sunday and I'd still want to buy a Mac. I'm not saying I would, but I'd want to...
The Denver Post has a great update about the Baca Ranch purhcase and how it will allow for the creation of a Great Sand Dunes National Park. If you can't tell, I'm really excited about this. It's a good thing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Here's some really great news - Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Monument has moved a big step closer to expading and becoming a national park. The Denver Post reports that the Nature Conservancy, with some help from Yale University, has agreed to buy the 97,000-acre ranch adjacent to the dunes. I visited the Great Sand Dunes last summer and I'm very glad to see the plans to go from monument to park take action. I get a lot of mail asking me to donate money to various environmental and wilderness causes, but knowing this is the kind of thing the Nature Conservancy does will probably help me with any future money-giving decisions. Until then, I'm just a poor college student who had fun one day playing in the sand. :)
I just read at ESPN.com that one of my all-time favorite football players, Dick "Night Train" Lane, has died. I only knew of him from little bits of film, but he's the kind of player you don't forget, especially if he was allowed to tackle you. His trademark clothesline tackle (the "Night Train Necktie") was so violent that it was outlawed by the league. Not many people have earned that kind of distinction.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Maybe there is justice in this world - the Internet Movie Database is again showing "The Godfather" ranked as the #1 user-rated movie of all time, ahead of "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". LOTR was good, but not that good. Check out all of the top 250 movies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

While I was watching a bit of the football game on Sunday and I wondered if Pat Summerall is somehow jealous or bitter towards John Madden because of Madden's relative success in hardware store advertisements. If you don't remember, Summerall advertised for True Value and Madden for Ace Hardware, but it's been a long time since I've seen a True Value ad or commercial. Ace features Madden on their website but True Value makes no mention of Summerall. In fact, there are only a few pages on the web that mention the Summerall-True Value connection. (Here's a little proof of existence if you need it.) I'm sure Summerall can conceed to Madden's success in the video game arena, but as hardware guys they should have been equal. In fact, if you were involved in a building project of your own, who would you rather have running around with sharp tools? Give me Summerall anyday - Madden would be a couple lost fingers waiting to happen.

So why is this now so interesting? I just read at ESPN.com that the Summerall/Madden broadcast team is being broken up. I don't expect there to be anything mentioned about hardware store advertising, but you have to wonder if that's what's behind all of this. And if so, how in the world did I peer into the future and extract such a bizarre piece of information? I should have posted my theory last Sunday, but in case anyone challenges me I do have a witness. If I'm right, we're headed to Vegas.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

While we're on the conspiracy theory theme, check out "Who Killed Clinton's Dog? What did Buddy know, and when did he know it?" by Mickey Kaus. I only gave it a quick read, but it looked like good stuff. Maybe even Al Franken quality. (Or maybe not...that's a pretty high honor in my book.)

Monday, January 14, 2002

If you're into asking "What if?" types of questions, President Bush's choking incident yesterday should give you a lot to think about. Okay, let's jump straight to the worst-case scenario: What if Bush had died? Given the state of the world, I'd like to see what the conspiracy theorists would have come up with. This could have made the JFK assassination theories look like a back-page obituary. We probably would have heard ideas about the "Al Qaeda Pretzel" and "The deadly pretzel sent from Allah", along with ideas of poisoning, bioterrorism, secret death-rays, The Force, the One Ring, yada yada yada...

With this in mind, let's just all be thankful that our president is okay. If you want to worry about something, worry about the state of American journalism. (Fox News anyone? The game show of news outlets...)

Friday, January 11, 2002

I just made a little update to downclimb.com. I've been working on stuff and hopefully I'll have a working site in place soon.

Sunday, January 06, 2002

Because I'm currently on winter break I've had more time to watch TV. I mostly watch reruns of old shows, usually M*A*S*H, Law & Order, Roseanne, and The Cosby Show. While the shows are great, I'm getting tired of the commercials. I'm sick and tired of advertisements for stuff that makes your teeth whiter or for electrical pads you stick to your body for purposes of massage or "exercise". At least before Christmas we had some classics, like the Clapper and Chia Pet. I don't know if this is directly related, but I was also bothered by hearing the muzak version of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" while at the mall. Sacrilege!

Thursday, January 03, 2002

YeEeeeEeEee!!! Ren and Stimpy reruns are on VH1! If you aren't familiar with Ren and Stimpy, there isn't any amount of explaining I can do that would make you understand. It's all stupid but genius, and I laugh almost constantly. I was flipping channels tonight and found myself right in the middle of the rubber nipples episode. Happy happy joy joy... My all-time favorite episode has to be the "Robin Hoek" when they re-do Robin Hood. I think I even have that one on tape somewhere...
I couldn't help but notice this story about "Buddy Clinton" at the Washington Post. Dog hit by car...what can you say?