Friday, March 31, 2006

Politico Friday: Wafa Sultan

I saw this lady interviewed on CNN recently. She drew a lot of attention a month ago for a debate she had with a Muslim cleric on Al-Jazeera essentially about moderate Islam vs. fundamentalist Islam. Granted this clip only shows the arguments she made in the debate, some of her points transcend all religions as they deal with fundamentalism.

Why America doesn't have these sort of relevant discussions on television rather than the Sean Hannity's of the world, shark attacks, and runaway brides is disappointing, but it's good to know the discussions are taking place somewhere.

Hat tip to C.E. for the video link.

Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The State of Hoops in Hoosierland

Pat Forde, former UK beat writer for the Courier-Journal, has a terrific article out on about basketball at all levels in the state of Indiana. With IU hiring Kelvin Sampson from Oklahoma yesterday some Hoosier fans have bemoaned both the hire and the overall state of basketball in the most hoops-crazed state in the country. Although I don't think it's fair to write off Sampson a day after he's hired, criticism of the decline of high school basketball's popularity -- part of the social fabric in Indiana -- seems fair as high school basketball is not nearly as meaningful as it used to be. I've heard my friend & Indiana native Brian Wise make many of these same points and comments that Forde makes.

Sometimes it's hard for things to go back to the way they were. A good read nonetheless.

If you understand all that, if you grasp the folklore and the sport's place in society, you can understand what the state tournament used to be. For that, take a drive through the rolling hills of Southern Indiana.

On Indiana Highway 37 you'll see a sign outside Mitchell, pop. 5,000. It commemorates the 1940 state tournament runner-up, the Mitchell High Bluejackets.

Not the champions. The runners-up. From 66 years ago.

Understand that Indiana is home to 19 of the 20 largest high school gyms in America, topped by New Castle High, Alford's alma mater, at 9,325 seats. Understand that the Indiana State Library's Web site lists no fewer than 33 books on its shelves relating to high school basketball, including, "Somebody Stole the Pea Out of My Whistle: The Golden Age of Hoosier Basketball Referees." Understand that if there were such a thing as a state sound, in Indiana it would be a basketball slapping off a wood floor in an empty gym.

"For smaller schools, the state championships were the sectionals," Bailey said. "If you could come through the sectional and win it, you had that one great weekend of games to remember."


There would be no Milan [the school "Hoosiers" is based upon] miracle under the current format. Nothing to talk about for the next 50 years. "Since they went to class basketball, Milan has been to the semistate twice, and nobody knows it," Plump said. "That gives you the idea that people don't care. The sectional winners in the old days will be remembered a long time after the four state champions are remembered.

"When you can play, you want to play against the big boys. You might get your brains beat out, but it won't be the last time that happens in life."

Basketball in this state is getting its brains beat out on every level these days. For the good of the game and the good of the people who love it more than anywhere else, that needs to change.

After all, in 49 states it's just basketball. But this is Indiana.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Joy of Elmo

Amy recently came home with a singing Elmo doll. Chalk this up as #927 on the list things I said I'd never do but have since reconsidered after having kids.

For a goofy singing Sesame Street character, Elmo has been a HUGE hit in our house. I don't know what it is, but something about Elmo resonates with the kids. Owen beams from ear to ear, closing his eyes and laughing every time we hit the button to make Elmo sing & dance. Gus doesn't get quite the kick out of it that Owen does, but he is still a fan.

I just hope Amy & I don't cave and get a talking Barney in the house someday. ;-)

One happy Elmo-loving little character right here.

Final Four

March Madness 2006 has been a very interesting basketball tournament for basketball junkies like me. Granted this year has been a little different from years past -- both with Kentucky getting its lowest seed in nearly two decades and with multi-tasking skills in changing diapers while simultaneously watching the games. Still, the games have been incredible and for the first time in 25+ years there are no #1 seeds in the final four.

In the past the opening Friday of the tournament was marked by a vacation day from work and inviting friends over to watch hoops from noon til midnight. This year we continued the tradition on opening Friday -- albeit without the vacation day -- with our friends Mike & Jean Mankowski and their ten-week old daughter Ella. Mike is a diehard Tar Heel, and Jean is a lifelong Duke fan. If Ella grows up to cheer for NC State, then their family may end up not speaking to each other for the month of March. It was a splendid evening of catching up, both on the changes that have happened to us all in the past year and on watching hoops.

This past weekend Amy & I ventured to Charleston to see Melanie and Roman. Roman was impressed with Glen "Big Baby" Davis, the 310 lb. immovable object for LSU. We got back just in time on Sunday to watch 11th seeded George Mason slide on the Cinderella slipper beating uber-talented yet underachieving top-seeded Connecticut. All in all it has been a tremendous tournament.

One more weekend Amy B -- then you're in the clear until October.

Ella shows off her Tar Heel attire -- shirt and socks -- to the delight of her dad.

Papa Mankowski & baby Ella.

The Mankowski family.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Beachin' It

For the boys' first trip to the Palmetto State we ventured down to the beach on a cool spring day. It was hard to say who enjoyed it more -- Owen & Gus for playing in the sand, Mom or Dad taking dozens of pictures, or Tucker who released months of couped up energy by bounding down the beach through the water. A fun time indeed.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Scenes from the Rutledge clan's venture down to Charleston to see Aunt Mel, Uncle Dude, Chloe, Tera, & Mona.

Owen lets Aunt Mel know the handoff was too quick.

Gus finds simple happiness in the seat of a chair.

Little Owen does his best JoJo impersonation, seated at his command post.

Gus gets a Chloe kiss.

Uncle Dude & Owen perform a duet.

Mona leaves us a present by the door.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I love the amateur sketch.

Leprechaun sighting

Hat tip to our pal Gretchen for passing along this gem.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

May the leprechauns be kind to you.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Amy sent me pictures today of her trip with the boys to the park to ride on the swings. Apparently the swings were a big hit.

And this is our third child, Stu. We haven't said much about him up until now, but he's around. Say hello to Stu everybody.

Update (3/17): My mistake. Apparently we do not have a third child -- it just feels like it some days. And he is not Stu either -- he is Braden Parks, son of Amy's friend Stephanie and her husband Brian.

Monday, March 13, 2006

March Madness

The NCAA tournament is finally here. It is my favorite time of year as a sports fan. Normally I take off work on the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament to watch the games. Unfortunately I won't be able to do that this year, but I will be sneaking into the breakroom at work to sneak a peak at the games for sure.

Instead of marching into the tournament on a wave of optimism and confidence like the past few years, my beloved Wildcats are limping into the tournament as a team of underachievers this year with an #8 seed and a nearly impossible task of toppling #1 Connecticut in the second round.....should the Cats even make it to the second round.

This year has been a full season of Kentucky trying to find itself, trying to establish its identity. UK is better with the return of Randolph Morris, but there are still glaring holes on offense and way too many lapses on defense.

This has been a year of confusion for UK fans on Kronos Lane and everywhere in Big Blue land. The UK flag is no longer flown on gamedays at our house as it has repeatedly jinxed the Cats to several losses. The boys no longer wear their UK outfits during games since the loss to the Tar Heels in December obviously had a negative effect on the team. Amy & I still have not found the magical seats in our house where we watch the game. So in fairness to the Cats, the Rutledges have not helped out the situation by constantly changing up their gameday routine.

But I am excited nonetheless for the tournament. In reality I would be pleased with a victory over the UAB team that ousted UK two years ago when Kentucky was a #1 seed (which remains the most devastating loss since the Duke/Laettner game in 1992) followed by a strong showing against #1 Connecticut. I don't expect too much more from Kentucky this year.

And I'm also excited because despite the number of fans here who don't recognize basketball outside the North Carolina/Duke/NC State/ACC realm, the Triangle truly is a haven for college basketball fans. The workplace empties out on gameday as bars fill up with hoops fans. Kids watch the tournament in school. The cashier at the cafeteria today asked me to go run off a copy of the brackets for her so she could fill in her picks....while people waited in line to pay for their food. College basketball is part of the culture here.

It's my favorite time of year.

BTW, I started a bracket pool for anyone that wants to submit their picks. Shoot me an email if you did not get a link and want to join in -- the more, the merrier. Cheers!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Take a Stand

Owen decided he was tired of the army crawl this week. He began pulling himself to the sitting position which boosted his bravery. So this morning he successfully achieved his first pull up to the standing position. I've always thought you had to crawl before you walk, but if the new upright perspective takes with this kid he may just skip the crawling phase altogether.

What he doesn't realize is once you walk Mom & Dad teach you "now go walk the dog around the block." :-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


On Madden, Pacino, Dubya & Clinton. Hysterical.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Big Earl

Spring has sprung here in North Carolina. It was 80 degrees last Thursday and will be in the 80s again this coming weekend.

Big Earl has begun to bloom.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Image Makeover

Gus has been working on refining his image lately. He's been after us to show a different side of him that portrays the street-smart, tough guy attitude that he's trying to cultivate. He posed here to show off his new steely-eyed glare of intimidation.

So here he is everyone, have-no-fear Gus-man.

Bath Time

Freedom was expanded this week for the boys. Amy & I started giving them free reign in the bathtub this week, taking them out of their little plastic tub. The move was quite a success from their standpoint -- not sure how clean they got but they had a ball playing in the water.

My How They've Grown

This past week we were visited by Anne Jane Gray, a friend and co-worker from Pittsburgh who was in Raleigh for a customer trip. She dropped by to get re-acquainted with Owen & Gus as the boys have grown a great deal since she saw them last summer. Anne Jane and her husband Dave have two teenage boys of their own so she had many stories to share of their experiences. It was great to catch up and get a break from the work week with a good visit.

Gus enjoyed getting his belly rubbed and tickled.

Owen warms up with a grin.

The boys show Anne Jane their favorite toys to roll about with.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hometown Hero

Glasgow, Kentucky's own Brandon Stockton proved the hero last night at the end of a must-win game for Kentucky over Tennessee. His dive on the floor in the final seconds to cause a loose ball took the ball out of Tennessee's hands and helped seal the win for the Cats. My friends here in NC give me a hard time about Stockton because I've been known to tell them a time or twelve that he is from the metropolis of Glasgow -- better known as Glass-cow to national announcers or Grassgrow to a buddy from Louisville. Well last night was vindication for the seldom used former Scottie. In a season filled with turmoil where more talented players have had run-ins with Tubby Smith, the coach has turned to his heady senior in the past five games to level set his team on his expectations of playing team basketball. It was a gutsy, gutsy move by Tubby that has paid off.

What a game last night -- great for Kentucky, great for the border rivalry with a very good Tennessee team, and great for the SEC. Hopefully the Cats jumped off that bubble.

Here is the final 0:08 which culminates with a Brandon-Tubby chest bump at midcourt. Awesome!