2005-10-30



I was just looking surveying the College Football landscape, and it appears we may be headed for trouble once again.

We still have five undefeated teams; Alabama, Texas, UCLA, USC and Virginia Tech. From this point forward we're only assured of losing one from this group, when USC and UCLA meet to close out the season.

Before their game with OK State yesterday, I would have said that the 'Horns were nearly a lock to run their table, with the meat of their Big XII schedule behind them and no strong teams in the North to give them a run in the Conference Championship. But, the two OSU's, Ohio State and OK State, have given the rest of the field a recipe for handling Texas: bottle up Vince Young. Easier said than done, but not impossible, and when you do good things happen. Still, I think Texas will win out.

VIrginia Tech has some work to do with Miami and the ACC Championship, probably against Florida State still to come. I hate to admit it, but the Hokies are clearly superior to those two teams right now. If they can play up to their ability, they'll also hit the BCS undefeated.

Alabama is looking good, but they have yet to play their two biggest tests - LSU and Auburn. If they get by those two, the SEC Championship may be a lesser challenge with the SEC East having a down year. But! it may very well feature a re-match with a Gator team that is playing much better than they were when the Tide throttled them in Tuscaloosa.

The fact that USC and UCLA are each other's only remaining test guarantees one undefeated losing, but also likely guarantees that another will survive.

So, once again, I'm seeing at least one team, maybe two screaming at their TV's, "What about us!?" as the BCS trophy is handed to USC. Especially after Va Tech and Alabama had to weather the game's two toughest conferences while USC skated through College Football's Powder Puff league.

The other day I heard a discussion of this on the radio, and the BCS apologist guest had the usual, "Well, there aren't going to be three undefeated teams every year." Weak.

First of all there don't have to be three undefeated teams for this thing to fail, as we've seen over the past three seasons. There can be one undefeated and a number of 1-loss teams with a legitimate claim to a shot at the title. There can be no undefeated teams. There can be more than 3 undefeated teams. The starting configuration doesn't matter when you have a system that doesn't even attempt to eliminate all but one, or when you have a system that ignores a strong undefeated team in favor of a one-loss team coming off of a huge loss in their conference championship. Two undefeated and clearly superior teams meeting in the BCS Championship appears to be the least likely scenario of all that are possible. I'm beginning to wonder if the B and S in BCS don't stand for Bud Selig, or any other appropriate BS acronym you might come up with.

Here's rooting for another Big Championship Snafu!

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So I was listening to Loverboy's "Workin' for the Weekend" on my shuffle yesterday. Loverboy's good - I like their sound. But as I was listening it suddenly dawned on me: this song makes no sense. Really. One thought doesn't go with the next ...
Everyone's watching, to see what you will do
Everyone's looking at you, oh
Everyone's wondering, will you come out tonight
Everyone's trying to get it right, get it right

What are they trying to get right? The watching? The looking? The wondering?

Alas, I realize that there are probably a good many songs like this, that make no sense when you really think about it. We half pay attention, and assume something is being said. After all they lyricized for a few minutes. There had to be a thought in there somewhere.

So, I'd like to challenge my three and a half loyal readers to find THE MOST NONSENSICAL SONG IN THE WORLD! Add em in a comment or e-mail them to me. Note: They truyly have to be nonsense. Take Ted Nugent for example. He doesn't count because his lyrics have coherent thoughts - shallow and adolescent, but coherent none-the-less. And, the artist has to have not intended to produce nonsense. "Ssussudio" and "Rubber Biscuit," are intentional nonsense. Even if we can't figure out why, it doesn't count.

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Erin Gray in Buck RogersOK, I'm watching VH1 remembers the 80's. Admittedly, all these list shows are getting tiresome, but VH1 is the original and they generally do a good job with them.

Anyway, one of the guest commentators is Erin Gray of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century fame. Those were my Jr High years, so this Space-azon was one of my top fantasies.

They were commenting on the scene in Body Heat where William Hurt breaks through the window to get to Kathleen Turner. Erin Gray said that if any man ever did that for her, she'd be theirs.

So, I have set to work devising a way to get Erin Gray trapped in a vestibule somewhere and me standing by with a fire extinguisher. I'm thinking after hours ATM somewhere.

Of course my plan may call for some special material ... lots of anvils and levers, spring-loaded shoes and rocket-powered roller skates. Note to self: call ACME.

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What a day of ups and downs.

First Miami shows up with these hideous uniforms. I didn't get the whole story, but I hope it's not permanent. Their Orange, Green and White unis were awesome. And it must have had an effect because North Carolina totally outplayed them to take a double-digit lead into the half.

Thankfully Miami got it together in the second half - riding Santana Moss and a ferocious defense to a big win. The bad news is that Kyle Wright's learning curve is turning out to be much more shallow than I had hoped. Virginia Tech looms on the horizon - a game the 'Canes won't survive without the total package.

Then Ok State roared out of the gate to take a big lead over Texas. The match was generally pretty even, but Ok State was getting every bounce imaginable, and turned a few big plays. I'm not a big fan of the Cowboys or anything. I just despise Texas-mania and its ugly step-mother Big XII mania. Truth is, the Longhorns championship hopes should have died in Columbus, OH where they were outplayed for an entire game. Forget Vince Young. So far Coach Tressell is Texas' MVP this season. Alas, the beat goes on, as the real Longhorns apparently arrived at halftime and ran right past Ok State in the 3rd Quarter.

Finally, hats off to Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks. They went into Knoxville and came away with their school's first road victory over Tennessee. Granted, the Gamecocks are just the latest in a long line of teams ringing up the Vols this year, but it's a symbolic reward for a team that has taken some big strides this year.

You know, College Football is one of those sports where change is not good. Aside from the semi-pro team out in SoCal, this season has been awesome because; Steve Spurrier is back, Alabama is back, Notre Dame is back, Penn State is back, and once again we may end the season with more than one team having a legitimate claim on the championship.

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2005-10-28



Trump - Apprentice 4Wow! This one changed the landscape at Apprentice.

First of all, the two most over-used business cliches on the Apprentice: 1. "Step up to the plate." 2. "At the end of the day." In my college days we used to watch Bob Newhart and play "Bob!" Today you could watch Apprentice, substitute these two phrases and accomplish the same thing. Enough said.

This week's episode started with Jenn M returning to the suite to mixed reaction from her fellow Capital Edge-ers. After the women had their weekly round of "OK, let's put it all behind us, and now we're going to do awesome from this point forward!" *hugs* the teams were told to choose PM's and meet in the boardroom. We the audience had learned last week that a re-structuring was on the agenda.

In typical brutal Trump fashion, each PM had to jettison three players and send them to the other team. Alla, Capital Edge's PM dumped Rebecca, Jenn M and Marshawn. From Excel, Josh dispatched Clay, Markus and Adam. At this point, a note. The bulk of these decisions were purely personal. Josh was fortunate that he didn't get along with the least effective players on his team. Alla's emotional blindness caused her to get rid of two of her team's strongest performers in Rebecca and Marshawn.

The teams were tasked with creating and running an interactive event in order to boost sales at a Dick's Sporting Goods. Again, the measuring stick was to be, percentage change in sales from normal for that day.

Sometimes it is better to venture outside your comfort zone. Never was that more apparent than on this task. On paper, Team Excel was a dream team compared to Capital Edge.

Unfortunately, the men went with their interest and chose a baseball theme. But, the means to an end, the event that was lure in prospective customers became the end, as James and Mark devoted their time to teaching baseball in the batting cage. Jenn M, boasted of her sales prowess early in this episode but, true to form, contributed nothing of value. PM Josh was nowhere to be seen once this thing got going.

Capital Edge on the other hand, went with a golf theme, something they all admitted they knew nothing about other than that the game is a big draw. With little knowledge or experience, their team's goal was simple - Sell! As luck would have it, that was also the goal of this task.

The results: A hole-in-one for Capital Edge who boosted their department's sales 74%! while Excel struck out. Not only did they not boost sales, Excel succeeded in creating such a distraction that they actually lowered their department's return by 34%.

The Donald was not pleased, and Bill Rancick (sitting in for George) and Carolyn were merciless in prodding the losers in the boardroom. Josh attempted to pawn the responsibility off on Jenn M as the self-proclaimed sales expert. Jenn blamed Josh for letting their team's overall effort shift from their original plan to a less sales-conducive event. The remaining team members sensed the battle consolidating and tried to stay out of the way, joining in at blaming either Josh or Jenn.

As for choosing who to bring to the boardroom, Trump took the ball out of Josh's hands. He sent Rebecca and Marshawn back to the suite as everyone including Carolyn and Bill agreed that the two women had put forth exceptional effort. Brian was also sent back as he had immunity.

While Josh, Jenn, James and Mark waited outside, a befuddled Trump team searched for a culprit. It wasn't that it was hard to blame someone. With the enormity of the loss and the horrendous effort, it was hard NOT to blame someone. When the four returned, the Josh - Jenn battle continued while James and Mark laid low, speaking only when spoken to. Their ploy didn't work, nor did any of Josh or Jenn's arguements. Abruptly, Trump fired all four!

The funniest clip of the night showed the four fired candidates squished into the back of the cab. Whereas the departing player offers some parting words (or a song in Danny's case - season 3), these four weren't saying a word.

Outlook:

Here's what got lost behind Excel's implosion: Capital Edge is a disaster. Markus miraculously continues to dodge opportuniites to shoot himself in the foot, but it's only a matter of time. Clay is still difficult to work with. Alla and Felishia are fair, but are not long shots to make it to the end. Excel on the other hand is strong. The boardroom revealed that the team probably lost its four weakest players this time. Rebecca, Marshawn and Brian form a strong remaining nucleus.

I got my wish, as Josh and James finally moved to the forefront and then right out the door. I still think, had this not been in James' personal interest wheelhouse, the James might have been a strong candidate. I can't say the same for Josh. At a time when his team needed a leader who was staying focused on the big picture, he was MIA while their event de-railed.

Strong candidates: I'm sticking with Rebecca and Randall. Rebecca was somehow able to shine amidst her team's failure. If there was any tarnish left from her previous boardroom close calls, it's gone now. Poor Randall is still handcuffed in the middle of a dysfunctional team. So far, he's managed to escape harm, but his team's dynamic is preventing him from showing his full game.

Though she joined Rebecca in earning favor with the Donald despite being involved in a dismal effort, I'm still not convinced. Marshawn is intelligent. I'm just not sure if she is assertive enough to handle all that Trump will eventually throw at the candidates.

Coming out of this task, I'm uncertain of Brian's standing. His teammates agreed that along with Rebecca and Marshawn he had done a great job on sales. This was not echoed strongly by the Donald. He merely said that Brian was being sent back to the suite because he had immunity. It is unclear what Brain's fate would have been if that hadn't been the case. But, he did perform well as PM last week, so I don't see him departing anytime soon.

Alla, Feleshia, Clay and Andy are weak, and unless they remain teamed up and win, my guess is that the next couple of firings will come from this group.

Markus remains a definite "no." As previously mentioned, he's doing a good job at staying out of his own way, but the group is thinning, and hiding won't remain a viable strategy much longer.

Apprentice-Donald v. Apprentice-Martha
On the Martha version in recent weeks, one team sold no Wedding Cakes in one of their sales tasks, and in a redecorating task one team didn't finish and was still waiting for furniture to arrive when the task ended. On the Martha version this was handled like any other task. The failure was analyzed and someone was fired. Well, not really fired. They were said, "Goodbye" to and got a nice little note from Martha Stewart.

This week on Trump's version we saw a more realistic version of what happens when a team doesn't even make a reasonable effort at accomplishing the task at hand. No mercy.

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OK ... it was a busy week, and now it's catch up time.

I was so fixated on Houston's surge into and through the playoffs and so non-plussed by Chicago nearly fumbling away their monster mid-season lead that I completely missed, until it was over, what an amazing playoff run the Sox had. They effectively swept everyone. Sure, there was the ALCS opening game blemish - too much rest waiting for Los Anaheim to finish off the Yankees?

I'm not really wow'ed by the Angels, but look at Chicago's post-season bookends. Boston came in in a tail-spin, but they stil boasted as nasty a lineup of hitters as there is in baseball. In the Astros, Chicago faced an imposing array of starting and relief pitchers and made them all look average.

To be sure, Chicago has great sticks and great arms. But the thing that set them apart this post-season ... the thing they did better than any other team in the playoffs ... they finished the job when they had the chance. The Sox had Boston down 2-0, and could have eased up. They took them out in 3, avoiding a critical game 4 at hostile Fenway. After taking 2 in California, it would have been easy to think, "We can win 1 of 2 back home." Instead they took down the Angels on their home turf and went home to rest.

Contrast that with Houston whose World Series was all about missed opportunities. Hidden behind Chicago's sweep is the fact that the Series was close. Houston had multiple opportunities to win every one of those games. If just 3 of their 72 runners left on base score, you could reverse two of the four games. If just one of Houston's big three had contained Chicago's hitters, the series is extended.

Instead Houston repeatedly let Chicago off the hook. The White Sox didn't crush the 'Stros, they just consistently out-played, out-hustled, and out-pressured them.

A couple of other thoughts:

If this is it for the Rocket, here's hoping he'll have the courage to step down. I've said this time and time again when a sporting great starts to sing, "Should I stay or should I go," don't wear out your welcome, even if you can because of who you are. If this past season turns out to have been Clemens' last, he has nothing to be ashamed of. I'm sure it stings to fall one step short, but he competed at the highest level right to the end. As long as he can play at such a level that he would earn the spot even if he were green and fresh off the bus from Austin, he should stick if that's where his heart is. If not, step down and let them remember you as nothing but great.

As for Chicago, once the city-wide celebration dies down, this is totally going to mess with the Cubbie fans' heads. It's bad enough just to be driving a used Pinto - it becomes ten times worse when your neighbor comes home and parks a brand new Escalade in their driveway. As far as I'm concerned, all curses are still in place.

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2005-10-26



If a tree falls at a WNBA game and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Anyway, big news out of the WNBA: Three-time MVP Sheryl Swoopes came out of the closet yesterday, announcing that she was "tired of having to hide (her) feelings."

What? A gay women's basketball player? No way! Elsewhere, and I was unable to find a source on this so take it with a grain of salt, but someone is claiming that grass is green. More as it becomes available.

Seriously, I suspect it may be a publicity ploy. The WNBA can only dream of the kind of ratings that got Ellen DeGeneres' previous show cancelled after she "came out."

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2005-10-25



Over at AgapePress Rev Mark H Creech, Dir of the Christian Action League has a great piece on the abundance of professing Christians clinging to cheap grace.

He cites a number of Barna studies which reveal that most Americans claim to be Christians yet few demonstrate any kind of meaningful evidence of it in their core beliefs and approach to the Bible.

Obviously this kind of thing is hard to measure, and I know many who would dispute the particulars of some of the statements Barna uses to gauge the strength of respondents' biblical worldview. But, can anyone simply look around at our world today and dispute that there is a great deal of truth here?

Creech points out that previous Barna studies "demonstrated how a biblical worldview radically alters a person's lifestyle choices, causing them to reject matters like cohabitation, drunkenness, gay sex, profanity, pornography, adultery, gambling and abortion." Again, I simply say, "Look around you."

The cause of this problem? Creech cites Briscoe who believes it stems from a general acting out against authority as confidence government and our democratic process erodes.

I admit I'm having trouble finding the chicken and egg here. While I agree with what Briscoe discusses, I'm not so sure that those aren't also symptoms.

Somewhere along the line, we collectively lost a foundation. It's not just the biblical worldview that is lost, it's any kind of world view. You don't believe in God, fine. Believe in something. Think! That's what gets me. What is the point in existing if you are content to meander through life without much thought, tossed about by this and that? And if you do occasionally stop to contemplate life , how can you not stumble upon questions from time to time that grip you, refusing to let go until you've read and studied and pondered and eventually resolved them? And in wrestling with such questions how can you not eventually develop some kind of world view?

Creech offers this quote from Arthur W. Pink:
"Never were there so many millions of nominal Christians on earth as there are today, and never was there such a small percentage of real ones .... such multitudes of deceived souls within the churches, who verily believe that all is well with their souls when in fact the wrath of God abideth on them."

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2005-10-24



Trump - Apprentice 4The most recent edition of the Apprentice opened with the women's team, Capital Edge, reeling. The men were shocked to see the entire team, sans Torral, return so quickly from the boardroom. The women tried a "what happened in the boardroom stays in the boardroom" conference. Unfortunately that doesn't come easy to women, and the irony is that Kristi was playing head cheerleader in this little pep talk. More on that later.

In an effort to boost Capital Edge a shot in the arm, the Donald gave the ladies their pick of one player from Team Excel. Without hesitation, they chose Randall. He didn't even get a blindfold or last cigarette!

The teams were tasked with developing a parade float to promote Sony's new movie Zathura. They were told specifically that one of their main goals was to help overcome the movie's name recognition weakness.

Despite Excel's run of success we were refreshed to discover that there is still plenty of animosity between Markus and the rest of his team. It seems he's still unwilling to work hard, and unable to work well. On this mission he oversaw the picking up Chinese effort.

Even with Torral gone, Capital Edge was still unable to get along. At one point we saw Kristi in the background bad-mouthing the PM, in this case, Jenn M, to some of her team-mates, which has become all too familiar. And speaking of recurring themes, once again during the design phase suggestions were made which would have side-stepped some of the flaws that would ultimately doom Capital Edge, only to be shot down by a dumber but more stubborn team member, again Kristi.

The men's float was a hit. The name "Zathura" was prominent from every angle, and could be heard in the audio that accompanied the float. The Sony execs were pleased with how well the men addressed name recognition while incorporating key elements from the movie.

As for Capital Edge, not so good. At the right angle you could almost make out the name of the movie. In fact, the house from the movie so dominated the women's float that you couldn't really make out much of anything else. But the icing in the cake was Jenn M mis-pronouncing the movie's name, "Zanthura" during her presentation, several times. True to her blonde-ness, the PM came away thinking her presentation was strong.

Once again, Team Excel wins hands down. And once again, the guys voted unanimously to grant Brian exemption on the next task.

For Capital Edge the board room battle quickly consolidated down to Kristi's general negativity vs. Jenn M's major culpability in the most recent failure. Apprentice #1, Bill Rancick who was filling in for George, and Carolyn both agreed that while Kristi was a big problem, Jenn M deserved to be fired for her responsibilty in the task at hand. Trump thought otherwise, and sent Kristi packing.

My theory: clearly neither one of these women was a candidate to win this thing. But, Jenn M is blonde and model-esque, so the Donald kept her around for interest. I'm curious if that sort of thing makes a difference in the ratings. Personally I think Jenn M is great looking but has the personality (and intelligence) of the boardroom table. I couldn't care less if she stays or goes.

Next week, big things are in store according to the post-boardroom tease. It seems that the guys vs. girls format is finished. Thankfully Randall didn't sustain any permanent damage.

Outlook:

I'm establishing Randall as my front-runner. A few weeks back he was a very successful PM, and we learned this week that he is a clear favorite among the other players on both teams.

Brian joins the ranks of the other men who performed well as PM and deserve consideration.

I'm still waiting to see Josh and James step up to be PM. James seems to be the total package; intelligence and skill combined with charm and grace. Josh is a little more blunt. Once he hits the limelight he'll either become a star or flame out.

Rebecca is my front-runner for the women although I'm a lot less enthusiastic about any of them. She gets mixed reviews for the Torral mess, but other than that has shown herself to be strong and sharp.

Felishia, Alla and Marshawn are also talented, but were too weak to help turn around the disaster that is Capital Edge. We'll see if they can assert themselves once the team's mix.

Who is a trip to the street waiting to happen?

Where other candidates have failed to learn obvious lessons, give Markus credit. After a boardroom close call he has wisely learned to shut up. Unfortunately, that's all. He's not shutting up and working hard. Not shutting up and making major contributions to his team's success. He's just shutting up, and you can't hide forever. Capital Edge was a dream come true for Markus. If the teams mix, his days are numbered.

Jenn M is far too weak for this game. She has good looks and that's about all. As mentioned, this week there was little gain or loss in the Jenn M / Kristi decision. Eventually she'll wind up pitted against a strong candidate and that will be the end of it. She surely won't survive another stint as PM.

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So far the Series has not lacked drama. Game 2 saw Houston take the field in the 7th with a 2-run lead, seemingly prepared to ride Pettitte and their bullpen to a victory. Paul Konerko hit a granny to give Chicago the lead, but even that wouldn't be enough. Houston tied it again with a ninth inning rally. Scott Posednik halted the madness with his walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth, as Houston closer Brad Lidge posted another diappointing post-season outing.

That's what this series has been about so far. Not just who has the arms, but who has the bats to test those arms. Coming in, conventional wisdom held that the two teams had evenly matched starters, but the distinct edge went to Houston in the bullpen. What we failed to account for was Chicago's hitting advantage. Houston may have the better bully on paper, but they also more likely to need it as their bats are less productive. Case in point: last night Berkman (and then Burke) and Taveras stood in scoring position and watched three Houston hitters fail to so much as put the ball in play.

Tonight the bats came through, but Houston's bullpen failed to hold the lead. If that continues, Houston has no chance. So, as the action shifts to Houston, the heat's on Oswalt.

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2005-10-22



I'm perusing blogs through Blogger's random "next blog" button, while watching the Astros fritter away a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead in the game. Seriously, runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs and then two straght batters go down without even putting a bat on the ball! Now it rests on Bagwell who, in all likelihood, is in this game because of who he used to be. Still, Baggs can strike out as good as anyone else on the team.

Anyway, I ran across this blog, You, Me and Oprah. The thing I can't make out is whether the blogger is tragically serious, or a master of the lampoon. Either way, some pretty amusing stuff.

Of course, as I am an unashamed Oprah-hater, if it turns out to be serious, I don't recommend it.

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Caught the College pre-game today ... Lee Korso has got to be one of the most obnoxious buffoons on the air. I sometimes get the feeling he's trying to be the Dick Vitale of College Football. By the way, I never stop thanking Vitale for injecting "baby!" into the Sportscaster's vocabulary. Now, you can offer interesting insight or, like Korso, you can just talk loud, add nothing of substance and say, "baby!" a lot.
-- B --

A while back, I praised CBS' Sportsline online version, as being a website that a sports fan could really enjoy. I did mention my concern that they would eventually make a lot of their good content premium.

Well, CBS has found a way around that. Instead they've saturated their site with ads. Apparently it took them a while to get this going. Now the ad server is humming right along. Upon first opening Sportsline, a good 2/3 of your display will be advertising.

Well done, CBS. You continued to tweak your product until you finally achieved ... voilas! Run of the mill status.
-- B --

The crud hangs on. And so, at this time, I'd like to thank the lovely auditor who, despite the fact that her body was trying to cough up one of its lungs, soldiered on and infected half of our office. I haven't even had a chance to decline to take a flu shot yet!

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2005-10-21



Trump - Apprentice 4I missed the beginning of this week's show, so I can't comment yet. There were some obvious details that I wasn't privy to, mainly - how the heck did Randall wind up on the women's team? What'd he ever do to the Donald to deserve that.

However, seeing Bill Rancick on the show last night got me to reflecting over Apprentice seasons past. I get the feeling Rancick is Trump's favorite Apprentice so far, and that's no surprise. IMHO the guy was head and shoulders above any other candidate from the first three seasons. The current edition could produce another superstar though, so stay tuned.

The problem is, Rancick and the First Season set the bar really high. That season had everything: the likeable Rancick and Kwame, Troy the hayseed, Amy the hot blonde, supervillian Omarosa, and Sammy the loveable loser. Amidst all of those fun sub-plots you had some serious business talent. It was all downhill after that.

Season two lacked fun people. Kelly, the eventual winner was a strong candidate, but he had the personality of a brick wall. Going into the live finale, you could just sense Trump grasping for some reason to hire Jenn, but he finally had to face what the audience had figured out weeks before ... Jenn's mind is an empty closet. She advanced by avoiding opportunities to fail, rather than by seizing opportunities to win. If only Kwame could have found his way into season 2, he'd have kicked butt.

Season 3 was a major disappointment. Each week I'd relish the coming of the Apprentice only to be treated to a cast of clowns. Rancick, Kwame, Troy, Ken, Amy, Stacy ... any of them could have won with ease. Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts was a great idea on paper, but they chose such poor candidates to represent both, that a fair battle of the two was never joined. After the teams traded wins a few times, Trump concluded that educational background didn't make a difference. In reality at that point one could only conclude that both groups sucked, and the Street Smart bunch represented a lot of wasted education dollars. I think the Donald even had to re-think his conclusion after Tana made an a** of herself on the live finale.

Too bad for Kendra, the season three winner. She seems like she would have been a quality candidate in any season, but she won 3 simply by being the big fish in a very small, shallow pond.

Trump and Co. have rebounded this season. There are some real quality candidates in the bunch. Currently the guys are rolling and the girls are stumbling. On the plus side, so far most of the candidates that have been lost were clear weak links and deserved it. The women's team has been boiled down to some very strong candidates plus Jenn M who is beautiful but has absolutely no strength. The guys need a little adversity to turn up the heat on them and shake out Markus and one or two other posers.

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2005-10-20



I guess the Cards' dramatic last pitch heroics in game 5 didn't get inside the Astros' heads after all. You've gotta love Roy Oswalt. To date he had posted two impressive wins in the friendly confines of Houston. Last night the heat was on and Oswalt was just as fearless, just as nasty in turning out the lights forever at historic Busch Stadium.

On to Chicago. It's clear the Houston starters aren't going to give anything away. Clearly inexperience is no more frightening to Oswalt than Pujols' stick was. And Pettitte and Clemens have been here before - on a bad night they'll still keep things within reach. As for the bully, one mistake is one more than we could have counted on from Lidge - don't expect another. Of course, the Chisox staff is nothing to sneeze at either. So it's up to the hitters - who will make the most of very few opportunities?

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Arlen Specter: "We're not going to move fast."

LOL ... I realize that to a Congressman, slow = the pinnacle of integrity. Mind you, I understand the importance of prudence and being careful. What that has to do with Congress is beyond me. It's not like they ever move slow to ensure that they come to a wise decision. They move slow to give everyone a chance to get up on their soap box, and to give each member enough time to compile enough material to spin into justification of the vote they've already made up their mind on.



Some guy on Cold Pizza (which is, for my money, the worst sports show on the air): (paraphrasing) "Home field advantage will be important, so the All-Star game will be a factor in the World Series."

Yeah, I can just imagine that everyone's sitting around the Houston clubhouse right about now, kicking themselves for not trying harder in the All-Star game. The 'stros are 3 for 5 in road games so far this post-season. IMHO, baseball is the sport where being at home makes the least difference. I'm not saying it makes no difference, but it is minor at best. The bigger question is whether Chicago will repeat their last letdown after a long rest and give away home field advantage Game 1.

Memo to ESPN dufus: We're not doing the "This time it means something," spin anymore. The fans have seen through it.

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2005-10-19



Def Leppard and Cheap Trick are touring together and making a stop here in Louisville. How awesome is that? It's not quite the ultimate, but it's close. The ultimate would, of course, have to involve the original edition of Van Halen complete with David Lee Roth.

OK, I probably won't go. But if anything could lure me back to the Rock Concert scene, this would be it.

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Catching up after spending a couple days in bed with the crud ...

St Louis had dug themselves into a pretty big hole. Winning three in a row against the imposing Houston staff is a tall order. The thing is, you still tackle the task one game at a time.

Having dodged a bullet in game 5, the Cards now get to enjoy home cooking, and a lot of pressure shifts to Houston. The 'Stros do not want to see a game 7. If St Louis can pull out a win tonight against Oswalt, all bets are off.

Meanwhile, Chicago rests and sets their rotation.

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2005-10-15



 

I love this picture of the girls and it has taken me forever to get it. Shelby is still a puppy and every time I get out the camera she breaks off of what she's doing to come check what I'm doing. Anyway, here's the whole photo albumPosted by Picasa

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I preached last week and it went pretty well. That's saying a lot because I'm generally my own worst critic. I'm pleased with how it went.

The noteworthy thing is this: Of all the times I've preached, this is the time that I spent the least amount of time on form and the most amount of time on substance - I spent little time working on the presentation aspects; specific words, movements, gestures, etc.; and a great deal of time studying and dissecting and knowing inside and out, the scripture passages and the basic points that emerged.

I think there is something to that. When I'm alone sometimes I'll take a scripture passage that I've been studying and just start talking on it. I can usually carry on pretty well. But of course, when you get up in front of people there is the nervousness to deal with. In the past, especially when I was younger, I spent a lot more time on presentation and even trying to work in points that maybe didn't fit so well, but that were points that I wanted to make personally. As a result, I was spending a lot of energy on trying to remember the material, and trying to remember the presentation aspects.

It seems that having the material down cold takes away a lot of the nervousness. You'll always wonder in advance what people will think and how they'll take certain things. But I was not at all sweating trying to remember the material.

It actually helped that the passage, Matthew 22:1-14 - the parable of the Great Banquet with the added detail of the Guest being kicked out for not having appropriate apparel, was not super familiar to me. I'd heard the story, I guess the Luke version because the man being kicked out was new, but I'd never processed it. It was not one of those cases where instantly several points came to mind. In fact I went into the weekend still trying to get a grip on the passage. It had a lot of phrases and words that were pretty broad and made you wonder what Christ was really saying.

That's why I like that we use the Lectionary, and that's one of the reasons we use it - to guide us in covering the whole of Scripture rather than dwelling in the familiar places where our preconceived ideas reign.

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All due respect to my friend, John, "Fatty" picked up a key win for the Houston Astros today. Roger Clemens did spot the Cards a deuce, but he and the bully held on, and Houston's bats delivered. Tomorrow when St Louis steps in against Houston #4 starter Brandon Backe, the Cards must win - it is their narrow window of opportunity to preserve a narrow window of opportunity. If they can even the series, then all they'll have to do is defeat two of Houston's big 3; Pettitte, Oswalt and Clemens. Oswalt's stuff was absolutely sick yesterday, so let's just say they'll have to beat Pettitte in Houston AND Clemens in St Louis.

Tomorrow is dangerous for your team, John. The pressure is squarely on them. Houston has nothing to lose and everything to gain - the perfect recipe for relaxed hitters.

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Unbelievable ... USC pulled it out on the last play. And they only had the last play after Leinart fumbled the ball out of bounds when he was stopped on the 1, with USC having no time-outs left. As if it isn't bad enough that they're stacked with pro caliber talent - they also get the bounces. Still, Notre Dame has only themselves to blame. They had plenty of opportunities to make this a two-possession game, and didn't capitalize.

Then, the Cards fell in a Conference road game for the second time in as many Conference road games. It was close, but they've got to win those. You're not going to take the next step by simply beating up on mediocre talent at home.

Speaking of mediocre, things aren't looking good for the Big East. With everyone calling for their automatic BCS bid, the preseason talk was that this league, with new teams like Louisville, and a new star coach in Pittsburgh, was poised to show the nation that they belonged with the big boys. The cornerstones of the new football Big East: Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Viriginia. So far, only West Viriginia is holding up their end of the deal. Not that there is any shame in losing to the Mountaineers, but Louisville has yet to make a compelling case for itself, in a meaningful, tough game. Pittsburgh was the first of many teams to discover that Notre Dame has returned to glory, and the Panthers never seemed to recover. Syracuse has just on win this year, and today was thrashed by Rutgers. Again, no shame in losing to the ... whatever Rutgers' name is, but that's a game you have to at least show up for if you want to tout yourself as a power.

To be fair - the Big 10 is not having a banner year either. So, maybe we could just scrap the conference ties and just select the top 8 or 10 teams for the BCS. Oh wait, no, that would be too much like a playoff. We'd rather have ... the #1 and #4 team in the nation playing for the national championship, the #2 and (insert single digit number here) teams playing to make sure that this system which is supposed to crown an unquestioned champion will leave lots of questions, and then the #6, #12, #8, and #11 teams playing in meaningless games.

Man, I love this game!

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Watching the big game ... Notre Dame up by a field goal.

The Irish had them by 7 at the half. Not the first time USC has been down at half time, but this isn't a case where they took the first 30 minutes off. Both teams were clearly up for this one.

The Irish have had chances to grab a little breathing room. With USC down by 7, they picked off Leinart and returned the ball to Trojan territory but failed to cash in. In the sequence that just ended, Notre Dame had stopped USC at their own 1, forcing a weak punt from the end zone. The Irish missed a field goal, again failing to muster any points out of an opportunity, despite driving to USC's 10.

I wonder if the magnitude of things is getting to Notre Dame QB BradyQuinn - suddenly he's overthrowing everyone.

Bottom line: it's still anybody's ball game. 3 pts is nothing to USC's offense. Reggie Bush has already run wild in and beyond the Irish secondary on several occasions. On a breakaway TD run he slowed up to showboat heading into the end zone and got pushed on his face by a trailing Irish DB, which was gratifying.

Notre Dame may live to regret the failed opportunities. They're ahead, but it's not like they've been having an easy time of it on offense.

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2005-10-14



Google has a new Reader (aka Aggregator) working in their labs. I have to admit, I don't like the interface. It works, but I've gotten used to Bloglines. The key difference, even with over 300 subs now, at Bloglines I can see at a glance where I've got new material to read. I still have to drill from topic to site to post, but it's quicker, and I'm a big picture guy.

Google's current effort highlights the problem with a lot of web-based apps: when you are dealing with a lot of data, cycling through lists 10 and 20 items at a time is inefficient, and beyond what the user is going to put up with. At work, the online contributor base associated with our lockbox has thousands of names, now. Still, if you want to edit the record of someone whose name starts with "L," for example, you have to start with the A's and page through until you get to it. Right around "Ar" or "As" you realize - this isn't worth half of my day.

Google's problem is similar in that there is no quick way to see that I've got 20 posts waiting at Hugh Hewitt's site, and 15 at Duct-Tape Marketing, etc. You can go to a category and get all of the new posts at sites in that category ... 20 at a time. It's OK, and this is still in development, so I have no doubt that Google will eventually roll out an app that is nails.

I'm just waiting for them to integrate a calendar/task application in with G-mail and its contact list. That could lure me away from Outlook altogether.
-- B --

Houston bounced back, and Oswalt showed what the 'Stros can do on the mound. The 5-runs that St Louis hung on them in game 1 isn't a catastrophe, but it is more than you'd expect of Andy Pettitte and probably more pressure than you'd like to put on the Houston bats. If the Rocket brings his A-game Saturday, they've got Pettitte and Oswalt coming right behind him. Oswalt was lights out, so the Cards would probably have to count on touching up Pettitte again.
-- B --

Notre Dame - USC this weekend. Premium game. Our own U of L - West Virginia should be good too. That's the Cards "prove it" game. Was S Florida a fluke, or is U of L just the latest mid-major (dressed in Big East/upper Mid Major clothing) to beat up on lesser opponents and then whine about getting no respect.

But Irish-Trojans is a game for the ages once again. Which got me to thinking ... usually people complain about the same old teams being good all the time. Yet College Football just isn't the same when teams like Notre Dame and Penn State are pathetic. It's good to see these storied traditions back in the saddle. Now I can return to hating them passionately!

For one week however, I'm an Irish fan. As the season goes on, I just don't see what USC is out to prove. They've got a team loaded with guys who could be and should be playing in the NFL right now. Leinart's graduated for crying out loud! Nice job beating up on all those other teams whose graduates, you know, move on, and get replaced by redshirt freshmen and sophomores. If there is any justice in this world, this will come back to haunt USC when they field a team that is woefully inexperienced because the overdue crew took up all the playing time.

-- B --


I'm off politics right now. It all started with the Roberts business. You know, Congress will do what Congress does; amble along, an inefficient, bloated, out-of-touch gaggle of windbags. And I'm pretty much content to let them do that. We're better off when they aren't trying to fix things, or when they're trying to fix things like Baseball that almost their match, imbecile-wise.

Then they start talking to the Senators about how they'll vote. Senators like Kerry and Kennedy, McConnell and Frist ... big mysteries all. Even there, they're going to vote the party line, so do it and shut up already. No, they have to carry on like this decision has really been weighing on them, like they've been doing some soul-searching and at the end of the day their consciences will let them vote only one way, these pillars of integrity. Conveniently, after all the weighty matters that they culled through and all the sleepless nights, they were led to vote with their party.

Then of course, we have the evening noise ... they bring these guys on and play the sound bites, and harangue until my ears bleed about what a sham these guys are, and how empty and illogical their rhetoric is, and how ridiculous it is that they try to pass off partisan politics as objective reasoning. True. Almost as ridiculous as trying to pass of the same tired dialogue as fresh and insightful news and commentary every night.

I'm just ... done with it. It goes nowhere. It is empty. It is pointless. But people go for it. I get folks who know that I'm a Conservative, coming up to me with their crap-eating grin, and give me a little nudge with their elbow: "gonna give you a hard time about DeLay ..." Oh no! Not that! Like I haven't heard the talking points a million times already. And, I guess I could fire back with my side's talking points and we could just have a good old time contributing to the emptiness. Why? Fine, you got me, boy. Tom DeLay. You sure put me in my place. I'm mortally wounded. Only time will tell if I even have the strength to get out of bed tomorrow knowing that one of the politicians on my side of the aisle might have done something untoward.

Then the Miers thing started and everyone is circling their wagons in earnest. Just so you don't think I don't care, my take is: He's the President, he can nominate who he wants. You're the Senate. If you don't think she's up to the job, don't vote for her. But just because she doesn't agree with you on everything isn't a good enough reason to vote her down. That's not the point of your vote. It's gotten so that the faces and issues don't matter anymore. We just have an ever-cycling bunch of Republican vs. Democrat votes. Politicians are the ones who think they've become well-versed at twisting the real criteria for their vote - party afiiliation - into the intended criteria for their vote - good of the country, representing your district, etc. Well, I'm not playing anymore.

So, it's been about two weeks since I've scanned the political blogs, or listened to 970, or watched the talking heads, and ... it has been wonderful.

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So, every time I do my taxes I use Turbo Tax and sign up for the Audit Defense deal which is run by an organization called Tax Resources. It's a pretty good deal, a little bit of peace of mind for a nominal fee ... until last night.

I got a voice mail at around 8, apparently just as their West Coast office was closing. "We're handling your Audit Defense account. Please call us. This is not a solicitation (which was appropriate because I had not understood their previous effort and did mistake it for a solicitation). Yada, yada, yada." By the time I got the message they were closed.

So basically, I spent the night thinking I was about to get audited, which was nice!

I finally got through this afternoon, and it turns out they were just updating their records and wanted to verify my address. Thanks, I guess. I mean, the whole purpose of that service is to avoid those kinds of heart palpitations.

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Trump - Apprentice 4This week's edition of the Apprentice was all about missed opportunities. Those who have not been faring well, the women in general and Toral specifically, had open doors to change things up. Instead, the fourth week made little difference - the men are humming right along, and the women are under-performing and making the Donald not at all happy.

The teams were tasked with creating a new mascot and accompanying ad campaign for Dairy Queen. Two execs from DQ would decide the winner.

On Team Excel, Clay volunteered to be PM and ruled with an iron fist right from the start. I'm really unsure on the outlook for Clay. His taskmaster ways rankled the team, and if things ever go sour for the men, several Excel members will be standing by to whack the guy. On the other hand, this task saw the men gain a distinct edge by doing thorough research and develop a strong presentation for the DQ execs.

Over at Capital Edge the women had unfinished business with Rebecca having unexpectedly survived last week's board room and Toral still hanging around. Toral vowed to step up and contribute, and then proceeded to half-heartedly volunteer to be PM. With her indecisiveness evident to all, Felisha stepped in and took on PM.

During brainstorming Toral offered little of value and the team quickly moved to shut her and Rebecca out. Also during that session we see Jenn M suggest a t-shirt for their "Zip" mascot, with the DQ logo on it. At this key moment the rest of the team decided to go sans the trademark "DQ." En route to the costume designer we see the anti-Toral faction patting themselves on the back for coming up with such a good idea.

The final nail in Toral's coffin came when she was asked to wear the costume for her team's presentation and she refused. She would ultimately oscillate between several excuses; culture, religion, etc. The long and the short of it was that she saw this as something foolish and she wasn't up for it.

The DQ execs found Excel's female Genie a bit risky, but appreciated the way their target market, teens, was addressed and the way the DQ brand and their Blizzard product were tied in. Capital Edge's presentation was weak to begin with, but even a solid idea would not have survived the absence of brand identification. Another big win for the men. Toral adopted an "I told you so," attitude and seemed pleased with the results.

In the board room, after spending a few moments on the current task, the target shifted to Toral whose weak and lame answers to the attacks only dug her in deeper. In the end, even Rebecca had to admit that she'd fire Toral. There was no board room after the board room this week. With all of Capital Edge present, Trump suddenly brought an end to Hurricane Toral, and for the second week in a row, shooshed the team out with a disgusted, "Get out!"

Here's the thing. Had a couple of small decisions gone the other way things would be very different right now.

For Toral, had she just put on the freakin' costume for fifteen minutes, she would have been a board room after thought and one of her detractors would certainly have been sent home. No branding was the critical mistake and that fell squarely on Felisha. Unfortunately, "I told you so," isn't an out when you're a part of the team that went down. Sure, Toral wasn't part of the problem, but she also wasn't part of an effort to identify and fix the problem. Her lame excuses didn't help anything.

For the women ... branding! How do you get through Marketing 201 and not know better? I was trying to think of an example where this has come up before and couldn't come up with any. Probably because this is so basic. If nothing else, you can infer its importance by how staunchly corporate execs defend and promote their brand when they are on the show.

Put the "DQ" on Zip, and the women have a slight chance of winning, although they also fell short when they appealed to kids where teens are the demographic DQ is aiming at. Worst case, this task simply goes down as "both teams did a great job, but someone had to win," episode. Instead, for the second week in a row the women lost big, and this time they did it by running afoul of some very basic business principles. Toral may have bought someone some time, but all of the women have fallen a notch in the Donald's eyes.

Outlook:

Of the women, from what we've seen so far, only Rebecca has the potential to win. Unfortunately, it would also not be surprising to see her fall in the next couple of weeks. She lost some political capital when she stood up for Toral. Plus, the women were shutting her out. That may change now that Toral is gone. If not, it will be hard for Rebecca to shine. On the other hand, unless things change, we'll probably have a team shake-up in the near future. If Rebecca can survive the funk that currently envelops Capital Edge, she'll go far.

Jenn M alone (unsure of Rebecca's input) recognized the need for brand identification. But, this episode demonstrated her key weakness - weakness. She is not good at asserting herself. Before the board room, she privately acknowledged that Toral was not to blame for losing this task. But, when the fighting starts, Jenn M is seldom heard.

Of the men, it's hard to count anyone out at this point. Josh is my favorite simply because of his candor. He's doing a pretty good job of laying low and staying out of the line of fire without appearing to be slacking.

Markus has found his way back to the pack, and is no longer the lightning rod he started out as. Still, he's just back to being "one of the guys." Can he distinguish himself in a positive way without being a buffoon at the same time? Probably not.

Randall continues to be steady and solid. He'll go far.

Clay was the guy we learned a lot more about this week. He posted an impressive win and has potential. He is in a tough spot, however. Even the Donald would find his style too heavy-handed. Plus, he is not well-liked by the team. They are tolerating him while things are going well and they aren't visiting the board room. If the tide turns, Clay and Markus will become public enemies #1 and 2 on the team, simply because none of the other men seems capable of doing or saying something so majorly stupid as to draw their team-mates' ire and the Trump team's unwanted attention.

Man! I am craving a Blizzard!

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2005-10-11



Dairy Queen has this thing they do whenever you order a Blizzard. As they are handing it to you, they real quick turn it upside down and back upside right. I guess it's to prove how thick and fresh it is or something. I don't really care.

However, the other day I was picking up a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard (the best, IMHO, and I'm a die-hard Oreo guy) and they had put a lid on the cup. Not normal but no big deal ... until the girl still saw fit to perform her death-defying feats of gravity on my Blizzard. What's the point of doing that with a cup that has a lid on it!? I almost asked, but these people are handling live ice cream - it's best not to confuse them any further.

The DQ feats of gravity, btw, rank right up there with the "Honk if your service was great!" signs at the Arby's drive-through. I mean, even if the service were great, I'm not gonna be the geek honking his horn about it. Moot point at Arby's anyway. Maybe a place that actually tries to provide good service should try that one.

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Trump - Apprentice 4The latest edition of the Apprentice was all about gender differences.

First, both teams have had their trip to the board room now. When Markus returned, much to his team's dismay, the men promptly had a quick game of "what happens in the board room stays in the board room," and moved on. By the end of the task they were almost getting along with Markus "the Mouth." Meanwhile Capital Edge continues to be a team divided, though the divisions change regularly, and the women spend more time on CYA than trying to win their tasks.

Second, the team's were challenged to teach technology to the residents at a Senior Center. The winner would be decided by a survey completed by the senior. One of the women commented that their softer approach would give them an inter-personal advantage over the men. That may be, but men are generally better with technology which would turn out to give them an advantage.

Third, not that womanhood was totally useless on this one. There was Jenn M, demonstrating the use of a heart rate monitor by flashing skin and doing pushups in her skimpy exercise outfit. Gee, I don't think this has come up and been shown to be a pet peeve of the Donald and Carolyn in every other season of the show!

Surprisingly, not only did the men do well with the technology, their presentation was outstanding as well and their expo was the livelier of the two by far. This despite event planner Jenn W handling Capital Edge's presentation.

The men scored a solid victory and won the right to spread good cheer and technology at a Children's Hospital. Also, in a turnabout, the men unanimously voted to give Randal, their PM, immunity next week. In the process of losing, the women managed to sow dissent that will likely be with them for many weeks to come.

Despite Toral being a major liability on this task, PM Rebecca remained loyal and didn't bring her friend back to the board room. Instead she blamed the presentation for her team's loss and brought Jenn W back. She also brought Jenn M in, but never really articulated a clear reason for this. She tried but failed to put the Jenn M using sex to sell issue in play. Instead it was a question of whether to fire Rebecca for not bringing Toral, the person Trump really wanted to fire, back in, or fire Jenn W who was probably the next most culpable person on the team.

Trump fired Jenn W, according to him because Rebecca had so much potential. I think the fact that Jenn W was weak in the board room and Rebecca was very strong had a lot to do with it.

Team Outlook:

Capital Edge now has some big rifts. There is great resentment against Toral because she wasn't brought back to the board room, and against Rebecca for not bringing her back. Then there is Kristi who has become a negative force, frequently seen in the background criticizing someone or something and not doing anything.

This victory has given the men new unity and a cooperative spirit. Of course that usually goes out the window the next time a team loses a task. This episode did root out Clay as Markus' potential replacement in the "least wanted" role. During the planning and research phase he was outspoken, unreasonable and seemed to be playing to George at times.

Individual Outlook:

Still hard to tell with some of these folks.

Markus had been identified by the Donald himself as someone who wouldn't last long. He appears temporarily off the hot seat, but he'll need to sustain that for a while to have any chance. If Trump had had even the slimmest of reasons, Markus would have been fired last week.

Randal, on the other hand, is off to a strong start. Though he's not playing it up, the way he weathered his grandmother's death helps. And he led the men in a strong, successful effort this week.

We haven't seen enough of Josh's game to evaluate his chances of winning, but I sure hope he gets to stick around for a while. He does, by far, the bast background commentary - very blunt and to the point. Of course this could mean he's most likely to say something to get himself fired in the board room.

Although he crawled back into the woodwork on this task, Mark identified himself as a weak link on the last task. He was behind the crucial bad decisions that led to his team's victory and could well have been fired had Richard not decided to try to isolate and take out Markus, getting himself fired instead.

For the women, Rebecca is on the fence. Clearly Trump likes her and respected her loyatly and courage this week. On the other hand, she has fired her silver bullet, and won't likely get a second chance. To make matters worse, her teammates will have it in for her. If she can stay out of trouble for a while, she's a threat.

Toral also has the ire of her teammates coupled and an unfavorable impression with the Donald. With her, it's not if, but when. Only an incredible Capital Edge winning streak and a 180 transformation on her part can save Toral.

As mentioned, Kristi has proven to be divisive and not a team player. Right now this seems to be staying under the radar, but I believe it is only a matter of time before that bubbles to the surface and puts her out.

If Jenn M continues to try to use her sex appeal as a weapon, she also is not long for the game. Trump and Co. have made no secret of their feelings on this in previous seasons.

So far, no woman has established herself as clearly having the potential to win this thing. Marshawn led the team's only victory, but could hardly be said to have been a key contributor on that one.

The Martha Edition:

I sampled the Martha Stewart version of this on CNBC last night. Interesting. You get a lot of the same dynamics on the teams, but with a much more effiminate group. The differences were striking and disappointing.

The teams were tasked with designing and selling a wedding cake. One team did pretty well, and the other didn't sell anything. Trump would have ripped their lungs out! That never would have happened. A poor performance, maybe, but no sales at all. The players would know better. Martha was very calm in her disappointment.

Even better, the losing PM blamed his cake's design and brought back the two people charged with creating the cake while sending his sales team back to the loft. After some thought, Martha called the sales team back down and fired one of them! Trump has been a little unconventional at times, but he's never totally crossed the line, though he had to have been tempted the past couple of weeks. My guess: to him it's no big deal if someone who deserves to be fired caught a break ... they'll be back.

Finally, Martha concludes by writing the fired person a nice little note. Awww. How nice. How not real world. Unless the note were to say something like, "Look. You ran your mouth too much and misguided your team. You'd better learn from this or get used to failure!"

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Yayyyy! Hockey's back. Now instead of not watching Scrabble and competitive eating, I can not watch the NHL. Woo-hoo.

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2005-10-10



Only MLB could come up with this. The Yankees and Angels play late into the night in New York while evening their series at two games apiece. Then they hop a flight to California - few flights within the Continental US are longer - where they'll play late into the night to decide their series. The winner ... they get to hop a flight from there to Chicago where they'll play their fourth game in as many days. I guess if New York wins they should be thankful they don't get to start out at home ,,, it'll shave a couple hours off of their flight.

I get the desire not to still be playing baseball on Thanksgiving. That's reasonable. But it's also reasonable to imagine a Divisional playoff series going five games and having trouble with the weather in the northeast.

-- B --


Speaking of late nights ... they played two games worth of baseball in Atlanta yesterday. Rocket did his part with a few innings of middle relief (where "middle" = low teens). There were some bizarre things happening on defense in the eighth, but still, if your bully can't guard a six-run lead over two innings, it's time to re-vamp the bully. Even with the bases loaded, you want to walk Berkman (again, it was a six-run lead) before you serve up lightning on a rope. Smoltz sounded fed up afterward ... they can't lose him.

-- B --


So, I'm rooting for Houston in the NL. Once again, pitching becomes huge at this point. When Clemens is your #3 horse behind Pettitte and Oswalt, you can count on having a chance in every game. It's up to the bats.

-- B --


In the AL ... I'm still not convinced by Chicago. I just can't get past them almost folding a monster All-Star break lead. Even though they'll likely be spotting the Sox a 1-0 lead out of sheer exhaustion, I'll go with Yankees/Angels.

-- B --


Despite that, my undying gratitude goes to Chicago for taking Boston down and not messing around about it. It was horrible right to the end, with announcers gushing on and on about the "end of the dream." Gag. Oh, and by the way Bosox fans, there was the Graffanino error giving away game 2, and then you seemed to come unglued at a key moment there in the deciding game. If I didn't know better, I'd say ... you guys are jinxed!

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2005-10-05



Wow! Chicago hammered Boston, right out of the gate. I am hopeful. Please, finish them. Finish them, now. As long as the Bosox hang around, there's the chance they'll pull another miracle out of their butts and the bandwagoning will only get worse.

Jim Rome echoed my sentiments on his show yesterday: Look out for Houston. In the playoffs, starting pitching goes a long way, and the 'Stros are loaded. Run support is the variable with Houston. If they can muster even a little hitting, they can challenge ANY team in the post-season. I'm not at all pleased that the Braves open with them in a five game series. On the other hand, after the Braves I'd probably root for Houston - "the Rocket" isn't long for the sport, and it'd be nice to see him pick up another ring before he leaves.

San Diego didn't disappoint in their first playoff outing, spotting the Cards an 8-run lead before coming back to make things interesting. Hey, you don't finish at .500 by accident. Digging into holes early is just part of the magic.

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2005-10-03



Trump - Apprentice 4As the curtain rose on this week's Apprentice, the candidates milled about their suite, waiting to see whether Melissa or Kristi would return from the first board room. Privately Chris hoped Melissa would be victorious. She was a divisive force and would keep team Capital Edge weak he reasoned. Of course, Melissa had become the game's first casualty and Kristi soon re-joined her fellow candidates.

This week the teams were assigned to work on an ad campaign for Lamborghini and Linda Kaplan of the Kaplan Thaler Advertising Group. Besides a host of top tier clients, Thaler is known for her recent book, Bang! Getting your message heard in a noisy world, a great read. On a side note, I hope this doesn't mean that there won't be a Deutsche task. As a talk show host Donnie Deutsche makes a great Ad exec, and he's been my hero ever since he thumped both of the loser teams in season 3.

The guys were salivating from the get-go on this one. Chris stepped up to be the PM for the men by virtue of his advertising background, and Marshawn led the women. Chris struggled with Markus throughout while the women had some problems with Marshawn's hands-off approach. In the end the judging was no contest. The women's presentation was concise, coherent and passionate. The men produced a hodge-podge of cool ideas along with some confusing messages and problematic text. The women voted to give Marshawn immunity next week, while in the board room, Chris chose to go head-to-head with Markus and lost, becoming the game's second victim.

A note on cheezy editing: Some things have become highly predictable on the show. A couple of rules for viewers: Anytime one of the candidates boasts that his team will win the current task in a "slam dunk," the other team is going to win, and the person who mouthed off is probably not going to become the Apprentice because they are a freaking idiot! Also, when you are given a strong sense that one team is kicking butt while the other is in disarray ... the team that seems to be struggling will turn out to have been doing just fine and will win.Both techniques were used to the full in this episode.

Most baffling this week was Chris' board room strategy, or lack thereof.

Throughout the task Chris had battled Markus who seemed to open his mouth at the most unfortunate times: first to run his "smooth as silk" tagline idea by Ehren Bragg, the exec from Lamborghini after being told by Chris not to, and then during his team's presentation when Thaler brought up something that Markus had commented on during the task, Markus couldn't resist getting in an "I told you so." He was quite right and quite unprofessional. As a result, Chris gave Markus very little responsibility in this task.

You can't blame Chris for this, as Markus is a walking disaster. However, after sidelining a team member for the bulk of the task, it was going to be a hard sell convincing Trump to fire them. Still, Chris pressed the issue. Even after Trump and Co. clearly pointed out that Mark had been primarily responsible for many of his team's worst mis-steps in this task. Even after the Donald repeatedly pointed out that Markus wasn't responsible for the loss, and strongly suggested that Mark had some answering to do, Chris opted to bring only Markus back to the board room. Well, Mark owes Chris a Christmas Card and then some this year, as he headed back to the suite when he should have been preparing for hand to hand board room combat and, very likely, termination.

As happened last week, the board room came down to the person who held a great deal of responsibility for their team's loss against the person who is their team's biggest general screw-up. First of all, Trump will almost always fire the person specifically responsible for a loss before the generally bad person. Last week was an exception, but last week's task was a narrow loss for the women and there weren't any huge errors that one could blame the $11 difference on. This week the men lost handily, and besides an overall poor effort there were a number of key errors and an obvious culprit - Mark. And, the Donald did everything but stand up on the board room table with a megaphone to point this out to Chris. The PM's biggest mistake was not recognizing the right decision as to who to bring back, despite having it nearly handed to him. In Trump's mind then, the choice boiled down to a guy who actually stumbled upon a couple of the right answers during the task despite himself, and bore little to no responsibility for the loss and the guy closest to the person who was responsible. It was a difficult but clear choice.

Going forward, Markus has clearly been identified as Team Excel's albotross. Even Trump admitted that he didn't like Markus' chances. Until they can rid their team of this bumbling mouth, the guys will be at a marked disadvantage cohesion-wise. On the women's team, Kristi did plenty of complaining about Marshawn. And last week, as PM Krisit locked horns with Melissa. When it came time to vote for immunity for Marshawn, Kristi was the lone dissenting voice. Is Kristi the one who is difficult to work with?

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2005-10-01



Well, we ventured into the nether-regions of Major League Baseball's post-season selection and tie-breaker rules.

I had been mistakenly assuming that the Yankees and Red Sox were going down to the wire regardless of what happened with Cleveland. They split the last two and they play a one-game playoff for the Division Title, or so I thought ...

After painstaking research, ummm, I could find nothing definitive on this at an official MLB site, so I had to settle for a seeminly well-informed article over at Baseball Prospectus.

Here's how it works:
A playoff game is not played if two teams tie for their division title, but both have records such that one will be the Division Champion and the other will be the Wild Card. In this case the team with the better head-to-head record (and there are a bunch of other tie-breakers down to a coin flip) becomes the Division Champion.

When three teams tie; two for their Division and the best other non-Division Champ, a playoff game is played because the two Division leaders are not both guaranteed to be in the playoffs. They play first to determine the Division Champ, and then the loser plays the other non-Champ for the Wild Card.

Interestingly, prior to 2003, in such a case, the two Division teams played a one-game playoff, but the game counted toward their season record thus eliminating completely, the loser as they would be a percentage point or so behind the third team with which they had finished the regular season tied. Thankfully that has been changed.

So, the Yankees win and Cleveland's loss gives New York a two-game lead over the Tribe and guarantees that there won't be a three-way tie. If Boston wins tomorrow, the two teams would finish one game ahead of Cleveland - New York would win the East by virtue of having won their season series against Boston and Boston would be the Wild Card. If New York wins, they take the division outright.

After a torrid comeback to within a couple games of the White Sox, Cleveland's sudden stall not ony kept them from winning the AL Central, it has also left them in dire straights for the Wild Card. They must win and have the Red Sox lose tomorrow to gain a one-game playoff for the Wild Card. To make matters worse, with the East crown wrapped up, the Yankees are likely to put in a weaker pitcher tomorrow. But Cleveland still has this hope: it is hard to imagine New York ever totally laying down for the Sox.

In short ... Another episode of Boston v. New York for the AL Pennant is a strong possibility.

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