Monday, October 31, 2005

When they're 64?

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

Disclaimers: Reading the fine print

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

Sox victory? I just couldn't see it

I tried. I tried really hard. But I could not stay awake for the conclusion of World Series Game 3 Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. The White Sox prevailed in 14 innings, 7-5, in the longest World Series contest ever. Somewhere around the 12th inning -- or was it the 13th? -- I moved in an out of consciousness. I remember the TV screen showing the ballpark's clock move to 1 a.m. I was asleep for Chicago's sixth run but awoke momentarily after the White Sox pushed ahead their seventh and final run. When I awoke again -- I have no idea what the time was -- the FOX station was showing an "infomercial." Sure, no one can predict when a baseball game is going to last five hours, but when the TV network pushes back the first pitch to nearly 8 p.m., with all its pre-game drivel, it's a virtual lock that it will be a late night. It could be a close call whether I'll even try to stay up for Game 4 tonight -- or simply fire up the VCR.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Foundation of our community

My Community Interaction opportunity of the day was the annual luncheon of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. The meeting room at the Diamond Jo was teeming with news sources and civic leaders. I observed five of our seven city council members; Mayor Duggan and Pat Cline might have been in attendance, but I didn't see them. I am pleased to note that no more than three council members sat at the same table, thus avoiding a quorom and an icky collision with Open Meetings law. Mayoral candidates Buol and Markham selected separate tables. Anyway, a good time was had by all -- especially the grant recipients and special honorees A.Y. McDonald Manufacturing, Leo McCarthy and Norma Denlinger. The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque is only three years old, but its achievements have been remarkable. Its assets have grown from Zero to $3.8 million. It's yet another Dubuque success story.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Name a star, or be a star?

A local radio station is again carrying national commercials for International Star Registry. It's an Illinois-based outfit that accepts your money and writes into its books a name you have given to a star someplace in the heavens. And all for as little as $54! (Shipping and handling not included.) I'm sure that some people consider this a great gift option for that hard-to-buy-for person. The web site carries a couple of fine-print disclaimers: "International Star Registry star naming is not recognized by the scientific community," and "Your star’s name is reserved in Internatnal Star Registry records only." (The typo is theirs, not mine.) Bottom line: This star-naming bit doesn't mean a thing to anybody but you and the company keeping the record (and your money). What's next? Naming drops in the ocean? Anyway, here is my suggestion: Instead of naming a star, why not BE a star? If you have $54 to spend on a gift and would REALLY like to honor a friend or relative, send the money to the American Red Cross or other legitimate disaster relief agency. Do it in that person's name. Then send that someone a note letting him or her know about it. Your money will do much more good in disaster areas than in the star registry's bank account.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Can you spell 'plagiarism'?

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

How I won in the lottery

Yes, I was a winner in the Powerball lottery on Wednesday. The $340 million jackpot went to someone else, but what would I have done with $340 million anyway? I threw in with a couple of dozen other folks in the newsroom and, sure enough, we had a partial winner. My take comes to 26 cents. And that's before taxes.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Go Sox?

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

An hour on the run

It's mid-October, and the leaves are turning color in the Dubuque area. The best fall colors are yet to come, most likely, but there could be no improvement upon Saturday's weather if you were in the mood for a long run. A cool, clear, calm morning provided perfect conditions and Dubuque County's Heritage Trail ( provided a picturesque setting. I managed eight miles along the converted railroad right-of-way -- four miles from Heritage Pond to Durango and four miles back in a steady 63 minutes. That's a long run for me -- and my back is reminding me of that -- but it goes quickly. There won't be many weekend mornings like this before the snow flies.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Biographical subject: Red Faber

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.)

Let the interviews begin

Two opponents for Dubuque City Council -- at-large candidates Dan Nicholson and Ric Jones -- stopped in for a conversation with the TH Editorial Board this afternoon. (There were separate meetings -- not a debate.) I've participated in these interviews -- for offices ranging from school board to the White House -- for nearly a quarter-century now. There are always candidates some seeking their 15 minutes of fame, and the voters usually dispatch them decisively. Yet I continue to be impressed by -- and thankful for -- the men and women who offer themselves for public service. That's especially the case with school board (no pay) and city council (little pay) service in Dubuque. It takes a special person to carry out the responsibilities -- including the public scrutiny and criticism. Think it's easy being an elected official? Try running for office sometime.