Showing posts from May, 2014

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Writer's Block

I'm stuck, Karl, I said.

"What?" said Karl. "Are your pants caught on the stool again?"

No, I'm writer stuck. I'm blocked. I can't think of anything to write about.

"You've got writer's block? How in the hell do you get writer's block?"

It's — I don't know. I've been trying to think of a topic for this week's column, but nothing is popping into my brain. I'm dry.

"What are you talking about? You're the Kid, Kid. You don't get writer's block. You talk half as much as you write, and most days, I can't even get you to shut the hell up!" Karl plonked his glass on the bar.

"Tommy, give me two mojitos, please." We were at Hudson's Bar, a Bimini-themed island bar. Bimini is one of the islands in the Bahamas, and we were there for a friend's book launch. It was late and most of the party guests had left. The literary fiction crowd is not known for staying up late, and most…

Gabby Chaves Wins 2014 Indy Lights Freedom 100

Gabby Chaves pipped Matthew Brabham at the post of the 2014 Indy Lights Freedom 100. It's being called the 3rd closest Indy Lights victory, following a razor close Chicagoland race and last year's finish when Peter Dempsey beat Gabby Chaves by .0026 seconds

Brabham, driving for Andretti Autosport, is the grandson of Sir Jack Brabham, Formula 1 champion in 1959, 1960, and 1966. When Sir Jack died a few days ago, there were many tributes and signs of respect and mourning around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so it's nice to see his grandson carrying on the family tradition.

One thing I've noticed about these Indy Lights drivers is that they have the same nerves of steel as the IndyCar drivers. At one point, Chaves was drafting off Brabham, sitting this|close to his rear that all Brabham had to do was let off the throttle and Chaves would have driven under him.

This is yet another exciting Indy Lights finish I've been able to witness. This is my sixth year at the S…

My Lens Is Bigger Than Yours

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are rerunning a column from 2003. He's been using a camera a lot lately, but he hasn't improved very much beyond when he wrote this column.

I've always enjoyed photography, although I haven't always had the necessary equipment. When I took a photojournalism class in college, I fancied myself a younger, less depressing Ansel Adams, and thought I was just two-hundredths of a second away from shooting dramatic news photos for the Associated Press in foreign locales.

I had one serious problem though: my eyesight.

My eyesight, even with the latest and greatest optical correction technology, cannot be restored to perfect 20/20 vision. As a result, whenever I would take a picture, I focused to what looked good to me, rather than what was actually clear and sharp. As a result, my pictures were always slightly out of focus. Looks like the only photojournalism I would be doing is taking blurry pictures of aliens for the Weekly World New…

The Field Is Set for the 2014 Indianapolis 500

After quite the nail biter, and the new qualifying format at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the field has been set for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. Ed Carpenter sits on the pole for the second year in a row. (If racing encyclopedia Donald Davis were sitting behind me in the Media Center, I could ask him whether this has been done before. But he went home a while ago.)

Here are your starting 33 for the race next Sunday.

1. Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing
2. James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport
3. Will Power, Team Penske

4. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
5. Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports
6. Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport

7. Carlos Muñoz, Andretti - HVM
8. Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
9. JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing

10. Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske Motorsports
11. Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
12. Kurt Busch, Andretti Autosport

13. Jack Hawksworth, BHA/BBM with Curb Agajanian
14. Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing

Bump Day is now Pole Day, Pole Day was Bump Day at the Indianapolis 500

The bastion of tradition, the place where new ideas are looked on with suspicion, the Indianapolis 500 has revamped qualifications for the 98th running of the iconic race.

In years past, Day 1 of qualifications was Saturday, also known as Pole Day. The fastest runner on Saturday — the driver who completed 4 laps faster than anyone else — was determined to be the pole sitter, and they got as many drivers qualified as possible.

On Day 2 — Bump Day — the remaining drivers fought to be in the field of 33. If there were more than 33, than the driver sitting in 33rd was "on the bubble," and driver after driver would try to pick him or her off, and bump them out of the field. So Bump Day was pretty exciting, because everyone was scrambling to qualify and then tweak the engine to get even a little more speed out of the car.

Compare that to the very first two races of Indy 500 history. NBC researcher Rick Schaffer says that the starting field of 40 drivers was determined by who mailed…

Breakfast Sandwiches Pose Serious Danger

Several years ago, when I worked in crisis communication for the state health department, many of my colleagues were retired career military types who were working in Emergency Response as a post-retirement job.

Because managing public health emergencies is so relaxing.

As emergency responders, we often worked with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), which is made up of former cops and firefighters who provide training and resources to emergency managers and first responders around the state.

Whenever our agency got together with their agency, there was a lot of hearty back slapping, gallows humor, and stories that started with, "Oh yeah? That's nothing. Let me tell you about. . . "

If you ever want to meet people with more testosterone than former military officers, it's former cops and firefighters. Whenever we met with IDHS, I wore a rain coat to avoid the spray from everyone marking their territories. The room was always so filled with thick musta…

It's Eat or Be Eaten in Canadian Wilderness

I'm not your textbook fisherman. I know how to fish, I even like to fish. And I get a thrill of excitement whenever I actually get one on the line.

It's the actual touching of the fish that icks me out.

This was a problem when I would go for fly-in fishing trips to Canada with my father-in-law and brother-in-law. These are trips out to the Canadian wilderness, a part of North America that makes your weekend camping trip look like croissants and cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe. At least until I show up with a pair of gardening gloves and needle nose pliers to avoid any fishy contact.

The outfitter would fly us in on a Saturday, check on us on Wednesday to make sure no one died, and then picked us up the following Saturday. Since humans can live without food for three weeks, and it takes a few days for any waterborne disease to take kill you, we just had to wait for the plane to return and hope we didn't meet any bears.

"If something happens," they said, "go out…

(Don't) Read Banned Books!

When I was four, my dad made me get my finger bitten by a rat.

My dad has been a psychology professor at Ball State University for 45 years. Early in his career, he worked with lab rats, performing experiments designed to make psychologists giggle with delight whenever their hypotheses were confirmed.

One day, my dad wanted to show me where he worked and what he did. When we got to the lab, he said the one thing that would make me stick my finger in a rat cage.

He said, "Don't stick your finger in the rat cage."

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hospital, where I got a tetanus shot and a bandage. My dad also learned a valuable lesson in the Psychology of Erik: Erik will not do what he is told, he will do what he is told not to.

When I was a high school sophomore, this was a valuable strategy to get me to read certain books, like Slaughterhouse-Five or Catch-22.

One day, I was walking past the college bookstore, and saw a poster announcing Banned Books Week. It sh…