Monday, October 31, 2011

Manage Your Expectations

When you schedule pre-Big 10 Season games with schools like Wofford State, Northern Illinois, South Dakota, and The Citadel, you make yourself bowl-eligible (6 wins) in short order.

You make your players and fans feel good about themselves.

What you don’t do is prepare your team to soundly trounce Michigan State and Ohio State on the road.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not one of the haters who feels good when the Badgers lose.  I do believe most jocks are pampered, most coaches are overpaid, and that far too much is made of the won-lost record.   But I am a fan, and I’d far rather see any Badgers team win than lose.

It’s clear that the philosophy of the football brain trust on Monroe Street for the past umpty-nine seasons has been to get bowl-eligible in a hurry, put up a decent showing in conference competition, and end the season with a January 1st bowl game.  It’s a philosophy which has served the football Badgers well for many years.

The trouble comes when you land a highly-sought-after quarterback; you mow down UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, and South Dakota….and then discover that Nebraska wasn’t really ready for prime time just yet, and Indiana is no match.  You’ve got this quarterback who most decidedly does NOT fit the “Wisconsin mold” and can throw, scramble, and run with the best of them, and people start talking “Heisman”, and the phrase “National Championship Game” starts to pop up regularly in conversation.  My friend Jay Wilson puts on his professor glasses and lays out the possibilities of a Wisconsin national championship on his blackboard (which is actually green) for the Channel 3 viewers. And you start paying attention to BCS standings.

That’s when the trouble starts.  And then, you get shocked with a highly improbable finish on the road at East Lansing, and a startlingly similar scenario plays out in Columbus.  Suddenly it’s all disappointment and accusations of time-out mismanagement and special teams breakdowns and gloom.

The problem is, you didn’t manage your expectations.

The Badgers football team is designed to get bowl-eligible in a hurry, do well in conference play, and go to a “decent” bowl game.  And so far, sports fans, it is EXACTLY on track.  It is NOT designed for high BCS rankings; it is NOT designed to be on a par with Southeast Conference teams; it is NOT designed to compete for a national championship.

The Badgers will do well against Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Penn State.  They’ll play competitive ball.  They may not win all four remaining games, but it’s not likely they’ll be blown out of any of them. And partly because of their W-L record and partly because Badgers fans love to party and travel well, they’ll be in a decent bowl at the end of the year.

Manage your expectations.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Typical

Next Tuesday, the state’s new concealed-carry law goes into effect.  Thursday afternoon, Republican Senator Mike Ellis of Neenah said he was opposed to allowing concealed weapons to be carried onto the Senate Floor.  Then he changed his statement, a bit.
Here’s how Chanel 11 TV in Green Bay reported it on its website:
“Senate President Mike Ellis initially told reporters on Thursday Senate Republicans planned to ban weapons in the Senate galleries and on the chamber floor during debates. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Juneau Republican, said the plan was still under discussion.
Now Ellis says he's spoken with Fitzgerald and was told the plan was to allow guns on the floor but not in the chamber's galleries, which means spectators would not be allowed to carry.”
Another example of lawmakers making laws which they really don’t want to apply to themselves, or their workplace.

Monday, October 24, 2011

God Hates the Badgers Football Team?

As is my custom, when my wife’s alarm clock went off at 5:25 this morning, as she headed for the shower I grabbed the remote and turned on the TV to get the latest news from my friend Rob Starbuck on Channel 3.  They were doing their sports segment, and I heard Coach Bielema say there was nothing they could have done to prevent the loss at Michigan State Saturday night.

Actually, what Coach Bielema said was more like this – and I’m paraphrasing, but it’s close:  “I don’t want to get too spiritual here, but maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.  Maybe somebody up there just didn’t want us to win this one”.

Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be?  WHAT?

I’m not at all a believer in “if it was meant to be, it will be; if it wasn’t, it won’t happen” because I think it flies in the face of individual effort and is one of those things people tell themselves (and others) after something they’ve wanted a great deal or worked hard for, doesn’t happen.  I’m pretty sure God does not get involved in issues involving the outcome of football games or personal relationships or any of that stuff.

So, to hear Coach Bielema essentially say there may have been nothing they could have done to win that game because God may not have wanted them to was a real shocker.  Here’s a guy who’s had to prove himself worthy of the job handed to him (unlawfully, by the way) on a silver platter by his extremely successful predecessor (and Coach Bielema has proved beyond any doubt he was worthy), pretty much inferring that the outcome of the Michigan State game was out of his hands.

Coaches work tirelessly to motivate players to give their best and their all every time the ball is snapped; they teach that individual effort must mesh with team effort to achieve a desired outcome; that they must give their all as individuals and as a team to make things happen.  So, to hear a successful coach say God may not have wanted them to beat the Spartans really rocked me.

Some may say that I’ve taken the coach’s words out of context, that he was understandably down after such a dramatic ending, that he’s doing nothing more or less than any human does to rationalize a huge emotional hurt, but….this was a public statement, on the record, with the coach fully aware that cameras were rolling, clearly inferring that God may have had a hand in the outcome of the game.

It was a tough and stunning loss, and I’m a Badgers fan all the way, but I think the UW’s habit of dining on cupcakes in the pre-season, and believing their own press clippings after they dispatched Nebraska so easily, may have had more to do with the outcome of the game than the Lord God Almighty deciding to be a Spartans fan Saturday night.  I hope that dawns on the coach before they head to Columbus next Saturday.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"A Laser-Like Focus on Jobs"

(Author's note: for years, my wife has told me no one understands my sarcasm.  The first two anonymous comments below illustrate her point nicely.  For the uninitiated, this post is meant to be dripping with derision and disdain for our dysfunctional state legislature and political "leadership".)

One thing seems certain:  there will be no job creation in the great state of Wisconsin until we roll back the law that allows those Planned Parenthood people to pass out condoms at schools in Waukesha, a cruel ploy designed to get the impressionable youth of Waukesha to start having sex, creating babies they don’t want and can’t afford to have, thus drumming up more disgusting abortion business for Planned Parenthood.

Such is the apparent content of the current extreme extraordinary emergency exemplary plenipotentiary legislative session on jobs.

Another thing seems certain:  there will be no job creation in the great state of Wisconsin until we roll back this damnable “earn-a-buck” program that the disgusting Madison liberals who used to run the DNR put in place to try and scare people about Chronic Wasting Disease, under the guise of thinning the herd, after a fraudulent and inflated count, conducted by sandal-wearing pot-smoking hippies who are the remnants of the 60’s counter-culture from the east side of Madison, in an effort to unnecessarily hamper the attempts of hard-working-down-on-their-luck ‘sconnies to go into the woods on opening day and blast away at an 8-point buck to bring home food for their family, and to further depress the great Wisconsin butchering and meat-preparation industry.

This new deer czar we have will put a quick end to that foolishness.

One more thing seems certain: there will be no job creation in the great state of Wisconsin until we decide once and for all what kind of fertilizers our farmers and citizens can use to grow bigger, better, and stronger crops and to create lush green lawns, the pleasing appearance of which will entice the captains of industry to locate their profitable businesses here, creating vast numbers of moderately-paying jobs, which will allow us to shut off the unemployment money spigot which has been so heinously abused by the lazy and unmotivated slackers who claim they can’t find work, and will once again allow sales of Milorganite to take place in Dane County, which will create still more jobs in the Milwaukee County Sewerage Utility and in the privately-owned lawn and garden businesses of Dane County.

And that, my friends, is a laser-like focus on jobs.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Psychic or Psyched Out?

In the course of my daily activities I was compelled to motor to the city’s sprawling southwest side to run a couple errands, including the purchase of some over-the-counter cold meds for my long-suffering bride.  Half-listening to some blabbermouth with a very Irish-sounding name on the radio, my ears suddenly perked up when I heard a commercial for the “Psychic Connection” or some such.  Based in California, according to the ad, and with a staff of “carefully screened professional psychics”.


This sort of stuff always reminds me of my first cousin once removed (some would call her a “second cousin”) who made a pretty penny back in the 80’s working as a telephone psychic for one of the many such outfits that thrived in southern California back then.  Matter of fact, it pretty much paid for her education at Cal State Fullerton.

She and her family, relatives on my mother’s side, lived in the Orange County community of Garden Grove - or, as it was called in 1987, “Garden Nam”, because of the proliferation of VietNamese families and businesses that had put down roots there.  It was conventional wisdom that along the city’s main thoroughfares, Garden Grove Boulevard, Euclid Street, Brookhurst Street, Chapman Avenue,, if the business sign was written in VietNamese and English, anybody was welcome to do business inside; if the sign was in VietNamese only, only native speakers of the language were welcome.  Or so my cousins told me.

As usual, I digress.

My wife (V 1.0) and I had motored down to Garden Grove from our digs in Palmdale to spend a weekend with the cousins, and after a measured amount of truth serum (80 proof) had been administered, I noticed that the cousin in question was nowhere to be found.  Her father looked at his watch and said “she’s on her shift”, which I came to discover referred to her six-hour shift as a telephone psychic (8 PM to 2 AM).  She worked out of her bedroom in the family home, using a moderately elaborate phone system which allowed her to take calls from a central number and dispense psychic advice.

The next day, she showed me the set-up, and said the Saturday evening 8 to 2 shift was “prime time” for money-making (they were paid per-call-per-minute); and the next shift, which started at 2AM, was referred to by the insiders as “the desperate hours”.  She had some seniority, and was good at it, so she got first dibs on the shifts available.

Did she have psychic talent?  Of course not.  She explained to me that she’d answered an ad, gone to an interview, and was selected to get 16 hours training in “how to be a psychic”, and given a fairly large ring-bound manual (which she showed me)of instructions and tips on everything from how to use the phone hook-up, to how to listen carefully for conversational clues to feed information back to the caller to seem “psychic”, to tips on how to keep the sucker (err…customer) on the line as long as possible to rack up the dollars.  She was a smart kid (in her late teens at the time) who picked up the con quickly and made good money fielding phone calls and doing “training sessions” with new hires.  She did it all through her college years, got her degree, and went on to a more conventional career.

Every time I hear an ad like the one I heard on the radio this afternoon, or that I see on late-night TV, I chuckle and think of my cousin, dispensing psychic wisdom and revelations from her bedroom in Garden Grove, and the desperate people who so wanted to believe what she was telling them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scientific Consensus

There’s a new book out from author Debbie Nathan called “Sybil Exposed”, which categorically exposes the multiple personality story of “Sybil” as a complete, deliberate hoax.

The story of the girl with 16 distinct personalities, Sybil, became quite popular in 1973, when a book was released purporting to tell the story of this Minnesota farm girl who wound up in New York City and on a therapist’s couch, telling horrifying stories of her torture and abuse, which fractured her personality into multiple parts.  They even made a very popular movie about it, with Sally Fields playing the title role.

As Nathan chronicles, “Sybil” is actually Shirley Mason, who met Manhattan therapist Cornelia Wilbur in the early 1950’s.  Wilbur suggested the two of them could make a lot of money if they concocted this wild story about Mason’s travails and fractured personality.  The two collaborated with writer Flora Schreiber, and the myth of Sybil was born.  In 1958, Mason “came clean” and issued a statement that the whole Sybil thing was a complete fiction.  (Nathan’s book is based on this statement and other materials now archived at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY.)

But Wilbur so aggressively promoted the story of her multiple-personality patient among psychiatric circles that she came to great fame; made a fortune off Schreiber’s  1973 book – which is still in print and which you can buy today on Amazon for $9.99 – and the whole idea of multiple personality disorder was born.  It became an official medical/psychological disorder designation which exists to this day, because the consensus of the powers-that-be in the world of psychiatry was that Wilbur’s stories about Mason were true.


As Nathan’s new book so clearly illustrates, consensus can be a very dangerous thing.  The consensus of leading medical authorities was that Joseph Lister was crazy, when he postulated that nearly-invisible organisms called “bacteria” were the cause of so many post-operative deaths in hospitals in the late 1800’s.

The consensus of leading environmental scientists in the 1970’s was that the earth was on the verge of another ice age, because of the global cooling they’d observed.   Thirty years later, the consensus of leading environmental scientists is that the earth is rapidly heating up because of man-made factors. Many of the same scientists; much of the same data.

In Lister’s case, he proved beyond any doubt that carbolic acid has antiseptic properties, and that what it does is kill bacteria.  All the others were wrong, and he was right.  Think of that the next time you rinse your mouth out with Listerine.  (Yup – same guy.)  Lister is only one of many cases that illustrate so clearly that science is not about consensus, but about demonstrable, repeatable fact.  Truth, if you will.

I don’t know if the earth is cooling or warming or if greenhouse gasses are behind it or if the hole in the ozone layer is a factor or if the hole was caused by fluorocarbons or what.  I do know that consensus is fine for resolving a discussion about where to go for dinner, but that it has nothing to do with science.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chance the Vulgar Chant Will Stop: Zero-point-zero.

For those few of you who read this rant and are not familiar with what the game-day experience is like at Camp Randall Stadium, a word of warning: this post will contain vulgar language.  Nothing adults haven’t heard, but if it’s not your cup of tea, be forewarned, and catch up on some other blogs.

Several years ago – I’m not sure when - the reform-school dropouts who populate the student sections of Camp Randall Stadium (those sections with letters in the middle of the alphabet) began a chant which persists to this day.  It must have started when the Badgers were in the throes of the Don Morton era, when wins were few and far between, and the game on the field was not the most exciting part of the game-day experience.  Half the students would yell “Eat shit!” and the other half would yell back “Fuck You”.  Some insist it arose prior to the Morton era, as a crude counterpoint to the beer commercial that said “Tastes Great!  Less Filling!” in several variants, back in the 70’s and 80’s.

It gets so loud that the TV sound techs have had to figure out a way to try and keep it from invading grandma and grandpa’s living room, as they watch alma mater.  It’s crude, rude, stupid, vapid, devoid of creativity, boorish, and….now firmly entrenched, as much a part of the game-day experience as the jump around frenzy between the 3rd and 4th quarter, and the 5th quarter show from Dr. Leckrone and his marching band.

And it’s not going away because Barry and Bret sent ‘round an e-mail to the students asking them to stop doing it.

Anyone who’s ever parented a child knows what children do when you ask them to stop doing something that annoys you or is unmannered.  Absent a consequence, the behavior continues.

A few years ago then-Chancellor John Wiley sent ‘round a similar e-mail, and it was ignored, just as Barry and Bret’s e-mail will be ignored tomorrow morning when Indiana comes in for the Homecoming game.

Attending a Badgers home football game entails dodging a phalanx of drunken students to get into the stadium, and woe betide he who wears the colors of the opposing team – stand by to be loudly insulted, intimidated, and, if the cops aren’t around, to have beer tossed at you.  It’s a very raucous atmosphere, it’s a very partisan crowd.  It’s what some people call “part of the home-field advantage”.  Badgers basketball and hockey games at the Kohl Center are nothing like the Camp Randall experience.  In my opinion, the crowd chants and cheers that are part of a Badgers hockey game are far more creative and engaging than anything in or around Camp Randall.   The experience of having 17 thousand rabid hockey fans chanting “SIEVE!!!” and pointing their collective (index) finger at the goalie who’s just been scored on is unduplicated in collegiate sport anywhere.  (European soccer matches are in a league of their own.)

I think part of it is that the powers-that-be at the big college on the lake aren’t really serious about stopping the vulgar chant.  There’s no consequence.   It’s sort of like those messages you see before the feature film starts, in a movie theater – the ones about silencing your cell phone and “no talking or texting during the film”.  Movies are made for young people, and it’s their money that drives the box office, so theatre owners aren’t really serious about stopping the talking and texting; they run the message to make the “more mature” patrons feel that management is concerned about the movie-going experience.  Nobody ever gets tossed out of a movie theatre for texting while the movie is on.

If the brain trust at the UW were serious about stopping the chant, they could do it in a heartbeat.  All they’d have to do is announce to the crowd that if the vulgar chant is heard, the referee will throw the yellow hankie and announce an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the home team (a “bench foul”, if you will).  It would take approximately one such penalty to bring the vulgar chant to an end.

Without a consequence, the chance of the vulgar chant ending because of an e-mail from the Athletic Director and the Head Coach is….as Dean Vernon Wormer (Animal House) would say….zero-point-zero.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Traffic Reporting" in Madison: The Longest Rant I Have Ever Written

With all due respect to my friend and former colleague Shawn Prebil, who is quite conscientious and good in reporting traffic in Madison and is the best at it, in general the state of the art here sucks. This rant arises from my foray into rush-hour traffic this morning, and from anecdotal evidence supplied by my wife, who deals with afternoon rush-hour traffic five days a week.

When you look at the picture of a Los Angeles traffic jam above, you have the equivalent of ten thousand words on why LA needs accurate and timely traffic reporting – and, conversely, why Madison does NOT.   In LA, an incomplete or inaccurate traffic report can ruin your day.  In the late 80’s, when I was working for the Jack Kent Cook organization in LA, his newspaper (The Los Angeles Daily News) sponsored traffic reports on KABC-AM.  At one point in 1987, when the 101 Freeway was being reconstructed, the boys in the marketing department (it was a team effort, but I’m taking majority credit) came up with a slogan for a publicity campaign: “60 seconds on 790 could save you 60 minutes on the 101”.  It was a print campaign; the slogan was at the top; there was a graphic with the Daily News masthead in the middle; and the bottom line said “Daily News traffic reports on KABC AM 790”.

At that time, California Hiway 101 was the busiest stretch of road in the nation, collecting all the traffic from the San Fernando Valley and points north and west (where it’s called the Ventura Freeway), snaking down through the Hollywood Hills (where it’s called the Hollywood Freeway) and down into the heart of the city, where it terminates near the collection of tall buildings commonly thought of as “Los Angeles”.  The marketing campaign, run in conjunction with ABC, was to draw attention to the traffic reports on KABC-AM; the ad for the Daily News that ran in the traffic report cited some reason why your life was not complete without a subscription to the Daily News.  Synergy.  Both companies benefit.

The thing is, though, that before the campaign was launched, the principals of both companies laid down an edict: KABC traffic reports had to be deadly accurate, timely, and totally user-friendly.  Both companies actually gave a hoot about the product they were advertising, because as any LA commuter can tell you, once you’re burned by an inaccurate or untimely traffic report, and you wound up stuck in traffic (glance again at the picture at the top of this post), you will change the station and NEVER rely on them for traffic again.  NEVER.

This trip down memory lane now brings me back to this morning, and my encounter with local traffic reporting (such as it is).  I had a fasting blood draw at 8:25 at a clinic on Odana Road near Whitney Way (west side of Madison), so with no caffeine aboard, I was cranky to begin with.  I left our secluded exurban enclave at 8 AM, headed up HiWay MM, and merged onto the beltline.  Moments before I got to that spot, the traffic report on the radio (it was not Shawn, it was the other AM station that does traffic) said “the westbound beltline is kind of slow from the interstate to Park Street, but after that, it’s moving at normal speed”. 

Exactly the opposite was true.  I could see it with my own eyes atop the ramp where MM (Rimrock Road) crosses over the beltline.  Behind me, when I merged onto the beltline, traffic was fine.  Ahead of me….Park Street and beyond…it was a sea of red brake lights and three westbound lanes of bumper-to-bumper 10 MPH traffic.  The traffic report I’d heard less than a minute ago was completely and totally incorrect.

Another momentary diversion, if I may:  I have a slightly more than passing familiarity with the inner workings of traffic reporting in Madison.  My wife (before she was my wife) and I, when we worked together on the (Award-winning) broadcast “Madison’s Morning News”, created the first regularly-scheduled traffic reports in Madison history.  It was the summer of 1988; I’d just moved to Madison from Los Angeles, and the beltline bridge over Mud Lake was being built.  Prior to construction of that bridge, the “beltline” pretty much ended at South Towne Drive, and traffic continued on Broadway Street.  Traffic would back up horribly, and Toni and I enlisted the services of Maynard “Skip” Schneider, the Public Relations guy for the local Triple-A, to do actual, on-the-scene LIVE traffic reports from the construction site, at the beginning of top-and-bottom-of-the-hour newscasts, from 6:30 AM to 9 AM.

At the top of the hour, we’d run NBC national news; then we’d start our local news by giving a headline version of the lead story, then going to the News 3 Weather Center, with a live forecast (via telephone line), and then it was “Now, live from Car 1480 in the beltline construction zone, here’s Command Sergeant Major Skip Schneider”.  Skip, who got a hoot out of me calling him “Command Sergeant Major”, would then tell us what was going on and how to avoid the worst of the traffic snarls.  Same routine at the bottom of the hour.  And thus, traffic reporting was born in the Madison radio market in the summer of 1988.

Through the years, traffic reporting devolved from an actual person in an actual vehicle driving on the actual beltline (“Casey James reporting live from the beltline in the WTDY News Cruiser”), to “Road Rage Traffic”  with Shawn Prebil live in the News-Talk 1670 Road Rager ; then, when a new consultant came in and said we had to remove all the anger from the station, Road Rage Traffic went bye-bye and it became just “traffic and weather together”, a slogan stolen from a Chicago radio station.  Somewhere around 2005 the traffic vehicle was parked forever, and Shawn began doing morning traffic reports from a studio in the radio station, by monitoring D.O.T. traffic cameras.

Now, with radio dying the death of a thousand cuts (personnel cuts), the guy who does the traffic report I heard just before merging onto the beltline in Madison is actually sitting in a studio in Milwaukee.  Yes, he’s 75 miles away, and he looks at D.O.T. traffic cameras on his computer monitor.  And he’s responsible for doing live and recorded traffic reports on an ungodly number of Milwaukee and Madison radio stations.  As good as this guy is, and as accomplished a broadcaster and communicator as he is, it’s simply impossible to keep up with so much traffic in the state’s two largest cities and be completely accurate and timely.

If he knew how wrong his 8 AM report was, he’d be ashamed.  I’ve listened to this guy for years, and he’s a thoroughly competent professional.  But because of the economic unviability of radio in 2011, and the untenable debt service the company he works for (Clear Channel) has gotten itself into, he’s forced to attempt to do an impossible task.

I wasn’t late for my blood draw.  I knew, from years of living in the Madison area, that if you need to be anywhere in the morning, and your trip involves the beltline between 7 and 9 AM or 4 and 6 PM, you need to allow an extra 15 minutes travel-time.  Madison doesn’t have anywhere near the need for accurate traffic reporting that larger cities do.  It’s predictably slow at predictable places at predictable times.  A big wreck can throw a wrench into the pattern, but 95% of the time Madison traffic is completely predictable.  And that fact is the traffic reporter’s stock-in-trade.

Some day, in another round of cuts, Madison radio owners and managers will figure out that they really don’t need scheduled traffic reports, particularly because they’re not timely and accurate, and that the function can be handled by the news department, in the few stations where such a department still exists.  They can just take the commercial that’s connected with the traffic reports and fold it into the news report or into regularly scheduled programming.  They’ll make a few bucks less because the commercial isn’t “special”, but the personnel cuts will more than offset the small loss.

There you have it: the past, present, and future of traffic reporting in Madison.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Don't Bank On It

The image above has been flying around the internet the past couple days, graphically illustrating that it’s still true that often, a picture is worth a thousand words.  (Click on it and take a good look.)

I am very well acquainted with a person, whose identity shall remain confidential, who in 1998 was working in a senior executive capacity for one of the banks listed on the chart above.  Back then, 13 years ago, my acquaintance accurately predicted two of the mergers that happened in the ensuing two years, and said that by 2010 there would be five major US banks.

As you can see from the chart, my acquaintance missed it by one.  There are four.

I’m not sure what will come of the “Occupy” movement now afoot; it could be the birth of a huge, new force in American life and politics; and it could be just another momentary diversion.  I’m not as good as my acquaintance mentioned above in predicting things.

But I do know the “Occupy” movement has begun to tap into an emotion felt by millions of Americans.  These people, these – for lack of a better name – Wall Street barons, have fleeced us for a long time.  They wrecked the economy with their reckless – for lack of a better word – greed, their bundled subprime mortgages, their credit default swaps, their co-opting of the “ratings services”.  They came out of it unscathed, and while they may not be bundling subprime mortgages any more, they’re no doubt doing similar things we’ll discover a decade from now, and all the while “feeing” us to death.

It’s far too simplistic, but the allegation of the so-called 99-percenters, “we’re too big to fail”, does resonate.  They’re saying the middle class is what’s failing, and you can find plenty of evidence for that without looking too hard.

What can we do about it?

My wife and I have taken the first step.  We’ve moved nearly all of our financial business to a locally-owned and locally-controlled financial institution (it’s a credit union), and by January, 100% of our financial business will be done and controlled right here in Madison.

It’s a first step, not a complete solution.  But we think it’s a damn good start.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Hope It's Not Over

It’s been such a fun Brewers season that I hope it doesn’t end Friday at Miller Park.  I hope the Brewers can win tonight, in Arizona, and then move on to the NL Championship series.

But it’s their inconsistent play that troubles me the most.  Anybody remember the last few weeks of September?

Last night was a stumble – from which I hope they pick themselves up and put tonight’s game away, early.  But more often than not, when they’ve stumbled this season, they’ve fallen flat on their faces for a week or more.

In September they beat the snot out of the Cards in a critical series, and then went to Chicago a few days later and let the Cubs look more like world-beaters than the 3rd-rate team they are.

And there was the curse of SI, which led to that long slump.

Like all good things, I don’t want it to come to an end.  I want them hosting Game One of the World Series on the 19th, and going on to win it.

Then it can end.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Endangered Species?

For a while, I was actually concerned that in some near-term politically-correct future, my beloved alma mater, Hortonville High School, would have to change its mascot from the Polar Bear to the Baby Harp Seal or the Emperor Penguin or some critter along those lines.  After all, my parents both graduated from Oshkosh High School - long before there were four high schools in that city - and were proud Oshkosh Indians  - long before what’s now Oshkosh West High School had to change the mascot from “Indians” to “Wildcats”.

For a while, mascot-changing was rampant in Wisconsin, under the Doyle administration, when the politically-correct-police were put in charge of a new committee to make us all feel bad about native American-themed mascots.  Now, the tide has apparently turned.

A Waukesha County judge has ruled the Mukwonago High School Indians can continue being the Indians, and the state’s attempt to force them to change mascots was unconstitutional.  The Reader’s Digest version is that the judge ruled that the DPI (Department of Public Instruction) bureaucrat who tried to force the change…a dude named Paul Sherman…had an “impermissibly high risk of bias”.

I’m really not certain why the good folks of the village of Hortonville decided years ago to select the Polar Bear as a mascot.  I always liked it, because it was unique, and the Polar Bear is considered a powerful and self-reliant critter.  I was a staffer on our high school newspaper, the Polar Cub.  In sports, we played teams like the Omro Foxes, the Winneconne Wolves, and, yes – the Berlin Indians.  And the Clintonville Truckers, so-named because of the huge Four-Wheel-Drive plant there.

The thing that annoyed me so much about the politically correct forces in Madison is that they completely ignored the simple fact that mascots are selected because they are reflective of the community’s roots (Clintonville Truckers, Kimberly Papermakers, Ashland Oredockers, Stoughton Vikings, DeForest Norskies), or that the mascot possesses qualities which we wish to emulate.

I’m not offended that Notre Dame calls itself the “Fighting Irish”.  They could have called them “The Drunken Micks” and it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit.  Same with the Boston Celtics.  I have no idea why any “native American” would be annoyed that a community like Berlin or Mukwonago  or Oshkosh decided to use the Indian as its mascot, and I would make the case that only in the City of the Perpetually Offended (Madison) would a notion that “Indians” is somehow demeaning would gain any traction.

I will admit that some of the logos used are stereotypical, in a cartoon-like fashion.  The one used by the Cleveland Indians, for example.

 But that’s just bad taste, which you may choose to define as offensive, but not cause to change the name of the mascot.  They need a face-lift, not a name-change.

So long live the Hortonville Polar Bears, and the Mukwonago Indians, and all the rest of them.  Including the Marquette Warriors.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Have You Heard? Chris Christie is FAT!

It’s the only remaining form of discrimination that you can still get away with, so apparently everybody and their brother feels it necessary to comment on Chris Christie’s unhealthy weight.  You can’t make a joke about his religion, whatever it is.  You can’t make a joke about his ethnic background, no matter what it is.  You can’t make a joke about his skin color, no matter what it is.  You can’t make a joke about a disability which may affect him, no matter what it is.  You can’t make a joke about his sexual orientation, no matter what it is.

But being fat?  Well, roll out the barrel!!!

Everybody from pea-brained social media friends of mine to national TV hosts like Jay Leno have made jokes about Christie’s weight.  It’s such an easy target.  Asked about his weight by some nooz dweeb a few weeks ago, Christie shot back “I eat too much.  It’s not a mystery.” 

Oh, and the fat puns – Christie tackles weighty issues; he’s not running for President so much as he’s waddling for President; he needs to fatten up his campaign chest – most of them aren’t even mildly creative.

We have TV shows that poke fun at fat people, like the now-popular “Mike and Molly Show”, about a couple who met at “Overeaters Anonymous”; like the old “Fat Albert Show” from Bill Cosby, who should be ashamed of himself for naming the big guy “Fat Albert”; and the perennially popular “Biggest Loser” shows, which have engendered local spinoffs.  Some people argue that “Biggest Loser” is about success and confidence and transformation; but at its essence, it’s a show about fat people.

Try to imagine a show “Biggest Gainer”, about people with anorexia desperately trying to see their body as the rest of the world does, and GAIN weight.

Didn’t think so.