Monday, January 31, 2011


Certainly, the end is nigh. Since Saturday night, with varying degrees of hype and alarm, the local electronic media have been warning us that a one-two-punch “snow event” is descending upon us. As I write this, mid-day Monday, it’s snowing, and the predictions vary between 10 and 20 inches of accumulation between now and some time Wednesday.

The social media are abuzz with talk about the snow, and some of the snarkiest comments about predictions of doom and gloom are being posted by current and former broadcasters of my acquaintance, many ridiculing the very stories they will be ordered to do in the next 48 hours.

It’s all so formulaic and predictable now. Sunday evening the story begins with video of piles of salt, snow plows in the garage, and weather maps showing how we’ll just be done with one storm when the second will swoop up and assault us.

On the evening news tonight, the local TV stations will send reporters outside to stand near busy intersections or be posted near the Beltline, to report that it is, in fact, snowing. Tomorrow’s stories will be filled with interviews of municipal officials, telling of how the great and terrible storm will affect our lives, slow commerce to a snail’s pace, and will warn us against tuning away, lest we miss some aspect of their broadcast that might just save our lives.

Wednesday’s fare will consist of “road closures and school closings”, as one local radio reporter put it a few weeks ago when we had a blast of snow. They still haven’t figured out whether they should change “school closings” to “school closures.”

A friend of mine who picks up beer money as a part-time radio personality tweeted that the formula to determine how much snow we’ll get is to take the predictions of the local meteorologists and cut them in half.

It’s likely we’ll get a bunch of snow; it’s likely there will be people driving like idiots; and it’s likely we’ll survive.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Fat Police

The woman pictured above, Republican Beverly Gard of Indiana, says all students in Indiana public schools should be weighed each year, and the results entered into the state's database. She has proposed legislation requiring the age, sex, height, weight, and ethnicity of each and every public school student in the state be recorded. The data would be used to determine which parts of Indiana have the most fat kids.

Beyond that, there's not much real substance to her proposed law. No indication from Her Highness how the data would be used, protected, shared, manipulated, or accounted for.

She just wants to know where the fat kids are.

Ms. Gard has been in the Indiana State Senate since 1988. Her bio says she enjoys grandparenting and bird watching.

Perhaps Ms. Gard could strike up a friendship with Wisconsin's Julaine Appling, whom she resembles, and the two of them could form a JOA to function as a watchdog on our children's weight and morality.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Traveller's Observations

People can be very interesting. No scoop there, but our recent trip to the Dominican Republic gave me several great opportunities to observe “people being people.”

Keeping my record for being singled out for extra security attention at airports at 100% since 2001, I was pulled out of the line and given the full pat-down in Milwaukee. Same routine on the way home, at the Punta Cana airport. The TSA guy in Milwaukee was all business, and he spent at least five minutes checking me out, including the nitrile gloves which he stuffed down into my pants and then swabbed for explosive residue. The fellow at the Punta Cana airport did a 20-second pat-down and sent me back into the line with my wife. Security Theater, on both ends of the trip.

Years ago as an itinerant musician, I did a great deal of travelling. Back in the 70’s, in any European nation, you could pick out the Americans. Too many were rude, whiny, noisy, and inconsiderate. Now, it appears the Europeans have taken on that role. At the resort in Punta Cana, it was the Europeans who were rude, pushy, loud, and obnoxious. They’d stand in groups, talking, in the middle of the walkways around the beautifully-manicured grounds of the resort, blocking the path, and making everyone walk around them.

Too many parents let their indulgent brats run unsupervised. In the pool one day, a German kid kept jumping off the edge of the pool to “cannonball” me. Never mind that there are signs posted every fifteen feet saying “no diving off the edge” in 5 languages. I had a good mind to give him a few choice cuss-words, auf Deutsch, but knew that creating an international incident would not stand me in good stead with my sunbathing wife.

You soon forget how annoying cigarette smoke can be in enclosed public places. The Russians we encountered seemed to smoke continuously, and so did many of the Germans and French. On Friday night, we had reservations at the resort’s exclusive Cana Steak House, and we were seated right next to two Canadian women from Quebec, who smoked constantly, alternating bites of meat with drags on their cigarettes, while chatting in French, deriding the red wine they’d selected and fouling the air.

But the crowning glory was at the very end of the trip, after we’d cleared Customs in Milwaukee and were waiting in a small room for the ground transport to pick us up and take us to the hotel where our car was parked. A 60-something woman was blocking the exit, loudly arguing with someone (her husband?) a few feet away about how that was NOT her suitcase he was holding. “I don’t have a single piece of green luggage. That is NOT my suitcase!” she kept repeating, as people backed up, trying to get out of the exit. After several exchanges about how she didn’t own ANYTHING green, the long-suffering travel companion finally raised his voice and said “IT HAS YOUR NAME-TAG ON IT.” Long pause. “Oh. Well my luggage is blue. It must look green in that light. Just bring it out for me.”


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Republica Dominicana

My bride and I have returned from a week in paradise. The Iberostar Punta Cana Resort should be rated SIX stars, not five, and it was worth every cent. The accommodations were fabulous; the service was attentive; the weather was gorgeous (it rained once, for 20 minutes, at 1 AM Thursday morning); the beach was breathtaking; and we had a marvelous, memorable vacation.

Toni went zip-lining over the jungle canopy; we dined at fabulous restaurants; the glass-bottom catamaran cruise of the nearby Caribbean was delightful; and we learned that the local liqueur, a rum-and-raisin brew called Mamajuana, is referred to by the resort staff as “Dominican Viagra.”

We met people from Russia, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Canada, and even a couple from the east side of Madison and two nice folks from Boscobel.

Now, I gotta buckle down on my “other jobs” and pay for it! Stand by for rants to resume in a day or so.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Plan: Tex Tubb's for tacos with the house-and-dog-sitters, Dru and Ash, tonight; Milwaukee hotel tomorrow for the stay-and-fly deal; Punta Cana on Sunday; 8 days of sunshine, warm breezes, white sand, turquoise water, drinks with umbrellas in them at the swim-up bar, zip-lining over the jungle canopy for Toni, glass-bottom boat cruises, rest and relaxation. Back to the snow and cold on the 25th.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Signs of Hope

I believe the national electronic media….a/k/a “the drive-by media”; “state-controlled media”; “lame-stream media” , are beginning, slowly, to realize that feeding the beast should be done with a modicum of consideration about the beast’s diet. Feeding the beast is what those who gather, produce, edit, and report news call the process of getting news on the air.

This past week, for the first time ever, a couple national news outlets have stopped referring to the Westboro Baptist Church by name, and are now using descriptive language which names neither the organization nor its misguided leader, Phred Phelps. Reports on NBC Nightly News and CNN don’t name the church. A report run by ABC News, generated by Arizona affiliate station KGUN-TV (Kay-Gun Nine News!!!!!!!!!!!!!, as they refer to themselves), uses the name of the church when talking about the law the Arizona legislature quickly passed to put a muzzle on WBC, Phelps, and their ilk.

Publicity is what Phred and his band of gay-haters crave, and for too long they’ve had a free ride with the media covering everything they show up at. Phred knows this is the stuff that keeps the money rollin’ in, and is clever enough to capitalize on the media’s default position, which I’ve said many times is “excess.”

When I was a news anchor at a Madison talk station, two of the talk show hosts would put Phred on for a half-hour or more at least once a month. I asked one of them why he kept booking Phelps (implying that Phred’s schtick was getting predictable and he never said anything new or different), and his reply was “this is the kind of stuff that gets the Madison liberals all wound up.” My next question: “If so, how come nobody ever calls in while you have Phred on?”

Maybe the day is dawning when those who are feeding the beast have come to realize that publicizing crazy people and their followers simply because they make for unusual audio and video might not be the best idea.

News organizations have a right to put on whatever they want to call “news”, just as ESPN has a right (well, pays for the right) to televise the 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.

At least ESPN admits it’s entertainment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

High Finance and Facebook

Would you pay, if Facebook decided to start charging a weekly, monthly, or annual fee? If so, how much? Be honest.

Consider Newsweek’s experience with what they call a “paywall” in online vernacular. The first attempt was an admitted failure, and the second shot at it is still far from good. Mainly what happened is a lot of people stopped going to the Newsweek website. You can’t pay to download a single story that you want to read; you’ve got to pay the monthly fee.

I read all sorts of stuff on my desktop computer and on my iPad. Newspapers, Drudge, Huffington, Slate, on and on. And it’s all free. I download the “ap” from the iTunes store and read away. On the first of January, a consultant whose stuff I really like put up a paywall. I’m not sure how it’s working for him, because I didn’t avail myself of the opportunity to subscribe.

I ask the Facebook question above, because I’m still intrigued by Facebook jumping into the sack with Goldmine Sachs. Goldmine is putting out an offering for “special investors” to buy a piece of the Facebook company. Facebook has 500 million “users” and annual revenue of 2 Billion. So, each “customer” is worth 4 bucks a year. (Do the math.)

So, the question I ask, again, is: if Facebook started charging, would you pay? How many of the 500 million people who use Facebook do you think would pay? 5 percent? 15 percent? If recent paywall experience is applicable, not very many people would stick around if Facebook started charging.

Which leads to the next question: what is Facebook REALLY worth, given a business model with so many users and so little revenue? If Goldmine is paying 375 million dollars for a stake of a little less than 1 percent, that makes Facebook “worth” about 50 billion dollars. (Do the math.)

And, my final question: have we learned ANYTHING from the financial meltdown that caused the recession we’re still in?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Laundering Electronics

I have become adept at laundering high-tech electronics. I have now ruined at least three cell phone/BlackBerry devices by tossing them into the washing machine.

My latest foray into the world of ruining such things was this past weekend, when I accidentally laundered my wife’s STATE-OWNED BlackBerry. I have little doubt that the Walker administration will soon be making an example of this wanton waste of the resources of the Wisconsin taxpayer.

The two prior destructive incidents took place several years ago, and involved cell phones owned and issued by my then-employer. After I laundered (and destroyed) the second one, the CFO told me the company would no longer provide me with a cell phone. I told her that was fine with me. Her decision was overruled by the CEO a few hours later, who explained to her that this is the sort of thing usually referred to as “an accident”, and that it was not good company policy to have its most senior news anchor potentially unreachable in the case of a public emergency.

The story behind this most recent incident has its roots in my constant nagging of my wife to take a cell phone with her when she forays out into the wilderness, away from our wooded suburban enclave. She announced she was off on one of her many weekend errands, and I yelled down to her “take your cell phone with you.” She has a personal cell phone, which she informed me was out of juice and presently in charge-mode, so she grabbed her STATE-ISSUED BlackBerry and headed out the door. I have lectured her many times on the foolhardiness of going out into the world without a phone, which she can use to quickly summon assistance in the event of an emergency. The free spirit in her resists these overtures.

One of my weekend activities was to look for my resort wardrobe, to begin packing for our Caribbean vacation which begins this coming weekend. I dug out the shorts and “Hawaiian shirts” and tossed them, along with my wife’s Southern Illinois University Alum hoodie and sundry other items already deposited in the laundry basket, into the washing machine.

I did NOT check the pockets of my wife’s SIU alum hoodie, one of which contained her STATE-OWNED BlackBerry.

My wife, for those who don’t know, is a senior Public Affairs operative for UW-Health, and is required to be “on-call” 24/7 about 10 weeks each year, to immediately respond to a disaster or significantly newsworthy community event, involving person or persons taken to UW-Hospital. She must run interference for the medical professionals, fielding and responding to the calls of pesky reporters, so the medical professionals can spend 100% of their time practicing medicine, and not responding to calls from reporters and other news producers regarding updates on patient status and whether or not they can “send a live crew over” to “do a live-shot for the 6 o’clock news” and similar such queries.

Hence, the STATE-OWNED and STATE-ISSUED BlackBerry. And a STATE-OWNED and STATE-ISSUED paging device, so if they call her BlackBerry after hours 24/7/365 and she doesn’t answer, they can page her, with a message like “CALL IN RIGHT NOW, WE GOTTA TALK TO YOU ABOUT SOMETHING.”

After discovering what I’d done, I summoned the courage to inform her that I’d laundered her STATE-OWNED BlackBerry. After the initial shock wore off, I posted this information to my Facebook status, and scores of helpful friends made suggestions about how to save the BlackBerry, ranging from the use of a hair dryer to suggestions involving placing the drowned BlackBerry into a bag of rice. None of these stratagems worked.

Two items in conclusion: my wife now has a new STATE-OWNED BlackBerry, and I will be checking ALL the pockets of clothes tossed into the laundry basket before throwing them into the machine and drowning them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Monday Media Rant: Tucson

Sarah Palin did not cause this. Nor did Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Boeck, Keith Olbermann, or Rachel Maddow. Fox News and MSNBC are not to blame. Nor is Ann Coulter. Vicki McKenna and Sly are not to blame.

That said, all the aforementioned, and the whole lot of political talkers, tweeters, and bloggers need to have a few big helpings of STFU for starters, and then carefully consider the content of their public communications.

The young man who did this is probably insane.

Don't "try to make sense of this", as the popular have attempted since Saturday afternoon. It's not about "sense."

It's a tragedy.

Thoughts and prayers for the families of the victims.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Autism and Vaccines

Don’t confuse them with the facts. Childhood vaccines cause autism, and no study, no peer-reviewed research, no force on earth is going to convince them otherwise.

The mothers against vaccine were out in force yesterday, all over the airwaves, proclaiming that regardless of the news about the research linking vaccine with autism being finally and totally repudiated as a complete fraud, they were NOT going to get their children vaccinated, and nothing was going to change their minds.

One of them even popped up on El Rushbo’s show, telling the windbag that she still has faith that the study done by this discredited Brit, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was valid and proves beyond a doubt the link between mercury in vaccines and autism.

Never mind the overwhelming proof that Wakefield’s “link” involved children who already had developmental disabilities before being vaccinated.

The man behind the golden EIB microphone asked the lady how she knew this. She told him she’d done her own research. And where did she find this research? On the internets. And how did she know this research she found on the internets was valid? Because it was very scientific.

I remember when this bogus study was discredited several years ago. I was still a news anchor at the time. On my way from the on-air studio to the commissary to purchase still another 20-ounce bottle of Diet Mt. Dew, I encountered a hallway discussion among a handful of young mothers who worked at the station.

One of them was particularly vociferous in denying the news and defending her belief that autism was linked to vaccines. And what made her believe there was a link? She’d heard it from a friend she trusted. And why would she trust the friend more than the doctors and scientists who were now saying the study was flawed and there was no link? Because her friend is very smart and is usually right.

Every time this vaccine-autism story comes around- and it will again- I think of that young woman, and wonder if her children will be the ones who contract chicken pox and spread it to the children of the other mothers who hold similar beliefs.

They do travel in packs, you know.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Helping Ted Williams

No, not THAT Ted Williams, the dead baseball player. The guy pictured above. The Ted Williams whose story came to light when a Columbus, Ohio newspaper reporter did a story about Ted, a homeless man with a gorgeous voice, who spends his days standing at an intersection begging for money, holding a placard saying he has a great voice and will talk for money. Ted’s had issues with drugs and booze, but says he’s been clean for two years now.

You can see Ted’s story here: This is the video that went viral Monday.

The electronic media quickly picked up on the story, obsessed, as we are, with well-modulated baritone (and bass) voices. The CBS morning show scrambled to get an “exclusive” interview with Ted, and the young hosts immediately patronized him by asking Ted to “say something!!!!” You can see that disgusting interview here: They treat him as though he were some sort of animal trained to “speak” on command.

Lots of my Facebook friends are broadcasters, and they posted and re-posted Ted’s story. A Columbus radio station invited Ted to sit in with their morning show. All the media want to milk this story, under the guise of “helping Ted land a gig.”

Now, the offers are pouring in for Ted left and right: ESPN, MTV, a pro sports franchise wants him to be their “voice”, and many more. Ted’s life is changing for the better. The Central Ohio Credit Unions organization was probably the first to try and do something tangible to make Ted’s life better, by hiring him to do an ad campaign for them, and setting up a website.

Ted’s on the Today Show on NBC Thursday morning. I hope they won’t treat him like some sort of trained seal, and ask him to speak on command.

Once in a while, the media DO get something right. Ted Williams’ story could be an example.

They Just Don't Learn

Perhaps the title of this brief post makes you think I’m talking about politicians, who keep playing the same stupid games election after election, until we start throwing them out en masse. (That’s going to happen again in a couple years.)


I’m talking about Goldmine Sachs and those gubmint employees charged with “regulating” investments. Facebook wants a billion and a half dollars, and the dweebs at Goldmine Sachs are going to get it for them. They’re going to tab a number of “sophisticated investors” and put in 450 million of their own dollars.

But neither the Facebook folks nor the Goldmine Sachs dweebs want any sort of regulation on the stuff they’re peddling. Without getting into the arcane language of what passes for high finance these days, like RSU’s or Sarbanes-Oxley or the implications of the Dodd-Frank act, suffice it to say that this Facebook deal has already been essentially given a pass on any form of meaningful regulation or transparency, because while all the banks were crashing, Facebook got itself un-included from being subjected to the unwanted (albeit nearsighted and astigmatic) eyes of the SEC.

You see, Facebook is an “SPV” – Special Purpose Vehicle, in investment lingo, as applied by the dweebs at Goldmine-Sachs.

In other words, Facebook wants a whole boatload of public money, with none of those pesky regulators seeing where it comes from or what they do with it.

Those folks on Wall Street – they just don’t learn.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Can Tell It's January

As I rolled into the health club yesterday morning around 8:30, I had to hunt for a parking spot. I wondered why there were so many cars in the lot; briefly thought maybe some new spinning class was starting up. Then, it suddenly dawned on me – it was the first Monday in January!

All the “New Year’s Resolution” people would be crowding the parking lot and making it harder to get treadmill time for a couple weeks.

Once inside it was easy to spot the “regulars” and the “resolution people.” I saw quite a few familiar faces, and noticed lots of new ones.

There was the guy, probably around my age, toddling around the workout floor in a pair of cutoff pants – they appeared to be something like Dockers, just sawn off at the knee with a scissor – held up by a leather belt; a faded print shirt; and a brand-new pair of dazzling white Nike shoes. You could tell this guy is not a regular on the health club scene. No socks; just feet in those new shoes, and I’m betting that this morning he’s nursing a whole bunch of blisters on his sockless feet.

There was the lady, looked to be mid-50’s, in pretty good shape actually, in brand new top-of-the-line workout duds, perfectly coiffed, makeup on, leisurely riding an elliptical, head swiveling left and right to see who was there to be seen. I’m guessing her tan didn’t come from a beach.

There was the retirement-age couple, looking at the machines on the periphery of the workout floor, waiting, as it turned out, for their hired-gun trainer to explain what they were and how they worked. There was a lot of that going on, for people who’d joined a health club for the first time, no doubt vowing to “be more fit” in 2011.

The spinning class in the big studio adjoining the workout floor was full of earnestly peddling newbies; the dance-step workout studio downstairs looked to be at or near capacity.

Ah, the first week of January at the health club. Most of ‘em will be gone before Valentines Day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Media Rant: Time To Retire, Brent

He’s 71; he was the main part of the old CBS “The NFL Today”, which set the pattern for every pre-game show done since the debut of “The NFL Today”; he’s called some great games; he has engendered drinking games (because of his frequent use of the word “pardner” – not partner, but “pardner”); but now it’s time for Brent Musberger to retire.

He can call the national championship game a week from tonight, but after that, he should quit.

It’s just that I can’t stand to hear him say “WES-consin” one more time, and if I’m forced to endure it again during the Big Ten basketball season, I swear I’ll finally make good on my threat to turn the TV sound off and listen to Matt LePay on the radio broadcast.

Musburger was born out west, where they pronounce the vowels a bit differently that we do in the Midwest, but he went to school at Northwestern and worked in Chicago long enough to know that it’s not WESconsin and it’s not ELLenoy.

And his apparently deliberate mispronunciation of the name of our state has drawn criticism from his colleagues in the profession and from newspaper columnists.

He’s got to be aware of it, so I think he does it just to piss us off. Take a hike, Brent. Hang up your spurs. Let yourself out to pasture. Enjoy your golden years. But please, just leave.

And take that damnable no-talent Joe Buck with you.

And, truth to be told, I wouldn’t be so sensitive about it if the Badgers hadn’t stunk so horribly in that damnable football game Saturday.