Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I just have to share this with you. With the recent snowfall in the Milwaukee area (yes, we actually got some SNOW!), my son built a snowman at grandma and grandpa's house.

Look closely at the picture. See anything unique about the snowman?

If The Hair Club for Men is looking for any ad ideas, check out my son's snowman.

If you still don't see it, notice the snowman's head. My son decided it needed hair. And what better "hair" can a snowman have than a head of corn husk hair?

I don't think I would have thought of that when I built snowmen in my youth--and I had more practice because we always had snow growing up in Appleton (well, in Winter we had snow).

RIP, "Oakie" Brumm

On Monday, 23 January 2006, I read the paper and an obituary jumped out at me: Leonard "Oakie" Brumm. "Oakie" made a name for himself as a coach of youth hockey in the Milwaukee area. He also made a name for himself by writing and publishing a book entitled We Only Played Home Games. The book details Brumm's career, as brief as it was, as the recreation director at the state prison in Marquette, Michigan. The warden wanted something to keep the prisoners occupied so that they wouldn't cause trouble. The year before Brumm started his job the state prison in Jackson, Michigan, had had a riot. The warden wanted to prevent this from happening in Marquette.

Brumm accepted the job reluctantly, but pursued it with vigor once he took it. Along the way Brumm gives us a glimpse into prison life (and love), the tangles and frustrations of bureaucracy (golf clubs were deemed "dangerous weapons" even though baseball bats were already in the compound), and the delicate, egg-walking minuet of guards ("screws") and prisoners.

I had a chance to correspond with Oakie when his book came out and I reviewed it. I always tried to get him to make an appearance with his book at Salem's annual street picnic. He was always hopeful that the next year would find him free that wekend. I guess time ran out.

If you haven't read Brumm's book yet, I urge you to do so. At the very least you should find it in your local library.

Obituary of Leonard "Oakie" Brumm.

Review of We Only Played Home Games.

Ford, Toyota, and NASCAR

Yesterday's news was all about the downsizing at Ford. This is significant if only for the fact that American industry was rocketed forward by Henry Ford and his assembly line of Ford cars. When Henry built the River Rouge complex, raw materials came in one end of the complex and finished cars rolled off the line at the other end.

Of course Henry build this plant out of necessity. At that time it was difficult to get vendors who could supply enough parts to build the cars, to say nothing of quality control. Today many Fords are built by qualified vendors and the Ford plants merely assembled the finished parts into a finished vehicle.

Another announcement yesterday was Toyota's decision to field racing teams in NASCAR's Busch and Nextel Cup circuits. About 5 or 6 years ago Dodge did the same by resuming support of racing teams in those circuits. Seems the Dodge sponsorship of teams in the Craftsman series truck circuit showed promise so the Dodge Intrepid was pushed onto the ovals with the Pontiacs, Chevies, and Fords. Ironically, Toyota has been in the Craftsman circuit for a few years now, too, and are breaking into the Busch and Nextel series with cars.

As an aside, I wonder if the "good ol' boys" will root for Toyotas on the circuit. Toyota makes a vast majority of cars sold in the US in the US, mainly in plants located in the south. Stay tuned.

To close this loop, I haven't heard about Ford's involvement in NASCAR. Ford, like Chevrolet, Dodge, and Pontiac, supports teams in NASCAR. This is not a cheap endeavor. So, are people being laid off while the company still supports racing teams? And will the laid-off Ford employees cheer against the Ford cars in NASCAR? If so, will they cheer on the Toyotas racing the ovals?

Friday, January 13, 2006

About those "untraceable" cell phones...

ABC News broke a story that should be alarming on several fronts. It seems Wal*Mart has reported a sudden surge in sales of pre-paid cell phones. Using cash, someone can buy said phones and their identity remains a secret.

Well, I have some questions and maybe the ABC News reporter can answer them.

First, why are these cell phones suddenly so attractive for buyers (reportedly of Middle Eastern and Pakistani descent)? Could it be that someone leaked to the New York Times, which in turn decided to print the story, that the NSA (and George W. Bush) were eavesdropping on conversations? Perhaps this egregious breach in national security should be investigated. I sense the leak is serious enough to warrant charges of treason.

Next, those phones. Yes, you can pay cash for them. But does that make the user "anonymous?" Well, if you can buy the phone and use it immediately, it does. Now, reading the report on the internet (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1499905), I didn't see a brand name of phone, per se. A term "tracfone" was used, but was it used in a generic sense or as the name of a brand? Since I happen to own a TracFone, I know for a fact that this particular phone requires the purchaser to go to the TracFone web site and register the phone before the bank of minutes will be activated and the phone number for that phone given. Until this happens, the phones will not work. Unless the people buying them in bulk have a way to modify the phones to bypass the registration.

A local talk show host brought up the security issue this morning. I called to point out another issue--the fact the phones need to be registered to be activated. Could it be that identities are stolen in order to activate these phones? I found it somewhat interesting that Packer QB Brett Favre's identity had been pilfered and used for nefarious schemes and was reported in yesterday's news. Identity theft is all too common. I'd hate to have the FBI or other government agency knocking on my door because someone stole my identity and used it to register such a phone.

Of course the screener started arguing with me that these phones are paid for with cash and do not need to be activated. He rudely cut me off (I'll write the station manager and express my opinion). Anyway, I decided to do some research. Is it possible to buy a phone you can immediately use and not have to activate without giving some sort of identity?

I did a quick google of pre-paid (Google immediately asked, "Did you mean 'prepaid'?") programs. Besides TracFone there are about a half dozen prepaid phones and numerous prepaid phone cards. But every site I visited required an on-line activation of the phone or card.

So at lunch I took my research one step further. I stopped at the local Wal*Mart. There are, at this Wal*Mart, three different prepaid phones available. I read the details on all three. All three required an activation of some sort, usually through the internet.

So, which is scarier--that potential terrorists are using prepaid phones to try to avoid detection?

Or that in order to use these phones, and avoid detection, they may be stealing the identities of innocent Americans?

I would like to see a more in-depth report on this whole subject. As of now the ABC report on Google is 23 hours old. A more recent posting on the subject is 7 hours old--but the author wants to deny that we are even in a war.