Friday, December 30, 2005
While doing some research for a baseball article, I looked up the first Major League game I attended. It was 41 years ago, when I was going on 10 and living in the Chicago suburbs. My parents loaded my two brothers and me into the car and started driving. They kept the destination secret until we got within sight of Wrigley Field. I didn’t remember too many details of the game – except for one exciting play. However, thanks to my recollection of that play and the amazing resources of RETROSHEET, today I looked up the details. It was Friday, June 12, 1964. The Cubs hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates. That game, on a sun-drenched Friday afternoon, attracted only 7,525 spectators – only a fraction of what the Cubs are attracting these days. No fewer than five future Hall of Famers played: For Pittsburgh, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski. For the Cubs, Lou Brock, Billy Williams and Ernie Banks. (Also playing was someone who I hope will enter the Hall of Fame soon – Ron Santo.) Anyway, the memorable play occurred in the sixth inning. The Cubs had broken a 0-0 tie with two runs, and their rally continued. With two outs, the Pirates walked Banks intentionally to load the bases and bring the light-hitting Joey Amalfitano to the plate. Amalfitano proceed to line an Elroy Face pitch into the bleachers for a grand slam home run. I was one excited 9 year old! (Fortunately, it was the only grand slam of Amalfitano's nine-homer career, so a few clicks on the Retrosheet site immediately brought the game details to my computer screen.) The Cubs cruised from there for a 7-1 victory, despite getting only four hits all afternoon. Do you remember your first big league baseball game? Share your recollections here.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
I just finished a phone conversation with a 40-year subscriber who said he might cancel his subscription if I ever print a letter like the one published Thursday. To review, Wayne Bainbridge of Bellevue, Iowa, wrote:
The cartoon in the Dec. 19 Telegraph Herald ("Purple Power") showing the Iraqis voting and holding their purple stained index fingers up for all the world too see was awe-inspiring. The only change I would make would be the middle finger stained with red ink and stuck under a blue state Democratic politician's nose.
My caller (who, by the way, identified himself and was polite) said I should have discarded the letter because of the middle finger reference.
He did not accept my explanation that we print a wide range of opinions in the letters section. Some letters are more eloquent and persuasive than others. However, I would rather defend printing an opinion on an important public issue -- such as Iraq -- than reject a letter simply because it was strongly worded or made reference to a vulgar gesture.
The letters section exists as a forum for opinions -- often forcefully worded, and quite opinionated. Let's be thankful that we live in a country where this type of debate occurs freely.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Day in and day out, I deal with the news. We print hundreds -- make that thousands -- of names in the paper. Most of those articles are "good news" items that people ask us to print, such as anniversaries, promotions and announcements. Some are items that provide "publicity" the subject does not welcome or desire.
Overall, very few of those articles involve people I know personally.
Thus, it always catches my attention when I see or hear a story about Father William Wiebler, a former priest from the Davenport diocese who is accused of molesting children in incidents dating to the 1970s and 1980s. Diocesan officials are searching for him after he disappeared from a treatment program and his bakery job in St. Louis.
I knew "Father Bill" when he was our pastor in Ottumwa, Iowa. He was a colorful, controversial and innovative priest who tried to build community. Some liked him; some did not. But even his supporters were puzzled when he left abruptly, and apparently without the bishop's permission, in 1985-86. I was president of the parish council at the time -- and that made my term all the more challenging. Years later, when the allegations from the Quad Cities surfaced, I realized that I did not know the half of it. I wonder to this day whether there were "signs" I missed at the time.
Anyway, I hope officials locate Father Bill and that he gets the help he needs. I also hope he is held accountable for his actions. He is named in at least four civil suits involving molestation allegations; he was a no-show for a recent hearing on one of the lawsuits.
Aware of many cities' trend toward making most (even all) of their communities off-limits to registered sex offenders, I note that William Wiebler's name does not appear on any offender registry. He has not been convicted of anything, so he is free to live wherever he chooses. These get-tough residency laws would not impact him at all.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
It had been a week since I had last gone for a run. So, though the temperature was barely above zero this morning, Ann and I kept our appointment with our friend Dennis to run a few miles and discuss our solutions to the world's problems. Dennis made an excellent choice for a site: The paved trail that winds near Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino and Riverview Park. The trail been snowplowed (I believe the thanks go to the city of Dubuque) and relatively ice-free -- a major safety consideration this time of year. Best of all, the route provided some "up close and personal" views of dozens of bald eagles. For some reason, the eagles today stayed in nearby perches, seemingly undisturbed by our presence. On other occasions, the eagles have not stayed so close. I'd love to say that the bright sunshine and calm winds made me forget about the temperature -- but that was not exactly the case. It was still cold, but I'm glad that I went out to experience the natural beauty of winter in the Dubuque area.
(Photo courtesy of the Telegraph Herald. Dave Kettering photographer)
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Anyway, based on reader Ed Babka's suggestion, I am looking into the Telegraph Herald hosting a Sudoku seminar. The paper in Fort Myers, Fla., scheduled such a session -- and was shocked when about 300 readers showed up. Dubuque area Sudoku players: If the TH set up a seminar, would you show up? (And does anyone know anyone qualified to teach such a class?)
Ed also suggested that we print the Sudoku answers the same day the puzzle appears. Good idea or not? Too much temptation to peek?
Meanwhile, feeling confident, on Sunday evening I pulled out Saturday's TH and started working that edition's five-star puzzle. After 45 minutes or so, I realized that I had made an error. Checking the solution, I saw that the mistake was one of the first "answers" I had entered.
Added to my Christmas list: A large eraser.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Sunday, December 11, 2005
If you looked at Page 9 of your latest edition of the Wisconsin House Rabbit News, you mght have seen our news: We've adopted. Her name is Maddie, a litter-box-trained house rabbit. We adopted her at the urging of our daughter and son-in-law, who have been "parents" of Teaser for more than three years. Maddie doesn't do tricks -- unless you count leaping up into the living room chair in which we're sitting -- but she doesn't bark or require a "walk," either. The Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, based in Madison, works hard to adopt out rabbits -- but also screens its prospective owners. (Somehow, we got through -- thanks to Kate's referral, I imagine.) For more information about the program, visit the web site. Anyway, when things get really slow at NewsConference, I might post an update on Life with Maddie.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
Or are they?
Now we learn that a California college is offering a course where students fabricate news releases and attempt other pranks.
Beldner teaches a St. Mary's College class called "Pranks: Culture jamming as social activism." The class sent out a news release announcing a nonexistent bar to The Associated Press and several San Francisco Bay Area newspapers, including the Contra Costa Times. Apparently the students took additional actions to try to perpetuate the hoax. No media outlet published the information as news, but a Times reporter spent several hours checking out the fictional bar.
The Times quoted Beldner as saying he wanted to teach how to bring issues to the public eye using creative methods. His course syllabus defines "culture jamming" as "a resistance movement to the perceived hegemony of popular culture."
"These are serious-minded pranks," he said. "It's not just about people goofing around."
Austin Long-Scott, who teaches journalism ethics at San Francisco State University, points out that journalists already have their work cut out for them separating fact from fiction. Amen to that.
Beldner and, apparently, the college don't necessarily see it that way.
SF State's Long-Scott compared the hoax to a computer virus. That might be a little extreme, but you get the idea.
I wonder what prospective employers will think about a job applicant whose resume or transcript shows "Pranks: Culture jamming as social activism."
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The Telegraph Herald receives mentions in the national media from time to time. The New York Times, USA Today and the TV networks occasionally cite something in or about the TH. That most often occurs during the run-up to the Iowa Caucuses in presidential election years. However, I believe that for the first time we have been cited in the Mideast news agency Aljazeera.com. The occasion was Aljazeera's story, "U.S. media hides evidence of torture." The TH was cited as one of the "few" new organizations that carried a story on the American Civil Liberties Union on prisoner abuse and torture in the Mideast. All we did was publish the story provided by The Associated Press about the report. It ran March 26 on Page 5D. According to Aljazeera, we were one of the "5 percent" to do so. Somehow, I doubt that. (Caution: If you choose to go to Aljazeera.com, be advised that it does display photos some folks will find disturbing.)
Monday, December 05, 2005
Of course, close to our hearts is the Santa’s Helper program, which essentially “cuts out the middleman” to help people who live right here in Dubuque and the tri-state area. Whether it’s Santa’s Helper or some other worthwhile program, we hope you will consider digging a little deeper this holiday season.
Friday, December 02, 2005
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I'm reminded of the old tale of the small-town editorial writer, strapped for subject matter, who clipped out a NY Times editorial and sent it to his composing room for typesetting. (This was in the Linotype days.) Before he gave it to the typesetter, however, he made one change. He jotted at the top of the copy, "What does the NY Times mean by this?!"
In the early days of newspapers, reprinting news clipped from other papers was a common and cooperative practice. (That's why they referred to them as "exchange papers." They exchanged subscriptions and exchanged news.) In a way, the practice continues today -- just without permission: You hear it virtually every morning on radio newscasts in Dubuque. But that's another blog.
Anyway, the columnist and I are discussing appropriate response to the liberal use of the column that originally appeared in the TH. Any suggestions?
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The Telegraph Herald this week is marking a milestone of sorts. But we wish it weren’t necessary.
It would not be necessary if every child were sure to have a gift under the tree or a decent coat or gloves to wear to school.
It would not be necessary if all families had a roof over their heads.
It would not be necessary if folks had the money to cover their heating bills this winter.
Indeed, if there were no needy people in the community, there would be no need for the Santa’s Helper program. This is the 20th holiday season for Santa’s Helper, which is presented by the TH in cooperation with nine tri-state social service agencies.
Our program is simple: The TH shares the real-life stories of some our neighbors who could use a little help, details what that help might involve – payment of a utility bill, or food, or clothing, for example – and encourages you to contact the sponsoring agency, which has verified the needs as genuine.
Santa’s Helper is not intended to compete with the several other charitable agencies and programs that also operate in the area. Unlike most other programs, however, Santa’s Helper does not necessarily involve direct financial donations. In most cases, assistance may come in the form of merchandise, clothing or food – or gift certificates earmarked for those items. Donors might choose to cover one month’s utility bill for a family, or to help with a month’s bill for prescription medication. It is entirely up to the donor and the sponsoring agencies.
At the TH, reporter Erik Hogstrom does double-duty. Not only does he serve as our liaison with the Santa’s Helper agencies, he also takes the lead in coordinating the newsroom’s “sponsorship” of a Santa’s Helper family.
Erik says that delivering those gifts, on behalf of his newsroom colleagues, is a personal highlight of his year. If your family or office is looking for a new twist on the traditional gift exchange, here is a suggestion: Instead of trading gifts among yourselves, consider changing things up and putting those gifts toward a local family that could use a boost this time of year.
Santa’s Helper won’t eliminate poverty in our time. There will always be needs. But it is a small step toward bringing some smiles to the faces of children – and their parents – this holiday season.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Friday, November 25, 2005
A Cooper Family tradition (at least since 1997) is to start each Thanksgiving with the Turkey Trot at Wahlert High School. Parents, children, in-laws and even a grandparent have entered the 2.5- or 7.5-mile events. (One Thanksgiving, my father-in-law -- in his late 60s and a several years removed from heart bypass surgery -- ran and walked the 2.5-mile course. He survived.) On Thursday, the family recorded a couple of second places, a couple of thirds and a couple out of the money. (My son-in-law would have improved on his third place had there be a course marshal present at a criticial intersection; he missed the turn and wound up running an extra half-mile or mile.) Anyway, what will make Turkey Trot 2005 memorable for us was the weather. The temperature was 17, and a strong and steady wind put wind chills into the below-zero range. The icy crosswind, which fought us all but a one mile of the 7.5-mile course, cut right through us. About the only positive aspects were that it was sunny and there was no preciptation during the race. I've run hundreds of races over the years now, and I don't recall competing in conditions as brutal as those of yesterday. (At the other extreme, there was the Moonlight Chase near the Quad Cities in July 2001, when at 9 p.m. the temperature lingered in the 90s.) If you are a runner, what were the toughest conditions in whch you competed? Photo (c) 2005 Telegraph Herald. Posted with permission.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Tuesday's front page of the Telegraph Herald showed people camped outside Dubuque's Best Best store -- prepared to wait hours and hours -- just for the opportunity to buy the newest version of Microsoft's video gaming system Xbox. I'm confident that it was happening outside stores all across the U.S. It reminded me of what I observed in Russia 15 years ago. Only, then and there, the people lining up outside the stores were hoping to buy bread. And we wonder why people in certain parts of the world resent Americans? (Photo (c) Telegraph Herald, 2005. Republication or posting without permission prohibited.)
Monday, November 21, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
The Envision program -- or Envis10n, if you follow the logo -- is in the home stretch. This community visioning process, which started in July, has as its goal to identify (based on citizen suggestions) 10 "great ideas" for the future of the Dubuque area. On Thursday, I was among the 300-some volunteers who in various sessions voted on which of the 100 top ideas (initially, there were more than 2,000) should be kept among the final 30 suggestions. We convened in Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino's meeting room, where Vernon Research Group conducted a series of meetings. Each participant had a hand-held device -- like an oversized TV remote -- to record his or her choices. Our 1 p.m. group had 60 participants. The 100 ideas were divided randomly into 20 groups. For each group of five, volunteers got to vote for one idea. To make the process statistically valid, the ideas were reshuffled and we did it again. The ideas ranged from the relatively modest (24-hour child care facility, for example) to the grandiose (monorail service between Dubuque and Chicago or Quad Cities). After the volunteers' 30 favorite ideas are identified early next week, the selection committee will go back and pick the final 10. When the list is release, the Telegraph Herald will report it. Even if none of the 10 ever comes to pass -- not likely, given this city's reputation for getting things done -- I believe that this process has encouraged more of us to keep looking ahead and "thinking big."
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
This will be the last installment of my Nashville "travelogue" (I promise!) The second (and final) night of our weekend in Music City included a stop at B.B. King's club, which Saturday night hosted a Sam Cooke tribute to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame. Among the performers were Bobby Hebb, who in 1966 took "Sunny" to the top of the charts. Also on the card was Billy Swan, whose "I Can Help" reached No. 1 in 1974 ( "It would sure do me good to do you good ..."). However, neither performed his pop hit. The show was all about Sam Cooke (pictured), and they performed only Cooke compositions. Nearly 41 years after his death, he is still celebrated. They had plenty of great songs to perform. What is your favorite Sam Cooke composition?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
There is something special about hearing a hit song performed by the composer (rather than the performer on the single). At The Bluebird Café near Nashville on Friday night, I had the experience of hearing P.F. Sloan, (pictured) one of the great songwriters of the 1960s, perform his protest song, “Eve of Destruction,” which Barry McGuire took to No. 1 on the charts. Sloan also wrote several hits for The Grass Roots and The Turtles. Now 60 years old, Sloan played acoustic guitar and harmonica and gave an emotional vocal rendition of “Eve of Destruction.” Actually, the entire event was a night of original compositions. As it regularly does, The Bluebird brought together four singer-songwriters to perform “in the round.” Joining Sloan were Don Henry, who was part of the “Freedom Sings” troupe that performed in Dubuque in April 2004; Gary Nicholson; and Russell Smith, of the The Amazing Rhythm Aces (”Third Rate Romance, Low Rent Rendezvous”). A great and memorable evening!
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Objective:To find a position within a company in my particular field.
Thanks. That narrows it down. But could you be more specific?
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Yes, I remember 1965. It was the year The Beatles released their "Rubber Soul" album. I've listened to Rubber Soul off and on for four decades, so I was intrigued to hear that contemporary artists -- people who weren't yet born in 1965 -- had re-recorded "Rubber Soul" with their own interpretation of the songs. It's called "This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to The Beatles' Rubber Soul." I had never heard of the Cowboy Junkies or any of the three Bens on the disc -- Lee, Harper and Kweller. I'm no music critic, but I will say that this 50-something Beatles fan loved the concept and liked most of the tracks. Some songs were faithful to the original -- which sort of seemed contrary to the idea -- and other tracks were barely recognizable as the cover of a Beatles song. My favorites: Ben Harper's reggae twist to "Michelle," Rhett Miller's "Girl" and "I'm Looking Through You" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Least favorite: "What Goes On" by Sufjan Stevens, who -- let's face it -- was stuck with the worst song on the album. This CD won't go platinum, but for a Beatles fan interested in a change of pace, it's worth the purchase.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday night, Paul McCartney rocked Omaha's arena. I was lucky enough to be there, in the 15th row on the main floor. From the opening ("Magical Mystery Tour") to the second encore ("Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" and "The End") three hours later, the former Beatle was on top of his game. (One possible exception was a muffed lyric in "Penny Lane." Nobody minded.) Paul McCartney is 63 years old but exudes the energy of a much younger man. He has been a hit with American audiences for more than 40 years. On the drive east this morning, I asked my nearly 21-year-old daughter, who also attended the show, "What singer or band of your generation do you think you'll be wanting to go see 30 or 40 years from now?" That she could not come up with an answer speaks to a) her sleep-deprived condition at the time, or b) the unparalled popularity and talent of The Beatles (especially McCartney). Anyone have any predictions as to who will be a star attraction in 2035 or 2040?
Saturday, October 29, 2005
The other day, a TV ad for a car flashed a half-screen of disclaimer. Even if a viewer taped the commercial and "paused" the screen, the type is still too small to make out.
Why do these corporations even bother? It's probably done upon the advice of the Legal Department or some government regulation. (I'd love to see the CEO of one of these outfits on the witness stand and challenged to read one of his/her disclaimers while it flashed on the TV screen.)
If these companies are doing it because the government says so, perhaps the same government could require that text be a certain size and that announcers must speak at a rate no faster than X words per minute.
In the newspaper industry -- in Iowa, at least -- the publication of "Legal Notices" specifies that the type must be a certain size.
Otherwise, how about just requiring this disclaimer, spoken slowly or in type large enough for human eyes to see: "Buyer, beware!"
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Saturday, October 22, 2005
More than ever, people have access to the Internet and e-mail. That, plus computers' "copy and paste" function, has made it easier than ever for people to plagiarize letters to the editor. The "author" goes to a special-interest web site or blog, copies and paste text with which they agree, slap on their own names, and send it into the local paper. It is some comfort to know that the same technology that makes it possible for authors to cheat makes it easier for us to catch cheaters. We intercepted two such letters this past week, and I let the "authors" know about it. One author replied indignantly and demanded to know why I would make such an accusation. I responded with the link showing the exact letter had appeared in another newspaper five days before I received "his" letter. For some reason, I didn't hear back from him. The other author claimed to not know that it was against the rules to take someone else's work and put his own name on it. However, he was apologetic -- especially when I provided a link showing that, not only was his letter plagiarized, it was inaccurate. I wonder if these guys got through school doing the same thing.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
A younger man who, like me, is a Chicago Cubs fan, stopped me with a question the other evening. He was not born when the Cubs collapsed in 1969, and he was only in diapers in 1984 when the Cubs lost three straight to San Diego to kick away the National League pennant. Thus, 2003 is his only severely negative experience. He asked: "Is it OK for a Cubs fan to root for the White Sox?" Now that the Sox are the American League Champions, the question takes on greater importance. Does one betray his or her North Side allegiance by hoping the South Siders beat the Astros or Cardinals in the 2005 World Series? It seems to me that Sox fans have more animosity toward the Cubs than vice versa. It probably has to do with the fact -- borne out of attendance figures, paraphernalia sales, etc. -- that the Sox always trail the Cubs in popularity. Anyway, I don't think I am a turncoat, but I do hope that the White Sox go all the way. Then, maybe next year, 100 years after their one and only "Subway Series," the Cubs and White Sox will stage a renewal in the World Series -- and the Cubs will prevail. Until then, Go Sox!
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Friday, October 14, 2005
Red Faber pitched for the Chicago White Sox for 20 years (1914-33) and earned a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A career highlight was winning a record three World Series games in 1917 -- the last time the White Sox won it all. Faber was born in Cascade, Iowa, and lived in Cascade and Dubuque, Iowa. For the past three years, in my "spare time," I've been writing the first full biography of Faber; the project is under contract with McFarland Publishers of Jefferson, N.C., one of the leading publishers of baseball titles. (Photo courtesy Tri-County Historical Society, Cascade, Iowa.)