Thursday, March 26, 2009

Truly interactive TV

I stumbled across something today that is fascinating. WITI, our local Fox affiliate, hosts a live web chat in the afternoon where local viewers can suggest story ideas directly to the staff. Monday through Friday the chat goes live at 1:45 pm CT. A member of the web team has their laptop out and pitches ideas that are sent in to the chat to the producers. As with any staffroom, not all of the ideas can be used.

We hear a lot about reality TV and interactive this or that, but this is truly an interactive feature. It's a win-win situation. The regular people feel that they do have some input in what they see on the TV. The station gets more viewers (people seeing if their ideas get on the air) and they get great info about what kinds of stories their viewers want to see.

I haven't heard about any other stations doing something like this. As I understand it, WITI's chat is an experiment. If anyone else is interested in joining in, here's the link. Hopefully, if enough people come in they will keep it going.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Journey Part IV

The Journey is chronicling my thoughts and feelings as I proceed down the path of spirituality. For a detailed explanation, see The Journey Part I.

Over the last few weeks, I have been attending our church's bible study. I was a little unsure about this going in. It seemed a little odd for me to go from virtually no religion or beliefs to attending a bible study with a group of people who take their religion fairly seriously. Because my girlfriend wanted to attend the bible studies, and seeing as the study was just before the service, I had two choices. Either attend or hang around like a goof for 45 minutes. I chose to attend and see what it was like. Going in with an open mind really helped.

The study is set up so that only a few chapters are discussed at a time. In that way, they can look in depth at not only the story, but the meaning as well. That has been unbelievably helpful for me. It has been very easy for me to follow along. It would have been easier to understand if I would have been there from the start, however I can't complain. Knowing almost nothing of the bible outside of the stories everyone knows (Christmas, Adam & Eve, etc.). Any additional knowledge is a plus.

I still can't make that final jump though. There are still a lot of things I can't comprehend. I don't know how I'm supposed to change my life (if at all), what am I supposed to do, what am I supposed to say. I do know that it doesn't matter what your past was like, but I still don't know how to change. Do I really want to change? Can I change?

However this turns out, I cannot thank the folks at the church enough. They have been totally unjudgemental towards us. They have welcomed us with open arms. Thanks Crosswalk Church!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The most overrated sports event

A mental assist for this post goes out to Jeff Wagner of 620 WTMJ. He began his show today asking callers their favorite sporting event. That got me thinking. What are the most overrated sporting events in this country. Now I know that pretty much everyone will disagree with me, but that's ok. These are just my thoughts.

1 - The Indianapolis 500

This one is hard for me as I am a fan. There are several reasons that this one makes the list. First, it's not even the beginning of the season. All that hype would be better if it was the start of a fresh season. Second, even though there have been several races lately that have been memorable, you could take out a bunch of the race and you really wouldn't miss much. Lastly, it has just way too much leading up to the race. How many pre-race driver interviews do we really need? I blame NASCAR for this one.

2 - Major League Baseball Opening Day

This one comes in number two only for the fact that it is the beginning of the season. Think of how long a baseball season is. The hype for opening day is just a little too much. If you want a good example of this, check out the attendance numbers of a northern, non dome team on opening day and compare them to day 2. With the possible exception of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs, the numbers won't be close.

3 - The Daytona 500

The saving grace of this one, again, is that it opens the season. However, do we need 3 weeks of it? This is the only race of the season where they race to race (Bud Shootout). Besides, most of the races are boring. Way too many races are not won by the racers, but by the team. Pit strategy and pit times often make the difference in the average NASCAR race, not driver skill. Another gripe I have with NASCAR is, does there need to be so many cars? The reason they have so many 20 car incidents is there are so many out there. It's bound to happen.

I was tempted to put the Super Bowl on here too, but in recent years it has become less about the game itself and more on the halftime show and commercials. That makes the game secondary before you kick off.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where did my Sharks go?

Ok, I understand that the injury bug has hit them pretty hard, but why am I forced to watch a team who looks to be afraid to make a mistake?  The tentative play recently is turning a great team in to an average team pretty quick.  

Last night against the Kings they finally looked like the team we all watched the first half of the year.  The physical play was back, the speed game was there, and with Nabby back the goaltending returned to form.  So why did they have to rely on a shootout to beat the lowly Kings?  Either they are refusing to work hard or they think they can coast to the playoffs.  

Personally, I think it's the latter.  The Sharks won so many games the first half of the season with relative ease that now I believe that they think the rest of the season will be just as easy.  I know that no team ever goes wire to wire in first, but it's not just the losses that concern me.  It's the way they are losing.  Losses happen, but to be outworked by a talently inferior team and lose is unacceptable.  The game on March 12th stands out as a perfect example.  The entire game the Sharks looked like they didn't want to win and guess what, they didn't.  

There are just too many teams fighting for their playoff lives right now.  Every one is looking to make a statement playing the Sharks.  If they can't get back on track, it is very likely they will fall in the first round to a team that wants it more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When do your rights start?

This story from today's Boston Globe is more than a little disturbing to me. I understand and agree with curfews. It keeps everyone, teens included, a bit safer. What really makes me uneasy about it is if the Massachusetts Supreme Court upholds the decision and rules that curfew laws are unconstitutional. With one simple ruling, the courts will effectively remove the last shreds of control parents currently have over their children. The key is all about the right to free movement.

At what age do the rights written into the Constitution take effect? That is the main issue here. Should the Supreme Court decide that minors have the right to free movement, what is to stop a 13 year old from trying to have his parents arrested for not letting him or her out of the house at midnight? An extreme example? Probably, but in this day and age definitely not unlikely.

Everyone agrees that the freedoms and rights in our Constitution are what set us apart from a lot of the world. That's why so many people are risking their lives to come here. But where do we draw the line? When do we decide that someone is old enough to be protected by those rights? That's the sticking point. There's a extremely large grey area here. Nobody, I believe, is going to argue that a 9 year old can go wherever they want whenever they want. It's once those teen years come around that causes a problem.

In my opinion, the teen years is when parents need control over their kids. That is when kids are most at risk. Too much peer pressure, the stresses of growing up, and the mixed messages that are constantly thrown at them by the media can be too much for most teens. Without a strong hand from their parents guiding them, who knows where they will end up. It's bad enough that the last few generations (yes, mine included) have had their "rights" spewed at them by the schools. If you take away all of the parents ability to discipline their kids, you will end up with an entire generation of people who think that they can do anything they want whenever they want and they can't be held responsible. If you think our country is bad now, just wait until this happens.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The best retro sports logos that you will never see again!

I got thinking the other day about this retro fad, how it seems to be 'cool' to wear 30 year old clothes. I personally don't see the appeal. Maybe I'm not young enough to be with it anymore. Pro sports teams are getting into this as well. A lot of them are going to retro feel color schemes as well as bringing back old logos. Well, I came up with a list of logos that were great at the time, but will never again see the light of day.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Why it was cool - At some point in their lives, all kids pretended to be a pirate. It's just one of those stages. When you did, what was the first things you did? Got an eyepatch, tied a stuffed bird on your shoulder, and found a knife to put in your teeth. When you thought pirate, what their logo was was not far off the mark.

Why it will never be seen again - Unfortunately he has a few things going against him. First of all, the toughest pirate around loses a bit of credibility when he is decked out in orange and red. Second, with that way too big feather and wink, he seems a little too soft for a sport like football. Hope is not completely lost however. Thanks to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, this Johnny Depp-like pirate could be reborn.

New England Patriots

Why it was cool - Just look at him! He's all American and he's playing football! What could be better than a minuteman decked out in the old red, white, and blue playing the country's favorite sport. Strong, manly and partiotic.

Why it will never be seen again - Well, leaving alone the fact that it's no longer cool to be patriotic, he seems a little too patriotic. Red knee high socks and that really red hat. Wow. At least the coat isn't powder blue. Also, without getting too gross, by that facial expression it appears he's bent over for some other reason.

Hartford Whalers

Why it was cool - This is still among one of the best hockey logos ever. The whale tail combined with a clean design make it one of the most recognisable logos still. Add the 'H' in the void between the 'W' and the tail and you put a good logo into hall of fame good.

Why it will never be seen again - When the Whalers left town for North Carolina, there was a battle over just who owned the rights to the team name, color scheme, and logos. To make matters worse, the owners of the team sold off the rights before it was known if the rights were even theirs to sell. It now is making it's way through the courts and very well could be years before the issues is decided. That's really too bad, because it keeps Pucky out of the public eye.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

Why it was cool - Ok, so it was only cool if you were under 10, but the clean design and a concept that stayed inside the sport made it tolerable.

Why it will never come back - No more Disney. The only reason that this design made the cut in the first place was the fact that Disney owned the team and wanted to connect the team to the movies. Although, considering what they changed it to, the team may make the change back.

Denver Nuggets

Why it was cool - Nuggets...miners...they play basketball...Um...Ok, maybe it was never cool, but it was the '70's. A lot of things seemed cool at the time that wasn't (disco, John Travolta, LSD) back then.

Why it will never be seen again - Please. We've got a better chance of seeing Frank Caliendo in a speedo.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

NHL Deadline Day Wrapup

Well, the NHL Deadline Day 2009 is in the books and while it was not as active as years past, it did provide it's own excitement. Complex, last minute deals led to nearly an hour of trade excitement after the deadline officially passed. Now it's time to look back and see who were the winners and losers on Deadline Day.


Calgary - By far the biggest winner landing Olli Jokinen. Did they overpay for him? Probably, but it was a market that was tilted in the sellers direction this year. Don't overlook the trade they made for Jordan Leopold. He's the kind of role player that all teams need to have this time of year. The only mistake they may have made is in trading Kevin Lalande to Columbus. I have heard some good things about him. He's still young though, so time will tell.

Buffalo - The Sabres gave up virtually nothing and got a lot more stable. Resigning Tim Connolly worked like a trade. Mikael Tellqvist adds a very stable element in net that they need while Ryan Miller recovers from injury. Dominic Moore was one of the top gems available this year. While they did trade away Alis Kotalik, getting a 2nd round pick for a second/third line winger is a win for the Sabres.

Columbus - While the 'Jackets only made two moves, the ones they did make makes them better now and in the future. Leclare's health issues makes this a great decision for them. In return they get a player in Vermette who adds offensive depth, PK prowess and great faceoff skill. The trade that really makes them better, however, is the move to get Kevin Lalande. As I said in the Calgary analysis, Lalande looks to have a solid future ahead of him in the NHL. What that gives Columbus is a lot of young talent between the pipes. Mason, Lacosta, and Lalande make up one of the best young goaltending combinations in the NHL. Three goalies with NHL potential all 22 or younger. Scary.

New York Rangers - The Rangers looked to make a run for the cup this year based on the number of trades made and the talent they received. Nik Antropov and Derek Morris are key to making a playoff run, but one must wonder if they may have overpaid a bit too much. The other moves that will make or break the Rangers this year are; the hiring of Tortorella which is a decided philosophy switch and the claiming of Sean Avery who could either add needed grit or provide a distraction. We will have to wait and see.

Phoenix - Wayne and company may have slid under the radar this year with the amount of deals they made. They may not make the playoffs this year, but with all of the depth and picks they added this year, the 'Yotes look to be setting themselves up for a prolonged stretch of good hockey in the near future.


Toronto - Yes, I know they were the biggest sellers this year, but the trades they made made it look like they were planning for the distant future instead of the near future. Two 2nd round picks a 4th round pick and a prospect swap with Tampa makes it look more and more likely that the Leafs are about to completely tear down the team and rebuild. This summer ought to be interesting.

San Jose - As a Sharks fan this pains me to write. With Roenick, Goc, Grier and Mitchell out for some time, the Sharks really needed to add another top 6 type scorer. Instead they add a gritty third line winger and a depth D-Man. The D-Man I can live with. There has been some inconsistency in the bottom of their defense of late. Granted, Moen will do a great job in replacing Grier until he returns from his injury, but how much grit do they really need?

Montreal - For a team that has all of the momentum in the world in their centennial year, the management seems content just to make the playoffs. I know that Montreal is one of the hardest markets to play and manage in, but not even attempting to take the next step is confusing to say the least.

Chicago - The only reason I list the 'Hawks here is the amount of moves that Calgary made. Now Chicago is almost assured to run into San Jose, Detroit, or Calgary at some point in the playoffs. With what they have now, I can't see them making it past any of those teams. They did grab Pahlsson from Anaheim, but I can't see that deal being enough.

The next teams I can't categorize, but something needs to be said for them as well.

Minnesota - To their credit, they were in a lose/lose situation. At 11th in the West, they were not in a position to be buyers or sellers. Still, maybe a bottom six forward to add a little depth in case Gaborik hits a snag and is not back in a couple of weeks.

Anaheim - This one really confuses me. At 9th in the West, the Ducks are in the thick of the playoff hunt, but the trades they did pull off looked more like a selling team. Have they given up on this season and are building for the future? Who knows.

New York Islanders - I nearly put them in the winner column. At this point of his career is Bill Guerin worth a third round pick? Probably not, but with the talent that Pittsburgh has, it is possible that if they get a favorable matchup, they could advance out of the first round.

How will all this affect the playoffs and beyond? Who knows, but it will be fun watching and finding out!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The death of capitalism, government style

I've been trying to figure out the best way to approach this idea. I'm just a regular guy. How can I make comments that are relevant? Who would listen to me?

I could go on about the unnecessary spending by government, the endless earmarks and pork. I could go on about how we need good jobs created. Instead I wish to ask a question. When did we allow capitalism to die in this country?

This may seem like a blinding flash of the obvious, but if there was this great need for passenger rail, why hasn't the industry thrived on it's own? Why do we need the government stepping in and supporting a transportation type that nobody (apparently) wants to use?

What gets me the most about that article though is the quote:
"Although the United States has fallen behind Europe in the development of state-of-the-art rail technology, even 50-year-old technology could get the job done, according to Ash" Umm...why would we build an entirely new system based on obsolete technology? If this guy is so knowledgeable, why would he even bring up that fact?

What it all boils down to is this whole idea is a feel good project. The whole idea that Grandma Ann can't see the grandkids without passenger rail is insane. I haven't been on a train in quite a while, but does anyone know if any of these trains will be even accessible for elderly/handicapped people? Are they now? Will they have to be?