Saturday, January 30, 2010

On the Comeback Trail?

The Czarina and I headed over to a ritzy gated community called The Verandah to run an 8K.  This morning's effort marked my first race since last May's 5K in Riga.  Despite the nagging sciatica pain in my right hamstring I believed an effort at under 8 minute per mile pace was well within reach.  The Czarina was skeptical of her fitness and planned on something closer to 8:20 pace.

The weather was good but not great and the course while flat was full of twists and turns.  At the gun I got out surprisingly well and much to my amazement I wasn't staring at the Czarina's back for the first mile.  She had stayed true to her word and took it out easy.  When I hit the first mile in 7:32 I was shocked.  I was running relaxed and easy and thought to myself, maybe 37:30 is possible?  Unfortunately a combination of humidity, unending turns and a reluctance on my part to really push it kept me from running that fast.  I waited until the final mile to start reeling in a group of a half dozen runners that I had been shadowing for the first four miles passing all but a couple running a 7:18 final mile and finishing in 38:11. I hadn't run a 8K since 1998 when I ran 32 minutes, but that was 30 pounds ago!

The Czarina finished soon after I did running 40:09, averaging a pleasing 8:04 per mile and capturing her age group.  It was a nice effort given her recent unhappiness with her training.  After my warm down I saw that I too had taken an age group award, my first in a long, long time.  I finished 2nd and picked up a trophy.

Next on the race calendar is a 5K in a couple of weeks followed by a half marathon in early March.  If I can stay healthy a sub-8 minute per mile effort seems realistic.  If I can stay healthy and if I can continue to lose weight who knows how fast I can run.  But the idea of running a Boston qualifier doesn't seem so unreasonable right now.

Bloggers update:  The Czarina was very unhappy with the fact that I failed to point out that she won her age group.  Yes, she came home with a bigger trophy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

As of this week I am semi-employed.  I've been contracted to work part-time at my old job, the one I was laid off from at the end of July.  Since then I have sent out a steady stream of job applications.  During the first five months of my employment hiatus I had all of three job interviews, all with television stations, all within the first six weeks of my joblessness.

Suddenly at the end of December and the beginning of January all hell broke loose on the job front.  I won't go into details to protect the innocent, since many of the possibilities are still hanging fire.  I've had three more interviews and a couple of inquiries as to my interest in two other situations.  I also took and passed both the enumerator and the supervisor tests to join the U.S. Census effort. 

Then a couple of weeks ago I was asked to come back to the I-75 expansion project as it winds down.  The current PIO is leaving for another job and they need someone to answer any public or media queries and handle any lane or ramp closing advisories.  So on Monday I returned to my old job donning my iROX shirt.  It's only 24 hours a week but it at least gets me out of the house.  The gig should last a couple of months at least.

I expect to sit down with the Census folks in the next week or so as well.  If I'm lucky I should be able to do both jobs.  As for those other gigs that are hanging in the fire, we'll see.  Once the smoke clears I will go into detail because some of it has been fairly interesting, even salty!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ben, Brink and the Garmin 405

I've been neglecting my blogging and let a lot of things pile up over the week. 
Topic 1:  Ben Bernanke
What the hell people?  The man navigated our economy through an almost certain depression and now several boneheads in the U.S. Senate don't believe he should stay on as Fed Chairman.  It seems the shocking victory Tuesday night by Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy caused a brain freeze worse than a 7/11 ICEE.  Proof is the sudden rush by President Obama to subdue the mega banks that caused the near economic meltdown 14 months ago.  That brilliant move went hand in glove with the Democrats hell bent on pulling the country further to the left and the public flogging of Bernanke.  That message went over really well on Wall Street.  Dow 9000 here we come.

Topic 2:  Brink Chipman
It's a name the vast majority of you who read this blog have ever heard.  Brink died this week from cancer.  He was just 66 years old.  Brink was my news director at WTCN in Minneapolis in 1979.  He was a thoughtful, charming man who did his best to mentor me and handle a hellstorm of a newsroom.  WTCN went from being a quaint independent news operation in 1979 to a full-fledged NBC affiliate.  I was among 40 or more folks hired to bring the station up to speed.  Brink came in as the executive producer.  The evil genius's at Metromedia which owned WTCN (now KARE) at the time pitted Brink against the managing editor John Hudgens (a hard drinking transplant from Arkansas) to see who could topple the now weary, kindly old news director Gil Amundson.  Brink won out because he was a lot smarter than John and was a lot better with people.  John fled back to Arkansas.  Brink did his best in an impossible situation.  He later ran very successful news operations in Tucson, Portland and Salt Lake City.

Brink could have fired me early into his reign as news director.  I had gotten sideways with the weekend anchorman Stan Bohrmann.  Will Ferrell's legendary Ron Burgundy had nothing on Stan.  His ego was impossible and he consumed vast quantities of booze and drugs to help fuel it.  Stan had been hired as insurance by WTCN and anchored weekends.  He was there in case the main anchor Jim Dwyer didn't take.  From day one Stan was orchestrating Jim's demise.  On one particular weekend Stan got fed up with my producing abilities and physically confronted me in the control room.  It was a mere shove but years later my executive producer Mary Cox who had worked in the Twin Cities told me a story about a poor weekend producer at WTCN who had gotten beaten up by Stan Bohrmann.  I about doubled over laughing and informed Mary that I was the victim and that it was only a push.

Anyway, the day after the control room brohaha Brink removed me as weekend producer, much to my relief.  I became a writer and got a chance to really learn about writing and producer from Paul Adelman. It wasn't long before Stan was anchoring the main shows.   How Brink ever put up with Stan and a lot of the crazies including myself, is beyond my comprehension.  My heart goes out to his wife, children, and friends.

Topic 3:  The Garmin 405
I bought one of this GPS beauties for my wife as a Christmas present.  All I can say is WOW!  It is such a vast imporvement over the Garmin 305, which I own.  The watch is loaded with features well beyond the 305's abilities and it synch's with the GPS satellites at warp speed.  Sometimes it can take five minutes for my old Garmin's GPS to lock in.  Not this baby.  The 405 is much smaller than the 305 and looks like a regular watch.  The only thing that I'm not wild about is the bezel.  The bezel ring around the watch controls a lot of its functions.  Now I don't find it problematic but for my wife it's a disaster waiting to happen.  The Czarina loves her Garmin she just has a habit of touching the bezel when she shouldn't and killing the stop watch/GPS function.  She'll learn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Extraordinary Measures = complete cheese

Have you seen the trailers?  Never in my life have I seen a movie trailer on television that is so cliched.

The above is the trailer I found on You Tube.  It's longer than the 30 second piece of crap currently airing continously on television.  The shame of it all is I really like Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser has been in several good films as well.  But watching the ad campaign just makes me want to vomit.  It's saccarine, predictable, and complete cornball. 

I won't be wasting my money on this one.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Demos!?! We don't need no stinking demos!!!

It may be late but I want to weigh in on the Leno/Conan debacle.  Could somebody please just fire Jeff Zucker.  I mean seriously.  The man has driven this once proud network completely into the ground, so much so that GE couldn't wait to unload it to Comcast. 

Zucker is a prime example of what happens when bean counters run television stations.  Everything turns to shit.  This has been happening at the local level for the last 15 years and now we get to see it happen at the network level.  Sure Leno was a hell of a lot cheaper to produce than an hour drama.  But Zucker and his cronies never stopped to consider all of the other fallout from such a foolish programming decision.

Leno killed the late night local news.  That in turn deflated the ratings for "The Tonight Show" and digging deeper, I wonder how big an impact this is having on morning news ratings at NBC stations across the country?  People tend to turn on and watch the channel they had on when they went to bed.  Even a ten percent hit hurts those local morning shows and in turn "The Today Show."

Then the boneheads at NBC decide to move Leno back to 11:35.  Leno failed and he gets rewarded with his old slot.  Conan is right to be pissed.  Dick Ebersole is an asswipe for even opening his mouth on this subject.  Everyone knows the only reason Leno got "The Tonight Show" in the first place was because he kissed the ass of every GM at every NBC station in the United States and completely brownnosed the corporate clowns at the network.  Letterman wouldn't play that game and it cost him.

Conan is cut from the Letterman mold of comedy.  He's irreverant, creative, and goes outside the box, something Leno rarely did.  And that gets us to the demos.  Leno skews old.  Why wouldn't NBC want to keep Conan and his younger viewers?  Everything I've ever learned in television was its all about the demos.  I guess its a lessons a bean counter never learns.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Big Mac

Mark McGwire stepped up to the plate one last time and hit it out of the park.  His admission to steroid use is a welcome one in my book.  It doesn't wash away his troubling appearance before Congress but it closes yet another chapter in baseball's troubling PED era.  It helps fans come to terms with the rampant cheating.

I can still recall vividly watching McGwire's final day home run rush on the scoreboard at Kauffman Stadium as the Royals closed out their season against the White Sox.  The scoreboard operators made sure to keep the crowd clued in his Big Mac's final push to 70 home runs for St. Louis. 

The amazing home run battle that summer between the Cardinals' McGwire and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs did a lot to erase the painful memories of the 1994 baseball strike.  That strike drove me away from the game I loved.  Even the homerun dramatics of 1998 only did a little to melt the icy chill between myself and our once national pastime. 

The fact that the use of steroids by baseball players seemed to escape the media for so long is stunning.  Afterall everyone knew that sports like pro football, cycling along with track and field had long engaged in the use of performance enhancing drugs.  How writers failed to notice the fact that Barry Bond's neck had tripled in size in a couple of years made me chuckle.  Anyone with a clue knew what was going on.

McGwire's confession as he prepares to join the Cardinals as their hitting coach should send a signal to the other high profile "cheats."  Bonds, Sosa, Clemons, among others need to come clean.  Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun. 

Welcome back to baseball Mark McGwire.  Hopefully the game's writers will forgive and forget and welcome you to Baseball's Hall of Fame.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hitting 50

I'm 54 years old and I did something this week I haven't been able to do in more than five and a half years.  I ran 52 miles this week.  The week of mileage was capped by an easy 16 miler on a cool, blustery, sunny Sunday in South Fort Myers.

During the two and a half hours out on the roads I reflected back on why it had taken so long to reach a relatively easy amount of miles.  The answer is easy, health, health, and health.  Way back in 2004 I still weighed about 170 pounds and in the spring of that year was running 50 plus miles a week regularly.  I was in decent shape capable of running a 10K in under 42 minutes.

The wheels began to fall off in the late summer.  My diverticulitis was flaring up and would be aggravated by the slew of hurricanes that touched Southwest Florida.  Each time after Charley, Frances, and Jeannie, I would get sick.  Running with diviticulitis is very difficult because of the abdominal pain.  I knew that I was facing surgery sometime in early 2005 when my intestines finally gave out in early December 2004 while my wife and I walked down Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

The illness and resulting surgery was physically debilitating.  I lost a lot of weight and even by the third week of December was barely able to walk.  I wouldn't return to work until January and didn't even attempt jogging until late January.  I underwent a second round of surgery in February to reverse a colostomy the first surgery had left me with and once again I was physically spent.

It wasn't until April 2005 that I tried to start jogging again.  Running would take a backseat while I worked to rebuild a news operation in Topeka later in the year and by the middle of 2006 I had severe achilles tendonitis.  It was a problem I had suffered with for 16 years and I would undergo the first of two surgeries to repair both achilles.  The first surgery was December 2006, the second followed in May 2008.  Both operations put running on hold for about three months.

So 2009 was the first year I've managed to avoid the knife and get a decent amount of mileage.  Even now I'm not physically healthy.  Five months ago a massage therapist's over exuberance wrecked my right hip and touched off a case of sciatica, something I've never had to deal with before.  The pain only bothers me when I sit.  Running is the only time when right leg actually feels decent.

The end game is to attempt to run a Boston qualifier in the marathon.  I had hoped to do it this spring but I'm going to put the attempt on hold in hopes the hip begins to feel better and in an effort to build a better base.  If I can stay healthy I want to join my friend Craig Davidson next fall in St. George and try to run 3:35.  It will be Craig's 200th marathon.  It would be my 20th.  Here's to 50 mile weeks and marathon number 20.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

God Bless Wendall Anschutz

If Kansas City had a Mount Rushmore for television news anchormen, Wendall Anschutz would surely have a place among them.  He passed away this morning at age 71 after a battle with throat cancer.  He was the face of KCTV news for 35 years.

I first noticed Wendall back in the early 70's while I was in high school.  He was a first rate reporter.  He could cover hard news but also had an easy style well suited to feature stories.  What I loved about Wendall is that he came across the screen as middle of the road, even keeled, and a decent man.  Eventually by the time I was in college he was the main anchor at the CBS station.

I've had the privilege of working with two of the great anchormen in Kansas City who have led their stations for more than a quarter century.  I worked for Larry Moore at KMBC when I first came out of college.  I will never forget Larry snapping at me, "Rinkenbaugh, working with you is like trying to make journalistic timber out of a twig."  He has a glee in his eye and a nose for news and a cackle that will wake up any newsroom.

I spent nearly a dozen years working alongside Phil Witt at WDAF.  Phil strikes me as being a lot like Wendell.  He's a great reporter with incredible news judgment.  I can remember going to the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco with Phil.  We were both a couple of boys from the Midwest out on the town in the big city.  We made memories on that trip that I will long treasure.  It included a night of shooting the breeze with the legendary Kansas City television and radio anchor Charles Gray and one of the best reporters you'll ever find in Dave Helling, at a San Francisco hotel bar.

I met Wendall only once.  He was all warmth.  I'm sure Larry and Phil would both agree that he set the bar very high and they loved competing against him.  It makes me sad to see one of the faces that I grew up with and in a way learned from leaving the scene.  Wendall Anschutz made Kansas City a better place for lending his voice to the community.  Thank goodness we still have Larry, Phil, John Holt and Kris Ketz carrying on that tradition.

Monday, January 4, 2010

For the Gamblers Part 2

For my faithful readers you may recall a blog from late September.  In it I wrote of the ongoing bankruptcy case involving Washington Mutual.  On that particular day the stock of this bankrupt company had made quite a remarkable run before falling back into its normal range which is 10 to 12 cent for the common stock and about 20 to 25 dollars for the preferred.

I had been a large holder of the common when the bank was seized by the FDIC and handed over to JP Morgan for next to nothing.  A lot has happened in the last 14 weeks.  WMI, the bank's holding company is getting a big fat tax return from the federal government.  And a constant flow of court documents is showing what a lot of folks at suspected all along, a conspiracy. 

JP Morgan had tried to buy WAMU about five months before the seizure 16 months ago.  JPM was pretty much in full court press mode trying to grab the bank on the cheap when the financial meltdown began with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brother's.  It gave the FDIC the excuse to grab a troubled but still financially solvent WAMU. 

Journalists have picked up the scent and have written some damning articles about the seizure in the last two weeks.  As a result WAMU preferred stock which you could have purchased for about three dollars a share a year ago has topped 90 dollars.  The common stock stands at just 17 cents a share as there is still a lot of concern as to whether there will be enough money in the end to pay off the bondholders, the preferreds and the common.  Because of this I'm actually in the green and keeping my fingers crossed that it could result in even more.

Should a settlement reach down to the common the speculation is that the price could be anywhere between four dollars a share to 24.  Given the appearance that JP Morgan or the FDIC is going to have to ante up more money for basically stealing a healthy bank it appears a pretty good bet that the commons will get something.  I guess what I'm suggesting is you have 500 dollars or so to gamble with you could pick up a few thousand shares on the cheap right now.  A couple of thousand shares could net you anywhere between 16 and 24 thousand dollars.  Then again, you could lose it all, after all, it is a bankrupt company. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Looking Forward

When I last blogged more than a month ago about the fortunes of Kansas basketball I wrote of my concern about their defense.  Saturday I finally saw an inkling of what Kansas is capable of on the defensive end.  The only problem with the game with Temple was that the Owls had no inside game.  Xavier Henry still gets lost all too often on the defensive end but his offensive game more than makes up for his lack of D.

I've been watchng Kansas in person or on TV for 45 years.  I've seen three Jayhawk freshman that made me think NBA.  The two might surprise you because of an omission.  The trio are Darnell Valentine, Danny Manning and Paul Pierce.  Henry may be the fourth.

Valentine is the best high school player I ever saw in person.  His last two seasons at Wichita Heights resulted in the Falcons going 45 and 1 with an impressive state title his senior year.  As I have written in the past, he's simply one of the best point guards in Kansas history.  His physique was beyond belief.

Then there's Paul Pierce.  He was silky smooth from the very beginning with a well developed inside and outside game.  The only thing lacking his freshman year were his ball handling skills.  He could more than hold his own on the defensive end.

Manning was an otherworldly player, one of the greatest collegians ever.  He's the best player to ever go graduate from my high school alma mater Lawrence High, even though he only played just one season for the Lions.  His freshman year at Kansas he led a talented Jayhawk team to the Final Four.  If the college had utilized the 3 point shot that year K.U. would have won the title.  Ron Kellogg and Calvin Thompson would have been devastating from the outside and created more opportunities for Manning and center Greg Dreiling.

Xavier Henry has NBA written all over him.  He will likely be the first one and done player in Kansas history.  Of course, everyone said that of Brandon Rush and Darrel Arthur.  I'm already looking forward to his sophomore season.