2005-04-29



It was the worst of all possible worlds for Alex. Donald Trump departed with the first two seasons' tradition of winnowing the final four candidates to two with high-pressure, executive interviews, and instead went with a marketing-driven task. The interviews would have played to Alex's strength. In testing the candidates' marketing and creativity instead, the task hammered one last time on Alex's key weakness.

But then again, Alex demonstrated with great finality that he simply isn't the superstar that he appeared to be when hiding in larger groups.

At the outset, Alex had to pluck one member from Magna to even the teams. It was a classic dilemma. He could choose Kendra, clearly the strongest player, and maximize his own team's strength. Or, he could maximize his opponent's' weakness by selecting Tana and leaving Kendra and Craig, whose mutual animosity has become legendary, together. Showing the creative deficiency that has been the cornerstone of several weeks of Net Worth failure, Alex selected Tana.

This week, the two-person teams were given the services of a professional artist and asked to design and sell shirts commemorating the 50th anniversary of the T-shirt. The team with the highest sales income wins.

Net Worth actually came up with the superior design for their shirts and much more agressive pricing. But then they got lost in the details. Tana suggested that they offer some of their shirts highlighted with small jewel stones - something she'd had success with in the past. Unfortunately, she was unable to track down the "Be-Dazzled" machine that she had used previously. She was able to track down the jewels at a craft store on Staten Island - a mondo cab ride away. While Alex pleaded for marketing planning time, Tana remained focused on the jewels.

That was the primary failure for Net Worth, for marketing turned out to be the key to this task. Both teams were offereing a product that would sell itself to the right audience. The key was marketing effecitvely to get enough of the right audience into their store.

Magna, marketed their t-shirts as art, in an e-mail blast targeted at fans of their artist. Over at Net Worth, Alex stood out on the street with a sign. As a result, Magna sold over one hundred units to Net Worth's thirty. Even Net Worth's agressive pricing couldn't overcome such an overwhelming volume difference - Magna doubled Net Worth's income.

The board room was a roller coaster. During the initial vetting, Tana was quiet and non-combative. Fans of Apprentice will realize right off that this doesn't sit well with the Donald. The main issue at the start: who was responsible for the marketing failure? Obviously both players blamed the other. Beyond that, Alex gained ground simply by fighting hard.

When Trump's team convened with Alex and Tana out of the room, they seemed to unanimously agree that Tana was not showing the fight necessary to be part of the Trump organization.

Things were quite different when the two returned. Suddenly Tana was sticking up for herself and talk turned to the two players' overall records. Obviously, having been on Team Magna since the first re-shuffling, Tana's Apprentice resume is stronger. Then Alex erred when recounting his record as PM, understating his losses by one.

Tana's sudden fight seemed to re-open Trump's mind, and Alex's mis-statement sealed his own fate. If it was a simple mistake, the Donald didn't like that Alex could take losing so lightly. And obviously deliberate dishonesty is a one-way ticket to the street. Either way, Alex was fired, ending a dramatic, several-week long slide.

Outlook:

It appears that there will be no interviews, and next week there will be no teams - Tana, Craig and Kendra will be pitted against each other, mano a mano a mano.

The separation of Tana and Kendra revealed that Kendra has been the creative driving force on Team Magna. This entire season has heavily emphasized marketing, and success has followed Kendra throughout.

This whole thing is Kendra's to lose. Neither of the other two candidates has shown anywhere near her depth or talent. There was one episode where the teams were tested with a trying schedule that Kendra had a little pout and complained of low blood sugar. But then in the Solstace mission, Kendra pulled an all-nighter, single-handedly doing all the work and leading her team to victory.

The one concern with Kendra is her ability to lead a difficult team. She's shown no reluctance to confront Craig, but how will she do if the final mission once again involves managing a team of malcontent ex-candidates. This is the one area of Kendra's game that hasn't been tested.

Managing a difficult team just so happens to be one of Tana's strengths, so if Kendra should falter, Tana may be able to slip in and take advantage. Unfortunately, Tana was identified this week as a poor fit for the Trump organization. Her past successes along with Alex's missteps resulted in Tana getting the benefit of the doubt this week. However, this mission also gave rise to the suspicion that Tana's past success had more to do with being teamed up with Kendra than with her own ability. This week, suddenly, the effective creativity and broad thinking were gone.

Craig has benefited the most from Magna's seven-week run without a visit to the board room. While not devoid of talent, Craig has been riding more than driving his team's success. In his favor, Craig has shown that he will not let an unruly team back him down. Unfortunately, he has also shown a serious deficiency when it comes to the kind of communication that is necessary for effective general leadership.

Honestly, if next week's task calls for any kind of marketing or creativity Craig is as good as gone. He has not shown interest or ability in these areas.

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Last night's Louisville leg of the Healing Rain Tour featured a very different Michael W. Smith.

In concert Smith does not perform, he ministers, and his fans have become accustomed to an uplifting and inspiring ministry. Sometimes, however, the word from a prophet challenges and unsettles. With haunting visions and messages of Columbine, 9/11, homelessness, alcoholism, and African children dying of AIDS this was clearly not a comfortable, "feel good" event.

Smith is 50, and for the first time in a concert setting, all 50 of those years were showing. In one of the background videos, a pocketwatch was featured. During one freeze-frame the time showing on the watch was 11:45 ... 15 more minutes of fame before midnight? The entire concert was a series of "If I could share just one more thing with you," thoughts.

The first time I saw Michael W. Smith in concert was on his "Big Picture" tour back in 1987! Well, actually in 1985, the band I was in in college performed with Smith at a Christian Music Convention in Indianapolis. Smith has undergone quite a metamorphosis since then.

Coming out of "Big Picture" Smith was an entertainer. Aside from Amy Grant, Christian Music lacked quality, so Michael was a welcome new star. Shortly after that however, came "Go West Young Man," and Smith's flirtation with the pop music charts. For a while Smith offered shallow music and shallow theology.

Then one day I heard "Live the Life," ... Smith had re-acquired his musical stride and combined it with an uncompromising message. He's been my favorite artist ever since.

It's hard for me to watch a hero on the downside of his time in the spotlight. But it is reassuring to watch Michael W. Smith remain true to his passion for ministry, right to the end.

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2005-04-27



I'm traveling in Wetern Kentucky again and thus getting my fill of ESPN Radio. This afternoon's big story - the potential return of Phil Jackson to the LA Lakers. The interesting question regarding this story was, "Who needs to do the reaching out?"

When forced to choose, Jerry Buss went with Kobe and sent Shaq and Jackson packing. There is talk that Jackson was asking too much, and that may be so. But it was clear Kobe wasn't going to be coached by the nine-time champion, and Kobe was the driver on this one.

Phil Jackson didn't help anything with his book which left no part of the Laker organization un-charred. Given that the past season saw the Lakers go through two coaches and wind up a lottery team, one could argue that Jackson was right.

The thing is, LA needs Jackson, or one of the other very few coaches / babysitters of his caliber. He doesn't necessarily need them.

LA has Kobe and a handful of other guys who are there because you need to have five players on the court at any given time. If the organization isn't careful at this juncture, they run the risk of becoming one of those teams like the 76ers or the TMac Magic, that seem to exist only to pad their star's stats and have no real chance of any serious success.

Phil Jackson is one of the few coaches who won't kiss Kobe's butt. Larry Brown has also been mentioned and would also be a good pick. Brown certainly has experience with this scenario, having dealt with Alan Iverson in Philadelphia. Of course, things are going pretty well for Brown in Detroit right now. And after the headaches he experienced with Iverson, why would he want to buy into the same scenario again?

So, how much does Jackson need the Lakers? If he's flirting with getting into coaching again, he must want something. A tenth ring? Vindication? The thought among the wise was that Jackson could jump right in and get the Lakers clicking again. I don't see it. LA doesn't have the pieces for success right now. Jackson could improve things, but only so much.

I'm not sure if there was ever a time when, in the NBA, one player could single-handedly lead a team to a Championship. That certainly isn't the case now. It takes at least two mainstays; a Jordan and Pippen, Magic and Kareem, Magic and Worthy, Duncan and Robinson, Shaq and Kobe, and now Shaq and Wade?; along with strong supporting elements to win a ring. Iverson has resisted efforts to bring a second weapon to Philadelphia.

Kobe clearly couldn't co-exist with Shaq, and so far shows every sign that he can't succeed without him. If the Lakers are seriously trying to build another champion, they will soon find out if the Staples Center is big enough for two stars. If not, they'll have to decide what to do about Kobe. Meanwhile, time will tell how many coaches get caught in the cross-fire.

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2005-04-22



Last night the Donald sent Bren packing leaving just four candidates left.

The teams went to work for Staples this time - to develop a product that will help eliminate office clutter.

Craig took the reins at Magna and Alex at Net Worth, although with the small number left in the game, "PM" is not as critical a distinction as it is earlier in the game.

Magna met with the Staples managers who would be judging the teams and gleaned some valuable input: don't reinvent the wheel ... just make the wheel better. This would ultimately be the key factor in this task.

After the meet, Kendra and Tana decided that the team should head off to a Staples to do some market research - go figure. These two have become the master of this tool, and it has worked well for them. Another key piece of information gained at this point: stack-ables. Office managers, etc., were buying lots of stack-able file pockets, storage bins, and the like.

Over at Net Worth the guys apparently decided to drive this entire task from the suite. Alex attempted to do a tele-conference with the Staples execs, but could never get the communications worked out. Bren attempted to survey office managers by phone, and again, actually getting on the line with someone willing to provide input proved to be impossible.

At the end of the day, Alex and Bren created their idea out of thin air - a small portable table with pockets, drop-ins and other cubbies to store various office supply items. They drew it up and delivered their plans to the fabrication team.

All was not bliss for Magna as the ongoing Craig / Kendra tension once again surfaced. And Craig appeared aloof for much of the information-gathering stage of this task.

Magna decided to develop a cube-like desktop caddy, with each side of the cube being a file pocket, mounted on a lazy-Susan. The team wanted the file pockets to be vertically oriented to keep the size of the caddy down. A dispute arose over whether the pockets would be intended to hold loose papers, or file folders which are horizontally oriented.

Once again, Magna blew Net Worth away. And once again, the editors treated us to Bren and Alex boasting, prior to the final presentations, about how they kicked Magna's butt and how impressed Carolyn and George were with their product. None of these things could have been further from the truth.

Hats off to Craig and Kendra. For all of their differences, the two have never let them affect their team's finished product or presentation. They have wasted a lot of time and energy with bickering, but you can get away with that when you have no competition.

In the end, Net Worth's table had too many practical flaws while Magna's caddy was the perfect combination of simple and catering to the intended user's needs.

As a reward, Magna was treated to breakfast by Carolyn and George.

In the board room, Trump expressed displeasure with both Bren and Craig. Bren failed to execute in conducting a focus group. Alex decided against a face-to-face meeting with the judges - something which any Apprentice viewer by now knows is a cardinal sin.

However, Bren dealt his own fatal blow when he confessed to not being a risk-taker. Trump didn't like this and from that point forward, Alex hammered on this element. In the end, it was apparent that the fight had gone out of Bren and Trump fired him. But Trump also flatly stated that, where Alex had once seemed a star, he was not anymore.

This episode revealed that Chris was not all that ailed Net Worth. From the moment the teams were shuffled out of Book-Smart / Street-Smart mode, Net Worth suffered from a critical lack of creativity and initiative as the game flowed through a long series of tasks which demanded a lot of both.

Outlook: A lot will depend on the format of the game from here on out. The past two seasons, the final four have been whittled to two by a series of interviews with top executives.

Over at the Apprentice website however, NBC is promising that next week the final three will be revealed - so we'll have to wait and see how the end-game has been tweaked.

Kendra is strong heading into the final weeks. She is the one player in the game right now who combines all the tools needed to win this thing. She's creative, intelligent, articulate, forceful when needed but not annoyingly pushy, and educated. If interviews will still be part of the final weeding-out, she'll do well. It also seems like she has found favor with Trump and his team which will count for a lot.

Tana is right behind Kendra in her prospects for success. The one knock on Tana is that she does not have a college education. While she has clearly been the best performing non-college grad of all three Apprentice seasons, I still feel like this will count for something in the end. I'm also less optimistic about how she would perform in a classic interview setting if that will be part of the mix. She lacks the polish that Alex and Kendra have. But, her Apprentice resume is as strong as Kendra's and much stronger than that of Alex or Craig.

Craig I can't figure out. In his two times as PM he has led his team through a juncture where there has been strong disagreement but where the team ultimately came through with a strong victory. It wasn't as big a deal this week, but in the Home Depot task, his leadership made the difference for Magna. He is, however, a terrible communicator, and condescending to women. Should Craig make it to the final mission where strong leadership and communication are critical, I see Craig peforming miserably. And if interviews still await the final candidates, I don't feel Craig would do well there either. Craig's no idiot, but he has yet to be tested in some critical areas.

Alex lacks creativity, and he has lost favor with the Donald. Now, the game is rolling into the time where creativity gets moved to the back burner, so this might not be a grave weakness. And, if the candidates are to be subjected to interviews, Alex is the type of guy who will do very well there. So, while he is down, Alex will still probably have chances to reverse course and pull this thing out. He has no room left for failure, however, and he'll still have a lot to answer for should he find himself in the final boardroom.

My projected final two: Kendra for sure. Alex if interviews will be a major determining factor. Tana if they are not.

My projected winner: Kendra.

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This whole Wendy's finger in the chili fraud story is stupid all-around.

For the fraud-ster, I'll admit that coming up with a piece of human finger is quite an accomplishment. 10 for level of difficulty on that one ... which is the problem. People losing fingers is not an every day occurrence. What did you think, they were just going to toss the piece of finger in the trash and hand you a check for $1M?

Of course they're going to investigate, if only out of concern for their employees and their worker's comp policy. It's not like a supervisor isn't going to notice when an employee loses a finger, and likewise it's not too hard to figure out when no one is missing a finger.

And for the folks in Northern California who are finding it hard to stomach Wendy's right now. Why? Obviously this is a fluke. If it was a rodent hair or something like that, sure, there's a problem and other bowls of chili could be affected. But it's not like fingers are dropping into chili left and right, and if you're not careful one could wind up in yours.

Get a grip. And send a message to this career fast food victim: either spill piping hot coffee on your groin and earn it, or get a real job.

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2005-04-19



The morning vote has failed to produce a Pope, and so the Cardinals remain sequestered. I read a little about their routine this morning. Completely cut off from the world, their day consists of worshiping and meeting with other like-minded Christians to discuss church leadership in advancing the Kingdom of God ... I'm totally jealous. Seriously. What I wouldn't give for a few days of that routine!

Meanwhile, back in the world, the prognosticating continues. For all the talk of Latin American Cardinals or the guy from Africa, I'm still guessing that it will be a European White Guy.

And, apparently, the other big question is whether or not JPII will be cannonized. I say he will, but not on the first ballot. His batting average was great, but the priest sex abuse scandal will hurt him. Plus he could well find himself up against the likes of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds which will make votes hard to come by.

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In the interest of fairness, Jay from weatherbug responded to my comments on weatherbug in yesterday's post. He understandably took exception to the spyware claims regarding his product and had some pretty good backup. Check out his comments here.

I should also add, that I have no evidence that weatherbug is spyware or opens the door to spyware. My comments were based on personal guesswork, and things I had read elsewhere that weren't necessarily authoritative. It is, of course, often nearly impossible to track down how spyware gets into one's system.

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2005-04-18



Some interesting recent run-ins with software:

The frustrating thing about programs like Turbo Tax and Tax Cut is that they make tax time easier, but not by a lot. If we can put a man on the moon (probably have to come up with an update for this age old contemplation), why can't we come up with a way to automate the tax process without me having to indicate that I didn't buy anything on an Indian Reservation last year, I don't grow corn, and I don't drive a car that burns old newspaper?

True, the tedium and confusion of a multitude of IRS forms is eliminated by these programs. Unfortunately it is replaced by the tedium and confusion of an endless barrage of nonsensical questions. Normally I would brush most of these questions off without a second thought ... unless you ask them of me at tax time. Then, suddenly I have all the decisiveness of a former President trying to explain his sex life. "... well that all depends on what your definition of the word, 'is,' is."

-- B --

I was removing WeatherBug from my laptop in preparation for sending it to its new owner. It's a decent little app, but also a spyware magnet I suspect, so I'll let the next person make their own choice on that one.

It's a nice program. I enjoy having a forecast at my fingertips, especially during motorcycle season. It's kind of annoying having to re-choose a sponsor every three days, but what do you expect for free? Anyway, as nice as it is, I'm not installing it on my other machine. I've got the NWS bookmarked. That's good enough.

Anyway, their "are you sure?" message is interesting: "Are you sure you want to uninstall this program and miss out on all the life-saving weather tips ...?" Life-saving? Yikes! So, if I die in some weather-related mishap in the near future, don't cry for me. I brought it on myself.

-- B --

To be fair to Blogger - they must have done some major upgrading or something, because suddenly they are running smooth, and pretty much glitch-free. One funny thing, though. They've got a couple of Blogger blogs - one to talk about all the cool stuff, and one to talk about the problems.

As Murphy would have it, they had some issues with the problem blog last week. And so, whenever you logged in, there was a note at the top of the dashboard about the problems over at the problem board.

Now, I think that if you are going to have a blog to talk about how you are dealing with problems, you need to make sure that it stays up. "We'd tell you about the problems we are fixing, but we can't seem to get the problem board working," just isn't going to cut it.

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2005-04-15



NBA Commissioner David Stern is once again pushing for an NBA age limit, proposing that players must be 20 year old or two years removed from high school. Here's what one former high school to NBA baller, Jermaine O'Neal thinks of the idea:
"'As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up.

You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. Army and fight the war at 18 why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes?' O'Neal said."
So really, in trying to dispute the Commissioner's idea, O'Neal is actually making a strong case for it.

Unconstitutional? Sounds like someone could have used a few more history courses.

And I always love the "If I'm old enough to die for my country ..." line. Haven't heard it much since high school when Wisconsin raised their drinking age from 18 to 21.

Really this arguement works for me, too. I mean, I'm old enough to die for my country. So let's see ... If I'm old enough to die for my country then I shouldn't have to stop for that red light if I don't want to. If I'm old enough to die for my country I should be able to throw eggs at my neighbor's windows if I want to. No ... I have the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to throw eggs at my neighbor's windows if I want to. Yes this works well. If I'm old enough to die for my country then I can do pretty much whatever I please.

OK, let's set aside that Jermaine O'Neal is an idiot.

I'll give you Lebron James and Kevin Garnett as the two individuals who, as far as we can tell, successfully made the jump from high school to the NBA, both as players and as human beings. I'm willing to overlook the circus that was James' high school senior year.

Kobe Bryant? A smash as a baller, but is anyone still willing to argue that this punk couldn't have used a couple years in college, under a strong mentor like Coach K. TMac? same.

For the handful of names that have at least quickly become successful as players, there are a multitude of others who haven't. And even more who didn't even get close enough to the trough to get a drink.

This isn't as big a problem in baseball as it is in the NBA because an initial signing in MLB is not the lottery win that an NBA contract is. Those guys aren't going straight to the bigs. They'll be riding in buses and carrying their own luggage for a while. As for the NHL ... what's that?

If you want to know why young men ought to spend a year or two in college before going to the NBA, I give you ... Jermain O'Neal, head case extraordinaire.

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At long last Chris, who appeared to have more lives than a cat, has fallen.

Last night's episode opened with the four members of team Magna surprised to see the young Net Worth firebrand return from the board room once again. And once again we see he and Alex recounting tales of how Donald Trump told them he was disappointed, that their effort was terrible, etc. Same song, different week.

Prior to the game starting back up we see Chris and Kendra, at different moments, deciding that this is the week they will step up and show team Trump what they can do.

With the head count at 4 for Magna and 2 for Net Worth, it was time for another shuffle. The Donald let Alex and Chris pick who they wanted from Magna, and surprisingly they chose Bren. Not that Bren doesn't seem like a decent player. It's just that over the past few weeks Kendra and Tana seem to have emerged as the real talent on Magna.

This week's challenge was sweet: Design a brochure for the new Pontiac Solstice. The winner will be the team that comes up with the most compelling offering, as judged by executives from Pontiac.

This task was clearly designed to see which players had the dogged determination to fight on and perform for long, long hours, and both teams, or at least parts of both teams wound up pulling all-nighters to get their piece finished.

Step one involved photographing the Solstice in studio and in a variety of outdoor settings. Problems immediately emerged on both sides.

For Magna, the ongoing conflict between Kendra and Craig was evident as Kendra tasked Craig with overseeing the studio shoot, and then proceeded to give some specific guidance regarding some shots she wanted.

I go with Kendra on this one, and I'm always amused when I see the "If he/she put me in charge, why are they telling me what to do," attitude. The PM or supervisor is well within their rights to provide guidance. It's not like when you're in charge of something you're free to do whatever you please and you don't have to answer to those above you who in turn have to answer for the project's overall success.

Over at Net Worth, Alex was put in charge of the studio shoot. There too, however, the team went over the car and Bren pointed out some key details that should definitely be included in the shoot - the keyest of them all being the Solstice logo on the dash, which Bren planned to make the centerpiece of their brochure's cover.

Bren and Chris returned from the outdoor shoots to find Alex getting lots of pictures with car and hot model, but soon discover that he didn't get any of the interior shots that the team had discussed because "there just wasn't time." As far as we could tell, none of the shots with hot model made it into the final product.

One thing Magna did well was a little bit of market research, and Kendra and Tana appear to have really mastered this idea. They asked a random sampling of people about the car and the emotions it triggered. This input would utimately become the foundation of the team's piece.

At this point the task turned to selecting photos, adding verbage and laying out the brochure. It was all-nighter time, but not everyone was ready to answer the bell. At Magna, Tana and Craig flat out told Kendra that they weren't night people and then compounded things by questioning whether Kendra had the magazine marketing "juice" that she claimed to have. Tana and Craig turned in and by the time they regained consciousness, Kendra had produced a masterpiece.

For Net Worth, Alex crashed leaving Bren and Chris at the controls which was disastrous. I don't know if Alex could have done better or if he could have improved his team's effort, but he sure couldn't have made it any worse.

Where Kendra seized on the passion of the car to develop an abstract but very attractive brochure, Bren produced a dry, flat documentary on the Solstice's features. Being a car-oriented task, the testosterous (I don't care if it's not a word) Net Worth team seemed to have an advantage. I think that in the end this turned into a disadvantage as they treated the Solstice like a guy would treat any cool car, immediately going to the nuts and bolts of the thing.

Net Worth was further hampered by not having a good variety of photographs to choose from.

It was a solid victory for Kendra. Not for Magna, for Kendra. Tana and Craig helped with the parts of the task that any retard, apparently with the exception of Alex, could have done and then packed it in and later tried to claim partial credit for the victory. Everything that turned this task for Magna was Kendra's doing.

For their reward Magna got to hang out and play basketball at Madison Square Garden with Isaiah Thomas and some of the NY Knicks. Even there, Kendra show exponentially more drive than her teammates.

Net Worth entered the board room weary and lacking fight. Early on, team Trump seemed to be trying to goad Chris and Bren into attacking Alex for his failure in the photo shoot. They didn't pick up on that until much later. Bren was taken to task for his uninspiring verbage in the brochure. Alex was attacked for seeing that their piece was uninspiring and not doing anything about it. But, Chris was the PM and he was fired.

In this case there was really a lot more ammo against either Bren or Alex, but I think Trump saw Chris as being at the core of what has been wrong with Net Worth all along. He seemed to feel that Bren and Alex were innocent victims of being on a poor team.

But, Trump also took the unusual step of calling Chris back after the others had left. He told him to watch his temper, stay away from the tobacco and that he was sure Chris would be a big success some day. Chris wept, but shook the Donald's hand, and said a heart-felt goodbye to his teammates. Ironically, Chris, who was arguably the most immature and volatile candidate this season, was by far the most mature and magnanimous of all in how he handled losing.

So, now Net Worth is Bren and Alex. The team really showed a creativity deficit this week. Part of the problem was the general malaise that has existed on Net Worth since the teams were first re-organized. One week will tell whether that was all of it, or if Bren and Alex aren't the stars they've appeared to be in the past.

Prospects:

Craig will not win. Of the five left, he's the only one I'm certain of. Though he doesn't belong there, he's one Net Worth win away from the final four. If he does make it that far he'll be decimated in the interviews. Nothing against him, it's just that communication is his key weakness. But, for all of his leadership and business potential, he's not good at being lead and that's a fatal flaw.

I'm downgrading Alex. He's been my pick all along and has shown some definite brilliance and leadership. But, he's also had some serious letdowns. In the very first mission he was in charge of running the Burger King and directed an under-staffing. In the Domino's task, he pre-sold pizzas a one-hour subway ride away from where the team would actually be preparing the pizzas. This week he hurt his team by not properly managing the studio shoot. Net Worth's dismal run continued unabated, even after he was added. Fortunately for him, the game is coming to the point where leadership and personal strength are key, and Alex excels in those areas.

Bren was actually much improved this week, but he also has a longer way to climb compared to some of the other players. Early on he had a good sense for how to attack this task. Unfortunately Chris was in charge and Alex didn't give him a lot to work with in the line of photos. Bren's weakness is creativity, and after next week that will be off the table as a major factor in the game. I can't see Bren beating Alex, Tana or Kendra head to head. But, all of the players have had letdowns, so if Bren can continue to be in the right place at the right time, who knows?

This was Kendra's week to shine. She showed unparalleled drive, creativity and business sense in this task. The wild card with Kendra is leadership. Though she was PM, and though it wasn't her choice, she wound up doing the lion's share of this task all by herself. Thus, her leadership has still not been tested. For all of her talent, I'm not sure if she has the strength to lead in this game.

Tana's outlook remains bright. Her strong victory as PM last week was a testimony to her leadership ability. I'm curious to see how she'll do in the interviews, and I wasn't pleased with her "I've got immunity so I'm not staying up all night," atttitude this week. Barring some massive blunder, I think she's almost certain to make the final four.

This all sets up an interesting scenario. Craig will likely be the PM for Magna, since Tana and Kendra have led the last two weeks and both did well enough that there would be no advantage to putting themselves in the hot seat one more time. Kendra has immunity and doesn't like Craig. On the other hand, she has shown, in the past, a bond with Alex and Bren. Does she set Craig up for a fall? or at least not try her hardest? We'll see.

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2005-04-11



OK, I've had mishaps before, but this is the first one that had consequences.

I laid the bike down for the first time Sunday afternoon on the way home from church. The one thing I still haven't mastered is finding the deceleration balance between transmission and brakes - i.e. I sometimes have the tendency to downshift too soon. You can get away with this on the straightaways ...

But yesterday I did it as I was turning into the condos. It all happened pretty fast ... I start to let the clutch, and just as it is crossing my mind that I still have too much momentum to be shifting into that gear, a blur! and the next thing I know I'm laying on the ground trying to pull leg out from under the bike.

I was really fortunate for a number of reasons:

- It was a cool early morning yesterday - thus I was still wearing my heavy Joe Rocket jacket. It performed as advertised. A couple of frayed threads near the elbow pad and that's it. All of the key areas on my upper body are fine today. My pants, on the other hand, are toast. But, a week from now, I'd be lucky if I were wearing so much as a light jacket

- I went down on my left side. The tail pipes are on the right. It took a moment for me to gather my wits and then figure out how to get the bike off of me without being able to use the leg that was trapped. Not a big deal - it just took a little bit of maneuvering. It would have been quite another story with two searing hot tailpipes pressing on my leg.

- I was in the median and my slide kept me within the median. It was a pretty busy street. Had I been further along in the turn it could have been ugly. In fact I didn't even realize that I had slid til I went back today and looked at my skid, or rather scratch marks. I'll be darned. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Who'd have thought?

Aches and pains: At first all I noticed was that my hip was sore and my opposite side thumb was sore. I think I sprained the thumb. The hip will be fine. Then this morning all the sore "your body collided with a solid object (the ground) and the solid object won" muscles showed up.

So, a big lesson is learned at a small cost.

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So, all along I'd felt like I was doing a good job of keeping this computer relatively free of spyware and other crap like that. Then I started getting these Websearch popups. So, I started doing some checking.

Went to Ctrl Panel - Remove Programs and found several things. Those are the best. As part of the uninstall they take you to their website: "We're sorry you want to uninstall such and such. Why do you want to remove this program which is the greatest thing since sliced bread? Ummm ... because you installed it!

It's true, the some of this stuff could be really awesome. I'm skeptical, but who knows? I'll never know because when something is installed on my system against my knowledge, I have to get rid of it on principal. You want to tell me about all the great features, do it before the fact and let me make a choice. If you don't I have to assume your intent is sleazy.

Anyway, right now I'm in the middle of running my regimen of detectors, cleaners and registry hacks. Each step is uncovering 10's or 100's of things that have appeared on my machine.

A word to the wise: if this is what you do for a living ... this or telemarketing, and we happen to run into each other some day ... lie. Lie to me about what you do cuz otherwise you're going to get slapped.

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An Apprentice candidate was arrested for disorderly conduct, and it's ... Chris! Go figure.

My favorite line:
"All but the final episode has been taped, and it isn't known if Shelton makes it that far."
The guy is living on three episodes of borrowed time already ... there's no chance he makes it that far.

I almost wish he would now. It would be very interesting to see how the Donald handles it. And, who knows? They bring the rest of the candidates back for the finale - maybe Trump will bring it up anyway.

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What world do these people live in!?

As with Shiavo, I've really tried to stay away from this one as much as possible. It's just too easy, and there is plenty of coverage elsewhere. But these latest developments from the trial have sent my nonsense detector through the roof!
"...her son stayed at Jackson's Neverland ranch three times and once asked if he could stay in Jackson's room. She testified that she said no.

Later, on a trip to Las Vegas, she, the boy and the boy's brother stayed in Jackson's suite at the Mirage hotel, she said.

On the second night, she testified, Jackson tearfully asked why the boy could not sleep in Jackson's bed, the mother testified.

"He was sobbing and crying, shaking and trembling," she said. "He said, 'You don't trust me? We're a family. ... (The boy) is having fun. Why can't he sleep in my bed? There's nothing wrong. There's nothing going on.'"

She said she then allowed her son to sleep in Jackson's bed for two nights.


So this is kinda how it goes:

Jacko: Can Billy come out and play in my bed?
Mom: No.
Jacko: Oh pleeeese. There's nothing going on. It's just a boy and an adult male, three times his age who are not in any way related to each other sleeping in the same bed together. Pleeeease. Pretty please with sugar on it!
Mom: OK, you wore me down. But only for two nights.
Jacko: Yaaaayyy!

I tell you, if I'm the judge I have the mom locked up on the spot.

And to think, she's $20M richer because of this ridiculousness.

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2005-04-09



Google Maps and satelite photos are amazing! I started out trying to get a look at my old neighborhoods for old times' sake. For most of them, the best I could get was a grainy mid-range shot where I could pick out major roads and larger buildings.

So, I didn't have very high hopes for the neighborhood I lived in when I was a Nuke Instructor stationed in Charleston. The Naval Base butts up against a Polaris Missile Facility, so I figured that govt security would preclude any kind of detail in that area. Was I surprised. I zoomed all the way in on the apts and then started tracing my drive to the base.

Here, in great clarity, is the Nuclear Prototype Training Facility in Goose Creek, SC (click on pic for the full-blown Google image). The square building just left of dead-center is the main training building - where most of the support functions are located, and where classroom, and book study are conducted. Until qualified to operate, students put in 12-hour days. 8 hours with their crew, and 4 hours of study time before or after crew time. Crews rotate shifts.



The three things in the Cooper River are: top (white) - support barge, middle - MTS-635: Sam Rayburn, bottom - MTS-626: Daniel Webster. The two MTS's (Moored Training Ships) are former active SSBN (ballistic missile submarines). Their missile compartments have been removed, and special protective systems installed in their forward compartments to allow the operation of their reactor plants in a populated area.

I started out as a student on the Rayburn (the only prototype in Charleston at the time). Shortly after becoming an instructor a bunch of us were transferred to the Webster which was currently in the Charleston Shipyard being converted. We helped complete the conversion and then moved up the river with the Webster to train and send to the fleet the Webster's first five classes.

I have to say, Charleston was my favorite duty station. The town is awesome. The weather is awesome. People are friendly. And instructor duty was the best. Great bunch of guys. Our softball team always did well, and I picked up an MBA in my spare time. If not for the rotating shifts, this would have been the perfect gig.

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I just woke up from an impromptu nap. Not a good one. I don't feel refreshed, I feel like I was run over by a bus. Dixie's out on the patio keeping an eye on the neighbors who are moving. I'm bored ... so, before I get going, a quick scan of the channels:

AMC: GI Jane - I don't know if this is the 10th or 100th time this has been on this week. All I know is, I watched it last Sunday night when I was sick, and it seems to be on ever time I flip over AMC since.

TBS: Blast from the Past - The plot's a little thin after you've seen it once, but it's hard to complain about Alicia Silverstone.

FX: Die Hard 2 - Not quite as frequent as GI Jane, but this one's been making the rounds since Christmas. On the other hand, Bruce Willis flicks are always good for multiple watchings.

Disney: who cares? Although surprisingly it's not one of those brain-dead pre-pubescent girl shows where the heroine is simultaneously head cheerleader, student body president, captain of the soccer team, honor roll student, star employee at the local museum and helping various friends with their drug addiction, abusive parents, eating disorder and racial insenstive tendencies.

ESPN2: Soccer - Thanks, but no. I'm trying to wake up. To all the Euro-apologists out there, I confess to being such a boor that I don't even realize how neandrothol my favorite sports American Football and Basketball are compared to this, the purest of all games.

Fox: Covering a court case - The lull between pope funeral and new pope selection is a little slow. Although this is interesting - it appears that the woman who claimed to have found a finger in her Wendy's chili may have planted it. It seems she's one of these people who has made several attempts at organizations with deep pockets.

oh! Something with Jamie Lee Curtis and this guy who always shows up in movies that chicks like. Moving on ...

USA: Hmmm. I don't know what it is. Lou Diamond Philips, Elizabeth Shue, Val Kilmer. Nice credentials, but it looks too heavy to jump into the middle.

CNN: Royal couple stuff. Europe is so awesome. Too bad we're stuck here in mean, old America.

Lifetime: It's gotta be at least ten years old judging by the young, less heavy look of the guy who plays Sipowicz in NYPD Blue. It's Lifetime. Someone's baby must be missing, or thier drunk husband must be opressing them, or something of that sort. Men just don't get it.

A&E: The behind the scenes at Caesar's Casino show. I love these things, but if you watched them all, you'd never get anything done. Personally I'm partial to American Casino which I run across on Discover sometimes.

MTV: Some show where three girls watch by remote feed as some guy gets to go through and inspect their houses. What a surprise - the girls have big chests, low-cut tops and squeak and laugh a lot. Is this supposed to be entertaining? funny? racy? It appears to be trying to be all three, but in reality is none of the three.

Discover: Biker build-off - Again these shows are awesome, but they've been running them all week.

CNBC: Info-mercial for Time/Life's LIfetime of Love CD collection. I don't see how, but these things must work, or they wouldn't pay to put them on.

ABC Family: Some show with John Stamos and a couple other guys raising girls of various ages ranging from 4-14. A throwback to when sitcoms started on their empty tack.

Spike: UFC Marathon - Sweet! Kind of an Apprentice for UFC hopefuls. They'be been showing these a lot lateley and I'm loving them.

Nickelodian: Some awards show for kids complete with lots of screaming. Is Jimmy Fallon the most un-funny SNL alum ever? And that's saying something cuz that show has laid a lot of eggs over the years.

TNT: You've Got Mail - A couple meet and fall in love online. How old-fashioned ... I mean, they've both got dial-up and use AOL for their main connection ... just like people did back in the day.

ESPN: First an add for men's curling ... the NHL Cancellation Strikes Again! Now World's Strongest Man - pretty interesting stuff if you are bent on watching something - guys pulling buses and carrying two refrigerators at once, etc.

45-53: Always a hodge-podge of former middle of the night fare. VH1 is counting down the Least Metal Moments. On the plus side this dates back to when their countdowns were interesting because they got interesting people to talk about the items. On the minus side ... seen it.

History: UFO Files - Usually I respect this channel, but UFO's? Surely there is some aspect of WWII we haven't covered yet.

Fox Sports: Cheerleading Championsships - There's a catch though - it's Division II. The main one is marginal enough. This is just lame. The absence of College Hoops is acutely felt.

E!: ... please, it's E! As if self-importance needs any help perpetuating itself.

Horse Racing: ... not my thing.

Bravo: Some permutation of Queer Eye. They're watching someone make sausage. Some things really ought to be off-limits for Queer Eye.

Comedy Central: Mad TV - Not bad, but nothing to go out of your way for. They're spoofing MTV right now.

*** The end of worthwhile stations except for when Poker shows up on 62.

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2005-04-08



Great news! Randy Baseler, the Boeing VP of Marketing, has upgraded his blog (OK, he's a VP - someone probably upgraded it for him). It has a slightly sharper look, but more important, he's got feeds.

Until now, next to a Little Aardvark, Randy's was my favorite of the blogs that I can't subscribe to on Bloglines (i.e. that I have to check the old-fashioned way - by clicking on the bookmark in my "favorites" folder).

I make fun, but this aggregator thing is awesome. It used to be that I kept my own bloglist up by adding code to my template each time - and I'd follow my favorites by clicking on the links on my own blog. Now, I keep abreast of 121 feeds (I just axed several newspapers because they insisted on a subscription - free doesn't change the fact that it's a nuisance, guys). That's a good bit of info, but by today's standards that makes me a relative lightweight.

My point is, they're quite right when they say that today, you've got have feeds.

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Yet another Net-Worth-aided win for Team Magna.

This week's prospect was interesting - design "wearable tech" clothing for American Eagle. The execution was a little disappointing on both sides, however. We already have cargoes, so just adding a loop or a pocket here and there is nothing new.

No selling this time. The teams were simply to design clothes and make a presentation to a couple of American Eagle execs.

Alex took PM for Net-Worth. His team was down to 3, so no chance for flying under the radar anymore. Angie chose to focus on the presentation, and Chris stepped up to be the team's accountant ... and promptly lost one of their credit cards!

Over at Magna, the run of success keyed by former Net-Worth members continued as Tana PM'ed and directed the team to victory while Craig was instrumental in much of the design work.

Tana chose to stop in at another clothing store and survey some of the customers regarding what tech items are important to them, how they would want to wear them, etc. We were led to believe that this was a critical key to Magna's victory. For my money, they didn't come away with anything that would have been new information to someone in business.

The American Eagle execs asked each team which piece of technology was most important to their customers. For Magna, Bren without pause identified the cell phone. Again, it wasn't really a tough question. Then Angie came along, guessed that the iPod was most important, and made Bren look like a genius. iPod's may be making a big splash, but the cell phone is indispensable.

On the whole Magna did an ok job, and had plenty of issues over which they would have battled had they wound up in the board room. Bren and Craig went to a screen print shop to get logos put on their team's clothing. For their five hour investment, the team actually lost ground as the shop's employees put one logo on backward, and got stray ink spots on several of the items. Kendra, a superstar up to this point, was suddenly MIA for this task, complaining of low blood sugar. And the continued tension between Craig and Kendra would be a great source of boardroom fireworks should Magna ever find themselves in the Donald's crosshairs.

Fortunately for Magna, Net-Worth makes anyone look good. Chris, after making the initial tech purchases, was out of play as the remainder of his time was consumed with retrieving the credit card that he had left at Best Buy.

Angie seemed to relish taking on the presentation as her main focus. But, as usual, she was a bit scattered and didn't do that great. In fact, in actually giving the presentation she was horrible. To be fair, the team was late and rushed in getting to the presentation in the first place. But, time crunch was a key element in this task.

One thing that wasn't clear was Alex's role in this one. We saw his frustration with Chris losing the card. We saw the list of tasks and assignments that he came up with - and Angie complaining that she had the lion's share of the tasks. We also saw the models not arriving until the last minute after Angie started looking for them. And we saw the team arrive late to their presentation. These last two things, in my opinion, fall squarely on the shoulders of the PM. The models being late exacerbated the team's lateness. This is something Alex should have identified and corrected much earlier.

In the end, Trump blamed the team for Alex's sudden under-performance. Both Angie and Chris are riding a string of poor results. Trump fired Angie because, in his opinion, she "choked" on the presentation. I couldn't tell if she choked, or if that's just not her thing to begin with.

And then there were six. I'm very disappointed at how the middle third of this game has played out. Normally this is the time when there would still be a few candidates who really don't belong, but they'd be spread over the two teams as one additional obstacle to test the serious players.

This time, the horrible players have been concentrated on one team. While Net-Worth's members have rightfully been sent packing, one at a time, Magna has not been tested since the original re-shuffling. They've also not been to the board room, and not had the chance to have each player's relative worth explored. Throwing a star candidate like Alex onto Net-Worth was a brutal move. I want to say, "unfair," but the whole point of the Apprentice is that things aren't fair. Still this is a grand unfairness.

Ironically, it was Chris' inability to evaluate the other players that led to this horrible imbalance, and he's the one that has survived it all.

Prospects for the Final Six:

Strong: Alex(NW), Tana(M), Kendra(M): This is an upgrade for Tana, and a modest downgrade for Alex and Kendra. I'm still skeptical that one of the street-smarts can win. But Tana is doing very well, and seems to have a good mix of style and skill. Someone else is going to have to step up and beat her, because she doesn't have any serious flaws with which she will beat herself. Alex is still a star, and as much as his team is to blame, that doesn't change the fact that he has been a part of two miserable failures and had more boardroom time than one would want at this stage. Kendra showed some weakness for the first time this week. If it was just a fluke with her blood sugar, no prob. But, if she has some hidden Omarosa tendencies ready to emerge, she may not even make the final four.

With a little luck: Bren(M), Craig(M): I believe that one of these two will join Alex, Tana and Kendra in the final four. I don't believe that, everything being equal, either could win it all, but at this stage, the missions will turn on small things, and any player could move along by simply finding themself in the right grouping of players over the next two tasks. Bren continues to be the ultimate supporting cast member. He may well make it to the final four without distinguishing himself (unless you count the cucumber idea!). Craig has benefited the most from Magna's smooth road. While he has done well, there are also some clear interpersonal things boiling just beneath the surface at Magna, and Craig is a part of them. Had the team visited the boardroom at all during the last four weeks, I believe that Craig would have found himself fighting for his Apprentice life.

You're still here?: Chris(NW): Chris has no hope. Trump warned that he needed to step up last week. Step up he did - spending almost all of this task losing and then retrieving his team's $5,000 credit card. While that wasn't the key to the team's loss, being another player down certainly didn't help. Mainly, Chris needed a positive this week. Instead he turned in yet another "Chris was a screw-up, but not the biggest screw-up" performance. The game is finally out of candidates more fire-able than Chris. Unless he lucks his way onto the winning team next week, he's the next to go.

Which brings us to the question - What now? With 4 Magna members and 2 Net-Worth, another re-shuffling is in order. If Net-Worth gets to choose a Magna player, my guess is that Alex will push for Kendra, as they were tight before Alex was sent to Net-Worth. While any of the 4 would improve Net-Worth, splitting up Craig and Kendra may make Magna stronger still. On the other hand, Tana is on a roll. If Net-Worth has picked up on this, they may take her back. Chris will likely be the PM for Net-Worth. If he's deciding, as already established, he's an idiot so it's anybody's guess. On Magna, Bren or Kendra will probably be PM. If they get to jettison someone, my guess is that it will be one of the former Net-Worth members, probably Craig.

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Well, more info on Jeffrey Robertson, the guy who shot the football coach in Texas. And finally! They managed to dig up some quotes to piss the average person off. I was beginning to think they'd lost their touch.

Let's start with his former boss:
"John Downs described Robertson as a good employee and a devoted father who enjoyed taking his son hunting and fishing."
It's not "nice and quiet and keeps to himself," but it'll do.

Then we read on and find out:
"The last time Downs saw Robertson was about six months ago, when Robertson had a broken leg, bruises and abrasions from a road-rage-related fight on the side of a highway, he said."
No doubt someone was interfering with his ability to hunt, fish and be a devoted father - they had it coming.

But the real genius is Robertson's cousin by marriage, Rhonda Miller:
"Miller said she didn't want Robertson portrayed as 'a lunatic' because he wasn't the only one frustrated with the school's athletic program."
Let's see, we have the aforementioned road rage incident, a Yosemite Sam "Born to Raise Hell" tatoo (by itself not a big deal, and probably not rare in Texas), physically confronting and threatening to kill a student, and confronting coaches so frequently that he was barred from the school and its football games. Oh yeah, HE ALSO SHOT A COACH. Why would we think he's a lunatic?

That's right, he was frustrated with the athletic program - naturally someone needs to be shot. I mean, I'm very disappointed in the Lakers' showing this year. I can see no other alternative but to run out to LA and shoot Kobe Bryant.

Miller wasn't done, though:
"A lot of parents are upset. This is not a single incident, and if they don't take care of it, it could escalate."
Escalate? He shot the guy in the chest with a 45! What is left?

We have that the coach made his own son the quarterback as a freshman. But we also have that his son was honorable mention all-state at quarterback as a freshman. So, unless Joe Montana, Jr has been riding the bench while all this was going on, it's hard to fault the coach with what info we're given.

The sad thing is, Robertson had obviously made threats and given lots of hints at his potential for violence prior to this. Once the reporters start interviewing the coach's support group, there will be the inevitable cries of "Why didn't they do something?" For every Robertson willing to walk this walk, there are probably hundreds of blowhards talking the same game. How do you identify the doers before they become doers?

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2005-04-07



I just had a Black & Bleu burger from Backyard Burger. Awesome. I'm normally not a bleu cheese fan, but BYB never disappoints.

- B -

The pep rally goes on over at Fastlane. Lutz just posted - despite the recent upper, upper management shake-up at GM, he will continue his blog duties . In an interesting side-note he also considers himself a "journalist." With the crisis resolved, the comments quickly returned to compelling issues of the day such as, rear-wheel drive and the shape of the grills on GM products.

- B -

A whirlwind sports round-up:

Mariano Rivera a closer? or just plain loser? Two appearances, two blown saves. Boston may have lost the opening series, but if it all comes down to them and the Yankess again, they are already inside Rivera's head.

Sean May says he'll forego the NBA draft and return to UNC. There has been no definitive word from Rashad McCants or Raymond Felton, but personally, I won't believe that any of these three are coming back until the draft has come and gone without them. And, I wouldn't be totally sad to see them go. I know Coach Williams can reload, and while the Heels won it all, their teamwork and dedication was less than inspiring.

With College Hoops over, it's time to turn our attention to the tail end of the Men's Volleyball season. The good news: The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are #6 in the nation with an honorable, though un-Hawaii record of 16-7. The bad news: The teams that are #1-5, only Penn State is not in Hawaii's conference. Hawaii always blows it when they are #1 or #2. Maybe this is just what they need.

- B -

"I wouldn't say he was respected. But he was well-known."
Not that I ever plan on shooting anyone, but if I did, I would hope for a better comment than that! There has been a shooting in Texas. With the shooter still at large, about the best anyone has said of him is the quote above and a hint that he might have had some kind of terminal illness.

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2005-04-06



This is total BS!

They're adding two more balls to the Powerball bin, to decrease the odds of winning, but increase the jackpots. They totally messed up my plan.

Using ballpark numbers, assuming I buy 5 tickets each week, and that I finally get my big win halfway to statistical certainty - I would have been on easy street by the year 465,465. Now I'll have to wait until 4,271,047! That's a whole 3.8 million more years that I'm going to have to get by, ummm, working I guess.

Gotta go call my financial planner and start re-working things.

This sucks!

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2005-04-05



I've got a new feature over at my youth group site. It's called think! and it will feature questions, some challenging and some just for fun, designed to make people think and stimulate some discussion.

Our inaugural questions:

  1. Whose death, the Pope or Terry Shiavo, will have a more lasting effect on our world?


  2. Does God care who wins the NCAA Tournament?


Hop over to think! and share your thoughts. Note: This is for everyone (i.e. not just youth).

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An update on GM's Fastlane blog. They screen their comments over there. Now to their credit it's not a complete whitewash. If you check out the 81 and counting comments on Lutz's "the media is taking this all out of proportion" post, his last before being sent to GM's version of the Eastern Front, you'll find sentiments running the full range between "rah-rah" and "who are you trying to kid?"

So, I'm particularly honored to have been enough of a smart aleck to be blocked!

- B -

Speaking of autos, apparently the fast food industry is taking a lesson from auto-makers: bigger is better, obnoxiously big is better still, and irresponsibly big is best! During the games this weekend I saw the commercial for that new BK breakfast sandwich twice, and I swear I gained 10 lbs! I mean, they might just as well finish the job and throw a helping of biscuits and gravy on that thing!

I was an account for a fast food franchiser up until a year ago. The thing that had hurt us the most over the past few years was diet-mania with Adkins, South Beach and others gaining ground. Across the board the fast food industry responded with salads and other low carb, low fat and low cal offerings.

All of a sudden it's as if there is a contest on to see who can have the biggest, unhealthiest, most fat-laden, calorie-laden sandwich in town. The fact that an item boasts a day's worth of calories is now a selling feature!

This is not a good trend, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it has been successful. Heck, if people will buy vehicles that they can't handle, why would we expect good judgment when it comes to food?

- B -

And over at the sport formerly known as hockey, the impass continues as the players' union shot down two more owner proposals without offering any ideas of their own. And so, with MLB making moves (although they are still token gestures) on the steroid front, the NHL may soon overtake them as the most disfunctional league in all of sports.

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Despite Carolina doing their best Arizona impression over the last ten minutes of the game, Illinois was unable to get back out in front, and the Tar Heels held on to win this year's National Championship.

Carolina came out of halftime seemingly going for the Illini jugular. But as they've done several times before, Illinois managed to come back. They suddenly discovered what "ball movement" is and used that to free their guards on the perimeter. Suddenly getting open looks, their shooting touch returned. In this era of the short three-point shot, no capable team is ever out of the game.

Just as quickly as Illinois' game returned, Carolina took a turn for the tentative. By this point Sean May was unstoppable underneath the basket and on his way to fouling out a second defender when the soft passes returned as did their poor shot selection. But, like the team of superstars-to-be that it is, Carolina was able to muster a key play each time it was needed, just as it was needed.

Even if you aren't a Tar Heel fan, you have to feel good for Roy Williams who will no longer have to answer questions about not winning a Championship. The guy is a Final Four regular, a class act and one of the few elite coaches in the game. He had no need to answer to anyone even before tonight. Still, that doesn't stop the questions.

Speaking of stupid sportscaster-talk, there was more.

1. After Felton hit a particularly deep three - "He was not just behind the three-point arc, he was behind the Gateway Arc."

2. After it was over and Sean May had turned in a dominating performance, "March Madness began in March, finished in April and belonged to May."

See, that's why I'm not a sportscaster. I couldn't spout off cheezy crap like that and sleep well at night thinking that I've contributed something to the world. My guess is that these are things they thought of before the game and were just waiting for the opportunity to work them in. God help their family and friends if they have the gift of being able to come up with that drivel off the cuff.

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2005-04-04



It's halftime and I'm pleased. Carolina is up by 15 after playing a pretty sloppy half all around.

Illinois has no answer for Sean May in the paint, yet the Heels wasted several possessions with off-balance outside shots. This was even more puzzling after the Illini's Augustine got into foul trouble. And the Heels' passes couldn't have been softer.

How did they come away with a double-digit lead? Even with the Tar Heel defenders getting out and disrupting their shooters, Illinois continued to clank away from beyond the arc, to the tune of 5 of 19! They're good when they get wide open shots. Carolina has the horses to go after them.

Dumb comment of the half actually came from Clark Kellog in the pre-game: "Isn't it amazing that both of these coaches are in their second year at their respective schools. Well, not really as both wound up where they as part of the same chain reaction two years ago - Williams vacated Kansas to go to Carolina - Bill Self, then at Illinois went to Kansas - and Coach Weber moved up to Illinois.

Almost as stupid: How long are they going to continue to point out that this is the third consecutive Big 10 team that Carolina has faced. It started on Saturday. Probably as long as they continue to point out that Illionois played all of their tourament games close to home. We get it. Interesting. Move on. Or perhaps you could experiment and see how just being quiet would work.

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Hmmmm ... things are mighty quiet over at Fastlane so far this month.

You remember, Fastlane is the blog of Bob Lutz, the Vice Chair of GM-North America ... or actually I should say FORMER Vice Chair of GM-North America. It seems that GM CEO Rick Wagoner has taken the keys away from Lutz and former North America President, Gary Cowger and will drive himself!

The official spin: Facing some challenges in NA, need to "shorten the lines of communication and decision-making." Lutz and Cowger will move over to GM-Global. Why do I think this isn't a promotion?

Meanwhile, over at Fastlane, not a word since Lutz's March 31 post claiming that GM's financial results were taken out of context and didn't warrant the ensuing panic. To be fair, his main point was that GM would not be shutting down one of its brands.

However, GM itself issued a warning last month that this year's earnings may come in as much as 80% below expected. Now I'm just a CPA, but that sounds pretty bad, whatever context you put it in. When the CEO of GM pushes you out of the way so he can take over day-to-day operations ... well, there's just no good way to spin that.

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What a surprise. Once again Blogger is in the crapper. Last week I learned to save my data outside of Blogger before trying to post (and it only took losing three posts before I caught on!).

Today I don't know what it's doing ... caught in some infinite loop where it just keeps posting 25% of my entry.

Once again, you get what you pay for.

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I caught parts of "GI Jane" last night as I was flipping channels during the Tennessee game. It was as amusing as most military movies are.
  • There was the usual "first they hate her, but she pays it no mind and works hard, and as she goes the guys are slowly but surely surprised to see that she does some things well until eventually she wins them all over" theme.


  • I was kind of puzzled by the scenes of her working out, in the barracks I guess, on her own. I've never been to BUDS, but I do know that the whole time they give the guys precious little sleep and are absolutely grinding them into a pulp constantly during their waking hours, zapping every last ounce of energy they have. The kind of personal workout Moore was doing was not only physically impossible, it woiuld have been unnecessary. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were just looking for an excuse to show Demi writhing around and sweating in a skimpy outfit.


  • Finally they took a page out of the classic Top Gun playbook. Demi and the rest of her class are on a sub getting ready for one of their final training exercises, when suddenly real life flares up. They have to break away from their exercise to go on a mission helping to extract a group of SEALs that were sent to retrieve part of a downed satellite.

At the end of Top Gun, Ice Man and Maverick have just graduated and are sipping red punch with Tom Skerritt when suddenly the call comes in. There is a "situation" and four members of the class must report to sea immediately to deal with it.

Let's face it - this doesn't even make sense from a layman's perspective. We've got hundreds of other pilots and three SEAL teams, many of them already at sea and/or tanding by for just such an eventuality, but instead they call for the kids just finishing up training.

Speaking of Top Gun, Tom Cruise was heading back to be an instructor when we left him. There couldn't be a more obvious sequel setup. I wonder what happened.

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2005-04-03



For all the stunning upsets, the drama, and the most amazing set of Regional Finals, the NCAA Tournament has boiled down to Illinois and North Carolina - the consensus #1 and #2 team in the land for several weeks running. Though the semi-finals weren't as dramatic as the rest of the tournament (how could we have expected them to be?), Monday's Final promises to be a bruising clash of Titans that will produce a worthy champion.

Sadly, the excitement of this event is often tempered by the involvement of the sports broadcasters. This weekend's gems:

Dick Vitale: "(Illinois) wants to become the first team to win a National Championship without ever getting on an airplane." He was referring to the Illini playing their games in Indianapolis, Chicago and now St Louis; all a modest bus ride from Champagne. I'm sure Illinois wants, as badly as anyone, to win the National Championship. I doubt that the being able to say they did it without a plane trip has been a real driving force however.

Clark Kellog: Prognosticating the UNC-Michigan State game, "I sense that the Spartans are ready to do what they have not done all year - shoot the three well and upset the Tar Heels," (paraphrased). He gets paid for that? "I sense?" That's one of those dumb things you can say, and if it comes true you can remind everyone what a genius you are, and if not no one will remember.

But, a word to the wise - If a team hasn't been shooting the three well all year, it really isn't logical to expect that they'll suddenly find their range in their most pressure-packed game of the season against one of their toughest opponents.

Unknown: During the UNC-MIchigan State game, pointing out that UNC's road has matched them up against 16-seed Oakland, 9-seed Iowa State, 6-seed Villanova, and 5-seed Wisconsin. No high seeds there. "The Tar Heels haven't faced a team like the Spartans yet." Problem is, Michigan State is a 5-seed. Now if you are claiming that MSU is playing better than you'd expect of a 5-seed, that point can be made. But then Villanova and Wisconsin also played above their seeding. You can't have it both ways. Either the seeds mean something or they don't. I'd argue for the latter. This was the most bizarre tournament ever when it comes to seeds.

One note: I'm getting sick of the "calling time out in mid-air as you are falling out of bounds in an attempt to steal the ball" play. I believe that you should actually have to steal the ball, not just get a brief hand on it. I'd like to see them come up with something like the NFL's rule on pass receptions. You should have to establish possession first, then take your time out if you want.

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I'm not Catholic, so I won't pretend that this is a deep, personal loss for me. Still, the world has lost a leader who boldly stuck by his convictions.

The two things I remember most about Pope John Paul II:

1. How he came to be Pope. When I was a kid I learned a bit about the Pope selection process as John Paul I died a month after becoming Pope and we got to watch the process unfold twice in a short time. Also, it was a big deal that John Paul II was not Italian.

2. His Christ-like modeling of forgiveness. Shown here, the Pope meets with the man, and takes the very hand that tried to take his life.

I still don't understand how the Roman Catholic church squares their view of the Pope with God's word, but I've learned that in practice they are little different than the rest of us. Over the 20+ years of John Paul II the world has changed a great deal, and his church has changed a great deal. He's issued some difficult guidance on difficult issues. Sometimes his flock listens and follows, and sometimes the lambs wander off.

As times change, some denominations have compromised their core values. Time will tell if the Roman Catholics head off in the same direction via the selection of their new leader.

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2005-04-01



Challenge ten is in the books and, stop me if you've heard this one ... Magna wins again. Even with a minor re-shuffling, the game continues to be about a sizeable gap in talent and ability between the two teams.

Early loft action had the Book-Smart memmbers of Magna; Alex, Kendra and Bren pledging allegiance to each other. This was short-lived as the Donald called for a much needed re-shuffling - Net Worth got to pluck the player of their choice from Team Magna. The deciding process took all of two seconds - Alex would switch jersies. The looks on the faces of both teams; glee for Net Worth and shock for Magna; were a testimony to Alex's strength. Unfortunately his strength may be his undoing as he is now stuck on the trainwreck that is Net Worth.

Our episode also found Chris sticking to his recent pledge to quick chewing tobacco. Unfortunately it also found him with a lip full of sunflower seeds - just as attractive as chaw, but at least they aren't carcinogenic. He also confessed to Angie that he'd probably be a little short for a while! This is kind of like the Donald saying that he's got a little bit of money. Chris' fuse, even when he was chewing, was so short as to be almost non-existent.

For this week's challenge, the teams needed to create a new pizza for Domino's and then spend part of a day selling pizzas from a streetside booth.

One Louisville note: Usually when a product is involved, that product gets quite a bit of ad time during the show. It just so happens that Papa John's has their HQ here in Louisville and they must have bought up all the local advertising time because they were ready with a bunch of "rebuttal" spots.

Anyway, as the teams were departing, Trump let slip that he likes meatballs on his pizza. What new pizza did the teams "create"? Magna - Manga Meatball. Net Worth - Meatball Masterpiece. I'm surprised Trump didn't ping them both for lack of originality.

Let's face it. As long as you don't put something bizarre on it, pizza is pizza. This boiled down to a sales and marketing task.

Net Worth wisely hired some day labor to market their product. Unfortunately they didn't follow up and strategically deploy their sales force to take advantage of the pockets of commerce around them. In addition, Stephanie, NW's PM, headed off on an hour and a half subway trip with Angie to deliver pizzas that the over-eager team had pre-sold the day before. Mind you, the teams were down to four members, so that's 50% of team on the bench for a critical part of the mission.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer Chris was running hot and he and Alex had four-letter words.

Bren headed up Magna, but strong leadership was not needed this week. Magna appeared to have learned from last week's brief brush with attitude and rode a solid team effort to victory. Their key to victory - on the marketing front they took full advantage of the offices in their immediate surroundings and booked a lot of big orders.

Magna was rewarded with breakfast and face-time with the Donald himself. I'm assuming this was out of the ordinary for all concerned because that breakfast was "heart attack on a plate!"

As Net Worth prepared for yet another board room battle, Stephanie set her sights on Chris and tried to draw Alex into the hunt. This is where the drastic quality difference between the remaining players was on full display. Alex flatly told Stephanie that he wouldn't commit to a full-scale attack on Chris. In an aside, he explained that while Chris has his rough edges, he also has potential, and that Stephanie had nothing more to offer the team.

The boardroom focus quickly narrowed down to Chris for his temper and Stephanie for poor leadership decision-making. Stephanie brought Chris and, in a move that surprised Trump's team, Alex back to the boardroom, sending Angie who had contributed zilch on this mission back to the suite. Much of the early talk had centered on the altercation between Alex and Chris, and I'm sure Stephanie was banking on that continuing.

Eventually, Alex shared his earlier thoughts, that of the two (Stephanie and Chris) he'd rather work with Chris, because there was un-tapped potential there. Stephanie was fired. And as the three left Trump warned Chris, "You'd better step up!"

Kudos to Alex for his integrity and clarity. Unfortunately, next will still find him on Net Worth, teamed up with Angie who is generally lame, and Chris with whom, last we saw, he was not on speaking terms. Hopefully his words in the boardroom, which went a long way toward saving Chris, will help thaw the situation.

Outlook:

Blue Chippers: Alex (NW) and Kendra (M) - These two have emerged as clearly a step ahed of the rest. I'm picking them to be the final two, with one caveat. Alex is in a dangerous situation right now. His team is horrible, and as good as he is, one person can not solve the problem. He also can't keep himself out of the line of fire. Net Worth is down to three members and I fully expect all three to find themselves in the boardroom again next week.

Strong: Bren and Tana (M) - These two are the brightest and most all-around talented of the rest. They are my pick for the Final Four. Both are great as supporting cast, but don't have the strength to win it all.

Potential: Craig (M) - Had a great mission last week in a situation where his leadership was key. His stock has to be pretty strong in Trump's eyes right now. Unfortunately he has communication issues. Like Bren and Tana, he's a great team player, but isn't solid enough to win the whole thing. I would not be totally surprised to see him wind up in the Final Four however.

No Hope: Chris and Angie (NW) - Angie could well have been fired this week if she'd been brought back to the boardroom. Trump and Co. haven't seen nearly enough success to offset how much they've seen of Angie in the boardroom. And Chris ... it's a miracle he's still around. For two weeks in a row, he was dangerously close to getting yanked. And it's not as if he impressed the Donald with his brilliance in battling his way out of trouble. Last week Erin stepped and left Trump little choice to to fire her, and this week Alex saved his butt.

The only shred of hope for Chris is that Angie may be fired before him, forcing Trump to pull another Magna player over to Net Worth - he may yet find himself on a good team. Still, he can't hide forever. Even if, on a fluke, he makes it to the Final Four, they'll shred him in the interviews.

The little, "... and that's a fact!" or even more empatically, "... and that's a proven fact!" that Chris tacks on to any opinion of his own worth won't get him through any more battles. Just saying it doesn't make it so, and his temper is impossible to miss.

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