27 September 2008

A couple of master debaters

I only watched parts of the debate last night. I'm sorry but nothing that was said was going to change my decision anyway and the Cubs were in Milwaukee (priorities, right?)

McCain definitely was more prepared than most people expected, but then again, shouldn't he be? I mean he's been a politician for a long time. This is riding a bike stuff for him. This whole "suspend my campaign" stuff is either a genius move to make it look like he's unstable and then so when he does well, it's like "WOW he's prepared and ready to run the country", or he's got a bunch of absolute psychos running his campaign.

Obama stayed on message and didn't screw up. Is this sad to say? I mean, one only makes that comment (and the press sure did last night afterwards) when the candidate is supposedly so far ahead that only a blunder of all blunders can derail it. But is he really that far ahead?

One thing I liked, although because it came from NBC I'm going to stay skeptical, is the "Truth Squad" or whatever the hell they called it. Supposed fact checkers who called out things that were incorrectly stated or accused during the debate. Anyone whose ever watched PTI (Pardon the Interruption) sees the producer correct what Wilbon and Kornheiser pontificated during the show about sports. So basically NBC has a bunch of interns pounding on Google to check stuff. This is fine other than some of the huge blunders recently by some of those same interns who pick up bogus Internet rumors and shoot them through to the talking heads. (Palin's hubby has a bastard child, etc..)

News isn't news anymore, they just report what's on the Internet in the attempt to "break" a story. The news world has gotten lazy and instead of actually doing their jobs, they've hired Gen Y who just surfs all day and gets their "news" that way.

In summary, no one won or lost last night. Boring. I think the long format actually plays to Obama's long-windiness, so once we get to the rapid-fire format, it'll be interesting to see how he does versus McCain who has learned that it's all about a sound byte and taking quick shots that ultimately can't be responded to because the mod wants to move on. Personally I think that if Obama doesn't whip McCain's ass in the majority of these debates, he's going to be in trouble. If the man who is known for talking and being affable can't take down the career politician, it will be used against him as it already is. In fact, the McCain campaign was so on it's game last night that they took Obama's comment that "John is Right" and instantly spun a web-0-mercial with that sound clip and the words "Barack Obama's answers from the debate".

Oh, the mud is only starting............it's gonna get very ugly over the next 39 days!!

26 September 2008

The Amazin' Mutz/Shite Sox

Can I just say how deliriously tickled I am at the continued Mets collapse? Okay, I just did. Neener neener neener!

Equally as impressive is the Shite Sox current fall. Its looking like they will have to go to Detroit to probably tie it up on Monday, unless the Twins can start winning and a potential one-game playoff with the Twinkies is looming.

Watching the Sox fans is actually amusing since they now know a little bit of what it's like to be a Cubs fan. Your team always just playing with your emotions, leading a division for 147 days, only to be literally gut-wrenching your way through the last week of the season. Admittedly this isn't similar to a LOT of Cubs seasons (most of them we were done by May) but there have been more of these over the last 20 years, than the blow-out ones.

Enjoy oh faithful South Siders, these are the times that test your true faith in the club.

22 September 2008

New Stadiums

Although I didn't actually watch the ESPNgasm that was the last home game at Yankees Stadium last night, I've now heard about enough soundclips and replays on sports-radio to make me puke.

Let's be honest here, if they truly wanted to HONOR the old stadiums before they blew them up, they'd figure a way of renovating them and modernizing them instead of building new ones in the parking lots. This whole phenominon is just driven by money and the corporate big wigs. New stadiums mean higher prices, more luxury boxes and more corporate sponsorships. Joe Six-Pack can't even afford season tickets anymore so who REALLY are we building new stadiums for....and don't get me started on PSL's.

However, I reserve this statement (don't blow them up) only for the truly amazing, historic stadiums. I really didn't give a crap when they blew up Veteran's in Philly or County Stadium in Milwaukee. They really were pieces of crap built at the end of the 70's/early 80's that just were to fill the immediate need. (I heard the Spectrum is coming down in Philly this year too...thank god, that sh*thole!)

I've been to Notre Dame and they amazingly have done this (those of you who know me know how hard it is for me to say ANYTHING nice about ND) several times over the years as have they up north of the Cheddar Curtain at Lambeau Field (ditto on the nice part). I know that this is usually reserved for locations where there's not enough room to build new but frankly I see the writing on the wall already for Wrigley Field.

I just don't know what they are going to do someday there. There's no "parking lot" to build a new one and they sure as hell aren't going to move out of the neighborhood given all of the economy that surrounds it. So they are going to have to find a way to build up/within/around the existing structure. I know that we all get nice and cozy at 41,897 for a game, but the demand is so high that any new owner is going to need to think this through.

It's why I desperately hope Mark Cuban ends up being the owner. He gets tradition, he gets honoring the past. I would feel very safe with him as an owner and owner of the stadium property.

My friend Paul shot me this link which is some piss-poor attempt at naming the "most important" sports venues. What I take issue with is NOT that Yankee Stadium is number one, (which I did at first), it's exactly for what the writer cites in his "first person" account that someone can order a hotdog and a Budweiser and not get looked at funny. Yeah, those days are now GONE Yankee fans....and by the way, can you change out that wonder bread you call a bun on the hotdogs and get real buns?

I won't rant about the list as frankly lists are ways for reporters to fake that they've been working for a few weeks on some "big" article, but how can you respect someone who writes in #1, bashing "'retro' ballparks that seat 38,000 yuppies" who then makes #2 The Ballpark at Camden Yards which is a retro ballpark seating less than 38,000 yuppies right now since they are in the tanker? PS: He also used stock images without checking because if he did, he'd have at least picked a picture with INDY CARS in it for the IMS (#7) versus NASCRAP cars!!!

So goodbye House that Ruth built and goodbye to Joe Six-Pack from the Bronx and thank you TAXPAYERS of New York who won't get a fair chance at an affordable ticket. (and goodbye to all the Giants and Jets and Mets fans who are all going to suffer this issue as well.)

21 September 2008

A Whole Lotta Rosie

I couldn't be more excited. No, this isn't another post about the Cubs (did I mention they've won the NL Central again?), but it's a post about one of the hardest rockin' bands come from down under (no NOT Men At Work Be Good Johnny), but AC/DC.

September 11th, they announced their first North American tour in over 7 years, but didn't release the schedule until about a week ago. Chicago is the 2nd stop on the US leg of the tour (10 days after the release of the new album Black Ice) and as I had promised myself when I missed them back in '01, I was going come hells bells or highwater and no matter the cost.

I quickly joined the AC/DC fanclub (so I could snag some pre-sale special section tix) for $40 (bah) and yesterday, at 10:00am CDT, I got my aisle tickets just to stage left about 5 rows up from the floor.

I may be 42, but on October 30th, 2008, I return to the sweet tender age of 16 and get ready to rock hard. The debate between now and then are do I bring ear plugs like the old fart I am (and protect my hearing so that on my child's first Halloween, I can hear him) or do I just gut it out and let Angus be my lord and savior?

Here's the thing I truly DO love about the boys. Rolling Stones come through and it's $300 a ticket (no matter where you sit), Eagles, $250-300, U2, $150, AC/DC.....$89.50. Still not affordable given that we used to pay like $35 for good seats for these kinds of shows, but at least they keep their highest ticket price in the 2-digit zone!!!

My only complaint is that it's at the Allstate Metal Tinbox where sound goes to die for any good concert. Shitty parking, shitty acoustics but it's not like I have enough scratch to offer them somewhere else to play. They could have easily filled the United Center or, even at that time of year, Toyota Park or whatever they're calling the place in Tinley Park these days.

All of this, although something that pisses me off, will never take away from 2 hours of ear-splitting hard core screeching rock and f'in roll. I really just can't wait for this. I'm sure I'll give a full review when I get home that night. Stay tuned...

20 September 2008

NL Central Division Champs (again)

For the 2nd year in a row, the Chicago Cubs are the NL Central Division Champions.
  • sucks that the tv broadcast had to be on Fox today cuz I was really jonesing hearing some homer announcers on the day we clinched.
  • It was a classic win in that we got relatively far ahead and then almost blew the lead only to close it out hard (Marmol/Wood take 'em down pretty quickly)
  • Fabulous that it was against the stupid Cardinals.
  • Better yet that Milwaukee lost last night and today further putting them in the hole for the Wild Card.
Although I wasn't aware of it, I wasn't surprised that this was the first time we'd gone to the playoffs back to back in 100 years. Seems like there's plenty we haven't done in 100 years.

So now the true Magic Number goes to 11 (that's one more than 10). 11 post season wins = World Series Champions.

MK and I are going tomorrow to what will likely be a full workout for the entire bench, but that won't matter. It's Fan Appreciation Day and frankly, they can skip all the half-inning drawings and just give me a World Series.

So the 6-digit number stays at AC006299 for now. It's like waiting for the odometer to turn over in a '82 Toyota Corolla.

16 September 2008

Yet another sign the apocalypse is upon us...

Following on from my post about being an old fart on the Social Networks, comes this sad report from the world of the Interwebs.

Wha wha what??!!! C'mon, even in 1989 when I was on CompuServe and Prodigy and AOL with my 9" black & white MacPlus square little screen I could get porn. How could this happen?

Maybe it's the newest generation and how they're a bit freer with sex. Or is it considered sex? Could it be that today's youth are just getting more action than us crazy kids in the 80's and 90's were getting?

Let's face it, most kids I see today are permanently welded to their mobile devices texting the fingerprints off their hands, so clearly they aren't online surfing porn. FlashMobs, Facebook events, Evites... could it be that the tools that exist on the Internet are actually getting people to interact more and WITH their clothes on?

Wii, Xbox, PSP's supposedly have kids more "active" and then add in that everyone has a mobile device of some kind and I guess it's not surprised that some of the funky folks who produce porn are starting to lose their zip and attraction. Frankly is there no one that could replace Ginger Lynn, Jenna Jameson, Tara Patrick, Carmen Luvana and Katie Morgan?

Has everything been "done" in porn that there's nothing left to surprise us with? Porn clearly has taken a lead in pushing the leading edge technologies so that they could distribute their products as widely as possible. We honestly can thank porn for VHS, DVD's and HD technology. They pushed the preferred formats (over Beta and others) but is it over, or has it just taken a Roman Holiday?

It's nice to see that people are really just talking to each other again, even if it's hiding behind an electronic curtain. I do fear that the next 10 years will just create more barriers between actual human interaction by allowing us all these ways to cyber-touch each other. But what do I know?

15 September 2008

My disappointment in a special place

On Saturday night, MK, myself, Jon, Michelle, Cheryl and Kelly all headed back to Grape Street & Vine, a very tiny Martini/Piano bar where MK and I celebrated our engagement with 20-something of our closest friends.

Saturday, January 31st, 2004 was our first "regular" date and after a lovely dinner at Ben Pao, we headed off to GS&V for drinks and fun. We had one of the most spectacular nights. The owner, an older lady frequently stopped by our table and found out we were on our first date. The Four Tops were performing (only one original member left) and we were pounding Martini's like they were going out of style. GS&V is a small, let me clarify, it's just slightly bigger than a dorm room at college type of bar, but the place was heaving, everyone partying, and The Four Tops invited MK up on stage to sing a song. To which, she declined.

We went back a few more times during 2004 while dating and then, I asked both my friends and hers to join us at GS&V on Saturday, October 9th to celebrate our Engagement. Of course, MK didn't know she was going to get Engaged on that day, but I did and I was confident enough to throw a freakin' party as I was confident she'd say yes.

Again, another phenominal night. All of our friends pounding Martini's, Arturo (the regular piano guy) banging out tunes all night and we closed the whole place down at 3:00.

Maybe it's partly our fault but MK and I haven't been back since. Not totally sure why but I'd guess that moving to the 'burbs, having a busy life, having a child and just general responsibilities got in the way of us going there until our dear friends Jon and Michelle suggested we do a couples night downtown, (staying overnight at the Hyatt) and just get a little nuts.

After dinner we headed over to GS&V around 9:00. It was quiet but then, it never got crowded until 11:00 on most nights anyway. We sat down and the waitress took our orders. I knew that I wanted the Creamsicle one right off the bat and we all ordered then to be told by the waitress that their credit card machine was down and that we'd have to pay cash for the night. I challenged her a bit as anyone who has ever worked retail knows that if the machine is down, the clearning house you have your contract with provides you with an 800# to call to clear the charges of your customers. It's quite simple, you do that and then when the machine gets fixed, you clear all the charges through. She claimed that they didn't have that service.

I guess what ticked me off the most is that MK checked the reviews of it on Metromix prior to us going and she said there was a review on there from February 2008 that said that their credit card machine was down. So 7 months later and still the same problem??? Very odd. Additionally, when you're most common selling drink is a huge menu of Martini's that cost $10-13 each, how many do you think people will buy in a night without having plastic as their option??

Things went along fine but there was something else odd going on. There was a pipe that ran over the hallway to where the restrooms were. Everytime someone would flush the toilet in the women's restroom, the pipe would begin gushing water out of it into a huge garbage can that they had placed in the middle of the hallway. It was quite the sight. In fact several people got wet as they didn't see it OR someone would flush and the waterfall would start.

The drinks were fine, although my Creamsicle one tasted just like my Orange Whip one (that shouldn't be) and it never really got crowded by 11:00 (although there were more people here).

I guess what is sad is that these are all signs that a business is on it's last legs. Running cash-only means that you LOST your right to take credit cards. This usually means there was some fraud going on. Plus you have the stickers on your door, but then don't take them. Gee, if you advertise you take plastic, you better find a way to do it, or you should be posting a sign that says "CASH ONLY" on the door so I can make that decision BEFORE sitting down and getting comfy.

Arturo who plays the piano there (and has for YEARS!!!) was in classic form as he always is and I know he'll end up on his feet after GS&V closes eventually.

I guess we always hope that places that are significant to us will live on for many years. I know that the restaurant where I proposed is still there as are many places we've enjoyed, but I'm a realist and know that nothing is forever. Well, the memories will be. I'll just conveniently forget this past Saturday night and just remember the other ones.

14 September 2008

36 years, 12 days, Magic number is 7

It's been 36 years and 12 days since the last Cubs no-hitter thrown. I was at that one. September 2nd, 1972, Milt Pappas has a perfect game in play and the 27th batter for the San Diego Padres goes to a 3-2 count and the umpire called a questionable ball to give a walk. Next man up pop's out and an almost perfect game becomes a no-hitter.

Tonight Carlos Zambrano, the man most Cub fans will admit was the most likely candidate to do this, actually did it. The fun is that the Cubs were the road team playing Houston, in Milwaukee thanks to Hurricane Ike. They play a day-night double header tomorrow as well. So yesterday the Cubs put tickets on sale and tonight there was something like 23,000 in attendance who travelled the 90 miles north, across the Cheddar Curtain, to cheer on their Cubbies. Not really fair to Houston but hey, who the hell would be going to Texas right now anyway?

This continues the incredible run that the Cubs have put together this year. The best thing is that Milwaukee dumped a double-header to Philadelphia and were swept all four games by them. This took the Magic Number from 10 to 7 in one night!! Tomorrow could potentially take it down to 5! before a crucial final home series with the Brewers and the Cardinals.

Carlos had all of his stuff tonight. He only threw something like 105 pitches, which, if you've read my rants before about him, is just about where his arm goes to hell and a hand basket so thank god for this. He seemed genuinely overwhelmed in the post-game interview and was pretty much speechless. That's good. Win #14 on the year for him and he did it with class and style.

Milwaukee has got to be just livid. The Cubs basically are getting three extra "home" games, the Phillies just pulled into a tie with them for the Wild Card and the Astros and Cardinals are right behind them all vying for that last post-season place.

13 September 2008

Social Networks and being 42 years old.

I'm lucky enough to be part of something called the "Future's Group" at work. Part of our job is to help stay on top of emerging technologies or ways that we can interact with our respondents as it relates to Market Research. I do love technology and continue to stay relatively an "early adopter" by most standards.

When we started, somehow I was given Social Networking as an area to watch, which, I thought was cool, but clearly the majority of users tend to be much younger than me. But I've quickly come to adopt the habits but I find that staying on top of the "next biggest thing" is getting tougher for me.

I had this moment today where I really felt "old". People are talking about Twitter and although I know what it is, I don't really have a mobile phone that will work with that. But I feel as if I'm starting to lose touch. It really started about 8 years ago when I was promoted into "management" within our company. It's really at that point that you stop getting the invites to the Happy Hours because frankly, employees use those to bitch about management and work.

Most of you know that I tend to be the man about the party when I'm there, but even having that sort of reputation, you truly just stop getting invited. Thus, I've slowly been losing touch with what's hip, happening and new and this bleeds over into this new group that I'm part of and frankly one of the older members of.

It's okay, really. I mean, I never thought I'd be able to keep up blogging (okay, I know I've been slacking as of late), and I really fought Facebook for the longest time and now, I love it. I keep LinkedIn because of professional needs and resources and if I truly had a damn mobile that I loved, well, I'd likely be doing all of this via my mobile.

But I do find the rate at which new technology comes upon us has sped up (most everyone agrees) and as such, being "older" tends to keep me a bit slower on the uptake. Jesus H. Christ on a bike, I've become my DAD!!!

12 September 2008

Reflections on 9/11

Yesterday was of course, the 7th anniversary of the tragic attack on our country and on our soil.

I got into an interesting debate with people at work about when they thought this day will become just like Pearl Harbor Day, which means, "like every other day". I mean, let's face it, it's still very fresh in our minds, thoughts and foreign policy so I'm not saying it SHOULD become like PHD, but it WILL happen.

I referenced even how it only took a week for someone to make a joke about it and make people laugh, so my question is more of "when does this change"? For the record the joke was:
"Gary Condit was relieved as the remains of Chandra Levy were found at Ground Zero."

(Gary was THE news story for weeks prior to 9/11 and this changed all that and STILL didn't help find where Chandra is/was)

We had a large variety of opinions on this but I think the consensus was that it was going to take a generation to pass before that would happen. Much like PHD and the Kennedy assassination(s) they remain important dates in our country's history but they lose the impact and "newsworthiness" except on significant anniversaries.

Hopefully NYC will get off their butts to build a monument on the site but I did mention that there have been other domestic attacks such as Oklahoma City and the Murrah building where people don't remember the date and that it's sort of faded into the fabric of our country. There's a huge monument there now but does anyone remember the date in April when it happened? It was April 19th, 1995 but likely because it was done by an "American" AND it was during the O.J. Simpson trial, people tend to forget, which is sad.

Of course we talked about where we were and for most of us, we were at work at Millward Brown. I always do recall though how the night before I was returning from Detroit where we had just finished our Millward Brown Ryder Cup competition. We were running straight from the golf course to the airport and I can remember Duncan Southgate carrying my clubs while I carried my luggage to the counter. I had all of about 20 minutes to make my flight.

I remember flying through security at Detroit Metro throwing my carry on onto the x-ray machine, running full speed through the terminal to board my American Airlines flight back to Chicago. It was the last flight back. Looking back it's not surprising how the terrorists eased their way through security and were able to do what they did given the ease that I was able to.

For me, I wasn't at work when it all started. In fact, I came in very late and I was in the shower when the first plane hit. I remember walking out of the shower and looking at the TV and wondering what the hell was going on. I had news radio on the entire way to work and just was horrified at what I was hearing. It will never leave me and brings chills to me when I think back on it.

What makes me most angry is that we, as America, wasted an opportunity to remain the leader of the free world. Basically we had EVERY country in the world on our side of this tragedy. But the misguided foray into Iraq has squandered all hope that we'll ever be in that position again. We could have united the world and truly led in a peaceful response, but we didn't. The Hawks were in charge and took full advantage of this situation for their own uses.

"Dead or Alive", "Mission Accomplished", "Axis of Evil". All terms that ruined a chance to take the high road and show the world how humane a free civilization could be. I don't think there was a country out there that would have stopped us if we truly went AFTER Bin Laden. In fact most said we were well within our rights and likely would have backed those efforts. But we shot that right in the foot and I think it'll take that same generational turnover for us to have any sort of chance at making it right again.

11 September 2008

Magic Number at 11, that's one more than 10

So despite the recent poor form of the Cubs, two consecutive wins are a cure-all for what ails you and your 100,000,000 supporters. I have to say that the wins have been less than convincing, but they are still wins and combine that with a Milwaukee loss tonight and the Magic Number is down to 11.

For those of you who have no clue what a Magic Number is, well simply put, any combination of Cubs wins + Milwaukee losses that equal 11 means that the Cubs clinch the NL Central Division Championship and their ticket to the post-season.

But recent performances have every Die-Hard wondering what the stretch run and post season will bring us. Zambrano, Harden & Gaudin needing "rests" because of "dead arms", the somewhat continuous Fukudome hitting slump, and of course, a bullpen that needs drama in every Save opportunity has definitely kept the faint of heart away from watching the 55" TV screens in their homes.

Of course last night (Wednesday) didn't make me feel any better to see Ted Lilly running over Yadier Molina at the plate. Can we really afford to have a starter doing a shoulder block into a guy wearing a mask and pads? Now, in the end, Yadier took the worst of it, but it's just taking too much of a chance with talent we NEED.

But here's my take: The rest of the NL is truly "not good" and as long as the Cubs maintain the best record in the NL, the home advantage is something they haven't really had in the post season (except for 2003 versus the Marlins....D'oh). Even the recent unbelieveable surge by the Astros will likely fall short (my prediction) as Milwaukee does have a good enough team to stay in the Wild Card drivers seat.

But this won't be a walk in the park for the Cubs who have six games left with the Brew Crew, three with the Astros, four with the Mets, and three with the Cardinals. 16 games with only 6 at home. All remaining opponents (except really the Cards) are in a playoff surge. Also the Cubs were told today that the first two games of the Houston series (tomorrow/saturday) have been postponed thanks to Hurricane Ike, which means a double-header on Sunday and a make-up on Monday. BUT this means they come home tonight for a 2-day rest which can only help the "dead arms" and bullpen refresh themselves.

Brian's big concerns with the club:
  • Fukudome's continuing slump - we need the speed and slashing bat in the line-up, let's get a shrink in here now!
  • DeRosa's continuing blazing path - He's quickly become this generation's Mark Grace and I couldn't be happier, but can he continue this unbelieveable path?
  • The Lee-Ramirez "black hole", they continue to struggle at the plate and this was critical in the horrible performance last year versus Arizona. Boys, calm down, you have 7 other capable hitters surrounding you. Just "be the ball".
  • The continued, but well documented before he ever came here, Jekyll & Hyde called Alfonso Soriano. He seems to have kept the low-outside flailing swing in check, but his defense stays suspect and last night he "watched" Lilly running into Molina while standing on 2nd rather than advancing to third where he could have been more valuable. Dude, keep your head in the game!!
  • The latest "scary" performances by Kid K, Kerry Wood. He's gotten his saves, but he's also blown two. He almost did it again tonight. We need that rock solid that we've NOT had in the past two post-season appearances. It's truly been the weakest link in the club and now that we feel we have it solved, we can't show signs of cracking.

Enough. I'm a Cub fan and I'm beating up on the team I love (which is what we do). Frankly, we need to have the Division clinched by Sep 21 (last home game) because then we can relax and either play spoiler for the Mets and relax through the last week prior to the playoffs.

04 September 2008