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Archive for January, 2011

Sputnik and Manitowoc

Yes, the irony only gets better.

For those wondering, yes, a Sputnik crashed in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

However, it was not THE Sputnik per se, it was Sputnik IV.  It was on September of 1962 and a story I’ve heard many times from my mother — a Manitowoc native — especially when “The Space Race” was being studied in school.

And yes, I’ve seen the ring on 8th St.

Then I’ve laughed at the stupidity of Soviet technology.

From the historical website:

The galleries of the Rahr-West Art Museum contain paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Picasso, and Andy Warhol. They also contain a piece not even the Met or the Getty or the Louvre can equal — a piece of space junk. It’s not here because it’s art. It’s here because it crashed right outside.

It was with much fanfare that the Soviet Union launched Korabl-Sputnik 1, dubbed “Sputnik IV” in the West, on May 14, 1960. It carried a super-secret 7-ton payload including, it was rumored, a life-size “dummy cosmonaut.” The Reds were so proud that they put their newest satellite on a postage stamp. But five days later, when its re-entry rockets were fired, something apparently exploded. Instead of a triumphant return to earth, Sputnik IV (and the dummy) drifted into space. This time there was no fanfare. The Russians said that they’d never planned to bring it back anyway.

Sputnik IV stayed in its useless orbit until September 5, 1962, when it fell screaming from the sky over Wisconsin. All 7 tons, including the dummy cosmonaut, burned up in the atmosphere — except one 20-pound hunk of metal. That piece crashed into the street outside of the Rahr-West Art Museum. (A rival 14-pound piece, found on a loading dock in Sheboygan, was later dismissed as doubtful.)

Our helpful guide at Rahr-West takes us past the paintings and sculptures to see the piece. It rests serenely inside a plexiglass box atop a pedestal, a blackened disk of carbon steel perhaps six inches across. It looks like it broke off the bottom of a hot water tank. We’re told that it was glowing “like the Blob” when two city police officers discovered it, and an accompanying display praises the patrolmen as “particularly astute.”

The local newspaper at the time painted a less dramatic picture. The hunk had been embedded three inches deep into the asphalt of 8th Street, just off the center line, for an hour before patrolmen Marvin Bauch and Ronald Rusboldt noticed it from their squad car.

They thought that it was a piece of cardboard and ignored it. An hour later they noticed it again, stopped to move it, and found that it was too hot to touch. They then thought that it was a piece of slag from a local foundry that had fallen out of a dump truck. They kicked it to the curb.

It wasn’t until noon that Bauch and Rusboldt associated what they had seen with the reported breakup of Sputnik. They returned to the spot and found it, still in the gutter, more than seven hours after it had fallen. A check at the fire department with a Geiger counter showed no radioactivity, so the lump was shipped to the Smithsonian.

Nine days after the crash, satisfied that what they had was essentially just a hunk of metal, the Americans offered most of it back to the Soviets. The Russians huffed and puffed and finally accepted, carrying away the hunk in a box — but not before NASA had made two replicas. One was given to Wisconsin’s democratic senator, the other to Wisconsin’s republican representatives, on the one-year anniversary of the crash. Neither wanted them, and so both ended up back in Manitowoc, even though Manitowoc itself only wanted one.

On November 15, 1963, the International Association of Machinists embedded a brass ring in 8th Street to mark the exact spot where Sputnik had fallen. It’s in the middle of a street, where locals won’t necessarily notice you crouching with a camera — so don’t. Safer is a marker next to the sidewalk, a small slab of pink granite mounted flush with the grass, providing sparse particulars of Sputnik’s demise.

The second Sputnik lump replica is supposedly in Manitowoc’s Safety Building (police and fire headquarters). But we didn’t have the time to verify this, and frankly we didn’t relish the thought of calling the police dispatcher and asking, “Do you have a piece of Sputnik?” So we’ll leave it to someone else to track down this final relic of the Space Race.

Since 2008, the citizens of Manitowc have been holding “SputnikFest” to commemorate the crash landing.

Here is a YouTube video from it.

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Thoughts on the SOTU

Okay, this is randomly coming to me.

  • So “Investment” is the new “Stimulus,” huh?
  • Overall, the delivery and reception was extremely bland.  Yes, one sort of expects that in a State of the Union speech, but it was more so than usual.
  • Continuing on that point, I really think “Date Night” failed on how it muted many of the applause lines Obama and his speechwriters put in.  That being said, can we keep “Date Night” seating?  It really shortens the speech-watching time.
  • Final “Date Night” seating thought:  Just like Bucks games, good to see Herb Kohl was able to get great up-front seating for him and his guest, freshman Senator Ron Johnson.
  • Did anyone else get the feeling the end was put together by the team of speechwriters looking at each other and going “Hey, we need to put some foreign policy in this thing, huh?”
  • That line about “high-speed rail,” it was for laughs, right?
  • So when Obama was speaking the truth about innovation and technology affecting manufacturing employment, were “Sly” and John Nichols screaming “CREATIVE DESTRUCTION, DIE YOU BASTARD!” like they did during the Feingold race?
  • Salmon joke: Funny, now will he actually go through with a concrete re-organization of the federal bureaucracy which not only cuts waste, time, overhead, and jobs, but also the federal payroll?

The GOP response

  • For a thankless job, traditionally in a horrible location, Rep. Paul Ryan did a fine job.
  • From my brother Kurt: Paul Ryan was at least ten times better doing this than Bobby Jindal.
  • This is likely improve over time, but Ryan started very robotic, but eventually got into the groove of the speech.
  • The “Ryan 2012” talk is way  too premature.
  • Saw someone on Twitter say this last night, but comparing the two speeches they described Obama as the salesman trying to buy you the car, while Ryan was your accountant telling you don’t have the money for it.

The Bachmann Response

  • Didn’t watch it.  Then again, I didn’t watch Obama’s online response in 2008 either.

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The Terrible Towel: Made in Wisconsin

Too funny.

Staff Writer Melissa Repko is working on a story about Super Bowl merchandise and stumbled upon this odd fact:

The “Terrible Towel ,” furiously waved each weekend at Heinz Field by fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, comes from a company in Wisconsin — roughly 110 miles southwest of Green Bay.

That makes Super Bowl XLV a dream match-up for Gregg McArthur, president of McArthur Towel & Sports in Baraboo, Wisc.

He’s a diehard fan of the Green Bay Packers. And, he’s making lots of money selling Terrible Towels to the other side. Orders, he said, are coming in at a “feverish pace.”

The company is also cranking out “Title Town USA” towels, in honor of the Packers. McArthur admits that the Steelers’ version remains more popular, but, he says, make no mistake about the game.

“Our loyalties lie with our Green and Gold,” he said.

In other “Packers – Steelers related news, WBAY-TV in Green Bay points out that Steelers legend Bob “Rocky” Bleier is an Appleton Xavier alum.

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Obama to Address Gun Control

Good to know.  I was worried the NRA was starting to feel really irrelevant during this Presidency.

President Barack Obama didn’t talk about gun control in his State of the Union address, but a top White House aide is promising that the president is “going to address” the issue soon.

Senior adviser David Plouffe said late Tuesday that Obama will wade into the national debate over guns and gun control that has developed since the Tucson shooting that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and a dozen others, and killed six.

“The president has been clear about his position on the assault weapons ban, to use an example … back in the campaign, that position’s been restated,” Plouffe said on NBC late Tuesday. “He’s going to address this.” So far, though, he hasn’t.

NBC anchor Brian Williams, who was questioning Plouffe, said White House officials told him earlier Tuesday that Obama was planning to discuss guns, but at a “different venue, different speech, later date.”

Guns, Plouffe said, are “a very important issue and one I know there’s going to be debate on the Hill.” But, he said, Obama’s State of the Union address wasn’t the right time or place for that volatile discussion. “The speech tonight was really about people are worried now about the economy and they’re worried about the future, and I think they were hungry for a road map how to win the future for America.”

The rest of the article is about other pro-gun control politicians in the country (NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg, and Long Island Congresswoman Carolyn Mahoney) who are pressing on the White House to act, and act soon.

Guess this could change the same speech we’ve been hearing from NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre at CPAC for the past few years.  That’s good to hear, it was getting stale.

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GOP Senators’ Super Bowl Wager Set

From a Pittsburgh area radio station.

Steelers vs. Packers. Primanti Bros. sandwiches vs. Wisconsin cheese.

In honor of the Feb. 6 Super Bowl featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Green Bay Packers, U.S. Senators Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have made a tasty wager on the winner of the big game.

Should the Steelers prevail, Sen. Johnson will provide Sen. Toomey with a savory assortment of Wisconsin cheese, bratwurst and beer. But should the Packers emerge victorious, Sen. Toomey will ship Sen. Johnson a delivery of Pittsburgh’s world-famous Primanti Bros. sandwiches, topped with signature French fries, cole slaw and tomatoes.

No word yet if Senators Kohl and Casey (who’s actually from the Philadelphia area, so he could be an Eagles fan) are also having a wager between the two Democrats.

Through the grapevine I heard Senator Johnson also had a wager with new Illinois Senator Mark Kirk (R) over the NFC Championship between the Packers and the Bears.  The Johnson Senate office will be having Chicago Deep Dish pizza for lunch one of these days.

UPDATE: Johnson’s office has a press release out on the news.

“Being frugal and a fiscal conservative, my first thought was to simply re-gift the Chicago-style pizza and Illinois beer that the Packers helped us win from Sen. Kirk, but that wouldn’t highlight the fine products made in Wisconsin. So I have decided to offer Sen. Toomey’s office a generous basket of Wisconsin cheese, brats and beer in the unlikely event that the Steelers prevail over America’s team, the Green Bay Packers,” Sen. Johnson said.

“I’m sure Sen. Johnson would enjoy some of Pittsburgh’s best sandwiches, which taste just as good as the upcoming Steelers’ victory,” Sen. Toomey said.

Any Cowboys fans fuming over the use of “America’s Team” can take it up with Packers Nation when you’re back in a Super Bowl…or better yet, find a way to win a post-season game.

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Yeah, This is a Lawsuit Waiting to Happen

I’ll have to consult any of the blogging lawyers, but I believe the legal term here is “Wrongful Termination.”

With Chicago reeling from Sunday’s painful playoff loss, Monday morning probably wasn’t the best time for car salesman John Stone to share his love for the Green Bay Packers with co-workers and customers.

But Stone, 34, proudly showed up for work at Webb Chevrolet in south suburban Oak Lawn wearing his green-and-yellow Packers necktie anyway.

Now he’s former car salesman John Stone.

The morning after the Chicago Bears’ hated rivals beat them at Soldier Field to advance to the Super Bowl, Webb’s general manager Jerry Roberts says he fired Stone for refusing to remove the Packers-branded tie.

The facts aren’t in dispute, only the appropriateness of the novelty neckwear.

“He said, ‘You have two options,’ ” a furious Stone said later Monday. “Remove the tie, or you’re fired.”

“When I didn’t, he said, ‘You can leave, you’re fired.’

The rest of the article is  about Stone — an African American and father of two — and why he loves the Pack…and how the dealership has advertising and sponsorship ties to the Bears.

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Wisconsin Owes Ted Thompson an Apology

From Kevin Seifert, of ESPN.com, “The House That Ted Thompson Built.”

As he always does, the man with the white mane sat stoically in his press box seat. Believe me, I checked.

Every time the Green Bay Packers‘ rookie nickelback made a play, I stole a glance down the aisle. Ted Thompson was unmoved. There was no hint of vengeance when rookie tailback James Starks scored a second-quarter touchdown, and I saw no reaction of note as punter Tim Masthay flipped the game’s field position all afternoon.

The Packers’ general manager had every reason to feel wholly vindicated Sunday as his team advanced to Super Bowl XLV with a 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. On a day when quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ best play was a touchdown-saving tackle, Thompson’s brand of team building proved especially prescient. This was a Ted Thompson victory if there ever was one.

“Ted built this house,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He is responsible for everything that goes on.”

We’ve all had our fun and taken our shots at the way Thompson constructed this team. Eschewing veteran free agency puts a premium on your own development program, leaving no margin for error in the draft and little patience in bringing along young players. You’ve got to hit nearly every time, and after watching Sunday’s game at Soldier Field, I think we can agree that Thompson batted 1.000 in a year when the Packers lost more starting players to injuries than any NFL team.

Undrafted nickel back Sam Shields became one of 11 rookies in NFL history to intercept at least two passes in a playoff game, including the game-clinching play with 37 seconds remaining. Starks continued his postseason surge with 74 yards and his first touchdown since he was a junior at Buffalo in 2008. Masthay, plucked off the street last winter, pinned the Bears inside their 20-yard line on five of his eight punts. Nose tackle B.J. Raji, Thompson’s first pick in the 2009 draft, returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown that served as the final margin of victory.

The Packers have their share of elite players in Rodgers, receiver Greg Jennings, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. But without Shields, Starks and Masthay, the Packers might not have a ticket for Arlington, Texas, in two weeks.
“I think this really to me showed all of Ted’s work over the last two or three years,” team president Mark Murphy said. “You look at the depth of the roster, the players he’s been able to identify. We have starting players playing key roles for us who were undrafted free agents this year. It’s a tribute to Ted and his staff that he’s able to find these players.”

I missed Thompson after the game. I’m guessing he wouldn’t have been in a gloating mood. It’s not his style, and it’s what I like best about him. He doesn’t need to tell us I told you so. We saw it ourselves Sunday, and it was a development not lost in the Packers’ locker room.

“It starts up top with Ted and players and the personnel department,” veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “They do a good job of bringing in players. Somebody gets hurt, and they bring in a guy where there’s almost no drop-off. We have a lot of talent on this team. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this much, as long as I have been playing. There are players all over this team that were overlooked by other teams.”

On the day the Packers advanced to their first Super Bowl in 13 years, you might not be up for patting their shy general manager on the back. Sorry folks. If Rodgers had pulled another of his postseason gems, I would be telling you all about it. If Matthews had put together another of his three-sack games, this post would have been easy to write.

The assumption has been that the Packers would ride Rodgers as far as he could take them. But Sunday, the Bears’ defense limited him to 17 completions in 30 attempts. He threw two interceptions, including one to linebacker Brian Urlacher on what he called a “terrible throw” in the third quarter. Rodgers managed to trip up Urlacher at the Bears’ 45-yard line, preventing what almost certainly would have been a touchdown, but he was unable to take the Packers to a second-half touchdown that would have put the game out of reach.

On this championship day, that task fell to players like Shields, Starks and Masthay. We’ve had plenty of discussions about Starks, who has vindicated Thompson’s decision not to seek a veteran replacement (albeit a little late). Shields, meanwhile, was Thompson’s version of an answer to the Packers’ thin depth at cornerback last season.

Signed as an undrafted free agent after the draft, Shields initially was a candidate to be the Packers’ kickoff and punt returner. But as soon as he arrived at training camp, he had defensive players and coaches turning their heads.

“We saw him and said, ‘Why didn’t this guy get drafted?'” Pickett said. “This guy has been making plays since the moment he got here. He might be the best rookie cornerback in the league.”

It would be hard to argue based on Sunday’s game. Shields ended two consecutive Bears series in the second quarter. The first was a sack of quarterback Jay Cutler on third down. Less than two minutes later, his athletic interception prevented what would have been a long 42-yard touchdown pass to receiver Johnny Knox.

According to the database at pro-football-reference.com, Shields is the first rookie in NFL history to collect two interceptions and a sack in a playoff game.

“He is going to be a great player for the Green Bay Packers for a long time,” McCarthy said.

The Packers have more than their share of similar stories.

Ted Thompson is their ghost writer.

He won’t tell you.

He doesn’t need to.

You saw it yourself.

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Obama to Visit Orion Energy Systems

Hammer strike delivered directly to the head of the nail.

President Barack Obama will visit with employees at Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc during his visit to the state on Wednesday, according to a White House official.

The visit is part of the president’s Main Street Tour. Obama is expected to tour the company and speak to employees about the economy, the official said.

The president is expected to make additional stops in the Manitowoc area.The White House did not immediately release what time Obama is expected to be in Manitowoc.

Obama’s visit will come one day after he delivers his State of the Union speech to Congress. His Main Street Tour began in December 2009 when he visited the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania.

The official said that, while in Wisconsin, Obama will “continue his conversation with American families and workers about rebuilding an economy that ensures America’s long-term economic competitiveness and guarantees that America and its people continue to lead in the future.”

Obama last visited Wisconsin on Sept. 28 of last year, when he appeared at a Democratic Party rally on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus

Headquartered in Manitowoc, Orion Energy Systems sells energy-saving lighting systems, including wireless controls and a daylighting product called the Solar Light Pipe.

The company was founded in 1996.

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Olbermann, Gone

The video.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The statement.

MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

The story behind it?

Eventually going to come to light.

My guess is Olby either was sick and tired of MSNBC brass or the other way around.  With two years remaining on his contract, somebody pulled a trigger on some clause in it, and you have what you had last night.  The only question left to wonder is in what form will those reasons come out.

Since this is TV, Olbermann and MSNBC probably had your standard “non-compete” clause going, so he won’t be appearing anywhere on the dial anytime soon.  He has an operating journal at DailyKos, so it might come there.  Of course, Obly’s still on good terms with his long-time broadcasting partner at ESPN, Dan Patrick, who still has a weekday sports/talk radio show and radio and TV are not one in the same.

The irony of that is, Patrick is no longer on ESPN Radio, and Olbermann would be giving that exclusive on Fox Sports Radio.

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Well, He is the Most Talented Thing in L.A. These Days

Kobe Bryant will be first professional athlete to have his hand and shoe prints immortalized at Graumann’s Chinese Theater.

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has championship rings and an MVP trophy, but he’s about to get an honor usually reserved for the stars of Hollywood.

Bryant will become the first athlete to have a hand and foot print ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Representatives for the theater announced Thursday that Bryant will have the ceremony setting his hands and feet in cement as part of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend festivities on Feb. 19, the day before the All-Star game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

More than 200 Hollywood luminaries including John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and Brad Pitt have had their hands and feet set in cement in front of the Hollywood landmark.

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