Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Federal Government Funding Abstinence Education for Adults

From the colorful newspaper with all the charts:

The federal government's "no sex without marriage" message isn't just for kids anymore.

Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.

While I believe that abstaining from sex until one has made a commitment to a life partner is empowering and beneficial to one's health, I'm bothered that the government is spending money to tell adults not to have sex. It seems invasive, divisive, and a little rude. Here are some related statistics that might affect your opinion one way or another:

  • According to the National Center for Health Statistics, among females 78% of 18-year-olds and 87% of 19-year-olds have had some form of sex. Among males 72% of 18-year-olds and 80% of 19-year-olds have had some form of sex.

  • According to the USA Today article, "Government data released last month show that 998,262 births in 2004 were to unmarried women 19-29."

  • According to a 1999 study, abstinence (when considered as a form of birth control) has a user-failure rate of between 26% and 86% percent.

When it comes to sex education for adults, I think that offering an honest assessment of birth control methods and health risks associated with sex is the best way to go. Give people good information and trust them to take this information into account when making choices.

All Hallows Eve With the Tinleys

Neither costume is scary by itself. But let me ask you, What is he cooking?

Monday, October 30, 2006

I Really Don't Think That Anyone Has Kids Cuter Than Mine

Tucked in at grandma and grandpa's house:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Let Me Tell You What Bugs Me About the New Harper Collins Study Bible

First, I should say that my experiences with all Harper Collins Study Bibles have been favorable and that, like previous editions, the 2006 version contains excellent and exhaustive commentary. Unlike its predecessor, the new edition features a concordance, though not a terribly comprehensive one.

What bugs me about the new Harper Collins Study Bible is how the names of numbered books are rendered in the headers—the numbers are written as words instead of as numerals: First Corinthians instead of 1 Corinthians; Second Kings instead of 2 Kings; and so on. I don't know about you, but when I'm flipping through a Bible, I key in on numerals to know where I am. I never really noticed this until I found myself without the numerals.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"To Do" for Next Week: Research Independent Senate Candidates

Good insight from A.C. Kleinheider at Volunteer Voters:

My gut tells me that many people have this sense of alienation from these two candidates that is more than a lack of enthusiasm. They are disgusted, appalled and uninspired. Yet when the time comes, and for some of you it has already some, you go in and vote for one party or another.

I'm telling you you don't have to do that. You can either vote your conscience or send a message. The franchise has power. The people have enormous power. It amazes me that people think that they are wasting their vote when they vote for an independent candidate. It is never a wasted vote.

If these independent candidates are so bad, and many people clearly believe that, and, if, as people say, independent candidates cannot win, why not vote for them? What is the harm? The party you like the least gets in power? Will it really be that bad? A tragedy?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I've come to the conclusion that truly independent-minded voters need to start working on November 8 to get solid independent candidates on the ballots for state and local elections in 2007 and 2008 and to spread the word. Whether these candidates can be labeled "liberal" or "conservative" is less important than whether their first political priority is their constituents or their party.

On several occasions I've voted for an independent or third-party candidate for president or for a statewide office. These candidates have never had any chance of winning or even coming close, in part because they are inexperienced. As we look to the future, independents and others who are disenchanted with the major parties need to focus on "little races" that a political novice without much cash on hand can actually win. If you get enough independents in state legislatures and city councils, you can then take a stab at the U.S. House, then the Senate and governorships, and then the presidency.

As it were, Nashville—where local office-holders can't claim a party affiliation anyway—would be a great place to start this little experiment.

There Are So Many Better Reasons to Boycott Wal-Mart

From News Channel 5:

COLUMBIA, Tenn. Wal-Mart's affiliation with a gay and lesbian business coalition has prompted a Tennessee church and its 150 members to boycott the discount retailer. . . .

Trinity Family Church, a nondenominational church in Columbia, called on 150 members to quit patronizing Wal-Mart operations because the [National Gay and Lesbian] Chamber of Commerce supports gay marriage.

Trinity Family Church is not alone. The American Family Association recently urged its constituents to take action against the popular retailer, but the word "boycott" appears nowhere in the AFA press release. The AFA is also upset that Wal-Mart sells so many gay-friendly products. I suppose any item that uses the word "gay" or "lesbian" in a positive or neutral manner should be relegated to back-alley shops and seedy Internet stores.


The Demonbreun Street Bridge is open! My commute just got a couple minutes shorter.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Come On, Harry

Harold Ford, Jr. had pretty much clinched my vote (not necessarily because of his strengths, but because of the nasty campaign tactics used against him and his opponent's inability to articulate a vision). But yesterday he had to go and say the following in response to the New Jersey court decision giving same-sex couples the right to legally recognized unions:

"I do not support the decision today reached by the New Jersey Supreme Court regarding gay marriage. I oppose gay marriage, and have voted twice in Congress to amend the United States Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. This November there's a referendum on the Tennessee ballot to ban same-sex marriage - I am voting for it."

Why is Ford even bringing this up? Same-sex marriage has been a non-issue in the Tennessee senate race. And the New Jersey decision doesn't necessarily mandate marriage; it simply grants equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples, which is the fair and just thing to do. Here's a little more about the decision:

The high court on Wednesday gave legislators six months to either change state marriage laws to include same-sex couples, or come up with another mechanism, such as civil unions, that would provide the same protections and benefits.

The court's vote was 4-to-3. But the ruling was more strongly in favor of same-sex marriage than that split would indicate. The three dissenting justices argued the court should have extended full marriage rights to homosexuals, without kicking the issue back to legislators.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Play My Kid, or This'll Be the Last Game You Ever Coach

From the City of Brotherly Love:

PHILADELPHIA - A father pulled a gun on a youth football coach because his son wasn't getting enough playing time, police said.

Wayne Derkotch, 40, was arguing with the coach Sunday morning during a game of 6- and 7-year-olds in northeast Philadelphia when he pulled out the gun, police said.

I suppose pulling a gun on the coach is preferable to pulling a gun on the kid.

Thanks, WaPo, for Making Me Proud of My Home State

The Washington Post needed a quote about Tennessee's Senate race, and boy did they find a winner:

COALMONT, Tenn. -- John Layne is a 57-year-old white Republican with a long gray beard, no job and advancing emphysema. He arrived an hour early to hear Harold Ford Jr. speak in this struggling mountain town.

"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice," Layne said as he contemplated casting a ballot for a black man. "I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one." But he's more concerned about rising medical costs: When it comes to voting, "you gotta look at the person, not the color."

On Dishing It Out and Taking It

James Dobson says, "I have never ever seen such hatred in my life. I am being bludgeoned in the media." A more honest Dobson might have said, "I have never ever seen such hatred in my life . . . aside from the hatred that's on display at any event where I'm a featured speaker."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Arizona Voters Can Take a Stand for Our Sister the Swine

From the Valley of the Sun:

A ballot proposition that seeks improved conditions for livestock has drawn hundreds of thousands of dollars from animal rights groups and agricultural organizations across the country.

If passed, Proposition 204 would prohibit farmers from constraining calfs raised for veal and pregnant pigs in a manner that would prevent the animals from lying down, fully extending their legs or turning around freely.

I personally support any legislation that makes life easier for farm animals, many of whom endure torture and poor living conditions that would even make President Bush blush. On the other hand, one aspect of this story makes me really nervous:

If voters approve the measure in November, farmers would have until 2013 to comply. Since the state’s hog industry is small, the impact would be small. In fact, the proposition would mainly affect one farm — the Pigs for Farmer John farm in Snowflake.

I have reservations about any law that seems to target one person, community, or company. Of course, I live nowhere near Arizona, so I can only follow this story from afar.

This Is Flippin' Rad

Danish scientists have teleported an atom. But the scientists' grasp of written English is a bit weak, so I can't say I understand the specifics.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Saturday in the Park

Watch Out Rivers, Kate's Hungry

Friday, October 20, 2006

Inmate Takes His Own Life Before the State Can Do It For Him

From the Lone Star State (where 22 people have been put to death this year alone):

LIVINGSTON, Texas (AP) -- A convicted killer facing lethal injection beat the executioner to it Thursday, committing suicide by slitting his throat and arm with a blade in his Texas death row cell 15 hours before he was supposed to die.

Michael Dewayne Johnson, 29, was found in a pool of blood by officers making routine checks on him every 15 minutes, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Johnson apparently scrawled words in blood on the wall of his cell, but prison officials would not say what he wrote.

The message in blood, in my opinion, makes this story even creepier than it already would have been. Creepy or not, though, part of me applauds Johnson for sticking it to the man. I think the thing I find most horrifying about capital punishment is the thought of someone being told, "You will die at 1:00 a.m. on Friday October 20, 2006." I can't fault someone for wanting to beat the clock.

Johnson's lawyer had some interesting things to say:

His lawyer, Greg White, said he had seen no indication that the condemned man was despondent.

"I've never seen him not in good spirits," White said. "I'm not trained in those things, but just from a common person's standpoint, we just never had conversation that he was near the end and `I'm doomed' and any of that kind of stuff."

White must not have known that his client was hours away from being executed.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Loyalty of Titans Fans Can't Be Quantified

A recent* study of NFL fan loyalty by bizjournals.com suggests that Titans fans rank 28th out of 32 in loyalty to their team. The study rewards fans who show up even when their team and the weather in their city is lousy. The Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs rank first and second respectively.

Titans fans' poor performance is largely due to one stat, attendance fluctuation, which is intended to separate the faithful from the fair-weather. Attendance fluctuation measures the difference between the best and worst seasonal attendance in the past ten years. Seasonal attendance is measured in percent of seats filled. Attendance fluctuation for the Titans is 55.1%, far greater than that of any other team. This is due entirely to the one season the Titans spent in Memphis before moving to Nashville. Memphis fans, who had long lobbied for a team of their own, were not eager to support a lame duck team that would soon relocate to a rival city. Attendance figures in Memphis were some of the worst in league history. Nashville fans, by contrast, have faithfully filled seats even during the worst of times (the past three seasons).

So don't let anyone tell you that you don't support your bad football team. Titans fans are simply victims of a statistical anomaly.

OK, the study was published on September 4 and I'm about 50 days late. But the study was a topic of conversation today on ESPN Radio.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Naomi" Video

A few years ago I wrote a song for/about my cat Naomi. I featured it on The Adverbs' Adelaide, Illinois album (which sold about 30 copies, give or take a dozen—probably take). This evening, I decided to make a music video featuring Naomi herself. Enjoy.

Curious Teaching Methods

From the west coast:

In Shane Vance's 7th grade class, his teacher put up a big piece of paper and had the kids call out every cuss word and racial epithet they could dream up. The idea? Demystify bad language.

As a former stick in the mud, who went through middle school and high school without cussing even once, the educational value of such a class assignment would have been lost on my thirteen-year-old self.

Midterm Musings

I believe strongly that the Republicans should surrender the privilege of running the House and Senate. The dream of a Senate not controlled by the G.O.P. may be reason enough for me to vote for Harold Ford, Jr.. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to hand over the senior legislative body to the Democrats. At the very least, Senate Democrats should pressure Harry Reid to resign his position as minority leader in the wake of reports that Reid violated Senate rules by not disclosing certain details regarding a Las Vegas land deal.

As for the House, Rolling Stone ranks the 10 worst representatives, beginning with embattled Speaker Dennis Hastert. The piece draws much needed attention to Capitol Hill's culture of corruption, but it is largely fodder for people who already have no intention to vote for or support anyone on the list. Republicans make up 90 percent of the list; and while I can believe that Republicans are more corrupt than Democrats, I'm not buying a list of the 10 worst congresspeople that includes only one Dem (William Jefferson, number 4). The article is also peppered with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's opinions on her colleagues, quotes that expose the ideological viewpoint of the writers and editors.

Speaking of Pelosi, some Republican-friendly pundits are trying to put the fear of Nancy into voters. I understand that Republicans don't want Democrats to control the House, but what is so bad about Pelosi specifically? Do they despise her for the same reasons they despise Hillary Clinton? Do they think voters will be reluctant to give a strong-willed woman so much power? (Yes, I'm making big assumptions, but I smell misogyny.) As someone who is a little embarrassed that the United States (unlike Bangladesh and Pakistan) has never had a female head of state or government, I think having a woman as Speaker of the House would do us good.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

College Football Really Needs a Playoff

The first BCS standings came out this week. One shouldn't put too much stock in the ratings right now, since most teams have five-or-so games remaining. Still, college football fans are entitled to critique this mathematically crude combination of two human polls and five computer polls that selects the teams that will play for a national championship. And keep in mind that the BCS formula has changed several times in the past eight years; whenever the formula's selections do not match human intuition, it is tweaked or replaced.

As for this year, I have questions and or criticisms about every BCS ranking besides #1. Actually, I've given the matter a lot of thought, and here's how I'd rank college football's best teams:

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. USC
4. Arkansas
4. Auburn
4. Boston College
4. California
4. Clemson
4. Florida
4. Georgia Tech
4. Louisville
4. Notre Dame
4. Rutgers
4. Tennessee
4. Texas
4. West Virginia

My 13 #4s are sorted by alphabetical order, because I don't feel that I have enough information to sort them otherwise. Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech and Tennessee beat California, but both of those defeats came in week 1 and Cal and Tech both look capable of beating anyone right now. Auburn beat Florida, but Florida beat Tennessee and Arkansas beat Auburn. The three Big East teams (West Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers) remain undefeated, but none has enough quality wins to prove that they're better than any of the one-loss SEC teams that have been beating up on one another (Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee). And, for what it's worth, I considered adding Wake Forest and Wisconsin to the ranks of the #4s.

How Much Longer Do We Have to Put Up With This Nonsense?

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is blocking the nomination of a federal judge because she "once attended a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple." From a WaPo editorial:

Mr. Brownback has said he wants to satisfy himself that the judge was not presiding over an "illegal marriage ceremony" in Pittsfield, Mass., in 2002. . . .

A commitment ceremony is not a marriage; it has no legal force whatsoever but is a private expression of the love and devotion of two people. The idea that such a ceremony could be "illegal" is deeply offensive; Americans are entitled to gather, speak, celebrate and worship as they see fit. An administration official says Judge Neff has told Mr. Brownback that she didn't preside. But even if she did, that would say nothing about her jurisprudential views -- merely that she wished to help a couple recognize their relationship informally in the absence of state sanction for it. Keeping Judge Neff off the federal bench over such a matter is perilously close to declaring her unfit to serve because she has lesbian friends.

In related news, the Religious Right is upset with Condoleeza Rice because she referred to the mother of the partner of openly gay global AIDS coordinator Mark Dybul as Dybul's "mother-in-law."

So, to those who are calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, your best strategy might be to offer evidence that the Secretary of Defense once caught an episode of Will and Grace or passed a gay couple on the street without informing them of their depravity.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Justice Sunday" Becomes "Liberty Sunday," Doesn't Get Any Better

With the Republican party in trouble, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Bill Donohue, Chuck Colson, and company tried again yesterday to shift the public consciousness away from issues of substance by reminding their constituents of the dangers of the Great Pink Menace. This event, dubbed “Liberty Sunday” seems exactly like last year’s “Justice Sunday” events, but without Phyllis Schlafly.

More at Corrupt Generation.

I Don't Understand the Particulars, but the C.E.O. of My Healthcare Provider Announced Today That He Will Resign Amid Scandal

Sorry for the lengthy headline. I'm not an investor, and I don't entirely understand what's going on here, but funny things are happening at UnitedHealth:

MINNEAPOLIS - Faced with an independent report that found widespread problems with the way UnitedHealth Group Inc. issued stock options, the nation’s second-largest health insurer said its chairman and CEO will leave the company.

The company said Sunday that chairman and CEO William McGuire will leave the board immediately and leave the company no later than Dec. 1. Board member William G. Spears will resign, and General Counsel David J. Lubben will retire.

Aside from the ever-increasing chunks that UnitedHealth has taken from my paychecks, I've been pretty happy with my coverage. Of course, my admittedly simplistic view of the world says that any for-profit healthcare operation is at least a little bit evil, because one shouldn't look at sick people and see an opportunity to generate revenue. I've also decided that I have a problem with companies that spell their name as one word, when their name very obviously consists of more than one word. (That means you, MySpace and Citibank.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Most Fascinating Wikipedia Article Ever

Check out the entry on "active autonomist and secessionist movements" and learn about Mayotte, South Ossetia, Lapland, Cascadia, and the world's many other would-be nations.

Be Careful When Making Assumptions About Time Travel

I have faith that humankind will one day successfully build a time machine. I fear, however, that whoever takes the maiden voyage in this wonder of four-dimensional transportation will find themselves floating in the coldness and blackness of outer space.

As a culture, we have embraced the assumption that if one starts in, say, a field in Iowa and travels back in time 30 years, one will end up in that same field in 1976. Sure, the first time machine would likely be designed such that travelers would journey through time, but remain stationary in the other three dimensions. Thus, spacially, one should not change position.

Here's the problem: Our notion of location is based on one's position relative to the earth's poles. But the earth is revolving on its axis and moving through space around the sun. Moreover, the sun is rotating around the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way is constantly changing its position relative to other galaxies. In other words, what is stationary on earth is nonetheless moving through spacetime. To use the example above, in 1976 that field in Iowa was millions of miles away from where it is today.

Thus to successfully travel through time, one must also navigate a long journey through space.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sad Story of the Day

From CNN.com:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A man who couldn't find steady work came up with a plan to make it through the next few years until he could collect Social Security: He robbed a bank, then handed the money to a guard and waited for police.

On Wednesday, Timothy J. Bowers told a judge a three-year prison sentence would suit him, and the judge obliged.

"At my age, the jobs available to me are minimum-wage jobs. There is age discrimination out there," Bowers, who turns 63 in a few weeks, told Judge Angela White.

Come Here; I Want to Pull Your Hair

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Study: War Has Killed 2.5% of Iraqi Population

A new study published in British medical journal The Lancet and led by Johns Hopkins' Gilbert Burnham estimates that "War has wiped out about 655,000 Iraqis or more than 500 people a day since the U.S.-led invasion." The study says, "Since March 2003, an additional 2.5 percent of Iraq's population have died above what would have occurred without conflict." The Lancet and Johns Hopkins were also responsible for the controversial 2004 study that put the number of deaths at 100,000.

That's a lot of people. What is most striking about this report, however, is the degree to which it differs from other estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths. The Iraq Body Count project tallied between 43,269 and 48,046 reported civilian deaths as of September 19 of this year. This summer the Los Angeles Times reported a total death toll of 50,000 for the Iraq War. Have 600,000 deaths really gone unreported? Critics have argued that more conservative reports focus too much on the Baghdad area and not enough on the rest of the country and the CNN.com article says, "Professionals familiar with such research told CNN that the [new] survey's methodology is sound." Still, when one estimate is 13 times greater than another, we need to critically evaluate all studies of Iraqi civilian deaths to determine which is most accurate.

If the number of civilian deaths is anywhere near 655,000, we need to seriously (and immediately) rethink our strategy in Iraq. I don't know if that mean pulling out or increasing troop levels, but it does mean that what we're doing isn't working.

Baby Kate: I Can Sit, But I'm Not Happy About It

This Is What Daddy Looks Like the Morning After Coming Home From a Business Trip

The Senate Race: How I'm Leaning

As an independent voter who isn't terribly impressed with either of Tennessee's major candidates for U.S. Senate, I am looking forward to November 7 as the day that this campaign will come to an end. Still, I feel a responsibility to vote, and, to be honest, I'll probably vote for Harold Ford, Jr. Here are a couple reasons why:

  • Harry has better commercials.

  • Ford has a better grasp on what's at stake. While he oversimplifies the issue of national security and overestimates the benefits of ethanol, he seems to understand what issues are most important: education, healthcare, and energy, for instance. Corker's treatment of the "issues" is very limited in scope.

  • I'm a sucker, but I'm buying Ford's line about needing a "new generation" in Washington. I'm not sure how well Harry represents this new generation, but some young blood in the Senate would be refreshing.

  • I don't like that one party has control of the White House and both houses of Congress, especially since that party hasn't done anything to convince me that they deserve so much power. We need to mix things up; we need to take some power away from the Republicans.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Best of Seven: Week 4

I was out of town this weekend and have deadlines for other work pending, so all I can offer this week is seven minutes on college football. I'll do better next time.


best_of_7_0604.mp3 (MP3)

best_of_7_0604.m4a (iTunes)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Paying My Respects to Buck O'Neil

I spent much of the morning in Kansas City's Jazz District, particularly at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. I didn't realize that the Negro Leagues Museum was in Kansas City until I heard this morning that former baseball great Buck O'Neil died yesterday, just shy of his 95th birthday. O'Neil, the first African American to coach in the Majors—joining the Cubs' staff in the 1960s—was largely responsible for founding the museum. As you can see in the picture to the right, Buck's Kansas City fans (O'Neil played much of his career for the city's Monarchs) set up a small memorial outside the museum. Sadly, O'Neil had not yet been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame before he died.

My visit to the Negro Leagues Museum was very pleasant. I especially enjoyed overhearing a trio of older white men tell stories about Satchel Paige from when Satch was in his prime. The museum isn't terribly big, and you can see just about everything in a few hours. (If I didn't have a flight to catch this afternoon, I would have also toured the Jazz Museum, which is in the same complex.)

Here are some nuggets of information I picked up at the Negro Leagues Museum:

  • Night baseball was invented in the Negro Leagues, where teams were playing games under the lights five years before the Major Leagues caught on.

  • "Cool Papa" Bell was once tracked running around the bases in 12 seconds, a record that still stands.

  • A quote from Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe of the Pittsburgh Crawfords posted in the museum reads, "We used to play four [games] in one day just about every Fourth of July. I'd pitch two and catch two. The way I made it was to sleep the 35 minutes between each game."

  • During the Depression, when attendance at all sporting events suffered, many of the best black players made a living playing in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Venezuela. Games in Havana reportedly drew an average of 40,000 fans. Player Willie Wells said of the experience, "We live in the best hotels, eat in the best restaurants, and can go any place we care to. . . . We don't enjoy such privileges in the United States." Some Latin American teams paid players better than their Major League counterparts.

  • Toni Hall, who played fifty games for the Indianapolis Clowns, was the first woman ever to play pro baseball. Another Toni, Toni Stone, was an adept second base-woman for the Clowns and the Kansas City Monarchs, in the 1950s, when many of the Negro Leagues' best players had left for the Majors. She batted .267 in 1953.

  • Two of my hometowns had teams in the Negro Leagues: Indianapolis had the storied Clowns and ABCs; Nashville had the Elite Giants (who later moved to Cleveland then to Baltimore). My other hometown, Evansville, had the Colored Braves, an all-black baseball team that sometimes played teams from the major Negro Leagues.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Brian McLaren at COR

When I learned this morning that Brian McLaren, guru of the emergent conversation would be speaking at the Church of the Resurrection, I decided to drink the Kool-Aid and check it out. (My feelings on all things "emergent" are mixed: Theologically I feel solidarity with the emergent crowd; yet, for some unnamed reason, I feel like an outsider. Anyway . . . .) Read more, including select quotes, at Corrupt Generation.

Flippin' Pacers

As an Indianapolis native, the Pacers are my team. Like the Titans (my other team), the Pacers have discarded quality of both character and performance (and perennial playoff appearances) in favor of mediocrity and thuggery. I don't even want to talk about this incident.

Church of the Resurrection

I'm coming to you from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR), just outside of Kansas City, where I just finished doing a workshop, "Keeping Youth Engaged in Sunday School," for the congregation's annual Leadership Institute. This place is 'uge! I'd say it's several times bigger than the high school I attended, and I went to a pretty big high school. The style and atmosphere on the inside of the church is somewhere between shopping mall and office building. (I apologize for the poor picture quality; I snapped the photo using the Photo Booth application on my MacBook.)

I'm typing this in the church's coffee shop ("The Spring"), which is next door to the church's bookstore. As impressed as I am by the magnitude of COR's main building, I should mention that the congregation has a second campus, located in another Kansas City suburb.

Part of me hates slick, suburban megachurches like this one. Does Christian discipleship really require flat-screen monitors mounted on walls throughout the building, informing passersby of what's happening today at the church? Should a church put its members in an environment that they might mistake for the Mall at Green Hills? (All you Nashville people know what I'm talking about.) Is it possible that a church building is just too pretty, too clean, too big, and too nice?

Despite my disdain for these congregations, I've also grown to appreciate them. After visiting COR and Ginghamsburg [United Methodist] Church, I've been able to cast off some of my stereotypes—that megachurches are necessarily weak on discipleship and outreach, for instance. As much as I would never feel comfortable in one of these behemoth houses of God, many people have no interest in sitting in a pew in an old, brick church. And people whose spiritual gifts don't involve singing, teaching, or sitting in often pointless meetings struggle to find ways to use their God-given skills in ministry. Megachurches, with their youth centers and media departments and food service operations allow a wider range of people to participate in their ministries. Megachurches also have the means to host training events (such as the one I'm at) that benefit congregations and church leaders regionally and nationally.

Finally, I should note that COR's uber-pastor Adam Hamilton is reclaiming the word mainline, which I thank him for. (This brings up another point, I don't like the idea of church leaders who become cults of personality unto themselves . . . ooh, Brian McLaren is speaking tonight. I'll have to emerge from my motel room and check it out.)

Rough Morning at BNA

I'm not sure how to explain or quantify the length of the security line this morning at the Nashville International Airport. Allow me to try some descriptors: "Gorgeous." "Post 9/11" (like "11:00-in-the-morning-of-September-11-2001 post 9/11"). "Mind boggling." "Blood-pressure elevating." "Worse than an amusement park on Labor Day." To be more explicity: The security line basically intertwined with the check-in lines then wound out the door.

I get the feeling that several flights will be missed today and wonder if any suspicious behavior is to blame for the long lines. At any rate, I have a two-year-old child, and I've never heard so much whining.

Oh, and I would have posted this from the airport, but airports charge $8 per day for wireless access. Weak.

Update: I had to run at full speed to make my plane, but I did, and I had a pleasant flight. I'm posting this from a Red Roof Inn in Overland Park, KS. Red Roof, it seems, also charges a daily fee for wireless access, but I happen to be picking up free wireless from the Super 8 next door.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Looking Back on Higher Step Records

News 4U—the Evansville, Indiana arts and entertainment magazine for which I once interned in college—ran a piece in this month's issue on Higher Step Records, the label to which my bands, the National Biscuit Company and Three Hit Combo, were once "signed." Each band released one album on the label, and the two discs sold a total of 700 copies (or so). Mat Martin (a.k.a. Sam Lowry) penned the News 4U article. Here's a taste:

It wasn’t long before we started putting out the records of our friend’s bands like the Mullets, Three Hit Combo, the Toddlers, Nice Guys Finish Last, djcarcar, and many more. Some of them broke even. Some of them made the bands a little money. Some of them were so artistically nuanced and ahead of their time that no one bought them.

If permanence in this world is measured by the effect you’ve had on other human beings, then we have achieved that. Our friends who wrote great songs and were in great bands, but didn’t have the money to release their own album; we gave them a chance to put their art out into the world. The kid who discovers punk rock via his older brother’s Mullets albums and then starts his own band. We were a part of that. And if permanence is measured by the number of albums in used CD stores and landfills across this great land, than we’ve probably achieved it that way too.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Let's Not Forget the Escalator

Today the Tinley family made an impromptu day trip to Evansville, Indiana, where mommy and daddy attended the University of Evansville (where mommy and daddy first met). We took a stroll around the alma mater and visited the famous West Side Nut Club Fall Festival. (We forgot the camera, so I don't have any pictures. Sorry.) Meyer was not at all impressed with mommy and daddy's old residences and haunts and was only mildly intrigued by the carousel and strange fried foods at the festival. He had forgotten much of the trip before he took the final bite of his deep-fried mint Oreo.

For the better part of the ride home, the focal point of our family conversation was the escalators in Macy's at the Eastland Mall and whether we preferred the escalators to the elevator. (We'd dropped by the mall for a while to escape the heat.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tony Perkins Talks About Foley Debacle, Gets Silly

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council suggests that GOP leadership in Congress may have been reluctant to expose Rep. Mark Foley's misgivings because they were afraid of being accused of gay-bashing and homophobia. (See also this post from The Carpetbagger Report. Oh, and Ben Stein has a similar warped take on the subject.)

First, coming out of the closet is not grounds to resign from public office. And while gayness makes some people strangely fussy, unlike soliciting sex from minors, being gay is not a criminal offense. That obvious point aside, what makes Tony Perkins think that Republicans are afraid they'll be accused of gay-bashing? For his part, Perkins has made a career out of successfully convincing GOP leaders that God's top political priority is making life more difficult for gay people.

Let's be clear: Yes, Mark Foley is gay. But his sexuality is not on trial—Foley is in trouble for improper communication with minors. Secondly, "the gays" are not responsible for any cover-up by GOP leaders.

In related news, the President yesterday said Democrats shouldn't be trusted to run Congress. I agree; but at this point, I prefer them to the predator-enabling Republicans. Also, FOX News decided today that Foley should be labeled a Democrat. Wild.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Creepy and Depressing on So Many Levels

Earlier today, as I was feeling sorry for myself for the rough day I was having, I heard the story about Charles Carl Roberts IV, the deranged man who took over a one-room Amish schoolhouse with "three guns, a stun gun, two knives and a bag holding 600 rounds of ammunition." As you no doubt know by now, Roberts let the boys and the adults go and kept the girls inside the schoolhouse, where he bound them and shot them execution-style before killing himself. This story is obviously shocking, sick, and tragic; but here are a few things that stuck out to me as especially eerie:

The Bart, Pennsylvania, resident had three children, and left several notes for his family "along the lines of suicide notes," Miller said. . . .

Roberts' wife tried to call him when she found the notes, Miller said. He returned the call on his cell phone, told her he wouldn't be coming home. . . .

The commissioner said Roberts had worked a shift that ended about 3 a.m. Monday and taken his children to their bus stop before beginning his rampage.

You don't think of people like this having spouses, let alone three children. I can't imagine how Roberts' wife and his three (probably young) children are handling this, and even thinking about it makes me sick. How can this man's children grow up knowing that their seemingly loving father ended his life in such a painful, horrifying way? What kind of stigma will follow them for the rest of their days?

[Roberts told his wife] "that he was acting out to achieve revenge for something that happened 20 years ago."

Police said he had barricaded himself in the schoolhouse with two-by-four and two-by-six pieces of lumber, which he brought to the scene in a borrowed pickup truck.

"He planned this out meticulously," the commissioner said.

Miller said Roberts' grudge did not appear to involve the Amish community and that he may have chosen his target out of convenience, perhaps thinking "getting into a school like this was maybe just a little bit easier."

How does a person "meticulously" plan to shoot up people against whom he has no apparent grudge? How does a 20-year-old quest for revenge end with four preteen Amish girls dead in a schoolhouse?

The gunman, 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts IV.

This guy is roughly my age. And the 20-year-old event in question must have taken place when Roberts was 12. Several things could be done to a 12-year-old that would make him crack later in life; I'm just not sure that any of them involve girls his age.

Update: From CNN.com:

Then [Pennsylvania Police Commissioner Jeffrey] Miller said Roberts stated, "'I molested some minor family members, family members that were 3 or 4 years old, 20 years ago.'"

"Roberts mentioned in his suicide note that he was having dreams of molesting again," Miller said.

I still don't understand how this sick and tortured soul decided to take out several Amish schoolgirls before taking his own life.

Best of Seven: Week 3

I've moved the show to Monday, so that weekend sporting events will be fresh in the listeners' minds. This week's shows, which runs a little more than a half hour, looks at college football, the NFL, the women's basketball World Championship, and what I call "qualified streaks." I accidentally deleted part of my NFL segment while I was editing. I had to do quite a bit more editing to cover my mistake. So you'll miss out on some of my commentary on the contenders in the NFC, but I think I got everything pieced back together so that it flows smoothly.

Also, I didn't feel like getting into the Albert Haynesworth debacle. I probably should have, but I'm not sure I would have added anything to the conversation.

Again, I haven't gotten around to setting up a proper Best of Seven podcast or designing a logo. Still, you can download the first few episodes to your iPod or MP3 player, or burn them to a CD. Let me know what you think and where improvements can be made.


best_of_7_0603.mp3 (MP3)

best_of_7_0603.m4a (iTunes)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fill 'Er Up!

Meyer, my two year-old, decided today that, because gas prices have fallen in recent weeks, he should fill up his tricycle. So he went into the garage, dug out the gas can that we use to fill the lawnmower, unscrewed the top, and poured the entire contents into the compartment on the back of the tricycle.

Keeping Meyer out of the garage is now a top priority.