Thursday, December 25, 2008

One of my favorite Christmas songs is...

..."The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Andy Williams. I really like the big instrumental lead-in, the melody, and his voice. I probably heard it so much as a kid that it just wouldn't feel like Christmas without it. I always turn up the radio when it comes on. But lately I've been paying more attention to the lyrics and I find it a little puzzling. It starts out predictably enough:

"It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer
It's the most wonderful time of the year

"It's the hap- happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings
And gay happy meetings when friends come to call
It's the hap- happiest season of all..."

So far, so good. But then in the third stanza it goes on to say:

"There'll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow..."

Wait a minute. Marshmallows for toasting? Is that Christmassy? Isn't that something you do on a camping trip with the Boy Scouts? In August?

The song continues:

"There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases
Long long ago..."

Scary ghost stories? Again, isn't that something you do on that camping trip with the Scouts? We never told ghost stories on Christmas. And what about the tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago? Did you do that at your house on Christmas? What tales did you tell? I have some image in my mind of a medieval battle between knights in shining armor. But that's not very Christmassy. What on earth did the songwriter have in mind? Does anyone out there know?

After that it's pretty much boilerplate Christmas stuff. I still like it but it's got me scratching my head a little.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

E-books are catching on...

...according to an article in today's New York Times. I've had a Kindle from Amazon for about a year now and I haven't looked at it in months. I thought it would be great: small and lightweight, perfect for reading in bed or traveling. No more balancing huge books while lying down and no more thought before heading to the airport; just throw the Kindle in a carry-on and off you go. With over 10,000 book titles and several newspapers, magazines, and blogs, it sounds perfect. So why don't I use it?

First of all, I don't like to buy books. It's a dirty little secret of mine. I have trouble parting with even the $10 it costs to buy a book on Kindle. I feel too committed to read it and too committed to finish it before I start another one. (This is after paying $359 for the device; you can buy a lot of books for that price. How many will you actually read in a year, anyway? It's kind of like paying $40 for a Costco membership so you can save a few cents on a loaf of bread. But that's another subject for another time.) That's just not how I like to read. I much prefer going to the library and checking out two or three books and seeing which one, if any, that I like. It's not unusual for me to start a book, put it down, and return it to the library unfinished. No investment, no big deal. Sometimes I'll take out a book several times before I actually read it. Most of them I never read at all. So what? Unlike Art Garfunkle, I don't keep track.

Another great thing about libraries is the ability to browse and discover new books. This is like the difference between radio and an I-pod. With an I-pod, you will always be limited to music that you're already familiar with. Radio, even terrestrial, has the potential to introduce you to new music that you've never heard before. Same with a library. Even though you can "browse" through new titles on Kindle and actually read samples before you buy, it's just not the same as browsing through the stacks at the library. You can pull books down if you like, read a sample of your choosing, and even take them home if you like. No obligation on your part.

Kindle boasts of over 10,000 book titles. That sounds like a lot, certainly enough to satisfy anyone. But I found that more often than not, I couldn't find a particular book that I wanted. To give just one example, there were tons of bestsellers but not one book by William Faulkner. I'll admit that some of the stuff I was looking for was off the beaten path, but Faulkner is hardly an obscure writer.

There's also the matter of not being able to use my Kindle in Mexico. I guess it was outside the wireless range or something. I could read what I had previously downloaded, but no more. That was disappointing; I was hoping to read a lot next to the pool. But that brings up another problem: there's a lot of water around pools and boring old white guys use a lot of sunscreen, neither of which go well with expensive electronic devices. There's also the matter of who's going to watch it while I take my occasional dip. I can't exactly fit it in my shoe like I do my wallet and keys. (By the way, Jerry Seinfeld pointed out the brilliance of that practice; who would ever think to look there?)

But the Kindle is a nifty little device and I don't want to knock it too much. After all, I'm not crabby old white guy, not yet at least. And I'm sure I'll use it more in the future. But for now, I'll continue to get my books at the library and my magazines and blogs on the Internet. (And the Crossword puzzle on good old-fashioned newsprint.) Besides, they just broke ground on a new library in our town!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I find Charlie Rose frustrating...

...because I think he has the best guests on television but is a terrible interviewer. Am I alone in this? I TiVo his show regularly but have trouble watching it. First of all, he's a shameless brown nose and asks a lot of softball questions. (I think that's one of the reasons he gets such great people to appear on his show; it's not too demanding.) When he's not doing that, he asks long three- and four-part questions that he thinks are really insightful. Often the guest seems a little confused as to which part to answer first. No matter, because the minute he starts to answer, Charlie interrupts him by telling him what he thinks. He seems really quite impressed with himself sometimes. He's also a horrible listener. Many times I've heard a guest go off on a tangent only to have Charlie bring him back to his prepared list of questions. God forbid the conversation should take an unexpected turn! During the election season, he often had the annoying habit of having too many guests on. This allowed for each of them to speak for about 10 or 15 seconds at a crack, just enough to begin but not finish an interesting thought. And please, enough Doris Kearns Goodwin!

The best interviewer in recent memory was Tim Russert. What a shame that he died in the middle of this election season. Like Dick Cavett before him, he could have almost anyone on and it would prove to be interesting. One of my favorite Tim Russertisms was when he would read a passage from someone's book and then say to his guest, "talk about that." Then he would let the person speak and really listen. It showed respect for his guest and his audience. I really miss him.

The best talk show host left on television that I know of is Bill Moyers. He has a liberal bias but doesn't hide it. I respect that. He asks intelligent questions, lets his guests speak, and listens to their answers. Regardless of the topic, his show is usually very interesting.

Am I missing anything? Is there anyone else I should be watching?

P. S. Although I'm okay with David Gregory getting the Meet the Press job, I would have taken a chance on Joe Scarborough. And I like Mike Barnicle as a fill-in for Chris Matthews on Hardball.

I predict that Barack Obama...

...will be considered the first "gay" president in much the same way that Bill Clinton was often called the first "black" president. That's why I think that everyone should just take a deep breath and stop worrying about his choice of Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural Invocation.

It's a good move to reach out to one of the country's most popular evangelicals. Warren is from a newer generation, not like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, and embraces a more holistic view of Christianity. He seems less angry, less divisive, and less focused on the Culture Wars of the '80s and '90s. He also seems less partisan and provides an opportunity for Obama to make inroads among this group. If nothing else, it's a politically shrewd maneuver.

Although Warren was a vocal supporter of Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage, it's hard to imagine Obama as sympathetic to that view. He seems so progressive, so open-minded, so inclusive. I also think he would be loathe to deny gays the same civil rights that blacks fought so hard for during his lifetime. I think if anything, his relationship with Warren might persuade the high-profile minister and author to take another look at his feelings toward the gay community. It's hard to change people's minds without having a dialogue first.

And I think that's Obama's long-term strategy with the evangelical community. First, have a relationship, then talk, and then maybe find some common ground. What a refreshing change from the politics of division that we've become so used to. This is what I think Obama meant by bringing change to Washington, and by extension, the nation.

At the end of the day, let's judge Obama by his actions toward the gay community. I predict we'll all be pleased, including gays and maybe even some evangelicals.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Put me in the camp...

...that doesn't want to see Caroline Kennedy get appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. She seems like a nice person, and everyone says she's intelligent and has done a lot of good work in New York, but it just seems a little too much like she's being rewarded for being a Kennedy. I know she was the president's daughter, and she came out for Obama at a crucial time, and her Uncle Ted is dying and everyone seems to want to keep a Kennedy in the Senate, and there's also the Andrew Cuomo drama, but it just doesn't seem right to me. Better to appoint some elder statesman, like Ed Koch or Felix Rohatyn, with the understanding that he'll only serve until the special election in 2010. Then if Caroline wants to run then, God bless her. Let her run and win an election, like everyone else. This would also give New Yorkers the benefit of finding out where she stands on the great issues of the day: the economic meltdown, the auto bailout, the two wars we're engaged in, etc. The voters have a right to know who Caroline Kennedy really is. I think that was the primary objection to Sarah Palin in the last election. It wasn't so much that she was inexperienced as that she was unknown. Voters want their candidates publicly vetted.

By the way, when she was asked outside Sylvia's Restaurant why she wanted to be the Senator from New York, was I the only person who was reminded of the famous Ted Kennedy interview with Roger Mudd when he couldn't articulate why he wanted to be President?

But everything I hear and read points to her getting the job. People say Governor Paterson is still undecided, but getting steamrolled and will almost certainly appoint her. Apparently her main qualification for the job is her ability to raise money. The talking heads say only she could raise the $70 million or so it takes to run in 2010 and 2012. That and Paterson would benefit from having a Kennedy alongside his name on the ballot.

So I'll bet she gets the job, although I'm reading a lot of columns like what I just wrote. But I don't think she'll like it and won't last too long. She's been such a private, normal person for so long that I don't think she's got the stomach for it. If she did, she would have shown an interest in public life a long time ago. There's also the matter of spending so much time in Washington and doing the actual work of a senator. I just don't see it.

So stay tuned. Governor Paterson has said he's going to wait until Hillary is actually confirmed as Secretary of State before he acts. A lot can happen between now and then.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Okay, okay, so I was wrong...

...about Oklahoma. They definitely deserve to play in the championship with that high-octane offense of theirs. As much as I like Tim Tebow, I don't see how Florida can prevent them from scoring. Maybe it will be a shoot-out like the famous Miami-Boston College game where Bernie Kosar and Doug Flutie traded touchdowns. What I'd really like to see is how Southern Cal's defense would do against the Sooners.

In other Bowl news, Yahoo! has Notre Dame playing Hawaii on Christmas Eve and Northwestern squaring off against Missouri. The Wildcats should have their hands full.

I guess I'm not finished...

...talking about high school football. The Chicago Tribune published its 2008 All-State Football Team today and I thought you might be interested in some of the highlights.

First of all, it should come as no surprise that Maine South's Charlie Goro is first-team quarterback. The Vanderbilt-bound senior completed 74 percent of his passes for 3,171 yards and 38 touchdowns and rushed for 665 yards and 12 touchdowns. Others deserving mention are running back Michael Ratay of Geneva, who scored 47 touchdowns this season, and wide receiver Terry Hawthorne of East St. Louis, who has committed to Illinois. Of local note, Sean Cascarano of Glenbrook South was named first-team offensive lineman and will suit up with the University of Virginia next year. Others to watch include first-team offensive linemen Chris Watt of Glenbard West (Notre Dame) and Providence's Patrick Ward (Northwestern); defensive lineman Zach Timm of Maine South, who is expected to play in the Ivy League; linebacker Marty Hopkins of St. Rita (Iowa); defensive backs Corey Cooper of Proviso East (Illinois) and Tim Riley of Oswego (Northwestern); and punter Dan Orseske of Brother Rice (Minnesota).

Notable second-teamers were running back Matt Perez of Maine South; linebacker Dimitrius Carr and defensive back Dan Coci of Mt. Carmel.

Receiving special mention were Loyola's quarterback Lucas Ruske and defensive lineman Chance Carter; Mt. Carmel's quarterback Jordan Lynch and linebacker Jeremy Johnson; Maine South's wide receiver Joey Orlando and linebacker Corby Ryan; Leo's offensive lineman Leon Hill and defensive lineman Lendell Buckner; New Trier's offensive lineman Mark Zielinski; Fenwick's defensive lineman Jack Dittmer; and St. Rita's defensive back Dave Marciano.

I'll try to keep you posted on where the other seniors are planning to play next year. It should be fun to watch their careers progress.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I liked George Bush until 9/11...

...I really did. I liked that he cut taxes (I would have preferred that he cut taxes on everyone, not just the rich, but I figured it was a start). I liked that he intended to limit the size and scale of government and that he intended to conduct a more "humble" foreign policy. Those things all spoke to my libertarian leanings. (Actually, they were more than just "leanings"; I was a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party and had voted for its candidates since1992. I even collected signatures once to get candidates on the ballot, but that's a subject for another posting.) I also thought Al Gore was incredibly annoying and the ultimate Washington phony (another subject for another time.) And, even though neither one of us drank beer anymore, if I did I would have rather had one with Bush than Gore or most anyone else in public life. He really did seem like a regular guy.

So what happened on 9/11? Well we all know what happened on 9/11. A bunch of fanatical Muslims hijacked four jets and flew three of them into buildings killing themselves and thousands of other people. Unbelievable. But it happened. And if I were a Hollywood producer and someone came to me with a script like that I would have turned it down as too implausible. But after the initial shock and after dealing with the immediate effects of the crisis, the first and most important question anyone should have asked is simply, "Why did this happen?" And to Bush's credit, he did ask this question. Actually he asked the corollary question, "Why do they hate us?" And he flubbed it. In what could have served as a "teachable moment," as they say nowadays, he totally flubbed it and began the process of throwing his whole presidency away. 9/11 was his opportunity for greatness. Most presidents don't get them. Clinton, for example, never had a great event like the Civil War or Pearl Harbor to allow him to achieve greatness. He is destined to be a footnote in history, probably the worst fate a president can suffer. But Bush was given this opportunity, and like Charlie Brown, he backed up to catch the fly ball hit to him and watched it go in and out of his mitt. Ugh!

After asking the question that should have become the subject of a national conversation, Bush instead muttered some drivel about how they "hate us for our freedoms...blah, blah, blah..."

What if Bush had been honest and said "They hate us at least in part because of our actions?" He would have been tarred and feathered, that's what. Understandably, the country was hurting and in no mood for introspection, much less the truth. If someone punches you in the face, you don't ask why, you punch him back. Only after a little time has passed do you ask why he did that and did your actions contribute at all. But the President shouldn't be an average person, despite what Sarah Palin thinks. The President is the Commander-in-Chief and the leader of the free world. In short, it's a big job that requires a big person. And a big person would have the courage (and intellectual curiosity) to ask such a question and begin a national conversation so that we could assess exactly where we were and where we intended to go.

U. S. foreign policy in the Middle East revolves around two things: Israel and oil. Everything else is just a distraction. The Cold War used to be a factor, but only in so far as it related to Israel and oil. And the Muslim world hates us for the way we've acted to support Israel and maintain our access to Middle Eastern oil. What actions are those, exactly? Well for starters, we support autocratic regimes that oppress and torture their own people, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia (where most of the hijackers came from), and Iran under the Shah. The Iranian "students" didn't seize the U. S. embassy out of the blue, they seized it after decades of resentment toward the U. S. for backing the Shah, a brutal dictator (not unlike Saddam Hussein). This included putting the Shah in power after the CIA-engineered coup that deposed the democratically-elected Mohammed Mosaddeq.

There's a lot more to say on this subject and I want to be very careful how I say it because I think it's a very important topic. But I don't know how to save pieces without posting them so I'll have to continue this later. Sorry, readers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Some random thoughts...

...on an early Tuesday morning...Oil has dropped almost a hundred dollars a barrel since the Fourth of July! Who woulda thunk it?...According to Barron's, fund tracker Morningstar follows 11,585 U. S. and international equity mutual funds. How many are up on the year? Zero. Not even one out of almost 12,000!...I think yesterday's steep sell-off in the stock market following the light-volume rallies of last week could indicate that a bottom is forming. In bull markets slow gains are punctuated by sharp but short declines. And how about those bond yields?...The St. Francis Spartans won the Illinois 5A championship after finishing 3-6 last year and 0-9 the year before!...In college football, how can Oklahoma be ranked ahead of Texas when the Longhorns beat the Sooners on a neutral field?...And whither Notre Dame? Putting aside for a moment the fate of Charlie Weis, what is the future of football at ND? Can they regain the glory of yesteryear, or will their program more and more resemble those at places like Stanford and Northwestern? What should they do?...What do you think, readers? And there's more than three of you, Tom.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A thin blanket of white snow... covering the ground in Glenview this morning. The pumpkins and hay are gone from the front step; it's officially winter here. I know what you're thinking, Joe, I really didn't need to say the snow was white. But I wanted to convey a vivid image for you. Gotta get photos on this blog. And about that semicolon...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Maine South defeats Hinsdale Central, 41-21... take the 8A crown and East St. Louis beats Geneva, 33-14, in 7A.

After finishing as runners-up in 2003, '04, and '05, the Hawks of Maine South won their third state title and their first since 2000. Vanderbilt-bound Charlie Goro rushed for 164 yards, an 8A title-game record by a quarterback. He also ran for one touchdown and passed for another. Junior running back Matt Perez scored three, including a 41-yard scamper late in the first quarter. I can't wait to watch him as a Senior. Another state playoff record was set by Maine South as Joey Orlando ran for 78 yards for the longest fumble return for a touchdown. The Hawks finished at 14-0, including wins over Schaumburg, Warren, and New Trier in the regular season. The team that came closest to beating Maine South? Glenbrook South, in a 30-27 nail-biter on October 10.

Meanwhile, in 7A, the Flyers of East St. Louis (13-1) handed the Vikings of Geneva (13-1) their first loss of the season as they recorded their seventh state championship. Viking running back Michael Ratay scored one touchdown in the game to finish the season with 47, averaging more than three per outing! Ratay said East St. Louis was "the fastest team I ever played against in my life." They were also explosive, as the Flyers scored 27 unanswered points in the second half.

So for the weekend I ended up 3-for-3, including almost calling the East St. Louis-Geneva game exactly, 38-14. By my math (and it got pretty confusing for a history major), I finished at 31 out of 49 for a .633 winning percentage. Now I sure don't claim any special talent for this, so thank God I can bask in my glory for a whole year. But I had fun with this and I hope you did, too. I also hope I kept you out-of-town fans up to date. After all, that's how this whole blog business got started in the first place.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Thoughts on Religion, Part 1.

As long as I've spouted off on politics, why not tackle that other taboo subject, religion? For those of you that I haven't offended already, I'm sure to get to you now. After all, I'm an Equal Opportunity Pain-in-the-Ass. So here goes.

I'm what my parents' generation would call a "fallen-away Catholic." Christopher Buckley, William F.'s son, calls himself "post-Catholic." I guess I'd call myself a "free-thinker." Or, as one of my favorite bumper stickers says, "Militantly Agnostic: I don't know and you don't, either."

The last time I attended a Catholic mass, we all recited the Nicene Creed. It begins, "We believe in one God..." and I thought, we do? Why one God? Why not two? Why not a hundred? Why not an infinite number, as long as the universe is so mysterious? I'm not trying to be a smart ass; I'm genuinely curious. As a kid, growing up in parochial schools we were taught that the Jews were special because they were monotheistic, that is, they believed in only one god, as opposed to everyone else in the ancient world, who were hopelessly polytheistic. (An interesting case were the Manichaeists, who believed in two gods. Apparently one was not enough but more than two was just plain silly.)

So the Jews believed in one God. So what? I still don't know why one is the optimal number. But from Judaism emerged a sect known as Christians, who followed the teachings of Jesus, who they thought was the Messiah, or Christ, from a Greek word of the same meaning. The sect eventually accepted Gentiles, or non-Jews, and attained cult status throughout the Roman Empire. After Constantine's mother converted and later Constantine himself, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire and ultimately all of Europe and the West.

So that's why modern-day American Catholics believe in one God.

Next: Jesus of Nazareth.

Loyola defeats Lane Tech...

...17-0 in the 75th Prep Bowl at Soldier Field on Friday. It was the Ramblers' sixth shutout of the season and their first Prep Bowl victory since 2003. Both teams finished the 2008 season with identical 11-3 records.

Illinois high school football fans await today's 7A and 8A championships with bated breath. Again, Geneva squares off against East St. Louis at 4 p.m. and Maine South faces Hinsdale Central at 7 p.m. The Chicago Tribune now calls East St. Louis the favorite in their game. I wonder if Bob Sakamoto is reading my blog...

Friday, November 28, 2008

I don't know if you would call it a pet peeve...

...or not, but I've always thought that the word "knowledge" should be used in place of "intelligence" in the context of "gathering intelligence." Shouldn't it be "gathering knowledge?" Shouldn't the CIA be the Central Knowledge Agency?" Write and tell me if I'm wrong.

While we're on the subject, another pet peeve I have is the abbreviation "GBS" that is commonly used in my town for the local high school, Glenbrook South. Since "Glenbrook" is one word, shouldn't people say "GS?" I know it doesn't flow off the tongue as well, but wouldn't it be more accurate, and shouldn't that be important given that we are speaking of an educational institution?

I know, I know...the rantings of a madman.

A shout-out to my brothers, Tom and Jim...

...for their suggestion to cook my Thanksgiving turkey breast-side down. It turned out great! Combined with the video I watched on "How to Carve a Turkey," it may have been the best I've ever had. The white and dark meat finished cooking at the same time and the breast meat was particularly moist. It took a little longer than I expected, but I have a feeling that that's always the case. Next year I'll just give myself more time. But really, thanks again guys, it was a big success! Consider me converted...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some Interesting People I have Known, Part 1.

Now that the general election is over (the Super Bowl for political junkies like me) and the high school football season is winding down, I find it's time to turn my attention to other subjects. Since I've begun rereading Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, I am inspired to do a little memoir work myself. Although Powell's work is fiction (he has been called the English language Proust), it is generally thought that the Dance was a bit of a roman-a-clef, despite his denials. There are some who would say that all fiction is autobiographical in some way. But since I'm too lazy to construct fiction, and since I've always wanted to write my memoirs, this might be as good a time as any to start.

I first met Toby Crabel in the winter of 1981, shortly after I had begun work at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I had recently been "brought down" to the Merc by my high school friend, Mike Moore. After a whole week-and-a-half working for Rosenthal & Co. as a runner, Mike secured for me a similar position with his cousin's firm, RB&H. Since I was learning the futures business from scratch, I had a lot to absorb in a short time. I was always asking Mike questions, and one day he introduced me to Toby. "Tobes, here, is a real student," Mike might have said, in his typical fashion. Toby laughed a little, as he didn't think of himself as much of a student. He was actually a college dropout, not unusual for the Merc, and worked as a tennis pro immediately before he came down to the Exchange. He had been instructing Mike's cousin, Tim Brennan, at a club out in Aurora where Tim lived, when the conversation turned to trading one day. Toby had been interested in the markets for a long time and showed Tim a chart he'd kept of a particular stock. Tim was much impressed by the amount of work Toby had put into it, and the conversation ultimately led to Tim's hiring of him.

Toby's role at RB&H was not clearly defined. He actually worked for Tim directly, and this made for some resentments among other people at the company. The most notable of whom was Allan Ross, the floor manager. Allan was an old friend of Glenn Bromagen's, the "B" in RB&H. Bromagen was a good ol' boy from Kentucky who, like Allan Ross, was primarily interested in horses and drinking. Like a lot of people at the Merc, Bromagen had had an up-and-down career and had to sell his portion of RB&H to a group of floor traders including Tim Brennan and Jack Sandner. Everyone assumed that keeping Allan on had been one of the conditions of the sale, as no one could figure out why else they would keep him in that job. He was an irritable old bachelor that got along poorly with people, and one of his primary responsibilities was to hire and manage the floor personnel. And like a lot of other people at the Merc, Allan was a frustrated trader who had to work for a living and watch others get rich in the markets. Although he had come from a well-to-do background in Kenilworth, one of Chicago's most exclusive suburbs, he resented rich kids and anyone else who

To be continued...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Maine South rolls over Bartlett 23-6...

...and Hinsdale Central upsets Mt. Carmel, 24-21. The two teams will now meet in the 8A final on Saturday in Champaign. In 7A, East St. Louis defeated Glenbard West, 27-20, to earn the right to play Geneva. Interestingly, Glenbard West was one of only two teams that beat Hinsdale Central in the regular season, 9-0. The other was Wheaton-Warrenville South, 28-27, in week two.

In the Prep Bowl playoffs, it was Loyola over De La Salle, 23-7, and Lane Tech in an almost identical score over Hubbard, 24-7.

If you're keeping score at home, you'll notice I was 2-for-4 in the 8A and 7A games, but 4-for-6 overall if you include the Prep Bowl playoffs, which I do because it improves my record for the weekend to .667 (if you round it higher). This puts me at .625 for the playoffs. That's better than I would have expected, but this is no time to rest on my laurels. So having said that, let's give it one last shot for the season.

I like Maine South to end Hinsdale Central's Cinderella run. Besides the Charlie Goro-Matt Perez show, the Hawks demonstrated they can play defense, too, as they shut out Bartlett's high-powered offense until the closing minutes when their second-string allowed the only score. As for Hinsdale Central, you gotta love a team that upset its last two opponents on late game field goals, but I'm afraid that it's Maine South's year. I pick the Hawks to defeat the Red Devils, 28-10.

In 7A I'm going to pick East St. Louis in an upset over Geneva. Even though Geneva is undefeated, the Flyers have been underestimated throughout the playoffs. Not only are they arguably the fastest team in Illinois, but they also have a potent offense the likes of which Geneva hasn't seen all season. East St. Louis scored over 50 points in eight of its games and over sixty in four consecutive outings! Their only loss was in the first game of the season. In the playoffs, they snuck up on St. Rita and Glenbard West, the latter on the road. The Vikings of Geneva are a great team and deserve to be in this game, but they played a very "favorable" schedule and will meet their match this weekend. Incidentally, East St. Louis defeated the Vikings in last year's quarterfinals, 34-26. I look for them to win even bigger this time around, 38-14.

In the Prep Bowl I have to go with Loyola, both for sentimental and objective reasons. Lane's defense and special teams combined for three scores in the third quarter against Hubbard, but they'll need more than that to defeat the Ramblers and quarterback Lucas Ruske. He threw for 120 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 54 yards in the victory against De La Salle. Combined with the kicking of Leo Sheridan (three field goals), Loyola's offense will be too much for the Indians (PC anyone?). Final score, 35-7.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Obamas chose Sidwell Friends School...

...for their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, ending days of speculation about which private school they would attend. Sidwell Friends has an excellent reputation and is the alma mater of Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore III. Richard Nixon's daughters also attended and Joe Biden's grandchildren are current students. The school is comprised of 38% minority students and 21% receive some form of financial assistance. It should be a smooth transition from the girls' current school, the University of Chicago Lab School, and everyone seems to agree it's a great choice.

And yet, I can't help thinking, why not a Washington, D. C. public school? Preposterous? What about the quality? What about security? Well, I don't know anything about security, but I can't believe that would be an insurmountable problem. I think it's more of an excuse. Quality is the real issue here.

But what better sign of commitment to public education than having the President's children attend? Are the President's children too good for public schools? What signal does that send? Is there any doubt that if the Obama girls were to attend public schools then those schools would get the resources they need and improve dramatically? And then the rest of the District's schools as well? And if not, what would that say about our nation's commitment to public education?

In an age where everyone from Bill Gates on down is lamenting the state of American education and worrying about our nation's future competitiveness, what could be a better gesture than the President of the United States sending his own children to public schools? The Carters did it with their daughter Amy, and she wound up at Brown University. Let the rich and privileged continue to send their kids to expensive private schools, Obama could say, but I'm throwing my lot in with public education. It has been a key part of the American Dream: free public education to give every hard-working and deserving child a chance at competing on a level playing field. After all, Michelle Obama is a product of the Chicago public school system, and she is a classic example of what that Dream can produce. Why not make a real statement of change?

Geneva advances to the 7A finals... Friday's only game. The Vikings improved their record to 13-0 as they defeated the Gators (Gators? In Illinois?) of Crystal Lake South, 25-21. Geneva will now play the winner of today's game between East St. Louis and Glenbard West. The Flyers of East St. Louis (11-1) are generally thought of as the fastest team in Illinois, but I still like the undefeated Hilltoppers (12-0) of Glenbard West in this match-up. If East St. Louis should pull an upset, however, it will set the stage for a re-match of last year's quarterfinal game with Geneva, which was won by the Flyers, 34-26.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Erin Burnett had some interesting observations...

...on the Chris Matthews Show this weekend. In China, which is the second largest car market in the world, GM is no. 1. In Russia, which is Europe's largest car market, GM grew 44% last year and is also no. 1. And what was most staggering to me, the fastest growing car in the world is Chevrolet.

Props are in order...

...for BOWG. Hubbard defeated Simeon yesterday, 30-14, and Lane topped Morgan Park, 14-6. I'll pick Lane to face Loyola in the Prep Bowl on the day after Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I almost forgot...

...the Prep Bowl. De La Salle shutout Fenwick, 9-0, to earn the right to travel to Wilmette this Saturday to take on Loyola, who defeated St. Laurence, 28-6. It will be the first meeting of the year for the two Catholic League teams, and I'll take Loyola by a touchdown.

In the Public League championship, Morgan Park will play Lane today and Simeon will take on Hubbard. I like Lane and Hubbard.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We're down to the semifinals... Illinois high school football. In 8A, Maine South blanked Barrington 42-0 on the road. The Hawks scored on their first five possessions to lead at the half, 25-0. Quarterback Charlie Goro threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 67 yards and a score. As dominating as Maine South was, it probably didn't help that three of Barrington's defensive starters sat out due to a violation of the school's athletic code of conduct.

In other action, Bartlett ended Schaumburg's Cinderella run, 38-35. But the Saxons gave the crowd their money's worth as they scored 28 straight second-half points to tie the game at 35-35. Bartlett was not to be denied, however, and scored a 25-yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining to end the game. Finally, Hinsdale Central upset Brother Rice, 17-14, as the Red Devils kicked a field goal that bounced on and over the crossbar with 17 seconds left.

In 7A, it was Geneva over Carmel, 35-21; Crystal Lake South beat Cary-Grove, 14-7, in OT; and East St. Louis eliminated St. Rita, 35-28.

Now before we get to next week's predictions, let's look at where we stand. After going 0-for-2 Friday night, I rallied to finish the weekend 4-for-8, for a .500 percentage. That puts me at a very respectable .600 for the playoffs. But now is when things get really dicey, because all of the remaining teams are capable of winning it all.

So here goes. Maine South will defeat Bartlett and Mt. Carmel will eliminate Hinsdale Central to set up an outstanding final game for 8A. Both of these teams will have to win on the road to advance, but they have shown they can do that. I think Bartlett is capable of beating the Hawks and I also really like the dark horse Red Devils, but I'll stick with my picks.

In 7A, I have to go with the two undefeated teams, Geneva over Crystal Lake South; and Glenbard West in a squeaker over East St. Louis. This will set up a final in which only one team will emerge undefeated and the other will suffer their first defeat. You couldn't ask for a better match-up than that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The prospect of a Maine South-Mt. Carmel matchup...

...reminds me of a one-man play I once saw called "Goin' East on Ashland." It starred a guy named Mike Houlihan who grew up in Beverly and went to Mt. Carmel. Since Ashland is a north-south street in Chicago, the title makes no sense at first. But in South Side bars like Cork & Kerry or Ryan's Daughter, the phrase "You're goin' East on Ashland" was usually the last thing an overserved and ill-behaved patron heard as he was thrown back out on Western Avenue.

At one point, Houlihan tried to convey to his yuppy Lincoln Park audience what Mt. Carmel was like and what it meant to be a Carmel Guy. The Mt. Carmel that Houlihan attended in the sixties was an all-male, urban, Catholic school. It was filled with jocks and other He-Man types whose fathers were cops, firefighters, and other city workers. They didn't wear ties to work or sit at desks pushing pieces of paper around like the fathers at places like Brother Rice. They lived in the city, not in suburbs with names like Oak Lawn or Evergreen Park, and turned out every four years to vote for Hizzoner, Richard J. Daley, da Mare.

And Carmel Guys grew up to be Real Men, who saw the universe in strict terms of Black and White, not in any pesky shades of gray. Take Dick Butkus for example, who actually went to CVS. Typical Carmel Guy. Mike Ditka, who grew up in Pennsylvania? Carmel Guy. Ronald Reagan? Definitely a Carmel Guy. Senator Paul Simon, of the owlish horn-rimmed glasses and signature bow-tie? Definitely not a Carmel Guy!

Contrast this image with Maine South: North Side, suburban, and the alma mater of Hillary Clinton, feminist and wife of a draft-dodger who once worked for George McGovern! Even though she famously downed a shot of Crown Royal at Bronko's Restaurant while campaigning in Indiana, she could never be considered a Carmel Guy.

Now the last time these two teams met, the Caravan beat the Hawks, 21-14. Anything else just wouldn't have made sense to a Carmel Guy. This year they could meet in the finals. Stay tuned.

Friday night football action...

...saw the Caravan of Mt. Carmel roll over upstart Marist, 42-7, making a liar out of at least one Chicago-area blogger. To make matters worse, in 7A top-seeded Glenbard West made light work out of Downers Grove North, 35-7. This puts me into an 0-for-2 hole to begin the quarterfinals weekend. Ouch!

The 8A match-up was seen by a standing-room-only crowd estimated at 8,000 at Gately Stadium on the city's South Side. Mt. Carmel will now play the winner of Saturday's game between dark horse Hinsdale Central and Catholic League rival Brother Rice. If Mt. Carmel is victorious next week it could set up a showdown with no. 1 Maine South in the 8A finals. Remember how I said Maine South was beatable? The last time these two teams met was in last year's quarterfinals, when the Caravan eliminated the Hawks, 21-14.

The Hilltoppers of Glenbard West defeated Downers Grove North for the second time this season and have now scored 91 points in their last two playoff games. They will host the winner of Saturday's game between St. Rita and East St. Louis.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hold the phone, Loyola fans...

...the Ramblers' football season is not over yet. Loyola will play host to St. Laurence Saturday in the semifinals of the Chicago Catholic League playoffs. The winner of that game will play either De La Salle or Fenwick for the right to play the Chicago Public League champion in the Prep Bowl. Loyola beat St. Laurence during the regular season, 37-7, and defeated the Vikings, 45-38, in last year's semifinals.

The highlight of Loyola's 100th season was its 24-0 shutout of then-no. 2 St. Rita in Week 6. If the Ramblers advance to the Prep Bowl, head coach John Holecek has invited the City Championship team of 1965 to join them at Soldier Field on the day after Thanksgiving. A ceremonial chain will be strung across the entrance from the tunnel and those members who are still able to jump over it will lead the current squad onto the gridiron.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The response to my question about a federal bailout...

...of the American automakers has been clear and unambiguous: Stop bothering us with stupid questions and get back to doing something remotely useful, like making food recommendations and high school football predictions. Message received.

I wanted to write about Bobby Jindal and 2012...

...but I guess I'm a little late. He's being talked about everywhere. You know, Indian-American, Catholic, age 37, Governor of Louisiana, graduated from Brown and turned down Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School to attend Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, worked briefly in the private sector before devoting himself to public service, and blah, blah, blah...the Republican Barack Obama! Put me on the Jindal bandwagon (everyone says he's brilliant) but I'll bet he waits until 2016. Remember, he's young, and I'm hoping Obama does so well that no one serious challenges him. It's my opinion that it was George H. W. Bush's sky-high approval ratings after the Gulf War that discouraged such Democratic luminaries as Mario Cuomo and Al Gore from making a run in 1992. This inadvertently opened the door for a southern governor by the name of Bill Clinton. I also believe Clinton began his race hoping to sow the seeds for a future run or be selected as someone else's running mate. But the field that year was weak, Bush's approval ratings collapsed with the economy, and Ross Perot siphoned off just enough votes from the Republican to throw the election to Clinton.

So if Bobby Jindal isn't the guy for 2012, who is? Let me play Great Mentioner for a moment and throw in four names (that have already been mentioned by others): Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana; Mike Pence, Congressman from Indiana and the thinking man's Evangelical; Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin; and Eric Cantor, Congressman from Virginia and the only Republican Jew from the lower house. They are all highly respected individuals.

As for Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and anyone else from the 2008 race, fuhgeddaboudit! They're all history.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

High school football update...

...and predictions for next week.

In Saturday's results, in 8A, there were two big defensive struggles: Barrington defeated New Trier, 7-2, and it was Brother Rice over Belleville East, 9-7. Dark horse Schaumburg upset my personal favorite Warren, 55-21. And Loyola fell to no. 1-ranked Maine South, 26-7. The only thing worse for Rambler fans than being eliminated is being eliminated by Hillary Clinton's alma mater.

In 7A, the winners included Geneva, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South, Glenbard West, and East St. Louis. Fenwick and De La Salle were sent home for the season.

So for the weekend I was eleven for seventeen, for a .647 winning percentage, or .625 including last week. That'll work; but it's in the quarterfinals that the rubber meets the road. Only the very best teams make it past the second round; from here on out, anyone can win.

So with that caveat, here goes. In 8A, Bartlett will end Schaumburg's Cinderella run; Maine South will continue to roll, this time over Barrington; Hinsdale Central will upset Brother Rice; and, although I said I wouldn't fade Mt. Carmel, I kind of like upstart Marist in this match-up of south side Catholic schools.

7A should see Cary-Grove defeat Crystal Lake South; Geneva edge Carmel; and St. Rita over East St. Louis in a battle for the ages. I have to pick at least one upset a week, so I'll go with Downers Grove North over Glenbard West.

So there you have it, for good or ill. I'll try to take in at least one game next weekend, probably Maine South vs. Barrington. Let's see what the weather is like.

So I went to the Loyola game yesterday...

...after all. I couldn't resist.

When I got up on Saturday morning the weather forecast turned out to be accurate: forty degrees and rainy. Hardly ideal football-watching weather. Especially after a week in which I ate lunch at Hackney's outside on Monday and took what was surely my last nap of the season in the back yard on Wednesday. But I went for my usual three-mile walk anyway and discovered it really wasn't so bad. And after watching the first half of the Northwestern-Ohio State game, in which even a Wildcat quarterback named Kafka from St. Rita couldn't prevent what has become an annual butt-kicking, I found myself looking out the window more and more.

"You know, it's really not so bad out there," I said to my wife and son. "I think I'll just drive over there and look at the scoreboard." If it was a blow-out, I could just continue on to the nearest Vienna hot dog stand. If it was a game, I could check it out.

When I pulled into the parking lot it was 13-0 at the half. Not exactly a tie score, but a lot closer than the Northwestern game I had been watching at home. So I pulled into the first available handicapped spot I saw and, walking with my best fake-limp, made my way to the stadium. Now a word to the wise: if you see a fifty-year old white guy in a hurry, GET OUT OF THE WAY! That old lady I barely touched should get an Academy Award for the way she screamed when she hit the ground. Offer it up!

Fortunately the teen-ager manning the ticket booth looked like he was serving a weekend detention. In my best Dad-imitation, I assured him that although I didn't exactly have my card on me, I was certainly a member of the Maine South Booster Club and shouldn't have to pay the three dollar admission like everyone else. With his feet up on the counter, he barely looked up from his car magazine and waved me on through. Beautiful!

So I made my way in and found the perfect seat on the fifty-yard line at a Standing-Room-Only game. What luck! Apparently the grandfather of a Maine South senior had just gotten up to go to the bathroom at the half. (Hey, on your feet, lose your seat!) But you wouldn't believe how unreasonable the old guy was when he got back. And everyone around me took his side! These Maine South fans obviously have a chip on their shoulder about people from Glenview. So I magnanimously relinquished my seat, with the satisfaction that I had acted more maturely.

I finally found the last seat in the end-zone, which is much better anyway because you can see more scoring. (There really wasn't a seat but a guy graciously moved over for me. He was funny, too. He sarcastically acted like I was putting him out. What a cut-up! It renewed my faith in Maine South fans.)

So I settled in to watch the second half of the Charlie Goro-Matt Perez Show as they put up 26 points in all to Loyola's 7. Maine South now advances to the Quarterfinals against Barrington and Loyola goes home after a very respectable 8-3 season. I still think the Hawks are beatable, but when I look at the rest of the field I'm not sure who that would be. I'll have to spend my usual hours and hours poring over each team's statistics before I make my next predictions. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Upsets abound... Friday night football action. In 8A, Hinsdale Central defeated previously unbeaten Bolingbrook, 35-14; Mt. Carmel shocked Lincoln-Way East, 34-31; and Marist handed Naperville North their first loss of the season, 28-25, in overtime. Also, undefeated Bartlett made quick work of Fremd, 21-7.

In 7A, it was Carmel over Woodstock, 10-7; St. Rita beat Thornton, 21-13; and in the night's only upset, Downers Grove North blanked Proviso East, 16-0.

In 6A, Huntley was upset by Grant, 28-24.

If you're keeping score at home, you'll notice I was 2-for-4 in my 8A picks and a perfect 3-0 in 7A. I had Bartlett beating Fremd and Hinsdale Central upsetting Bolingbrook, but I missed on Marist and Mt. Carmel. I should have known better than to fade the Caravan, especially in post-season play. In 7A I called the evening's lone upset but played it safe with the two Catholic schools. In 6A I'll consider Huntley's defeat a loss since I wrote about them, even though I didn't specifically pick them to win. That leaves me at 5-for-8 for the evening. I'll take that; let's see what Saturday brings.

Hey readers, what do you think?

Should the U. S. federal government bail out the American automakers?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The forecast in Chicago tomorrow... rainy with a high of 40 degrees. In a word: miserable. This could put a crimp in the pass-happy offense of Charlie Goro and the Maine South Hawks. Combined with Loyola's notoriously stingy defense, it could level the playing field a little. But I still like the Hawks by seven.

This blog writer was intending to see the game, but even I have weather requirements that probably won't be met. So even though I'll be warm and dry at home, I'll still keep you informed as to the outcome of the game and the rest of the Illinois high school playoffs as well. Stay tuned for updates.

If you like my blog... might want to check out my son's, He's actually quite a poet.

Speaking of Trader Joe's...

...have you ever tried Aldi? That's short for Albrecht (brothers) Discount, which is a German company. Aldi is a discount version of Trader Joe's (which they happen to own) and carries mostly private labels. It has all the ambiance of a soup kitchen but is CHEAP, which counts for something during these difficult times.

Your Aldi experience begins with depositing a quarter (which you will get back) for a shopping cart. This cuts down on hiring pimply-faced teenagers who don't prevent stray carts from denting your car anyway. As you walk in, you'll notice that it's much smaller than a conventional grocery store. They don't have any fancy displays or a ton of variety, but the quality is surprisingly good. And unlike Costco, say, the products come in normal sizes for normal people. (I still have a large container of crushed red pepper I bought from Costco that I'm convinced I will leave to my children).

There aren't many people working there, either. This cuts down on costs. Usually one person at the register and a manager-type running around feverishly putting out fires. The register is fairly conventional, with a modern-day scanner, but the cash drawer looks like some kind of lock box from a church rummage sale. I didn't mention any baggers because you have to bag your own groceries (and buy bags if you didn't bring your own). But not to worry, they're only a dime or so, hardly worth mentioning. But if you're environmentally-conscious you can go to bed at night knowing you were part of the solution, not the problem, for at least one day. Also, they don't take credit cards or checks, just good old-fashioned cash. But there's an ATM at the register if you forgot to take out some money for the trip.

So what do you get for this wonderful Depression Era-like experience? Good food at amazingly low prices. I'm always stunned by how little I spend there. And nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than saving money. Try it, and tell me what you think.

A few thoughts on taxes...

...only a few, I promise. Nobody likes to pay taxes, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously said, "they are the price we pay for civilization." Okay, now that I have that obligatory sentence out of the way, we can continue.

In my personal evolution from libertarian to something else (post-libertarian, I guess), I've given some thought to taxes. Taxes, as we all know, are what keep libertarians up all night grinding their teeth. But taxes are at the heart of government. Because as soon as two or more people decide to form a government, the issue of revenue must be addressed. Even a libertarian would be for government, if only to protect life and property. Anything less than that would be anarchy. So once it's been determined to form a government, the next step is to establish a court system to punish crimes and resolve disputes, a police department to maintain order, and a military to ensure national defense. So where does the money come from to pay for these basic necessities?

An extreme libertarian would argue that the money would be donated, since this would ensure maximum freedom. The argument would be that if people really believed in the government, then they would be happy to pay for it. This argument does have some merit. After all, churches in America don't have any trouble thriving on the voluntary donations of their members. But it's not hard to see how this could cause problems. If I'm the richest guy in town, and in effect paying the judge's salary, it's not hard to see how this might tip the scales of justice in my favor. So a less-extreme libertarian would opt for other voluntary means, such as lotteries. But we all know that lotteries in reality fall mainly on the poorer and less-educated; anyone who's taken a class in statistics knows that lotteries are a bad bet. And we've all heard horror stories of how winning the lottery has actually made the winner's life worse.

So that leaves us with taxes, compulsory means of raising revenue enforced by the state. But these pick winners and losers, and that can seem arbitrary and lead to abuse. If you tax property owners, then it could be argued that only property owners should have the right to vote, since they are the ones paying for everything. We all know where that led in American history. The voters (white men) could define another group (blacks) as something less than human.

If you levy tariffs, as the Republicans liked to do in the nineteenth century, it could benefit northern manufacturers at the expense of southern farmers. This tension, I believe, was one of the major causes of the Civil War, slavery being an afterthought.

Lincoln established the first income tax, which taxes work and productivity. That doesn't sound like a good idea. And how do you tax income? A progressive tax isn't really fair; why should the rich pay more? Because society paid for the infrastructure that led indirectly to their success? I think that has some merit; I think that's what Holmes meant. Could Bill Gates have started Microsoft just anywhere? I doubt it. It took an educated populace and a good, reliable legal system. Hard to imagine Microsoft thriving in Russia. But taxing rich people can get out of hand; that's what scares Republicans about Obama. A flat tax can be problematic. If an individual makes $20,000 a year and pays 10% of that, it would be a much greater burden than the individual making $200,000 a year. Ah, but we'd draw a line you say, and those making less than a certain amount wouldn't pay any taxes at all. Okay, who draws the line and where? And what about the people who make just a little bit more than that? Do they get taxed on the incremental amount?

So what have I left out, sales taxes? Discourages consumption and favors savers (like me) over spenders (like my wife). Maybe that's a good thing, but again the government is picking winners and losers.

Maybe the best way to raise revenue is to combine all of the above, along with various incentives, into one huge Byzantine system that the average person doesn't really understand, like the one we have now in the U. S.

But I remember from my grade school days that one of the earliest and most important advances in civilization was the Code of Hammurabi. The populace was tired of the government making and enforcing arbitrary laws and demanded that they be written down for all to see. Isn't this what we need in this country, vis-a-vis the tax laws? If the Federal tax laws (not to mention state and local) fill several volumes that are in effect inaccessible to the average person, isn't that somewhat analogous to what the Babylonians faced?

My answer was always to levy a flat tax on incomes with NO deductions that could be filled out by anyone on a form the size of a postcard. This would require many a lawyer and accountant to seek other gainful employment (sorry, Jimmy and Mary) but address the "Hammurabi problem." But there are problems with a flat tax that I've already talked about.

So the bottom line is that if we are going to have a government, we are going to have to pay for it. Especially now, with all of our obligations. The question is how? What would be the best and fairest way to raise revenue? In my continuing journey from libertarian to post-libertarian, I am left with more questions than answers. Do any of you, dear readers, have any thoughts on the subject? See the comments section below if you do.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hard to believe...

...but there used to be a football game every August between the college All-Stars and the previous year's NFL champion. It was the brainchild of Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, and the driving force behind the Baseball All-Star game. It was originally a charity event and was played mostly at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The first game was played in 1934 before a crowd of almost 80,000 and was a scoreless tie between the All-Stars and the Chicago Bears. The All-Stars won three out of the first five games and shut out the NFL champs back to back in 1946 and '47, the latter before 105,000 fans. The quality of the NFL improved, however, and the pros began to dominate until the last game in 1976. But as recently as 1963, the college athletes beat the Green Bay Packers, 20-17. Could anyone imagine a college all-star team today playing the New York Giants? Or for that matter, the Detroit Lions?

A fitness buff I know recommended...

...bison burgers to me because of their low-fat content. I have to admit I was skeptical, but I tried them and they're delicious! Served with a slice of mild cheddar cheese and grilled onions on a whole wheat bun (high in fiber content), they make a healthy dinner. Try them this weekend as you settle in to watch no. 8 Oklahoma State try to upend the no. 2 Red Raiders of Texas Tech (again with the Red Raiders). Trader Joe's sells them frozen in boxes of four. Get out there and grill before the snow falls!

Like Chinese food?

Try Wanchai Chinese dinner kits. There are several varieties, including Kung Pao, Spicy Garlic, and Sweet-and-Sour. Just add chicken, pork, or shrimp (or meatballs, in the sweet-and-sour variety) and enjoy! It's a fairly easy dinner for two, just be careful not to over-cook the rice. This is not a frozen product; you can find it with the other Asian food at your local grocery store.

In a sign of the times... 89-year old mother hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since Harry Truman in 1948, sixty years ago. She voted for Eisenhower twice, Nixon three times (even against fellow Irish Catholic John F. Kennedy), Goldwater (!), Ford, Reagan twice, George H. W. Bush twice, Dole, and George W. Bush twice.

Who did Mom vote for this year? Barack Obama.

We have our own Red Raiders here in Illinois...

...from Huntley in the far northwest exurbs. I forgot to mention their 70-63 victory last week over 6A opponent Batavia. The Red Raiders rushed for 713 yards and Batavia quarterback Jordan Coffey passed for 436. I know I said no one's interested in 6A but we'll have to keep our eye on this team.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

College football in the 1940s...

...started out pretty much where it left off from the 1930s. The first two years had Minnesota ranked number one, followed by all the usual suspects. Except that in 1940, Hardin-Simmons (who?), a Baptist College in Texas, joined the rankings at number 17. I guess they needed to show those northern Catholics that they could play this new-fangled sport, too, if only for one season. The Cowboys never returned to the top twenty.

1943 saw the Fighting Irish capture the top spot for the first time and Army took the next two titles, in 1944 and '45. But a closer look at the polls in 1943 and '44 reveal some teams I had never heard of: Iowa Pre-Flight, Great Lakes, Del Monte Pre-Flight, March Field, Bainbridge, Randolph Field, Norman Pre-Flight, El Toro Marines, Fort Pierce, and St. Mary's Pre-Flight. How come I had never heard of these schools? And how come they never made another ranking after 1944? Were they aliens just visiting this planet? It turns out they weren't schools after all. They were "service teams," i.e. flight schools and training centers for the various branches of the military. Apparently, several colleges, including almost the entire SEC, suspended football in 1943 and '44 due to the War. So the remaining schools played these service teams and they were included in the AP final rankings.

By 1945, things look normal again, except that St. Mary's of California (who?) finished the season at number seven, ahead of Notre Dame, Texas, USC, and Ohio State.

The rest of the 1940s saw Notre Dame and Michigan dominate the top spots, but it's worth mentioning some other schools that experienced their fifteen minutes of fame: Colorado College, the University of the Pacific (who?), Columbia, Rice, Delaware, and William & Mary.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Another good product I'd like to recommend... Bertolli frozen pasta dinner. It comes in several varieties and can be heated up on the stove in just ten minutes. It's the easiest thing you will ever make for dinner and tasty, too. Again, it can be found in your grocer's freezer.

A closer look at the AP polls...

...shows just how much college football has changed in the last 70 years. The Associated Press began publishing its final poll of sports writers in 1936. The first "unofficial" national champion was Minnesota, a team ranked in the current top twenty-five just a week ago. But run down the list a little further and you will find Santa Clara (who?) ranked sixth ahead of Notre Dame, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Arkansas. In fact, a total of five Catholic schools made the list, the other three being Fordham, Marquette, and Duquesne (who?). Fordham's offensive line even had a nickname, "the seven blocks of granite," which included the legendary Vince Lombardi. Also, three teams from the Ivy League were represented: Penn, Yale, and Dartmouth.

In 1937, Fordham finished the season ranked number three, ahead of such modern-day powerhouses as Alabama and LSU. Again, five Catholic schools were represented as Villanova and Holy Cross joined the list. And the Ivy League had two teams, Dartmouth and Yale, that placed ahead of Ohio State.

The name that stands out the most in the rankings for 1938 is Carnegie Tech (who?) which came in at number six, ahead of USC, Alabama, and Michigan. Holy Cross finished in the top ten that year for the only time in their history and Texas Tech was ranked number eleven. I guess there's more of a tradition there than I realized.

1939 was notable as the only time an Ivy League team finished in the top five. Cornell came in at number four, ahead of Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Michigan. Once again, five Catholic schools made the top twenty as Boston College joined their ranks for the first time. Apparently there was football at BC before Doug Flutie was even born.

In my next posting, we'll take a look at the 1940s. I found something really interesting there, too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Joe got me thinking... I did a little research (boy, do I have a lot of time on my hands). From the years 1960 to 1969, according to the AP poll (and UPI isn't much different), Alabama was ranked eight times in the final top ten rankings and won three national championships. Texas and Southern Cal were each ranked six times and won two championships. Penn State made the rankings four times and Oklahoma three with no championships between them.

The 1970s saw an even more concentration of talent. Alabama and Oklahoma made the final top ten an astounding nine times, with the Crimson Tide capturing three titles and the Sooners two. Penn State was represented seven times with no championships. And Texas and Southern Cal had six top ten rankings each as the Trojans were crowned champions three times and the Longhorns once.

In those days, AP and UPI published their own separate polls. Sometimes they would agree on a champion, sometimes they would split. The championships I've listed were from at least one poll, not necessarily both.

Incidentally, the last time Holy Cross cracked the top ten was in 1938 when they finished in
ninth place. For Dartmouth, it was 1937 when they were ranked seventh. But as recently as 1970, the Big Green, or the Indians as they were known then, tied with Houston for thirteenth. Now that's trivia!

Conventional wisdom has it...

...that a big Democratic victory tomorrow (not just an Obama victory, but a significant pickup in Senate and House seats) will be bearish for the stock market. The thinking is that Americans like a divided government to act as a check on the more extreme impulses of the other party. I think this was true in the past, when the public wanted the Federal government to do less, but I don't think it will be true in this election. I think the general sentiment is that things are so dysfunctional now that people want the government to take action to fix our various problems. So if the Democrats win big tomorrow, this blog writer is looking for a big rally in the equity markets.

How about those Texas Tech Red Raiders...

...shaking things up in the BCS! I meant to mention last week that if you'd gone to sleep in, say, 1968 or so, a la Rip Van Winkle, and woke up a week ago and looked at the BCS poll, after asking what the heck the BCS is, you would have seen:

1. Texas;
2. Alabama;
3. Penn State;
4. Oklahoma; and
5. USC.

Assuming that checking the college football rankings was the first thing you'd do after being asleep for forty years, you would be forgiven for thinking that not much had changed while you were dozing. Especially after you were told that Joe Paterno is still the head coach of the Nittany Lions!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I attended two games yesterday...

...Glenbard North at Loyola and Schaumburg at Glenbrook South. Actually, I only saw the second half of both games, but that was enough to get the feel for each.

When I arrived at Sachs Stadium in Wilmette yesterday, the score was tied, 7-7. Beautiful, I thought, I haven't missed anything. It was a cold, cloudy day but the new field at Loyola looked magnificent. Could the track around it be slightly banked, Joe? The Loyola side was filled with Irish faces, plaid pants, and blue blazers. Not really; actually, most people had standard game-day fare of jeans, sneakers and baseball caps. But you could tell you were at a private, Catholic school. It felt like a club where everyone knew each other or were even related somehow. It's hard to understand the spirit and loyalty to that place until you go to a game there.

Anyway, it was clearly a defensive battle until Loyola scored to make it 13-7. After missing the extra point, the crowd groaned. It seemed prophetic, especially after Glenbard North marched down the field and took the lead, 14-13 with only 6:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. Evan Watkins, the Panthers' quarterback, looked impressive, and this blog writer will certainly be following his career at Northwestern. But Loyola was not to be denied, and quarterback Lucas Ruske (who likes to run with the ball; 131 yards on 25 carries) found Jack Begley (whom he's known since fourth grade) for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 4:10 to go in the game. The Ramblers failed to make the two point conversion, but it didn't matter as Philip Rdzanek intercepted a forced Watkins pass on the next set of downs and scampered into the end zone to put the game on ice, 26-14.

Loyola must now travel to Park Ridge to take on the no. 1 Maine South Hawks and Vanderbilt-bound quarterback Charlie Goro. Maine South lit up the scoreboard this weekend as they defeated Stevenson, 63-29. Goro went 18-for-25 for 377 yards and six touchdown passes. Although Maine South is undefeated and has one of the best football traditions in the state of Illinois, Glenbrook South almost beat them just a few weeks ago. In high school football, anything can happen and usually does. This blog writer will definitely be in attendance next Saturday.

As for the GBS Titans, it was an early and disappointing end to a great season. For the second week in a row, the Titans lost a running back to a broken leg. Last week it was Michael Schroeder in the New Trier game; this week it was his replacement, Greg Benz. At halftime, the score was only 7-0, Schaumburg, but the Glenview side seemed particularly subdued. Schaumburg, as you may know, was the setting for the old series "Married...with Children" and is the butt of a lot of jokes in the Chicagoland area. They were no joke last night. Working without a huddle (which seems more and more common today), the Saxons' quarterback ran and passed all over the GBS defense and led 20-8 with a minute to go in the game. The Titans made it interesting as quarterback Ryan Hopkins connected to Trent Monckton for a 60-yard score, but Schaumburg recovered the ensuing onside kick to end the game, 20-16.

Readers of this blog will note that I have been warning Titan fans all season that their schedule was "favorable," as Ara Parseghian would say. They faced only four playoff teams this year while Schaumburg, at 5-4, faced six. I would love to see GBS open their season against Loyola. It would be a great geographical rivalry and an evenly-matched game most years. But the Ramblers' schedule is hard enough as it is. The Titans need to seek out better non-conference opponents, and they won't be found at places like Maine West.

Predictions can be difficult to make...

...especially about the future. Okay, I borrowed that line from E. J. Dionne, but I'll bet he borrowed it from somebody else. Readers of this blog will know that I made my first ever prognostications yesterday in regards to the Illinois high school football playoffs. All in all, I did better than I expected, 9-6, a .600 winning percentage that I think anyone should be happy with. Granted, I stuck mostly with the favorites, but bracket seeds in high school football can be almost meaningless given how so few of the teams have common opponents. To recap, my winners were Warren, Maine South, Brother Rice, Naperville North, and Loyola in 8A. My losers were Glenbrook South and St. Patrick's. In 7A, Cary-Grove, Fenwick, and Geneva were all victorious; Steinmetz, St. Laurence, and Thornton-Fractional South went down in defeat. In the lower brackets, I split; Lemont beat Lake Forest but Sandwich fell to Coal City.

My early picks for next week (I'll have to wait for the full injury reports for these to be final) are as follows:

8A: Bartlett over Fremd (as my brother Tom once observed, "How often do you see the M and the D next to each other?");
Warren over Schaumburg (remember I said to watch that Warren team);
Maine South over Loyola;
Barrington over New Trier;
Hinsdale Central over Bolingbrook in my big upset of the week;
Brother Rice over Belleville East;
Naperville North over Marist; and
Lincoln-Way East over Mt. Carmel.

In 7A, I'll stick with Geneva, Cary-Grove, and Fenwick in a big upset over Glenbard West. I also like Carmel, Crystal Lake South, Downers Grove North, St. Rita, and my Cinderella team, De La Salle, in an upset over scary East St. Louis.

Nobody really cares about anything below 7A, but I want to give honorable mention to Highland Park (let's hear it for the future agents), Normal Community (sounds like something out of "Pleasantville"), Nazareth (a shout-out to my sister Joanne), Bishop McNamara (the team, not the individual), and Metropolis Massac County (which we can be sure is anything but a metropolis).

Stay tuned for further updates.