Saturday, March 31, 2007

I have seen the Holy Grail

I've touched on this before - you can see that post here - but today when The Girl and I went back to St. Cloud to pick up a few packs of baseball cards, I saw it sitting right there in the case.

Yes, friends, I've come within inches of the wonderful mistake that is the Billy Ripken Fleer card.

"Ooooh, honey, loooook!" I said quite loudly in the shop. "It's the fuck face card!"

Tonight I'm kicking myself for not plunking down the 20 bucks to make it my own.

Instead, I pulled the Derek Jeter screwball card that has Mickey Mantle and George W. Bush in the background. It's not worth a fortune, but quite a few stupid people have payed upwards of $300 for it.

I was thinking about my dad's reaction when I was younger, collecting hockey cards and sorting them by prices I pulled from the Beckett guide. The top-end cards were maybe a few dollars with the others were 30 or 40 cents.

I saw my little collection go from the $50 bucks I'd paid for it to well over $75 when all was said and done.

"Well, you just need to find someone dumb enough to pay that much for them," he told me. Instead of a great father/son moment about the pure joy of sport and how hobbies should be judged on their intrinsic value, I got a nice wake up call to a little something called the free market.

So, without much thought, I think I'm going to take Jeter and friends, put it into the binder with the rest of the cards and leave it there, only to be seen every few months when I go through the collection or pull this baby out at parties, when someone refuses to believe that card exists.

If I get two, though? I'm totally eBay-ing that shit.

(Image from

Friday, March 30, 2007

FedEx, what a bunch of jerks

I find that most of life's questions that begin, "How hard can it fuckin' be to..." have the same answer the person posing the question is looking for - "Who did it and how did they wrong you?"

Case in point? How hard can it fuckin' be to deliver a package from New Jersey to Minnesota? Can you get the package (which requires a signature) re-routed to a place of employment where there are many, many people capable of imparting their signature on the little clipboard?

Not in this lifetime and especially not if you're FedEx.

In a true test of chicken and egg logic, did Freddie Mitchell suck because he chose to incorporate the name "FedEx" or did FedEx suffer from it's association with "FredEx?" I like to think it's a little of both.

Before I run off on a half-cocked tangent - and it's coming, rest assured - let me say that I realize that every shipping company has its ups, downs and half-functioning customer service staff. For the record, I was only mildly rude to the people on the other end of the line today.

Let me also say that if some FedEx quality care wonk is trolling blogs looking for smack talk and other barely-conscious souls to run their switchboards, I hope they know that I'm not the only one today who had problems in my office with FedEx. In fact, this winter as our loading dock had a slick driveway up to the door, it was a FedEx driver who wouldn't listen to anyone trying to help him into the spot, clogged our lot for 45 minutes and then just drove off to let the next day's driver handle all of the deliveries for our shop.

Today I was told that calling in three days before the package was in St. Paul to have said package held in St. Paul was not enough time to actually keep the package on site. They didn't even have to deliver the damn thing and they still fucked it up.

Just imagine how badly they would have botched things if that package had to go anywhere.

Also, there is no really great way to contact the local offices from the main FedEx number... hmm... If the local numbers aren't given to the public and the 800 number can't actually communicate to the offices, exactly how does the customer ever get what they want?

Not that it matters much, drivers don't return to the shop at night, as they are subcontractors. This means if you just shipped something expensive via FedEx ground, and it's not in the receiver's hands, it's in someone's garage or apartment parking lot. Makes you feel like buying the insurance next time, doesn't it?

Finally, there is no way to contact the driver on their route once they've left. The lesson from this little communication breakdown is that if you start to drive for FedEx, your biggest worry should be a last-minute (or midday) discovery that one of your packages contains bees and a slowly deteriorating wrapper.

According to my experiences, the responsibilities of a FedEx call center rep include:

*Showing up for work.
*Finding a working telephone.
*Saying, "Hello?" when that telephone rings.

The rest is just gravy for the FedEx folks.

Also, if I were to formulate a business model for the current FedEx process, it would include:

*Pick up package and charge sender for postage.
*Place package on westbound truck or plane (east coast only); Place package on eastbound truck or plane (west coast only); Place package in street and hope someone takes it east or west (Midwest only).
*Hope for the best.
*Make funny Super Bowl commercial.

(Photo from

Thursday, March 29, 2007

This is what I'm talking about

When I worry about my foul-mouthed as yet to be concieved spawn, this is what I imagine.

Only not as cute. And with language that would make Ted Williams blush.

"If he gonna come in here, he gonna kick my ass..." Makes sense to me, kid.

It's coming, bitches...

Oh, hell yes.

Grand Theft Auto 4 might be a few months out, but the new trailer is up on G4 and was on television tonight.

The funny thing is that I was just having a discussion about the GTA series at work and how weird it will be to hide video games from my kids because they are too violent or foul-mouthed (the video games, not the kids... well, probably the kids, too).

GTA is a series like that, where awful language and the ability to kill every living thing in the game combine to make it hard to have around the house and still keep the DCFS at bay.

So, enjoy - this trailer is probably the safest series of images for the new game you're likely to see. That's not saying a whole lot.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

OK, so that was weird

Hiya, old folks. Wanna be hip? By hip I mean the biggest nerd in the neighborhood - check this out, it's called

It's like EdTV, but streaming live on the Internet. I'm not totally in the loop when it comes to this sort of thing, but it was on Attack of the Show tonight, so for giggles, I pull up the site - half expecting it to be crashed with the AoTS publicity - and it's running on a short delay as he does the interview.

It kinda weirded me out.

So, check it out, it's a 24-hour live cam and interesting to a point. It's a really cool concept and I'm a little curious to see how this plays out. The sound and video are shockingly good for a web-based broadcast.

At the very least, it's poker night tomorrow.

Maybe you can help someone cheat.

(Photo from

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Life with the Sickleys

One of the lasting reminders of the Florida trip has to be the lumps on my left arm that appeared after a day in the sun as we were leaving on Wednesday.

We assumed it was from the spray-on sunscreen I'd been using when we were at the pool or baseball games - it looked like a bad sunburn, except for the whole sunscreen thing - took some over the counter stuff and let it run its course.

Since then, I went to work Thursday and Friday and then headed home to Chicago this weekend to help my sister and her husband do remodeling work on their new home.

My arm started to look better until the drive back today, when it ran into the sun again and made my entire forearm take on the texture of a football again. So much for the sunscreen thesis.

Now, I hope that this case of Football Arm goes away in time and everything returns to normal, but I'm mildly concerned, especially in light of The Girl's ongoing battle with Pirate Eye.

Every so often, her eyelid will swell up and then the pirate jokes start. It's worth noting that he doctor she sees has no clue whatsoever about what is causing Pirate Eye. The frontrunner is an allergic reaction to something on her pillows, but so far, we can't narrow it down.

The botom line is that is she's allergic to sleep and I'm allergic to sunshine, we're in for a world of shit when we have little rugrats running around sneezing when they get too much oxygen or breaking out in a rash when they come into contact with wood.

(Image from:

Monday, March 19, 2007

April through February Madness

I was watching Bob Costas' show on HBO earlier this week and he devoted the entire hour to college sports and the problems associated with them.

It was a parade of professors who have moved on - one was from the University of Miami... gasp - because they felt the pressure to pass athletes in their classes, disgruntled athletes and others on both sides of the argument.

The same questions as always came up, from "How many of these ballplayers can't read?" to "Did anyone ever steer you into a jock class or do your homework for you?" The biggest problem I had was that the show was full of the same old answers as well.

I guess I'd never thought too deeply into the problem. I went to a Division III school, where athletes were encouraged to take easy courses while in season and work harder after that. Most of the athletes I knew laughed and blew off this advice, while the ones who did take the bottom feeder classes were laughable and almost pathetic.

The big difference with student athletes at a D-III school is that very few are under the delusion that they'll make it big at the professional level and so sports are a diversion and a chance to compete at a higher level, but no more.

Not to take anything away from the players who made it - I washed out in just over a week in my attempts to play D-III soccer - but most saw it as an opportunity to stay in shape and keep playing sports they'd played for as long as they could remember.

I know that years of distance has made the whole picture a bit rosier, but it just seemed more pure than what I saw at the D-I schools around the Midwest.

The million dollar question that never gets asked in any of these hand-wringing sessions is why are we all so concerned that a few thousand students nationwide get a proper education? Thousands more each year have to flunk out entirely or just not come back after the first semester, and yet no one seems to be very concerned about the educations that they receive.

No one went on CBS and discussed what to do about me when I simply stopped going back to school before I graduated. Why is this such a big issue for everyone?

Given the money on the line, wouldn't it make more sense for everyone to let the players focus on the games while they're in season and maybe even cut them in on the profits to take some of the wind out of the sails of improper booster gifts and players who just want a taste of the big money the school is seeing?

In short, is it really worth all of the hoops the players and programs need to jump through in the name of preserving some antiquated idea of what a "student athlete" is?

Look at it this way - while other kids are going to college to learn to be teachers or writers, what's so wrong with teaching athletes (equally talented as an artist in most cases) to be better athletes?

Forget the cheap gags about Posse Management 101 or Intro to Finance: When to stop asking for lap dances before rent is due, but why is this such a distasteful idea?

Athletes take courses in agriculture and other low-profile majors that do them no good when they move along, yet they are force-fed this crap so that they have a major to declare on their Saturday afternoon head shot as the starting lineup is announced.

Is it too much to ask to treat athletes like athletes, give them comprehensive courses in nutrition, proper workouts, money management, communications and other classwork that might actually prepare them for life in the pros and possibly set them up for the strong possibility that they won't make it?

My college roommate liked to say that college didn't teach you anything except how to think - the point being that all the facts and figures were nice, but the true value of a college education was in the cognitive process and being able to form intelligent opinions, regardless of the subject.

What is so wrong about preparing our athletes like we prepare our doctors, writers or dancers? You take someone with a given talent and work to cultivate that talent, play to strengths and try to give them a fighting chance once they're outside the walls of any given institution.

Isn't that better than seeing a seven-foot center on your TV Saturday announcing proudly that he's majoring in lesuire studies?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Screw the cookies

You just can't fake this kind of awesome.

What's the bigger factor in this becoming a reality?

a.) It's in Key West
b.) It was St. Pat's Day
c.) Bad decision makers at the top
d.) All of the above

(Photo from MinneapolisRedSox)

Mental note: No cruises for the honeymoon

As Day Two of the vacation officially came to a close this evening, the final score stood as follows:

Room changes: 1
Sunny days: 1 1/2
Islands visited: 1
Hours on a boat: 7-plus
Boats boarded: 2
Boats exited without incident: 1
Round trip meal tickets purchased: 1 1/2 (Lunch and pie)

We took a day trip down to Key West today where you load in at the docks in Fort Myers and take a 3 1/2 to 4 hour ride down to Key West for lunch, shopping and freak spotting.

Highlights included the free beer with blood donation and the money coconuts (as seen above).

For those who have never visited, Key West has a very, very weird vibe to it all. Families with small kids, money, no money, bikers and soccer moms and lots and lots of drunks of all stripes.

Today, it was mainly people dressed in green roaming the streets hollering and spilling beer (I think this was the only violation of local liquor laws, where you can wander aimlessly with open containers as long as you don't spill any) while the other groups of people tried their damnedest not to run into these packs of rum-stunned yahoos.

Good times.

Wait, no - not good times. Annoying times. Patience-trying times. Obnoxious college-aged guys who can't hold their booze and enjoy communicating only in "Woooooooooo's" times.

I'll try and keep the big finish here clean, so as not to ruin breakfasts or lunches, but if you have a weak stomach, just skip to the next post now.

Seriously, I'm sure it'll be entertaining and such. This isn't a Grover doing a head fake in The Monster at the End of This Book kind of thing - just move along if you need to.

We get back to the docks in time to get some good seats up on the top deck which the crew had "tipped" us off to on the morning trip. They told us that on this giant catamaran the front of the boat took the brunt of the oncoming waves and gave you a shakier ride.

"Sit in the back up top," they said. "It'll be fine," they said. They were a bunch of fucking liars. As their punishment, they had to cart off barf bag upon barf bag for the first two to three hours of the return trip.

We shook our heads before we took off - it's worth noting that some people were completely unaware that a rough ride was a real possibility, as they stayed overnight on Friday and their incoming trip was smooth as glass - because we were stuck between drunk, loud Abercrombie frat rats and drunk, loud tourists from someplace dry.

Knowing we'd hit some choppy water, The Girl took something for seasickness and we both smirked, thinking that the frat rats would be on their asses in 20 minutes between the waves, too much rum and too much sun. We were very, very wrong.

As we sat at a table with two other couples, we felt the shaking of the boat get worse and worse and worse. We were on the top deck of a catamaran and had waves crashing onto our windows - that's a conservative distance of 25 to 30 feet - and then all hell broke loose.

First, one of the first frat rats needs to get to the outer deck to puke, but is ignoring the crew's pleas to stay seated, no matter what, and rushes to the front of the of the boat. One problem - that's where they keep the life vests, not the outside.

He somehow makes it to the rear of the boat and comes back covered in seawater and his buddies are all face down on the table, trying to keep their shit together. This was a losing battle.

Around this time, one of those beautiful moments that bands us together as a species happened. Rich, poor, black, white, cutting across all lines that divide us, we are hard wired for the same basic emotional and physiological responses.

What went down? The boat hopped over a particularly nasty wave and 99 percent of the boat had to barf. And it was going to happen immediately.

It was like Chunk's story in the Goonies, where he tosses the fake vomit at the movie theater, only it wasn't so much of a chain reaction as a simultaneous need to puke all at once. Our table turns green and starts to scramble to find enough bags on the table top, including The Girl, who took the Dramamine - she said she was fine the entire ride because of the stuff, with the exception of five minutes beginning right then - and the three men at the table - myself included - all tried to be stoic and fight back the pukes, but really we just looked like losers on Fear Factor the moment before they cave in.

If there's a security tape on that boat, it looks like The View was put in the DVD player at that exact moment as people start to frantically grasp for seasickness bags and just go ape. The poor, over matched crew is running about trying to pass out bags, throw out the "used" ones and freshen the cabin with spray fresheners.

In short, utter chaos. With hurling Midwesterners. It would have been awesome, if not for breaking my vomit-free streak which dates back to 2001-ish.

A few hours later, we were able to hug the shoreline and the passengers all start feeling better, and everyone just layed low, keeping their heads on the tables, cursing the god of their choice and swearing over and again that they'd never step foot on another boat as long as they lived.

I, for one, realized my New England roots must have stopped on the beach, as any genetic material making me more resistant to seasickness is limited to motion less than or equal to the teacups at Disney World. The Girl's Ukrainian heritage reared its ugly, landlocked head as well, so we both agreed there'd be no honeymoon cruise unless we develop a mutual attraction for uncontrolled vomiting.

I hear Kansas is lovely in October.

(Photos from: MinneapolisRedSox /

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cadillac Man is neither a car nor a man, but will still f*** you up

There are very few rules on what YouTube gems are posted here.

A good place to start is any video where I spit on the computer screen as I sputter, "Oh, fuuuuuck!"

This is one of those, and it came from With Leather which is a lot like SportsPickle or the Onion Sports section, but is usually based on things that have happened, versus things that could happen.

Like Jesus playing in the NBA. My mom told me that didn't really happen and then I lost my faith in God.

Stupid, stupid me

If I could only learn to take some of my own advice, I could be president.

Instead, I keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

Case in point is my rapidly deteriorating NCAA bracket. Exhibit A? Illinois over Virginia Tech and Southern Illinois, eventually losing to Kansas.

To paraphrase Denny Green, the Illini are who we thought they were, only I was too blinded by the allure of talent to notice it.

We're on vacation in Fort Myers to see some Spring Training games and gators, so I'm TiVo-less right now, but I still have no idea what happened at the end of the game there.

I'm sure it will all be covered in Frank the Tank's suicide note.

* One point that really bugged me was following Brian Randle's two missed free throws on the technical foul, the announcing team was quick to point out that he "made up for it" by grabbing a rebound moments later and going back up for a quick two points.

When you lose 54-52, you didn't really "make up" for those two points with a layup. You're at 50 percent.

* In a weird twist Thursday as we were traveling, we stopped for a layover in Atlanta. I assume it's a CNN deal, but every television in the airport was on TNT for a Miami Heat game. I was practically homicidal trying to find updated scores.

Why didn't I just dial in some wireless web? Because ESPN hadn't updated the men's college basketball scores yet... since last year.

When I can't get real time sports scores from an airport, the terrorists have won.

(Image from:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Final Four Flops

I can't say this more plainly or enough times - I suck at predicting what will happen in the NCAA tournament.

Granted, I've actually gotten better at the picks now that I watch next to no college basketball games throughout the season. In a hockey town that's the epicenter of a hockey state, basketball is low on the power rankings here. Oh, and the Gopher men's team really, really sucks.

Even out east, I started to fade from the scene without Big 10 basketball on television all the time. I fondly recall that as the time where I almost won a shitload of money in the office pool.

There's really only one real rule for having success in the NCAA pool at your office: Do your level best to pick the Final Four and let the rest of it slide. When you figure you'll only be allowed a few short days to tweak and re-tweak your brackets, spend the majority of your time picking those four.

I used to be the guy who tried to pick all the upsets and scrappy little Sweet 16 teams every year and lost track of where the big points come into play - at the end of the tourney. It's great that you picked Valpo to make a run, but not when you have one team left after the Elite Eight.

It's also worth noting here that if you look at your brackets tonight (like I did) and see four number one seeds, it's time to go back to the drawing board. That's never happened and never will.

Other big traps to avoid:

* I know that team! I know that team! - Do you really think that just because you/your sister/your girlfriend/your roommate went to that school, it's any reason to pick them in the tournament? It's more unreliable than picking by mascot or school colors. At least the secretary in your office who is doing that might actually win. And Tarheel blue is such a pretty color.

I call this the Jake Mueller theory because that's the roommate that ensured I'd always think Creighton is better than it is.

* Be careful of the teams you've watched too much - You know why the big hoop guys never, ever win the tournament? Because they know far too much and paint themselves into all sorts of corners. Whether it's talking yourself into a small mid-major who could run all the way or out of Duke/Carolina/Texas because it's the same pick the idiots would make, it's never a good thing.

There's a saying with regards to pitchers in baseball where you need to make decisions on pulling them from the game by what you think they'll do on the next pitch, not what they did on the last one. People can never see the team that is getting ready for the tournament, only the team's talent. This is always a fatal mistake.

You know why UNC and Kansas are number one seeds? Because they're really fucking good.

You know why Weber State won't win? Because they're Weber State. Case closed.

* No matter how hard you try, some teams will always bone you - We all have our weaknesses. Those little demons that no matter how hard we try, will always take us down and devour us in tiny, painful bites.

There are always a handful of teams that screw me each year. Pick them to go out and they're a mortal lock for the Final Four. Pencil them in for a huge run and they lose to some snot-nosed low seed.

I'm looking at you, Arizona, Michigan State and Duke. You always break my heart, you cruel bastards.

* The perfect storm - Sometimes the universe is just out to get you. Know who will win this year? The team from your exes Alma mater or the team whose uniform you hate or players you just can't stand.

You'll pick for or against them for irrational reasons and it won't end well. You'll ball up your brackets by Saturday night and spend the night screaming at a television in a bar until your significant other gets up and leaves you.

* The best advice - Take your team out of the mix in the first round. Pick the Illini to choke and you'll be happy for your bracket if they do and happy for your team if they don't.

Pick a few upset teams against the teams you really can't stand. It's worth tanking a region on the off chance that Florida goes to hell.

Never, ever pick against Old Dominion in the first round. It's waaay too much fun to cheer for a team you can easily nickname "Ol' Dirty University." Ask Frank the Tank - also check his blog for some "real" analysis.

Resign yourself to the fact that someone will take your money at the end of the tournament. Enjoy the opening weekend, cheer for the Cinderellas and realize there are worse ways to completely squander 20 bucks.

Like retirement funds or the stock market. When they start trading shares of the Wu-Tang, then we'll talk.

(Image from: /

Monday, March 12, 2007

For the record

I really want to like CBS's Rules of Engagement but I'm really not feeling David Spade. The show is decently written and Patrick Warburton is a riot, but it's like I'm watching against my will sometimes.

I'm just not buying Spade as the ladies' man.

Hell, Neil Patrick Harris is gay and I buy his character on How I Met Your Mother so many more levels than Spade.

Just awful awful casting.

Give me Joe Dirt, fine. Richard to Chris Farley's Toomy Boy? In a heartbeat.

Lady killer? Not in a million years. And yes, I remember the whole Heather Locklear thing. Still not geting it.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Shut up and learn - The MS post

A friend of mine is doing her masters thesis on multiple sclerosis and set up a post on her MySpace page to let the Milwaukee folks know about food and beer on St. Pat's this year, so I dropped her a line asking about it.

In all honesty, my knowledge of MS starts and ends with what I learned from Martin Sheen on the West Wing and that's probably not very smart, considering how often television leads me astray.

So, even though we are at the tail end of National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week, there's no time like the present to fix some of that ignorance, right?

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that is autoimmune in nature- meaning the body's own defense system (the immune system) is actually attacking your nervous system.

This is what causes the symptoms of MS. It typically begins with tingling or muscle twitches in the extremities. Disease course can very widely from person to person, but it is typically charaterized with an acute attack of symptoms, followed by a period where the person seems to get better.

Eventually the disease progresses to the point where the patient steadily declines. MS typically does not kill someone, rather it makes their quality of life much lower. Paralysis is the common result of most MS patients. Blindness is also very common.

As far as statistics go, MS like all autoimmune diseases strikes women far more frequently than men. However, when men are affected, it tends to have a worse prognosis. It is estimated that 2.5 million people worldwide are affected. About 400,000 of those are Americans.

Disease incidence varies depending on where you live. We are not sure why, but the further from the equator, the higher the incidence. Recent evidence has pointed at vitamin D being involved somehow.

For example, incidence in Texas is about 1 in 10,000 while incidence in Wisconsin is closer to 1 in 500.

Some famous people with MS- Montel Williams, Annette Funicello, Teri Garr, Richard Pryor died from MS, and the guy that played "Squiggy" on Laverne and Shirley.

Like I said in my blog, the new ad campaign was done completely free because one of the heads of the ad agency that has done the Nike swoosh/ Just Do It campaign has a daughter with MS.

As far as treatments go, there are many right now, but most of them are mainly treating symptoms- muscle tremors and such. Also, a lot of the drugs are similar to drugs given to transplant patients that decreases the whole immune system.

The newest drug on the market is actually aimed at blocking the movement of immune cells into the central nervous system. MS is one of the diseases that we believe can benefit greatly from stem cell research. UW-Madison is one of the leaders in this area.

The National MS Society is using this week to kick off their new ad campaign. The theme of the new campaign is "MS stops people from moving. The National MS Society exists to make sure it doesn't. Join the movement."

Check out the new website, or the Wisconsin MS society site,

Also, for anyone in the area that is looking for something to do on St. Patrick's Day this year, my bike team is hosting our fifth annual Blarney Bash for MS. It's taking place at Serb Hall in Milwaukee from 6:30pm to midnight. There is food from 7-9:30pm and beer and soda are included in the ticket price.

Most of the area microbreweries donate beer for our beer tasting. Plus, we have tons of raffles and silent auctions. Tickets are $20 if purchased ahead of time and $30 at the door. Even if you can't come, please educate yourselves on MS and support this cause in any way possible. You can find out more on Team Wendy at We are coming closer every day to a cure. Join the Movement.

(Image from

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Discovery Channel gets its religion on


Anyone watch TV? Anyone watch TV on Sunday? Anyone watch to see some Jesus bones and to know exactly why the religious right was primed to go batshit crazy on Monday morning?

Yeah, me too.

I was pretty into the whole thing in a "Geraldo discovers Al Capone's vault" kind of way, but the lead in about Noah's Ark was pretty good, too.

Between those two shows and the constant promos for Ted Koppel's Our Childrens' Childrens' War this coming weekend, it seems like the Discovery Channel is dead set on pissing off Alabama on a weekly basis, huh? (Don'tchu be talking no mess 'bout Jesus or our troops, fancy pants book learnin' channel! America! Woo!)

The big revelation about Noah was that he wasn't totally crazy, probably didn't know much about zoology or exactly how many animals actually lived on the planet and more than likely was a merchant who got caught in a bad storm and swept out to sea.

Seeing as he and his family was already on the barge at the time with goats and such, the whole story took on a life of its own. The best part? The only thing that was safe to drink while floating on salt water were the gallons and gallons of beer also on board.

Even the kids. Man, Mesopotamia must have been a rockin' good place to spend your formative years, huh?

As far as the Jesus family grave site, it was pretty much what I expected with self-serving "scientists" cutting corners and being propped up by James Cameron with high production values and leaving themselves open to all sorts of criticism from those who refuse to believe that any of this would be remotely possible.

Considering I assumed the religious side of the fence was prepared to say, "Nuh-uh!" a few dozen times and call it a night, I was surprised at the scientific liberties taken before putting this on national television.

It was a pretty interesting intellectual exercise nonetheless, wondering how it would impact my faith if the bones of Christ were actually found. The best answer came from a theologian who asked rhetorically how it would change his faith. It made a lot of sense that he said whatever God chooses to do with the bodies is up to Him.

Good point.

Considering I don't believe that Jonah was really swallowed by a whale or that Lot's wife was really turned into a pillar of salt, hearing that Jesus rose from the dead in a metaphorical way and not in a physical way would be an interesting thing to prove, but wouldn't necessarily shake me to the core.

More interesting was the hunt for the correct tomb which was unearthed in the early 1980s, when an apartment complex was going up. Essentially, the filmmakers had to sweet talk tenants into letting them fish a camera down a storm drain to look for some Jesus bones.

That's got to be a weird conversation to have with a stranger standing on your doorstep, no?

Me: Can I help you?
Filmmaker: Yeah, we were really hoping to shoot some video in your apartment because we think there might be some groundbreaking archaeological findings under your outdoor patio.
Me: Really? Neat-o! What are you looking for?
Filmmaker: The remains of the son of God...
Me: Beat it, wackos.

The main filmmaker - who it was unclear from the edits that he was the main filmmaker - actually had to make a comment midway through the whole process that qualifies as my favorite moment on television this weekend as discussion swirled around hiring a plumber to clear a few blockages in the drain pipe to get access to the tomb they hoped was below.

"We're really going to use a plumber to break into the tomb of Christ?" was his rough assessment of the situation. It was like Indiana Jones, but with more of a Three Stooges vibe to it.

In any event, add in a little DNA magic and a rough calculation on the probability of finding the names on the bone boxes and they decided to call it God good and fire it off to the Discovery Channel.

The thing is, I think there's a good enough chance that this might be the final resting place of Jesus' body along with mother, father and brother and possibly Mary Magdalene, but there were just too many liberties taken with the data and extrapolations off that data.

The whole thing just smacked of amateur hour and a rush to make a quick buck, but with something this emotionally charged, I doubt we'll ever get a straight answer. The post-show wrap - again, with Koppel, who is the managing editor for the channel - dumped everything into the laps of the science community, just as the show left all the moral wrangling to the viewers.

Essentially, the principal parties fell back on the position that they took the science this far and it's up to someone else to work away on the rest of it. Kind of a punk out if you ask me. If you're going to announce to the world that you've found the bones of Christ, you damn well better have something other than name games and DNA scraps to offer, staring with a strong peer review of your work.

In thinking about it for the past two days, I think the fight over the Shroud of Turin, which people swore up and down for years was a legitimate relic, provides an interesting contrast. All of the believers who had to play defense for years now have a chance to try and shred this new assertion.

And if someone needs to believe that Christ was actually, physically resurrected in order to keep their personal faith, that's fine and I can grant them that. It just upsets me to know that most of the people who will continue to be vocal on the issue will dismiss all of the evidence out of hand, not because they take issue with the techniques, but because it challenges their faith.

That's the whole point of faith in my estimation - it needs to be challenged to be worth much of anything at all. Call it what you will, believe what you need to and interpret scripture however you like, but I'm pretty sure that nowhere in the Bible does it say that blind fealty is the path to salvation.

From everything I've seen, that only serves to cause more problems down here.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Go ahead, ask me about Pike's Peak

With time to kill until tomorrow afternoon's flight home - the Grade 3 Killstorm hitting Minneapolis is in full swing - I headed down to the Pioneer Museum in town to give us something to do until dinner.

Also, when I invited challengers to ask me "anything" about Pike's Peak in the title of this post, I should narrow that down to two key facts as those are the only ones I actually absorbed about the mountain.

1.) Pike's Peak is named after a dude named Pike - Zebulon Montgomery Pike - who never even set foot on the f-ing mountain!

That's like someone naming the Grand Canyon after you because you drove by it... Rip city.

2.) The "Purple Mountains' Majesty" referenced in America the Beautiful? Pike's Peak.

The courthouse across the street is shaped like a big "H" so that the statue of the lady who wrote the song - Katharine Lee Bates - can still "see" the mountain. (U of I readers, just imagine FAR, but with a mountain behind it instead of buildings).

My only regret is that the gift shop closed a half hour before the museum did. I can only imagine the awesomeness that comes from rocking a Katharine Lee Bates t-shirt to work on Monday.

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It's all pretty simple, really

Law and Order is being shown continuously on one of the four channels that is shown on the TV in my room this week.

This is a carryover from The Girl, who will watch as much of the show as you're willing to put on the air.

Who would have thought that murder, gunfire and screaming matches involving Ice-T would have a calming effect and help ease homesickness? Well, other than Detroit residents.

Here is my quick checklist for all Law and Order viewers out there:

* The first person arrested is never the person who did it. They'll be cleared as a suspect - no matter how guilty they appear at first - in the top 15 minutes of the show.

* You won't see the real culprit until after the commercial break at the bottom of the hour. It's like watching a college basketball game - tune in for the final half hour and you'll see all you need to see.

* Ice-T is a shockingly good actor. He can be left on his own, away from the rest of the cast, and he'll be fine. No, really. I say this with all seriousness.

* The new trend is to throw out random shit from the character's personal life and then pretend like it never happened. It's getting stranger by the week and didn't happen as much in the older shows. Months ago one of the lawyers was fired and her last line in the show was, "This isn't because I'm a lesbian, is it?"

Previously, there'd been no mention of any of this. Aaaaand, credits!

* The orderlies in the background of recent episodes have been exceptionally good looking. Except one...

* Somewhere around the 40-minute mark or once a lead suspect is released on bond or let go outright, something bad will happen. The cops will be doing something else and someone will ask if they know what happened to Suspect X.

Dollars to donuts says they were shot, stabbed, poisoned or were hit with something heavy. Try to act surprised.

* All of these rules are out the window if this is a very special episode where the cops right an old wrong or have a personal score to settle. In those cases, the episode's main character will probably be forced to eat a big bucket of shit and end the episode sorely disappointed.

* I will be told to shut my mouth for pointing out any or all of these bullet points when I voice my opinion during the episode. This may or may not include something being thrown off the coffee table at me for making said points.

(Images from for all I know /

Hindsight is 20/20

I'm sitting around my hotel room last night when the phone rings.

Me: Hello?

Justin Timberlake: Hey, it's JT, what's new? You still out of town?

M: Yeah. Looks like I'll be stuck here another day because of weather.

JT: Bummer, I hate when that happens. So what are you up to tonight, then?

M: Well, I'm sitting in my PJs, scarfing down a burrito and watching sports on ESPN. I'm geting salsa all over the floor.

JT: Damn. You know when I wrote that song for you a year or so ago?

M: Which one?

JT: SexyBack.

M: Oh, yeah. That was pretty rad.

JT: Looks like I really jumped the gun on that one, huh?

M: Don't beat yourself up over it. It'll be OK. I gotta let you go - you're chewing up my minutes.

JT: OK, later homeboy.

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