He's my only brother and it's his birthday. He's a year younger than me and we've come a long ways from when we didn't get along too well as kids. I was a sports maniac who also was pretty bossy as the oldest of four kids. He kind of liked sports, but wanted to do other things. As we got older, we became closer, even though we don't get a chance to see each other too often.
1. The other side of my dad: Our dad, Lee, loved sports but also loved making things with his hands. I picked up most of the sports side while Jeff is great at making and building things.
2. Laid back: Jeff seems to be everyone's friend. He doesn't judge people and he'll be there for you whenever you need him.
3. Hard worker: Both of us picked this up from Dad.
4. Hard partier: Like me, Jeff has scaled back a lot on his partying. But in his prime, he was a lot of fun over a few beers (a few too many?)
5. Fussy eater: I know when someone calls me fussy, I can always bring up Jeff as someone who is fussier :-)
6. Gift-giver: Jeff has a knack for picking out great Christmas gifts and is the best at picking out cards.
7. Woman's man: Finally, a woman named Julie has settled him down. She's a wonderful woman. In his prime, he seemed to be a chick magnet - at least that's what he always told me!
8. Risk-taker: When he was younger, it would be climbing the water tower or getting into fights. As he got older, he'd buy property or even a restaurant/bar. Had the economy been normal, his restaurant would be doing great.
9. Had Amy's back: Our youngest sister died just a couple of years ago after a tough life. Jeff always knew how to relate to her best and help her over some humps.
10. Mom's support: He lives closest to our mom, who has had her own issues in recent years. I appreciate his being there for her while I usually call or send her fun cards.
I like working up a sweat. It means I've done something other than sit around. It wasn't that long ago that I felt a day was wasted if I didn't at least work up a little sweat. I'm almost keeping up that goal, but not as much in my 50s. Today after work, I cut up and lugged out several wet carpets from our flooded basement. We got about 12 inches of rain in 24 hours and, though we didn't have standing water, the old, moldy carpets in our unfinished basement were soaked. And, man, did I work up a sweat! Wonderful!
1. Harvesting tobacco: Whether it was chopping, piling, stringing or hanging ... it was the sweatiest I ever got in a full day.
2. Racquetball: When I played someone my own speed, I was everywhere in those little courts. And, wow, could I work up a sweat.
3. Stacking hay in the loft: A second farm-related job. My friend, Al, will like this one. And, as bad as you sweat, you also get itchy. Ick!
4. Running on a muggy day: There have been many this such days this summer, and it's a pain because I like to run with my glasses.
5. Playing basketball in a hot gym: Don't need to say much else.
6. Taking wet, moldy carpet out of a basement: Explained above.
7. Chopping wood on a warm night: I did this often on Napier Street, especially after my first wife died. Another source of therapy.
8. Mowing on a hot day: Especially a big lawn without much shade (my lawn in Kieler).
9. Spinning: This is a class you take on a stationary bike. I took one for a few months two years ago, and it was very sweaty.
10. Raking a large lawn: Napier Street. The yard was full of trees, including several walnut trees. Ouch!
I'm starting a new series of lists - though not on consecutive days. I would guess I have a dozen or so groups or singers that have at least 10 or more songs that I like. This will put me to the test as I will try to pick them in order. Try it with your own favorites - it's not easy.
Strange list, but it came to mind the other day when Shawn told me the Bodine family sold the mansion on Lake Geneva. Never again will I be able to take a shower in my No. 1 most memorable shower.
1. Lake Geneva mansion shower: Not only was it spacious, it had the biggest shower head and flow of water I've ever seen. You literally were immersed. I wrote about its therapeutic power in my first book.
2. Napier Street, Dubuque:I took more showers there than any other place on earth. A solid, dependable place to clean up and also seek refuge after my first wife died of breast cancer. Spent some very tough times in there.
3. Current one on Hill Street: First off, Kris was nice enough to allow it to be put in before her kitchen! And now, one of our new kittens, Woody, hangs around outside until I'm done, then goes in and plays in the water (Tabby NEVER would have done that).
4. Stoughton, living downstairs of Jeff: For a few months just out of college, I rented the downstairs of my brother's house. It had the tiniest shower ever and was quite decrepit. (I didn't say these were my favorite showers.)
5. Trailer in Gillette, Wyo.: Believe it or not, bigger than the one at Jeff's. Actually pretty nice. In fact, the guy I roomed with, Joe, would spend 45 minutes or more in there per shower!
6. Stoughton, Page Street: My first shower ever (bath tubs up to then). As a young teen, I remember going in there one time crying after my mom gave me a short haircut and I tried stretching my bangs down further on my forehead.
7. Old Central School showers: Classic old showers we shared as junior high kids, where I actually picked up a case of athletes' foot. Years later, used them during an alumni basketball tournament.
8. Kieler house shower: Part of the bath tub that I shared with my boys when they were infants. If I ranked just tubs, this one would be No. 1 or 2 for the same reason. It's a wonderful bonding thing for a parent.
9. Basement apartment in Stoughton: Lived downstairs of a little old lady while working at the hub. The second smallest shower ever, the floor around it was frigid in the winters.
10.Dubuque YMCA showers: Used them - only out of necessity - when I used to play basketball at noon hours 20 years ago. I'm one who thinks it's just weird showering with a bunch of men of all ages.
This list has a lot of Hall of Famers and several of my overall favorite baseball players. Note the honorable mentions!
1. Ty Cobb, Tigers: Greatest hitter of all-time and an above average fielder. My No. 1 overall, despite his faults.
2. Willie Mays, Giants: Probably better all-around than Cobb, but I like him second best.
3. Mickey Mantle, Yankees: If only he had treated his body better and not had a devastating leg injury as a young player, he'd have Ruth-like numbers.
4. Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariners: An awesome athlete, I sometimes forget already how good he was.
5. Tris Speaker, Indians: A legendary great from Cobb's era, might be the overall best "fielder" in history.
6. Kirby Puckett, Twins: The compact body, the enthusiasm and the talent made him very appealing.
7. Fred Lynn, Red Sox: Had one of the best rookie years ever and could have been much better had he also not suffered injuries.
8. Joe DiMaggio, Yankees: Can't help but admire him, he was an icon of his time.
9. Hack Wilson, Cubs: A power hitter with a first name of Hack? What's not to like?
10. Jim Edmunds, Cardinals: An excellent fielder who also could hit pretty well.
* Oscar Charleston, Negro Leagues. I had never heard of him until seeing his name on several lists of all-time best CFs.
* Jim Swenson, Vikings/high school: I prided myself on my defense. My dad used to hit me dozens of fly balls for practice. Had they just created a Designated Fielder, I might have made it up through the ranks!
Our wireless Internet didn't work last night, so I didn't do a blog post. I also didn't stress over it. I knew I'd eventually do a post. That fact makes me believe I am slowly gaining some wisdom. Still, I wouldn't want to be without the 'Net for too long. This list is probably boring compared to most surfers, but what can I say? It's me.
1. Fantasy sports: It's the first - and often the last - thing I check when I sign on (regardless of the season).
2. Email: Though it's most often junk, I still check it out fairly quickly - especially if my Fantasy League check reveals bad statstics.
3. Intellicast: My choice for online weather,
I usually check out the radar.
4. Rotten Tomatoes: My choice for movie sites, I tend to call it up quite often during my day at work as the features editor.
5. Facebook: This used to rank higher. I just don't get into it too much. It's usually just to play Kris or Cathy in Scrabble, though I'll scroll down a ways to see if there's anything interesting. I seldom post.
6. Dictionary/thesaurus: I don't keep the book versions nearby at home. Sometimes I'll use a real dictionary at work.
7. Find a Person: Though I'll still use a phonebook, this Internet tool comes in handy for out-of-the-area questions.
8. Iowa and Wisconsin high school stat resources: Though I've used these immensely during the past year-and-a-half for my book, I also tend to check them out periodically for personal pleasure.
9. Scrabbleblast: It's the one online game
I enjoy playing once in a while.
10. Swen's Tens: It ranks No. 10 because it's a one-year deal. But I mostly have enjoyed doing it.
When you're a kid, the last place you want to be stuck is right field. But if I could have grown up to be like any of these right fielders, well, I would have gladly played there every inning of every game.
1. Babe Ruth, Yankees: I guess I'm just amazed by this man. He never took care of himself, looked overweight and didn't seem very dedicated. Yet, he could hit for power, average, run when young and even pitch.
2. Roberto Clemente, Pirates: As awesome a baseball specimen as there was - in the field and at bat. Tragically died young, after reaching exactly 3,000 hits.
3. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: A present-day Ty Cobb, who also is a nice guy. Tough combination to beat.
4. Hank Aaron, Braves: Like so many others, I probably under-rate this great player. Maybe it was he just didn't have the flair of some of my other favorites.
5. Mel Ott, Giants: Hit more than 500 home runs using a batting approach that saw him life his front foot way off the ground. Very unique.
6. Frank Robinson, Orioles: Another guy who was much better at the game than he was at catching your eye or attention. Hit for the Triple Crown in 1966.
7. Tony Gwynn, Padres: Just a hitting machine and very interesting person to listen to.
8. Al Kaline, Tigers: One of my favorites during the 1960s and 1970s. Have several of his baseball cards.
9. 'Wee' Willie Keeler, Orioles: Just a little guy who could really hit the ball. Love the nickname.
10. Sam Crawford, Tigers: Great hitter who played alongside my all-time favorite player, Ty Cobb, who also will be my all-time favorite center fielder (obviously).
I love statistics and movies, so this was a fun - but time-consuming - post. Here are 10 interesting facts about my Top 200 movie list, which comes out tomorrow. I was very honest about how I felt about movies, resisting temptation to rank critically acclaimed films if I honestly, truly liked other ones better.
1. The 2000s leads the decades with 44 films. I call that the "Kris Effect." We've seen lots of movies the past seven-plus years together.
2. There are nine Tom Hanks movies. But one of them was NOT "Bachelor Party."
3. The oldest movie was "The General," a Buster Keaton silent picture from 1926.
4. The Godfather (1972) just made the list; The Godfather II did not.
5. The year with the most movies on my Top 200 was 1993, with eight.
6. There are eight Alfred Hitchcock flicks on the list, but none before 1950 (I need to see many of his early ones)
7. I did not include any 2011 movies yet. A couple could break into the list come Jan. 1.
8. Jim Carrey is represented in five movies, but none are from his stupid, silly days.
9. As I was making out the list, I put an asterisk by films I thought could be in my Top 25. I ended up putting asterisks by 33, so I'm pretty secure on my all-time, all-time favorites.
10. There are only 26 movies on my list from before 1960. If I ever do another year of blogging some day, I hope that number increases.
1. Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox: He's my second-favorite player overall. He was perhaps the best ever at playing the Green Wall in Fenway Park, and he was our last Triple Crown winner (1967).
2. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, White Sox: Unbelievable all-around player from the early 20th century. He's No. 10 on my all-time list (Feb. 20 blog). Naive country boy who got caught up in an unfortunate Series scandal.
3. Ted Williams, Red Sox: Predecessor to Yaz, was a better hitter but couldn't have been much better in the field. He was our last .400 hitter (.406 in 1941). Will there ever be another?
4. Stan Musial, Cardinals: Called "The Man" for a reason. He could outright hit. Gets lost in the shuffle of all-time greats because he didn't play on a coast.
5. Rickey Henderson, Athletics: An arrogant player I didn't like a whole lot in his early days, he seemed to mature as he started breaking records. Probably best lead-off hitter ever.
6. Jim Rice, Red Sox:What can I say? This quiet leader got it done at the plate and in the field. Fierce competitor with lots of pride.
7. Willie Stargell, Pirates: Consistent power hitter, I recall him being more animated and outgoing than most of these others. Part of the talented "Family" teams of the 1970s.
8. Joe Carter, Blue Jays: In his prime, he was fun to watch. Very good clutch hitter, he played for other teams but I remember his World Series-winning homer for the Jays in 1993 vs. the Phils.
9. Kirk Gibson, Dodgers: Again, this emotional athlete played for other teams, but how can you forget his World Series HR off of Dennis Eckersley in 1988.
10. Monte Irvin, Giants: I knew little about this talented and determined player until reading about him in a Willie Mays book this summer. He's the real deal.
Just got back from The Business, a Chicago-based group that was playing at the second Dubuque ... And all That Jazz. Wow! I know I have three beers in me, but its disco-related medley was awesome. "Car Wash" alone would have been worth the price of admission (free), but The Business added a Michael Jackson tune and a couple of other recognizable tunes that I just can't remember the names of right now. It's a fact of life, but most of these came after my first wife, Jane, died because before that, we were raising the boys and didn't have as much time to go out and see concerts.
1. Wayne Hancock: Kris and I saw this country singer right up front at one of the many outdoor Dubuque "fests." He was so cool, so much like Hank Williams. It caught me by pleasant surprise and I even bought one of his CDs.
2. C.J. Chenier: A zydeco group, its use of an accordion reminded me of Stoughton. The All That Jazz concert just a week or two after Jane died was the first time I smiled in months. Music can be a healer.
3. House of Large Sizes: I went to this concert with Tim Manning, a friend at work. Very loud. Very hard rock. But creative and catchy.
4. The Bent Scepters: Early in our friendship, Kris and I were just hanging out downtown on a Saturday night and were invited to a birthday bash in the warehouse district. This Iowa City band rocked!
5. Gaelic Storm: Two of its concerts stand out. The first time I saw them was with my good friends Bill and Merry. Then, a year or two later, I organized a tribute to Jane and invited about eight of our best friends to see them perform outside at Loras College.
6. Andrew Bird: An eclectic singer with unusual instruments, he performed at the Grand Opera House for Kris, me and a few hundred others.
7. Okham's Razor: I honestly don't remember who I was with the first time I saw this mellow duo, but it left a great impression. I also have a CD by them.
8. The Business: Tonight's effort moved the eight-person group - full of horns and keyboards - into my top 10.
9. Orquestra Alto Maiz: I've seen this Chicago salsa group several times at All That Jazz and they always put on a good show.
10. The Salsa Band: The local version of No. 9, this group used to play at one of Kris and my favorite local joints, Bartinis. They did a great version of "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps."
I'm an unfortunate man whose first wife died of breast cancer, on this day (her birthday) eight years ago. And, while I'm very fortunate to have God send me another beautiful wife, my two sons and her close-knit family never were likewise blessed with a mom, daughter or sister. But this is a tribute, not a sob story. She has left a lasting legacy to all who knew her.
These are things I loved about her:
1. She cared about everybody more
than she cared about herself.
2. She loved bunnies.
3. Her courage and determination.
4. Her laugh, especially when it got out of control.
5. How she loved her sons more than anything in the world.
6. She always seemed to misplace our car keys, then I'd get mad
at her and feel bad about getting mad.
7. Her family, and its unbelievable devotion to each other.
8. She was able to put up with my immaturity and childishness.
9. She loved dairy cow figurines, posters, photos or anything involving them.
10. She believed in God and Jesus as her savior, so I know
in the Summer I'm not really that old, but too old to do these things. And, for whatever reason, I'm feeling a bit melancholy tonight, so this is my post.
1. Climbing high into a tree
2. Doing a full hand spring, or even two in a row
3. Clothes-pinning baseball cards in my bike tires
and riding as fast as I can
4. Getting a neighborhood game of tag or kick-the-can going
5. Going to the swimming pool and splashing the girls I thought I liked
6. Playing catch with Dad
7. Catching fireflies and putting them in a jar
(or night crawlers in a can)
8. Running around in the rain until I'm soaked
9. Scraping my knee, crying a bit and then showing it off later
10. Cuddling in my mother's arms after a long, hard day
I don't belong to a party, so I'm not beholding to constituents or to pressure from lobbying groups. I believe that's what we need right now, someone with no affiliations who would use fairness and common sense. Some of these things have been suggested, but they always immediately get knocked down by the other side. I think you'll agree that this list crosses party lines because neither party has it ALL right.
1. Eliminate class warfare. Rally everyone to the cause to save America. Rich or poor, young and old. It would take a solid PR effort, but it could be done because everyone knows we're in trouble.
2. Simplify the tax code so that the rich don't have so many loopholes.
3. Raise taxes even just a little bit on EVERYBODY. The lowest salaries would be be taxed a half-cent on the dollar. A higher salary, one cent, and so on. This would add up and not really hurt even the lowest salaried people. But they could feel they've done their part.
4. Cut government spending - period! Some people/programs used to getting a certain amount won't get as much. It's just got to happen. I could do this because, again, I don't have to worry about getting re-elected.
5. Raise the minimum age for early and late retirements to save on Social Security costs. This is so obvious, I can't believe we're hedging. We live longer, people, and there will NOT be enough working people contributing to the fund when all baby boomers are in retirement age.
6. Give less Social Security money to people who don't need it because they're rich enough.
7. Require ALL public union members to contribute at least a LITTLE bit of their own money for their own retirements.
8. Cut back on the wars we're in by at least half.
They just aren't worth it.
9. Raise the age limit for Medicare (see No. 5).
10. End the Bush Tax cuts for the wealthiest. Who's wealthy? Let's pick $250,000; that's pretty wealthy.
Note: Not everyone will agree with all of this. Tough! It's impossible to make everyone happy when fixing the mammoth problem we have now. We need a leader who will say "tough!" as well because if we keep putting these things off, it will be unbelievably worse in a few years. I don't want that on my grandchildren. I want ALL of us to sacrifice a little for them.
1. Why care? If she really did it (I couldn't avoid learning that she was found not guilty; it was on all the front pages), she's not the first mom to ever kill her child (sadly).
2. I ignore Nancy Grace, who hypes everything.
3. It was too much like a stupid reality show, and I don't like them, either.
4. I've got so many better things to do with my time - and I'm not even that exciting of a person!
5. I can't believe how many people I know and respect have gotten caught up in the trial.
6. If she ultimately makes a lot of money because of this, everyone who have paid so much attention to her have indirectly contributed. You've made her a household name. Don't act so shocked.
7. Many of you same people will pay to buy her book or go to the movie. Shame on you.
8. It's the female version of Charlie Sheen, another waste of time I skipped through when channel surfing or reading a paper.
9. I'm proud to say - and this is the truth - I don't believe I would recognize this Anthony woman if I saw her for longer than a second (I skipped through TV channels and newspaper stories/photos quicker than Sheen's)
10. Refer back to No. 1: Why did all of you people give this woman so much attention? According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year. Grace & Co. and multiple media outlets decided to sensationalize this, and you fell for it.
Good mix of American and National leagues here, with a slight edge to the AL and the past.
1. Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles: The endurance, the class and the talent all combined to make him my No. 6 all-time favorite player
(see Feb. 20 post).
2. Robin Yount, Brewers: He broke into the majors at age 18. I was only 16. It was amazing to think somebody two years older could do that. He was an old-school, hard worker who also played a lot of outfield.
3. Honus Wagner, Pirates: A superstar from the early 1900s, he and Ty Cobb met up a memorable 1909 World Series. He won eight NL batting titles and hit .329 for his career. Famous for an old baseball card, too.
4. Rico Petrocelli, Red Sox: The starter on the 1967 World Series team that set the stage for them being my favorite team. Also had Yastrzemski, Conigliaro and Lonborg, to name a few.
5. Ernie Banks, Cubs: Hit 512 home runs and oozed enthusiasm for the game. His biography is on deck behind the Willie Mays book I'm reading right now.
6. Luis Aparicio, White Sox: A great baserunner and slap hitter, I just have fond memories of him from the 1960s and early 1970s.
7. Ozzie Smith, Cardinals: Whether he was the best defensive shortstop ever or not, he was fun to watch - those flips and all.
8. Derek Jeter, Yankees: I'm a Red Sox fan who isn't against picking particular Yankees as favorites. As Jeter approaches 3,000 hits, I admire him from afar (you'll notice A-Rod isn't on my list).
9. Alan Trammell, Tigers: He was a terrific all-around player who spent all 20 years with the same team.
10. Bert Campaneris, Athletics: Like No. 6, I have fond memories of this consistent shortstop. He once played all nine positions in a game (1965).
"Beautiful Noise," by Neil Diamond
"Blue Eyes," by Car Brothers
"Can You Hear Me?" by Alan Yates
"Dialogue," by Chicago
"Double Vision," by Foreigner
"Eyes of the World," by Fleetwood Mac
"Hands," by Jewel
"Have You Seen Her?" by the Chi-Lites
"Hooked on a Feeling," by Blue Swede
"I Can See Clearly Now," by Johnny Nash
"I Saw the Light," by Todd Rundgren"Invisible Touch," by Genesis
"Jive Talkin'" by the Bee Gees
"Lovely to See You," by the Moody Blues
"Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin," by Journey
"My Eyes Adored You," by Frankie Valli
"Ooh That Smell," by Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Stop and Smell the Roses," by Mac Davis'
"Talking Out of Turn," by the Moody Blues
"Wasted Words," by the Allman Brothers
"You Ain't Seen Nothin Yet," by BTO
While researching, I was surprised to find that I didn't like as many movies from these decades as I thought I would. Of course, there are many that I haven't seen, so there's time to add to this list.
1. "Sergeant York," 1941: Wonderful film based on a true story (those always sit well with me). Gary Cooper, as Alvin York, was perfectly cast.
2. "Grapes of Wrath," 1940: Another movie that looks at a piece of our history, this one really puts you in the Great Depression. Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell (Ma Joad) were awesome.
3. "The Wizard of Oz," (1939): This would have been No. 1 on this list a few years ago. (Maybe I've seen it too often, too.) Definitely one of my favorite "musicals!"
4. "All Quiet on the Western Front," (1930): This one tied for 6th with "Sergeant York" on my Favorite War Movies (April 4 post).
5. "Monkey Business," (1931): It's a close call with several other Marx Brothers films, most notably "Duck Soup," "Horse Feathers" and "A Day at the Races."
6. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," (1948): Probably my favorite Humphrey Bogart movie, just beating out No. 7 on this list.
7. "Casablanca," (1942): I know, I know ... should be higher. At least it made my list, more than I can say for "Citizen Kane" and "Gone With the Wind."
8. "It's a Wonderful Life," (1946): Ditto No. 6.
9. "The Best Years of Our Lives," (1946): Really shows what it was like - even in World War II - to come home from war.
10. "Modern Times," (1936): A Charlie Chaplin film that really left an impression more than causing laughs.
Honorable mention: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," (1939) and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," (1937).
1. Freedom of Religion: I empathize with people in countries who don't have this freedom. I'm sure their faith is tested.
2. Freedom to Not Believe in God: I feel bad for these people because I believe in my heart they are missing a chance at eternity. But it's their American right.
3. Deep Down Good: For those who complain and rip on our country (their right!), I ask them to look at how much money and time we spend helping other countries. It's more than any other place on the planet.
4. Freedom of the Press: Maybe this should be higher, considering my job as a newspaper features editor. But I am not always pleased with my profession.
5. Patriotism: Many (most?) Americans - conservative or liberal - are proud of their country and show it on this day more than any other.
6. The Beauty: There are so many fabulous place to visit, I doubt I'll ever find time or money to visit them all.
7. Pursuit of Happiness: Again, regardless of how tough some people say it is to prosper, the right is there for those who work hard. Yes, luck, socio-seconomic situations and breaks play a part in it, but it's possible. Why would so many move here?
8. Far Right and Far Left: If it wasn't for these two factions, important issues might be swept under the rug. We're lucky that extreme views can be aired so that those of us more in the middle can ponder them.
9. The Freedom of Assembly: Again, regardless of your persuasion, this is a wonderful thing about America. Without it, the Tea Party never would have started and - like it or not - a serious discussion on our debt problems might have been delayed until it was too late.
10. Our History: So many great men and women have been born in America and left their marks on the world. I am proud to be their countryman.