Archive for January, 2007

Mitch the marrier?

January 31, 2007

It’s such a pain having to round up a priest or minister to perform the marriage ceremony, isn’t it? What if you could just snag the nearest member of state government? Here’s the full text of an Associated Press story that has moved over the wire:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The governor, lieutenant governor and members of the Indiana General Assembly could officially perform marriages under a bill endorsed Tuesday by a Senate panel.

The Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters approved the bill 7-4 and sent it to the full Senate.

State law allows marriages to be solemnized by members of the clergy, judges, mayors within their counties, a clerk or clerk treasurer of a city or town within that jurisdiction, clerks of circuit courts and imams, along with four specific churches.

Republican Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford, chairman of the committee, said the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon once performed a marriage by getting permission to be a judge pro tem for a day.

Steele said one of his sons wanted his father to conduct his marriage a couple of years ago, and Steele discovered that the law did not specify that he could.

“I’ve had a lot of people in the Legislature ask if they could do this and thought they ought to be able to do this,” Steele said.

It is a myth, by the way, that captains of ships can perform marriage ceremonies, which is too bad, really. It’d be kinda cool to be married by the captain of the Blue Chip right after you’ve lost your life savings. Oh, and I discovered this about Indiana marriage law:  First cousins may marry, as long as they’re both at least 65.

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Who and what both count

January 31, 2007

In pushing for Harrison Square, Mayor Graham Richard is right to stress that it is drawing private investment, a must for any such project to succeed:

“It’s not about the baseball stadium, it’s about the investors,” Richard said of Hardball Capital, the Atlanta-based company that owns Fort Wayne’s minor league team and has committed $5 million to the proposed stadium. “If it were just a downtown stadium, I never would have proposed it.”

But that overstates the case a little, doesn’t it? It’s at least partly about the baseball stadium. If an investor came to us with a great idea for a landfill or a hog-farm downtown, I presume he would be turned down.

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McCoffee

January 31, 2007

This doesn’t shock me at all:

When Consumer Reports magazine compared coffee from mega-chain Starbucks with java from three fast-food restaurants, the surprising winner was – McDonald’s.

The magazine had trained tasters sample a medium cup of black coffee from McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, and found the best cup of joe under the golden arches.

McDonald’s coffee could be a tad stronger for my tastes, but it’s almost always fresh. Some places that don’t sell a lot of the stuff just leave it on the burner for several hours. Starbucks coffee is OK, but not worth its outrageous price. It is nice to have one close to the office, but they might have given a little more thought to the location, right next to McDonald’s.

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Iraq and beyond

January 31, 2007

Indiana’s Sen. Richard Lugar, writing in the Washington Post, seems to be one of the few people in Washington looking beyond Iraq to the larger issues at stake:

The president’s plan is an early episode in a much broader Middle East realignment that began with our invasion of Iraq and that may not end for years. Nations throughout the Middle East are scrambling to find their footing as regional power balances shift in unpredictable ways.

At the center of this realignment is Iran, which is perceived to have emerged from our Iraq intervention as the big winner. We paved the way for a Shiite government in Iraq that is much friendlier to Iran than was Saddam Hussein. Bolstered by high oil revenue, Iran has meddled in Iraq, rigidly pursued a nuclear capability, and funded Hezbollah and Hamas.

One of the premises behind going to Iraq is that terrorists, though stateless, need the help of states to facilitate their movements and operations, as they used Afghanistan. The Bush administration might have mishandled Iraq in any number of ways, but that doesn’t make the initial premise invalid, and all ’08 presidential candidates should be judged partly on their grasp of the broader-than-iraq picture.

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Food fight!

January 31, 2007

OK, that’s it. Gov. Mitch Daniels stayed too long in Washington and is clearly no longer a real Hoosier. For their food Super Bowl bet, the governor of Illinois is offering up, among other things, a true Chicago delicacy — deep-dish pizza. But nowhere in Daniels’ package is one of Indiana’s true claims to food fame — the wondrous breaded tenderloin.

Best Super Bowl joke I’ve heard so far, by the way: How is a $1 bill different from the Indianapolis Colts? ANSWER: You can still get four quarters out of a $1 bill.

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Barbaro

January 30, 2007

When I first heard about Barbaro, my reaction was probably about the same as everyone else’s, one of great sadness. He was a magnificent animal who did what he was bred and trained to do about as well as it could be done. But when I read something so over the top like this, it makes me cringe a little:

If only we’d had more time with you. You were beautiful. You were brave.

You were the best.

You enriched us all, in the nanosecond that you flashed across our universe.

You caught the magic. You shared that spell with us. Like all superior athletes, you lifted us above the world of the mundane into the universe of the gifted.

We soared with you.

You gave us something else to think about besides our ordinary lives. You caught our attention, Barbaro. For all that’s wrong with sports, you stood and said with the authority that comes to a Kentucky Derby winner, "enough" to what we do to win at any cost. Never did gossip or suspicion mar the course of your racing career. No steroids. No spit balls. No stealing signs.

That may have been why you were sent here: to remind us all that winning without taint of suspicion is what sports should be about. Oh, we’ll forget your lesson soon enough. We’re flawed in ways that you were not. But your moral light at least flickered briefly in our consciousness. Thanks for that, Barbaro.

The writing has an elegant touch here and there, but it’s anthropomorphic sludge. Barbaro wasn’t brave or noble or full of "moral light." Those are human attributes that we gave to the animal for our needs, to fill in the blank spaces of our own shortcomings. Barbaro was a racehorse, simultaneously pushed and pampered for a sport run by millionaires for the pleasure of a very select fan base. In a sense he transcended the sport and captured the popular imagination, but he had a lot in common with all the animals that have amused us, from the circus elephant to the pit bull chained up for the next dog fight.

In the end, though, his owners spent tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to save him that they probably knew was pointless, because they could afford it and, I hope, because he had come to mean more to them than something to get the blood pumping on the way from the mint juleps to the betting window. That’s the saving grace of the Barbaro story for me. Most of us have been there.

When my cat Pierre got old and had liver trouble, I spent $1,200 on tests and treatments. That was a lot of money to spend on a cat, many would say — indeed, did say. But it bought him a couple of more years, and they were good years. After a year of mourning — and that is the right word — I was over it enough to get two more cats, Dutch and Maggie. I know that I have provided all three with safe environments and care and attention. I’ve loved them in my way, making them part of my family instead of just animals. But they are animals, and with me they don’t live the lives their instincts dictate. Cats are wanderers and hunters, not couch-sitting drape climbers. I talk to them and pretend they are plotting against me while I’m at work. That’s my anthropomorphic conceit.

Animals don’t have rights, but they have their own kind of dignity,  and how we treat them says much about what kind of people we are. So I’ll end as I began, sad that Barbaro is gone. He got as good as he gave, which is a happy ending given the history of humans and other animals. If he has touched us on a deep level, perhaps it is because most of us hope we can be so kind when it counts.

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Groovy

January 30, 2007

This is kinda cool, kinda scary:

THE Sixties are swinging back into style thanks to two movies out next month.

Dreamgirls stars beautiful Beyoncé Knowles and has scooped a staggering eight Oscar nominations.

And Factory Girl features the uber-stylish Sienna Miller.

If these movies lead to a full ’60s fashion revival, I vote no on the bell- bottoms, yes on the mini-skirt.

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Two groups

January 30, 2007

People gather because they have a common interest, want to have a good time expressing it, show the world what they’re about and, perhaps, make a difference. Some march for peace, and some cheer for the Colts. Are they different kinds of people, deep down? I wonder.

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Bottoms up at the top

January 30, 2007

Better to have a teetotaler or a drinker in the White House?

And, when it comes to political leadership, it’s not clear that Man from Galilee had more control over his apostles than, say, another J.C. had over Hamilton Jordan. And if Clinton didn’t get his gin-blossoming, W.C. Fieldsesque schnozz from gin, where they hell is it coming from? But the main point is well-taken nonetheless; we all want a leader who can relax with an occasional beer. Or in the case of Winston Churchill, the continuous "Papa Cocktail."

We wouldn’t want a leader drunk on duty, of course. But there’s something about people who are afraid of losing control that’s scarier than people who do lose control occasionally.

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Improbable but true

January 30, 2007

John Popp, in his guest column taking on the "evolution establishment," makes a common mistake in talking about probability:

Part of the massive effort to silence the Grantsburg School District was a letter from the Wisconsin academic community friendly to evolution, asking the Grantsburg School Board to rescind its policy and teach only evolution, with 321 professors and academicians as signatories. Most of them are biologists, historians, anthropologists, philosophers and zoologists, but no mathematicians, although there were two professors with statistical disciplines. Perhaps if this group had canvassed more mathematicians, they would have learned that the statistical odds of evolution are not very good. In 1981, Sir Fred Hoyle, famous British mathematician and astronomer who originated the steady-state theory of nucleogenesis, calculated the probability of life originating by random processes was one chance in 10 to the 40,000th power – that’s 10 with 40,000 zeros behind it – if given 4.6 billion years to do so.

He’s writing about something after the fact but discussing its probability before the fact. If I look at where a raindrop landed, I can say, "There was only a one in a zillion chance" it would have done so. But clearly it did — there it is. It’s one thing for me to tell you, "The odds of your winning the lottery are 20 million to 1, so buying a ticket would be stupid," quite another for me to say to you, after you’ve already won it, "The odds against that happening were 20 million to 1, so obviously it didn’t happen."

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The Bears network

January 29, 2007

There may be more Colts fans than Bears fans in this area, but I suspect the Bears fans might be a little more intense. Our weekly Web poll last week was on the Super Bowl, and when I left work on Friday, it was running 70-some percent to 20-some percent in favor of the Colts. When I came in this morning, there were 348 votes, 76 percent for the Bears. Little bit of networking going on there, folks? Calling each other up to urge a Colts smackdown?

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Protest chic

January 29, 2007

Protesting can be an act of bravery. Taking to the streets in South Africa against apartheid when that position was frowned upon. Standing in front of a tank in Tienanmen Square. But it’s little more than street theater when people come out to protest something 70 percent of the country is already against:

Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of Iraq.

Celebrities, a half-dozen lawmakers and protesters from distant states rallied in the capital under a sunny sky, seizing an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive on the war and a country that has turned against the conflict.

It’s their time; how special. At least such protest is honorable, made evident by the presence of a celebrity protester from the past who does not grasp the concept. Jane Fonda has more in common with certain legislators today, without the guts to cut off funding but falling all over themselves to vote for resolutions that make our soldiers much more vulnerable and, most despicable of all, taking to the microphones overseas to badmouth their country. Hanoi Jane was just ahead of her time.

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Secret Square

January 29, 2007

The story of how the city quietly acquired the property for Harrison Square:

It wasn’t an easy task for Greg Leatherman and Bill Martin: track down 32 different owners of 50 properties and negotiate to buy their homes, businesses or empty lots.

They had little leverage – telling the owners only that a significant public investment was under consideration, and they needed their land.

That investment was later revealed to be Harrison Square, the city’s $160 million public-private downtown development proposal, the centerpiece of which is a $30 million baseball stadium for the Wizards.

Leatherman, the city’s deputy director of community development, orchestrated the effort. Martin, president of the real estate firm Martin Goldstine Knapke, executed the deals.

Martin knocked on doors and diligently hunted down landlords and absentee owners, approaching them as representing Three Rivers Development Co. LLC, which he also owns.

All the while, Leatherman and Martin lived in fear the media or public would uncover their dealings and send prices soaring – hindering negotiations and further burdening taxpayers.

Neither happened, and now options are secured on all but three properties, leaving Three Rivers Development to begin closing on the city’s behalf. Whether or not Harrison Square becomes reality, the city will own the properties.

In one way, this can be seen as a big success. By maintaining secrecy, the city avoided paying highly inflated prices for the properties. And eminent domain was not necessary.

But it also adds to the pressure to make Harrison Square happen and adds to the impression most people have that it’s a done deal, whether people want it or not. And if, for some reason, the project does not come off, the city will own a good-size chunk of downtown real estate that won’t be in productive use. It’s becoming very clear that this is the hand the city is going to put all its chips on. Sure hope they’re right.

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The sporting life

January 29, 2007

What a scary thought for Indiana: Have the Colts carried football past basketball for popularity? But the story is really about pro sports, so it’s not really a fair question. If high school and college basketball ever fall victim to pro football in Indiana, we will know life as we know it has come to and end.

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It’s why they’re called outlaws

January 29, 2007

What’s this? Felons are able to get around gun laws? Dang. Guess the gun-control folks are going to have to rethink things:

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Joke from Chicago

January 29, 2007

With Indianapolis in the Super Bowl, you knew there had to be the obligatory "Indiana is just a bunch of backward hicks" playground taunt. Here it is, from a Chicago Sun-Times columnist who apparently made someone laugh back in high school and has never gotten over it:

It has become one of the great American sports traditions, the political bet. A major game gets people all worked up and happy at the same time, not worrying about snow removal, potholes or taxes. And that makes it safe for a governor or mayor to get in on it.

So rival politicians bet something that screams out the identity of their hometowns. Two weeks ago the Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks, and Mayor Daley took Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles for beer, coffee and salmon. (Too bad that when the stuff arrived, the beer bottles had broken and drenched the coffee-flavored chocolates.) Last week the Bears beat the New Orleans Saints, and Mayor Daley won beignets.

But with the Bears about to play the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl, we have a problem:

What could Indiana possibly have to bet that we would want?

I mean, Chicago can offer Indiana pizza, ribs, beef sandwiches and dental work. But do we really need ballcaps with farm company names on them?

He’s probably right. What could Indiana possibly offer a city so advanced it is able to make the dead vote? (This is known as sophomoric humor, should the gentleman from Chicago ever set his sights so high.)

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A dog’s life

January 26, 2007

Dog with a bandage on its leg walks into a bar, goes up to the bartender and says, "I’m lookin’ for the man who shot my paw."

A man walks into a bar and sits down next to a man with a dog at his feet. "Does your dog bite?" he asks. "No." A few minutes later the dog takes a huge chunk out of his leg."I thought you said your dog didn’t bite!" the man says indignantly. "That’s not my dog."

Guy walks into a bar with his dog, asks if he can get a free drink if his dog can talk. "Sure," the bartender says. The guy turns to his dog. ”OK, fella. Tell me — what is on top of a house?” Roof. The man turns and smiles at the bartender. "THAT ain’t talking! Any dog can bark!” Guy asks his dog another question. ”OK, boy. Tell me — how does sandpaper feel?” Ruff! ”What are you tryin’ to pull, mister?” ”OK," says the man. "One more question, please. OK, buddy, tell me — who is the greatest ballplayer who ever lived?” Ruth. "That’s it," says the bartender and throws them both out. The dog picks himself up from the sidewwalk and looks at the guy. "Geez. Maybe I shoulda said DiMaggio."

Just jokes, sure, but they might become possible in Washington state:

OLYMPIA, Wash. – If dog-loving lawmakers prevail, Fido could soon be sidling up to bar stools around Washington state.

Soggy dogs waiting outside a downtown Olympia pub inspired state Sen. Ken Jacobsen to propose a way to get them in from the cold and rain.

"There’s all sorts of places you can bring animals now," said Jacobsen, who doesn’t own a dog. "You can take dogs into hotels. My God, some people are carrying dogs in their purses. Why can’t we have them in the bars?"

The Seattle Democrat’s bill would allow bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to welcome dogs, as long as they accompany their owners and remain well-behaved and leashed. Establishments wouldn’t be required to allow dogs, except for service animals.

I’d kind of like to see a similar law here. If cats can be library mascots and people can bring their children to work, why not dogs in bars? As long as they don’t smoke, of course.

There are two places I remember where the owners had their dogs — a used bookstore in Hazard, Ky., and a tobacco store on the northwest side of Indianapolis. People would come in, start looking around, then spot the dog and visit a while. The  one in Indianapolis is a fat, old bulldog who never moves. I wonder how many return visits — and sales — they get just from people who want to see the dogs? Cool.

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The creepiest commercials

January 26, 2007

In the comments section of an earlier post, someboy mentioned Burger King commercials, which reminded me that a friend and I were talking about TV commercials that really creep us out. Four top the list.

1. The Burger King commercial where the guy wakes up next to the king. No homophobia here — my friend is a gal, and it disturbs her even more than it does me. I bet it gives many women scary memories of guys they’ve woken up next to.

2. The talking babies, complete with moving mouths. Maybe this one freaked a lot of people out, because I haven’t seen it in a while. It is just unnatural — I had visions of "Village of the Damned," all those scary kids with the glowing eyes.

3. The one that takes real people talking and makes it look like they are illustrations. I don’t know what bothers me about this one, but it does.

4. (Currently THE creepiest): The walking scissors that keep opening and closing. People who encounter them are downright giddy and start throwing their credit cards into them. They should be running away screaming, "Oh God, help us, the scisssors have come to life!"

Anybody got a fifth to round out the list?

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Stalkers

January 26, 2007

January is National Stalking Awarenes Month, about which no smart remarks or attempts at whimsy. I’ve watched a couple of friends go through it, and obsession is a scary thing when it has that manifestation. The worst thing is how the victims tend to make excuses for the stalkers when it’s someone they’ve been involved with who just won’t let go. Even when there’s no suspicion that things might get violent, they end up allowing their lives to be made miserable.

Prosecutor Karen Richards has good adivce in the WANE-TV piece:

"Keep the things that you get from your stalker so that you can turn them over to law enforcement, don’t get rid of your recordings on your answering machine, don’t delete the computer messages, keep the letters, the cards, the notes, whatever comes into you, hang on to those and turn them over to law enforcement."

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Flapdoodle

January 25, 2007

It’s clear from their reactions that some people do not think I was sincere in my apology to anyone who might have taken offense at remarks of mine that could have been construed as being insulting to those whose appearance is less than perfect. They seem to think I’m not sorry for what I said, merely that I made the remarks in a public way and got called out on it.

This is so hurtful to me. Some of my best friends are ugly. I have co-workers who are plain. Even some members of my own family could be said, objectively speaking, to be funny-looking. I wouldn’t even mind if my sister married someone a little odd-looking, though, God knows, the children would suffer. It’s not as if I were raised in a sheltered cocoon of beauty, then became unhinged when I wandered out into the real world and discovered it was filled with unattractive people. There must be something deeper going on here that will take some hard work on my part.

To discover what the problem is, and to prove myself worthy of respect from decent people everywhere, I would like it to be known that I am taking the following steps.

1. I will immediately seek psychological counseling. On further reflection, I don’t think the glass of wine was the problem. I think I must have been visually abused in my youth — snuck up on by a scary-looking teacher in the first grade, perhaps, or maybe I caught a brief glimpse of an unshaven uncle with his teeth out. Such terror can be repressed, to fester for years before bursting forth from the subconscious in the ugliest fashion.

2. I will seek an apporpriate facility at which to undergo rehab. On the famous Bo Derek "10" scale, no one who works there, however well-qualified otherwise, should be above a 4 in looks, so that I might become more comfortable around such people. I will stay at that facility until I have worked out every single personal issue and exorcised every demon, however long it takes. I think two or three days ought to do it.

3. I am seeking a couple of representatives from the FLAP (funny-looking American people) community to act as my envoys in an outreach program. Their purpose will not only be to explain my true and honest feelings, but to also listen to the concerns of the looks-challenged. If anything good is to come of this horrible incident, it will be achieved through mutual understanding.

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Peanuts

January 25, 2007

I can’t quite seem to work up much outrage over the case of Paul Spoelhof, the city planner who heads the Yellow Ribbon task force that will advise the Fort Wayne Community Schools board on building-upgrade spending. Am I wrong?

WANE-TV did a report last night claiming that its "investigation" had uncovered something startling, even though the information came out days ago in routine campaign finance reports. And The Journal Gazette opinion page ran an editorial a couple of days ago calling for Spoelhof to step down because his conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of one, has "compromised the process." Turns out he headed a political action committee that directed $29,000 to two winning school board candidates, who happen to favor lots of school upgrades, and that about half of the money came from construction firms and architects.

Is it shocking that architects and builders would favor candidates who favor building upgrades and would give them campaign money? Does anybody think $14,00 or $15,000 will buy much influence on a project that will probably end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars? Is anyone willing to actually say Spoelhof is underhanded, or are we just going to beat him up for an "appearance" of a conflict of interest? Observers say he has been scrupulous at Yellow Ribbon meetings in gathering others’ opinions instead of putting out his own.

I take it for granted that the school board will approve more spending than I think it should — we started with a top figure of nearly $1 billion, and now everyone seems to be zeroing in on $600 million. I also rather suspect that the JG, after raising such a fuss over peanuts, will strongly urge us all to support the spending, however much it is.

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Supersized sensitivity

January 25, 2007

Who are they kidding?

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A leading restaurant association has called for the cancellation of a TV commercial featuring Britney Spears’ estranged husband, Kevin Federline, as a failed rap star working in a fast-food eatery.

In a 30-second ad for Nationwide Insurance, Federline is shown dreaming he is a rap star but then snaps out of it to face reality — he’s working at a burger restaurant.

The commercial is due to be aired during the National Football League’s Super Bowl championship on Sunday, February 4, advertising’s biggest televised sporting event of the year. Last year’s Super Bowl drew more than 90 million viewers.

But the National Restaurant Association’s Chief Executive Steven Anderson has written to Nationwide saying the ad leaves the impression that working in a restaurant is demeaning and unpleasant and asking the commercial to be dumped.

"An ad such as this would be a strong and a direct insult to the 12.8 million Americans who work in the restaurant industry," wrote Anderson, head of the association that represents 935,000 U.S. restaurants. "Developing creative concepts that accomplish the marketing strategies for a product should not require denigrating another industry."

As we all know, only highly motivated careerists carefully plotting their economic futures show up at the fast-food windows to ask us if we want fries with that. How dare Nationwide Insurance insult them.

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Super waste of time

January 25, 2007

This is one of those reports with big numbers that sound impressive until you realize it’s mostly fiction, the result of accountants just doing silly calculations to get attention:

However, the nation’s employers could potentially lose as much as $162.1 million for every 10 minutes they pay distracted workers for unproductive work time, according to an estimate released Monday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

In the week leading up to the Sunday, February 4 game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts, the amount in lost wages could exceed $810 million. In Chicago and Indianapolis, the losses could reach $85.5 million.
The Challenger estimate does not take into account the continued loss of productivity the following Monday, as employees analyze the game, rate commercials or simply fail to show up due to post-Super Bowl XLI party “illness.”

Challenger’s calculations are based on the assumption that of the estimated 90 million Americans expected to watch Super Bowl XLI, 63.4 percent or 57.1 million are employed. The percentage is based on the current national employment-to-population ratio. The average weekly income for all workers in America is $682, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That breaks down to $17.05 per hour or $2.84 every 10 minutes in a 40-hour work week.

According to the calculations, for every 10 minutes the 57.1 million employed Super Bowl fans spend at work chatting about the game or surfing the Internet to compare starting line-ups, it costs employers $162.1 million.

All those calculations are meaningless. For one thing, they assume that all the people wasting all that time on Super Bowl shenanigans don’t waste their time otherwise. To get a true account of "lost revenue," you’d have to subtract normal time-wasting from one-time-only Super Bowl time-wasting. For another, the only real loss would be if the company’s mission weren’t being accomplished, or if there were a measurable delay in production or delivery or some other aspect of the company’s business.

But look for this report to get a lot of play everywhere. Stupid, silly and lazy.

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Killer weed

January 25, 2007

Here’s an idea. Since people hang around waiting to be executed for about 20 years, at great public expense, and we’re getting so squeamish that even lethal injections are considered barbaric, why not change the method of execution to secondhand smoke? To hear some people tell it, that would clear them out of death row a lof quicker.

Nah. That really would be "cruel and unusual" punishment.

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Pretty awful

January 24, 2007

I am so, so sorry. Please forgive me. I don’t know how I went so terribly wrong. In the middle of an otherwise lucid and insightful post on government and parenting yesterday, I let the urge to take a cheap shot get the better of me. "Look at the photo of the legislator in question, by the way," I wrote. "My first impression is that she would never have to spank a child. Just looking at her would make most 3-year-olds, not to mention many adults, run screaming in terror."

What was I thinking of? A couple of readers — and there were probably many more who felt the same way — took me to task. "If you want to criticize how someone looks, you lessen your argument," one wrote. "It is just a form of name calling- you are better, and smarter, than that." Another wisely pointed out that "to determine the validity of the the proposal based on the ‘looks’ of the proposer is not only lame; but, is just plain wrong."

Well, of course it is. The funny thing is, that’s not me. I don’t know where that remark came from. As someone who has been blessed — or cursed, depending on how you look at it — with good looks, I have always been aware of the burdens such superficial judgments place on people and how it rips at the very fabric of a decent society. I have always tried to be sensitive to the feelings of those who look different from me — the ugly, the plain, the scary, the goofy. They can’t help how they look, and it would not be fair to say that they are responsible for war and inflation and bad hamburgers and all the other evils in the world.

I am tempted to blame it one the wine. After not being able to get to sleep two nights in a row, I decided to have a glass of wine to help soothe my nerves, then did the blogging post right afterward. But many will say, "in vino veritas." Alcohol doesn’t change who you are; it just gets rid of inhibitions so the real you can come out. I must acknowledge that, somewhere deep inside me, there is a demon that wants to judge other people by the way they appear. I don’t think I am a lookist, but perhaps all of us have that tendency.

Many of you are probably bitterly disappointed in me, having come to expect nothing but cool logic, brilliant analysis and keen insights at this blog. I can only guess at the shock you felt to have enountered such a brutal personal attack of the most callous nature. I can only hope that you have faith in me and stick with me while I work through this awful crisis.

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