Saturday, April 30, 2005

The runaway bride story

There's much rejoicing Duluth, Georgia today as missing bride-to-be Jennifer Wilbanks has resurfaced in New Mexico. At first her story was that she had been abducted, but she later admitted that she got cold feet and took off. A wedding party of over 30 and 600 invitees? Even if she loved the fiancee dearly, I can understand how that kind of pressure could make a young woman head for the hills.

As much grief as her family may have gone through, I'm really happy that this story turned out this way. I was worried it was going to be another Mark and Lori Hacking situation. As the minister in the article notes, their prayers from yesterday have been answered -- it turned out she really was just a runaway bride.

Monday, April 25, 2005


There's an interesting article at National Review by a Gil Reavill about the coarsening and hypersexualization of American culture that particularly pertains to how hard it is to avoid children losing their innocence too soon in today...whether it's "tween" shows with seven year-olds trying to shake it or nine year-olds singing along with Eminem. Even if you aren't a conservative in any way, shape, or form, it's an interesting article with a lot to say from a cultural standpoint and worth a read.
Native environments

Kind of neat little quiz over at Blogthings -- although it isn't telling me much I didn't know already. We'd recently kicked around the idea of seeking jobs in the Austin/San Antonio, visit Atlanta pretty regularly, and the hubby loves San Diego. Hat tip to Accidental Verbosity.

American Cities That Best Fit You:

60% Austin

55% Atlanta

50% Denver

50% Miami

50% San Diego

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Force Widow this Weekend

You know how some people are hunting widows in the fall or golf widows in the spring? I am a Star Wars widow this weekend, at least for another seven or eight hours or so. My big, strapping college football playing, high-school quarterback of a hubby is at Celebration III in Indianapolis with his animatronic talking Yoda figure in his napsack.

Early reports are that people were lined up for blocks at 6:30 am, the hubby had to wait four hours to get a talking Vader at the gift shop, and he just hopes that George Lucas's appearance and Hayden Christensen's video feed draw people away from the autograph tables...for whatever it's worth. According to USA Today's blog, Lucas spoke today and announced there will be two live action Star War shows.

Anyone know where we can get a Darth Tater at list price? These are the big pressing issues at my household at the moment, for which I am very grateful.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tuesday notes

I'm not Catholic, but I really found the selection of the pope today fascinating. We were in the car on our way to lunch when they broke in to our regularly scheduled pop-music programming and announced that in Rome bells were ringing and white smoke was spewing. By the time we made it out of lunch, it had been announced that Joseph Ratzinger had addressed the crowds and his name would be Pope Benedict the 16th. Stop by my friend Josh's blog for some interesting perspective on the pope's election from Catholic seminarians in Missouri.

On a less serious note, tonight Illinigirl must offer up a bittersweet farewell to Deron Williams, who today declared for the NBA Draft by signing with an agent. (For the basketball-impaired, this means there's no turning back for him. Deron, thanks for three great years of memories and best wishes in the future. I'll always be a bit bitter that he didn't stick around for a 4th year and give Illinois another shot at the title, but for that kind of money...who can really blame him? Mark Tupper offers up some fitting commentary on Deron's departure.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The taxman cometh...

The hubby and I paid about $50 this year, which is annoying in itself. I know that's the way you are supposed to do taxes -- make things equal out to zero so the government doesn't have your cash interest free all year. It's still very annoying to have to send the IRS a check come April.

While I wasn't able to post on my blog on Tax Day itself, I had the best of intentions to do so as I came across some interesting articles about income taxes. Regular readers will know that my libertarian tendencies come into play here. Just in general, I prefer that the federal government be in charge of as little of my money as possible. I prefer to specify the charities and programs that it goes to fund myself.

That being said -- here are a couple interesting articles to ponder:

Brian Riedl presents a fascinating analysis of how the government's $22,039 in tax money per household will be spent in 2005. $7245 spent on Social Security / Medicare -- Riedl notes that taxes would have to be raised $5200 by 2030 and $13,500 by 2050 per household if the systems is not reformed. here aren't enough workers to support all the Baby Boomers retiring. This is a simple fact that America must face sooner or later. I'm not saying that Bush's present solution has all the answers, but it is at least a start and I appreciate his attempts to make it viable for future generations.

Deroy Murdock discusses ideas for alternative tax structures that are worth some thought.

TechCentralStation's Andrew Coors offers up "Withholding an Opportunity Society: Why We Need Personal Tax Savings Accounts". A way to show Americans what they are really paying in taxes each year by making them write a big fat check at the end of it and letting them earn interest on their tax dollars in the meantime. Perhaps if we had more awareness of what we were pouring into the system we would ask the government to be more accountable in its spending. It's a thought at least.

Finally on a personal note for anyone keeping up on such things, Illinigirl and fam may have an offer on their old place. Our days of two mortgages may be numbered. Keep your fingers crossed for us! I'd say pray for us, but somehow it seems like there are much more important things you could be praying about, in my humble opinion at least.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Springtime musings

There are some incredibly heartening things about spring. It's the season of Easter, of new beginnings, of forgiveness. It gives you several hours more sunlight each day, which tends to make me at least less of a grouch. It's somewhat liberating to realize that you can go outside in just a sweater and not freeze your tootsies off.

Then things start blooming...and allergies find us here in the Midwest. The trees here in Central Illinois are gorgeous at the moment, but walking outside leads to seasonal allergies slapping me upside the head. Ow.

Funny article over at NRO about My Sharona on the presdient's IPod. Personally, I find it kind of humorous because I dig that song. I will admit that I am somewhat of a prude, and I fell in like with that song after seeing Reality Bites at age 16. Just because I dug a song and knew the lyrics word for word doesn't mean you secretly want to run out and do such things...or no parent in their right mind would let their teenage daughter listen to Ashley Simpson's La La lyrics. (Another catchy song that I can't help singing along with even though I would advocate very little of what the lyrics convey.)

Speaking of pop princesses, another sign of the apocalypse came about today. Good heavens. Any bets as to how far along she'll be when Mr. Britney takes off? Sorry to be such a pessimist, but I've been a bit cranky from headaches all day. Hope to be back and more chipper soon.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Turn, turn, turn

Over at IowaWineGuy, my friend Gregory offers up an great first-hand account of what it was like in St. Louis at the championship Monday night and some Edward Jones Dome pictures to boot. A couple nice shots of Brian Cook and Sergio McClain, but I must admit I am a bit miffed that he got to see one of my all-time favorite players Lucas Johnson and there are no pics of him?

Nevertheless, it's a nice upbeat tribute to the Illini...which is kind of nice after the mopey, disappointed faces I saw all day long. Alas, our neighbors down the street have it in perspective -- the Illini flags have been replaced with Cardinals (boo!) and Cubbies (yay!) gear. To everything there is a season...and we're into baseball's now. My blogging may turn a bit more political/cultural in the near future, but I'll break in with basketball tidbits as applicable.

Finally be you liberal or conservative, Illini fans must love National Review Online today because it has financial columnist and Illini grad Stephen Moore feeling our pain in St. Louis this morning, albeit a bit too negatively for my tastes. Yet I feel his pain.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Twenty minutes later

I've regained my composure a bit since the game, but I am pretty sad and likely will be for some time. I think Illini fans will always wonder if it would have been different if Luther hadn't turned the ball over and missed the threes, if Augie had been able to play more than 2 minutes in the second half, if more fouls had been called and Illinois had gotten to shoot more free-throws.

Stat of the game in my opinion - North Carolina free-throws attempted 18, Illinois free throws attempted 6. I must agree with Bruce Weber and say that how the game was called had a major effect on this game. This wasn't Illinois circa 2001 where the classic complaint was that Lucas Johnson, Robert Archibald, and Damir Krupalija were too physical. I'm not sure why there seemed to be such a disparity in this game.

This was a magical season, and I will always remember it fondly. Watching such a diverse, fun-loving, well-meaning group of guys play together like this and achieve like this was incredible. I wish they could have won it, for Bruce Weber and his mom, for Illinois's 100th season, for Lou Henson. Regardless, they have done a tremendous amount for the program and showed that Illinois basketball is not to be taken lightly and can be successful on a national stage.

Now bring on the quality recruits. After his performance in the tournament, I think that Dee will probably stick around another year. The three-guard magical offense will be gone, but I'm interested in seeing what Bruce Weber dreams up next. Illini fans will have to adjust to losing more next year, but there's still a lot to root for in this program's future. For this year, Clockwork Orange it is.

"That's what we get for rooting for a classy program. Good guys finish last...or second" -- Illinihubby
Liveblogging St. Louis

Intros: I can't help it. I look at North Carolina, I see a bunch of tough guys pumping up one another's egos. I look at Illinois, I see a circle of nice, everyday guys cheering one another on. Of course, if you can't tell by the name of this blog, I'm not the most impartial, unbiased source.

First half

At 15:13 just after the first TV timeout, quote from Illinihubby "I think they TV timeouts are going to help North Carolina, because the longer you keep them away from Roy Williams the dumber they play"

Illinois has had some great opportunities since that TV timeout and failed to capitalize. Felton just got his second foul though.

Sean May just intentionally ran down Roger Powell, and they didn't call the charge. I am further convinced that May is somewhat of a thug. Our tubby guy Deron doesn't use his body to hurt people like that. And Augie draws a charge? Ridiculous.

On a related note, an IU graduate that I work with today said he'd never forgive Scott May for showing up at Indiana-UNCs last game wearing an entirely Carolina blue outfit. Granted the guy's supporting his son, but I know what he's saying.

Overall perception at 10 minutes in? They're calling ticky-tack visible fouls against Illinois and letting UNC get away with some extremely physical play.

8:55 -- RIDICULOUS timeout. I can't believe they called that.

6:30 -- My husband thinks that was too long to leave Nick Smith in the game and on May and that Dee is taking some crummy shots.

I really dig Jack Ingram. Can I say it again? They made such a big deal out of his three-point shots earlier this year, but he's been hitting them repeatedly in the tourney. And way to get Manuel to pick up his third.

Ummm over the back on Sean May instead of Augie? Are they afraid to call fouls on him? And the mauling of Roger Powell continues. This is sort of unbelieveable refereeing. 32, 21, 34?

Not really happy with Illinois's play the past couple minutes. Quite a few defensive breakdowns and no one is getting it done offensively.

Interesting how they haven't reshown Sean May stripping Jack of that ball, perhaps because he mauled him? And the traveling that they've let May and McCants get away with the past few minutes is incredible. I know refs can't see everything, but come on people.

Not happy about this shot-clock ticking away. Hopefully Weber will be giving them a nice kick in the pants at the half. My husband's comment? "They're only down by 13 as crappy as they've played. If they're down by 13 with 10 minutes left, then we'll start worrying"

I just received a half-time phone call from my Michigan State friend whose message is "Calm yourself". What's happening when die hard Illini fans start talking like this? My response "What should I say? Way to go not make about a dozen of those 3-pointers you took in the first half?"

Second Half

Really sad for Augie, but they have got some momentum now.

Apparently someone turned the lightswitch from off to on for the Illini's three-pointers during the half. So should they keep taking them? Fortunately North Carolina's automatic switch has flipped off for a while.

13:46 -- Mark it in your calendars folks -- they finally called a foul on Sean May.

Illinihubby is fairly happy with the position Illinois has clawed back into with 10 minutes left. He is not happy with the fact they aren't calling many fouls on Sean May underneath the basket.

You call that foul on Jack Ingram (but not until he has a hand on the ball I might add), and then don't call anything on Sean May?

They've got keep this up. Strong and steady. Good anticipation by Deron on that last turnover, then Roger Powell grabs that rebound.

I am really sad for Augustine, out on three ticky-tack fouls with no points. We'll see him next year though and how about Jack Ingram. Felton just grabbed his fourth and Dee gets to shoot to tie! He did it. Hooray for Dee and his mom, who has the same hairdo incidentally!

Little bit worried about Ingram now. We think Powell's getting moved over to May. Hope the Reverend prayed at halftime. Felton & Manuel both have 4.

I'm getting a bit jittery -- this may be it until game's end. Luther just tied it again, 2:32 to go.

Darn Luther for not taking it to the basket. 26 seconds, not feeling good about it yet. It's over. A dream season over.
One hour to go

I'm nervous for the Fighting Illini, but I'm also excited. Win or lose, Illinois is making history today with its first ever championship game. But I'm guessing they haven't been shooting for second place all year. Team versus Talent kicks off in just over one hour! The fact that Illinois has been spun as the underdog the past few days -- it was me hopeful that we are about to see some amazing basketball. When the Illini feel they have been disrespected, they come ready to play and prove them wrong.

It's been a rough day for me (family funeral), and I hope the Illini come out ready to play and give me something to cheer about. It'll be a little bittersweet regardless, because I have gotten incredibly attached to this squad of players as I've watched them the past couple years. So Dee, Deron, Roger, Luther, James, Jack and the bench...give me something to remember you by! I'm home, so I'll be live-blogging as available.

Clockwork Orange or Destiny's Illini? The debate over which nickname is more appropriate should be settled in about three hours.
Brief political interlude

I stumbled across a couple excellent posts just now, and I must link to them. Over at asymmetrical information, blogger Jane Galt has up some thoughtful, reflective libertarian reflection on both the pros & cons of the argument to legalize gay marriage as well as a nice post on issues with privitization of marriage. She doesn't pretend to know the right answers to this question, but she provides some very thought-provoking analysis that should appeal to individuals on both side of the aisle.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

My sympathies

Before I sign off for the evening, let me express my condolences to all my Catholic friends and visitors on the death of Pope John Paul II. While I have never been Catholic, I hold tremendous respect for the majority of his views and appreciate all that he did to help eradicate Communism.
Finals Note

Finally, I must send my congratulations out to my buddy Iowa Wine Guy. Aside from offering up a great assessment of tonight's game and thoughts on Monday night, his younger brother's HORSE shooting prowess has landed him a ticket to the Edward Jones Dome action Monday night. I am WAY jealous, but unfortunately I don't have the extra moolah not time to journey to St. Louis Monday.

I'm very happy for him though, and I hope he gets to witness history firsthand. And if I haven't mentioned it here before, I must also congratulate him and the missus on the birth of their adorable son Max, the cutest little Illini fan ever!
Following the action

I'm working on an Illinois post, meanwhile Michigan State seems to be falling apart against UNC before my eyes. Hang in there Spartans! The Big Ten is pulling for you.

Michigan State just hit a 3-pointer with over 11 minutes left. Let's see what they can do...
Amazing Evening Under the Arch

It's finally happened. For the first time in it's 100 years of basketball, Illinois will be playing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game. It's still kind of hard to believe.

The game against Louisville tonight -- it wasn't necessarily pretty or showy, but it was impressive. It was Illinois basketball at its best. Not every Illinois player was having an great game, but as a team they figured out what they had to do, who to pass the ball to, and how to systematically dismantle the Louisville defense and offense. Key people stepped up and made the shots, and the rest of the team played really solid defense.

Once again, Deron Williams pulled off the defensive miracle, shutting down Fransisco Garcia in a Stoudamire-esque manner. Luther Head turned in an impressive offensive performance with little-to-no sign of the hamstring problems that plagued him last week. Jack Ingram had a hellacious game Dee Brown made a couple free throws, Nick Smith turned in a couple points

And the playmaker of the game, the man on the cover of every sports section's website at the moment...Roger Powell. You have to love the Reverend's heart. There was a point just after halftime at which this was a close game. Then came Roger Powell's three-pointer-into-a-monster-slam-dunk. Once CBS gets up their poll, I'm voting for that as the game-changing play of the semi-finals. Roger Powell refused to quit. At one point, I turned to my husband and said, "It's like John Belushi in the Blues Brothers. I think he really believes he's on a mission from God".

The jubliation of last Saturday night isn't present tonight, but there's something much more rewarding at the core of this. Pride. Pride in a team that plays so unselfishly and fluidly. Pride in a team of young men that even if they didn't start that way have turned into gentlemen on and off the court. Pride in such a diverse, varied group of young men that have come together as a family, and in some little way encouraged Illinois citizens to do the same. Pride in a once-unheralded coach that has made Illini Nation love him, has done so much with these young men and has been through so much in the past few weeks. Pride in a team assembly that win or lose, I will miss watching in this form after Monday night. Up at the Daily Herald, a Mike Imrem column describes my sentiments perfectly.

Bring on the Tarheels! (Or Michigan State if they can pull together the comeback. I have not given up on them!)