Friday, December 30, 2005

Hot Stove memories

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

Is this March?

After cautiously padding along on icy sidewalks during my recently holiday-season runs, I enjoyed a great change of pace Tuesday, for two reasons. I was in a rural setting -- no stoplights or motorists rolling past stopsigns and through crosswalks, oblivious to pedestrians -- and the temperature was in the 50s. I was able to forego the sweat pants and run in shorts. The day had a late-March feel to it. I'm sure winter will be "back" soon enough, but a preview of spring gives hope that this will not be an endless winter.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Peace (and quiet)

Christmas 2005 was pretty uneventful. Not like the year when the furnace broke down, and we wore winter jackets and gloves while opening presents and waiting for the repairman (at holiday premium) to arrive. The closest we came to a malfunction today was when, due to a mis-labeling of a gift, Ellen opened a nice package of men's boxer shorts. It was a great day to relax with family, go out for our traditional Christmas run and then gather around the TV to watch the Bears hold off the feisty Packers on the gridiron. A few of us also found time for naps, Sudoku and digging into some long-neglected paperwork. The pace will pick up around here soon enough. For today, it was a chance to enjoy each other's company.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wide range of opinions

The letters section in the Telegraph Herald, like most newspapers, is one of the best-read parts of the paper. The letters can be controversial -- and so can be the decision whether to print them.

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

Father Bill, call home

UPDATE: Father Bill was located in University City, Mo. Unfortunately, Davenport Diocese officials are tight-lipped about details about his address or place of employment, according to an Associated Press Report.

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

Run with the eagles

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

A blog about glogg

On Dec. 6, I posted a comment about the Telegraph Herald showing on Now, the TH is part of Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day web feature. Why? A year ago, we used the word glogg in two news briefs about refreshments at an art gallery event. Glogg, by the way, is defined as "hot spiced wine and liquor punch served in Scandinavian countries as a Christmas drink." Thanks to ex-Dubuquer David Klavitter , who was closely followed by my daughter Ellen, for calling my attention to the TH's fame in "Word of the Day."

Sudoku seminar?

A highlight of my weekend -- besides enjoying TH reporter Matt Kittle's performance as the narrator in the Grand's production of "A Christmas Story" -- was solving two five-star Sudoku puzzles (Friday and Sunday's). How that happened, I'm not sure. Until now, I have struggled complete three-star puzzles. Perhaps some of those Sudoku tips I reviewed last week lodged in my brain. Or maybe the puzzle was mis-labeled and it was only a two-star.

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

A shocking development!

If you read my post of Saturday, you know that today was the day I intended to go in and quit my job because I had received notification that I had won ONE MILLION DOLLARS in Netherlands lottery that I hadn't even entered. Well, I didn't quit. Seems that this lottery operation was not exactly all it was advertised to be. Before I can get my prize, I need to give the sponsors just a few bits of personal information (bank and credit card account numbers). No big deal, right? But here's the bad part: They deduct a processing fee from my prize money. You'd think that an outfit giving away a million bucks could afford to absorb those costs! Anyway, I thought I'd better hang onto my job -- at least long enough to find out how much I will clear.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

We've adopted!

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

Advance notice of my resignation

I might as well announce it here and now. On Monday, I’m going into the office to quit my job. I don’t need a paycheck anymore. That’s because I received an e-mail from EINDHOVEN LOTTO in The Netherlands informing me that “a fortnight ago” my lucky number (778) was drawn and I have been “approved for payment” of ONE MILLION DOLLARS. At first, I was suspicious. After all, I buy a lottery ticket about annually -- and that's in Iowa, not The Netherlands. However, apparently anticipating my question, the good folks at the lottery explained: “All participants were selected through a random computer ballot system drawn from 91,000 names of e-mail users around the world.” OK, but why? Turns out that by giving away millions of dollars, the sponsors believe they will “promote the use of internet thereby increasing the market share of computer soft wears.” Brilliant! Just when use of the Internet was tapering off, they came up with a way to reverse the trend. Anyway, all I have to do now is send them an e-mail – another way to promote the Internet. I'm sure all the information they will want will be my mailing address, so they can send my money right away. And who says you can’t get something for nothing? Now, my only dilemma is whether I should I give the full two weeks' notice.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Next semester, Computer Virus Design 101?

More than one-third of the corrections in the Telegraph Herald are just to straighten out information that was incorrect from the source. The news release or e-mail notice has an incorrect date or time for an event, or omits some names, or something along that line. You'd think -- at least I'd think -- that they'd have everything letter-perfect when they turn in information about their own organization. But it happens, and when it happens, they are honest mistakes.
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

Historical perspective

It's human nature (or just American nature?) to magnify events that are more recent and more immediate to our own experiences. CBS News got caught up in that the other night, when a reporter referred to Hurricane Katrina as the "deadliest" hurricane ever. With their critics and media reviews hanging on every word, CBS soon was tagged with getting it wrong. One organization, called the Free Market Project, issued a report pointing out that other hurricanes, many years ago, claimed more lives than did Katrina. In 1900, for example, the Galveston hurricane killed at least 8,000 and is blamed for up to 12,000 deaths. Katrina was monumental and devastating, but it was not the deadliest. Fair enough. CBS got a little carried away with the adjectives and missed the call. This one they can't blame on Dan Rather.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dubious distinction for the TH?

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 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, be advised that it does display photos some folks will find disturbing.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Can you dig a little deeper?

Sunday’s Telegraph Herald carried a report on how charities are suffering due to donor “fatigue,” where people are running short of money (or compassion?) for the needy. With all the appeals the past year and a half — hurricanes, tsunami, hurricanes, earthquakes — even those agencies short of donations are understanding. However, can we take another look — into our pocketbooks and our hearts — to help those who help the needy?
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

They needed a study for THAT?

James Elfers, a member of the Society of American Baseball Research, called our attention to the December issue of Wired magazine. He writes: "Page 56 includes has an interesting summation of a study from the journal Academic Emergency Medicine. In short, there was a significant DECREASE in attendance at emergency rooms and psychiatric clinics for men in New York City during the 2000 World Series. (In case you don't remember or don't care, that World Series was an all-New York affair: Yankees vs. Mets.) "However, there was a significant INCREASE in the number of emergency room and psychiatric clinic visits by women during the same time. Apparently the World Series is healthy for guys but unhealthy for women." The researchers saw similar patterns during other major sporting events. If you can understand all the statistical analysis -- I followed some of it -- check out the abstract of the article. Guys, are you surprised by that?