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What Is Early Word?
The Philadelphia Inquirer's experimental online "morning show", which began in Sept. 2005, went on hiatus in the summer of 2006, after a gradual shift to putting more of its content directly on Philly.com.



About the Host
Peter Mucha, husband and father of two, grew up in Cherry Hill and is a lifelong Philly sports fan. He's been writing and editing for The Inquirer for 18 years. His motto (at least for today): "If I'm not brief, give me grief."

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Friday, January 20, 2006

'CSI Interactive' Hardly Active at All
Ever try an online experience that complements a TV show? Curious, I tried CSI Interactive, which promised to test viewers' crime-solving skills. Sounded cool. But we were never quizzed on clues at all, just some arcane forensics trivia. A couple of dozen fans took part in a genial chat, but the talk was mostly about who's sexy on the show, how the game wasn't working, and whether Numb3rs Interactive would have math multiple choices.

Heard of any other such play-while-viewing games? A tour of other network sites turned up nothing similar.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has a different setup: You can be part of the ask-the-audience lifeline, voting for answers via instant messenger while the show's taping.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pete Rose 1: He Outspokenly Shoulders All Blame
The ex-Phillie, who long denied betting on baseball, may have made his clearest declaration of guilt yet. In an interview with ESPN's Graham Bensinger, the guy who landed T.O.'s suspension-inducing blabfest (Eagles front office showed "a lack of class") , Rose was asked, "How much of the blame belongs on Pete Rose?" Rose replies:

"All of it! ... Everybody knows, everybody should know, that my problems was because of my mistake. ... I’m the one that make the mistake. But all I'm saying is you make a mistake, you understand you made a mistake, just give me a second chance. ... Let me go prove that I cleaned my act. How can anybody else be to blame?

"Why would anybody ever take a poll: Who was responsible for Pete Rose being suspended? I was. ... I was an adult. I knew what I was doing. I don't know why I did it. I can't answer that question. But I knew I was wrong. That's all I can do."

To find the clip, go to ESPN.com, and look for the video links on the right.

Rose 2: Pricey Bat Joins Shatner's Kidney Stone
This isn't hot of the presses, but it was news to me when I found it today. The online casino that paid $103,631 for one of Rose's bats plans to saw it open to prove if it was corked. GoldenPalace.com says the publicity stunt, announced last month, will help raise money for a worthy cause. The signed bat was used to hit Rose's 159th home run, slapped in his twilight stint with the Reds. The casino's has made a name for itself with purchases like the Jesus xBox 360 package, Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich, the Pope's Hat Doritos Chip, and the Holy Pierogi (left), which also supposedly bears an image of Jesus.

Just yesterday, the casino announced it had purchased William Shatner's kidney stone for $25,000.

Auditions for 'Amazing Race,' 'Survivor'
Tomorrow in Philadelphia, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., CBS's around-the-world reality show Amazing Race will hold an open casting call at KYW Studios, 5th and Market Streets. For questions, call 215-238-4700. Wannabes, who do not need a tape or a passport, fill out applications and get put on camera. That tape will be sent to show.

Similar deal Saturday in Harrisburg, when CBS's Survivor hosts an open casting call from noon to 4 p.m. at the Harrisburg Mall, I-83 and Paxton Street. For questions, call 717-238-2100, Ext. 220.

Or you can send in your own tape. Find details at CBS.com. Scroll down a little and look for links on the left.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mr. Eko stares down the "smoke monster," which fans call part of a security system. Find links to hidden images in the smoke at thefusilage.com. The brighter your screen, the easier they are to see.
Eerie Theories Online Try to Explain 'Lost'
ABC's hit castaway drama has boffo ratings, a new Golden Globe for best TV drama, and umpteem mysteries. No wonder legions of fans keep filling Internet message boards with more theories than Ben Franklin has plugs in Philly media.

I was hoping to delve and return with 10 Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About "Lost." Instead, I found myself overwhelmed.

But I did find some sites that might pique your interest.

You've probably noticed that backstories often intersect. For example, Sawyer met Jack's dad, and Locke and Hurley had the same boss. Check out the character connections discussion at lost-forum.com.

You can scratch a bunch of theories, if you can believe the show's creators. Purgatory? Nope. Alien high jinks? Hooey. Time warp? Phooey. All in one character's mind? Pshaw. A post at dharmasecrets.com links to evidence.

Warning: Don't read any more if you're afraid a right guess would ruin the show for you.

Two wild theories, though, both involving the end of the world, resonate with fans.

The Big Bang suggests the island is Atlantis on the move. It was underwater in the Atlantic in the 1800s when the Black Rock slave ship sank on top of it. It followed shifting techtonic plates on a northerly path, enabling it to pick up polar bears. Then it settled in the Pacific, where the survivors crashed. The theory even ties in the Mayan myth about the world ending in 2012.

The Ultimate Theory suggests the survivors are part of a repopulation project created by scientists fearing a flip-flopping of the Earth's magnetic field would expose the planet to lethal levels of solar radiation. So they created a refuge with a magnetic shield of its own, and imported people to unknowingly continue the human race. These people may have been in a state of suspended animation for years, only to be reawakened during a simulated crash. That would explain, for example, why Locke could walk after the crash, why transmissions and compasses don't work, and why punching a code into the computer every 108 minutes may be vital, after all. The island's magnetic field could also play a role in creating a kind of collective consciousness.

For lots more links, visit www.lostlinks.com. ABC even set up real-looking sites for the airline and the enigmatic scientific group behind the underground labs.

The Outermost Planet is Not Pluto
As NASA tries again today to launch a probe to that distant world, you'll see and hear reports that say things like "the solar system's last unexplored planet."

Sorry, but what we learned in elementary school is no longer true. In 2003, astronomers found another icy world that's bigger than Pluto and even farther from the sun. So either there's at least one more unexplored planet, or neither should be called a planet at all, as some astronomers contend.

The official name hasn't been chosen yet for 2003 UB313, as it's technically designated.
You may heard it called Xena, a nickname mentioned by its discoverers with a wink to the warrior princess of TV fame. But the co-discoverers have submitted another name, as Mike Brown's Web page makes clear. d. Because almost all the names of Greek and Roman gods have been taken by planets and asteroids, the undisclosed proposed name harkens to another tradition.

By the way, last fall, the Hubble telescope discovered two more moons that orbit Pluto -- as well as one that orbits UB313.

This afternoon's launch window is 1:15 to 3:15. You can watch at NASA's Web site.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Alas, It's Not Maria Bello's Night
Norristown-raised, Villanova-educated Mario Bello wears no-name jeans, eats steak, and was up for a Golden Globe last night for her role in A History of Violence. But the local favorite lost out for the best-actress-in-a-drama prize to Felicity Huffman, who played a man opting for sex-change surgery in Transamerica. See list of Golden Globe winners.

If you missed it, Carrie Rickey's profile of Bello on Sunday is still worth checking out for colorful details like how her mom went along on The Tony Danza Show, and took the spotlight making her "meatballs and sauce."

And even if you're not into fashion, check out Karen Heller's take on what the stars wore -- and what Isaac Mizrahi dared to ask Teri Hatcher and dared to do with Scarlett Johansson. Lots of photos. Here's one of Bello from last night.


Confessions of a Sudoku Addict
Well, not an addict so much as a chagrinned practitioner. At first, I pooh-poohed Sudoku as more tedious than challenging or fun. The easy ones were too easy, the difficult ones more painstaking than interesting.

Then I noticed a couple of tricks to speed up the process ... and stumbled onto "evil" Sudokus at websudoku.com. Lord, what a pain they can be. To solve them without cheating or using trial and error, I had to learn even more kinds of tricks, which, frankly, can be even more painstaking. But these tricks surprised me, and now I'm semi-fascinated.

And frustrated. Gads, this site claims the "average" "evil" score is twice as fast as any of my best "evil" times.

So I'm wondering (a) has Sudoku gotten you, too? And (b), if you've had some trouble, would you like some tips?

I'm figuring, if you're a fan, you know about process of elimination and cross-checking. ("Gotta be a 3 because this row has 1-2-4-8, box has a 9, and column has 5-6-7.") If not, you'll find good basic tips at sudoku.com.

But do you know about pairs, triples and quads? (They can be naked or hidden.) How about X-wings, swordfish and guardians?

If two squares in a row, say, are limited to the same two possibilities -- like 4 and 7 -- no other squares in that row can have a 4 or 7. That's a naked pair. (Same idea can work with 3, 4 or even more squares.)

Further, if both squares in that pair are in the same box, no other squares in that box can have a 4 or 7.

Finding these patterns seems to require pencilling in possibilities all over the board.

Here's a well-presented explanation of using pairs, triples and quads, as well as a link to even more advanced strategies, which might be fascinating but strike me as too rare to be worth mastering.

Have any better links or strategies to recommend? Or psychotherapists?

A candid coach!
Way to go, Mo. Maurice Cheeks said it straight after yesterday's 104-76 loss to Washington: "I thought the way we got beat was kind of ridiculous. ... After halftime, there was no effort. It's not just rebounding. It's just no effort. It makes me angry." Such honesty is rare from coaches these days, who fear they'll offend their excessively paid, pampered athletes. (Exhibit A: Andy "I Take Responsibility for That" Reid.) It may not change the fortunes of a mediocre team on the court or at the gate, but at least it's refreshing. Game story.

And words from a candid columnist, David Aldridge: "It makes one think that some of the guys took advantage of D.C.'s nightlife on Sunday instead of getting a good night's sleep."

Monday, January 16, 2006

2 young Eagles fans win Punt, Pass & Kick titles
Chad Kelly, 11, of Red Lion, Pa., is getting to be an old pro at NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick contests. Which isn't surprising, since his uncle was an old NFL pro -- hall-of-fame QB Jim Kelly. Chad won the boy's 8-9 division in 2004, made the final four last year in the 10-11 bracket, and this year won that title, sporting an Eagles jersey as his name was announced on national TV between the third and fourth quarters of yesterday’s AFC playoff game. Of course, a kid with connections like that had a little help: He's had pointers from Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman, according to buffalobills.com.

Jenna Wargo of Lewisburg, Pa., spent her 14th birthday in a hospital. "I didn't really ask for anything for my birthday. I would have loved an iPod, but instead I got a hernia," she told a local newspaper, The Daily Item. Although she'd already won the local PP&K, the condition put futures rounds in jeopardy. But Wargo, who plays soccer and basketball, quickly recovered and kept winning. Her triumph in Indianapolis yesterday in the 14-15 girl's group was heartwarming in more ways than one. "I'm just glad the game's in a dome instead of Denver because the football would be really cold."

More than 4 million kids took part, but only 8 won. Find out more at www.nflyouthfootball.com. The final results, though, weren't posted as of noon Monday.

Reid-McNabb Better Than Dungy-Manning
Yeah, there are fans who say Eagles head coach Andy Reid gets outcoached in big games, and quarterback Donovan McNabb comes up short. At least they got to big games, meaning a few NFC championships and a Super Bowl. And McNabb did orchestrate a great playoff comeback, with that 4th and 26 completion to Freddie Mitchell a couple years ago. See that Indianapolis Colts game yesterday? Quarterback Peyton Manning had his moments, waving off the punt team, then completing a 4th and 2 (yes, just 2), and later engineering a quick drive for a TD and 2-point conversion, putting the team within a field goal. But when Indy, giving a last gasp by a fluke fumble, needed more yards to have a safe field goal try, his passes sailed. Dungy, sad to say, again fails in the playoffs. Everybody likes Dungy, but he came up short with Tampa Bay, which soon after won a Super Bowl under Jon Gruden, and now with a team with a season's best record. Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher, on the other hand, given hardly any chance, is now a game away from returning to the Super Bowl.

Well Put
Sunday's cartoon by Tony Auth

By the way, Iran's President has called for a conference to study what he calls the Holocaust "myth." Odd. A man who seems to favor more genocide against Jews has trouble believing it could have happened?

Color Me a Skeptic About Indigo Kids
See the story in Sunday's Inquirer? There's a new wave of psychically gifted whippersnappers with indigo auras. No, it's not the latest Children of the Corn / Village of the Damned spinoff/remake screenplay. (Even though some movie posters did show a funny-colored kid.)

It's an idea that began with comments in a 1982 book by a self-described clairvoyant. She'd started seeing kids with deeper-blue energy fields, and concluded, rather than she needed new specs, that these were special beings destined to lead the world to a better future. What a sec, there's a tradeoff: They're so cool, they're distracted, disruptive and temperamental.

Wow. Now, I'm seeing things. I'm seeing how maybe I'm an overaged Indigo kid, and that's why I've always resisted authority, ripped sports teams, and displayed wisenheimer smart-aleckiness.

Why, this is also the answer to the Eagles' problems! Call in a psychic! Terrell Owens isn't wacko, he's Indigo! He didn't make this season fall apart! He foresaw it all, including QB woes (and no pay hike for him), and was just trying to warn us!

Wait, here's another great idea. Let's get that clairvoyant and win skeptic James Randi's $1 million challenge. Ought to be easy. We put hoods over the heads of four normal kids and one indigo, shuffle them around, and have her pick out the one with the indigo aura. Mix, repeat, mix, repeat, collect, ch-ching.

Funny, but Randi's been offering this reward for years, and nobody's even passed the simple preliminary tests.

Couldn't be some other phenomenon. Like parental pride mixed with denial. ("My kid's not troubled, he's gifted.")

You know, I'm thinking this ESP could be contagious. Are you getting the same vibe I am? You're thinking this trend won't last? You're clairvoyant! Already one therapist says the Indigo wave is over. Now the Crystal children are arriving with healing powers and telepathy. Bet you can read my mind about that one.


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