Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Double rainbow

The Chicago area is enjoying a respite from the cold March weather. I believe it got into the 70s today. The weather tonight is to turn stormy with thunderstorms predicted.

There was a brief storm late this afternoon and then the sun appeared for a short while creating a double rainbow. Here is a picture I hurriedly snapped out my back door. You can barely make out the second rainbow at the very left of the photo.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Will Spring ever come?

I've always associated the Easter holiday with Springtime. It obviously does take place in Spring, but to me it brings thoughts of warmer weather, flowers and so forth. Living in the Chicago area, our Spring doesn't seem to arrive until May.

Of course, Easter is early this year as determined by the lunar calendar. The Council of Nice decreed in 325 A.D. that "Easter was to fall upon the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox."

Two days ago (Thursday), the Chicago area again had snow. Just a dusting that never really lasted, but it's hard to think of Spring when you see snow falling. The early forecasts for Easter Sunday had it being in the mid-forties at best. Now it appears it will be in the mid-fifties and sunny which will be a vast improvement. The rest of next week is suppose to be relatively warm, but I don't take much stock in long-term forecasts!

The baseball season opens in Chicago on Monday, April 4th when the White Sox host the Cleveland Indians. If we get our usual opening day weather, it will be cold and gray.

Baseball -- now that's a sign of Spring!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Yahoo bolsters e-mail storage to 1 GB

Yahoo announced that it is increasing the storage limit on its free e-mail service to 1 GB. This increase will be phased-in beginning in April. The limit on the Yahoo service is currently 250 MB.

Although denied by Yahoo, this announcement is an apparent reaction to the rumor that Google will begin offering its free Gmail service to the general public around April 1. The Gmail service is currently in Beta and was the first free service to come with 1 GB of storage. (In the interest of full disclosure, I use both the Yahoo and Google e-mail services.)

Hotmail, Microsoft's free e-mail service, recently upgraded its storage capacity to 250 MB.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What I want

In case someone is wondering what I want for my August birthday, here's a hint! I saw this beautiful red Ford F-150 on the dealer lot last Sunday.

Barry Bonds to miss the 2005 season?

Baseball player Barry Bonds says he might miss the upcoming baseball season due to his recent knee surgery. Bonds says he has a long way to go to rehabilitate himself and be ready to play baseball. He hints that mid-2005 would be the earliest he would return or even 2006.

Bonds, who has been linked to grand jury testimony in the BALCO investigation, is also the poster boy for critics who say that steroids has inflated baseball records.

You don't think his possibly missing the season has anything to do with the steroids issue, do you? And do you think he believes he can avoid it by sitting out this season?

Never entered my mind!

Update (7:13 PM CST): When this story first broke, I did not realize that Bonds went on to blame the media for hounding him and his family and for wanting him to fail. I guess it's convenient to blame the media, blame investigators and probably blame the general public for this mess. You left out the girlfriend, Barry. It's hard to believe, but he just made Sammy Sosa look good!

I hope he's through.

As far as I'm concerned, Hank Aaron and Roger Maris are still the recordholders for home runs hit in a career and home runs hit in a single season.

And Babe Ruth is still the king.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Terri Schiavo case

I've been following this sad case from a distance. However, I have to disagree with the president and Congress getting involved in this matter. This case has dragged on for many years with Mrs. Schiavo's husband getting permission to remove the feeding tube and her parents then getting a court order to reinsert the tube.

Enough already!

This poor woman will never return to a "normal" life. It's been clearly shown that the husband -- as her legal guardian -- does have the right to make this hard decision on her behalf. It's not like he hasn't given it time or exhausted all medical opinions.

The parents also need to face reality. They are only extending their daughter's suffering -- and their own suffering -- by continuing to battle their son-in-law in court.

I'm disappointed in the president and the Republicans in Congress for getting involved. Aren't the Republicans the ones that keep saying that government should not be involved in peoples' lives? I guess it depends on if they agree or disagree with the course of action that people take. I'm a moderate Republican and I disagree with what the party is doing.

Let her go.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Compelling TV

I watched the evening testimony in front of the House Government Reform Committee. This is the committee looking into the baseball steroids issue. Normally these hearings are televised, if at all, on C-SPAN. Yesterday, they were also televised on ESPN and Comcast Sports Net (and perhaps other cable channels).

I was at work all day so I did not watch the first two sessions. The following is a synopsis of what I've read or heard.

The morning and afternoon sessions consisted of expert testimony regarding the danger of steroids. The Committee heard from parents of two teenage athletes who took steroids. Both teenagers committed suicide and the parents blame their deaths on steroids and, specifically, their childs' desire to emulate their baseball heroes. One parent laid the blame directly on the players.

Later in the afternoon, former players Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire and current players Frank Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa testified. Canseco's "tell-all" book ignited controversy by naming names and revealing the whole steroid issue in professional baseball. He testified that baseball looked the other way and basically "promoted" the use of steroids by not cracking down on users. Interestingly, he backed away from some statements contained in his book. (This reminds me of Charles Barkley's assertion that he was misquoted in his own autobiography!) McGwire, named in Canseco's book as a steroid user, came across very bad in the testimony. He refused to answer questions regarding past use and wanted to look ahead to the future. His non-answers basically answered the question about using steroids. McGwire has taken a hit with several sportwriters' knee-jerk reaction to refuse to support his upcoming Hall of Fame candidacy. One of the representatives on the Committee also suggested his name should be removed from a stretch of Interstate 70 in Missouri.

Both Palmeiro and Sosa denied under oath that they ever used steroids. Palmeiro was adamant that he never used steroids while Sosa, through his attorney, denied taking steroids but nonetheless dodged direct questioning. Sosa conveniently forgot how to speak English and needed an interpreter with him to translate the Committee's questions!

Comic Alex Kaseberg had an interesting line about Palmeiro: "Rafael Palmeiro denied using steroids to Congress. Palmeiro, however, does commercials for Viagra but publicly denies that he takes Viagra. So why would we believe a guy we already know lies about using a performance enhancing drug?"

Thomas, who has never been associated with steroid use, said that baseball needs to clean up its act. Schilling, who has also never been associated with steroid use, came off looking bad as he backed off earlier statements regarding the prevalence of steroids in baseball and testified that he felt that stories of steroid use was overblown.

The real fun (and the real fireworks) came in the evening session which I watched. (My wife even missed The Apprentice to watch the testimony!) Executives from Major League Baseball and the players union appeared before the panel. To say they came off bad is an understatement. They were skewered and left hanging out to dry by the panel. I won't go into the details because there is too much good information to relate. Many news and sports sites have this information. In short, baseball's announced policy has not been completely written nor is it close to what was announced. At it stands right now, you can positively test for steroids five times before you are thrown out of baseball...and even that's not clear! Donald Fehr, the head of the players union, when pointedly asked several times if he would recommend that the players accept tougher standards, replied that he would consult with the players and relay the concerns of the Committee!

ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote an interesting piece on the hearing.

This is a story that will not go away -- nor should it. I think that Congress will eventually pass legislation outlawing steroids and other human growth hormones. The cloud of suspicion will follow Sosa and, of course, Barry Bonds. Bonds and Jason Giambi, by the way, were not subpoenaed because of the ongoing litigation regarding BALCO.

Baseball gets a black eye and fans are left wondering who is in charge of this mess. I would like to see, as one of the Committee members suggested, that there should be a wholesale change at the top of both Major League Baseball and the players union. It's obvious nobody can be trusted.

Two women want to marry Scott Peterson

I'm sure psychologists have an explanation for this.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Employee empowerment

I am a Comcast high-speed Internet subscriber. I am also a Comcast cable TV subscriber. We recently upgraded our subscription to digital cable and HDTV. Comcast has finally come out with a digital video recorder (DVR) service that allows users to record programs directly onto a hard disk rather than to video tape. Our VCR has begin giving us problems, so we thought it was time to take the plunge into digital recording. I was really interested in getting TiVo, but was told by someone at Abt that TiVo and Comcast really don't play together very well. TiVo has a really great service, but there are rumors of TiVo's imminent demise and I did not want to get stuck with a box I could not use. So the decision was made to get a Comcast DVR.

I called Comcast and made an appointment to have the DVR installed. The service is an additional $10 per month and, oh, there's a $32 installation charge. I questioned the charge, but was told that's what they charged to install the box.

Now the DVR is really a combination cable tuner and digital recorder. I already have the box so the installer will come over unhook my old box, hook up the new one, turn on the TV to make sure it works and leaves. Where is the "value" in the $32 charge? Anyway, I reluctantly said OK and the appointment was set.

That evening, my wife mentioned that a work colleague also had a DVR installed, but was able to get the installation charge halved to $16. I figured if he could do it, so could I.

I called Comcast this morning and they were shocked -- shocked! -- that I would request a waiver. The customer service rep put me on hold a couple of times and each time she came back and said that the $32 fee is correct and that's what I would be charged.

I cancelled the installation.

As a loyal customer with a number of services, I'm offended that (a) they would even consider charging a ridiculous fee in the first place and (b) this employee was apparently not empowered to waive a fee or at least waive 50% of it (which I would have settled for). I know this isn't just a Comcast issue, but an issue with all companies. What if I would have talked to a different employee? Would I have gotten satisfaction? Why should there be a difference?

Employee empowerment is not only right, it's good business.

Update 9:47 AM CST: Maybe this is all for the best as Comcast and TiVo have just announced a partnership agreement where TiVo will make boxes for Comcast. Unfortunately, it won't go into effect until 2006.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

This should be interesting!

Former baseball player Jose Canseco's tell-all book continues to cause problems for Major League Baseball. In his book, he admits to steroid use and says he injected former teammate Mark McGwire with steroids when they played together on the Oakland Athletics. He also calls out several other players regarding their own steroid use.

I don't know if he's telling the truth or not, but it's obvious that baseball players have gotten much bigger the past few years.

A number of players mentioned in the book, including Rafael Palmiero, have threatened legal action. What's interesting is that they've threatened, but have not actually sued. This tells me that there's fire under the smoke and legal action will bring out things that players don't want brought out.

These threats may become irrelevant as the House Reform Committee wants to hold hearings on steroid use and has "invited" (subpoenaed?) Canseco and several other ballplayers to testify. The other players include McGwire, Palmiero, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Jason Giambi. For some reason, Barry Bonds has not been included. The testimony is voluntary and the players cannot be forced to testify. Canseco so far is the only one willing to testify under oath.

Too bad these players can't be compelled to testify. Wouldn't it be great theater to watch them testify? Can't you just see Sosa squirm under the bright lights when explaining how the source of his power is the Flintstone's vitamins he says he takes? Just seeing Canseco in the same room with these other players would be fun to watch. C-SPAN could make it a pay-per-view event.

Update (6:29 PM CST): There is now some disagreement whether or not the "invitations" are really subpoenas and thus the appearance is mandatory rather than voluntary. It was earlier reported that the players could testify on their own volition. (Canseco being the only one agreeing to testify; Schilling is considering it.) Now there is a question if it's Contempt of Congress should they fail to appear.

This is getting "interestinger and interestinger." Stay tuned!

Update (March 9, 2005 12:29 PM CST): Of the players invited to the hearing, only Jose Canseco and Frank Thomas have agreed to voluntarily appear. It appears now that the Committee will subpoena the other players and baseball officials (including Commissioner Bud Selig) to appear at the hearing on March 17.

Monday, March 7, 2005

I just don't get it

Cell phones and public restrooms, I mean. Are we that busy that we need to multitask by carrying on a phone conversation while, uh, attending to other matters?

When I worked in the city, I took a daily commuter train to and from work. One day before I boarded the train home, I went into the men's room at the Union Station to wash my hands. In this busy restroom were two guys talking on their cell phones...and, of course, they had to talk loud enough so everyone could hear they were talking business. Now a busy terminal men's room is not the ideal place to hold a business telephone conversation. Can you imagine what the person on the other end of the conversation must think! Is it our need to feel important -- or to make other people think we're important -- that requires us to carry on conversations in this most public of places?

As a male, my point of reference is limited to the guys' sanctuary. Is this just a "guy thing" or do women do this too?

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Tommy Dorsey story

On my family weblog, I just posted a story about how my mother sat in with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra one night when they played at the army air base where she worked.

Gmail invitations

I use Gmail (Google mail) and like it a lot. I have 50 free Gmail invitations that are available to anyone who wants one. Don't be shy, just ask.