Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fifty Shades of Olympics

One of the sports reporters I follow on Twitter tweeted this week during the controversy over NBC tape-delaying some of the big swimming races that the average prime-time Olympics viewers is "stuck in 1987".  He meant that people who tune in to watch tape-delayed coverage of any sporting event nowadays must not have 500-cable channels, the internet or a smart phone with the Twitter app--because how could you possibly not know the results of something that happened seven to ten hours ago in our modern society?  Well that tweeter is wrong, the average NBC Olympics viewer is simply a woman.

It's no secret that whatever network is carrying the Olympics caters its coverage to women.  Why do you think prime-time features nothing but swimming, diving, sprints and gymnastics?  Guys get the occasional bone tossed their way with women's beach volleyball--but there again, we knew the results hours ago.  (And this year is incrdibly disappointing, since the weather in London has been so cold that the ladies are allowed to wear long sleeve shirts and tights--rather than the "Official Uniform of Beach VolleyBall": Bikinis).

Taped broadcast also gives NBC the "20/20 vision" if you will, to profile the athlete who is about to make the biggest splash or the suffer the greatest disappointment in the next televised event.  Women love that stuff--and somehow there is always one gymnast or one swimmer or one track star that just lost their mother or grandmother or beloved pet in whose memory they are competing tonight.  Guys, we don't care about that junk.  Sure we got a little misty-eyed when Dale Earnhardt, Jr won at Daytona five months after his dad was killed at the track and when Brett Favre lit up the Raiders hours after his father's death--but the third guy on the 4x100 relay saw his best friend shot to death on a street corner ten years ago?  Just don't drop the baton, pal--that's all we care about.

Besides, the sports that "count" are being show live--in their entirety--on several outlets.  NBC is offering every Team USA men's and women's basketball game on NBC Sports Network and on their website and mobile app--because they know fans of those sports are not going to put up with waiting seven hours to see the games--and will make the effort to follow the action however they can.  The same goes for USA women's soccer and men's water polo. 

So let's all quit complaining about tape-delayed races and routines--and accept prime-time NBC Olympics coverage for what it is: Sports-related chick flicks.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Big Four Oh

I thought for sure that when I got out of bed this morning, my back would be so sore that I could hardly move--and that my keens would ache and that my ankles would crack and that my fingers would hurt so badly that I could barely brush my teeth.  You see, today it turn 40-years old.

Everyone who is already 40 says "It really is all downhill from there".  But honestly, it doesn't feel any different than 39 or even 35.  Later today I'll hit a couple buckets of balls on the range (trying to knock off the rust caused every summer by my EAA "vacation" from the game) and maybe put a few miles on the bike.  Yes, I'll go to bed before 9:00--but I've been doing that every weeknight since I was 25 due to my job.

When you are 20, you think that 40 really is the end of the world.  But now that I'm here, it's really not that much different than I anticipated.  I'm married, working at something I love to do, own a house, am debt-free except for my mortgage, take a couple of trips a year, and still enjoy a good steak and beer.  I still play basketball a couple of nights a week during the winter, golf a couple of times a week during the warmer months and I am still well within the healthy ranges for blood pressure, cholesterol and overall fitness.

Sure, I don't jump as high as I used to for rebounds and guarding guys half my age is finally becoming a challenge--but it's not causing me to think about quitting.  It just makes me want to train a little bit harder to see if I can't catch up again.  And off the tee--I'm still just as long at anyone else.  So don't expect to hear me bemoaning the effects of "old age" anytime soon.

Besides, I'm now just ten years away from getting to play in Senior golf events and playing from the gold tees without having to swallow my pride.  And in another ten years I can finally give in and play slow-pitch softball wtih the Ambassadors.  And I'm just a decade away from joining AARP, so I can tell their leaders to give up on the political scare tactics and accept changes to Medicare and Medicaid so that the ensuing generations of Americans aren't saddled with the huge debt and expenses that will be crushing them in the future.

Geez, I'm one day into being 40--and here I am already looking forward to 50!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Before "My Two Cents" takes its annual mid-summer hiatus, I thought I would list the top five things I hate and the top five things I love about EAA Airventure.  First, the five things I don't like about "The Fly In":

5--Dust.  You don't realize how dusty it is out there at the Airventure grounds until you get back to the office or home and realize your glasses, smartphone and clothes are covered in it.

4--It's too big.  I know a lot of people who come down for a day thinking they can wander around for a few hours and see everything before the afternoon air show starts--and they go home seeing maybe one-third of the grounds.  And of course, there is only a discount if you buy a seven-day pass--not if you need two or three days of admissions.  I'm just glad we get a cart for the week to cut down on the time and effort needed to get anywhere out there

3--Crashes.  Yes, a number of the awards hanging on the wall outside the Newsroom came from our live coverage of crashes at Airventure over the years--but there is nothing fun about covering them.  And when one happens, it means a very long day ahead of us in the News Department since you have to run all over the place to find someone authorized to provide you information on what happened.  I don't even enjoy Air Show because the entire time I'm thinking "Please, don't crash!"

2--People.  They tie up the highway.  They fill up the restaurants.  They don't know how to drive in our roundabouts.

1--PortaJohns--When you come to Airventure for the day, you don't mind having to use a PortaJohn once or twice.  But when you are out there for all seven days--for at least eight to ten hours a day--and those are your only bathroom options, it gets old fast.  Throw in four or five straight days of 90-degree weather and you're willing to risk explosion before going in one.

Now the things I like about Airventure:

5--Soft Serve Ice Cream--It's become something of a tradition to get at least one or two Zaug's vanilla soft serve ice cream cone during Airventure week.  Even though they have added chocolate at a few stands, I'm sticking with the traditional vanilla only.

4--Big Planes--When you stand under some of the cargo and passenger planes that have come to Airventure over the years, you are amazed that those things even get off the ground.  Although, there's a saying among the homebuilder guys that you can get your house to fly too, if you put a big enough engine on it.

3--It's What Made Oshkosh Famous--Yes, Oshkosh B'Gosh is older, but I am yet to travel anywhere where someone hasn't said "Oh, the Fly In" or "Oh, lots of planes" when I tell them I'm from Oshkosh.

2--People--I have met more interesting people at Airventure than anywhere else.  And there are more interesting stories than we could ever possibly tell.  And where else am I going to get a chance to talk to Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Chuck Yeager, Frank Borman, Jeff Dunham, Gary Sinise, Roy Clark, Bill Elliott, Aaron Tippin, Mark Martin, Pappy Boyington and Sir Richard Branson?

1--Warbirds--That has been my absolute favorite part of EAA since I was a little kid coming to Oshkosh with my parents.  The Friday and Saturday air shows featuring the formation flying and the bomb runs and the pyrotechnics is what I look forward to all year.  And when someone brings a plane or a helicopter that I've never seen before, i get to pour over every little detail and ask the owner (or pilot) hundreds of questions.  An old car cruise is cool--but seeing Warbirds out flying is a moving experience.

My Two Cents will return after I recover from my 80-hour work week.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Second Term Curse

One thing that voters will have to consider when they head to the polls in November is the historic trend of second terms for Presidents not going nearly as well as their first terms.  This has been particularly true in the modern era of American politics. 

George W Bush had the housing bubble burst, the financial crisis and the start of our current recession.  Bill Clinton had a recession (albeit much milder than the one we are in right now) and, of course, the whole Monica Lewinski/impeachment thing.  Ronald Reagan had the Iran-Contra scandal, Richard Nixon had Watergate and resignation in shame, Lyndon Johnson had the draft and race riots and the US basically coming apart at the seams,  Dwight Eisenhower had a recession and the embarrassment of Sputnik, Harry Truman had the Korean War stalemate and lost the first primary to Estes Kefauver in 1952 before pulling out of the race. 

It's difficult to judge if Franklin Roosevelt's second term was worse than his first.  He had spent billions of dollars on New Deal programs and projects (none of which had enrivonmental impact studies done for them or that used sustainable construction processes) but the Great Depression had eased little.  That term might actually be considered a "push".

Why do second terms fail to live up to the standards set by a first term?  The lame duck effect may have something to do with it.  Congress is less likely to work with you knowing there is a countdown clock running on your time in the White House--while they can hold their seat forever if they want (an unfortunate result of the Republican over-reaction to FDR's four-term run with the 22nd Amendment).  It could also be that economics are cyclical--with periods of bust and boom.  Take away the Reagan era of growth and it's just hard to go eight years without some kind of recession.  And then there is always the fatigue factor.  Being President is 24/7/365 and after four years of that pressure, there is inevitably going to be a drop in enthusiasm and focus.  Why do you think Presidential cabinets change so much from one term to the next?

So voters have to think "If this term is going to be the better of the two, what does that mean for the next four years?"  Of course, with the backwards logic consistantly employed by this administration, maybe their selling point will be "Another four years couldn't possibly be worse than the first four years!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Off the Reservation

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernenke is probably not a very popular guy at the White House this morning.  Bernenke is appearing before several Congressional committees this week, and it appears that his message differs wildly from what the Obama re-election campaign wants to put in its TV ads.

In a nutshell Bernenke admits that we are in a double-dip recession.  Job growth, consumer spending and manufacturing are all well below expected levels--and the outlook gives no indication that those trends are going to change.   Needless to say, Bernenke will not be accused of being a lapdog or a cheerleader for the President.

What's more, the Fed Chair is providing the hardcore fiscal conservatives with ammunition for their attacks on the President--as he said deficit reduction must be a priority of Congress.  That sound you heard yesterday morning was those trying to de-fund or repeal "ObamaCare" jumping and whooping for joy.  Although, I would caution Republicans from embracing Bernenke's "wisdom" too tightly.  Remember, it was his fiscal policy--and that of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan--that got us into this mess.

Years of artificially low interest rates encouraged consumers to take on more and more debt--while eschewing saving money.  And all of that debt became the new hot commodity--packaged as debt derivatives--that led to the banking crisis.  Those rows of McMansions with the For Sale or Foreclosed signs in front of them?  That is the Greenspan/Bernenke legacy.

And what's more, Bernenke gave conflicting advice on how to fix the problem.  He tell Congress to cut deficits--but then says raising taxes and cutting federal spending will just lead to a deeper recession.  So what option does that give lawmakers?

Just once, I'd like to see the Fed say that it is time to take our nasty-tasting medicine.  All of us in the Middle Class need to get back in black--so that we can actually afford to once again become the engine that can get the economy out of the ditch.  And those in Washington and state capitols need to stop piling more debt on us more and more giant entitlement programs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Don't Go Pattin' Yourself On the Back

I'm still trying to wrap my head around President Obama's comment last week that successful business owners "didn't build that.  Somebody else made that happen."  Was he taking a micro-economic look at business success and saying that customers are the only reason businesses succeed or fail?  Was he saying that employees make or break a business?  Or was he saying that some benevolent government official or program is the only reason a private business gets off the ground?  Or does he believe there is a "Business Fairy" that sprinkles gold dust on some companies--and poison on others?

The one thing we can safely say is that the President did not draw upon his own business success in making that statement because--well--the President has never actually worked for a business (post college).  And he's certainly not referring to the experience of any of his top economic advisors either--because they never worked in the private sector either.  And I doubt he got that line from conversations he's had from his big business cheerleaders like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.  (Gates may be a poor example--he did pretty much steal everything from Apple and re-package it for MicroSoft)  Both of those guys would be pretty adamant that their respective companies wouldn't be anywhere near as successful as they are without the hard work and direction they provided from the very beginning.

But when you think about it, the President's comments are actually right on point with the main theme of his term in office: "It's not your fault".  If a person on the low end of the economic scale can't blame their lot in life on any of the personal decisions they made in the past (or continue to make)--then how can someone on the other end of the spectrum take credit for the decisions they made (and continue to make) for their success?

Rather than reading economics textbooks by John Maynard Keynes and thinking up ways to spend more government money to "help" the economy, President Obama should be reading up on the quotes of successful people.  You know, gems like "The harder I work, the luckier I get." (Samuel Goldwyn) "A real entrepreneur is someone without a safety net below them" (Henry Kravis) "Big pay and little responsibility are circumstances seldom found together" (Napoeon HIll) and "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work" (Thomas Edison).

Or was someone else responsible for all of their success as well?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Magic Wand

Don't you wish you had a magic wand--and that by waiving it you could solve all of our problems instantly?  Wouldn't that feel great to rid everyone of uncertainty, fear and stress?

Let's say you waived that wand and magically everyone's debt would be eliminated.  All of the student loans, credit cards, car loans, first and second mortgages and payday loans would all disappear.  What do you think people would do after that?  Would they say "Wow, I really learned my lesson there.  I am never going to dig myself into that hole ever again.  Let's get started on a savings plan and a budget!"  Or, do you think that their first thoughts will be "Hey, now that I don't have those bills to pay anymore, I can take that trip to Hawaii using my credit cards and I can get a loan for that motorcycle I've always wanted"?

And let's say you waived the magic wand again and instantly everyone who has been chronically unemployed or underemployed for such a long time would have the job they have always said they've wanted or that would be "perfect for them".  I'm guessing that the NFL and the NBA would suddenly have about 30-thousand teams each and that the IStore would suddenly have about five-million new "artists" with songs to be downloaded.  Would those newly employed folks say "Wow, this is my big chance.  I'd better not blow it by failing to show up for work every other day.  And I'm not going to come to work all hungover or strung out anymore.  And when the boss tells me to do something, I'm going to do it without question or complaint!"  Or do you think it would take about two weeks before they fell right back into the same pattern of "I'm too sick to come into work again today." And "(Expletive) that (expletive) if he thinks I'm (expletive) going to do that (expletive).  He can kiss my (expletive)."

And let's waive the magic wand one more time to give everyone free health care.  No more having to choose between seeing the doctor or eating.  No more fear of going bankrupt because of a serious illness.  Do you think all of those people who can now see their physicians on a regular basis are going to say "Wow, the doctor is right, I need to take better care of myself.  Today, I'm going to start walking and running, watching less TV, eating better and not smoking"?  Or do you think those regular visits to the clinic will be immediately followed by trips to the grocery store to pickup some more frozen pizzas, Cheetos, Oreos, Marlboros and 24-packs of Milwaukee's Best Light before plopping down on the couch for the "Duck Dynasty" marathon on A&E?

On second thought, maybe a magic wand wouldn't be such a great thing.  You'd wear your arm out waiving it over and over and over and over and over.................

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Proper Punishment

The Penn State report on the coverup of sexual abuse allegations against former football coach Jerry Sandusky had the talking heads at ESPN all agog Thursday.  Because you need to be over-the-top outrageous to get a talk show gig nowadays, the topic of the "death penalty" for the football program was being bantered about.  But I think there are far more fitting punishments for these egregious transgressions.

First off, don't kill the football program.  As I have mentioned before, big-time college football has become a necessary evil in today's athletic universe.  If you do away with the 85 scholarships provided to football players, 85 scholarships for female athletes will go away as well.  And the millions of dollars of revenue generated by football will be lost, meaning more sports--both women's and men's--would be dropped as well.  And what did those athlete's do to deserve the loss of their opportunity to get a higher education?

Instead of killing Penn State Football--allow it to pay for its own sins.  Thursday's report all but guarantees that every child ever touched by Jerry Sandusky after the first allegation made against him to PSU officials wil have grounds for a lawsuit.  That will be tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of payments and legal bills for the University.  Rather than have that money come out of educational funding or tuition increases or from the school's endowments--add a ten dollar surcharge to all tickets sold for Nittany Lions home games. 

Beaver Stadium holds more than 100-thousand people--and it is sold out for all home games.  That means every home game will generate over a million dollars for sexual abuse lawsuit settlements.  And each ticket sold should have printed in bold on the face "PRICE INCLUDES A $10 SURCHARGE FOR SEXUAL ABUSE COVERUP LEGAL SETTLEMENTS"--just to remind Penn State fans what their blind allegiance and belief that somehow their program was above reproach had wrought.

There were also calls by the talking heads to tear down the Joe Paterno statue on the Penn State campus and to remove his name from the Library.  Again, very misguided suggestions.  Joe Paterno existed and he did plenty of very good things for his college.  This isn't the Soviet Union where historical figures can literally be written out of existance.  Instead, another statue should be erected right next to the JoePa one where it would be impossible not to notice.  The statue should feature the head of a child with an adult hand covering its mouth--because that is what the coaches, the athletic department officials and the school leaders did--silenced those who already struggled to speak.  The base of the new statue should be ringed--again in bold letters--with the phrase "JUSTICE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN IMAGE".

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

President Obama: Scam Artist

Among the "firsts" that President Obama can claim (African-American President, born outside the US {allegedly}, socialist) we can now add another one: scam artist.  I don't mean the President himself is running a scam--but he is being used as the "pitch man" for consumer ripoffs.

The questionable marketing schemes involving this President actually started right after his election in 2008.  Remember the TV and print ads for the "special limited edition" President Obama 50-cent pieces "issued in honor of this historic election"?  They featured a color portrait of Obama painted over the top of a Kennedy half-dollar (a Democrat's wet dream when you think about it--"John Kennedy and Barack Obama on the same coin?  I'm ordering ten thousand of them and using them to buy everything from now on!!").  Unlike many other investments purchased during the Obama Administration, these actually have maintained their original value.  They were worth 50-cents when you bought them in 2008--and they are still worth 50-cents today (despite what you may have paid for them).

Then came all of the sidebar ads on websites.  "President Obama wants working moms to get their degrees" and "President Obama orders banks to forgive credit card debt" are the two I have seen the most.  They even feature a smiling picture of the President--or him looking serious behind a podium--like he's actually manking an announcement that nobody has to pay off their credit cards.  I've never actually clicked on the ad links--so I'm not sure exactly where they take you--but I doubt it's to a website featuring real college funding assistance or a reputable credit counseling service.

And now the latest Obama-scam claims the President has established a federal program that provides Americans with a thousand dollar credit to pay their utility bills.  All you need to do is provide your social security number and a credit card number to qualify! 


Every utility in the state sent out press releases yesterday asking us to warn our listeners about the scam.  And that got me to thinking, why would people believe such claims?  Of course, it's because President Obama's entire term has been about coming up with ways to "fix" all of your problems--usually with some taxpayer supported subsidy!  Can't afford your no-money-down mortgage anymore?  We've got a program for that!  Can't afford a new car?  We'll give you Cash For Clunkers!  Got drafty windows?  We've got Cash For Caulkers!  Can't afford your student loan payment?  We'll write off the interest!

So when someone gets an email or a phone call or a visit at the door from someone saying that President Obama has come up with another "free" program, people are going to believe that BS.  Can you see anyone opening an email entitled "President Bush wants to pay your utility bill"?  Or "President Reagan is cancelling credit card debt!"? 

I can already see the next Obama-scam: "The Treasury is printing a new Zero Dollar Bill--get as many as you want at any bank or financial institution!"  The $0 would of course feature President Obama's portrait on the front--because if anyone has become the symbol for "free money", it would be him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Ultimate Roundabout Survival Vehicle

My wife and I are considering the purchase of a different vehicle.  Because we are on the Dave Ramsey Debt-Free Plan, that means that we are saving up to pay cash--so it will be awhile before we are ready to buy.  Right now, we are debating whether to go with another small, used SUV or another used, four-door car.  But after my experience while returning from lunch yesterday, I'm going to change the choices to a bulldozer or a tank.

I was heading south on Washburn Street in the left-hand lane when I came to the roundabout at Witzel Avenue.  As traffic to the left cleared, I pulled into the roundabout to make a LEGAL maneuver--continuing south on Washburn.  A brown pickup truck to my right entered the roundabout at the same time.  Because of the way the pickup driver gunned it, I just got the feeling that he was planning to make the ILLEGAL left-hand turn on to eastbound Witzel from the right-hand lane--cutting me off--so I eased off the accelerator.  Sure enough, he veered in front of me--forcing me to lock 'em up.  I gave him my usual blast of the horn--making sure that everyone waiting around the roundabout knew about the driving hazard heading their way.  He, of course, responded with the "I know I'm a moron but I don't care" flash of his middle finger.

What caught me by surprise was the silver car heading east on Witzel in the right-hand lane ILLEGALLY gunning it right behind the pickup truck--also cutting me off and forcing me to slam on the brakes again!  He too got the "rolling hazard" blast of the horn and also responded with the "I know I'm a moron, but I don't care" single-fingered salute.

Now if I had a bulldozer, I could have used the front plow blade to just shove Brown Pickup Truck Idiot out of my way--along with Gunning It Because I'm Tired of Waiting Guy as well.  But if I had a tank,  I could have just run over the top of those vehicles.  And as the drivers looked at the mangled wrecks of their vehicles,  I could calmly point to the arrows on the pavement showing that those in the left lane go straight or turn left--while those in the right lane can go STRAIGHT OR MAKE A RIGHT TURN ONLY!!  And I could point to the YIELD TO THE TRAFFIC ON THE LEFT signs as well.  An added bonus of a tank would be that I could shoot out the tires of the elderly guy that Bob Burnell spotted the other day in that roundabout GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION WHILE DRIVING ON THE COBBLESTONES and put him out of his misery.

Unfortunately, I don't think the DMV will let me license a bulldozer or a tank for street use--so maybe we should consider building the Ultimate Roundabout Survival Vehicle ourselves.  The URSV would feature a giant ramming bar on the front end for dealing with the "left-hand turn from the right-hand lane" buffoons.  Then we'll need to add plated armor to the passenger side of the vehicle, so those that decide they are not going to yield to traffic on the left just bounce right off.  And then on the back end, we'll have to put on those big spring bumpers they have on the construction zone vehicles that are meant to absorb high speed rear-end collisions since we will always be locking up the brakes trying to avoid the aforementioned people who don't deserve to share the road with those of us who know the laws.

Any idea how much the URSV might cost.  We need to work that into our savings budget.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Everybody Blow! We Need the Electricity

On my way to the US Women's Open in Kohler on Friday, I drove past that wind farm south of Fond du Lac along the 151 bypass.  On a day when electricity demand was at its highest due to extreme heat and humidity, not a single one of those turbines was turning.  When hospitals, cooling centers, nursing homes and nearly every home needed power to keep the air conditioning on that wind farm was not generating a single watt. 

Fortnately for those of us in Northeast Wisconsin, the coal fired power plants in Green Bay, Weston and Oak Creek were generating more power on Friday.  The natural gas fired plant north of Kaukauna was also working hard.  So were the hydro-electric dams in Menasha and Kaukauna.  And the nuclear power plants in Two Rivers and Kewaunee were also generating plenty of electricity.

Why those wind turbines weren't turning Friday, I'm not sure.  It's possible that they could all be down for repair.  According to someone in the know with a local utility, twenty percent of those windmills are out of service at one time because of maintenance issues or malfunctions.  But most likely, it just wasn't windy enough.  A bit of wind would have been welcome relief out there at Blackwolf Run that afternoon--I know that.

Friday was a perfect example of why the idea of relying on renewable energy to meet our demands is a fallacy.  On the one day of the year when reliable electricity generation was a major priority, those windfarms were completely useless.  I guess that was the day we would have to turn to solar energy to meet our demands.  But how do you increase the amount of sunlight to make up for the loss of wind power?  Should we be developing a way to form a second Sun to use on windless days?  And what if it had been a cloudy day--reducing the amount of sunlight?  Or a sweltering, still night?

Someday, our great-great-great-great grandchildren living in the post-Fossil Fuel Age will be cursing our names wondering why we didn't build more nuclear power plants and hydro-electric dams during our lifetimes to provide long-term energy solutions for ensuing generations.  That is if they can take a break from blowing on the wind turbines to get them turning on a 99-degree day.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Not Cool

I realize that not everyone enjoys the heat as much as I do.  Even I was a bit uncomfortable the past few days--breaking down and using a riding cart while golfing on Wednesday (although, the course I played--Thornberry Creek--is notoriously walker-unfriendly to begin with, with a quarter-mile between some holes due to housing developments.  But do we have to go to the opposite extreme with the air conditioning everywhere this week?

You go into some stores right now and you wonder if they are hanging raw meat in there somewhere.  I realize that grocery stores have to be cold for food safety--but why so cold in department stores or gas stations?  And just as you get accustomed to the overly-cool temperature in the store--it's time to leave and return to the blast furnace outside.

It's not much different in vehicles either.  I'm feeling a bit out of place with the top down on the Jeep this week--enjoying the sun and staying cool enough with the breeze as I drive.  Every other car has the windows up tight--and you can hear the air conditioning compressers just whirling away.  The A/C on the WOSH NewsCruiser has an automatic temperature setting that goes down to 60-degrees.  Who would want it 60 inside a vehicle?  If that was the outside temperature, you'd have a sweatshirt and long pants on!

Since my wife and I don't have debt and money issues to argue about, control of the thermostat is what we battle over in my house.  You would have thought that I had suggested turning on the oven with the door left open yesterday when I asked to turn down the setting on the air conditioner.  "It's a hundred degrees outside!!" I was reminded.  "But does it need to be fifty inside here?" was my retort.  I thought about making a statement by putting on jeans, socks and a turtleneck--but decided it's better to just leave sleeping dogs lie.

I just find it strange that on the first 80-degree day of the spring everyone says "What a perfect day!"  but keep it around 80 in the house, the office or the mall--and people act like you've just dropped them in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why They Win

Later today, the best women's golfers in the world will tee it up in the US Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler.  I will be interested to see how this year's tournament compares to the first time the Open was held here--back in 1998.  That tournament is considered to be one of the most historic in Women's Open history--not just for the high scores due to the difficulty of the course--but because of what happened after it.

Korean Se Ri Pak won that tournament in a 20-hole Monday playoff--becoming the first woman from that country to win the US Open.  Pak's victory resulted in an explosion in popularity of women's golf in Korea--and now women from that country dominate the LPGA.  Nearly one-third of the field this year are from South Korea--compared to just three women in the entire field in 1998.  Koreans have won more than half the women's majors over the last five years--and they occupy seven of the top ten spots in the world rankings.

Some argue that the Korean domination is bad for the sport.  They point to the struggles the LPGA tour has had recently in getting TV ratings.  The tour is down in terms of the number of tournaments every year due to a loss of sponsors--but that is more likely a result of the economy, rather than who is winning every week.  But one thing that should stand out is that the Koreans have earned this position of domination.

A friend of mine is a volunteer marshall at Blackwolf this week--and he says the Koreans simply outwork their American counterparts.  They spend more time hitting balls on the driving range.  They spend more time on the putting green working on their stroke.  They spend spend more time in the short game practice area chipping and hitting bump and runs.  Based on what I saw on Twitter on Tuesday, that may be true.  Natalie Gulbis tweeted pictures that afternoon of her signing autographs in the Merchandise Tent and at a Wal-Mart somewhere in front of a big display for Michelob Ultra Beer.  Paula Creamer posted pictures that afternoon of her playing with her dog in the air-conditioned home she is renting this weekend.  And Brittany Lincicome tweeted pictures that afternoon of her fishing in a pond somewhere near the course.  Gulbis, Creamer and Lincicome are three of the most popular golfers on the LPGA--and between them, they have one major championship.

The Korean players certainly aren't more physically gifted then their American opponents.  They don't have better junior or college programs.  And they don't have a government-supported development program.  They simply want to put in the work neccessary to win more than the current crop of Americans.  And that is something to admire, even if they don't do swimsuit calendars, commercials or personal appearances.

As a side note, it's a good thing for the Korean ladies that American golf isn't like American politics.  Otherwise, there would be efforts to limit their success by capping how much they can win.  There would probably be Occupy the 18th Hole protests and the President wouldn't let them play because they win "more than their fair share".

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why Is It Always Oshkosh?

As those of us here in Oshkosh clean up from yet another severe thunderstorm you have to start wondering "Why is it always Oshkosh?"  If there is going to be 70-mile an hour winds, or golf ball sized hail or flash flooding anywhere in Wisconsin, you know its going to hit Oshkosh.

Yeterday, the storms formed in Shawano and Waupaca Counties and were heading in an easterly direction.  I had a co-worker ask me if I thought they were going to hit us and I said (not thinking about Oshkosh's recent weather history) "No, it looks like they are going to pass to the north."  AT THAT VERY INSTANT, the supercell turned to the south and headed straight for Oshkosh.  And of course, it picked up more strength just as it arrived--pounding us with extreme straight line winds that knocked down a bunch of trees and power lines.

And to add insult to injury, as the storm cell passed south of Oshkosh, it started losing strength to the point that a severe thunderstorm warning wasn't even issued for Fond du Lac County.

So why does this keep happening?  What is it about Oshkosh that makes it a magnet for storms that suddenly gain strength--or just come out of nowhere?  I know there is a meteorological explanation for it.  We lie right at the edge of the micro-environment created by Lake Michigan and the difference in low-level air temperatures creates added instability to fronts that move through the area, blah, blah, blah.

I prefer to think that what I always tell my wife is true: that Oshkosh was built on the site of an ancient Indian burial ground and that has angered the spirits--who now punish us by conjuring up great storms and floods.  Given the discoveries of old bones during construction projects every once in a while, this may actually be true.  But even if it isn't, it does make for a pretty cool explanation as to why Oshkosh is always ground zero when all Hell is breaking loose.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Real Winners

President Obama's speechwriters always like to drop in a story about someone who stands to benefit the most from one of his new "nanny state" programs whenever he makes a speech about expanding entitlements.  Usually, it's someone who has had every possible bad thing happen to them--preventing them from taking care of themselves (or a "sob story" as Republican Senate Candidate Eric Hovde likes to call them).  But don't you wish the President would talk about the vast majority of people who stand to benefit the most from his increased spending?  I think it would sound something like this...........

"When I developed the Health Care Reform Law I was thinking about people like Kyle Spangler of Ottumwa, Iowa.  Kyle is one of the millions of Americans who--through no fault of their own--cannot get their own health insurance.

"Kyle is 24 years old and--due to the economic situation that I inherited--lives with his parents.  Kyle started sneaking booze from his Dad's liquor cabinet when he was 14 and started smoking pot with his friends at 16.  He went to the Iowa State University--but because his parents had three leased vehicles a home equity credit line and a mortgage on a vacation lake home--he had to take out thousands of dollars in student loans to get his education.  And because of Republican cuts to public education, Kyle lacked the learning skills to succeed in college--instead attending house parties every night and sleeping until 2:00 the next afternoon.

"Without that college degree, Kyle struggles to find employment.  He had a job for a short time at the local electronics store--but the Greedy Corporate Bigwigs expected him to show up on time for his shifts and to not be hungover--and he was let go.  His father thought he could get him a job at his company--but Kyle was not able to pass the required drug test due to the marijuana he smokes to deal with his anxiety issues.

"Kyle is not able to find out information about the individual, high-deductible health insurance policies available through Blue-Cross/Blue Shield because all of his computer time has to be dedicated to playing Call of Duty with his friends.  Not that he could afford the premiums, since he just got tickets to Lollapallooza and his pot source recently got busted so he now has to pay full price to the guy who sells behind the corner convenience store.

"But because of the Health Care reforms that I instituted, Kyle's Dad's employer must provide him with health insurance coverage until he is 26.  And because states must expand their Medicaid programs, Kyle can look forward to a taxpayer-supported policy after that.

"Let me be clear.  I will not turn my back on Kyle Spangler and the millions of young adults just like him who--through no fault of their own--cannot get affordable health care, by turning back the clock to a time when people were expected to be responsible for themselves.

Sure, an "example" like that would appeal only to the most liberal Americans--but it would be nice to hear a little "truth" about who will be the big winners under health care reform.