Tuesday, April 29, 2003

We have a Saluki...

IlliniBoard and the Champaign News-Gazette are reporting that Southern Illinois's Bruce Weber will be named head Illini coach tomorrow or Thursday. The forty-six year-old Weber is leaving SIU after leading them to two straight trips to the NCAA tournament and a 2002 trip to the Sweet 16.

He spent eighteen years as an assistant to Gene Keady at Purdue but thankfully seems more well-behaved on the sideline. One thing you can be darn certain of...there's a HEAVY penalty in his contract if he were to depart for West Lafayette. Last week it was rumored that he would sign a contract that would explicitly prohibit him from leaving Chambana for the Boilermakers.

He may not be a fancy name like the Mark Few / Mike Montgomery I was pulling to secure, but I am interested in seeing what he can do. He can start winning us over by giving us the benefit of his Cinderella-coach experience and doing something that Bill Self never did...helping the Illini beat a higher seed in the NCAA tournament. Now wouldn't it be sweet if that higher seed hailed from Lawrence?
forgot to mention

That I have attended a few high-profile events in the past few weeks. I journeyed to a Decatur talk-radio gala about ten days ago to meet Mike Gallagher. I can't listen to his show in my neck of the woods, but I really enjoyed meeting him and chatting about the VRW conspiracy for a few minutes. Check out his Concert for America (Spartanburg, May 1st) if you are so inclined.

I also did make it to Nickel Creek last week. Props to Josh, as he has excellent taste. I saw a rather amazing two-and-a-half hour show in a venue of a couple thousand people. They have incredible classical training but managed to turn every song into a mesmerizing, creative number. Even after the stage lights went up at 10:30 or so, they stuck around after the second encore playing for the crowd. Consider me a fan -- now I just have to look into purchasing the CDs.

Illinois and Roulette-Lovin' Rod! made the Rush Limbaugh show today, as a caller brought up the Guv's plan to reposess the state's private casinos and turn them into state-profitting slot cash cows for the state. Rush has dubbed the plan Moscow on the Illinois. That's how things are going to be done in Illinois now that the Daley Machine runs the whole state apparently. (See Meigs Field post for another example). This pic though is priceless:

The Life!

John Derbyshire had a great column up yesterday entitled "What Will My Kids Turn Out Like?". It's an interesting read on a phenomena that my husband and I have witnessed firsthand on multiple occasions. "The Life!" proves too alluring to teenagers, and they abandon all respect for whatever morals that their parents have tried to instill in them, many never to return.

Derbyshire goes into great detail here about this. Perfectly nice parents who tried to raise their children a certain way only to find themselves shamed by their children's choices. These aren't your stereotypical boomer parents that so concerned with their careers and the acquisition of status symbols that they neglect their kids. On the contrary, these are perfectly nice, educated people that have worked hard to do all the right things for their children. Gave them roomfuls of books, left successful careers to raise their sons/daughters, took them to church, spent quality time with them, provided every possible opportunity...only to see their children slip away.

A more important question perhaps is to consider what is the true definition of being a "successful" parent. I suppose this varies from person to person in some respects. (Derbyshire spends a nice couple paragraphs discussing this issue). Does your child have to graduate from college to be successful? Or just high-school? Does it just mean that they become law-abiding, self-supporting citizens that contribute to society? Or do they have to attain all the status symbols that accompany white, upper-middle class existence? Do they need to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, or is it enough for them to be Christmas/Easter Christians?

In some respects, I occasionally feel that I have disappointed my parents. Despite all my success with aptitude testing, I have yet decided to seriously pursue a graduate degree. My career isn't very high-profile. They think I may have married too young, not traveled far enough, experienced the world a bit more first. But I know they love me and I know that they respect me as a person. "The Life!" of college partying and craziness may have proved alluring to me for several months in my late teens, but I returned to my senses before irreparable damage was done. I thank God every night for whatever it was that they did to instill those values deep within me, likely all the nagging and rules that I thought were too strict and stupid back then.

Whatever they did, I am fairly confident that John and Rosie Derbyshire have it in them, and I wish them every success with it during their son and daughter's teenage years. What about you readers? Do you believe in this phenomena, and if so, what do you think causes it?
where am i?

Obviously posting has been sparse lately. Real life has been beckoning -- it's all my friends and family that I am neglecting - not just my blog! I have Easter cards ready-to-send in my planner and well-overdue birthday presents waiting to be mailed in my den. But good things have been happening lately my readers. Good things! Please allow me to muse for a few minutes.

Illinigirl is coming up on it's one-year anniversary in a few days.

What prompted me to start this blog? Somewhat ironically, it was a journey back to the old alma mater for my then-fiancee's annual fraternity banquet. I was trying to explain to an old college pal that I wanted to start writing about politics. I was trying to explain the blogosphere to him, and how I wanted to use it to share my view of the world. Explain my logic, perhaps inspire a few people, maybe become the Generation-Y Protestant version of Peggy Noonan. He just kind of laughed dismissively. I remember I walked away thinking "Why am I just wasting time talking about this? Why haven't I sat down and done it already?"

A few days later, this blog was born. It's still a work in progress, a flux creation with a constantly-changing focus. Politics, faith, pop culture, Illini basketball, reality tv, life in general. I suppose that is kind of appropriate as a lot has been my life has been changing a lot since that day. We had decided to get married about two months before that, but we had no idea what the future held beyond that. My fiancee quit his job to find a better one...with little luck. I was training for my first 5k race. Over that summer, I ran a lot. I went crazy with wedding planning. I foolishly decided that signing up for a graduate school class the same term as the wedding. I tore my hair out for a few months.

In the fall, we got married. That was wonderful.

We survived our classes and took a wonderful honeymoon. Two weeks after the wedding, I landed the job opening that I had been chasing for two years. I started my new job in January and love it (although frequent overtime in my new role may have led to less-productive blogging). My husband started school full-time and eventually landed an incredible part-time job / internship.

I've been running again, this time training for a 7K. (Shed 10 lbs since New Years - woohoo!) I've been struggling with shin splints quite a bit the past few weeks, but I'm trying to build my strength and work through it. I'll be running the race this Saturday morning though. After I finish, guess where are we probably headed? Off to our old stomping grounds to catch up with friends and attend that same fraternity banquet.

I guess if there is really a point it's this. I'm a control freak. I've always struggled with the idea of giving up my problems to God...but he's making a believer out of me. Twelve months ago, my husband and I really didn't know where our lives were headed. We just felt that God was saying it was time for us to get married...so we obliged. Now we are feeling both exhausted and incredibly blessed. Who knows what we will have to tell them next year...

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Got proof?

Perhaps. Just a little link for all the people who like to claim that it's ridiculous to go after Iraq when Sadaam's regime had ties to Al Qaeda. In a ramsacked intelligence office, it appears that forces have stumbled upon three pages of minutes from a 1998 Baghdad/Al Qaeda meeting that Sadaam's team probably meant to destroy. Not that this should be surprise to anyone, but I find it interesting that only the British press is reporting this so far.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Selfish Choice

I've had mixed feelings about Bill Self's departure. I wish him a happy tenure with the Jayhawks, but I will agree with the sports writers on this one. Bill made the selfish choice. When he came to Illinois three years ago, he said it was a career-ending move. He said he was in it for the long haul. We whole-heartedly believed him.

I think part of the disappointment in Illinois this week stems from that fact. Self is an affable, charming guy. He had class. He had a great courtside demeanor, and he expected the same out of the Illini men during the game. He was a coach of which the Illini Nation could be proud. We wanted to keep him forever or at least five or six years...whichever came first.

We wanted him to stick around long enough to get Illinois back to the Final Four. We were disappointed when it didn't happen in 2001, when Illinois lost to Arizona in the last minute of an Elite Eight game. But we looked to have an even better chance the next year with Frank Williams, Robert Archibald, Damir Krupalija, and Lucas Johnson maturing. Unfortunately though, Frank Williams never hit his stride in that tournament, and Self took Illinois home after the Sweet Sixteen in 2002.

This year the Illini were incredibly young. They weren't supposed to be among the best in the country. However when the freshman class began to excel and the Illini spent several weeks ranked in the top 10, Illinois basketball fans couldn't help but get excited. (I mean...this is the state of da Cubs, da Sox, da Bulls, da Bears. We haven't had many winning sports teams to root for lately. Cut us some slack!). They had their ups and downs this year -- most noticeably against Notre Dame during their second round exit from the touranment. However in those precious games when the Illini "clicked" this year, they were a sheer joy to watch. The team's potential was readily apparent.

Self's departure hurts even more because Illinois is on the cusp of establishing itself as a powerhouse. Self could have made the choice to honor his commitment to his players and stick around to finish what he started. He didn't. He made the choice that was best for his career/pocketbook/family. He has every right to do that, but he can't expect Illinois fans to respect him for it.

I am confident the Illini will be fine. As my old favorite player Lucas Johnson said on the Score today, it's not coaches that win the games. It sets them back a bit for next year, but perhaps a new coach might be able to push them a bit further during the NCAA tournament. I'd like to see Illinois land someone with Self's charisma and class, perhaps Stanford's Mike Montgomery of Gonzaga's Mark Few. (Tom Crean's apparent departure from the short list did not disappoint me terribly, as I am not certain he possessed those traits). However, Illinois AD Ron Guenther may be looking for someone with the loyalty that Self has been proven to lack. He may shoot for an Illinois native like Gonzaga's Thad Matta NIU's Rob Judson, SIU's Weber, or Oregon's Ernie Kent. Someone who won't make the "Self"-ish choice a few years down the road. But only time will tell...

Related links:
All the rumors fit to print, Illiniboard.com
Coaching carousel rundown, "Division I Coaching Changes", ESPN.com
Self overrated, "Illini should view change with hope", Chicago Sun-Times
"Ingram accustomed to coaching changes", Springfield State Journal Register
"Dee-pressed over coach's exit: Teammates shrug off transfer talk", Decatur Herald & Review

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Hallmark and the symbolism of Easter

I headed out to the local drugstore late Thursday evening in a last ditch effort to find Easter cards. For the last few years, I have shown up at my family's Easter breakfast empty-handed and felt bad when I was handed cards from every family member and had nothing to give them in return. (I realize Hallmark is just exploiting my guilt as they try to commercialize each holiday to the utmost degree and increase their profit margins, but oh well. I'm giving my family cards anyways.)

I surveyed the racks and found all sorts of different cards. Cards overflowing with cutesy ducks and bunnies, cards holding ornery jokes for spouses, cards declaring the sender's gratitude for such a wonderful mom/dad/sister/brother/friend, cards espousing a general love of springtime and the renewal of the outdoors. Generally, it seems like the American public is more concerned with candy and springtime than the true meaning of the Easter season, even for those that consider themselves Christian but just marginally active and involved.

As I have discussed before on this blog, I'm a fairly young Christian. Granted I was confirmed into my family's church about ten years ago, but I never truly stopped to consider the role that Jesus played in my life until about five years ago during my sophomore year of college. I had a number of issues at the time that were both personal and academic/professional in nature. I was having a great deal of trouble deciding on a course for my life and a great deal of trouble forgiving myself for mistakes that I had made in the past. The concept behind Easter is one of the things that helped me to do so and to move along further in my faith.

What do I love about Easter? It's the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his son for us, that he died for us so that we might make mistakes and be forgiven. It's the idea that God's grace and forgiveness is truly an awesome gift, a gift that we can never truly deserve and never be quite grateful enough to receive. Easter is a wonderful reminder -- both of the price that God paid for us in having his only son die so that our sins might be forgiven and of the miraculous new beginning that occurred when Jesus was risen. To Hallmark's credit, I did find about 20 cards of 300 that acknowledged this fact. I'd like to see more cards that note the true meaning of the Easter season. I guess the first step in doing so is helping to make more disciples that are willing to send and receive them. A thought to ponder on this Easter evening....

Monday, April 14, 2003

Please Don't Go Bill...

Roy Williams' departure has many Illini fans nervous tonight, as Coach Self is rumored to be the top choice to replace him at Kansas. Bobby has some great coverage from KU's perspective over at The Rattler. The Jayhawks would be lucky to get him, but some outlets are noting that Self has quite a few good reasons to stick with the Illini. (I'm putting Roger, Dee, Deron, and James at the top of list.) Other outlets are noting that this may be just the leverage Self needs to land Illinois a new basketball stadium.

Meanwhile, the folks here aren't taking this sitting down. April 15th has been declared "Coach Self Appreciation Day" in Chambana. Spontaneous outpourings of affection will follow. Details available over at illiniboard.com
does this qualify?
The Pantagraph (Bloomington-Normal's newspaper) was definitely going for shock value this weekend. On the front page of the newspaper, a headline read "ISU student the victim of hate crime". All sorts of unpleasant thoughts went through my head, most involving pretty vicious fistfights or baseball bats. The incident was being investigated by the local police departments, and the residence hall staff had notified CAIR about this vicious assault on someone's rights.

The crime? Someone had written "I hate you. You terrorist" on a dry-erase board on the "victim's" dorm door.

Now of course, this isn't nice. It's cruel, ignorant, and somewhat ironic given the circumstances. The Indians I work with are the most peace, order, and democracy-loving citizens you can imagine. It's a nasty thing to do. It makes perfect sense for the student to report this to the university, to have RAs do what they can to ensure this doesn't happen again. But it is ridiculous that this is going to be invesitgated as a "hate crime". Will this person be sentenced to years in prison for writing down an idiotic, judgmental, but seemingly legal comment based only on appearances while murderers get probation?

In my opinion, the definition of hate crime is ludicrous anyways. As a descriptive term, I wouldn't have much of a problem with it -- I will buy that some murders are fueled by hate. However, say that a man kills a woman in a park. In one scenario, the Woman A is shot and killed for her wallet. The killer is broke and needs some cash. In another scenario, Woman B is shot and killed because she is a Muslim. Woman A's death is determined just a regular felony, while Woman B's death is ruled a hate crime. Killer A ends up out on the streets in 5-10 years, while Killer B might be in prison 20-25 years...for the exact same crime? Aren't both women dead? Was Woman B's life worth more than that of Woman A just because of her religion/appearance?

My thought is no. Crime is crime. Most crime is fueled by hate or at least greed. Let's consider spending out time combatting hate and brutality, instead of policing nasty, ignorant speech with which we disagree.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

More good news this morning

I was floored but overjoyed to turn on the television this morning and see that seven POWs had been recovered from Iraq. What a joyful day it must have been for their families! Their captivity is detailed in the Washington Post today. Details of physical abuse are largely glossed over, as this newspaper article does not mention the shots in the kneecaps and ankles I heard about this morning. God bless the Iraqis involved with their captivity who grew more sympathetic to their plight and helped keep them safe. people for showing humanity though
crazy yet inspiring...

If you have ever watched Forrest Gump and thought a cross-country run sounded like a great idea, this website is for you. I met these guys as they trekked through Central Illinois last week -- 25 year-old former Bucknell distance-runners who dropped everything to fulfill their dream of running across the country. The really interesting part? They are doing so without a support vehicle (just a baby jogger) and relying on the kindness of strangers and Mother Nature for lodging each night. Even if you aren't much for running, there is something impressive about running a marathon every day, just as there is something insane about staying with perfect strangers each night. You can follow the journey in their blog, or even volunteer to host them if you so desire.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Day 21

One cannot help feeling inspired when looking at the pictures coming out of Iraq today. It's been three weeks, but it already feels close to over. Whether or not Sadaam is dead, he has lost control. The self-aggrandizing statues have been toppled, the palaces have been looted, and the ruling structure dismantled. It's not over, but it's close. The Iraqis feel it too, and this much is evident from the pictures posted by Josh and Bobby today.

Those individuals haven't risked their lives for nothing. Thousands of Iraqis are grateful for their newfound freedom, to think and speak and live oustide the strict limitations of Sadaam's regime. Over 100 Iraqi children were released from a suburban Baghdad prison yesterday, after spending up to five years of their childhoods locked away from their families because they wouldn't join the children's branch of Sadaam's Baath party. People are dancing in the streets, cheering the Americans, cheering President Bush for the freedom that he has restored to them.

Of course, they aren't really the president's actions at all. He is the commander-in-chief, and he issues the orders. The truly courageous actions are those of the brave men and women that have risked or lost their lives in this conflict. It's not over. There will be more battles. However the pictures today are a good indication that these brave men and women truly are restoring freedom and safety to the free world.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

I was born in a small town...

Apologies for the lack of posting over the weekend as per usual. I had a rough week at work, and my plans for the weekend fell through on Thursday. I was basically in a funk, an "even though my life is pretty good, I could really use a break from the routine" sort of funk. I sent out a couple e-mails, and was exceedingly happy to receive e-mail back from a college friend offering to host me for a couple days. We've attempted this several times since she graduated about two years ago, and our spur-of-the-moment visit finally worked out.

Friday afternoon, I jumped in the old Dodge and hit the road for Chicago. I spent the greater part of the afternoon tuned into AM radio, listening to National Weather Service alerts on the latest storm/tornado warning as I hightailed it up I-55. It's one of my personality quirks from living through multiple springtime's in the Midwest -- tornadoes are such an ever-looming threat in the springtime that they don't terrify me anymore. It was actually quite an adrenaline rush -- trying to safely maneuver the roads in a torrential downpour and yet maintain a reasonable speed at the same time.

Suffice it to say that I drove slower than usual, but the skies looked much less ominous by the time I arrived in Joliet. Traffic was reasonable, considering I was heading downtown during a Friday rush hour. Puttered along a decent clip until I hit the southern suburbs. Bam! Three miles in Darien/Woodstock took me fifty minutes. Then traffic picked up nicely, and I drove about 50 mph into the city. Rounding the corner of McCormick Place onto Lake Shore Drive, the traffic came to a standstill. It took me over an hour to drive approximately two miles north, roughly from McCormick Place to Navy Pier.

On the plus side of things, I did get a good look at the renovation of Soldier Field. I don't think I like it. The eastern, top half of the stadium kind of reminds me of the spaceship from Flight of the Navigator. The western half is non-existent at this moment. Don't be surprised if 'Da Bears are playing in Champaign again this fall. But I digress...

Perhaps this contributes to the difference between Red America and Blue America? The Red Americans are used to relatively wide-open roadways. If you get stuck in traffic, you can at least turn off on a side street and try another route. You have to rely on your own ingenuity. Once stuck on Lake Shore though, I felt the traffic situation was truly hopeless. I couldn't get across one lane of traffic, let alone three. There was a beach to my right. I was stuck. I kept hoping that cops, construction workers, or government officials were just up the road clearing up whatever problem caused this bottleneck, fixing this problem for me. Alas, my naivete was soon destroyed...as I realized this was just the rush hour traffic that comes with living in Chicago, slightly exacerbated by rainstorms earlier that afternoon.

So enough whining about life in the big city. I love Chicago, but I need a slower environment for my day-to-day life. With the good things like the museums, shopping, restaurants, and sports, you take the bad things like traffic, congestion, and rude drivers. Regardless of all this, I had a fabulous weekend catching up with sorely-missed friends from college. I did my part to jumpstart the economy at Woodfield Mall. We ate dinner at a new-to-me chain called Bahama Breeze that had a unique atmosphere and pretty good Jamaican-jerk chicken. I had Thai food for lunch, which is a must when I get out of town.

I returned extremely well-fed and happy. Like Ben Domenech, this was the first full weekend I had spent away from my spouse since the wedding. Let's just say that I am grateful to return to my loving home and my simple yet fulfilling small-town existence.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Only the good die young

I'm still in a state of shock and sadness over today's news about the tragic death of Michael Kelly. I learned about it on the Internet, the way that it seems I learn about sad events these days. My first reaction was that can't be Michael Kelly the columnist, can it? My second reaction was my heart sinking as I remembered that I had read Across the Euphrates last night and noticed that he was traveling with the Army 3rd Infantry in Iraq.

I remember at the time being impressed that he would do something like that for a byline. I didn't know at the time that when he went to Iraq several week ago, he left behind his wife Madelyn and two sons under the age of six in Virginia. He went overseas and risked his life -- not getting to see his sons grow up or celebrate a silver wedding anniversary with his wife -- to ensure that the troops had an accurate record of events. That he did, and he did so well. The Washington Post reports:
He was quoted in the New York Times just four days ago as saying that he and other reporters enlisted in the Pentagon program because "there was a real sense after the last gulf war that witness had been lost. The people in the military care about that history a great deal, because it is their history."

Like the troops with which he traveled, Michael Kelly was willing to sacrifice his life to do something in which he believed -- to record his take on history. I will miss his writing "voice" tremendously, and I feel that the journalistic community has suffered a great loss. As a tribute, I'm reposting a link to one of the Kelly columns that got me hooked, We Know Who We Are, written just days after September 11th. Rest in peace, Michael.