Monday, June 30, 2008

Mid-year accounting

Whoever had 387.37 miles in the office pool, please step up and claim your winnings.

At the midway point in 2008, my running log states that I have run that number of miles so far this calendar year. Considering the rough winter, which precluded running on many days, and a month lost due to an uncooperative back, I'm pleased with that figure.

In 2007, with months of inactivity due to knee problems, I managed 743 miles.

Vote early and often

I'm on the Chicago Cubs e-mail list, and today they sent an appeal to get me (and several thousand others) to submit a vote for Kosuke Fukudome to make the National League All-Star team. And vote again. And again.

OK, I had a couple of minutes to spare. And, though I am not convinced that Fukudome, a star from Japan who came to the US this season, is playing well enough to start the All-Star game July 15, I also don't know who is playing better. So I accessed the ballot.

So, while voting for a guy who a year ago I had never heard of, I looked at the other names on the outfielder list. They included Felix Pie, of the Cubs organization. No all-star vote here. Not only is Felix not with the Chicago Cubs, he was demoted from the Cubs' top farm team all the way to Class A, where he is to get special attention for his hitting.

Also on the ballot is Jim Edmonds, listed as a member of the San Diego Padres. Not only is Edmonds no longer with the Padres, that team fired him several weeks ago. The Cubs picked up the former Gold Glove winner (with the Cardinals), and he has been performing well.

The way this All-Star system works, with fans voting their loyalties if not their heads, some injustices occur. Plus, the system makes it easy for fans to vote time after time after time, to a maximum of 25 times. (I voted twice. I swear that's all.)

At least now the fans can't complain as they did decades ago when players voted their peers onto the squads.

If you want to vote, do it by 10:59 pm CDT Wednesday, July 2.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Adam's Ladder

We attended a family reunion last Saturday (June 21) in suburban St. Louis, where my nephew Adam entertained the assemblage with his determined effort to build a ladder.

I don't know whether Adam's ultimate goal was to build the ladder or to get into the tree by the picnic pavilion. However, with an assist from my Uncle Bob, he accomplished both.

You'd never guess that Adam is the son of a civil engineer, would you?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Barging in

For the past 2½ weeks, Dubuque has had a conversation piece along its beautiful riverfront -- a wrecked barge lodged against the Julien Dubuque Bridge.

The evening of June 9, some barges broke loose from their towboat and one rammed into the bridge. The span was closed for about 18 hours, until inspectors gave it the all-clear for vehicular traffic.

And the barge remains, apparently until river levels recede enough to allow its removal. It gives folks using the River Walk something to view and discuss.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A journalism career requires patient partner

Here is the column I foisted upon shared with Telegraph Herald readers this morning. You could have read it on the TH web site, but I needed a blog post, so it's copied here.

One day a few years ago, a woman, in seriousness, asked my wife, “What’s it like being married to someone famous?”

Her reply: “If I’m ever married to someone famous, I’ll let you know.”

She left it at that, but, setting aside the “famous” part, she could have offered a more expansive answer to “What’s it like?” What’s it like being married to the editor of a community newspaper?

It’s not always fun.

It’s standing by patiently at a public event while a subscriber button-holes the editor on topics ranging from international affairs to delivery service to the comics selection.

It’s uprooting family from one community to another in the interest of career advancement in journalism. After all, precious few communities have more than one newspaper, so advancement often involves relocation.

It’s deflecting efforts by folks who think, if the editor is absent, the spouse should debate a newsroom decision or explain newspaper policy.

It’s planning meals around a husband and father who has yet to accurately predict when he will actually arrive home for supper.

It’s having restful slumber interrupted occasionally by phone calls from newsroom colleagues relating a news development, such as a major fire, or an internal issue, such as a power outage affecting the newspaper office.

It’s spending breakfast time and other leisure moments with someone who can’t read the paper without holding a pen and circling this or underlining that.

It’s all that. I’m not saying that being the spouse of an editor has more headaches or challenges than any other occupation. It’s not like being the spouse of a police officer, firefighter or soldier, who may or may not survive the day, or a doctor, whose life revolves around “on call” hours and emergency summons to the hospital.

Plus, there are many interesting and fun aspects that are associated with the editor’s occupation. (That’s a column for another day.)

What I am saying is that a married journalist, if he or she wants to stay a married journalist, needs a patient, understanding and supportive spouse — one who understands that journalism is an unpredictable field of endeavor involving few short days.

I have been blessed to be married to someone possessing that patience, understanding and support.

I raise the topic because it was 30 years ago today when she said “I do.”

On that steamy Saturday afternoon in West Central Illinois, Ann probably did not realize what it would be like to be married to a newspaper editor. She couldn’t have anticipated it all; even I didn’t know what it would be like.

But I thank God she has stayed along for what has been a most interesting and challenging ride.

Certainly, this editor is by no means famous. But he is extremely fortunate.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

St. Louis weekend

We spent most of the weekend in and around St. Louis, starting with a reunion of my late mother's family. Most of the clan still resides around St. Louis (and, in the case of my siblings, Omaha). Our younger son, who attends St. Louis University and who has a summer internship is on campus, joined Madame X and me in representing the Dubuque Coopers.

It took longer to set up this picture than actually shoot it.
Pat's side of the family, including Dad and his friend Beverly.

Yours truly and siblings.
Dinner Saturday night was at the famous Hill district of St. Louis. We ate Italian, of course! Mama Campisi's. I recommend it.

Desert was at another St. Louis landmark, Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard stand. It has an interesting history. The business started in 1929 in Florida, but hit STL the next year. The stand pictured opened in 1941 along what was along the famed Route 66.

When I drove up and saw the immense crowd lined up at the windows, I figured we'd be there an hour. No way. The line moved incredibly quickly. I selected an Oreo Concrete, which tasted remarkably like a Blizzard, except it didn't have the trademark name and was made (as are all items there) with frozen custard.

Sunday morning's activities included Church preceded by a half-hour run during which Madame X touched the base of the Gateway Arch (wikimedia photo) and inspected the swollen Mississippi. However, the flooding in the region was bad, but not as bad an initially feared (thanks to some levee breaks upstream).

I like St. Louis. Despite the Cardinals, I like St. Louis.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hall of Famers

When I hear the phrase Hall of Fame these days, I think of Red Faber, Ray Schalk and Cooperstown.

However, instead of baseball, business was the Hall of Fame topic Thursday night, when I attended the induction banquet for the Junior Achievement of the Tri-States.

Inductees were Sister Catherine Dunn, retired president of Clarke College; attorney and community volunteer/leader Brian Kane; and the late Dick Wertzberger, aka "Mr. Dubuque."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You've got mail!

On National Public Radio this morning, I heard a report about business e-mail -- specifically the challenges associated with archiving, retrieving and "producing" electronic communication in the face of lawsuits.

Not only is it incredibly expensive to process this communication -- sometimes it's cheaper to settle out of court than go to the expense of gathering all the documents -- the e-mails often include communications that are personal, unprofessional and-or embarrassing to individuals and their employers.

Anyway, the timing of the report (part of a series) was interesting, not that I've been sued, but because just last evening I noticed that my "sent" folder at work had grown a bit large.

With my job, I receive and send lots of e-mail. Lots and lots of e-mail. Some days, it seems, the process consumes my entire day. (It's not that bad, but close.) Press releases. Requests for coverage. Complaints about a comic strip, a headline or the TV section. Letters to the editor. Op-ed submissions from special-interest groups. And, of course, offers for replica watches and ways to enhance my manhood. And those are the messages that get past our Spam filter.

A good share of the e-mails I receive are legitimate but mis-directed. People don't know who to send items to (or they know, but think that by sending them to the editor they will get better attention). So I click 'forward' and send them on to the proper colleague. That adds to the total in my 'sent' folder. I hold onto them for a while, just to verify what I sent.

Anyway, last evening I noticed that my Sent folder had 4,271 transmissions. I hadn't cleared it out since Labor Day. Ouch.

When I deleted everything from Sept. 5, 2007, through April 30, 2008 -- 240 days -- I cleared 3,244 messages. That figures out to be roughly 13.5 messages a day -- every day, including weekends, vacations, days out of the office, etc., and not including messages sent from home or via Blackberry.

Well, 13.5 messages doesn't sound so bad. Does it? Send me an e-mail and let me know what you think!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dr. Kate!

Thursday was a special day for our family. Our daughter Kate gave the defense of her graduate research and cleared the final hurdle of securing her PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Her field is cellular and molecular biology, and she spent nearly six years (with a little time off for motherhood) researching in the lab of Anna Huttenlocher (pictured).

The process opened with Kate giving a 50-minute PowerPoint presentation to her review committee and anyone else who wanted to show up. Others from her lab, some family members (including yours truly) and other interested parties attended the public portion of the event. Roughly 25-30 were on hand.

I understood hardly a word of what she was describing. After all, I barely passed biology in high school. If you want to take a crack at it, here is a summary of one research paper. Even though I had no idea what she was talking about, I was quite proud nonetheless.

After that, she met privately with committee members, who asked several questions, and then waited outside the room while they decided whether she met the requirements for her doctorate. The verdict: She passed!

Anna hosted an informal pizza-and-champagne luncheon for Kate in UW beautiful new science building. Claire enjoyed the pizza but took a pass on the champagne.

With her PhD in hand, Kate and family will be moving to Dubuque, where she will be on the biology faculty at Loras College.

Congratulations, Kate!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eliot Asinof (1919-2008)

Eliot Asinof, the writer whose book Eight Men Out shed new light on baseball's Black Sox Scandal, died this week.

The New York Times obituary details his various achievements in the literary world. Eight Men Out (1963), on the gambler-tainted 1919 World Series, stood as his most famous work.

Years after that 1963 book, Asinof wrote Bleeding Between the Lines, about the complications related to plans for a TV program about the scandal, in which White Sox players conspired with gamblers to lose the World Series.

Asinof revealed more about his research for Eight Men Out. Two White Sox (and "Clean Sox") Asinof contacted were of special interest to me. The subject of my first biography, Red Faber, who did not play in the series due to illness and injury, cooperated with Asinof. The subject of my next book, Ray Schalk, threw Asinof out of his office and on at least one occasion heckled the author during a panel discussion about the scandal.


I got through the third annual Grandview Gallop four-miler today without the assistance of any EMTs.

My time was 28:08. (Don't believe it if you see a slower time in the paper, as race officials had some trouble straightening out the results.) That was good enough to win my 50-54 age group, though well off the 26:43 I ran to win the group two years ago. A year ago, coming off a winter of inactivity due to knee problems, and demonstrating poor strategy, I ran 28:19 for second place.

If you care for any details, read on. Otherwise, this is a good place to stop.

Knowing that I am not in top shape, and painfully recalling paying the price for starting too quickly last year, I convinced myself to take it easy in the first mile. I passed the mile marker in 7:05 (after giving up about 5 seconds to reach the starting line) -- probably a little fast, considering there is a little uphill in there, but FAR better than the 6:47 I turned last year.

I dropped off that pace in the second mile (7:16). But it didn't feel that bad -- probably because I was passing a few other runners. Better for the mind to pass than to be passed.

I managed to pick it up somewhat in Mile 3 (7:10), and entering the last mile I found myself closely trailing a couple of guys who had been side-by-side. They appeared to be in my age group (yes, kids, I mean old).

With about 1,200 yards to go, I passed them both -- squeezed between them, actually, in a minor breach of running etiquette. I figured I'd better stay up-tempo for a while to break contact with them. That worked, and I managed to pass a few others in the final 500 yards or so, for a final mile of 6:37.

This race was a decent test for me, not only for my conditioning but for my competitive edge. I haven't run the last half of a race faster than the first (14:41-13:47) in quite a while. So that tells me I had something left in the tank, and something to build upon while training for the Labor Day 5K.

First, however, I'll have to see if I can get out of bed in the morning!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Gallop gasp

The third annual Grandview Gallop is in Dubuque one week from today. It's a four-mile race co-sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Running Association, of which I am a member, the Telegraph Herald, where I am employed, and several other businesses.

Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to win my age group. Last year, coming off several months' layoff, I felt fortunate to finish second (in a slower time). This year? Right now, I'm feeling that I'll be fortunate to finish! Well, it shouldn't be that bad ..

I'm feeling the effects of a month of lost training (mid-April to mid-May) due to injury and, of course, Father Time. Especially so after running a rare track workout this morning -- three one-mile intervals at what I thought would be a reasonable "race pace." Considering that I had to work to get within a couple of seconds of my goal time of 7 minutes, I could be in some difficulty next Saturday.

I guess I'll just have to hope that running with others and the adrenaline of competition will carry me through at the Gallop.

Just in case, anybody know the number for 9-1-1?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bo Diddley (1928-2008)

Rock music pioneer Bo Diddley died today at age 79. His music influenced later stars, including Buddy Holly, Little Richard and even Elvis Presley.

Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot prepared an interesting obituary on Diddley, who made his mark in Chicago.