2005-03-31



... and apparently "strange bedfellows" is a new concept for some people.

Jesse Jackson working with Jeb Bush ... Good Lord! It's that cold day in hell that we've all been waiting for. And, as noted in my previous post, I find myself agreeing with many people with whom I normally disagree and vice versa.

That's OK. When human beings are confronted by controversy, and everyone gives the matter due consideration, people will often arrive at different conclusions because we are, after all, different. In fact, not only is this "OK." It's probably very good for us.

So, on this issue, the teams have been switched up and it's got a whole host of folks all discombobulated. The other night Alan Colmes just couldn't get around Jeb and Jesse working together. In his mind this was the highest hypocrisy. Of course in Colmes mind everything is the highest hypocrisy where someone with the name Bush is involved so no news there.

Still, this is a sad statement, and bigger minds than Colmes have fallen into the same trap. If I disagree with you on one thing, but then agree on another, how is that hypocrisy and not simply human nature? Well, it's all in how we do business these days.

The problem is two-fold: 1. We've became far too polarized. 2. Critical thought is dying. These days we are less about wrestling with things constructively and arriving at a workable conclusion, and more about winning. When a challenge arises most look to see which side their "team" is taking, gather the talking points, and march forward as an opionated puff of cluelessness wrapped in a shell of blather disguised as knowledge. Few will weigh situations against their world view because few have a world view!

Christians are not exempt. "I follow the Bible" is now code for "I follow what religious icons of today tell me that people who follow the bible should follow. And, since God has been invoked, I do so with much fervor!"

So now, when we arrive at a controversy so strong that one can't help but work on it mentally, many suddenly find themselves disagreeing with old teammates. In a time where disagreement calls for scorched earth, this is trouble.

James, over at Outside the Beltway found himself on the business end of a delinking earlier today. I'm not linking the original source because it is all such nonsense - the blog equivalent of taking your toys and going home. Among OTB's heresy on Shiavo:
"...the courts have determined about 18 times that what the husband says is the proper interpretation of the truth. That may not be so, but I'm confident enough in my own infallibility to know that they probably can assess the situation better than I can."
The audacity! Delinking is too good for them! But, if you're going to follow this delinking thing to its logical conclusion, why link anyone at all? Eventually you'll disagree with everyone on something, though probably not the same thing.

Agreeing with someone you previously disagreed with shouldn't be hypocrisy, but unfortunately it can be. When disagreement involves demonizing the person with whom you disagree; if it involves discrediting not only their ideas but also their person, their worth and their ability to arrive at worthwhile ideas then you are setting yourself up. When suddenly you find yourself in agreement with that same person, and wanting to work with them, you're a hypocrite. The key isn't your sudden agreement. It's the regrettable extremes you went to when disagreeing.

My point is, it's OK to agree, and it's OK to disagree regardless of the philosophical or politcal bent of the parties involved. When we are pursuing life with integrity we should expect plenty of both.

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2005-03-30



About a month ago I weighed in on the Shiavo case. And, though my friend, John may disagree with me, I've had a couple of weeks to really think about this and see some things up close and personal - I stand by what I said then.

Since my first post the thing has been hashed out ad nauseum, and it has been my desire not to add to the noise.

Then, the tube was pulled and the reaction kicked into high gear. There were the inevitable protests. Then I read that a father and his 10, 12 and 14-year old kids were arrested. And from many pundits and voices with whom I'd normally agree ... applause. Great approval! That's where my silence stops.

This is not a great thing. It's a tragedy. Adults have made a total mess out of the situation - why drag kids into it? The "taking water and bread to Teri" protest accomplishes absolutely nothing no matter who is undertaking it - WHY DRAG KIDS INTO IT?

Making a statement: What could you possibly add to the national discussion on this that hasn't been said a million times over already?

It's symbolic: Symbolic of what? We all know what starvation is. Symbolic of your lack judgment? Symbolic of your loss of grip on reality? Symbolic of a desire to raise your kids to be every bit the j*ck*ss that you are?

Doing God's bidding: From the 14-yr old girl, this is the one that really spins me up. Thanks, Dad, for that bit of brainwashing. Not only have you set your kids back, you have dealt a blow to Christian (as in Christ-like) efforts everywhere.

I'm probably giving too much credit here. Usually when children are involved in this way, it's a simple grab for media attention - and it often works. Some people just aren't content with quiet, personal stupidity. No. They want the whole world to know how dumb they are!

The bandwagon is rolling, get your t-shirts. One can almost hear the joyful reunions in that Florida parking lot ... "Hey! Weren't you at the Alabama 10 Commandments Protest!?"

Understand, this is not a wholesale faulting of anyone who disagrees with me. There are many who have thought this through just as much or more than I have and come up with an entirely different conclusion. It happens. A lot.

My quarrel and amazement are with those cause-ists who see something like this and immediately must travel to be on location. They are somehow able to not work for days or weeks while they "make their voice heard," and become a backdrop for news channel updates. My quarrel and disdain are with those who feel that it's a good idea to put their children in harm's way for no good reason.

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Team Magna has dominated, sometimes despite themselves, in the two tasks since Trump mixed up the teams. At the time it seemed that Magna was getting the better end of the deal by ridding itself of Erin and Stephanie's dead weight, and picking up Tana and Craig, the two Net Worth members who seemed least infected by that team's growing disfunction.

The two subsequent tasks have revealed that re-shuffling to be the reality show equivalent of the Cowboys / Vikings Hershel Walker trade (for the non-sport fans out there, that was a massively one-sided trade that handicapped the Vikes for years, while quickly positioning the Cowboys for a series of Super Bowl runs) as their two pickups were the keys to their two wins.

This past week, Craig logged the best PM performance so far in this 3rd edition of the Apprentice. The teams were tasked with putting on a Do-it-Yourself Workshop at a Home Depot store. With Magna unable to reach a consensus on which project to undertake, Craig stepped in and made the decision - a storage trunk. He remained strong through the ensuing flurry of ridicule and distancing from his own team members.

Meanwhile at Net Worth, Erin openly embraced her cluelessness in regards to Home Depot as an excuse to check out of this task almost completely. She did circulate around the Home Depot trying to drum up interest in her team's workshop - something to the effect of, "Us girls think it is really hot when a guy can do projects like this." We learned that Home Depot may be the one place where sex is negligible as a sales tool.

Net Worth selected a reasonable project, a mobile kitchen island. Problem was, none of the team was exceedingly gifted in "handyperson" projects to begin with. They didn't work their presentation to where it was smooth. As a result they were so concerned with simply getting through the presentation that they neglected the customer-involvement aspect of this task. This was their undoing.

It turns out that the simplicity of the project Craig selected left wide open avenues for family involvement - parent and child. Magna put on a very successful workshop and scored a resounding victory in this task. The key to the victory: Craig confronted his team's poor attitude directly and professionally, and his team behaving like professionals in listening to, and following the direction of their leader. It was neat to watch this, and to hear, at the end, several Magna members praise Craig and admit that they had had it wrong.

This show also featured one of the ugliest board rooms so far, as trying to figure out which member of Net Worth was worse than the others proved to be a major task. Angie, Net Worth's PM, brought Chris and Erin back to the board room. I get the feeling that Trump wanted to fire Angie - usually when there is a general breakdown on a task he will hold the PM responsible, and Net Worth definitely failed in every area on this one.

George and Carolyn however, were quick to praise Angie and the Donald felt compelled to give her a pass, although he did not hesitate to revisit his frustration in this several times during the board room discussion. As soon as the three came back in, Trump told Angie straight out that she wouldn't be fired. Game on! Seeing that it was down to her against Chris, Erin immediately went on the attack, bringing up Chris' use of chewing tobacco and foul language, and his hot temper as evidence of his unworthiness. The team had already identified Erin's lack of involvement as a big problem in the week's task.

Trump clearly doesn't like the chewing tobacco thing. At one point Chris volunteered to quit, saying that if it mattered to Trump, he'd quit immediately and if he failed Trump could fire him next week. Only problem: the Donald has already made it abundantly clear that it does matter, so what are you waiting for, dude?

Erin held the initiative for most of the discussion. This turned out to be "just enough rope" as her own smart mouth got her fired.

Outlook:

Strong: Alex and Kendra (M) - Both are becoming more outspoken and bold as the game moves into its mid-phase where staying out of trouble gives way to getting your strengths noticed as the key strategy. Both Alex and Kendra have that great combination of strong skills and professional demeanor in executing their missions. All other things equal, I'd bet on Alex right now. However I still have the gut feel that Trump doesn't want a third white, male Apprentice.

Possibilities: Craig, Tana (M) - Craig did exceptional as PM this week, but still has some communication issues that will hurt him in the long run. Tana's strength is her personality and sales ability - things which have always helped players go far, but not all the way in this game. I still don't believe that someone without a college education can win. As things move along, each player's full portfolio will come under scrutiny, and there will be times when lack of knowledge will be a liability that no amount of street smarts can overcome.

Neutral: Bren (M), Angie(NW) - I've downgraded Bren. He appears to nice and fun and a good team player. But, he has yet to really show strong leadership so I've downgraded him. Angie has the misfortune to be stuck on a dismal team. George and Carolyn bought her a week in the most recent board room, but did not gain her much as far as Trump's opinion goes. I believe there will be another re-shuffling next week. The teams are unbalanced numbers-wise, but even more so in terms of ability. If Angie finds herself on a capable team she needs to quickly start showing strength.

Hopeless: Chris, Stephanie (NW) - Only the fact that there have always been better candidates to fire has kept Chris from getting the axe. He is full of liabilities and few positives to offset them, things that Trump is clearly and keenly aware of. While Stephanie has somehow managed to keep under the radar in the board room, she has not escaped the disdain of the other players on both teams. During the re-shuffling, after Kendra had dismissed her from Magna, Chris tried to send her back when it came to his turn to cast players off of Net Worth. Hidden under all the negativity and attitude Stephanie does seem to have some creativity and ability. She needs to get those things out there in short order to have hope of salvaging her own prospects.

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2005-03-29



A: Pittsnoggle

Q: What is the perfect name for a basketball player from West Virginia?

Really, that name fits perfect. It just works. Unfortunately, whenever a sporting figure has a catchy name, sports-announcers just can't seem to say it enough. This guy is almost as fun for them as the Bulgarian Women's Gymnastics team.

Q: What time is it when your double-digit seeded team advances to the second week of the NCAA Tournament?

A: Time to start looking for a new coach.

I must correct an earlier projection that the Philadelphia 76ers wouldn't be big enough, nor would any other team for that matter, for C-Webb and AI to co-exist there. My statement was based on faulty information. I had incorrectly assumed that Chris Webber was signed to be Chris Webber, a talented all-around player who disappears in crucial playoff situations.

It turns out that Chris Webber was signed to be "one of the four guys who stand around trying to guess where Iverson's next shot will wind up after it clanks wildly off the rim." AI is simultaneously among the league leaders in shots attempted and among the league's worst in shooting percentage. AI's line from the recent Laker game ... 5 of 28!! from the field including 0 - 6 from behind the arc. You'd think that somewhere around that 15th or 16th miss you'd start to smell the coffee. Not AI ... the good ones are never afraid to brick their way out of a slump.

Anyway, as long as Webber is content to be the league's highest paid spectator things will work out just fine in Philly. He'll have to turn in his C-Webb monnicker though. Those things are reserved for players who make a difference.

Speaking of Iverson ...

A: Alan Iverson

Q: Whose name appears right above Kobe Bryant at the bottom of the list of people Phil Jackson would most like to coach, should he return to the NBA sidelines?

One more on sports before we turn to other news ...

A: Scrabble on ESPN, Arm-Wrestling on ESPN, Spelling Bees on ESPN, Dog Shows on TNT.

Q: What happens when the entire hockey season is cancelled?

And, on the Shiavo mess ...

Q: When can you tell that your situation has gotten out of control?

A: When Jesse Jackson arrives on the scene.

How about JJ showing up again!? "I feel so passionate about this injustice ... " said the Reverend. Hmmm. So passionate that he's just now stepping to the plate after the matter has been raging for a year? So passionate that he waited until the tube's been out for a week and a half and death is imminent to start phoning state legislators to reconsider their vote against having the tube re-inserted (you know, with all that political muscle he has these days).

But I guess that's probably the point. He jumps in on day one, and we have plenty of time to see how impotent he's become. Now he can play the, "I tried but I just ran out of time" card.

And really, for a guy who has made a career out of re-opening 100+ year old wounds, this is actually a pretty timely response.

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2005-03-28



It's looking like an awesome Final Four this year. I'm still comfortable with my Carolina pick for the Championship, and Louisville is looking good. But I could also see Illinois taking it. Not Michigan State, though. They're the ugly step-sister in this one, but stranger things have happened.

Each team was tested, and needed overtime to advance at some point this weekend.

Carolina and Illinois are head and shoulders above the other two in tonnage of future NBA star power. As much talent the Illini have, however, it will be impossible for them to play any better against Louisville than West Virginia did. Wait. I think Patrick Beilein just made another 3-pointer - this one from his bed back in Morgantown.

Of the four, the Illini have to count themselves as the most fortunate (i.e. lucky) to be heading to St Louis. I had Arizona beating Illinois in the Chicago Region because 1. Illinois is over-rated and under-tested, a collection of talented individuals, not a team, and 2. Arizona is consistently a savvy tournament team whose coach, Lute Olsen, gets the most out of the Wildcats in every game. And, I was right for the first 36 minutes of the clash between these two teams.

During that final four minutes of regulation play, we saw a collapse for the ages. Illinois didn't win so much as Arizona flat out forgot how to play basketball. It's a tired cliche, but this was a textbook case of a team playing not to lose rather than going for the jugular. They were sloppy with the ball. They were tentative. And, while they wisely used every last drop of shot clock, they never seemed to have a plan for what to do in the final seconds of each possession.

Louisville can beat Illinois. I'm just waiting to see if they will.

Overall, I'm sticking with my Carolina pick.

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2005-03-23



I said it before and I'll say it again - I hope he's happy. Last night Kobe Bryant poured in 43 pts to help seal another Laker loss and lead his team to a place even further behind Denver in the race for the West's 8th playoff spot.

Who would have thought it - the Lakers fighting just to get into the playoffs?

And the Shaq apologists can take a seat. If O'Neal had shown up as in shape and motivated at the beginning of his Lakers seasons as he did this year for Miami, he'd already have more rings than he would know what to do with.

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Mega-props to University of Tennessee Women's Head Basketball Coach, Pat Summitt. The Vols 2nd-round defeat of Purdue in the NCAA Tournament was Summitt's 880th win, making her the all-time winningest coach in College Basketball. Former North Carolina Men's Coach, Dean Smith is 2nd by one victory ... and counting.

Summitt deserves all the accolades she'll get in the days and weeks to come. She has crafted a program that is year in and year out among the nation's elite.

Frankly, I'm sick of hearing the "That's nice, but Dean Smith's is still the real record." How do you figure? "Because the men play at a higher level than the women." Again, how do you figure?

Granted, if the men played the women, the men would almost always win ... except at Harvard. But the men aren't playing the women. They're playing other competitive men's teams. And the women are playing other competitive women's teams. Those who think Summitt doesn't have it just as tough as Smith did have never seen a Tennessee-UConn game.

Pat Summitt is now the winningest College Basketball Coach of all time, period. This is a monumental achievement that is overshadowed by nothing.

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And the award for most annoying "southern accent" (really, calling it that is already giving too much credit) in a motion picture goes to ...
Nicholas Cage in Con-Air!


Great flick. John Malkovich is always a treat. If only Cage would keep his mouth shut.

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2005-03-22



Man! I guess you can't complain about the price, but Blogger is a mess lately. It seems to misfire more than it works, and it is sluggish on its good days. I don't know what the problem is, but free or not, they aren't the only game in town!

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" ... how do you get heard? How does your company connect with the consumer?

You need a Big Bang."


... and Linda Kaplan Thaler is out to show just how to achieve that in her new book, Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World. Linda is CEO of the Kaplan Thaler Group, a self-proclaimed "small band of renegade advertising professionals," so she knows of what she speaks. In fact, Bang! emerged from her group's efforts to identify what was working in the ad world and why it was working.

Follow that link above - it's not the Amazon entry for her book. It's a blog-esque site dedicated to Bang!. I'm not sure if this is intended to be an ongoing blog or just a short-term promo, but what is out there so far is fascinating stuff.

I do have to take time out to quarrel with one part of her recent entry on sweatshop-free apparel companies American Apparel and No Sweat:
"... these companies are providing a “living wage” and healthcare benefits to their mostly immigrant work force. American Apparel’s factory is made in the U.S. and No Sweat – which is union-made in a factory in Indonesia – provides consumers of its logo-less Converse-like sneaker with a leaflet in every shoebox underscoring all the workers’ benefits.

Is the message working? A resounding yes.

American Apparel now has 2,000 employees producing a million garments a week, with sales of $80 million last year. In the past year, it has opened 13 retail stores and projects that its revenue will nearly double."

I'm pleased with all the success that these two companies are having, but the fact that droves of consumers are buying their product doesn't mean that the consumers are driven by, or for that matter, even aware of the companies' sweat-free worker-friendly posture. To follow Thaler's logic, this would mean that the millions who buy Nike are big fans of sweat-shops and opressed workers.

That doesn't change the fact that this is interesting stuff. I mean, "how to be heard in a noisy world?" ... How many times have we beat our heads against that wall!? Bang! has vaulted to the top of my "to read" list.
By the way, Kaplan Thaler will be one of the judges on the soon-to-air, Making it Big, an Apprentice-ish reality show. Thanks to AdPulp for the pointer.

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2005-03-20



Usually the fireworks settle down when the second round starts. The dogs get all week to prepare for their first game, but precious little time to gear up for their second opponent two days later. This weekend the hits just kept on coming as Boston College, Wake Forest and U Conn fell in the second round.

I've lost half of my Final Four (Wake and Syracuse) already. Fortunately the other two, North Carolina and Arizona, are playing strong.

Once again however, I have to say that things are not quite as surprising as they have been made to seem by some of the committee's questionable seeding decisions.

If you go by seeding alone, there are 8 "surprises" (teams seeded 5 or lower) in the Sweet Sixteen, yet only 4 of them weren't in the final AP Top 20. Giving Washington (AP #8) a 1-seed, U-Conn (AP #13) a 2-seed, Oklahoma (AP #17) a 3-seed, and Louisville (AP #4) a 4-seed all remain complete mysteries.

Those who read this with any frequency know that I don't usually have much good to say about Sports Journalists. Today high praise: they're smarter than the NCAA selection committee.

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2005-03-19



Corporate blogging guru, Debbie Weil is calling out GM blogger, Bob Lutz, and Boeing blogger, Randy Baseler, for avoiding recent, highly-public, bad news at their companies.

I believe I've had similar comments here, here, here, and here.

I'm still up in the air on this one. Sure, it would be interesting to hear what they have to say. But it seems clear that that isn't what they are blogging for. Both are pimping their companies' products. These aren't blogs as much as they are advertising via a different medium. I accept that and process their words accordingly.

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Isn't this how it always goes? The first day, and even in the early games on the second day, there might be one or two surprises, but nothing major beyond that. You start thinking, "Hmm. This is a relatively calm year for the NCAA." Then on that second night, all hell breaks loose.

Syracuse and Kansas are going to hurt me.

Myth that I bought into - 2005 edition: That the Big East is an under-rated power and will surprise some people this year. Pitt fell in a game they could have won. Syracuse fell in a game they should have won. And West Virginia narrowl escaped Creighton. Villanova and U Conn won, but Boston College is the only team that has shown any strength out of the Big East.

And, Louisville fans can now shut up about their seeding. We narrowly escaped 13-seed, UL-LaFayette. Some will argue that we wouldn't have even been in that game had we gotten the seed we "deserved." If you're a "possible #1, probable #2, at worst #3" then a 13-seed should be no problem. Whatever PR battles are won or lost, you still have to play the games. And, no one wins the NCAA without navigating some scrappy underdogs and a host of top-25 teams.

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2005-03-18



My goal for the first round is always to hit three out of every four games, and not lose any teams that I have going beyond the second round. So far I'm 11/16 - just one game shy of my goal, so there's still a good chance I can make that up today. And, I haven't lost any of my second round winners yet, so things are looking good.

Creighton! If that had gone the other way I'd be right on track. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to have any idea what to do with the ball during the last minute of the game.

Hail Bobby Knight! One of my favorite coaches in the game. The other night I watched Indiana lose behind a miserable effort in the NIT. It was remarkable how far that team has fallen in the short time that Knight has been gone. IU has never had the greatest talent in the world, so Knight's teams had to be disciplined (although no one seems to get that anymore), motivated and fundamentally sound to have any success at all. Today's Hoosiers are sloppy and lackluster.

Contrast that with the Texas Tech team we saw last night. Crisp ball movement, excellent shot selection, and solid on all the fundamentals. When you see someone like Coach Knight or Rick Pitino go somewhere else and duplicate previous success you realize ... It's the coach, stupid!

I'm proud of my UW-Milwaukee and UAB picks.

At one point last night, my picks were losing in all four games in progess, and three of them were big. Everyone except Texas (is that school just born to under-achieve) took their games over in the second half.

I'm feeling good about Arizona going deep, and I'm curious about Illinois. They were pushed. Sometimes this is an indication of weakness, and sometimes it's a wakeup and the team is untouchable for the rest of the tournament. I say the Illini are beatable.

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2005-03-17



The afternoon Game 1's are all complete and I'm off to a pretty good start at 3/4 including correctly picking the UW-Milwaukee over Alabama upset. There is always a 12 over 5 upset, and Alabama seemed sooooo over-seeded.

The Oklahoma and Kentucky games were no surprise. My one loss was Pacific over Pitt. Even there I had Pitt losing in the next round to Washington, so little harm done.

Wave 2 is looking dicey. UTEP is trailing Utah although they've closed the gap heading into halftime. At the half, Cincy is up on Iowa by 10. I have Iowa and UTEP losing on Saturday, so no biggie if those games don't come around for me.

Washington and Boston College look safer, which is a good thing - I have both of them moving on to next weekend.

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So, after 7 episodes, each team was left with five players apiece. Trump took the opportunity to point out that education doesn't matter. Book-smart or street-smart, anyone can win provided they work hard and have business savvy.

I tend to disagree with him, and I think that given one or two more weeks, the show would have not been nearly as balanced. At the beginning Magna was in a shambles. But, Net Worth wasn't significantly better. And, early on this is less about the merits of education vs. street-smarts, and more about how personalities blend or clash when thrown together.

I believe that had the current arrangement been maintained, Magna would have taken the game over. Once the book-smarts shed their problem children they settled down and started using sound business strategy. As a result they posted solid wins in the last two tasks that pitted book-smarts vs. street-smarts.

Of course one could simply point out that the past two Apprentice winners were educated. It stands to reason. The job being applied for here requires more than simple, instinctual business skills. There is a required body of knowledge that is normally attained through schooling.

8. Charity Auction: We've seen the last of book-smart vs. street-smart. Step one this week was to re-shuffle the teams. For Net Worth, Chris chose to jettison Tana and Craig. Meanwhile, Kendra, acting as Magna's PM, sent Erin and Stephanie. If this episode is any indication, Magna got the better end of the deal by far.

John didn't seem too pleased with Chris' selections. Craig didn't surprise me as all we've seen of him so far was his causing trouble with Audrey in the Turismo challenge. Tana was still in my, "don't know enough," category, other than that she's really loud.

For Magna, Stephanie was also an "I don't know," but Erin has clearly been dead weight from the start.

One note: Can we please get someone besides Angie to answer the phone in the morning? No one's at their best first thing in the morning, but she is really a scary site. Perhaps she's always the first one up because it takes her the longest to get her game face on ... I don't know.

Both teams were assigned several stars with whom they had to negotiate for packages that would be auctioned off to raise money for pediatric AIDS. This has become a standard Apprentice task.

Craig and Tana were the negotiating dynamic duo for Magna. Their packages were far more juicy than the Net Worth offerings, where John left something to be desired.

This was another case where someone was tasked based on his self-reported expertise. John has claimed to be the music guy all along, so Chris sent him to do the negotiating with Erin and Stephanie along to be eye candy for the musicians.

Unfortunately, where Craig and Tana weren't afraid to push for more from their artists, John was content to settle for the first idea and not let his team-mates be part of the discussion. On at least two occasions, the artists asked John if the package under discussion was enough ... in other areas this is called a BUYING SIGNAL! "We'll give you more if you ask for it." John did not seize the opportunity.

In the case of Gene Simmons, John's habit of keeping the girls out of the discussion was devastating. Simmons did nothing to hide his weakness for women, or that he wasn't fond of John. Where Erin and Stephanie could have led him into all sorts of concessions, John settled for an average auction package.

One nice thing Net Worth did that Magna didn't think of: They had a couple of their artist stop by the online auction to help pimp their package. I doubt this was a difference-maker money-wise, but it was a nice touch.

New Magna soundly defeated Net Worth on the auction block. In the board room, it came down to Chris vs. John, with Erin bystanding. Chris' decision to let John handle the negotiations, the key part of the task, came under fire by Trump and his team. No one seemed to remember that Kendra did the same and got great results, although she sat in on one negotiation session before heading off to tend to other matters.

This riled Chris who began shouting his defense at the Donald, George and Carolyn, claiming to be a better negotiator than John. I kind of doubt this as Chris seems to have this knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

It was finally determined that Chris could not have been involved in the negotiations and managed the other elements as well, which got him off the hook. Once Net Worth's most promising player, John found himself in the elevator to the street at the end of this episode.

One note: John really did show promise at the beginning of Apprentice 3. His downfall was that he failed to learn from Michael's demise. Michael too had a moment in the sun early. Rather than follow up by continuing the things that brought success, he turned arrogant and decided to rest on his laurels ... starting in week 3 of the 16-week job interview! John did the same and was fortunate not to have been lost weeks earlier. The first time a task cropped up where no direct line of responsibility could be drawn from failure to the PM, John got the axe.

Outlook:

Front-Runners: Alex and Kendra (Magna). Both are playing the game very well. When they've been in the spotlight they've done an outstanding job. Further, they've been careful not to be in the spotlight too much with the game still in its wild, weeding-out phase. Right now I give the edge to Kendra just because I think that at this point Trump really wants someone other than a white male to win. Not that he seems excessively PC, but I got the feeling last season that he was pulling for Jen.

On the Rise: Tana (Magna, Formerly NW). Tana and Craig performed well on the last mission, and Tana really doesn't have any negatives yet. Of the high school educated candidates, her stock is the highest right now, and having been moved to Magna will help her avoid being victimized by someone else's failure.

Good, not Great: Craig, Bren (Magna). He and Tana did well, but we've also seen Craig ruffling feathers and distracting his team from the task at hand. I'm just not sure that we've clearly seen who the real Craig is yet.

I remain convinced that Bren has potential. Bren was PM for Magna's failure in the Mobile Service task, which is less a failure and more a case where the other team just did a little bit better. Harder for Bren to live down will be his role as architect of the cucumber debacle. If Bren's really got the goods, he needs to step up and show it soon, to start to build a rep as a serious contender in the eyes of Trump & Co.

Note: Everyone mentioned so far is on the current version of Magna. This team is much more solid and settled than Net Worth and its players will benefit by not being put in the line of fire until the teams are re-shuffled again.

Crunch Time: Chris, Angie, Stephanie (Net Worth). These folks aren't hopeless, but they need to show something, now! Opinions are starting to solidify and players can no longer hide behind each other.

Chris came within a whisker of being fired, and while he hasn't done anything horrible, he never seems to do anything well either. His mouth is a boardroom liability.

Angie was PM for Net Worth's victory in the Nescafe event. That task, however, was not a tremendous leadership proving ground. Though she was not the PM for the mobile service episode, Angie assumed a key role in coming up with the open casting idea but then failed to produce the kind of results she had promised.

Stephanie has had good instincts for identifying what her team (First Magna, now Net Worth) is doing wrong. What remains to be seen is whether she has better ideas. A common Magna complaint is that she is negative, and she was one of two selected by Kendra to be kicked off of Magna at the re-structuring.

Dead Weight: Go ahead, name your price, name your odds, whatever. I'll bet cash money right now that Erin will not be the next Apprentice. We've seen plenty of her, and have yet to see her add any tangible positives to the mix. The one good thing she did was to stand by her team the time that both teams were in the boardroom after the Dove Body Wash fiasco. Even there, Trump telegraphed what he was looking for. It was not so much that Erin was smart, as it was that Kristen was exceedingly dumb?

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It is about to end, that precious few days when millions of Americans feel like they've got the NCAA Tournament all figured out.

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Now that we are exactly halfway through Apprentice 3 (give or take a compilation show), it's time to catch up.

When last we were with our merry band, five candidates had fallen by the wayside:
Hands-off Todd left Magna (the book-smarts) after the Burger King challenge; Brian the Brash left Net Worth (the street-smarts) after the hotel renovation challenge; Verna decided she couldn't go on and left Magna before the third mission; Indecisive Danny was fired after Magna lost the Nescafe event challenge; and finally both teams' efforts at making a Dove Body Wash commercial were so poor that Donny Deutsch was unable to declare a winner. Net Worth's Kristen lost the resulting board room free-for-all after her team members began turning on each other and her.

5. Mobile Business: Each team was given an Airstream trailer and $5K with which to start and run a mobile service business.

Net Worth, led by Tana created an open casting workshop based on Angie's promised expertise, which turned out to be quite underwhelming.

Bren took the reins at Magna, and led the team in creating a mobile massage service.

Both ideas turned out well, but after a slow start, Net Worth won by a narrow margin.

Michael's arrogance and lack of effort finally caught up with him. Earlier in the episode he had bragged that he was just like Trump. Quote of the episode, Trump (to Michael): "How stupid can you be? You claim to be just like me? You're nothing like me. I work hard!" And with that the Donald sent Michael packing.

6. Grand Turismo 4: This was my favorite episode so far. In it we finally got to see something of Tara and Craig on Net Worth, and Alex on Magna.

The teams were tasked with hiring an artist and helping to create a grafitti advertisement for PS2's new racing game, Grand Turismo 4.

Net Worth's project was probably the more artistic of the two, and that was the whole problem. From the outset Tara was intent on creating a community statement, rather than commercial art. It turns out that Tanya had not even taken the opportunity to play the GT4.

In the episode's key move, Alex stepped back and starting soliciting ideas from bystanding PS2 fans. He got some great input, incorporated the ideas into his team's grafitti and it made all the difference.

The focus group had little trouble making their decision. Magna's design clearly articulated the product and generated enthusiasm for it. Net Worth's art, on the other hand, was uninspiring, and not even clear as to the product being promoted.

In the end Tara was fired for her lack of focus on the product and task at hand.

7. Mini-Golf: Each team had to construct and then manage for one day a miniature golf course on the Chelsea Piers.

Audrey, still stinging from her teams' attacks on her in the last board room stepped up to be PM for Net Worth and inherited a mess. We quickly found out that Audrey is still a little green, but even the Donald would have had his hands full with this bunch. There was Chris, who scared more kids than he attracted as a clown with a dip of tobacco in his lip. John, who had been butting heads with Audrey since the last mission, was passive-agressively giving the PM enough rope to hang herself. And, Audrey was all too happy to oblige as she seemed unwilling or unable to make key decisions regarding the allocation of her team's time and effort.

For Magna, Kendra correctly identified that marketing would be the key to the task and came up with two brilliant maneuvers that ultimately propelled her team to victory. First, she cross-promoted their attraction to the children who took lessons at other venues on the piers. Second, she made these promotions exclusive, thus cutting Net Worth off from a potential customer base.

I applaud Kendra, who along with Alex is one of the few people I suspect really has what it will take to win this, for her thinking. I don't know if Magna won because of Kendra's specific strategies, or simply because they actually had a concerted marketing effort. Net Worth had their heads so buried that they certainly would never have come up with the cross-promotion idea.

Audrey didn't turn out to be any better at defending herself in the boardroom and became the game's eight victim.

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2005-03-15



PowerPoint guru Cliff Atkinson has come up with a killer idea! Who's Cliff Atkinson?

Cliff Atkinson is a leading authority on how to improve communications across organizations using Microsoft PowerPoint. As an independent management consultant, his clients include companies ranking in the top 5 of the Fortune 500. He is a popular keynote speaker, and writer, and author of "Beyond Bullet Points" (Microsoft Press, February 2005).

- from Cliff's bio at Beyond Bullets

As if his blog weren't interesting enough, Atkinson is now doing PowerPoint makeovers. Killer! So far he has enticed four volunteers to submit their PP presentations for public scrutiny and a facelift. See Cliff's blog entry on the makeovers here.

Best of all, this is not simply a before an after look at a few PP presentations. The audience can follow along as Cliff walks his volunteers through his "Beyond Bullet Points" process, step-by-step. Watch the formal work as it progresses, and participate in a running dialogue for each makeover on the sociablemedia.com Discussion Boards.

The makeovers are just getting started. Check out the sociablemedia.com makeover section here.

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For a while I've been wanting to dote on my puppy. Well, thanks to InfOpinions which linked to WikiFish, U of Auburn's College of Architecture wiki, which linked to flickr.com, a great photo collection tool for blogs and wiki's, I can do that under the guise of testing it out. Update: So far I'm not real impressed with the way flickr works with blogger. I've had to do a lot of manual working around. We'll see how it goes with other platforms.

Dixie is ... energetic, loyal, curious, smart, stubborn, a voracious chewer, and most of all a true rebel child of the south. Come May she'll be celebrating her first birthday.

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OK, grab a pen and paper if you want to know how this thing is going to go.

For the record ...

my Final 4: Arizona, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Syracuse. I went with my heart and picked Carolina to win it all.

Over-rated #1 Seeds: Even if I don't have the Final 4 right, I'm sure these #1 seeds won't make it: Washington, Illinois, Duke.

First Weekend Upsets: To call some of these upsets is to give the committee way too much credit on their seeding job.

Round 1: UW-Milwaukee over Alabama (12 over 5 ... always have to pick a 12-5 upset), UAB over LSU (11 over 6), St Mary's over So Illinois (10 over 7), Pitt over Pacific (9 over 8), Creighton over W Virginia (10 over 7), Iowa St over Minnesota (9 over 8), NC State over UNC-Charlotte (10 over 7), Mississippi St over Stanford (9 over 8), UTEP over Utah (11 over 6), Iowa over Cincinnati (10 over 7).

Performing Better than Expected: Arizona beating OK State, Illinois and Wake Forest en route to the Championship Game; Louisville beating Washington en route to the regional final; Texas Tech beating Gonzaga to reach the Sweet 16; Wake Forest reaching Final 4 (although with the other upsets I picked, I don't have them beating a higher seeded team); Wisconsin beating Kansas and U Conn en route to the regional final; Syracuse beating Duke and Oklahoma en route to the Final 4; Oklahoma beating Kentucky en route to the regional final.

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Businessweek has been doing a series of unflattering pieces on Boeing, including this latest installment, in the wake of CEO Harry Stonecipher's removal after having an affair with a female executive.

Meanwhile over at Marketing VP, Randy Baseler's Journal, since the scandal broke, we have the virtues of the two-engine 787 Dreamliner, even for long flights, and the premier of the 777 Worldliner.

Now, I know that Baseler is certainly not obligated to fulfill my thirst for business strategy talk. Marketing is his game, and pimping the Boeing line is what he should be doing with his valuable time. I do appreciate the nuggets of market analysis and strategy that he throws in from time to time.

At this point, however, what is going on at the very top of the company is the elephant in the room. Boeing's viability isn't in question, but its professionalism and stability are. It is not like Baseler's customers are buying copier toner. Airlines are investing their capital and their reputation in Boeing's products and service.

I'm very curious how Baseler reassures the people he's dealing with right now.

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2005-03-14



... "it" being opening her mouth.

It seems Britney Spears, astute psycho-therapist that she is, has some advice for Michael Jackson.

She recently broached the subject during an interview with Allure magazine. "If he did those things, I feel sorry for him. I feel like he probably feels alone, and he needs some help." Earth to Dingbat: He's a predator, not a stray cat.

"He needs someone to be like, 'OK, let's buck you up, let's give you a moustache (yikes! he's scary looking enough already), let's rough you up, let's go to a bar, let's get drunk and be a man.'" A fight? Easy for her to say, she could take him. Heck, I'm guessing she could out-moustache him as well!

I really don't think a "fight" would be physically possible for Jackson. A beating, yes. A fight ... Jacko would need to hit the gym and work on those needle-esque forearms first.

OK, OK, so Spears might be a little muddled with some of her advice, but at least she's got a handle on the key to the matter:

"And if he didn't do those things, I feel sorry for him. Either way, he needs to get in a fight." Again, the complete absence of any trace of physique makes this impossible.

However, if the emotionally well-adjusted Spears is so high on bar-fight therapy, she might be able to work something out with Tonya Harding.

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I haven't had a chance to dissect the brackets yet, but there cetainly are some irregularities. Washington in at #1, and Gonzaga at #3. It's as if the selection committee set out to prove that they don't have an east coast bias.

Frankly, the whole 'Zag thing is getting old. String together a storybook run in one tournament, and suddenly you're eveyone's "cinderella" pick every time out. It appears that even the selection committee has caught the bug. They're good, but not second weekend good.

Does name recognition count? Hmmm ... let's ask #1 seed, Duke.

All that said, this should be a great tournament. I remain unconvinced on Illinois or anyone else for that matter. This year's field seems wide open, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some lower seeds making a lot of noise deep into the tournament.

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There is snow on the ground in the middle of March, and our basetball team, #6 in the nation, is seeded #4 in their region! How have we so angered the gods that such a fate would befall us!?

On the bright side, I feel physically well for the first time in about three weeks, which is nice.

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2005-03-10



We saw the Easter Pageant at Southeast last night. As always, it was amazing and challenging. There was however, one piece of it that I'm going back and forth on.

In past year's, their Satan has been around for the temptation, then blows up and we never see him, that's HIM, again. This year, Satan was played by a woman (although she is cloaked so the effect is gender-neutral), was much more subtle yet much more sinister in her creepiness, and was woven into scenes throughout the production in situations where one would expect Satan to be hard at work. Sound familiar? Basically their Satan concept this year was lifted wholesale from "The Passion."

This is where I'm having trouble. IMHO this is a great way to portray Satan, but as an actor, I have some trouble with "borrowing" the genius of others. There are two parts to character development (well two parts that pertain to this discussion).

First, there are the lines and stage directions written into the script. Obviously every player should do those things ... that's what a script is for. Then there are the other things each actor adds that make the part his own. For my money, these things, however much they might add, are off limits to other actors.

I've been in situations where I've played a part that I'd seen others play before, and was careful to steer clear of their unique additions. Sometimes it is tough. You look at something and think, "That is genius! It would add so much here ..." In the end I was glad I went my own route. This forced me to spend a lot more time working on and thinking about the character, which always pays off in the end.

Counterpoint over at i-disciple.com later on.

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2005-03-08



John Rabe is celebrating the beginning of his third year blogging over at Rabe Ramblings. If you've never been, take this opportunity to head over and peruse his site. He's a Rams fan, but otherwise a real sharp wit!

At this landmark moment, John is looking to change things up a little bit with a new blog title, and he's taking suggestions. (Permalink to birthday entry)

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I've spent the last week focusing on getting the new rev of the youth website up and running. Time to catch up.

- B -

It's great to see that natural selection is alive and well in the Dominican Republic.

- B -

Bring on March Madness! This past weekend showed that 1. there is no quit in the North Carolina Tar Heels, and 2. Illinois is mortal, so I'm pretty psyched for the Tournament. Props to the Illini. Going nearly undefeated, especially in the Big 10 is quite an accomplishment. But they just never seemed to convince people (other than sports journalists) that they were as great as their record showed.

Added bonus: the Cards come into March like a Lion! Pitino has them in full stride, primed to go far in the tourney.

I'm also thankful for the return of the UNC-Duke rivalry. Duke wins by one at home. The Heels win by two at the Dean Smith Center. And all the while, sheer hatred from both sides. Is there a better rivalry in college hoops?

- B -

I popped over to Randy's Journal at Boeing to see if he'd broach the subject of his CEO being canned. As could be expected ... mum's the word.

Speaking of Randy's Journal, it has become a lot like the a airliner version of GM's FastLane blog lately. It's a little cooler for Randy because he's talking about jets. But, I've given FastLane a hard time here and here, so I think it only fair to do the same here.

Randy does mix in some strategy thoughts and industry analysis with his praise of Boeing's latest and greatest models - how certain Boeing products will fit Icelandair's growth in long flights, for example.

In fairness, there isn't as much of this kind of material available to Lutz over at GM. It's not like he can proudly announce that I've ordered a new Saturn and talk about how well it will fit my daily commute to work.

He could talk mileage I guess, but people don't seem to care about that. Sure they'll complain at the pump, but when it comes to Lutz's department, the vehicle-buying decision, it doesn't matter nearly as much as buying a big fat SUV that is not only bigger than the Jones's SUV, it's likely bigger than their house!

- B -

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2005-03-01



I recently ran into a friend from way back. We attended church camp together during our elementary and teen years. We spent the better part of lunch today catching up and doing a little reminiscing. Now, as the snow flurries swirl, and don't do much else, I think it's time for my top 10 memories from Burr Wesleyan Camp in Hillsboro, Wisconsin.

10. The ride to camp. Ours was one of a cluster of Wesleyan churches in the Milwaukee area, a three hour drive from camp. Often we shared a bus which gave us all a head start on reuniting with our summer friends, catching up things and getting into mischief.

9. Calling counselors and staff "uncle" and "aunt." For a young kid, the camp counselor is almost God-like. All-knowing, all-powerful, and so old! Uncle Ard, Aunt Martha, Uncle Ben, etc. ... we loved them.

8. Pastors who were too cheerful in the morning. For the week of camp, every camper was a night person, and the Pastors were the ultimate morning people. This all came to a head in the community bathroom / shower house. As campers struggled to keep the June Bugs at bay while brushing teeth, or to juggle towel, shower kit, old clothes and new clothes without dropping any of them in the puddles on the floor, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Pastor would come charging in whistling, singing and boisterously joking around with his fellow morning Pastors. I tell you, there is nothing like the intrusion of a good attitude to get your day off to a rocky start.

7. "Get your elbows off the table..." Besides God and the Bible, we were also learning table etiquette at camp. Conveniently, new campers were not informed of the local customs until they heard their name being sung as part of (tune of "If you're happy and you know it,")...
"Get your elbows off the table, Brian Besaw!
Get your elbows off the table, Brian Besaw.
Get your elbows off the table,
for we know that you are able,
get your elbows off the table, Brian Besaw."

And even that wasn't so bad except it invariably led to (tune of London Bridge) ...
"Round the table you must go,
you must go, you must go,
Round the table you must go, that was corny!"

To this day I feel a little pang of guilt and apprehension whenever I put my elbows on any table for any reason.

6. Campfires. The last night campfire was always a bittersweet camp tradition. After a week of raging hormones and emotions, you gather quietly by a fire, realizing that soon you'll be saying, "goodbye," to all of your friends for another year. On the other hand, it was always a great excuse to sit close to your favorite girl in the dark.

Our tradition: we all had to get a stick beforehand, and then take turns going up, throwing our stick in and share something with our fellow campers. We weren't absolutely obligated to do so, but as always, there was a certain unspoken pressure to participate.

So, much of the campfire time is spent going through the mental gymnastics. First figuring out what you are going to say - something that will be the right combination of not embarassing and yet not what everyone else is saying. Then you have to pick your spot ... "OK, I'm going to go after this next person." "Crap! I just couldn't do it ... OK, after the person after this next person, I'm really going to go." Finally, when you've mustered enough courage, and you're really going to do it ... someone else gets up a split second beforehand, and you stand down, semi-relieved and start over. "OK, after this next person ..." Even after seizing the initiative, you have to navigate the minefield of unseen roots and stumps in the dark. This whole ordeal is nerve-wracking enough without falling on your face in front of your friends.

At last, there you stand, in front of everyone, having thrown your stick in the fire, ready to say the thing that you carefully worked out. But, what seemed so eloquent moments earlier quickly turns unintelligible as you begin bawling the second you open your mouth.

Personally I think this is a conditioned response to singing "Pass it On" ("It only takes a spark ...".

5. My first kiss, "in the woods." Now here's where our campground might have been unique. It wasn't very big. A few acres, surrounded by farmers' fields at the intersection of two country roads. There was a tree line on the east edge of the property that couldn't have been more than a few trees deep. But we called it "the woods" because, being young, we somehow imagined it to be a deep barrier, impervious to the watchful eyes of the Counselors and Pastors.

"The woods" was the place to go if you were sweet on someone and they were sweet on you. Back in the day, visits to "the woods" didn't last very long. The big deal was having someone to go to "the woods" with and going there. What did a guy do with a girl once in "the woods?" A little kissing and a lot of being scared to death! Still, word spread quickly when a couple visited "the woods," and if you were fortunate enough to be caught by a counselor, your fame increased exponentially.

4. The buildings. There are a lot of memories buried in those old, wooden buildings. Brannon Inn, up on the hill, was open bay - a lot of bunk beds and one or two counselors. We loved to climb up in the rafters there. Unfortunately, the counselor slept right by the only door, so the traditional last night sneaking out event was nearly impossible. Brannon guys had it good the first few nights of camp, but were missing in action on Thursday night.

16-room Dorm had divided rooms with one set of bunks in each room. The dividers didn't go all the way to the ceiling which afforded you many opportunities to torment your neighbors with shaving cream and water balloons. And, since the counselor also slept in a room, sneaking out wasn't just possible - it was a moral imperative. A few hard-core counselors would attempt to stay awake, posted in the hallway all night, but most could be out-lasted. Then it was simply a matter of evading the other hard-core counselors who patrolled the grounds, and wisely concentrated on the area around 16-room Dorm and Missionary Dorm (its female equivalent).

Each camp week was good for at least one big storm, and we always seemed to be in our morning service in the large tabernacle buidling when it blew in. Hearing the rain pelt the building's metal roof brought the coziness of being sheltered, but also the disappointment that the day's outdoor activities were in jeopardy.

Hanging out in the pump house was a big deal. For evening vespers, a fire was built in the fireplace of the new fellowship building. After an energetic day, coming out of the cool night air, into the warmth of that building ... there was more sleeping than vespering going on during those sessions.

3. "Keeping in touch" after it was all over. All good things must come to an end. But when you are young, you're still silly enough to believe that that can be beaten. The final morning of camp is spent sneaking away from cabin-cleaning duties to say semi-final "goodbyes" to friends. We would hug, and sign each other's stuff, including but not limited to articles of clothing that were being worn that day, and invariably exchange addresses and vows to keep in touch until next summer.

The week or two after camp is filled with writing letters to camp friends and repeatedly checking the mailbox for word from those same friends. Letters from girls are the best. Their writing is so round and soft, and they somehow work smiley faces and hearts into the "Love, (so-and-so)." And the really good ones perfume their pastel stationery.

But something happens over the course of a few letters. The first letter is all camp memories and "missing you," stuff - maybe even daring talk of working out a mid-year visit. The next is half-"missing you" and camp, and half things that are going on at home with school and home friends. The third letter is all home talk and the fourth never happens. But by then you don't even notice as you also have settled back into your home routine. But occasionally during the year you fish those first letters out of your box of memories and take a few moments to re-read and re-smell them and dream of next summer.

2. Walking the country roads by moonlight. I was a city kid, and was always struck by how big the sky looked and how many stars it held out in the country. The night before camp started it was tradition for those who were already on the grounds (usually just counselors, but occasionally circumstances worked in our favor and we got to head up a night early) to go for a midnight walk over the roads and lanes around the campground. Once the sun set there was almost no traffic in that rural area. But the occaisional car would find its way onto our path, and being young we imagined great peril in being so much as seen out and about late at night, away from camp. The first sign of headlights on the horizon sent us diving into the weeds and behind the trees at the side of the road.

1. Being a counselor. When I became old enough I was a counselor for Crusader Camp. This was the ultimate hook-up. You got an extra week at camp with many of your summer friends. You had a whole night to hang out before the campers arrived which meant a head start on the guy/girl pairing up for the summer. And, you got to become the people you had always looked up to when you were going to Crusader Camp. And thus the cycle continued, for not only had you looked up to your counselors, you had been learning how to be a counselor by watching them all along the way.

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I've started a new blog - www.i-disciple.com.

TSW2 will always remain my general purpose outlet. But lately I've been wanting a place where I can focus on matters of faith. That will still be part of the mix here, but i-disciple will be a more concentrated effort.

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