Sad news via Greg Kots blog: Mavis Staples is performing to support her new record with folks including guitarist-producer Ry Cooder, drummer Jim Keltner and a few others, but she won't be making a stop in her hometown of Chicago. Too bad for us, eh?

For a primer on Mavis, check her out with Pop in this cut from The Last Waltz.
She's a gem and her voice is tops. (For you Band fans out there, you gotta love Rick Danko's gyrations, right?

Or...check out the great dance moves on SoulTrain in the classic "I'll Take you There":

Boy...I wish life was this easy. Wearing great threads. Shimmy-ing down the SoulTrain. Great tunes. Doesn't get much better than that, does it?
chief.gifCongrats to Coach Bruce Weber and the entire staff. After this very challenging year - with the multiple arrests, injuries, and the Eric Gordon to IU saga - the Illini Nation could use the very good news.
Jeffrey Jordan, the son of basketball legend Michael Jordan, said Friday that he plans to attend the University of Illinois next year and play basketball as a walk-on. The younger Jordan, a 6-2 guard at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., where he is a senior, said in a news release that he chose Illinois over Valparaiso University.

"After I worked out at Illinois, (met) with the coaching staff and the players, and toured the campus with my mom, I just felt more comfortable with U of I," Jordan said in the release.

The insiders are saying that this plays well for the future. Jeffrey's younger brother, who many consider to be a much better hoops player, will be heading off to play college ball in a few years. The recruitment and signing of his older brother will give the Illini the inside track to both the brother, and possibly the new loyalties of his Airness, Michael Jordan. He'd look good in orange, wouldn't he?

I can hear the chants now: "Forget Gordon....We Got Jordan!" (hat tip, Illiniboard!)

Bring on those Jumpman uniforms!

Oh...and how sweet is it that Will over at Deadspin is an Illini himself. He's laid out the scenario perfectly.
Unfortunately, I rarely get to sit down and listen to an entire record all the way through these days. I have an expansive collection, but it's largely gathering dust because I just simply don't have the time. For my birthday, my buddy Matt gave me some iTunes bucks and I went trolling for some new tunes. I settled on The Shins new record: Wincing the Night Away.

I only got about halfway through when something struck me: these guys have been listening to their Brian Wilson records, haven't they? I've since gone back and listened to the record a dozen or so times and that initial notion sticks for me. I'm by no means, a Shins Superfan, rather a casual listener, but to my ear, they've been heavily influenced by the Beach Boys and their once front man Brian Wilson- whether The Shins know it or not. As far as influences go, the Beach Boys are tops in my book, so it's not anything to be bashful about.

I've put up a few videos here below. Go ahead. Play them and tell me what you think? Sounds like a connection, doesn't it?

First, The Shins new single: Phanton Limb.

And, here's Brian Wilson's Heroes and Villains:

I'm not the only one who thinks there's a connection....
The Illinois Republican Party just lost one of it's best. No, it wasn't through corruption or elctorate loss, it was just simply his time to step back. Dallas Ingemunson, the Kendall County Republican Party Chairman and "Honorary Chairman of the ILGOP" said his good-byes yesterday. While, I'm thrilled that Dallas his lovely bride Dodie can have some time together with their numerous grandchildren, we're really going to feel a HUGE void in the Party.

Ingemunson, the top Prosecutor in Kendall County for 24 years brought both gravitas and humility to the post of County Chairman - a post he held for 34 years. While the article in the Tribune mentions that one of his greatest accomplishments was his ability to bridge some of the "policy" divides between Moderates and Conservatives, I feel that Dallas' legacy will be that he welcomed young people to get involved and get active within the party apparatus and he embraced technology. He has a real record of striving to engage younger folks and even embracing technology. Am I a little biased towards him because I worked for Cross and Dallas was around? Sure I am. But there's nothing wrong with telling the entire story about Dallas Ingemunson.
Ingemunson, who holds a title of "honorary chairman" with the Illinois Republican Party, has for several years acted as a bridge-builder in an attempt to bring harmony to a political organization beset by infighting between its longtime controlling moderate wing and a vocal conservative wing that has felt left out of the party process.

Back in 2002 and 2003, House Minority Leader Tom Cross was doing (what I would consider) some very creative and interesting things on the web. Who was the biggest cheerleader of all that stuff? Dallas. I doubt he even has email, let alone knows how to find blogs and watch little videos, but he supported it because it engaged people. Dallas always spoke of being very active with the press and eliminating the filters of Mainstream Media. He was ahead of his time in recognizing that elected officials and political parties don't necessarily need the press, but rather they have the ability, nay, the requirement to speak unfiltered, directly to the constituents. He saw the web and email as the mechanism to accomplish that.


Dallas also encouraged young people to get involved with the party and get educated about the past of the party. I was the driver for Tom Cross for a few years. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had. I spent time with Tom and many others including Dallas. Tom recalled to me that when he was getting started in the Kendall County State's Attorney Office, he would often drive Dallas to events and functions. He used it as a way to learn and so did I. Just being in the car or at the dinner table with folks like Dallas was an education in the history of Illinois politics. Do you know how Denny Hastert was elected to the House the first time? Dallas has a great story and it involves Pate Phillips. Want to know about Governor Jim Edgar and his campaigns? Dallas has those stories, too. He's a wealth of knowledge and he isn't afraid to share it.

When it comes to engaging young folks, Dallas was second to none. Of course we have to mention House Minority Leader Tom Cross, but there's more. Think about folks like Aurora Alderman-at-Large Richard Irvin, his son Boyd, State Representative Tim Schmitz, and many others. They all were supported and backed by Dallas. He isn't afraid to embrace a youthful approach to party building and that's something that's missing from today's ILGOP Leaders (outside of Tom Cross' efforts to "Build the Farm Team"). He also thought that there was a lot of room inside the "big tent" of the Republican Party and we should be shepherding everyone in, not pushing folks out.

Most importantly, Dallas Ingemunson is a genuine and kind man. He welcomes an army of folks into his house every year at the NITT (where he cooks a pretty mean Dallas-Burger and my personal favorite Turkey and Cheeses) and will often open up his arms for a big "head to head" discussion. He's someone who I am proud to have gotten to know the past 7 years and someone who's leadership we all will miss.

I know he's stepping back from his duties as County Chair, but please, Dallas....don't walk away too far. The Party still needs you!
wii_tigerwoods07.jpgA few nights ago, Natalie and I took it all in at the Orland Park Costco. In addition to buying a HUGE jar of Giardinara, enough yogurt to feed a football team, and of course, a $1.50 polish sausage/Diet Coke combo, I also picked up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 for the Nintendo Wii. I've toyed with it in just about all of my free time the past few days. My first impressions: great extension of the core Wii Sports golf game. In playing all of the Wii Sports games, I found both bowling and golf the most fun games to play. That's largely due to the ability to go through the entire range of gameplay in both bowling and golf. Baseball would be great if you could run the bases, throw people out, and manage the game and boxing, well boxing is just too much work, frankly.

Tiger Woods 2007 PGA Tour brings all of that (the good stuff) to golf. You can create a player (which I already did), get him his tour card, upgrade his skills, and go head-to-head with the PGA's best. My arm hurts from swinging the controller so much already and I look forward to tuning up my game. While this is great, I can't wait for future releases of various baseball games where I can fully participate with the wiimote and help my White Sox chase down the Pennant.

Just like real golf, I can't quite break par, but I have had a hole in one, an Eagle and a few other great shots that keep me coming back for more.
Tonight, the Democrats running for President gather in South Carolina for their first debate. In a few weeks, on Thursday May 3rd, the Republicans will do the same, with their debate being hosted at the Ronald Regan Presidential Library. One of the things that will make this year different for Republicans than in the past is that there will actually be debates - we have many candidates! With the use of technology, ordinary folks are organizing across the country to host "debate parties". My guy - Rudy Giuliani is having his supporters host parties. If you're interested in one, you can visit this page to sign up. We'll be hosting one down in Frankfort (a private one!), and you should sign up to host your own!
Madonna, The Police, Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, and.....Spinal Tap?!?

spinaltap-1.jpgYou read that right! They're getting the band back together! Spinal Tap, the fake band, is fake reuniting for a gig this summer to benefit environmental causes. The show, coincides with their "new" release: Warmer than Hell. The best part? Rob Reiner also directed a new short film that chronicles the band and their current whereabouts that's being screened tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival. That needs to be on YouTube soon.

Back in 1990 or 1991, I caught This is Spinal Tap for the first time. My buddy Neil McAllister turned me on to it, probably through his older brothers. Immediately, it struck a chord with me. I ran back to the video store and rented the VHS a few times. Then for either Christmas or my birthday, someone bought me the tape. I just about wore it out. Then came "Break like the Wind". Released when I was in 8th grade, I again, collected my 1 dollar bills and bought the cassette. This was substantially less funny because it was just comedy metal songs. No movie.

I'm really looking forward to connecting with Nigel, David, and Derek in their new adventures! That short film would have one heckuva run on the web if they are wise enough to put it out there for all of us to enjoy.
pigtrough.gifEmil Jones. Are you kidding me? A few days after pulling the ole "switcheroo" on one of your old potentially targetted Senate Members, you have the gaul to talk about "silly political games"? That's rich. For those who don't know what happened down in Springfield this past week, it's one for the ages. A politically targeted Downstate Senator passed a controversial amendement that would hold ComEd's feet to the fire with regards to their outrageous rate increase only to see his leader, Senate President Emil Jones kill it with what Capitol Fax's Rich Miller called " an obscure parliamentary procedure that nobody remembers ever being used."

Guess who's the biggest contributor to Senator Jones' campaign account. *ding* *ding* *ding* That's right! It's ComEd.

That's shameful enough for Jones, right? Wrong.

Jones then sent in another one of his stooges - Senator Rickey Hendon - to do some of his dirty work. The re-appointments of the University of Illinois Trustees were coming before the Senate late last week. Hendon, who Chairs the committee the appointments came before decided, above the protests of the Republican Members of the Committee, to prevent the trustees from testifying before a Senate committee hearing. Just a vote, no testimony.

Guess why? Because they wanted to protect these Trustees from discussing the whole Chief Illiniwek fiasco. The Republicans felt like they had an obligation to question those being appointed, but the Democrats thought that they knew better.

What was Emil Jones' response to the questioning from reporters about the avoidance measures?
Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, called the Republican objections "silly political games."

Are you kidding me, Senator Jones? Games? What was the trick you used to kill the ComEd amendment? What about getting your buddy Rod Blagojevich to change the rules so your wife can assume a big-time job with a $70,000 raise that she clearly wasn't qualified for?

Are those "silly political games"?

I wonder if people around the state are beginning to realize that one-party rule in Illinois is a bad thing. It's time to wake up, folks.
The body needs sleep. There's nothing you can do about it. You can't put any time in the bank before you go to Las Vegas. You just need to pay the piper when you get home. I learned that lesson on Sunday night and last night. This morning, I could barely crawl out of the rack. It took me a few days, but I'm finally fully functional after my first excursion to Las Vegas. I'll do my best to recap and highlight some of the weekend - one which I really enjoyed and can't wait to repeat.

We left Thursday night and were delayed a few hours at O'Hare. That was time well spent in the Fox Sports SkyBox tavern out on the concourse. We had a small crew there at the airport because some folks arrived earlier, later, or on a different airline (Matt). I slept the entire way out there, thinking that I could bank the 2-3 hours for the long weekend I was in store for.

We arrived and spent quite a bit of time gaming. I believe it's either called "Old Town" or "Downtown" - the place with the cheaper tables - was where we spent our first night. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that Mike and Mike in the Morning were on TV well before we headed home for the night. The rest of the weekend went along those lines. Thanks to my crew of Matt Pawlak, Neil McAllister, Rob Dauphinais, and of course the Bachelor Mark Dauphinais for the great times. I can't wait to go back. We had a lot of laughs and I'll remember those for a long time.

There were, however, a few things that stuck out for me. Here they are:

1. We stayed at the Luxor. The room was booked for us and that was ok, but if I went back, I wouldn't stay there again. We began to call the Luxor the Suxor by the second day.

2. You can't get a cab on the streets there. You have to go up to the casinos to get in one. That's just good business sense for the casinos, but bad for us street walkers.

3. The Venetian is by far the "place to be" there. We played craps with K-Fed, ran into Drew Brees, Marcus Allen, Nikki Hilton, and Perez Hilton all there. If I went back, I think I'd stay there.

4. I figured that the town was just about built out. How wrong I was. There's a HUGE building boom going on. Construction everywhere. Steve Wynn, who builds casinos for a living calls this "the most outrageous, over-the-top expansion ever". They're not only building hotels, they're also building condos. It's just going to get more intense and more over-the-top.

5. The buffets aren't cheap and not that good. I always had the impression that everywhere you turn there was a down-and-dirty buffet where you could chow down on crab legs and steaks for like 3 bucks. Turns out that I was wrong. They aren't cheap (around the 17-20 buck range). The only times I ever hit a buffet was really early in the morning, so I only had breakfast, but I wasn't impressed.

6. 3 nights might be 1 too many. I think if I went back, I would leave Thursday night, and come home Saturday afternoon. Stay out the entire time and get home to rest all day Sunday.

I'm planning (somewhat) my own Bachelor's Party for next year sometime. This weekend gave me pause about having mine in Coloma, Michigan. I don't think I'll change my mind, but if someone else is getting married and they're having their party in Vegas, I'll be sure to join them.
stephens_donald.jpgOne of the men in government past and present that I respect the most gave the eulogy for Donald E. Stephens, the Mayor of Rosemont, and a man that I know rather little about yesterday. Thompson did it with great flair and punctuated Stephens life with a stirring speech that he spoke from the heart. He didn't pull any punches and spoke directly to Stephens legacy - one which will last for many years in the future. He also spoke to a politics that so rarely exists these days:
“How do you expect people in public office to use the political process to carry out the wishes of the people who elect them, unless they can bring into office those who believe in them and support them?” Thompson said. “The real world understands that.”

Everyone talks about the need to clean up government these days. It's certainly true that there are some bad apples and that money corrupts plenty of people. What Thompson was speaking about and how Stephens lived wasn't about money and corruption, it was about loyalty. That's something that everyone can take away from the Village of Rosemont.

Loyalty doesn't exist much anymore. When Thompson goes, that's one thing that people will say about him: he was loyal. Look at his defense of Governor Ryan. Do you think that he did that because of the cash? No way. His firm defended Ryan because Thompson wanted to. He was loyal to Ryan and he was loyal to the office of the Governor.
jeffrey_jordan_250.jpgIf for nothing but the press opportunities and having MJ attend some games, I sure hope that Coach Bruce Weber and the Fighting Illini can close the deal to bring Michael Jordan's boy onto the squad. Of the places he's looking at, the Illini program is clearly the best.

Wilmette Loyola senior guard Jeff Jordan is seriously considering walking on the Illinois basketball team. Jordan made the trip to Champaign with his mother Tuesday and played with the Illini during a pickup game at the Ubben Basketball Complex.

Jordan already has been accepted to the university, and the Illinois coaching staff talked with him about joining the team as a preferred walk-on. The 6-foot-2 Jordan is rated as a three-star recruit by

If Jordan would choose Illinois, he likely would arrive for the start of the summer semester, when the five-man recruiting class will reach campus. Thus, a decision is needed soon. But imagine MJ sitting on the sidelines next to the Orange Krush to see his son in an Illini uniform.

I don't see a downside. By all accounts, he's a decent player, a good kid, and having MJ on the sidelines would probably mean that the Illini will go to the Michael Jordan Nike "Jumpman" Line instead of the normal Nike clothes. This would be a lot of fun!
deadspin.jpgAnyone else notice lately that the Gawker sites are going a little crazy with the keyword linking? I read both Deadspin and Valleywag everyday and they have all these unnecessary links in their posts deep linking to category pages on their own sites.

Take for instance this post on Deadspin. What's with linking ESPN to this page? Same with Kobe Bryant and Paul Shirley. It's a wonder they didn't link the word "douche" to a tagged page. Same with Valleywag. Why link to an environment page on this post? All this linking makes me not even click the links to the outside sources.

I know that SEO is a very dark art that I don't come close to understanding, but is this an attempt to bring more search traffic in? Create these big lengthy verticle pages with post after post about a particular topic and hope/know your search rankings will rise on that word?

Sounds like a SEO Honeypot to me, no? Who knows, it probably works. I need to talk about smelt a lot more, then deep link to a smelt tag page and who knows. A few years from now, maybe I'll be on the first page of results when someone Googles "smelt".
head-up-ass.jpgDoug Ibendahl is at it again, and this time he's going at with with a fairly blunt object. Hey's a bit of advice. If you're going to try to attack folks, make sure you have something sharp. Not something that's dull and off-base. In addition to trying to force Andy McKenna to call a State Convention unnecessarily, he's also back on the SB600 train. You remember SB600, don't you? It's the bill that Ibendahl's Chinaman Jack Roeser is trying to pass that would require direct election of State Central Committee Members by the voters. At least that's what they say they want to happen. They've got their hand-picked guy, Chris Lauzen, who must be salivating at the prospect of a few hundred grand from Roeser's coffers for his 14th Congressional District Race, all lined up to sponsor the bill.

The bill has stalled in the Senate. Remember the name of the bill? It's SB600. That "SB" stands for "Senate Bill". Ibendahl and his crew are pointing the finger at House Republican Leader Tom Cross and others for stalling.

Let's dissect why this is a "blunt object" (if you're going to fight Doug, I'd recommend a stronger argument than this!)and just a silly "flailing about for relevancy" exercise by Ibendahl and his lovely bride Cathy Santos.

Doug says in his note yesterday:
Tom Cross and other Old Guard elements continue to stonewall that positive effort.

Doug must not be a super slueth, huh? Just a quick look and one would see that SB600 hasn't even passed out of Committee in the Senate. Guess what that means? The guys in the house can't be holding it up.

What else? It's just bad legislation, Doug. The GOP in Illinois needs to do everything we can to be successful in beating the Democrats in the general elections. We have a difficult time doing that currently. This bill would waste quite a bit of Republican funding. How's that? There's only so much that folks give for election season. The well isn't bottomless. If we use some of that cash for election of central committeeman, there will be less to spend come the Generals.

Since Doug works for a wealthy guy, he wants folks like that to have an advantage, right? To me, that's also what this bill does. Want to give Jim Oberweis the State Central Committeemanship in the 14th? Pass this bill and he'll be able to wage the richest campaign in the State. Think folks like Bobbie Petersen are going to have the cash to compete? No way. What else this does, is that it gives the politicians an advantage, too. People with high name ID and campaign cash can take over the Central Committee. Ibendahl thinks that this will open up the Committee to the "regular guy", he's dead wrong. This will make it so stuffed with politicians, there won't be any air in the room when they meet - they'll be trying to get their soundbites on tv.

There's other trouble with SB600, too. Imagine what type of mischief this may lead to. Think that the democrats wouldn't gin up some trouble? Imagine the Chicago Democrats helping fund a candidate. If you don't think it could happen, sorry,'re just foolish.

If people like Ibendahl want to change the makeup of the Central Committee they can easily do so by running and supporting Republican precinct committeemen who would support different people as Central Committeeman. It's that easy.

Doug Ibendahl and his crew need to stop pointing fingers and look in the mirror. They say that all the ills in the ILGOP are because of "others". They point to a supposed "Old Guard" and say that they're causing all the problems. Stop the talking and writing, Doug. It's getting really tiresome. Start acting, please. Why not take the example of the very folks you are blaming. Look at Tom Cross. You sent out emails blasting him. Yesterday, while you were busy twittering away with your mayonnaise-laden fingers mashing at the keyboard, he was out helping win the biggest election in Illinois down in Carbondale. That's how you build the party.

It would be nice if you guys would have lifted a finger to help beat back Paul Simon's daughter, but you didn't. Instead, you guys are chasing windmills with your 2007 convention and other nonsense.

Help build the farm team, Doug. Instead of blaming Tom Cross and others, look at their records. Look at what Cross and the HGOP's did with Aaron Schock. They were there for him when no one thought he had a shot. Look who's helping run the House Republican Organization: Chapin Rose. Another "farm team" guy. Look at what Cross did by going out on a limb in Aurora with Richard Irvin. "Farm Team" again. Cross has clearly stated that helping build the "bench" or "farm team" is one of his top political priorities and a very important one for the health of our party.

Doug, stop blaming others. Stop saying that "things would be great if". Make it great by helping.

Oh...and hey Doug. Smelt fishing was great this year. I hope my "smelt fishing escapades" as you called them a few years back in your letter were as enjoyable for you to read as they were to participate in!
sanjaya.jpgCan't say that I've watched even one minute of American Idol in my life, but like a little schoolgirl I voted last night for Sanjaya. Not just once, either. I voted like 15 times. I know...Weird, right?

I couldn't help myself. Howard Stern made me do it. What's that you say? How did Howard make me do it? He made it soooo easy. When I was in my car, I had Howard 100 tuned in and guess what kept flashing across the screen? The words "Vote for Sanjaya" and the number to call. I called. And called. And called. I kept looking around at the stop lights wondering if the folks next to me knew what I was doing.

Stern's crew have really figured out how to leverage the device to their benefit. There's a few million of those things around the country and more than a handful were probably tuned in to Howard. They knew that, and figured it was a great way to incent folks to act. I'm sure that this is just the first way in which they'll use the technology. Watch what they'll do during the presidential elections. I bet Howard endorses someone and they flash voting reminders across the screen. What else could they use the screen for? Any ideas?

If I'm in the car next week, I'm more than a little embarrassed to say that I'll probably vote for Sanjaya again. When election day comes around, who knows what I'll do!
Today at polling places all across the Village of Frankfort, residents went to the polls and voted. I'm lucky enough that they placed their confidence in me by re-electing me to another 4 year term on the Village Board! Granted, I was running uncontested, I still was nervous all morning. Turnout was low, and I expected that, with not many contested races in Frankfort. When I voted at 8 am this morning, I was only the 7th voter in my precinct!

I'm incredibly grateful for the support that both you guys (my friends) and the voters in Frankfort. I'm humbled by the confidence that you all have placed in me. I'm pleased with all that we've accomplished so far, but there's much more to be accomplished: downtown wi-fi, widening of Route 30, banning of all new banks, and dragging the Village of Frankfort into the 21st Century technology-wise.

While I was unopposed this election, that's largely due to you. I've been successful in fundraising and for that I have you to thank. I've been able to work hard and put together a political operation and execute on our plan these past 2 years because of your help. Don't think that our work is done, though. We'll be back out there raising money this summer and trust me, I'll be counting on your support.

I'm looking forward to getting back to work on my issues. I'll continue to blog at and I'll be sure to make the residents in Frankfort the most well-informed constituents in the State of Illinois, even if some don't like the freedom of info that I present.

All the elections won't be as easy as this one, and I know that, but this one is sweet just the same.

Say it with me:

"4 More Years!"
"4 More Years!"
"4 More Years!"
Continuing our annual tradition, Matt Pawlak rounded up our crew and others and we headed out to Montrose Harbor last Friday night for Smelt Fishing. We were right in the sweet spot of the smelting season, but, much like last year, our efforts didn't produce a heckuva lot of smelt. In fact, this year, we caught exactly ZERO smelt. Didn't matter that much as we were thinking ahead and brought a bunch of the suckers from Jewel! Libations were plentiful and the burn bucket kept us warm all night. Thanks to Tom Cactus Vlach for bringing the gear, Matt for much of the logistics, and Dan Fetterer for logging the most miles (NYC to Chicago!) to make it out to Montrose Harbor. Even though we came up largely empty on the fish front this year, make no mistake: we'll be back at it in April of 2008.

Here's a few pictures:

Matt Pawlak and Tom Cactus. The question of the night? Where's Rob?

The Dauphinais Brothers and Mark Kwilosz stay warm by the burn bucket.

Neil McAllister brought out the beard and the coolest hat of the night.

Matt pulls up the net. Everyone is equally disappointed. Something's wrong with the smelt. Maybe Al Gore is right?!?

The entire set of pics can be seen here.
I'm heading to Las Vegas for the first time this Thursday for my good buddy Mark Dauphinais' bachelor party. We're set to be there through early Sunday morning and I'm sure that things will be debaucherous. As luck would have it, one of my favorite blogs, Dethroner, announced that his "theme" this week is Bachelor Parties. Some great posts already and I'm looking forward to even more this week. I've alerted my crew that's going to be trouncing around with me about the Theme, and I bet we'll get some pointers/tips that we can utilize this weekend.

las_vegas.jpgThe party itself is actually an event that is being put on for 2 bachelors. Mark and one of his college buddies. Because of that, there appears to be in excess of 20 dudes heading out there. From the tone of some of the emails, most of the guys that I don't know (Mark's college buddies) are going to really turn one out. As a first timer in Las Vegas, I'll have to strike a nice balance between excess and rest. I hate to admit this, but I've never sat down at a Blackjack table in my life. I've been to a few riverboat casinos, but I have a feeling that the experience isn't quite the same.

I wanted to set a nice budget for myself for the weekend, but Uncle Sam and the IRS are putting a crimp in my plans. I'll have to figure something out. Matt Pawlak tells me that a good time can be spent at the Sportsbooks, and with a full complement of games on the schedule, we should be all set. Some of the weekend has been programmed for us by the Bachelor's and Best Men, but there's plenty of time to figure out what exactly we want to do. The bad news for us is that the Beatles Show at the Mirage is dark for the entire weekend. I'm pretty disappointed in that, but I know that with Neil, Mark, Rob, Matt and Balone along for the ride, we'll have a terrific time.

All of this discussion about bachelor parties has made me think about my own. I've had preliminary discussions with my Best Man Matt Pawlak about the where's (Coloma, Michigan), the when's (summer), and the how's (Can you say "pontoon boat"?), but I'm sure that I'll get some resistance from some camps about the lack of excitement when it comes to heading up to Michigan for the weekend. I think that it's much more my "pace" and a heckuva way to send me off to married life.
Nothing like starting the weekend out with a few nice tunes. Below is one of my favorites. This weekend marks our annual pilgrimage to Montrose Harbor for smelt fishing. Just like last year, I wouldn't miss it for all the tea in China. If you haven't ever been smelt fishing in Chicago, don't be bashful. You can tag along.

That old post from last year is kinda funny. When I was working and blogging for Tom Cross, the House Republican Leader, he received a letter from this nutball Doug Ibenhal. Doug complained to Tom that I took a few too many jabs at him and his Chinaman Jack Roeser, and that I should be focusing my efforts on defeating the Democrats instead of publishing my "smelt fishing excursions". Too funny, right? I guess he can't complain now that I'm not at Cross' office anymore, so expect some pics come Monday!

Enjoy the weekend and the video. These guys are weirdos, aren't they?

I'm either too cramped for time, or too lazy or both to write a full post, so instead, I have a bunch of stuff rattling around my brain and I'm dumping it here so I can move on to more important things like whether I'm going to get a meatball sandwich or the Italian Beef at Venice Cafe for lunch today.

  • I hate it when people on the train wear a ton of purfume/cologne. I also hate it when people smell. Sure, we all have our off days, but my goal in life scent-wise is to leave no footprint - have no smell. Shouldn't that be everyone's?

  • The best sports blog out there is Deadspin. Hands down. One of the best parts of the blog are the comments. My co-worker Matt and I were just chatting about them this morning. The best description I've ever read about the community there was written on CopyRanter: "If you have time, read the comments; his readers are both batshit insane and very entertaining. "

  • I wonder if there's a Beer-O-the-Month-Club that will send me all 25 of these beers? I've had a few of them, but I think it's a lofty goal to get all 25 down. I think you'd need like 4 of each or something, right? You'd want to share this experience with folks.

  • I've been working with the guys from AgencyNet to get the Howard TV feed fired up. I love that my job allows, ney, enourages that I pitch folks like this. Baba Booey, Baba Booey!

  • I'm kinda surprised that the 2 players for the "Good Guys" who decided or volunteered to wear Jackie Robinson's #42 jersey this weekend were Jim Thome and Alex Cintron. Seems like there would have been other guys to make that move, doesn't it?

  • The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming! My folks live on a very wooded lot. I remember the last time they showed up. Crazy, crazy stuff. The whole backside of our house was covered in their shells (or whatever you call it. exoskeleton?!?). I bet Maisy will have a field day and fill up her belly with these babies!
  • Some companies fascinate me (FedEx, Sirius Satellite Radio, Toyota, Google), some companies that I hate (sometimes FedEx, Kerasotes Movie Theaters, Clear Channel), and other companies I love. One of the companies that I love is Patagonia, the maker of gear and apparel.

    "There is no business to be done on a dead planet."

    - Sierra Club executive director David Brower

    On certain days, I'm decked out head-to-toe in clothing and gear from Patagonia. As Natalie would tell anyone, I'm not that fashion-conscious and I usually have a hard time dressing myself in the mornings. I don't have that much clothing from Patagonia, but I have a few "everyday items" like coats, shoes, and my computer bag. Toss in a few shirts, some pants, and a hat or two, and that rounds out my whole collection.

    patagonia-logo.gifI try to avoid clothes with lots of labels, while at the same time wearing clothes that are comfortable and wear nice. There's nothing worse then when I bring home a polo-style shirt from Kohl's that is red and after a wash, it turns to a faded relic of it's past. Now, a clothes horse, I am not. I can appreciate a nice piece, but for the most part it doesn't consume me - except for Patagonia.

    Patagonia isn't a huge company. Last year they had $270M in revenue. Folks like Nike and Adidas far outshadow them in the revenue department. That brings us to the quote I included up top. We can't do business on a dead planet, right?

    Patagonia goes beyond their responsibilities as a company with their 1% of sales guarantee. They take 1% of their annual sales and dedicate it to environmental causes. He's asking other businesses to join them in this pledge. So far over 500 others have come aboard. There's more, too. They encourage people to send in their old clothing because they can use it to make new stuff with less impact on the environment.

    Here in Chicago, we're a lucky bunch in that we have a Patagonia retail outfit. Walk in there, and it's like Candyland - except a Candyland where the stuff is way too expensive. Natalie and I make our way there a few times a year, and mostly we walk out with maybe one or two lower priced items. For my birthday last week, I was lucky enough to get their Spoken Word jacket and a new pair of trainers that convert to sandals when the moment strikes me! (thanks, Nat!)

    I like that the company tries to leave a small footprint environmentally, but the biggest thing, for me about Patagonia gear is the quality. You can't match it. Buy any jacket from them and it will outlast just about any other article of clothing you own. You'll pay more for it than a Columbia or North Face, but it's style won't fade and it certainly won't fall apart. And...if it does fall apart? Send it back in. They have a 100% lifetime guarantee on all their products. If they don't sell it anymore? They'll give you the last listed price in their system. That's customer service, isn't it? It's easy, when you make the best products in the world, though.

    Professionally, I am excited that I get to interact with the company. Through FeedBurner, we've been able to help Patagonia distribute their content around the web. As more and more traditional retailers are becoming publishers, FeedBurner is in the unique position to help them gain a better understanding of where their content is distributed. The Cleanest Line, Patagonia's company blog uses FeedBurner to power their feed. They're also using FeedBurner to help manage their Jobs feed. I love that! I worked with the folks at Patagonia to help get through all of our tools, and he couldn't have been cooler. Makes me like the company even more!

    Reading up on their corporate culture reaffirms that my brand loyalty is well founded. There aren't many lines of clothing that I'll advocate for, but I will for Patagonia. They've earned my loyalty and I look forward to many happy years with their products.
    discosweat.jpgThis morning on my radio program of choice (Howard Stern), I tuned in to find a guest that has appeared many times before. He's also a popular guest on programs like The Tonight Show and Late Night. That guest was Richard Simmons. Richard is a popular guest because he's usually enjoyable to listen to/watch as he hams it up for the host and the audience. It appears that he knows his niche and he's parlayed that to a pretty sizable empire. This morning, in addition to the "Which guy(s) are you dating?" jokes, Stern also chatted with Simmons about the "Strengthening Physical Education Act of 2007".

    Before Simmons scurried out after an insensitive joke, he spoke about how the "Leave No Child Behind" act is squeezing out physical education classes from America's schools. Much like there are standards for reading, writing, and arithmetic, Simmons bill would amend NCLB to provide a national guideline for minimum standards for health and fitness in our schools.

    Take him for what he is (which is pretty laugable!), but this is a sound issue and one that I support. He's asking folks to write their congressman and he's even provided an Astroturf'd letter on his website. Obesity is an epidemic in America and a lot of it starts with our kids. Ensuring that all kids who are able are required to meet some established health and fitness standards, is a great step in the right direction. We provide D.A.R.E, let's mandate and fund P.E.
    gorilla_bread.jpgI believe that I may have had the best food item that I have ever tasted yesterday at my sister Vic's house. Most of my family headed over there for Easter brunch-ish. (10 am to noon) There were the usual suspects on the menu: bagels, quiche, ham, etc. Natalie and I brought a banana cream pie, courtesy of my "Two-Time Pie Eating Champion" winnings. I made my way through the spread without much delight. While, as most people know, I really enjoy a good spread, I'm not really into breakfast foods. Vic tipped me onto the Gorilla Bread, and I'm thrilled she did. While not the least bit healthy, (the recipe doesn't mention that Vic uses Martha's cream cheese frosting recipe to top this whole thing off!) it may be the best thing I've ever tasted - not to mention it's President Jimmy Carter's favorite food.

    When discussing my favorite foods, I tend to skew towards the italian beef/pizza area of the food pyramid, but this new Gorilla Bread entrant, might be my new pick. If you haven't tried it, I can't recommend it more. From what I'm told, it's a very simple production and the payoff is big.
    Dear Illinois Legislators,

    lanejumping1.jpgMore often than not, I know that more and new laws are not the answer to problems facing residents in Illinois. Many times, they aren't the solutions - they're the problems. That's why, it is with great trepidation that I am requesting your sponsorship of a bill that would modify the Illinois Vehicle Code.

    As any commuter, or for that matter - any driver in Illinois, can tell you, road construction is the source of many headaches. While we all understand that constuction and improvements are a necessary part of the roadway system, most drivers try to avoid the construction areas at all costs. Avoiding the construction zones is good practice, but sometimes it's unworkable.

    What makes travelling the construction zones worse is what, for lack of a better term, I'll call "Cheaters". These are the folks who run up the right lane, when 2 miles back there are merge left signage that indicates that the right lane is closing. Most conscientious drivers in Illinois make their best efforts to merge as soon as possible, while others, believing that it's their right to cut in front of anyone and everyone who is heading in the same direction, speed up to as close to the merger point as possible, then toss on their blinker and nudge in.

    It is this "cheating" that causes so much of the delays, as traffic can not successfully move forward with this activity. I would like to see you support a bill that would modify the Illinois Vehicle Code to make such "cheating" moves illegal and subject to a fine. In Illinois, we have already made travelling "slow" in the left lane a punishable offense, I believe that the majority of Illinois residents would support this common-sense bill.

    Other states have begun cracking down on this behavior including in Seattle Washington where they call it "lane jumping".

    Seattle Police officers Lyndell Jones and Jeff Rodgers carry out a unique mission: They're the only cops in the state who can bust drivers for simply cutting in line.

    The pair stand near a freeway ramp from the West Seattle Bridge corridor to northbound Interstate 5, where commuters in the one-mile queue resent the minority who nose in front just before the ramp.

    Whenever the crackdown is on, people honk, wave, give thumbs up and sometimes stop to tattle on the cheaters.

    "They love us here," says Rodgers. "Not many people love a traffic officer. We get public reinforcement, and we come back."

    Most drivers inch down the left lane toward the ramp, watching the moss grow on the elevated Spokane Street roadway. But others cruise in the open right lane — headed toward Beacon Hill — then troll for a spot in the left lane.

    Though it's the only place so-called "lane jumping" is forbidden, police and transportation officials across the region have noticed several spots where aggressive drivers try to slip past a line of traffic.

    As for opponents of such legislation, I could be wrong, but I am not aware of any coordinated effort between the guys who drive brutal red wedge-shaped Camaros and the jerks who cruise around chatting on their cell phones in their oversized, bloated grocery wagon SUV's. I look forward to discussing this issue with you in the future.

    jerrycolangelo.jpgThe talk around Chicago for the past week has been the sale of the Tribune Company to Sam Zell and the swift decision to put the Chicago Cubs up for sale. Zell is part owner of the Chicago White Sox (inside Managing Partner Jerry Reinsdorf's group) and MLB rightly prohibits an individual from owning a piece of more than one team.

    The speculation has been running rampant about possible suitors. Names like Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Murray have emerged. That won't happen. It seems it's down to three real possiblities: Don Levin - the owner of Chicago's most successful sports team, the Chicago Wolves, Mark Cuban - the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and IU graduate, and finally, University of Illinois graduate and former owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns Jerry Colangelo.

    Baseball being baseball, this won't necessarily come down to whom has the higest bid as evidenced by the sale of the Boston Red Sox a few years back. MLB will have a hand in the transaction and they'll approve any sale. Because of that, I'm putting my money on Jerry Colangelo. They say the "most exclusive club in America" is the United States Senate. I think those folks are wrong. That distinction goes to the owners of Major League Baseball teams. Colangelo is one of them....or at least he was.

    This is going to come down to politics and working the other owners, in my opinion. The deals will be so close to each other, that the Tribune and MLB will look to a known commodity - and that's Colangelo. And don't think for a minute that Colangelo won't be playing the "minor league card" to anyone and everyone who will listen. He'll say Levin's background with the Wolves is Bush League and he's not "fit" for the Majors.

    As for Cuban, I think the same reasons will eliminate him. The other owners dont' want to deal with him. Keep him in the NBA with David Stern, they'll say.

    Now, Colangelo doesn't come without his own baggage. Sure he won a World Series with the Diamondbacks in 2001, just 3 years after organizing the club from the ground up. But since, they haven't been able to recover. According to some he put the club into such a financial canyon that they're still trying to dig out. He deferred a ton of payroll and had to raise some money all over again from investors. Some say that he won at all costs. Some think that's bad. I bet some Cubs fans in this town would love to see that approach here.

    As a Sox guy, I don't really care who owns the team. I just hope they continue to disappoint.
    Although most, if not all of you didn't notice, our own Chicago Bulls have quietly secured a clinched a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. I haven't watched a Bulls game in quiet some time. I catch the highlights every morning on SportsCenter and it appears that Luol Deng has matured into quite a player. Ben Gordon is somewhat of a "proven commodity" and Ben Wallace has been a great anchor in with the "trees". Wallace, who's been the source of some controversy this season because of his headbands (why not let him wear them, guys? He has them on in your billboards, promo materials and tickets, right?), but he's also gaining some press for something else he's wearing.


    Wallace has joined up with Knicks guard Stephon Marbury to roll out a sneaker that retails for $14.98. You read that right: less than 15 bucks. Right now, he's wearing Marbury's shoes, but next season, he'll have his own line - The Big Ben. He's doing it for all the right reasons:

    "Kids don't really understand what it takes to go out and buy a pair of $300 pair of shoes," Wallace said at a news conference on Tuesday. "We don't understand the pressure we put on our parents when we're growing up. This is one of the things where I think the parents will appreciate it a lot more than the kids right now because it eliminates so much stress from the parents. All parents want to see their kids have nice things."

    There's long been talk about athletes being role models and their hesitation to assume that role. The facts are that many, many kids look up to professional athletes and want to emulate them. From sticking their tongue out ala Michael Jordan, to pumping their fist like Tiger Woods, to wearing really baggy shorts, kids want to act and wear what the pros wear. Wallace is not only sending a message to kids that it's ok to wear $15 shoes, he's trying to make it "cool". I love it. He's forgoing the big fat sneaker contracts that folks like LeBron are securing and he's making a statement. It's really nice to see an athlete take a stand like this.

    I have a new-found appreciation for Big Ben. Go Bulls!
    With the arrival of a new year in my life (29th!), I thought that it would be appropriate to move RhodesSchool over to a different blogging platform. I've been on a custom-made blogging platform that has served me very well since 2004 and I am not done with it. My Wedding Blog is still on the platform, as are a whole host of my other sites. With RhodesSchool, I wanted to bring it to a new platform because this is the type of issue that I deal with on a day-to-day basis at FeedBurner. We deal with publishers who have to modify their .htaccess file, install the Ordered List WordPress plugin, and embed various widgets and items into their sidebars.

    I wanted to roll up my sleeves, get a little dirty, and get better acquainted to this particular platform. Will I stay at WordPress forever? I doubt it. It's one of many blogging platforms that publishers are using. Rick Stratton is using and that looks to be a promising tool. I am planning on giving it a try next.

    The other thing you'll notice is that this blog is hosted at a new url: I've been looking for something to put here, and as I look around the web, I notice that many of the folks that I admire, are building out their blogs at their personal domains. As we move forward, I'll look to build out the rest of the domain with other pages. We've added some new functionality like a "resyndicate" page (hat tip, Eric Olson), so you can take our content and spread it, embed it, and share it all around the web and beyond. Over on the right, we've brought over our "shared items" from our Google Reader and branded them as "Jake's Reading List". As a lot of publishers have discovered, it's a super useful feature to share items from around the web with your readers.

    Now, onto the "downside" of moving platforms. The archives are in limbo. I have over 3 years of content that I'm going to work to bring over. For the time being, we're without them (ahem...Phil. I'm looking in your direction!), but I'm hopeful we'll be able to bring them over in some fashion. I need to consult with some SEO experts to figure out the best way to do things. Right now, I'm going to leave pointing over there, and just change the feed until we can get it nailed down. In the long term, I think that we'll grow our visibility inside of search engines because of our naming convention on permalinks, the new domain, and the standardized blogging platform.

    In the meantime, enjoy what's going on here. I'll do my best to raise the level of discussion here at RhodesSchool, but as always, you'll probably have plenty of YouTube videos, slamming of Chicago Democrats, and an occasional Maisy update (or two).

    While you're here, go ahead and put our new comments feature through it's paces by leaving a comment or two!
    I would be very comfortable in making the statement that the Master's is one of my favorite sporting events to watch on television. Sure, the first four days of March Madness, the World Cup, New Year's Day Bowl games, and the World Series are wonderful events, but to me the Masters is different. Each of those other events are captivating and are things that I look forward to. A few of them (World Cup & March Madness) even make me alter my workday by staying home, or going out for a long lunch, or leaving early. New Year's Day has changed so much over the course of the past 10 years that it matters less and less, with the "big" games occurring on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and now even later. (That, plus the fact that the Illini haven't played in NYDay in many a moon.)

    masters.gifThe Masters, though, is a weekend event, where I don't really "root" for anyone in particular. Yes, I have my favorites (Sergio & Colin Montgomerie), but in the end, it doesn't really matter who wins. I sit down and watch A LOT of it on tv both on Saturday and Sunday. What's better than Jim Nantz quietly talking about the "Amen Corner" coupled with shots of the Azeleas and Dogwoods in bloom with birds chirping on the soundtrack.

    I'm not on any anti-anxiety medicine (and some in my life believe that I should be!), but after watching 4-5 hours of this for 2 days, I don't need any. I'm as relaxed as I can be. I wish they would expand that experience to their website.

    Today is the first day and one that I traditionally "miss" because I'm in an office or doing something else. ESPN's Jason Sobel is doing an incredible job live-blogging the day, but is a bit of a letdown. It's a vast improvement over last year, but it's still not where it needs to be.

    They bill their site has having "live video" from Amen Corner and the driving range, and it is live. For about 3 minutes. Then they drop your connection. You have to continue to click on "watch" after each 3 minute segment. Too expensive you say, right? If the NCAA can do it during March Madness, you guys can do it to. After all, you're on the SAME NETWORK! (MLB is way out in front of this stuff, and oftentimes powers broadcasts like this.)

    Getting the connection to not "drop" is one thing, but there's so much more to improve. I applaud for having an rss feed. The problem? It's a mess of content. There's news stories, "notes", tee times and pairings, and even a series of diary posts from a player. Don't get me wrong. It's great for Masters fanatics, but there's more they can do. What about being able to sign up for a feed of your favorite player? You can pick your "favorites" on the site and follow their action. Let's get a feed up there, too.

    The player diary is a really nice touch and they should be pushing for more players to do the same. I bet that soon enough, we'll see a golfer go the same route Red Sox Pitcher Curt Shilling has gone: write their own stand-alone blog. The Masters should grab those relationships while they can. Will Tiger blog? No, but I bet Luke Donald would.

    How about getting a little involved in the community. Make the leaderboard a "widget" where I can embed it on my blog for the week. The Masters should be doing some blog work and reaching out to publishers. I bet just about every sports blogger who is out there would carry a leaderboard widget on their site if you worked with them. That leads me to the next thought. Why not work to broadcast the tournament online with a similiar system that the Tour of California used for the bicycle race?

    Layer some data on top of the broadcast. Leaderboards, stats (greens in regulation, etc), weather, news, hole descriptions, history, and then carry blog posts tagged with a "Masters2007" tag. Even bring in Flickr photos with a certain specified tag. Let me determine what is organized where and how much video I want "poking" through.

    As others have said, moving toward this type of convergence worked really well with cycling, and I think it would work even better with golf. The PGA should be looking to deliver this type of experience to the consumer in the coming months and years. If they don't we'll go elsewhere for our Sunday afternoon nap time tv watching.
    cross-hs.jpgDaily Herald Columnist Eric Krol wielded a sharp pen against House Minority Leader Tom Cross on Friday. The column was pretty harsh and almost seemed vengeful. While they say that you should never pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel, I'm going to go ahead and disagree with Eric on a few issues.

    Krol asserts that Cross "staged a coup against Lee Daniels, then House GOP leader". While that's how it may seem to an outsider and it certainly makes for a more sexy copy, it just isn't true. I was employed by the Leader's office under Daniels, and participated in a few campaigns through the HRCC (Daniel's campaign arm). The "stink" around Daniels had gotten so strong and his organization (HRCC) had atrophied to the point of failing to fund campaigns, that something needed to be done. It wasn't Cross alone that "staged this coup". It was rather a "falling from grace" that happened, and Cross, along with folks like Carolyn Krause, Pat Lindner, Brent Hassert, Skip Saviano, Renee Kosel, and Eileen Lyons filled the void. Did Cross assume the Leadership role in this group? Sure he did, but to claim that he alone took down Daniels isn't accurate.

    Krol then asserts that Cross hasn't done enough to rid the party of Bob Kjellander. He says "then late last year, after the issue had pretty much played itself out, Cross called for Kjellander’s ouster". Ummm....that's just false, Eric. You should know better. A simple Google search would turn up evidence to the contrary. That article is from August of 2005. I won't quote it here, I'll let you guys go read it.

    Krol then goes on to say that even if Cross was going to leverage his reach and abilities as House Republican Leader to higher office, he'd face a tough fight for either Governor or AG. That's probably true, but I don't quite know why Krol thinks that Cross taking a Constitutional Office is "unlikely". I guess he thinks Bill Bradey has a better shot, eh? Come on. Cross is THE best Republican leader in the state to lead our party back. He comes from a county that's just outside of the collars, he strikes a moderate approach, and he's willing to build consensus to get things done.

    Next, Krol goes after Cross' record of picking up seats in the House. He hasn't won back the majority, that's for sure. If that's what Eric is talking about. He's right. Cross hasn't succeeded. But take a look at what happened this past year. Which way did the state go? Or even...look at the nation. It went democratic. Do you think that's Cross' fault? No, it's not. I'm impressed that he didn't lose more seats. Look at Dave McSweeney. That's a GOP district. Look at Mark Kirk. He barely hung on. Same with Roskam. If you think that next year is going to easier, it won't. Especially if Obama is on the national ticket. Playing defense and picking up a seat or two is the right approach. Just ask Frank Watson. The House Republican's aren't irrelevant.

    Krol then says that Cross doesn't "lead". Um...Eric...who wants a top-down approach to government? Who wants a dicatator approach? I know I certainly don't. That's the "old way".

    Finally, Krol takes exception with Cross straying from Speaker Hastert to back Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential primary. To me, it's the smartest move Cross and his spokesman David Dring have made (the better story for an enterprising columnist would be to ask how they got hooked up with Rudy. Eric...if you want to go ahead and take that story, I'm ok with that..). If you do have your eyes on the prize for 2010 for Governor or AG, what better way to quietly and soundly build a statewide organization than to run a race for America's Mayor. He'll be able to round up volunteers from every corner of the state. He'll have email addresses, sign locations, volunteers, and donors. Oh yeah...and guess who'll be coming to town to raise money for Cross in 2009? That's right. Rudy.

    I've taken a critical eye towards Cross' web and interactive approach, and I think it needs one. They had a great start. They were soooooo far out in front of anyone. They dropped the ball and fumbled a few yards back, but with Rudy's help, and a half-way decent email campaign (with polls), they're on their way to building a successful operation.

    They also have some of the strongest pieces in place in personnel. With David Dring and Kevin Artl doing the messaging and media, they'll be as stong an operation in Illinois. They only need to get rid of the small-thinking bureaucratic folks who like to keep everything and everyone buttoned down. Small people with small thoughts who kill ideas aren't good for an organization. They'll ruin you, Tom.