Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association Shows How to Recycle Victims

From the AP:

BASTROP, La. - Bastrop High School will have to forfeit its football championship under a Louisiana High School Athletic Association ruling that it illegally recruited players and violated the residency transfer rule last year, the Morehouse Parish School Board president said.

Board president Kris McKoin confirmed Monday night that the LHSAA had ruled against Bastrop High. All of the players involved were hurricane evacuee transfers from Port Sulphur High, and all will be ineligible this coming season, McKoin said.

From USA Today:

The LHSAA delivered its punishment this week because assistant coaches physically brought the players to Bastrop instead of the players arriving under their own power. . . .

The link between [Port Sulphur and Bastrop] high schools is D'Carlos Holmes, a former Port Sulphur assistant who joined the Bastrop staff weeks before Katrina. . . .

"These kids were in shelters and contacted (Holmes)," Hartley says. "He may have been the only person they knew who was above water at that point. I know our coaches did not think they were doing anything illegal."

The LHSAA enacted special rules last September to accommodate athletes affected by Katrina that made it easier to transfer. But despite the storm, the LHSAA kept its restrictions on recruiting other schools' athletes intact.

Among additional penalties handed down are a $14,000 fine, the sanctioning of Holmes, who can coach at practice but cannot participate in games, and a one-year administrative probation for the school.

The coach who may be guilty of illegally recruiting (that is, illegally recruiting by offering homes to students who were essentially homeless and living in shelters) is sanctioned, but the players involved lose their eligibility for the season. While the Bastrop staff may have acted illegally, the kids were just scrambling to find a home and a school in the wake of one of the worst natural disasters in American history. And in addition to having their championship taken away, they are losing their eligibility, which could have devastating effects on players who were looking at playing college ball.

Why is the Louisiana High School Athletic Association punishing these students so severely, especially given their unique circumstances? Given the severity of Katrina, I'm a little shocked even that the school and the coaches are being reprimanded; but the players? Haven't these kids been through enough already? Why take away their football?

American Workers Producing More, Earning Less

From yesterday's New York Times:

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s.

I don't have any answers, but this is a disturbing trend.

Monday, August 28, 2006

30 for 30: On-Screen Drama

More evidence of my peculiar tastes. This time I rank the 30 best movies and television shows (15 and 15) of the past thirty years. The "on-screen drama" category excludes news and game shows from the television rankings. (I know, counting The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as "on-screen dramas" is a stretch, but this is my list, so I can bend the rules.)

See also: 30-for-30: Music

Top 15 Movies of the Past 30 Years

1. Ghostbusters (1984)

2. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (1980)

3. Hoosiers (1986)

4. That Thing You Do! (1996)

5. Star Wars: A New Hope (1997)

6. Lost in Translation (2003)

7. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

8. Angus (1995)

9. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

10. Almost Famous (2000)

11. Rudy (1993)

12. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

13. Back to the Future (1985)

14. Dogma (1999)

15. Remember the Titans (2000)

Top 15 Television Shows of the Past 30 Years

1. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (1996-present)

2. Seinfeld (1990-1998)

3. The Muppet Show (1976-1981)

4. The Simpsons (1989-present)

5. Ed (2000-2004)

6. Family Ties (1982-1989)

7. Joan of Arcadia (2003-2005)

8. The Cosby Show (1984-1992)

9. Monk (2002-present)

10. The State (1993-1995)

11. The Colbert Report (2005-present)

12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

13. SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-present)

14. Lois and Clark (1993-1997)

15. Diff'rent Strokes (1978-1986)

Kerry Collins?

The Titans signed quarterback Kerry Collins today, and I can't figure out why.

Kerry has had a nice career, earlier in his career leading a fledgling Carolina franchise to the NFC championship game and later taking the Giants to the Super Bowl. (Of course, the success Collins had in Charlotte and Jersey was punctuated by forgettable stints in New Orleans and Oakland.) Throughout his career he's been a quarterback capable of taking the snaps for a quality football team without screwing things up.

The Titans, frankly, are not a quality football team. Based on what I saw Saturday night, I'd say the Titans should feel satisfied if they match last year's four-win total. (Yes, a couple weeks ago I was more optimistic. But alas . . . .) The Collins move makes sense for a team with most of its pieces in place who needs a competent quarterback to make them a contender. If it weren't blasphemy, I might say that God couldn't make the Titans a contender, let alone Kerry Collins. Is Billy Volek ready to start in the NFL? Probably not, but Tennessee is not ready to compete in the NFL, and the Titans are building for the future.

I say: Start Vince Young. Yes, the Titans would have a better shot at winning four or five games with Collins or Volek at the helm, but the team has made an investment in Vince Young, and they may as well throw him in the deep end and let him get used to the water. Despite my frustration with the home team, the Titans have a lot of good young players to build around—Travis LaBoy, Brandon Jones, Rob Bironas, Bo Scaife, Adam "Handcuffs" Jones, and so forth. I hate to ever suggest that a team should look ahead any further than the next game, but the Titans should focus on developing the young guys, not in bringing in nearly retired veterans.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

30 for 30: Music

In honor of my 30th birthday (today), I'll be posting an assortment of best-of lists covering the past 30 years. Each best-of category will feature 30 items, though categories will be subdivided differently. The music category, for example, includes two top fifteen lists. More lists will follow in the coming week(s). Enjoy.

Top 15 Albums of the Past 30 Years

1. This Year's Model, Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1978)

2. The Bends, Radiohead (1995)

3. Siamese Dream, Smashing Pumpkins(1993)

4. Doolittle, The Pixies (1989)

5. In Utero, Nirvana (1993)

6. Pinkerton, Weezer (1996)

7. And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid (1995)

8. Whitechocolatespaceegg, Liz Phair (1998)

9. Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet (1991)

10. Midnite Vultures, Beck (1999)

11. Mama Said, Lenny Kravitz (1991)

12. Ramones Leave Home, The Ramones (1977)

13. Rockin' the Suburbs, Ben Folds (2001)

14. Monster, R.E.M. (1994)

15. The Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest (1991)

Top 15 Songs of the Past 30 Years

1. "Just Like Heaven," The Cure (1987)

2. "Can't Truss It," Public Enemy (1991)

3. "So Lonely," The Police (1978)

4. "Radio," Rancid (1994)

5. "Evangeline," Matthew Sweet (1991)

6. "My Best Friend's Girl," The Cars (1978)

7. "Heaven Tonight," Hole (1998)

8. "London Calling," The Clash (1979)

9. "Me and Yr Sister," Verbena (2003)

10. "Doo Wop (That Thing)," Lauryn Hill (1998)

11. "Modern Love," David Bowie (1983)

12. "Hungry Heart," Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (1980)

13. "Oliver's Army," Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1979)

14. "Mayonaise," Smashing Pumpkins (1993)

15. "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly," Weezer (1995)

Friday, August 25, 2006

I'll Be At "Nashville Is Talking" This Week

Drop by.

Pluto Is Not a Planet, Europe Is Not a Continent, but Y Is Certainly a Vowel . . . Sometimes

Jeffrey Kluger's essay in this week's Time agrees that Pluto is not a planet and explains how our culture has mislabeled and miscatagorized several other things. Kluger rightly contends that Europe, which shares a continental plate with Asia and is in no way set apart as a separate land mass, is by no means a continent and should not be considered one. He also reminds Americans that we have misnumbered our presidents by counting Grover Cleveland twice. Sure, Grover served nonconsecutive terms, but no other two-term president is counted twice. The United States has had forty-two presidents, not forty-three.

Excellent work, Jeffrey. But I have to disagree with Kluger's treatment of the letter Y:

Y: a vowel? Please. Y gets plenty of work as a consonant without having to moonlight in a job it wasn't designed for. Someone needs to show some guts and either change the spelling of problem words (what's wrong with fli, cri, cript?) or relax the rule about every word having to have at least one vowel in it. Either way is fine, but the whole "sometimes y" thing has always smelled like a dodge.

It may smell like a dodge, but "sometimes Y" is absolutely correct. Whether a letter is a consonant or a vowel depends entirely on how it functions in a given word. In rhythm and spunky, Y is a vowel; in young and yam, Y is a consonant. Actually, if you pay attention to all of the Ys you see as you go about your day, I think you'll find that Y is more commonly used as a vowel than as a consonant. Sure, one could point out that almost anytime Y is used as a vowel it could be replaced with an I; but one could also point out that QU could almost always be replaced by KW, that X could almost always be replaced by KS, and that /sh/, /th/, and /ch/ are distinct sounds that deserve their own letters.

Our alphabet is loaded with flaws; that doesn't mean that Y isn't sometimes a vowel. For that matter, I would argue that W occasionally functions as a vowel. Consider words such as "cow" and "sew"—the consonant /w/ is not pronounced and the vowel sounds made by OW and EW are distinct from those made by a lone O or E. I would also argue that some vowels occasionally function as consonants: I in "onion" makes a consonant /y/ sound; U in "suite" makes a consonant /w/ sound.

The point is this: Letters have different functions in different contexts and therefore cannot be catagorized according to simple criteria. Thus we must hold on to the "sometimes Y."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Planetary Update

Pluto (pictured) is no longer a proper planet but a dwarf planet. Former asteroid Ceres and former Kuiper Belt object "Xena" (2003 UB313) join Pluto as dwarfs. Pluto's moon, Charon, which had been considered for planethood or dwarf-planethood, is back to being just a moon.

This is really big news. Pluto had been a planet for 76 years—since its discovery. Almost every person alive who made it to the third grade was taught that Pluto was the ninth planet. Now, as Yoda says, "You must unlearn what you have learned."

Next on the agenda: Giving 2003 UB313 a real name that doesn't require parenthesis, quotation marks, or subscripts.

See also: The Debate Over Planethood (August 16)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Pictures of the Kids

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sunday School Teacher Fired for Second X Chromosome

From upstate New York:

Rev. Timothy LaBouf dismissed a female Sunday School teacher this month, saying a woman can perform any job -- outside the church.

The First Baptist Church in Watertown dismissed Mary Lambert Aug. 9 after adopting what it called a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The reverend recently dismissed Lambert, who had taught Sunday school for 54 years, citing the biblical advice of the apostle Paul: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

I have a problem with Christian churches that do not ordain women as clergy. Not allowing women to serve in any leadership position is just medieval. I wonder if First Baptist Watertown makes women sit in a balcony, apart from the men.

I understand the biblical argument, but very, very, very few congregations can say that they adhere to a literal reading of the instructions concerning women in leadership in the pastoral epistles (e.g. 1 Timothy 2:11-15). The names of female leaders mentioned in Romans 16 suggest that the early Christian communities that Paul served didn't even hold themselves to such a standard. Most churches that won't ordain women at least allow females to serve as music ministers, lay leaders, youth ministers, Sunday school teachers, committee chairs, and so on. If all congregations and denominations were to take the stance on women in leadership that First Baptist Watertown has taken, the church might not survive.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Weekend Political Links

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Take That, Mel Gibson!

If you haven't listened to Denis Leary and Lenny Clark's stint in the broadcast booth for the Red Sox on the New England Sports Network, you need to. The two comedians and Boston natives were very excited to learn that Sox first-baseman Kevin Youkilis is Jewish. Fortunately, someone has posted the clip at YouTube. The best part starts at about 2:25.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Debate Over Planethood

Last year, on August 1, I wrote:

If we do consider Pluto a planet, then 2003UB313 must also be certified as a planet and given a name that is easier to remember. My fear is that astronomers will continue to find large objects in the Kuiper belt that argue for planet status. Before long, we will have dozens of planets in the solar system, and third grade science will suddenly become much more difficult.

Today the AP reports:

Much-maligned Pluto would remain a planet -- and its largest moon plus two other heavenly bodies would join Earth's neighborhood -- under a draft resolution to be formally presented Wednesday to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the arbiter of what is and is not a planet. . . .

Besides reaffirming the status of puny Pluto -- whose detractors insist should not be a planet at all -- the new lineup would include 2003 UB313, the farthest-known object in the solar system and nicknamed Xena; Pluto's largest moon, Charon; and the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it was demoted.

According to Wikipedia (which I trust more than I should), Pluto, "Xena," Charon, and Ceres would be considered "dwarf planets," setting them apart from the eight classical planets (My Very Earnest Mother, etc.). Pluto and Charon specifically would be classified as a "double planet." The IAU has named eight other candidates for "dwarf planet" status, all of which are also classified as plutons, or planetary objects with elliptical orbits that orbit beyond Neptune.

I applaud this move. Pluto and "Xena" should both be considered planets, but they certainly aren't planets in the same sense that Mercury-through-Neptune are planets. I am most excited by the inclusion of Ceres, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter; but I'm not comfortable with Ceres being grouped with Pluto, Charon, and "Xena." Because of Ceres' circular orbit and proximity to the sun, it should be classified as either an asteroid or a planet proper.

Bedtime Anatomy Lesson


Meyer: (to Daddy) Does Rivers have a penis?

Daddy: Yes

Meyer: (to Rivers, getting up in his face) You have a penis? You have a penis, Rivers?

Why James Dobson Bugs Me

Two reasons:

Reason one: His efforts to bring partisan politics into the church

Dobson's been doing this for a while, but a recent LA Times article got me riled up all over again. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly that people of faith should be political and should allow their faith to influence their politics. Pastors should not be afraid to address political matters in their sermons; and Christian educators should feel comfortable discussing the intersection of faith and public policy. It's Dobson's efforts to make the church an activist arm of the Republican Party that bothers me. Frankly, Dobson's efforts have belittled Christianity by equating it with one American political ideology.

Reason two: He feels that Republicans in office owe him something

For example:

In May, Dobson warned the GOP that trouble might lie ahead, holding a series of meetings with party strategists and members of Congress to remind them of the evangelical movement's muscle.

"There's just very, very little to show for what has happened," Dobson said on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" show at the time, "and I think there's going to be some trouble down the road if they don't get on the ball."

Republicans in Congress or even the White House owe Dobson and the "evangelical movement" nothing. They are elected to serve their constituents, whether their constituents be the citizens of a district, a state, or the entire nation. If evangelical Christians make up the better part of a representative's constituency, then he or she should take seriously the concerns of evangelicals; if, by acting in the best interests of his or her constituents, a representative pleases evangelicals, so be it. But our government is set up such that elected officials serve American citizens, not particular ideologies, and certainly not one guy in Colorado Springs. Additionally, Dobson is arrogant to think that Christian evangelicals automatically subscribe to his politics. Many don't.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I Feel Good About the Titans

After watching the better part of one preseason game, I am optimistic about the future of the Tennessee Titans organization.

The national media, and even much of the local media, focused primarily on Vince Young's debut when reporting Saturday's game from the Titans' sideline. While I think that Vince had a solid first outing for a rookie quarterback in the national spotlight, I was more interested in several of the other young players who will be playing key roles this season. Wide receiver Bobby Wade, picked up on waivers from the Bears, made some outstanding catches and displayed energy and emotion that the other ten players on the field couldn't help but respond to. Rob Bironas, who had no competition in training camp this year, nailed a pair of long field goals. Second-year player Courtney Roby looked good in the offense and even better on special teams. Pacman seemed more focused than usual, and the corner's off-field history could soon be lost in the amygdalae of Titans fans who last year were ready to throw Pacman to the ghosts.

By no means do I expect the Titans to be a contender this year. They'll struggle, for sure. We may even be in for another four- or five-win season. But with one of the league's youngest rosters and a host of good, young players, I think we can expect a return to the postseason by the end of the decade.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I'm Not Sold on Sesame Street's New Muppet

For the first time in over a decade, Sesame Street is adding a new muppet, Abby Cadabby (pictured). "Abby is a 3-year-old 'fairy-in-training' and the daughter of a Fairy Godmother" (Muppet Wiki).

I am glad that Sesame Street is adding a female character, particularly a female muppet. The muppet population is overwhelmingly male; adding a girl is a good move. I just don't like that Abby is a fairy.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with magic in children's entertainment; I look forward to the day when I can read my children the first Harry Potter book. But Sesame Street is not the right neighborhood for magic. Anything magical that happens on Sesame Street should be the result of imagination. In an environment where imagination thrives, everyone has the same capacity for magic. Adding a uniquely magical character (even if she is three-years old and has not mastered her powers) disrupts this arrangement.

You can catch Abby on tomorrow (Monday) morning's Today Show.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Weekend Reading

We Barely Avoided a Large-Scale Terrorist Attack. . . . How Can We Exploit This Politically?

The GOP is looking to cash in on the foiled plot. From AFP:

Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains.

"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.

I'm an Idiot

On my way to work today, an motorcycle cop pulled me over and gave me a ticket for "improper display of tags." I have my new tags and my new $70 license plate. (Granted, my tags had been expired for a few days before I renewed everything.) I just haven't gotten around to putting the new plate on the back of my car. Even though I showed the officer my actual 2007 license plate with the proper tags, I was nonetheless cited for not having the plate in its proper location.

I could argue that I have in no way done any harm by not installing my license plate. After all, I've paid my money; I've had my emissions tested; I've registered my car; and I have proof that I've done so. I could also make the case that tacking a $42 administrative cost onto a $20 citation is criminal. But I knew that I needed to put my plate on my car; and I should have done so weeks ago. I'm at fault; I'm the idiot.

(Still, I've thought about using this website to raise money to pay for the citation. What do you think? Wanna chip in?)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Like Prince Harry's New Ad

I'm not crazy about Harold Ford, Jr., but I do like his most recent campaign commercial. I don't understand the technology that goes into producing energy from Tennessee soybeans, but I like the idea: Soybean fuel would be a renewable energy source that would benefit American farmers.

Point goes to Little Harry. And another point for his "new generation of leadership" message. (I'm not sure how well he represents this new generation, but I agree that we need some young blood in the Senate.) Ford may yet convince me not to skip over the "U.S. Senator" portion of my ballot.

I'm not counting out Bob Corker. But as much as I respect him for going on a church mission trip to Haiti at some point in his past, I'll need something more from his television spots before I'll consider voting for him. (To Bob's credit, his website has a wicked new flash intro, complete with music.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tuesday Afternoon Reading and Viewing

  • OK Go, dancing with treadmills: OK Go's new web video for "Here We Go Again" one-ups their "A Million Ways" video by incorporating exercise machinery. It's fantastic. (The "Here We Go Again" video should not be confused with the "Do What You Want" video, which is actually a JC Penney commercial.)

  • Lindsay Lohan wants to go to Iraq: Says Lohan, "I wanted to do what Marilyn Monroe did (during the Korean War), when she went and just set up a stage and did a concert for the troops all by herself. It's so amazing seeing that one woman just going somewhere, this beautiful sex kitten, who's basically a pinup, which is what I've always aspired to be." The self-proclaimed sex kitten adds, "I'm not afraid of going. My security guard is going to take me to a gun range when I get back to L.A., and I'm going to start taking shooting lessons." Oh boy.

  • "You Kill Pigs Day" at Girls Are Pretty: I'd recommend making Girls Are Pretty part of your daily routine. Today's offering is especially entertaining.

Does This Offend You?

Apparently, it's offended a lot of people, as Babytalk magazine has received around 5,000 angry letters in response to the recent cover:

Several readers said they were "embarrassed" or "offended" by the Babytalk photo and one woman from Nevada said she "immediately turned the magazine face down" when she saw the photo.

"Gross, I am sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob," the mother of a four-month-old said.

Another reader said she was "horrified" when she received the magazine and hoped that her husband hadn't laid eyes on it.

"I had to rip off the cover since I didn't want it laying around the house," she said.

I'm amazed that something so natural, so healthy, and so necessary to the survival of our species for much of human history has become so offensive and controversial. According to the AFP article:

A national survey by the American Dietetic Association found that 57 percent of those polled are opposed to women breastfeeding in public and 72 percent think it is inappropriate to show a woman breastfeeding on television programs.

Our culture has become so accustomed to the sexual objectification of the human (especially female) body that we hardly even notice it. We have come to accept the media's unhealthy and unrealistic image of the ideal human body. But we can't cope with breastfeeding, a basic function of human anatomy.

That's sad, and a little scary.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bush: 20% Approval Among 18-24-Year-Olds

A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll of Americans age 18 to 24 found Bush's approval rating was 20 percent, with 53 percent disapproving and 28 percent with no opinion. . . .

Much like Franklin Roosevelt attracted a new generation of voters with the New Deal, Bush and his administration have had high hopes of drawing younger voters to his party. He has sought to do that through policy initiatives aimed at creating an ``ownership society,'' and public relations tactics like a Youth Convention at the party's 2004 national convention, in which his twin daughters took the stage.

Among the initiatives aimed at drawing a new generation into the Republican fold are health-care savings accounts, elimination of the so-called marriage penalty in the U.S. tax code, and Bush's proposal to create private investment accounts from a portion of Social Security payroll taxes. . . .

Instead, the Social Security initiative flopped in Congress after attracting criticism from the public and lawmakers of both parties, and health-care savings accounts haven't done much to expand coverage, with only about 1 percent of the U.S. population currently participating in them.

I think young people have more immediate concerns than social security and long-term savings plans. They're worried about the cost of education, the cost of energy, the cost of housing, and the cost of healthcare. (Bush's healthcare savings accounts are a good idea, but as I understand them, these accounts don't address the larger problem of escalating healthcare costs; they just give people a little extra help paying the bills.) And while 18-24-year-olds are not necessarily "liberal" (in the cable news sense of the word), they do seem to take an interest in protecting the environment and don't seem to get worked up about same-sex marriage.

While 20% approval among young adults is an embarrassment for Bush, I don't think he is alone in alienating young voters. American politics is still by, for, and about Baby Boomers. Political rhetoric is driven by notions of "liberal" and "conservative" that are native to the seventies and eighties; Cold War dualism still permeates American foreign policy and fuels domestic culture clashes.

Until people born in the 1970s step into leadership roles at the federal level, don't expect major American political leaders to poll well among college-age young adults.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"Ricky Bobby" a Classic

I saw Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby this weekend. It's fantastic. "Ricky Bobby" is very much in the style of Anchorman, also directed by Adam McKay and starring Will Ferrell; but McKay and Ferrell's newest effort has stronger characters and sharper dialog than its predecessor. I might be so bold to say that Talladega Nights is the best sports comedy ever. (I should note that I don't revere Major League and Slap Shot the way others seem to.)

For more, check out this review by Jim Emerson, who's filling in for Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sunday Morning at Belmont UMC

I'll be playing my song "Transform" this Sunday morning during the 8:15 service at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville's Hillsboro Village. I'll also be playing the prelude, postlude, and Communion music and accompanying the hymns. While I don't want to promote my solo apart from the rest of the service, I would recommend visiting my church for a host of other reasons.

Non-Voter's Guilt

As an independent who approaches both major political parties with a mixture of skepticism, cynicism, and resignation, I usually sit out primary elections. Thus I sat out today's election.

But on this first Thursday in August, when Tennessee Republicans and Democrats select their nominees for state and federal offices, voters elect several nonpartisan local officials. School board members, for instance.

Watching the returns this evening, I decided that I was wrong not to vote. As the father of two children who will be enrolled in Metro public schools in the not-so-distant future, I should have a hand in determining who serves on the school board. Learning about the candidates for such an unglamorous office seems tedious, but I was encouraged to see how many school board incumbants were either defeated or struggling to hold on to their seats. (Many low-profile offices go almost automatically to the incumbant, unless he or she chooses not to run.)

I think that, in my nearly twelve years of voting, I've only voted in one primary election. In the 2002 primary Davidson County residents elected a vice mayor to replace the disgraced Ronnie Steine. When I arrived at the precinct, the election official asked, "Republican or Democrat?" I said, "Neither." She replied, "Then why are you here?" I explained that I wanted to vote for vice mayor. The official and those behind me in line applauded my dedication. I suppose people are only expected to bother with local politics if they are already at the polls voting for state and federal officials.

At any rate, I need to be voting for school board members, even if it means playing the role of lonely independent.

The Finest in Baby Technology

Babies like to sit upright, even though most babies under six months of age are physically unable to do so. The Bumbo® seat allows babies to do what nature has not allowed, enabling infants to comfortably sit up and take in their surroundings:

Sleeping at His Desk

Meyer explains his Protestant work ethic.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dead Fetus Over Ohio

From the shores of Lake Erie:

As a shock tactic, a national group that opposes abortion plans to fly a billboard-size picture of an aborted fetus over Cleveland beginning Monday.

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which frequently employs such attention-grabbing advertising, hopes to jar people into reconsidering their support of abortion, director Gregg Cunningham said.

He said the banner would be the most graphic picture ever displayed from the air.

"It will be categorically the most shocking we have ever done," he said. "The imagery is so horrifying that I can't almost stand to look at it."

Eeee. I feel for the fetus whose corpse is being dishonored and dehumanized for political purposes.

Who Wants to Claim Naveed Haq?

Muslims or Christians?

Naveed Afzal Haq last Friday shot up the Jewish Federation of Seattle, killing one and injuring several others. The story inspired some commentators to launch into tirades about the crazy Jew-hating Muslim who terrorized Seattle. During Haq's rampage, after all, he shouted, "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel."

Though Haq identified himself as a Muslim, it seems that he is only a Muslim by birth and culture, not by professed faith, as noted by several other commentators. Haq was actually baptized a Christian. Haq "told friends he felt alienated from his own family, in part because his career had disappointed his father and also because he had disavowed Islam last year, converting to Christianity."

Ironically, Haq became a Christian because he "had seen too much anger in Islam"; he also won a recent essay contest for a U.S. Institute of Peace scholarship.

Many Americans have come to assume that anyone who is anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, and violent must be a Muslim. We've grown accustomed to Evangelical Christians being outspoken supporters of Israel. But, as we learned this week, anti-Semitism lingers among some outspoken Christians.

As a Christian, I suppose that I am not so concerned with whether Haq is "one of us" or "one of them." I am more interested in the faith community's efforts to bring healing to the situation—both to the victims and their families and to Haq and his. (OK, that's a bit of a fib. I honestly think the blogosphere debate over whether the shooter was a Muslim or a Christian is fascinating.)

Lost in the debate over Haq's faith is his broken heart—"Haq was frustrated at his lack of friends and female companionship"—which was likely the true motivation for his outburst.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Old Age Is Imminent

As a young child, I celebrated August 1 as the first day of the month during which my birthday fell. Thus today is bittersweet, as today is the first day of the month in which I will turn 30 (that is, if I make it to the 26th).