Jul 30, 2008

White People at Work: The Restaurant Office

Okay, someone has to have the guts to say what we're all thinking, so I'll be the one to do it:

The chipotle chicken sandwich at Panera is DELICIOUS.

The only problem I really have with the sandwich itself is the fact that Panera pushes the fact that it's "antibiotic free" chicken. Aren't the antibiotics what make the chicken so delicious? Can I go up to the counter and request they slather my sandwich with extra antibiotics? In fact, I'd actually prefer my chicken to be the Barry Bonds of chickens, even if it does keep it out of the Poultry Hall of Fame. (But I'd refuse to eat a chicken who was a heavy gambler, like Pete Rose. You have to draw the line somewhere.)

(By the way, when did the word "chipotle" become a real word in the English language? Five years ago, nobody had ever heard it, now you can probably get chipotle flavored baby formula. I propose the following: No word can be added to English common usage, until one drops out. For instance, "chipotle" can't be added until we determine once and for all that nobody can ever use "oriental" again.)

But here's the thing that intrigues me about Panera in general: Go in there during the day and check out all the people in there with their computers, working, with papers spread all over their tables. They sit there, all day, putting together their graphs and charts for work.

When did it become acceptable to sit in Panera all day and do all your work? Do these guys really have to wear ties? Why should my bagel purchase subsidize this guy's office expenditures? It wouldn't shock me to see some guy with a picture of his wife and kids propped up on the table.

I imagine he has a conversation at home like this:

Child: "Daddy, are you coming to my dance recital tonight?"

Dad: "Sorry, honey - I have a big day at Panera tomorrow that I have to get ready for. I'm planning on trying the asiago cheese bagel, and I have a lot of preparation to do ahead of time."

I imagine it's a tough day at Panera when the manager has to cut one of these guys loose:

"Hi... (looks at receipt)... STEVE. I have some bad news... We're going to have to let you go. No, no, stop crying. It's nothing you did - your reports on the deliciousness of our chicken salad sandwich were really solid. But we're going to have to ask you to clear off your desk, and finish your soda. I hear Einstein Bagels might have a spot open on the West Side. Best of luck to you and the kids."

Next time I go in, I'm going to grab the "order up" microphone and announce to everyone in the restaurant that Friday is now Hawaiian Shirt Day.

In fact, I put together this graphic representation of my love of the chipotle chicken sandwich. As can be deduced from the chart, the more bacon that's on the sandwich, the more delicious it becomes:

The methodology for this study can be found in the footnotes to this report.

Jul 29, 2008

Why Do the Brewers Hate Me?

With the Brew Crew in the midst of being smoked by the Cubs again, I'm trying my hardest to remain positive. I keep telling myself that the Brewers aren't really in a race against the Cubs - they're really locked in a race against the Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, Phillies, and Marlins. So whatever happens with those teams is just as relevant as what happens in this series against the Cubbies. I am also thankful that it started raining here in Madison and my satellite went out, so I was unable to watch Ben Sheets get bombed in the 6th inning. The inclement weather may have saved my life.

But even as you try to spin it positively, these losses are heartbreaking. If someone called me and told me Iran attacked America and now controls the state of Oregon, I'd probably shrug and say "ah, we probably have too many states anyway." But seeing the Brew Crew fall flat on their faces in the season's biggest series is almost too much to take.

What's particularly galling are things like this: The Cubs are up 1-0 in the fifth, and Zambrano looks unhittable. Runner on first, one out. Ben Sheets is up, and... SWINGING AWAY? What in the name of Don Money is going on here? Someone should check and see if Ned Yost is betting on these games. That can be the only explanation for Sheets not bunting the runner over to give Ray Durham a chance to tie the game.

Speaking of Ray Durham, assuming he's not hurt badly, he should be playing 2nd base from here on out. I'm sure Rickie Weeks is a wonderful baseball player, aside from his inability to either hit or field. Perhaps he's an exceptional speller. Maybe he has exemplary penmanship. If he's a great "clubhouse" guy, then good for him - that's where he can stay. Unfortunately, where he falls short is his ability to play baseball. And that's something the Brewers kind of need right now.

So instead of continuing to grouse, I'll leave everyone with this oft-linked to ad:

I'm a Brewer believer. Son of a bitch.

Jul 26, 2008


Following Ryan Braun's 2-run game-tying homer tonight against the Astros, I got up and did a little dance. The following conversation between my wife and I ensued:

Her: "So has Braun finally eclipsed Bill Hall as your favorite Brewer?"

Me: "It's like picking between your favorite children."

Her: "Do I get to pick other people's children?"

Jul 23, 2008

You Heard it Here First

As regular readers know, I am somewhat of a connoisseur of crazy people letters to state legislators. I was recently passed this one that's currently circulating around the Wisconsin State Capitol. It immediately makes the Crazy Letter Hall of Fame, which is getting pretty crowded at this point.

Much like a good novel of any particular genre, it contains all the hallmarks a crazy letter should:

1. Hatred of Jews: Check
2. Ridiculous conspiracy theories: Check
3. Belief they are the only ones standing up to the government: Check
4. Indication that "this is not a joke," clearly indicating that it is, in fact, a joke: Check
5. Liberal use of the word "warmonger:" Check.
6. Use of own name in third person: Check.

Yet while all these characteristics are present, this letter throws in a few extras for the reader, such as Bill Richardson "claiming to be a Mexican" in hopes of "pulling Spanish votes." (Perhaps he is unaware Mexico and Spain are on different continents.) As the rock-solid theory goes, Richardson is secretly Jewish, and is pretending to be "a Mexican," so he and Obama get elected, then he and his Jewish friends plan on assassinating Obama so a Jew can be President. Then (stay with me, here) the Jews will orchestrate another 9/11, and once again blame it on bin Laden.

How this plot has escaped the Obama campaign is beyond me - the evidence is overwhelming. For instance, this guy conducted his own telephone survey, which determined that 100% of Jews support Obama. ("You can do your own poll in one day by making random phone calls.") He forgot to mention that his poll has an error rate of plus or minus 100%.

You can see on his letter that he has his own (800) telephone number, where he can be reached in his compound in Glenmoore, PA - where he, no doubt, is about to expose the next big story in the campaign. He should actually have his own show on MSNBC.

Jul 22, 2008

A Scheduling Note

I will be on "Sunday Insight With Charlie Sykes" this Sunday on Channel 4 in Milwaukee. Over/under on number of times I mention the Brewers is currently set at 25.

That is all.

Jul 18, 2008

Madison Welcomes the 2010 Transplant Games

Who knew there was an Olympics for people who have had organ transplants?

Madison has been chosen to host the 2010 U.S. Transplant Games.

The Olympic-style event is expected to attract 1,500 athletes who have had organ transplants and 7,000 visitors. Organizers say it could bring more than $2.6 million to the city.

The location was announced this week after the 2008 games in Pittsburgh.

You can't accuse the competitors of not having heart. It just happens to be someone else's.

Jul 17, 2008

More Favrenalia

With regard to the Packers' allegations against the Vikings for tampering with Brett Favre - the AP reports that Favre and Viking offensive coordinator (and former Badger) Darrell Bevell are good friends:

"The person said the league already has reviewed evidence provided by the Packers, and team officials believe a league examination of telephone records would indicate more than “normal contact” between Favre and Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, a former Green Bay assistant."

Set aside for, a moment, all the jokes about what "more than normal contact" means. Here's the smoking gun:

If that's not proof, I don't know what is.

Today, this came through the wire at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Carlene and Duane Schultz thought creating a corn maze featuring Brett Favre's image on a Wisconsin farm would be anything but controversial.

The husband and wife said Favre is still welcome at the Schultz's Country Barn in Eleva, even though they've received a few grumbling comments after the quarterback said he was considering a comeback and wanted a release from the Packers.

The Schultzes have had mazes created in their cornfield for the past three years and sold tickets for people to walk through it. The couple decided this spring to use Favre's image as a "thank you" after the quarterback announced his retirement.

Aren't children in Africa dying because we're in the midst of a corn shortage? Shouldn't Duane Schultz be making ethanol or something?

And finally, WisconsinEye recently filmed a few segments of the Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio. (I am biased, as I've been on the show a couple times.) This segment includes a really interesting take by MATC history instructor Jonathan Pollack, who discusses the news about Favre in the larger context of Wisconsin culture. It's worth a watch.

Jul 16, 2008

Reported Missing: One Quarterback's Dignity

So, the people who read this blog regularly (and thank you for doing so, incidentally) have probably noticed that I have completely disappeared for a week. It has been a busy week consisting of snacking, napping, and trying to avoid any discussion of Brett Favre. I've also been plowing through the excellent HBO John Adams series on DVD - although if there were some kind of award for overacting, Paul Giamatti would likely win a lifetime achievement award for this role alone.

However, given that I wrote a blubbering, emotional post following Brett Favre's retirement announcement (and followed that up with an equally hagiographic appearance on TV), I feel that I need to provide an update.

I'm not really sure what I can say about l'affaire Favre that hasn't been said already. But given how heartsick I was when Favre retired in March, it makes it all the more difficult to handle what he's trying to pull now. Retired legends only have one thing that matters - their legacy. And it's excruciating to watch Favre set his legacy on fire with this disastrous comeback attempt. It almost gives one some perspective on what it might have been like to grow up in Buffalo as an OJ Simpson fan, only to see your hero murder his reputation (and other people) in his retirement. Fortunately, Favre hasn’t killed anyone yet – although I’m close.

One of the reasons Favre has been deified by the media is because he's the very antithesis of the character he's now playing. He's always been a tough, no-nonsense team player. I even explained away his previous offseason Hamlet acts by recognizing his threats of retirement as bargaining chips to get better players. I figured it was a strategy to force management to bring in better players.

But we're now finding out that he actually really is as self-absorbed a prima donna as he showed in those offseasons. It’s like finding out Santa Claus runs an underground reindeer-fighting ring. Last night, he threw GM Ted Thompson under the bus by complaining about Thompson not re-signing guys like Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle - both guys who went bust when their reached their new teams. On the contrary, Favre should be kissing Ted Thompson's feet for surrounding him with so much talent without wrecking the team with bad contracts. Is Favre better than Aaron Rodgers? Of course he is. But the fact that people still believe the Pack can be a playoff team with Rodgers at the helm is a testament to Ted Thompson's maneuvers.

Let's get real - the Packers aren't trading Favre (if Randy Moss in his prime is only worth a fourth round pick, what is Brett worth for a year or two?), and they won't release him. They hold the cards - either Favre tells them he's willing to commit to them 100%, or they just tell him to stay home and collect his paychecks for the next three years. Those are the choices. So Brett has to decide whether he wants to drop this pathetic "woe is me" act and get himself ready to play. If not, I hope he has the Sunday Ticket, because he'll be watching all the games on TV for the next three years.

Sure, people defend Favre because they recognize how much he loves to play the game. But we all knew that when he retired. We all thought that his desire to retire had to be SO STRONG that it overrode his obvious love of playing. But the way he’s whining his way through this comeback is disgraceful – and he’s ripping apart my favorite team in the process. That’s not to say I wouldn’t welcome the sight of him back in a Packer uniform – but if he’s going to string this along with the Brett Favre Pity Fest any longer, he can just stay home and let us all move on. Somehow, I think we'll get over it.

Jul 9, 2008

A Masterful Mash

This week's All Songs Considered NPR podcast introduced me to the "group" Girl Talk, who actually just happens to be one guy who cuts up other peoples' songs and mixes them together. This is by no means a new phenomenon, but his new album "Feed the Animals" is phenomenal.

Here's the song "In Step." (There's no actual video, just the song.) See how many of the songs you can recognize:

And as long as we're on the topic, NPR has started a new feature that they're calling "Tiny Desk Concerts," where an artist plays a live show in their office. In the video of the concert featuring Laura Gibson, my friend Stephen Thompson actually makes an appearance to explain how he got her to agree to do the show. And she is outstanding, incidentally - well worth the listen.

You can see it here.

Jul 8, 2008

Scandal Hits Milwaukee

I'm happy we have finally been able to put this dark period in Wisconsin history behind us:

Longtime Bozo reinstated in clown hall of fame

The International Clown Hall of Fame in Milwaukee has reinstated Larry Harmon, who popularized Bozo the Clown.

Harmon was honored by the hall of fame in 1990. But the hall took down his plaque after a journalist pointed out that another man created the character.

Hall of fame volunteer director Terri Hall says her more recent research revealed Harmon was not honored as the character Bozo but given a lifetime achievement award for popularizing the character and his work on television.

Harmon bought the rights to Bozo in the 1950s and performed as him for decades.

Hall said Monday that Harmon was reinstated last year but the hall of fame was waiting to make an announcement until it could organize an event honoring him.

Harmon died Thursday of congestive heart failure. He was 83.

Jul 6, 2008

C.C. You In the Playoffs

26 years. And now, suddenly, Milwaukee is once again the center of the baseball universe.

At 7:00, I received the following one-line e-mail from one of my friends. It said, simply:

"I'm not gay, but I'd like to kiss Doug Melvin on his mustachioed mouth for pulling this deal off."

And that's how I found out the Brewers had pushed all their chips to the middle of the table for this season.

I'll spare you all the third-rate analysis about whether it was a good deal or not. For all the hot air on message boards by people claiming to know a lot about baseball, nobody will ever really know what would have happened had Matt LaPorta stayed a Brewer. We'll never know what the effect of LaPorta being gone will have on other prospects, who might now get a chance to step up. It's never just a one-plus-one-equals-two calculation.

But here's what we do know for a fact - that Doug Melvin has, to quote my buddy The Gooch, "balls the size of Jupiter" for making this deal. And it's the lack of certainty I mentioned above that makes this such a great deal. Let's say the deal doesn't get done and Ben Sheets walks away at the end of the year. For the forseeable future, you're looking at some good young starters, but no ace. And maybe you bring up LaPorta and maybe he provides some good offense, but a 30 home run hitter isn't exactly what the Brewers need at this point. (They need a leadoff hitter that doesn't need a GPS device to find first base, for starters.)

But the scenario that developed today is the way any business should run. If Sabathia helps them make a playoff run, that means more revenue to the team. Packed stands through the remainder of the season and in the playoffs may mean the team can make a competitive offer to Sheets in the offseason. I've seen some suggest that anything short of a World Series victory means the Brewers have had a disappointing system. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, here.

Obviously, Doug Melvin wants to win now. But if the Crew can make enough money down the home stretch to put the team in a better financial position to retain their core talent in the next few years (Fielder, Hart, etc.), this will have turned out to be a good deal regardless of how the season ends. (At least that's what I'll be telling myself when Ben Sheets is attacked by a crocodile on the field and the season goes in the tank in September.)

All night, I kept watching ESPNews, with the bright red "breaking news" banner coming on every five seconds. And every time it crawled across my screen, it was as if Jennifer Connelly was whispering it directly into my ear.

"Indians Trade Pitcher C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers."

"Indians Trade Pitcher C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers."

Sadly, my TV did not take the extra step and offer to make me a sandwich.

Plus, it's not as if the Brewers haven't had good luck dealing with the Indians. Remember, the Brewers relieved the Tribe of Jeromy Burnitz in 1996, in exchange for the rotting corpse of Kevin Seitzer. Burnitz went on to hit over 30 home runs in 4 of his 5 full seasons with Milwaukee. The 35 year-old Seitzer played 86 games with the Indians and retired.

And who can forget July of 2000, when the Brewers sent Bob Wickman, Steve Woodard, Jason Bere, and a signed John Jaha home run ball to the Indians for Richie Sexson? That was such an easy deal that Dean Taylor, who was to general managing what Madonna is to music, was able to pull it off.

So, upon reflection, here are the big winners and losers from the Sabathia deal:

Winner: ME! WOO HOO!

Loser: My wife. With the Brewers competitive late in the season, I might as well be living in a bio-dome in my own basement. Chances of my popcorn bowls making it into the dishwasher just dropped by 50%.

Winner: Tom Haudricourt, of the Journal Sentinel. He was on this story, and was accurate throughout.

Loser: Tom Haudricourt, of the Journal Sentinel. While his reporting was timely and accurate, he actually showed up on one of his own blog comment threads and publicly attempted to fellate himself for essentially doing exactly what a beat writer for a team in the middle of a major trade negotiation was supposed to do. In attempting to shoot down two dopey anonymous commenters, he actually wrote the following:

I don't need to ban hayseed whatever or cauleys. They both know I took them to the wood shed and they have to live with it. We are still the only source confirming this deal, as far as I know. I was ahead of it from the very start, saying it would be LaPorta and two lower-level minor leaguers. I shot down all the Hardy and Escobar nonsense and went with the truth. That's all I need to know, and I appreciate all those on the blog who know what I did.

Pure class.

Winner: Buster Olney, ESPN. On the above message board, there's a lot of mention of who scooped whom when it came to this story. Haudricourt deserves credit for doing his job. But even though Olney may not have been getting a lot of original info on this story, I think it takes a lot of stones to go on national TV and declare the Brewers as the frontrunner in the biggest trade sweepstakes of the year. Every major league team has a beat writer that has their fans convinced that their team is about to trade for Johan Santana or whatever. But it is unique for a national writer to step out and predict something so bold and be right. So good for him - now maybe I can start taking someone seriously who actually refers to himself as "Buster."

(Incidentally, I got a kick out of ESPN continuing to say "Buster Olney has learned that the Indians have agreed to trade Sabathia to the Brewers," well after it had been on the Journal-Sentinel website. Really, Buster? You "learned" that secret piece of information? Did you "learn" how to use the internet at about 6:00 tonight?)

Loser: Tom Oates, Wisconsin State Journal. Just last week, Oatsey gave us a column explaining how C.C. Sabathia was out of the Brewers' reach. A few days later, when it started to look like the Brewers actually were in the running, he tried to cover his tail with a column explaining why the team needed Sabathia NOW! Just more evidence that the only requirement for writing a sports-related column at the State Journal is the ability to turn on your computer and type complete sentences that don't reference genitalia.

Winner: Inebriation. If the Crew makes it to the World Series, it's going to be a Brew Town Throwdown. Believe that.

Loser: Former Brewer Eric Young, ESPN. When asked about the trade, "EY" decided he had some reservations, for the following reason: Sabathia is left-handed, and the Cubs have a lot of good right-handed hitters. Brilliant observation, since the Cubs and Brewers only play a handful of times the rest of the year. Actually, I think Sabathia is around to help the Crew in the remaining 80 games, not necessarily the sprinkling of games against the Cubs. But now that the precedent has been set, I demand to know what Franklin Stubbs thinks about the trade.

Oh, and make sure you go vote for Corey Hart for the all-star team. I probably voted 50 times already. And I didn't even need the DNC to buy me cigarettes. Plus, there has to be at least one creepy flesh-colored beard in the All-Star game. So follow the link below.

And here's an interview with LaPorta from a month ago:

Jul 1, 2008

Prepare for Down Count