Saturday, December 31, 2011

Running recap for 2011

Brian and Greg at Turkey Trot 2011: Just 2½ miles to go!
Boredom alert: This post (like the others?) will be of little interest to anyone but me, but it's a good exercise for me to be accountable to my training.

Madame X and I just returned from brief trip to her folks’ farm in Brown County, Illinois. The weather continued to be unseasonably warm, and, with this morning's temperature a notch above freezing and the sun shining brightly, we enjoyed a peaceful jaunt on the backroads.

Over the 4.8 miles we covered, we encountered no one. Not a driver. No one in his or her yard or driveway. Not even a dog or a deer, for that matter. (We did see cows in their pastures, however.)

That was my final run of 2011. I feel that it was a good year of running for me. But I didn’t realize how well it turned out until I checked my blog post of a year ago today, where I recapped my 2010 running and set goals for 2011.

My mileage for the year – 1,130 – was my highest total in at least five years. (I covered 938 miles in 2010, 640 in 2009, 759 in 2008 and 742 in 2007.) Turns out that also exceed my new year’s resolution goal by 30 miles.

I credit my increased mileage -- 76% more miles than two years ago -- to better conditioning. As noted here a year ago, I started weight training in mid-2010. That has helped me avoid back spasms and trips to the chiropractor (just two visits in 2011), so I can stay on the run. (Thanks again to daughter Kate for recommending the weights!)

I also credit the fact that I'm in a running group. Without knowing that they would be watching for me to drive up to the starting point at 5:24 a.m. weekdays, it would have been very easy to hit the snooze button. Mr. Reliable was Judd Ott, who was out there every weekday.

Here were my 2011 goals, followed by the actual result.
  • Days of running – Goal: 273 (75%). Actual: 255 (69.9%)
  • Miles covered -- Goal: 1,100. Actual: 1,130
  • Weight workouts – Goal: 100. Actual: 107
  • Competition – Goal: Complete the Turkey Trot 7½-miler without the big fade experienced in 2010 (Time: 1:00:35). Actual: Accomplished. Ran 2½ minutes faster (58:01), thanks to my pacer and coach, Greg.
My running log also noted :
  • Longest run -- 7.5 miles. Six times, including the Turkey Trot.
  • Shortest run -- 2 miles. Twice. One was a pre-dawn day in Chicago. The other was the day after the Turkey Trot, when my body told me I needed another day of rest.
  • Coldest weather for a run (not including wind chill) -- Minus-15 on Feb. 10. (Fortunately, there was no wind.)
  • Hottest run -- 80. Three times (June 8, July 18 and, on a morning when the official humidity was 100 percent, July 19.) By the way, those were the temps at 5:25 a.m.
  • Most miles in a week -- 30.5, Nov. 21-27. The week of the Turkey Trot, it included one of my shortest runs (2 miles) and two of my longest (7.5 miles).
  • Fewest miles in a week -- 8, Jan. 31-Feb. 6. It included a couple of missed days due to a blizzard, travel to Des Moines for a convention and general laziness.
  • In late February, we were iced out of running three consecutive mornings.
Aside from the Turkey Trot, I didn’t race particularly well in 2011. I attribute it to advancing years and  few interval workouts on the track due to a persistently sore right hamstring.

Enough about the past. Here are my goals for 2012.
  • Days of running – Goal: 274 (75%). This includes Leap Day. 
  • Miles covered -- Goal: 1,200. 
  • Weight workouts – Goal: 100.  
  • Competition – Goal: 21 minutes for the Labor Day 5k and match 2011's time in the Turkey Trot 7½-miler.
Check back in a year, if you care, to see how 2012 turned out!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A granddaughter weekend

Madame X and I had a great weekend -- great because it featured time with all three of our grandchildren.

Elsie, nearly 17 months, is learning the fine art of feeding oneself yogurt.

She enjoys going outside -- and her "walks" are mostly "runs."

The next day was a birthday brunch for Claire. How many 5-year-olds
would allow their 2½-year-old sisters to open their
birthday packages? Well, here is one. Lise happily does the honors.

A world map jigsaw puzzle was an early hit.
Claire already knew the names of the continents.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Walk-off homers in the World Series

Freese frame: Cardinal rounds first after dramatic,
game-winnning home run. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Even for this Cubs fan, who was fighting off sleep while the Rangers and Cardinals fought in the World Series, Thursday night's Game 6 was one of the most exciting in World Series history.

The Cardinals scored in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings -- twice coming within a single strike of losing the entire series -- to pull even with the Rangers. The game ended on a home run by David Freese (pictured rounding first base), whose two-out triple in the ninth kept the Cardinals alive.

Courtesy of David Vincent, a fellow member of the Society for American Baseball Research, here is a list of all game-winning home runs in World Series history.

Game Ending Home Runs in the World Series
(Player, team, league, date, inning hit)

  • Tommy Henrich NYA AL 10/05/1949 9
  • Dusty Rhodes NY NL 09/29/1954 10
  • Eddie Mathews MIL NL 10/06/1957 10
  • Bill Mazeroski PIT NL 10/13/1960 9 Series ending HR
  • Mickey Mantle NYA AL 10/10/1964 9
  • Carlton Fisk BOS AL 10/21/1975 12
  • Kirk Gibson LAN NL 10/15/1988 9
  • Mark McGwire OAK AL 10/18/1988 9
  • Kirby Puckett MIN AL 10/26/1991 11
  • Joe Carter TOR AL 10/23/1993 9 Series ending HR
  • Chad Curtis NYA AL 10/26/1999 10
  • Derek Jeter NYA AL 10/31/2001 10
  • Alex Gonzalez FLO NL 10/22/2003 12
  • Scott Podsednik CHA AL 10/23/2005 9
  • David Freese SLN NL 10/27/2011 11

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What makes a catchy song?

ABC News reported on a study by researchers in London who think they know what ingredients make a hit, catchy, sing-along song.

What did they think was the No. 1 song?
Here is the link.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Grandparents Day at pre-school

"Ma" and I took time out to visit on Grandparents Day at our oldest two granddaughters' pre-school/day care on Friday.

Claire, 4½ (pictured), showed us her penmanship skills and ability to work puzzles lickety-split. Lise, 2½, who is still adjusting to her new surroundings and schedule, wasn't quite as excited to see us. Maybe next time.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Haven't missed much

It was three months ago today, on June 5, when I publicly wrote off the Chicago Cubs.

That afternoon, the Cubs, for the second consecutive tie game, opted to not issue a bases-empty intentional walk to Cardinals star Albert Pujols in the bottom of the 12th (June 4) and the 10th (June 5) innings.

Both days, Pujols burned the Cubs with walk-off homers.

That was it for me. I swore off the Cubs for the balance of the season. I cancelled the score alerts via email. I stopped watching them on TV. I don’t listen on the radio. I took a pass on joining our church’s bus trip to Wrigley Field.

Yes, I glance at the standings now and then. Over the past three months, I have watched about nine total innings, an inning or so at a time, on TV. I might listen to an at-bat or two on the radio while driving home from work. But that’s it – and for this Cubs fan, that is not much over 83 games.

So, what have I missed? Not much.

The Cubs were winning at a .403 clip when I started my boycott. After that, they have gone 37-46 (.445) to improve to .428 for the season.

Overpaid pitcher Carlos Zambrano had another mental meltdown, walked out on the team, got himself kicked off the team for a month. And now the professional athlete is considered not in shape to return for the final month of the regular season.

The Cubs fired the architect of all this, their general manager, Jim Hendry.

Carlos Marmol continues to give up leads in the ninth inning.

My blood pressure has improved.

I wonder if Ryne Sandberg would consider coming back to manage the Cubs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Self-service sidewalk sale

A couple of weeks ago, Madame X and I made a day trip to Mineral Point, Wis., a former mining community that is now home to dozens of art galleries, pottery shops, antique stores and the like.

When I saw this sign outside an odds-and-ends shop, I had to pull out the camera.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A star is not born

I was asked to be a "henchman" for the Grand Opera House's production of "Singin' in the Rain," will took the stage three weekends in July.

I did not take the stage. Instead, we "henchmen" were filmed a couple weeks in advance -- and the movie was shown to open the stage production.

With permission of the good folks at the Grand, I am posting the movie, "The Royal Rascal" -- as long as I'm in it. My best moment comes at 2:12. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for fans of quality acting, I was the first one killed off. I stopped the movie after that; what's the use of watching more?

So far, Hollywood hasn't called. And, yes, I have notified the phone company of the apparent problem with our line.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

40th anniversary of Concert for Bangladesh

It was 40 years ago this coming Monday -- Aug. 1, 1971 -- when former Beatle George Harrison and his friend Ravi Shankar put on two benefit concerts in New York. The mission was to call attention to, and raise money for, the people of Bangladesh, who faced floods, famine and civil war.

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary, "The Concert for Bangladesh" feature film will stream in its 90-minute entirety through 10:59 p.m. CDT Monday on

Storybook weekend

I don't have many friends, let alone those (aside from classmates) I've known for four decades. But that's the case with Bob Sokol. If I recall, we met in the summer of 1971 -- no later than the summer of 1972 -- when my summer job was conducting weekly cross-country and road races for the park district in my hometown in suburban Chicago.

Bob was a regular competitor back then, driving his Road Runner (weather permitting!) from Maywood to Glen Ellyn for the races, after which he would demonstrate his unique style of humor. Let's just say that , as a runner, Bob was quite the comedian.

We really bonded on a summer weekend in 1972, when Bob took his own turn as race director, hosting a 24-hour relay on the cinder track of his alma mater, Proviso East High School. It was one of my most challenging events ever -- 34 one-mile runs in 24 hours, averaging 5:47.

Anyway, though we have stayed in touch over the years, our get-togethers have been infrequent. However, Bob and his bride, Carol, paid us a visit last weekend. Though rain Saturday and Sunday mornings wiped out our running plans, Madame X and were happy and proud to show them around Dubuque -- Mississippi River Museum, Fenelon Place Elevator, Eagle Point Park, River Walk, Dubuque Star Brewery, etc. As a bonus, we got to spend some time with Bob and Carol's daughter Kim and her boyfriend Anthony -- a quality couple of med students.

It wasn't this weekend that we learned that we were the inspiration for a children's book.

We resolved that, now that we are empty-nesters, there is little reason to not get together more often. In any case, we still need to have our first run together in nearly 35 years.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

After the storm (or between the storms)

Dubuque received 10 inches of rain Wednesday night-Thursday morning. Some areas reported 14 inches! While that caused some major problems in many sections of town and region, it provided a fun diversion for a couple of young girls we know.

More heavy rain is predicted. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A hot time in Des Moines

Salisbury House and Gardens, Des Moines (Photo by Salisbury House )

After I fulfilled a speaking engagement in Panora, Iowa, on Friday afternoon, Madame X and I started a two-night stay in nearby Des Moines.

The weekend was a great chance to catch up with daughter Ellen and son-in-law Adam.

The visit included dinner at E&A's condo Friday, then a full day Saturday: A guided tour of the historic Salisbury House mansion (above), lunch and shopping (by Madame X, while I stood guard) in the sun-baked Valley Junction district, Mass in the Basilica of St. John, followed by dinner and an Iowa Cubs victory at Principal Park.

Though it was a hot day, we had a great time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If only it were true

For a couple of years, I saved a particular article located while researching Jay Berwanger (pictured) for my biography. It came from the College Football Historical Society newsletter of May 2002.

I planned to use an anecdote in the article when I finally wrote about Berwanger's career as a college football referee in the late 1940s to mid-1950s.

Here is what I typed into my manuscript:

Berwanger was working the Minnesota-Purdue game in 1948 when he encountered a never-seen-that-before situation. After a Minnesota touchdown late in the first half, the Gophers lined up for the ensuing kickoff. Billy Bye was the holder and Gordy Soltau the kicker. Game film shows Soltau running up and extending through a full kick. The Gophers raced down to make a tackle and the Boilermakers prepared to block. After a moment or two, nearly all the players were glancing about in apparent confusion. Where was the ball? It was soon located under a prostrate Bye. Soltau never kicked the ball. Bye pulled it away, a la Lucy and Charlie Brown. That was a new one on Berwanger, who conferred with the rest of his officiating crew before calling a penalty on Minnesota for delay of game.

It's a fun little story. Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems.

I decided to look up newspaper accounts of the game to see how sportswriters described the odd play. The Chicago Tribune and Associated Press accounts didn't mention it at all.

Further, looking in the fine print, I don't see Berwanger listed as a member of the officiating crew. (Coincidentally, the referee in Minneapolis was someone else with Dubuque ties -- William Blake, a graduate of Loras College.)

If Berwanger wasn't on that crew, did he work another game? In scanning the boxscores of major college games, I finally located him. Berwanger was not in Minneapolis that afternoon but in Madison, serving as referee of Northwestern at Wisconsin.

So, with some reluctance -- it's a fun little anecdote -- the false-start kickoff won't be in my Berwanger biography.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Elsie's first birthday

Our youngest (for now!) grandchild, Elsie Rose, marked her first birthday last week, and the family gathered on Saturday for her first birthday party ever.

Pop put together a little slide show from the special day. (Don't let the apparent excessive length of the video scare you away. Despite what YouTube shows, it runs just 90 seconds before 3 minutes black screen appears.)

It was also a special occasion for me because, on Father's Day weekend, the party included all four of our children (and all three spouses) and all three of our granddaughters.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Interview Monday on Iowa Public Radio

The Telegraph Herald is converting its to a subscription model (for local content), so Iowa Public Radio asked me to participate in its noon-hour program, "The Exchange," on Monday (June 13).

The topic: Newspapers charging for news online.

I'm told that the program starts with a conversation between host Ben Kieffer and the Iowa Newspaper Association's executive director, Chris Mudge, starting at 12:06 p.m., and I'll be brought into the discussion from about 12:15 to 12:30. Also scheduled for the program is the publisher of the Ames Tribune, Geoff Schumacher.

If you aren't near a radio, you may listen to the program online. Yes, the listen is free.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Jigsaw champion

The other day, Claire invited me to "help" her put together a couple of jigsaw puzzles. My "help" was mostly limited to watching her in amazement as she pieced them together in no time.

Dinner invitations welcome

This is our kitchen this morning. Who knew that putting in new cabinets and countertops would wreak such destruction?

Oh well. We're told this will last only eight weeks.

In the meantime, we're open to all opportunities for meals outside the home. By the end of this, we might show up at the Grand River Center on Saturday nights, crashing wedding receptions. Anybody have a tux I may borrow?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Getting off on the right foot

The oldest granddaughter decided that coloring while holding crayons in the conventional manner was boring, so ...
Oh, to have the flexibility of a 4½-year-old!

Byrne roast: Well done

Dubuque Museum of Art's promotional photo

A good time was had by all -- even the roastees -- Friday night when the Dubuque Museum of Art hosted a roast of Bob and Cindy Byrne.

Bob, a writer whose column appears in the TH monthly, and Cindy, a painter, not only heard their character besmirched and their foibles highlighted by their friends, they had a shot at each other.

Roasters included William Intriligator, symphony director; Rebecca Christian, an editor and writer whose also writes for the TH; Mary Ann Knefel, representing the Book Club from Hell, of which Cindy is a member; and Dick Locher, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, who has known Bob for 75 years. Paul Hemmer served as emcee.

Looking over the 160 or so people assembled in the banquet hall of the Hotel Julien Dubuque, Bob quipped, "I had no idea we had so many enemies."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Morel of the story

It's not quite yet morel season in the tri-state area of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. However, that was not the case to the south, where, despite a cold and rainy season, Madame X and some relatives had a great outing in West Central Illinois during Easter weekend. (Of course, I can't disclose the exact location.)

Though I was napping while the hunting was going on, I was allowed to partake in their bountiful harvest.

Monday, April 25, 2011

After 1, the next birthday makes you ... FEE!

Lise was born two years ago today. However, when you ask her how old she is, she enthusiastically responds, "Fee!" Even when her 4-year-old sister corrects her -- "No, Lise, you are 2" -- the Birthday Girl responds, "Mo, fee!"

So, Lise is now "fee."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Powerful exhibit at River Museum

It took me a couple of months, but I finally got down to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque to take in the special traveling exhibition “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America.”

Some folks might wonder why a "river museum" would host an exhibit that has no apparent connection with waterways. The national-level museum is part of the Dubuque County Historical Society, and histories of Dubuque and women religious have been interwoven from the beginning of white settlement.

A major co-sponsor of the exhibition is Clarke University, one of countless U.S. institutions founded by women religious (in this case Mary Frances Clarke, foundress of Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

The museum describes the exhibition as "featuring the untold stories of the innovative, action-oriented women who played such a significant role in shaping the nation’s social and cultural landscape." It is all of that, showing how sisters were part of U.S. history, including the Civil War, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the Spanish Flu epidemic to today's service in education and health care as well as peace and justice issues.

The exhibition remains in Dubuque for another month: Its last day is May 22. I recommend it.

Caption: Benedictine Sisters anticipate the completion of St Anthony’s Hospital in Bemidji, Minnesota, in 1900. Before workers’ compensation was mandated by law, most laborers went without coverage. The sisters made health care affordable by selling “Lumberjack Tickets” for $1-9 and guaranteed medical care in Benedictine hospitals. (Photo courtesy Benedictines of Duluth.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A change of pace

Today, complying with a longstanding demand request by Madame X, I hauled out boxes -- one expandable file per year -- of financial records from a musty storage area under a staircase.

Personally, I think this could be a big mistake. I mean, what if the IRS decides to audit us for 1983?

Anyway, I saved our household calendars along with those various documents.

I retrieved the calendar for 1998, the year the oldest of the four Cooper kids graduated from high school and went off to college.

We used an extra-large calendar for several years. The photo shows May 1998. The spaces are filled with notations for sports competitions and practices, part-time job schedules, piano lessons, concerts and the like. And there were events exclusively for Mom and Dad on there, too.

It's 13 years later, and, as empty-nesters for several years, Madame X and I have downsized our calendar. A blank square is more common than not.

Those were hectic days. Many families with school-age children today are experiencing that. But they should take heart: Those days will end someday. So enjoy and make the most of them while you can.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Book review: Scorecasting an interesting read

As teammates during summer camp, Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim ignored conventional wisdom when they decided that their weakest defender should not be stuck in softball Siberia, right field.

Instead, they made him the catcher, where he would have fewer opportunities to make critical errors. Their team started winning.

Decades later, Moskowitz and Wertheim are teammates again, examining many assumptions, traditions and curiosities in the world of sports. “Scorecasting” is the product of impressive number-crunching, clear and entertaining writing and a belief that just because everybody “knows” something in sports is true, it is not necessarily the case.

The authors are eminently qualified for the task. Moskowitz is an award-winning University of Chicago finance professor and Werhteim writes for Sports Illustrated and teaches at Princeton.

Among their many topics:

• Why .299 hitters in Major League baseball are rarer than .300 hitters. (Hint: It all comes down to the last game of the season.)

• Why having the No. 1 pick in the National Football League draft is not all it’s cracked up to be.
• Home-field advantage is real, but it has nothing to do with the crowd.

• Does “icing” the free-throw shooter or field-goal kicker by calling a timeout before a critical play?
• Are the Chicago Cubs really cursed?

“Scorecasting” contains just the right blend of statistics and narrative in examining these and other sports “truism.” For anyone who likes to holler coaching instructions at the TV set, it’s a must-read.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

What the hail?

Here's evidence of the brief hailstorm that rolled across Dubuque this evening. It didn't last long, and our windows stayed intact.

Special appearance by Elsie

For the first time since Christmas, our youngest granddaughter, Elsie Rose, visited us in Dubuque.

The stay was just 24 hours or so, but it was great to have her (as well as her parents, of course) for that time, during which she got reacquainted with her two Dubuque cousins.

Elsie is 9½ months old, and the world is full of new experiences.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Eagle nest update

Have you checked out the Eagle Cam, giving a real-time 24/7 look at an eagle's nest at Decorah, Iowa? Hundreds of thousands of people have checked in on the Raptor Resource Project site to watch a pair of eagles nurture eggs in a nest.

Overnight, one of the eggs hatched. More to come.

Free TV Show from Ustream

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How can this be good?

I don't consider myself a beer snob. I don't really know what makes one an ale and the other lager. Some day I might study up on that.

However, I do want my beer to taste like something. Thus, several years ago, I gave up on the mainstream brands in favor of microbrews and craft brands. Just the other day I bought one bottle of a beer bearing the Smuttynose label. Even if I tried a microbrew and didn't particularly like it, I usually liked it better than a billion-barrel-a-day brand. It deserved credit for trying to deliver some flavor. A name like Smuttynose should count for something.

Anyway, I nearly dropped my mug tonight when I read that one of my favorite brewers, Goose Island, of Chicago, had been purchased by Anheuser-Busch (which itself was purchased by InBev in 2008). The brewers of 312 and Honker's Ale are now owned by a brewing monolith. Of course, everyone is putting a happy face on this.

How can this transaction be good for beer lovers? The best we can hope for is that InBev won't screw it up.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Birthday observance -- March 19, 1914

Saturday, March 19, would have been Jay Berwanger's 97th birthday. The winner of the first Heisman Trophy was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on March 19, 1914. He died in June 2002.

The photo above right shows Berwanger as a senior at Dubuque Senior High, 1931-32.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

You can take it to the Bank

We had a great time Saturday night at The Bank Bar and Grille, where we took in the first (and only, they claim) performance by a bunch of Telegraph Herald/Woodward Communications colleagues as well as the Dubuque reporters for the Telegraph Herald's news coverage partner, KWWL.

The band calls itself Bad News.

Who knew that Channel 7's Lauren Squires was a drummer? And Becca Habegger played keyboard and handled vocals!

The first set ended with a guest appearance by Dubuque's mayor, Roy Buol, who did a nice job covering three Eagles tunes. That's Roy in the photo. Backup singers shown are (from left) Rachel Gull, Andrea Hauser and Megan Gloss.

Later, Ron Steele, KWWL anchor, came all the way from Waterloo to take his turn at the microphone. Unfortunately, that came past my bedtime, so I can't provide a review on Ron's performance.

Let's see. Who else did I see on stage? Kurt Ullrich, Ron Tigges, Hobie Wood and, sitting in for a couple of number, retiree Sid Scott. Joining them were a couple of professional guitarists, Rick Hoffman, representing Kephart's Music, and Denny Krueger, of Rondinelli Music.

The event was a fundraiser for the Haitian Project at Loras College. The place was packed, so I hope that organizers collected a nice sum of donations.

Bad News claims that last night was the only night. We'll see about that.

As colleague Erik Hogstrom 'tweeted,' it was a good night for Bad News.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rest in peace, Prof. Taft

Today I entered a post on the Telegraph Herald blog site about one of my former professors at the University of Missouri, William Taft. He died last week at 95. I found that surprising. Find out why.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fun night with African friends

We recently became acquainted with two seminarians at Divine Word College through the college's Friends Across Nations Club. Our friends are Thierry, from Togo, and Joseph, from Uganda.

The FAN Club hosted dinner and an informal game night on Friday, when we taught them Yahtzee.

They are quick learners, for Joseph came out on top, collecting not one but two Yahtzees in the second game.

Here's a brief slideshow showing some of the fun.

Monday, February 21, 2011

An afternoon with the Saints

The highlight of our Sunday was a family outing at the Dubuque Fighting Saints game. The youngest fans seemed to enjoy themselves, and the experience left them so drained that they volunteered for early bedtime.

We had great seats, in the second row -- a great spot to see players collide against the glass. Not sure that the girls knew what to make of that.

Unfortunately, the Saints, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to grab a 4-3 lead in the final period, faded and lost to Cedar Rapids, 6-4.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fun with Elsie

Madame X and I enjoyed some time Saturday with our youngest granddaughter (as well as her parents and her Uncle G).

Here is a slideshow report.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Try the FactCheck quiz, which, as its name suggests, cuts through the political mumbo-jumbo, accusations and counter-accusations, and spin in an objective, non-partisan manner.

The folks at have developed a short, weekly quiz on current events and issues.

As for me, I did not 'ace' the inaugural quiz, which has questions about the Obama health care program, discretionary spending in the federal budget and the auto industry bailout.

I hope they grade on the curve.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shameless plug for a good blog

If you're a runner, and if you train or race in Iowa, check out the new blog Go Run Iowa!

It is created by Will Hoyer, who happens to be my son-in-law and father of our oldest two grandchildren. But don't hold that -- or my shameless plug here -- against him. It is a good blog.

A recent post is Iowa City runner Mark Thompson's account of a long training run with a friend at the height of last week's blizzard.

Another post is Will's interview with one of the nation's most successful junior college coaches, Iowa Central's Dee Brown, who has ties to Dubuque, Luther College and now Fort Dodge.

Check out Go Run Iowa!

Monday, February 07, 2011

75 years ago: Iowans in first NFL draft

Trivia question: Which state had two of its natives picked in the first four selections of the first National Football League draft?

Answer: With one of my current book projects being a biography of Jay Berwanger, a native of Dubuque, you shouldn't be surprised that the answer is Iowa. The other player? Read on.

The National Football League draft was the brainchild of Bert Bell, owner of the lowly Philadelphia Eagles.

Bell had a tough time getting his peers to go along. It took some arm-twisting by George Halas of the Chicago Bears on Tom Mara of the New York Giants for the draft to the owners’ approval in May 1935, effective with the 1936 season. Fatigue and alcohol also might have influenced the decision. League meetings were loosely run nocturnal affairs, where drink was plentiful and sleep was scarce, and that played into the hands of Bell, a sober “nighttime” person.

After establishment of a draft, Bell’s 1935 Philadelphia Eagles finished 2-9, edging the Boston Redskins (2-8-1) for worst record in the league. That dubious honor gave Bell the first pick in the first draft.

The rule called for teams to enter the names of players eligible for the NFL for the first time on a board posted in the meeting room. Then, the team with the worst record in 1935 received the first selection. The selections continued with teams picking, worst to first, until all the names on the board were selected or rejected.

League owners convened the weekend of February 8-9, 1936, at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia. The hotel was owned by Bell’s father, Cromwell, and Bert had served as its manager in addition to playing and coaching football.

1 Philadelphia Eagles: Jay Berwanger B Chicago
2 Boston Redskins: Riley Smith B Alabama
3 Pittsburgh Pirates: Bill Shakespeare B Notre Dame
4 Brooklyn Dodgers: Dick Crayne B Iowa
5 Chicago Cardinals: Jim Lawrence B TCU
6 Chicago Bears: Joe Stydahar T West Virginia
7 Green Bay Packers: Russ Letlow G San Francisco
8 Detroit Lions: Sid Wagner G Michigan State
9 New York Giants: Art Lewis T Ohio U.

Philadelphia almost immediately traded the rights to Berwanger to the Chicago Bears, but Halas failed to convince him to join the professional ranks.

Trivia answer: Crayne, who was a native of Fairfield, Iowa. When he and Berwanger were high school seniors (Class of 1932), University of Iowa boosters hoped that both Crayne and Berwanger would play for the Hawkeyes. However, they chose different schools.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Party like it's 4709

Madame X and I attended the Lunar New Year celebration at Divine Word College seminary in Epworth, Iowa, on Saturday. The college is just a dozen miles west of our house, along US 20.

Lunar New Year is a big deal at Divine Word because many of its students come from Asia, especially Vietnam. This is the Year of the Cat under the Vietnamese lunar calendar, and in China it is the year 4709, the Year of the Rabbit.

The event started with Mass, with more con-celebrants than I've ever seen (20? 24?). The presider and homilist were Vietnamese missionaries. (One spent seven years in Togo, which, coincidentally is the home country of one of our Divine Word Friends Across Nations Club student friends, Thierry. Our other friend is also African, Joseph from Uganda.)

Though their home cultures do not observe Lunar New Year, Thierry and Joseph were among the students who participated in the holiday pageant, which followed Mass and a delicious Vietnamese/Chinese buffet supper.

The pageant was a variety show -- singing, dancing, a skit and even a priest presenting a magic show -- and my video doesn't do it justice. I hope the shots from the curtain call reflect the excitement of the students.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Curious time with Curious George

On Sunday morning, Madame X and I joined our two oldest granddaughters and their parents at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium for a brief visit. The attraction was Curious George, perhaps the favorite character of the oldest grandchild. The museum was also hosting its annual Ice Fest.

However, seeing CG in a book is not scary, compared to seeing him "up close." So, we didn't wait in the long line to tell him hello. After a few minutes looking at other exhibits, it was nap time. And the grandkids needed some rest, too.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Address book addresses passage of time

I keep pretty busy at work -- contrary to rumors, I do not take a nap every afternoon -- there are times of the year when the pace lets up and I can get to tasks I wouldn't even consider otherwise.

One such period came just before and after Christmas. So I embarked on the little job of updating and cleaning up my electronic address book. Not exciting or urgent, certainly, but a means to be a bit more efficient.

When I was finished going through A to Z, I had made 99 deletions. There were some duplicate entries, but most were files that went into the recycle bin.

In a way, the process was a little exercise that reflected the passage of time. Among the entries discarded were those for colleges my children no longer attend, restaurants no longer operating, salesmen who have retired, individuals who have died -- and several names I no longer recognize. I'm sure there was a good reason to save their contact info -- at the time, whenever that was.

Who knows, when I go through the address book again, what events will result in the next changes?