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.