Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I am doing it again ...

OK, OK ... how many times am I going to do this to myself in this blog? Well, given that it's me and that I have a history of not meeting my own expectations, this blog is suffering the consequences. This post, unfortunately, is no exception. I am writing for one main reason only: to prove I still write to it. Yes, it has only been a week, but, in the blogging world, a week is an eternity.

If you have actually read this blog up to this point, I am sure you are deeply saddened that this is the best post I can muster, but, truthfully, this is reflective of the kind of stuff I think about a regular basis. Are my "readers" happy? Am I meeting expectations (personal, professional, others)? What do I have to do to keep up with everything?

Anyway, this is enough drivel for one post. Hang in there, faithful readers ... there is enough other stuff for me to write, including the continuing saga of my life that I promised. Of course, it is helpful to know if others are actually reading ANY of this. If you do read this, post a COMMENT. Then, I will know for certain. Later gators...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Congrats to the new king of college hoops -- Florida!

I would like to congratulate the University of Florida for achieving their first ever NCAA Basketball Championship with a victory in Monday night's finale against UCLA (the most championships in NCAA history). Although I cannot say I even watched the game for any significant length of time, Florida did appear to win in convincing fashion with a 73-57 crushing of the southern California bunch.

The analysis of the game that I have seen is not surprising (and consistent with my own lack of interest in the Final Four this year): there are no dominant players and/or teams worth watching. Yes, fans love to watch the underdogs take on the big guns and pull out a win here or there, but a Final Four without any #1 seeds (Duke, Memphis, UConn, and Villanova failed to get there, with Duke failing to reach the Elite 8 as well) doesn't speak too highly of the upper ranks of college basketball. UCLA was the highest-ranked team there with a #2 seed, but I personally picked them to exit the tourney at least two rounds sooner than they did (they overachieved to make the final game in my eyes).

Florida touted the "powerhouse" player of Joakim Noah, who averaged a respectable 14.2 ppg and 7.1 rpg during the season. At 6'11", he certainly has the size as a team's big man to take advantage of the opposition. Florida appeared to get the job done with balanced offense, though, with all five starters averaging in double figures (10+ppg). They had only one close game in the tournament, against Georgetown (a team with tall players, including a seven-footer). Defense wins championships, and the Florida defense was key to theirs.

The transition of talented high school players as well as some number of college underclassmen directly into the NBA has probably diminished the talent pool in the NCAA, but it is hard to say if the NBA-style of game itself (predominance of the big men and little emphasis on defensive tactics and teamwork) has been a bad influence on the college game as well. When the talent is spread more uniformly across teams at all levels (from the big-name schools to the mid-majors as well), it is easy to see why parity of performance occurs. It is also easier to see how teams at the mid-major level develop more as teams with emphasis on ball control and teamwork that has helped them be more successful in tournament play where some bigger names rely on individual play more.

Accepting the college game for what it is worth (with a level of "purity" in the play that is lost when the players become pros) is still the major consideration for why I have interest in the sport. Players at the college level seem to still remember their *fundamentals* -- which they hopefully will never lose.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Seeking the Elusive Autograph

As a fan of multiple sports, I have always been a bit enchanted by the elusive autograph of a sports star. My first love was baseball, and my first autographs were by baseball players. I was a child of the 1980's, as that sport started to build up the "walls" between the multi-millionaire players and the average fan.

I am lucky enough to have a dad who knew a major league pitching coach, and I have a baseball passed down to me that he got from the 1985 WS Champion KC Royals (one of his teams). A Hall of Famer, George Brett, is on there with the rest of the team. I didn't appreciate it much when I was younger, but, a few years later, I was an obsessed with getting my favorite team's autographs, the Cincinnati Reds.

That year was 1989, an interesting year for the Reds for those who are familiar with the Pete Rose fiasco, and I was staying with my family at the same hotel in Chicago as the players were staying. In the process of hanging out in the lobby, I can recall seeing the stars of that team, like Barry Larkin, Jose Rijo, Eric Davis, Rob Dibble, et.al., and truly being the kid that I was. I was tall for my age (almost 6'4" at the time as a 13-year-old), and I was even mistaken by a few older folks there as a baseball player (it made me laugh ... I guess I could have been a late-season call-up). I thought that Barry Larkin, my favorite player on the team, was the most gracious guy I could have imagined. Eric Davis, the team's star, was too money-obsessed for his own good and refused to sign autographs for anybody. It was clear there were more "Davises" out there than the good guys like Larkin. My autograph book was started, but I wouldn't really get more for years after.

I am posting in this forum as a NASCAR fan, a sport I didn't follow much during that same 1980's time period (although I was watching the open-wheel guys at the Indianapolis 500). I have to think that as I became a teenager in the early 1990's and was driving myself, I became more interested in watching motor sports. NASCAR was still pretty new to me, other than casual interest in the Daytona 500, and I don't remember really being hooked until I watched the 1993 race with Dale Jarrett winning and his dad, Ned, calling the action.

Fast forward into the much more recent past. I watched a number of memorable races on TV, but I had never been to a race in person. In 2002, I finally went to my first race. The tragedy that had occurred one year earlier with Dale Earnhardt, a man I had watched over those years, made me realize that the careers of drivers were too short. Since my at-the-track was experience was new and took me back to being a kid, I was once again interested in meeting drivers and, hopefully, getting some autographs. Although I didn’t take the time at my first race in Charlotte (at the Coca Cola 600), I did get some interaction at my first Bristol race later that summer. After the Sharpie 500 that night, I went over to the exit gate in Turn 3 (where the haulers, drivers, and teams would leave) in the hopes of seeing somebody I knew. Fate was on my side, as I happened to catch Winston Cup rookie, Ryan Newman, exiting after a disappointing night. Newman signed my hat (which wasn’t the greatest thing I had to sign, but I forgot about my program from the race), and my intent on getting driver autographs was started.

I didn’t attend any more races in 2002, but I did go back to the track for more in 2003. Before I went to my first race that year, I came prepared – buying a copy of the “NASCAR 2003 Preview and Press Guide” from Wal-Mart. I returned to Bristol that spring, but I came up empty looking for autographs (I would later learn that I should have been in the trailer rows earlier in the day). Things would change for the better when I went to the second race, only a couple of weeks later at Talladega. I browsed the trailers looking for the boards saying who would be signing and saw that the Roush drivers were signing (except for Mark Martin and Jeff Burton), but they were nearly all at the same time. I was torn with what driver I should pick, but I went with the winningest driver from the year before: Matt Kenseth. I thought maybe I would get lucky and headed over towards the Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle trailers, but I came up empty for tickets at both locations.

A little bit of luck then happened as some guys nearby, who had tickets for both Busch and Biffle, wanted to get something signed by Kenseth but had no ticket for him. I offered to bring one of the guy’s diecasts with me and my program, but I needed something to sign if I gave it to them. My book couldn’t be in two places, so I bought a Roush Racing jacket (as foolish as that may have seemed in retrospect, because Mark Martin was the only Roush driver I followed previously). I gave the guy my jacket to have signed in the Biffle line (with a nice silver Sharpie) while I headed over to the Kenseth line. I got two autographs at the same time (in the book and on the jacket), but I still wanted to have the book signed. I went over to Biffle’s trailer to trade the items back, and a guy in line said he would have my book signed, too, since he had only one item to be signed. How sweet was that?!? Kurt Busch was still signing at his trailer, so I decided hanging out there was worth a shot (maybe he’d sign extras?). I got in line, without a ticket, hoping that might be the case, but they cut off the line announcing that no tickets meant no autographs. I did use the opportunity to take his picture signing autographs for others, while paying little attention that there was a large camera off to my left. Little did I know they were filming segments for the NASCAR IMAX movie (I would find that out while watching the movie and seeing myself a year later!). I then hung out beyond the trailer, while talking to his then girlfriend, and even talked to Kurt briefly when he was getting into his golf cart (although he stopped signing autographs at that point). Well, with all of the effort, I did come away with two autographs in book (Kenseth and Biffle) and an autograph on my jacket (Biffle). I also managed to get Robby Gordon at his trailer (signing for just anybody who wanted it, which was pretty cool, but he also had no line).

The rest of the season, I went to a couple more races (Michigan and Bristol), but I came up empty. I got some photos of drivers, like Michael Waltrip at MIS, but no signatures. In the past two years (2004 and 2005), I have been able to collect the majority of my autograph collection. Two June 2005 sessions – one at the Roush Open House in Livonia, MI, before the MIS race and the other only a day later at a local Meijer location in Florence, KY, before the Busch race at Kentucky Speedway – provided many of the autographs I now have. I also was lucky enough to get my photo with Carl Edwards (which Speed happened to capture and show on the last episode of NASCAR Nation (the one with Krista Voda and Ralph Sheheen) before the program changed formats).

In only the past four years that I have been attending races and getting autographs, I now have (by my accounting immediately below) 31 unique autographs (from 17 drivers and 1 car owner).

2002 – Ryan Newman (NASCAR hat)
2003 – Matt Kenseth (fan guide), Greg Biffle (2 - fan guide and jacket), Robby Gordon (fan guide)
2004 – Bill Elliott (2 – two Dodge posters of him), Casey Mears (Richmond program)
2005 – Denny Hamlin and Randy LaJoie (Dover flag – hadn’t bought program yet), Kyle Busch (Dover program), Greg Biffle (2 - Dover program and Roush photo), Carl Edwards (2 - Dover program and Office Depot flier/photo … and I got a photo with Carl), Matt Kenseth (Roush photo), [and Jack Roush, 2 - on cover of Dover program and a Roush Racing flier/car photos, at Roush Racing Open House], David Green (3 – Dover program, Kleenex racing flier, and Kleenex matchbox car), Stacy Compton (2 – Dover program and Kingsford flier), Michel Jourdain Jr. (2 – Dover program and ppc Racing flier), David Stremme (Dover program), and Martin Truex Jr. (2 - Dover program and Kraft Racing flier), Kenny Wallace (fan guide and Dover program, and his wife Kim ;-)), Jimmy Spencer (fan guide), [and a photo with John Roberts after the Speed NASCAR This Morning show at Chicagoland]
2006 – none to date (no races until Bristol in August)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Here's a Shocker ... another sports-related post

I would be remiss if I didn't at least throw a bone towards the biggest sports event of March (i.e. March Madness, or the NCAA basketball tournament). This weekend marked success for the "underdogs" of college basketball. As the calendar turns from March to April, this tournament draws to a close. The tournament begins with 64 hopefuls (realistically, at least 25% know they have no chance in the world), but the field is whittled with each progressive day (and round of play). The event has names for seemingly everything, from the "Field of 64" to the "Sweet 16" to the "Elite Eight." Well, we have now reached the echelon plateau of the tourney by composing the "Final Four" heading to Indianapolis this coming weekend. It may seem like April Fool's Day when George Mason, the true Cinderella of this whole show as a #11 seed, will match-up against #3 seed Florida. The other side of the bracket, with #2 seed UCLA matching up with #4 seed LSU, is a pairing of much more likely contenders than Mason is in the grouping. Considering that this is one of very few events in tournament history to have no #1 seeds make the Final Four (three of the four (Memphis, Villanova, and Connecticut) were knocked out over the weekend, the other (Duke) didn't make the Elite Eight).

Most of the "experts" were picking UConn to win the whole thing. George Mason knocked them off in the early game on Sunday afternoon. Villanova was a serious contender for the first time in years, but Florida did the same to them on Sunday as well. Memphis couldn't muster offense against UCLA (in a 50-45 game), but UCLA was at least expected to be here by some. LSU is a bit of a surprise, having knocked out Duke on Thursday, but they might be finding themselves when it counts most. Their last loss was to fellow SEC team and Final Four member Florida.

Picking the Championship Game out of these four is probably a shot in the dark. Nobody would have picked George Mason to have gone this far already (maybe even beyond the second round), so who's to say they won't win again and make the finale? Florida is probably likely to succeed, but it depends if they take GM seriously. UCLA *should* beat LSU, but they lost twice to Washington during the regular season, who in turn lost to UConn in the tournament, who inevitably lost to GM two days later. Can GM beat UCLA by virtue of this sequence of (flawed) logic? Maybe or maybe not ... depends if LSU gets there first. I think a UCLA versus GM final would be best for ratings -- the winningest college team of the past versus the never-won-anything team of the here-and-now. John Wooden made UCLA a powerhouse back in the day (1960's and early 70's), and the school also won the championship as recently as 1995. Except for UCLA, none of these teams is a past champion.

If history repeats itself, UCLA will win yet another championship, but wouldn't it be a great surprise to see George Mason win it all?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Procrastination and Excuses

Isn't procrastination such an awful thing? I mean, if it wasn't for procrastination, I would have this blog updated with great information just about every day. Of course, I don't think that anybody is actually reading it (yet ... although my path to world domination is just beginning ;-).

I am hoping to build a "fan" base with my sports blogs over the course of the next few months, particularly the NASCAR blog (http://clubhouseconnection.net/blogs/rentz_racing_nascar.html) and the MLB / Cincinnati Reds blog (http://clubhouseconnection.net/blogs/ramblings_reds_fan_rentz.html). The NASCAR writing is getting most of my attention so far (since the season started in February and I started writing at the beginning of March). The baseball writing won't be far behind, since I made it a goal to comment after every game last season (which is a lot of writing in a 162-game schedule), but, depending on where the Reds go this season (which just might be into the toilet after the first few months), I tend to start covering the series moreso than the individual games when my interest wanes in the team.

I have debated having blogs on each of my individual interests, but then I realized that by diluting my product into too many separate streams makes sense if readers only care about one stream content and not the others. NASCAR is a general theme with a specific fan base that probably won't care much about baseball and certainly a smaller segment with interest in the Cincinnati Reds. The MLB population will have interest in baseball-themed writing, but baseball writers are so prolific (betwen newspaper and website beat writers) that my small niche is targeted mostly as a means to capture my perspective (as a long-time fan of the game) as it applies to baseball in general and to my favorite team. Some people may read about it as Reds' fans but not much beyond that, I would surmise.

This blog is my "catch-all" column of sorts, because I hope to capture here what interests me in the world beyond sports, beyond conventional writing boundaries, and beyond my own limitations. I have thoughts that come into and go out of my mind on a seemingly endless basis. If I put down on paper (or entered electronically) everything that came to my mind, I would be writing constantly. I am, without any doubt, a philospher at heart with thoughts that range from the practical, current reality (e.g. that we are a country in socio-economic turmoil without clear future plans to stabilize ourselves from future employment variability and uncertainty of war) to the spiritual / surreal (e.g. my upbringing pushes me towards a belief system of Christianity and the existence of an after-life ... but what if there is nothing beyond the existence we experience in the here and now and life is fleeting with every second of our being).

It is an interesting statement on myself and on the society at large that I would choose to write more in my sports journal(s) so far than to look inward and write more about my world that truly matters. Sports are competition, an extension of vicariously living the lives of strangers we don't know participating in events we never will. Sports are also entertainment, representative of celebrity and fame that only a select few in our societies, other than movie, television, and music stars, experience.

In some way, all of us have some degree of hope to be famous for something in our lives, some of us more than others. We might want to be famous for doing something to better humanity (like Nobel prize-winning scientists who create vaccines or cures for illnesses) or simply for having carried out our life's occupation (like being successful in business, making extraordinary amounts of money, and/or being a notable "expert" in our field(s)). If greatness cannot be imagined, it really can never be achieved. Thinking big is the first step in making it a future reality. If our imagination limits us only to what is now, then we do not challenge ourselves to find what is to be or what could possibly be.

As I said already, I could write, and write, and write some more. I would deprive myself of sleep in so doing, so with that thought, I will call it a night.

I hope to reconnect with more writing here in my "introspective" series in the near future, but, in case I don't, feel free to check out the other writings of mine, which are sure to give more insight about me anyway.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Another week goes by ...

... and I fall behind on my writing. Once again, procrastination sets in. Not that there are not enough legitimate reasons (or excuses) why I haven't written, but I shouldn't be making them. There has been plenty of new news for the week in my own life and in the world at large to fill many pages. I won't take the time now to write it all, although I would like to say a few new things now.

1) I have been at my new job for just one month as of this coming Monday. Although I haven't built up the timeline of how I got to this point, here is a small recap without the full story. I started at my current job on February 20th here in Cincinnati, working for an employer for whom I have previously worked. How I got back into this unnamed company is a long enough story in itself, but I had not worked for the previous eight (8) months prior to being reemployed. In case you haven't gone without work for very long in your own experience, eight months is every bit as long as it sounds. Getting back into the working swing hasn't come easy, but I hope to reinvigorate the attitude I used to have before my last job bruised my spirit.

To build up my image as a "loser" this marks my third job in three years. First, I moved to Cincinnati in late 2003 to start the first job, which I then ended up leaving after only nine (9) months. Second, I started the second job in late January 2005 (a three+ month gap in between for those counting) and lasted there only five months into June. I resigned from that position after experiencing the first "harassment" of my career and being torn down for my purported lack of ability. Third (and finally, up to present), I returned to the employer I had before the move to Cincinnati. If you can connect the dots from other clues about me elsewhere, you might even know who this employer is ... I won't name the names to protect the innocent.

The most important thing to know for now is that I started with this employer right after college, thought I might have a long career there, and lasted there for five and a half years. Stability has not defined my career since 2003, with the too frequent changes in jobs. I blame myself for most of my discontent because I really cannot blame anyone else for making me who I am. My biggest hope now is that I can find enough happiness where I am in my life to establish a lengthy career with my current employer and then to move into the "next phase" of life on my terms (and that is not necessarily retirement ... more like a "second career").

2) Well, I guess I wrote more than I intended to write in point #1 above, so the rest of it will have to come as quickly as I can write it. I hope to make an entry in my other blog before calling it a night, so this needs to be concise (wish me luck).

- The NCAA Basketball Tournament is happening (in case any of you reading this in the US lives in a vacuum). There have been some notable upsets so far, but, by and large, the favorites are surviving this year's version of "March Madness." I am one of those foolish people to fill out brackets hoping to be successful as a prognosticator, but I have picked anywhere from 90% correct (in one fluke of a bracket) to about 50% right in my worst one (my "upset special" bracket). This tourney won't be over for a few more weeks, when March turns into April, but the ultimate champion has to be strong (and lucky) to be the victor.

- The fact that the preceding bullet point was sports-related is telling. I have ignored the ongoing war in Iraq, the pathetic approval ratings of our sitting President, the general state of the U.S. economy, and countless other topics I could be choosing. Why? Well, once again, any path that leads me into a political discussion is probably not fruitful for a "short" post like this one is supposed to be. That's not to say I'll never talk about those subjects, I just won't be tonight.

- I mentioned not talking about the economy, but I do find one economic point very interesting. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (which most people reference just as the "Dow") is near a historical high point once again. The highest close in market history (as best I can find it) was in January 2000, in a very different pre-September 2001 world, when the top closing value was 11,722.98 on 1/14/2000. The very fact that we are now above 11,000 once again, closing at 11,279.65 this past Friday, 3/17/2006, is proof enough of renewed interest in market investment.

Are we heading towards another "bubble" of the market and a correction of some sort? I don't have the answer, but it certainly doesn't seem to be coming from unrealistic expectations in the tech sector, like it was back in 2000 and 2001. Are stocks overvalued right now? Some may be, but profits for many major corporations are hitting all-time highs. Mergers are happening all over the place, and the big just keep getting bigger. If you haven't had your money in the market over the past few years, you missed out on a tremendous recovery. Interestingly, most people came in at the previous high (yours truly included, unfortunately) and then left during the down period. Staying the course, as painful as it may have been, was the right choice. Historical performance should be enough proof for non-believers that the long-term is the prudent strategy.


That's all for now ... until I write again, signing off.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

So much to say, so little time to say it

I realize as I write this late on Sunday evening that I should have written this much sooner. Where does the time go? Yes, I can blame procrastination to an extent, but, at the same time, most of the events on which I was thinking of writing happened mostly later today. I guess the easiest thing to do is record a few of them now and come to back to expound upon them later (if at all). More "insight" entries will come later after the first one was entered late Thursday ... not sure if anyone has seen that one yet anyway.

My fiancee has been sick with the flu and/or other possible illness since Thursday. This has been a big bummer to me since we were hoping to get our wedding invitations done this weekend. Actually, we probably should have sent them at the beginning of March (procrastination at work again), but almost everybody in the family who should know the date already does. Anyway, the illness is obviously more of a "bummer" to her than to me, but I realize I don't do much on my own without her ... I realize at times like these that I would rather be in her company than not. Something just feels like it is missing when we don't spend time together. I guess I should hope she feels the same way when we are apart -- I guess it must be love.

The sports world was busy this weekend. This seemed to occupy most of my attention, particularly the NASCAR events on Saturday and Sunday. It looked like it would be the Matt Kenseth show on both days, only to have him come up empty in both races. In the Busch race, Kenseth lost out to a more dominant Kasey Kahne, who raced remarkably well in his #9 Dodge. In the Cup race, Kenseth led the most laps before relinquishing the lead in the final turn of the last lap to the victor, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson led that lap (his only lap led) and took the checkered flag by less than a carlength. He also defended his 2005 win at Las Vegas by winning this year's race, becoming only the third repeat champion at the track that opened in 1998. The only other repeat winners: Jeff Burton (in his Roush Racing days) and, today's runner-up, Matt Kenseth (a current Roush racer). Speaking of Jack Roush's camp, today was another successful run for the team, as Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Greg Biffle all notched top ten finishes. The day was not so good for team newcomer Jamie McMurray (23rd) and teammate Carl Edwards (26th). The most disappointing day clearly belonged to Ryan Newman, finishing dead last (43rd) after starting in the 11th spot. The culprit of his poor finish: a blown tire on his Dodge after only 88 laps of the 270 for the race.

All in all, this has been a roller coaster ride for multiple Cup teams, with the dominant figures being the top two finishers from today (Johnson and Kenseth) being the only winners of races so far. Kenseth is a past champion with noted consistency from his 2004 championship, and Johnson has demonstrated clear racing dominance with multiple wins in every season since his 2002 debut (the winningest driver in that time). The more surprising names in the top ten at this early stage at Kasey Kahne (3rd), with notable consistency so far after a very inconsistent sophomore season in 2005, and Casey Mears (4th), who might just be figuring out how to drive stock cars after nearly losing his ride after the past few seasons of lackluster performance. Mears proved he was coming into his own after a series of strong top ten performances late last season and has carried that momentum over so far. Which drivers have had very disappointing starts? Well, that depends on your perspective on what a driver should be doing at this point. Hopes were high that Bobby Labonte would turn things around at Petty Enterprises, but he is languishing back in the 36th spot at this point with disappointing races so far. Greg Biffle would be much better than his 25th spot if not for his blown engine in the second race at California, and the same is true for Tony Stewart at 19th due to his same failure at the same race. Kurt Busch is not clicking in the #2 ride so far, taking over for the legendary Rusty Wallace, but Busch's replacement over at Roush - Jamie McMurray - is not faring much better in the 20th spot.

Can you judge a team's likely season performance after only 3 races? No, not really, considering that Jeff Gordon was at the top of the points this time last year while Matt Kenseth was near the bottom after poor Daytona and California races. We know what happened after that -- Gordon missed the Chase and a chance at a 5th championship while Kenseth ultimately found his consistency in May and June to build momentum and made the Chase in August. Realistically, every team (okay, with a few non-competitive exceptions who shall remain nameless) can still make the Chase. The teams that are lower than 25th right now already have their share of work to do. The teams between 10th and 25th just need the consistency over the next few months to be in position to compete. The top 10 just need to do what has worked so far, but with the exception of the top few names, even these guys have their work cut out for them. It would be hard to believe that Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth won't be in the Chase come early September, but most of us would have said the same about Jeff Gordon in 2005. I am skeptical about Kahne and Mears, but I would be pleasantly surprised to see two new names crack that elusive Chase.

I haven't even commented on today's NCAA basketball tournament selections, but I will say that a few selections were puzzling. How some lesser names without proven records got in (e.g. Air Force) while stronger teams did not (notably local powerhouse Cincinnati) is a headscratcher. I don't think that the teams that were "slighted," including UC, would have done much in the tourney anyway, but I do believe this year's champion will NOT be a #1 seed at this juncture. The #1's are Duke, Villanova, UConn, and Memphis. Duke has proven vulnerable at times, and star JJ Reddick is the biggest question mark for their possible run to the finish. Villanova and UConn were dominant players in the toughest Big East conference this season, but neither won the conference tournament as upstart Syracuse was the surprising champ. Memphis just seems too inexperienced to be a champion, but I could be completely wrong in believing they will be the first #1 to fall. I think a #2 or #3 seed will be the ultimate champ, but I won't say which team yet. You'll have to read about that later...

I have written a lot more than I expected ... I guess NASCAR got me fired up. Time to sign off and get my Z's. Later all...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Insight Into JD, Part I

To shamelessly use the line from a weekend news program, every person has a story. Sure, the story of one person may be much more interesting than the story of another person, but every story is unique and interesting in its own way. I don't think that my life to date has been the most interesting story you have ever heard; however, I do think you will find it entertaining, thought-provoking, and/or worth the read. Given that my story is a "work in progress," it doesn't have a defined ending. Hopefully, my ending won't be written for many years to come, but we know not the hour nor the day when that end is our own. Time is ticking ... the following is just the beginning of my story.

I guess every story should inevitably begin "in the beginning," but I don't want to bore you with every excruciating detail of my life. Possibly the most interesting thing about my beginning is that I almost wasn't. What does that mean, you may ask? My mother had cervical cancer in her early 20's, making her ability to have children that much more unlikely. She could have become sterile if she had to undergo a hysterectomy; however, this wasn't the case. There was no certainty she would become pregnant and that there would be no complications is she did.

Well, I guess the answer to the question related to if she could have children is obvious; I am writing this today. Was my birth without complications? I guess, in a sense, since I have no birth defects or significant genetic ailments, although I was born Caesarian given that a natural birth was not an option. I would probably (if not certainly) have died if my mother was forced into a natural delivery. Thank goodness for modern medicine (I can say with certainty).

The story that evolves from my semi-miraculous birth is not unbelievable but has had its share of extraordinary moments. I have been blessed with what I consider great fortune, not in terms of monetary wealth but in my mental acumen, my general health, the love of my family, and a supportive upbringing. Of course, even the most "blessed" lives have their share of hardships, trials, tribulations, and heartbreaking moments. We choose to allow those moments to make us stronger or to tear us down. We may only realize years later which effect each moment has had on us and, ultimately, what kind of person we are in the present.

My life can be clearly broken into definitive segments. There are defining moments, seemingly tragic in some cases, which end one segment and transition into another. Some segments are very uplifting, others are quite dark and depressing. The segments as I define them are: the early years (birth to age 5), the beginning of school (age 5 to age 9), the middle school years (age 9 to age 11), the junior high / awkward development years (age 11 to age 13), the teenage / high school / difficult years (age 13 to age 17), the college years (age 18 to age 21) [some sub-segments in the college years, to be explained later], and the working years (age 21 to present).

The "working years" are a series of stories unto themselves that could easily stand alone without the background of the preceding years; however, I will do my best not to tell these stories before they are meant to be told. I am probably least proud of my working years relative to how they define me versus the person I used to be. Here is some forward-looking perspective (that's an oxymoron) relative to these most recent years of my life:

I have maintained a web presence since 1996, when I was a student at the University of Dayton (http://www.udayton.edu) via the UD web homepages server. My existence on GeoCities began shortly thereafter in 1998 around the time of my graduation (when my UD server access was being cut off). From 1998 until present, I have had multiple locations between GeoCities, FortuneCity (http://members.fortunecity.com/jdrentz/ -- an interesting "time capsule" of my website circa 1998), and various ISP's (e.g. RoadRunner).

As of today, I am a working engineer with experience at multiple big-name corporations, including Procter & Gamble (my first employer post-graduation in Lima, OH), Marathon Oil Company (as an intern in Texas City, TX), Andrew Jergens / Kao Brands (in Cincinnati, OH), and Formica Corporation (also in Cincinnati, OH). Every corporate employer has provided unique perspective, if not enjoyable at all times, into how large multi-national enterprises work. I have learned far more in the seven years since I graduated from UD than in the previous 17 years of formal education relative to how the "real world" really works. College life was a microcosm of this real world in which I now live ... but did not do it justice.

Insight into my brain and thinking is complex to say the least. I walk to the beat of my own drum, having moved between positions and job responsibilities with relative ease but never without complication. Each employer has it's own interests first and rarely it's employees' collective interests. Corporations are in the business to make MONEY -- plain and simple. I have realized my place in the corporate world and could say so much more than this now ... but I will digress from my soapbox.


I guess here in the second post of this new blog you have already seen my ability to write a "short story" while staying true to my "rambling" title. I really should stop while I am way ahead in terms of the text I have written. There is certainly much more to come ... stay tuned.

Something to get this blog started ...

I really don't have the time to write a lengthy post to begin my blog the "right" way, but I figure that my profile information listed conveniently above should suffice to get things started. I will tell you more about me as things get going so that you have a better sense of the person who is writing these things you are reading. Without a doubt, I don't expect much traffic when this is first listed (and, unless you're a celebrity already, who does?), but I hope to build a following as time progresses.

I may write my postings as small observations at times (mood for a day) while as "longer" short stories in others. If my underlying reasoning is to eventually write a novel (or novels) in my future, you may see some degree of storytelling along the way. I tend to write in nonfictional ways generally, although sometimes they may seem fictitious or hard to believe.

So, given that I should hold to my self-imposed time limit for now, I bid you adieu.