Thursday, February 25, 2010

The road to Marscon (part 4)

This is the third and final part of posts made to guide my wife correctly from our house to Bloomington, MN for Marscon 2010.

Hudson, WI to Holiday Inn Select Bloomington, MN @ 3 Appletree Square (28 mi)

Route I-94 (10 mi) to I-494 (17 mi) exit at 1B 34th Ave south, turn left at Appletree Square.

Potential problem 1: I-94/I-494/I-694 exchange. Interstate 94 goes through downtown Minneapolis-St. Paul. There is a bypass expressway which generally forms a large rectangle around the area. The highway north of interstate 94 is called I-694 and the one south is called I-494. The exit for both bypass expressways is at the same place. The second exit is I-494, which is the route you need to take.

Potential problem 2: I-494/34th st exit. Once on interstate 494, the mile numbers will start to increase and since the exit is number 1B, it would not be unusual for someone to think they were going the wrong way. Once you pass the county line a couple of miles past Interstate 35E, the number will go back to 0.

There are 2 options; exit 1A and 1B. Both might state airport. Exit 1B will go straight until you get to a light where you will need to make a left turn onto 34th Ave. Note: someone who has gone to this hotel as often as I have last year took the 1A exit last year. You will see the Holiday Inn Express from the road and will need to turn left At Appletree Square. Parking for the hotel is in the upper half of the garage. If you are able to park at the top level, you will be able to enter the hotel on the second floor above the pool. I will know what room we are in when I get there on Thursday and will text you that information once I know it.

It would be best to call me once you get off the expressway so I can meet you to help with luggage and parking at the hotel first floor entrance.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The road to Marscon (part 3)

Now that posts about the Super Bowl and Olympics are done, time to continue the guide I am writing for my wife who is planning on driving to Marscon with my daughter in two weeks.

Madison, WI to Hudson, WI (238 total miles)

Route: 90/94/39 (29 mi) 90/94 (63 mi) 94 (146 mi)

Route issues: On two occasions the expressway will split. The first is at Portage, WI. Interstate 39 splits from the interstate heading to north central Wisconsin. Stay on 90/94. Since the entrance ramps are confusing, I strongly recommend not exiting there either since getting back on the expressway going the correct direction is not simple from that stop.

Interstates 90 and 94 split at Tomah (about 45 miles north of the Wisconsin Dells). you will need to follow 94 and not 90. Once you pass Tomah, the mile marker number will go back up to 146 and count down from there since it will designate the miles from Minnesota border through 94 and not 90. If the mile marker number does not go back up, you took the wrong route.

Stopping: Once north of Madison, exits for the most part are less frequent. Also when traveling north past Madison, the road gets hilly and gas mileage will be about 10-15 percent less than expected. Do not wait until the last possible moment to fill the gas tank. As mentioned in the previous part, exits that have gas stations and places to eat that are visible from the road are much better to use.

I recommend the exits at the Wisconsin Dells, Black River Falls, Osseo, and Menomonie since they have easy on and off places to stop for gas and food along with Hudson which is the last recommended stop for the trip since the exits in Minnesota are urban and are not catered for travelers.

Depending on when the trip started, it might start to get dark outside. The road does have reflectors on it to guide at night and overhead lighting only at some exits.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Prerecorded babble

The internet radio station which I do my weekly show now has a weekly podcast where anyone can listen any time. This week I am the host. I play 4 songs about buses and road trips in between my babble.

You can listen at:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

U$A! U$A!

Thirty years ago this month I was a freshman at St. Rita High School in Chicago. One Friday night, the varsity basketball team (featuring the starting sophomore center who was my teammate in grammar school - yes, the team was good; one game was won 53-0) was hosting De La Salle H.S. which the year before finished 4th in the state. I talked my father into taking me and we sat in the balcony of the crowded, small gym and watched St Rita lose though my former classmate had 10 points.

As we were leaving the house my mom asked, "What about the game on tv?" I replied, "I don't want to see them get blown out by the Russians." As with most of the country, I did not know that a few hours before a team of American college hockey players and amateurs in spite of being outshot 39-16 defeated the Soviet Union Army team (considered the best in the world, including those in the NHL) in the Olympics. After the American broadcast of the game was shown that evening, an announcement was made in the gym during a time out the fourth quarter of the final score to the loudest cheer of the night. I remember being stunned. Since then, I have seen the game numerous times and every time I remember my words to my mom and the fact I missed it.

With how Americans hated the USSR at the time, the game was huge. I grew up in a world where the Communist nations were the bad guys in sports and it would seem that they would bend or break rules to win or intimidate officials to give them an unfair advantage.

After the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR broke up, things changed. I was initially happy that the United States got the chance to host international sports events. In 1999, the US hosted the Women's World Cup of soccer and the nation was tuned to the event especially the final where the American women defeated China on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless action. To me, winning the World Cup on the home field was no big deal knowing that in the men's version, that was common. (that will be the subject of a post in June)

Somewhere I heard people comparing the final to the 1980 "miracle on ice". That set me off. The Soviet Union team was put together by the government whose players went to special schools to hone their skills and only played for the national team where the US team was assembled a few months before that. Looking at the US Women's roster, I noticed something very disturbing. Over half that squad went to the University of North Carolina. We have become what the USSR was.

The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City confirmed things for me. Granted, there was US sympathy after 9/11 but watching some events made me ill. Seeing a short track speed skater wrongly DQ so an American wins an event was wrong. The women's hockey finals was the most one sided officiated game I have even seen. I still can't believe how the Canadian team was able to defeat Candy Granato and the rest of the thugs who felt it was their right to get the gold. (My sister who was at the 1998 tryouts confirmed their attitude)

What was worst was the pairs figure skating. A French judge purposely favored a Russian couple over a Canadian couple who most stated did better. It was discovered that an agreement with another judge was made so the Russian couple would get placed first. Once it was discovered, dual gold medals were awarded as the French judge's scores were declared invalid as pressure by the American tv coverage forced the skating hierarchy to make that decision. I had a question that was never asked. Four other judges gave the Russian couple a better score than the Canadian couple. Why weren't their scores challenged too?

I also noticed that the US had more medals than the previous time they hosted in 1980 and that many were in events that were not in the 1980 games. This chart explains:

To my surprise, the amount of medals from added events was not as large as expected even though it was higher than events that existed in 1980. I still believe many of the newer events were added to give the US more medals so the olympics would a higher bid for tv rights by US networks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The youth of the world

Now that is it February, the youth of the world will be descending on Vancouver, BC, Canada for the 21st Winter Olympics games.

Having watched the Olympics for a long time, I have detested the overly large amount of tv coverage focused on performance events where a person (couple, or group) gets an score from a group of "expert judges" based on technique, style and artistic impression.

To me that is not a sport, I have always held strong to the belief that sport is a yes/no proposition and though it might be entertaining, by definition, it is not a sport. There have been many occasions where the integrity of the people judging events have been questioned but more on that in the next post.

There are events that fall into a gray area as judges give athletes a score based on a 1 to 5 second trick. Within that time frame, I believe it is possible to accurately access tricks one at a time. However, since a score is given, it falls into the gray area.

Here is a chart that describes the 86 events being held by type:

Time: Each person competes on a course. Fastest time on it wins. (Alpine skiing, luge, bobsled, skeleton, most speed skating, some cross country, some biathlon)

Placing: Four or more people or teams compete at the same time. First person to cross the finish line wins. (Note: There can be qualifying and non final races where players get eliminated) (short track speed skating, team and some individual cross country and biathlon, skiing cross and snowboard cross)

Match: Teams or individuals compete one on one until all but one is eliminated or one wins a final. (hockey, curling, snowboard Giant Slalom, speed skating pursuit)

Form: Players (or groups of) are judged one at a time for a 1 to 5 second interval and given a score. Best score wins. (ski jumping, aerials)

Performance: Players (or pairs) get a score by judges based on a 30 second to 5 minute performance. (figure skating, half pipe)

Combo: Nordic combined (half ski jumping, half cross country) and moguls (score based on time, form and performance)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bologna, and bread!

Sunday marks Super Bowl XLIV and when people ask who I want to win, I reply, ME! As customary, I am in a couple of pools based on the scores of the game at the end of quarters and at the end of the game.

This chart shows my chance of profiting:

As far as the game itself, I really don't care for either team (in spite of the fact that for the first time in over 15 years the two number one seeds are playing in it), but I will be watching except for the halftime show when half of The Who (the ones who did not die before they got old) performs a medley of their songs while I play versions of the songs on a plastic guitar. If I can set it up, I will either stream it live or record it for You Tube.

Since both teams play home games in domes and will be playing the game outside on grass, I expect the start of the game to have a lot of missed opportunities due to timing being different playing on grass especially if the weather is not perfect (like the last one played there). If I would gamble on the game itself, I would bet money the game will have less than 57 total points scored.

I figure the game will go into overtime due to a missed field goal at the end and one team will score an overtime touchdown to win 30-24.

Since I do not know what numbers I have while writing this, I do not know if I will win if that happens.

FYI: The title of the post was exclaimed by Barney Gumble while looking at the Super Bowl free food at Moe's Bar on an early Simpsons episode.