Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday 7-25

My Two Cents will be going on hiatus next week--as we move our show to the EAA Airventure grounds. And speaking of Airventure, I have a few suggestions to make the event better for everyone involved:

1--Shorten the event. There's nothing going on out there that can't be accomplished in just four days. So let's run the Airventure from Thursday through Sunday. Attendance likely won't take much of a hit--since the first three days usually see very light attendance anyway. It would also make a "week-ling" pass cheaper for those who can't miss a single minute.

2--Build some real bathrooms out there. For those who visit Airventure for just a day, having to use the porta-johns may not be that bad. But when you spend the entire week out there, you get a bit tired of having to go in the johnnie. Sometimes you just like to have a few creature comforts when you have to go. Permanent bathrooms are part of the improvements the EAA plans for the grounds in the future. That's almost reason enough for me to support the city kicking in two-million dollars to help in the projects.

3--Return to limited flight line access. I know there are more than a few plane owners who agree with this one. Put the chain link fences back up and allow only EAA members and other approved visitors along the flight line area. This was common practice until a few years ago--when the EAA realized more people might come out and pay full price if they got closer to most of the aircraft. Unfortunately, most of the people who fly to Oshkosh would prefer that the "general public" not get so close to their planes.

4--Dump the "Airventure" name. The EAA pushes the name hard--using it on all official signs, programs and T-shirts. But, two-thirds of the people who attend just call it "Oshkosh" and all of the old-timers still call it "The Fly-In". "Airventure" means nothing to the general public. To fit in with every other event here in Wisconsin the name should really be "Airplanefest".

5--Get chocolate soft serve at all of the ice cream stands on the grounds. Zaug's has never explained to me why only one stand--located just west of Aeroshell square--serves chocolate soft serve. Every other one only has vanilla. Who wants only vanilla? Why does that one stand always have a long line? It's obviously because of the chocolate. Give the people what they want!!

We'll see you at the Fly-In.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday 7-24

As many of you know, I am an avid golfer. And that is why it pains me so much to see the demise of public golf courses here in the Fox Valley. As you likely know, the City of Appleton is looking at selling Reid Municipal Golf Course--as it continues to lose money and the city can no longer afford to subsidize it. Those of us who see the money numbers for Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course in Oshkosh know it hangs on a delicate edge as well--as it is burdened by debt incurred a few years ago to fix drainage problems on the course.

As someone who has railed against the foolish spending of public dollars I really have no choice but to side with those who question the use of tax dollars to subsidize a golf course. The muni course was a product of the early part of the century--when the game of golf was growing in popularity--but access was limited to those who could afford to join country clubs. To open up the game to everyone, cities and counties built their own courses--and were able to make money on the venture.

Over the years, entrepreneurs have built public access or daily fee courses that don't require membership--and don't receive public financing. Those course tend to be more expensive than the munis--but the quality of the course tends to be higher as well. That competition has left public course in a tough spot. To keep their niche, they need to keep greens fees low--but then that forces cuts in maintenance--which usually leads to poor conditions and fewer people willing to play there. That further cuts revenues and creates a death spiral for the course. Another complicating factor is that fewer people are getting into the sport.

Appleton and Oshkosh are not alone in this situation. "Golfweek" magazine had a cover story on "Municipal Courses in Crisis" just a couple of months ago. The issue discussed the mass closures of public courses across the country--as cities and counties could no longer justify the cost. Some munis are getting facelifts in hopes of bringing golfers back--but most continue to languish.

So if area golfers want to keep those public courses open and worth playing, they need to make sure to get out there and play. It probably wouldn't hurt to bring along three friends as well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday 7-21

We had a couple of really nice classic car shows in the area over the weekend--a show hosted by our "oldies" sister station at Fox Valley Technical College on Saturday, and the annual Pierce Park show on Sunday. Seeing all of those classic vehicles got me to thinking: What will car shows be like 25 or 30 years from now?

Will middle aged men swoon over rows of Saturn SL2s? Will they point to the interior of a minivan and say to their sons "Wow, that has the seatback DVD player just like the one we had when I was a kid"? Will we hear "Man, there was nothing better than an Infinity Q45 when I was growing up"?

I see that some car clubs are now allowing "tuner" cars into their shows now. Is that to attract the younger generation? Or is it a harbinger of doom for the car show itself--as ugly tack-on body parts and whiny exhaust systems are what is going to pass as "classic" in the future. For all we know, there may not be any regular leaded or unleaded fuel in the future to even power the classic cars of the pre-1980's era. I doubt we'll be able to trailer them from show to show using our electric micro-cars.

There are few models that exite anyone anymore. Mustangs and Corvettes will always turn heads--but can you think of anything else on the road that really gets your heart racing? And the whole automotive experience is changing as well. The aforementioned DVD player and internet connections make it seem more like your driving your living room down the street. And forget about the bonding experience of fixing your own vehicle. Open the hood on even the most basic car today and you would have no idea where to begin on repairing anything. Some dealership mechanics have told me engineers don't even think about home repair when designing engine systems today. That's another important revenue stream for the company. And so we get air filters and oil plugs that you can't reach with a double hinged arm or by putting the thing on a hydraulic lift.

So enjoy the car shows while you can. They won't be getting any bigger or any better in the future.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday 7-17

It's time to weigh in again on the Brett Favre Soap Opera.

If there is one thing that is clear to me after the Greta Van Susteren interview it is that Brett Favre doesn't just want to come back to the Green Bay Packers as the starting quarterback--but he also wants to be the General Manager as well. Brett was very clear in his unhappiness with current GM Ted Thompson. Thompson didn't do enough to get Randy Moss--even though Brett wanted him...Thompson didn't hire Steve Mariucci as head coach--even though Brett wanted him. Apparently Favre thinks he should have more pull in the front office--even though he has ZERO executive or coaching experience.

Let's examine some of Favre's demands. Why would he want Steve Mariucci as his head coach? Because Steve is his buddy, and probably wouldn't put the restrictions on him that a control-freak like Mike McCarthy does. "Hey Brett, you want to throw into triple coverage all day? Go ahead man, you're the greatest and I'll love you no matter what!! What, you want to run around like a chicken with its head cut off and throw balls downfield underhanded to offensive linemen? Go for it, cuz that's just Brett being Brett!!"

Here's a question for Brett: If Steve Mariucci is such a great candidate for a head coaching job in the NFL, why is he still sitting behind a desk at the NFL Network?

On the failure to sign Randy Moss, how much of a difference would he have made for the Packers last year. Can you think of a loss where having another wide receiver would have made the difference. Would Moss have fixed the lack of a running game in the first half of the season. Would he have caught all of the wounded ducks that Number Four was putting up in the Wind Bowl at Chicago? Would he have somehow out-jumped the double coverage on the underthrown ball that set up the game-losing field goal against the Giants? I should point out that the New England Patriots--the much more talented team that actually did have Randy Moss--also lost to the Giants in the playoffs.

So for all of you rallying at Lambeau every weekend I want you to ask yourself, do you want Brett Favre as quarterback, head coach and general manager? Because that seems to be what he really wants here. Personally, I can't think of any team that has been successful letting the star players make the personel and coaching decisions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wednesday 7-16

One of the talking heads on the cable news networks used a term yesterday that I really like. The discussion was on the country's financial state--and she used the phrase "We are entering the NEW, New Economy". You might be familiar with the OLD New Economy--where the US moved away from manufacturing things other people wanted to buy and instead became reliant on service provided to each other. That New Economy also depended heavily on the Internet--the wonder product that provides plenty of info--but no real "things".

Here's what I hope to see in the NEW New Economy:

--The end of the Four-dollar-fifty cent cup of gourmet coffee as an essential part of life. No more will we hear "I just can't get anything done until I get my morning Starbucks." That shot of caffeine will be replaced by the kick start of a brisk walk or bike ride to work (especially in a Wisconsin winter).

--Smaller SUV's that can haul small loads and still provide headroom for tall people all while using less regular gasoline. Americans will accept small, fuel-efficient vehicles for one ownership cycle--but after that they will say "Give me some room to breathe in here, please!!" After that, the car company that can provide the most room and power for the MPG will be the big winner. GM, Ford and Chrysler might want to work on that right now. You might not be able to haul the 18-foot boat anymore--but no one can afford gas to use that on the water anyway--so why have it?

--Cell phones will make calls--and calls only. People will eventually realize, we really only need them to talk to other people. Not to download ringtones, play video games, upload the internet, take pictures, play movies and text message people in new language that threatens to destroy proper English.

--People will eat better and work out more often to avoid the mounting costs of heatlh care. And those workouts will be old-time exercises like running the sidewalks, biking the trails and doing pushups in the basement--instead of driving to the gym with electronic equipment because we really don't need to know the exact number of calories we burned walking in place.

--The 7 shopping channels tying up space on the cable systems will fold--to be replaced by the Big Ten and NFL Networks.

--Only those who can truly afford a house will be in houses. No more sub-prime mortgage crises in the NEW, New Economy. This is an added bonus to all of those developers who are building all of those condos on the Fox River in every city with any waterfront--so long as they switch to rental units and lower the price to something people can still afford.

--And the big one: People will turn their backs on retailers that force manufacturers to move their plants to China to meet artificial price points. That might just return production jobs to the US--starting a NEW, NEW New Economy where Americans make great things for Americans to buy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday 7-15

I find it ironic that in the "Information Age", we have so many people who lack proper information on important issues.

Take for example, the people who lined up outside of Washington Mutual banks in California yesterday to withdraw all their money. One of the national network newscasts had one woman saying she was there to get all of her money out of the bank before it goes broke and she loses it. Somebody might want to tell her that all deposits--up to a quarter million dollars--in that bank are insured by the FDIC. So even if WaMu went under, she would still get her money. Perhaps stories about the bank's recent losses included that bit of info--but I'm sure all she (and the others in the line) heard was "Such and such Bank is in crisis" (everything is a crisis nowadays).

Now if she had said "I'm taking my money out of this bank because I'm dis-satisfied with the number of risky investments its directors have chosen to undertake--like buying sub-prime mortgages" I'd have no problem with her decision. But to just take the money out based on speculation and mis-information just frustrates me.

The ultimate irony is that the actions of the mis-informed usually results in the situation everyone was trying to avoid. The loss of deposits will likely speed up bank failures--which will feed the panic cycle. The 24-hour news cycle will speculate on which banks will be next to fail--sending their customers to make panicked withdrawals--leading to more closures and more panic. Remember the savings and loan disaster of the '90's?

I can understand how people might have been un-informed in the 1920's and 30's when you had to rely on just newspapers for all of your information on the outside world--with gossip filling the gaps. But now we have multiple radio stations, 200-tv channels, and millions of instructive, trusted web-sites that can provide you with the facts in an instant. So take a few minutes to get all the facts--and not from blog sites please--then choose your course. You may find it's a little less stressful than just following the herd.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday 7-14

Some thoughts from the weekend:

The wife and I traveled to the Twin Cities over the weekend--and I can tell you there are a lot of RVs and motorcoaches out there. At some times along Highway 29 and Interstate 94, every other vehicle was an RV towing a car behind it. Have all of those people found stations that are selling gas for less than two-bucks a gallon? Or do they just not care how much they have to pay to fuel up those gas hogs? They must have missed the memo that the economy is "in shambles" and that no one can afford to travel anymore.

You know how everyone is so down on Downtown Oshkosh? Well, compared to downtown Wausau and Stevens Point, we are doing great around here. On our trip back yesterday, I wanted to eat at one of those little pizza places that make everything from scratch and that all of the "locals" love. So we bypassed the chain restaurants along the highway and went into downtown Wausau for lunch. Downtown Wausau is a traffic nightmare. First off, every street is a one-way--making driving a nightmare for someone unfamiliar. Second, all of the streets are super-narrow with angled parking on both sides--so you have to drive at about ten-miles an hour, because you never know when someone might be backing out. And they wind between the big mall, city hall and a park that was hosting some kind of kidfest. After driving aimlessly for about twenty minutes trying to find a pizza place we finally stopped a police officer and asked him for some guidance. He suggested a nearby place--which was closed.

Finally, we gave up and decided to wait until Stevens Point--surely they have a little place downtown that's open for lunch. WRONG AGAIN!! Downtown Stevens Point didn't even have any restaurants that we could find. There was a mall and City Hall and some of the campus and some car repair places and a car show in the park--but no restaurants. Finally, we gave up and had burgers at a place along highway ten. Maybe downtown Oshkosh isn't so "dead" afterall.

And one final thing: All of you fans who rallied at Lambeau Field Sunday demanding the Packers bring back Brett Favre--you all need to get a life. You probably couldn't get five people together in Green Bay to rally for preservation of constitutional rights or clean drinking water--but Brett Favre gets a couple dozen people on short notice. I'd be willing to bet there will be a couple hundred there next Sunday. Just let it go people. Spend next weekend reading Don Quixote--or at least the Cliff's Notes version--and learn the lesson contained in that book.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wednesday 7-09

I hate to do a sports topic two days in a row--but I just have to weigh in on the Brett Favre situation.

His change of heart should come as no surprise--as the guy isn't so much a quarterback as he is a soap opera character. If he does come back, the Packers should put "Erica Kane" on the back of the number four jersey instead of "Favre". The only thing that surprises me is that the "comeback" talk didn't start the day after the "emotional" retirement ceremony. Maybe he thought it would be more "dramatic" if he waited until the team drafted two quarterbacks in April. Or maybe that's when Brett realized the team really was moving on without him. Sort of like the guy who dumps a woman--then wants her back after he sees her out with another guy.

Favre could have joined a very exclusive group in the Football Hall of Fame: "The Guys Who Might Have Quit Too Early". Right now, the membership is pretty much limited to Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns, Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions and Head Coach John Madden of the Oakland Raiders. Those are the few guys who were willing to walk away from the game knowing they could still play (or coach)--but choose to not to hang on too long.

In coming back--and possibly going to another team--Favre will join the other wing of the hall: "The Irrelevant End To an Otherwise Great Career". Some of the busts in that area include Johnny Unitas of the San Diego Chargers, Joe Namath of the Los Angeles Rams, Joe Montana of the Kansas City Chiefs, Jerry Rice of the Seattle Seahawks and Emmitt Smith of the Arizona Cardinals. Thank goodness for NFL Films so we have footage of those all-time greats stumbling to the end of their careers.

I see Packers General Manager Ted Thompson having three options to deal with Favre. 1--Allow his agent to work out a trade to another team. That should serve as a real eye-opener for Number Four--as Bus Cook finds out no one wants to offer more than a fourth or fifth round pick for his client's services next year. The second option: Allow Favre to comeback--start--and basically play himself out of the league. Maybe the team could end up with a better draft choice by missing the playoffs due to poor play at QB. The third option--and the one I support the most: Welcome Brett back to the team--limit his playing time in training camp (claiming to be "keeping him fresh for the regular season")--then cutting him in the week after the final pre-season game. That would make him almost useless to any other team. Sure it might hurt the salary cap for a season--but sometimes making a clean break hurts. Besides, it's better this way for everyone.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday 7-08

The Messiah of Milwaukee works at Miller Park tonight. CC Sabathia makes his debut for the Brew Crew--and starts the team on its inevitible run to the World Series title. I can't remember the last time people were this excited about a regular season Milwaukee Brewers game. Our Green Bay all-sports sister station was actually able to go an entire hour talking baseball--without anyone calling to hope Brett comes back to the Packers because we all know he's the best quarterback they got and they ain't goin' nowhere with that Rodgers kid and with all the talent they got comin' back the Pack is going to the Super Bowl because we almost got there last year and how do you think the first round draft pick is gonna do when they open up training camp this month????

You have to admit that Mark Attanasio is putting his money where his mouth is. He promised to spend money to put a winner on the field--a refreshing change from the miserly approach of one Bud Selig who never met a washed up cheap veteran player he didn't like--and the Crew is about to go over 90-million dollars in payroll. And unlike last year--when the Scott Linebrink trade served to sink the Brewers late pennant push--this trade suddenly makes the Crew the Favorites in the National League Central. With CC and Ben Sheets in the rotation, the Brewers can legitimately expect to win at least two out of every five games. Get one more win in those other three games, and all of sudden you're playing .600 ball.

Some are worried the Brewers have mortgaged their future on a player they likely won't have beyond the end of this year. But when you look at what they did give up, it's not so bad. The Brewers already have five first-basemen on the roster (they may not all play the position--but that is where more than a few guys should be playing)--and offense is not what this team needed anyway. I just like seeing the franchise saying "We are no longer playing for the future--we expect to win now."

And that puts even more pressure on Manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Mike Maddux. If Sabathia bombs in the 15 or 16 starts he gets in Milwaukee--and the team misses the playoffs--then they both have to go. No more excuses "We need to learn how to win" or "These guys played their guts out and I'm proud of them." This is also a challenge to Milwaukee fans as well. The owner is proving he is willing to spend the bucks to build a winner--now Joe Sixpack needs to make a few trips to the stadium to provide some return on the investment--and that means people other than idiot Cubs fans outnumbering Brewers fans at Miller Park.

There's nothing better in sports than pennant chase baseball--and it looks like Wisconsin fans will finally get a full dose this year. I can't wait.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday 7-07

If there were fewer people on the road this 4th of July weekend--I guess I didn't notice. I especially didn't notice during the twenty minute backup along Highway 76 north of Oshkosh starting at the Highway 41 interchange late yesterday afternoon. It would have been nice of the DOT to figure out some way to still allow traffic on 45 this weekend--since it's much better designed to handle a lot of cars compared to 76.

I didn't notice people slowing down to conserve fuel this weekend. Especially, the guy in the pickup truck with the Illinois license plate who zoomed by about ten cars at 75-miles an hour entering a 35 mile an hour zone in Three Lakes. Apparently high gas prices weren't affecting him that evening. However, I will give credit to the whomever was doing 52-miles an hour Sunday afternoon along Highway 45 south of New London until the Highway 10 interchange. Everybody else behind you was loving the great gas mileage we were getting stacked up behind you about 50-cars deep.

High gas prices didn't keep many people off the water this weekend. The people in the cabin next to my parents had their ski boat and pontoon boat out constantly--making sure anyone trying to fish didn't get any peace or calm water. The economic downturn didn't prevent jet skiers from racing up and down the Wisconsin River next to the golf course in Eagle River either.

The tough economic times apparently missed all of the people who packed the main street of Eagle River for some tourist trap shopping, those who waited for over an hour at all of the little restaurants along the rural highways and those who filled up all of the tee times at both of the golf courses I played this weekend. Thank goodness for the hard times--or I might never have squeezed in a couple of rounds.

Now there were some real signs of an economic downturn. There are a lot of boats for sale parked in yards along the highways. There was even one place with a Corvette, a boat and the house all for sale by owner. As I told my wife, there's someone who can't afford any off their overpriced toys anymore. And there is a lot of real estate for sale on the northern lakes. Apparently, the cabin on the lake isn't such a priority when it costs you over a hundred dollars to drive there. Let's just hope, sensible Wisconsin folks are the ones cashing in on reduced property values up there--so we can get rid of the Illinois jerks who keep threatening to turn that area into the "Next Door County".

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thursday 7-03

Is anyone really surprised by our report yesterday about fewer than 50-percent of students surveyed at Marian University getting a passing grade on a test of American History? I'm not bashing the kids at Marian--it's not that they are stupid or ignorant--they are merely the product of a flawed way of teaching history.

The problem in the system starts with the dependence on thick textbooks that are usually very dry and packed with the kind of minutia that makes kids' eyes glaze over. In addition, the texts tend to over-emphasize things that--in the eventual grand scheme of things--really didn't have that big an impact on American society (remember the weeks that were spent on the Teapot Dome Scandal?)

Teachers compound the problem by sticking with the lesson plans that come with these books--instead of skipping stuff they know aren't that important--and getting more in depth with the topics and events that directly impact today's society. Because isn't that why we study history--to gain greater insight into the people we are today? What decisions made in Philadelphia in 1787 shaped the way we live here in the US today? Why did Lincoln really fight the Civil War? (It wasn't to free the slaves). What were the real economic factors that caused the Great Depression?

Another issue is the revisionist history attempt to "multi-culturalize" more than necessary. I'm sorry that many of the biggest decisions in our history were made by white men. Teach the kids why women and minorities were kept out of the process--but don't elevate bit players to equal status with the major figures. Blend in the non-white societies as they rose to prominance.

And here's a radical idea: why not teach history in "reverse". Sometimes we can tell a story better by starting at the end. Focus on those events closest to us now--then review the factors that led to them. Start with the war in Iraq--lead into 9-11, the first Iraq war, the economic boom of the 80's the malaise of the 70's, Watergate and on and on. Hook kids with the "good" stuff and lead them into the wonderful fabric that our ancestors have woven for us.