Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Meyer: What I Won't Eat

He's adding to this list everyday.

My Representative: 14th Amendment Doesn't Apply to Everyone

Susan Lynn, my state representative, has introduced this piece of legislation that "memorializes the Congress of the United States to enact legislation clarifying the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution as denying citizenship status to children of illegal aliens."

The Fourteenth Amendment is the one that says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Representative Lynn says that children born in the United States to persons here illegally are not "subject to the jurisdiction of" the U.S. That's a stretch and goes against precedent (at least according to Wikipedia). Sayeth Wikipedia:

Since 1898 the phrase "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" has been interpreted to mean that there are some exceptions to the universal rule that birth in United States automatically grants citizenship. In the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court ruled that a person born within the territorial boundaries of the United States is eligible for birthright citizenship regardless of the nationality of his or her parents. The only exceptions to this rule identified in Wong Kim Ark concern diplomats, enemy forces in hostile occupation of the United States, and members of Native American tribes.

It was years later that the exclusion of Native Americans was eliminated by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

While we're talking about precedent, making an exception to the Fourteenth Amendment sets a dangerous one. Not good, Representative Lynn. Not good.

Hat tip and more commentary at Tiny Cat Pants.

Monday, April 28, 2008

UMC Votes to Fight Global Warming With "Printing and Mailings"

From the UM News Service (emphasis mine):

The assembly voted 521-89 to create a task force to examine ways in which churches, agencies and conferences can address global warming. The 12-member group will make recommendations for such things as solar panels, meetings by conference calls, and building insulation, then report its findings to the 2012 General Conference.

Cost of the four-year endeavor, including meetings, printing and mailings, is estimated at $66,000. Delegates will review that cost after receiving recommendations from GCFA and the Connectional Table.

I worry that "global warming" has, to its detriment, become synonymous with "environmentalism"; as a result, you have people who brush off all things eco-friendly because they can demonstrate that Al Gore is a hypocrite or see a cold day in April as proof that global warming is a hoax. I would rather we see global warming as one of several interrelated environmental issues including air quality, water quality, resource conservation, and food availability.

That said, I support any effort by the church to address global warming.

Here's my problem: We (the people of The United Methodist Church) are investing $66,000 in an effort to fight global warming that involves primarily "meetings, printings and mailings." Maybe we could spend another 20K and add logging, bus racing, and incinerating plastic.

I kid. But this is silly. We have the technology to raise awareness without sending junk mail throughout the land, and we should use it. I can only hope that the "meetings" in question are conference calls or online video conferences and that we're not flying people around the country to meet in person, but I have my doubts.

Don't Eat Rice: You May or May Not Be Saving the World

I spend time each day playing the Free Rice game. The Free Rice game is just a vocabularly quiz; for each correct answer a player gives, Free Rice donates 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to end hunger. The Free Rice game enables me to fight hunger while sitting comfortably on my couch watching cable. Taking daily vocabulary quizzes is one small way to deal with the guilt of having a full refrigerator while a third of the world is starving.

Here's the problem: We're facing a global rice shortage. So, as I improve my vocabulary skills and win rice grains for the masses, where does the rice come from? With that in mind, I've decided to stop buying rice. Maybe by doing so, I'll help make this essential grain more available to those who need it most. Then again, one could accuse me of saying to the world's millions of food-insecure families, "I'll go ahead and eat heartier, tastier foods; you can have my rice." Hunger is complicated.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Titans 2008 Draft Choices: Huh?

I'm still baffled by the Titans' peculiar selections in this weekend's draft. Going into the weekend the team's biggest needs were defensive end and wide receiver. Coming out of the weekend, they kind of addressed the defensive end need and didn't do anything of note at wide receiver. They had chances to get better players at both positions.

I can't say anything about the Chris Johnson pick (the Titans' first-round selection) that hasn't already been said, so this is from ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas:

After using a second-round pick in each of the past two drafts to get running backs LenDale White and Chris Henry, the Titans, who had lots of needs elsewhere (mainly wide receiver), turned around and used a first-round pick on East Carolina running back Chris Johnson.

Henry hasn't shown much and this move is probably a sign the Titans don't think he's going to work out. And White was a 1,000-yard rusher last season and the Titans probably don't need a new starter. They probably didn't get one because Johnson is undersized and may be nothing more than a third-down back. Johnson is explosive and could provide a nice complement to White, but you don't draft complementary players in the first round.

I get the impression that the Titans took Johnson because of his freakish 40-yard-dash time. (According to ESPN.com, "He's also not great between the tackles and has had fumble issues.") Incredible speed was the main reason the Titans last year used a high pick on Chris Henry, who'd played relatively little in collage. Drafting based on speed alone seems short sighted.

More questionable than the Johnson pick was trading up to select William Hayes (DE from Winston-Salem State) in the fourth round. Trading up in the NFL Draft is usually a bad idea; it's certainly a bad idea when you trade up in the fourth round to get a player who likely would have been available in the seventh. Even in the unlikely event that someone had stolen Hayes out from under the Titans' nose, a DE of comparable (and probably superior) talent would have been available later in the fourth round. They didn't need to give up picks to draft William Hayes.

Lavelle Hawkins of Cal was the only wide receiver whom the Titans drafted; he went late in the fourth round. Hawkins joins the trio of mid-to-late round wide receivers whom the Titans drafted last year, a trio that combined for five receptions and 38 yards last year.

I'm sure the Titans' draft class will bring some pleasant surprises. But no matter how good these players turn out to be, I'll still have questions about whom the Titans selected when: Which players would have been available in later rounds (or without having to trade up)?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quick Pet Peeve

The final book of the Bible, otherwise known as the Apocalypse of John, is called Revelation, not Revelations. Singular, not plural. One big revelation, not multiple oracles. People mistakingly add an s all the time. Most recently, I heard comedian Greg Giraldo make this error on Root of All Evil. The s also appears in the most recent false, inflammatory e-mail circulating about Barack Obama. Also, since I'm discussing apocalyptic misconceptions (and considering the aforementioned inflammatory e-mail), I should add that Revelation never mentions the Antichrist.

That's all.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Old McDonny

Meyer taught Resha Kate "Old McDonald," and she hasn't stopped singing since.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Word to Everyone Who Had a Star Wars Groom's Cake

Gizmodo brings us this Death Star groom's cake (below left). It goes one dimension beyond the Yoda cake (below right) that was the star of my wedding reception back in 2002.

How Can We Really Equip and Empower United Methodists Outside the U.S.?

General Conference, the quadrennial event in which United Methodists make big (and not so big) decisions that affect the entire denomination, starts this week. (Today, actually. Happy General Conference Day!) As usual, the Institute on Religion and Democracy is hard at work stirring things up.

This time around, the IRD's primary emphasis is "empowering the international church." About 30 percent of United Methodists reside outside of the U.S., most of them in Africa, and the IRD rightly believes that the international church should be fairly represented in the UMC's general boards and agencies.

The IRD's primary motivation for empowering the African church is putting into positions of influence persons who share the organization's opposition to homosexuality. (The IRD is obsessed with homosexuality.) Though the IRD's reasons are misguided, I agree with Mark Tooley and company that the UMC has done a poor job of equipping and empowering UMs outside of the United States.

Here's the problem: The United Methodist boards and agencies, many of which are based here in Nashville, Tennessee, lack the resources and expertise to serve the international church in a meaningful way. Adding a board member from Ghana or hiring a few Liberian staff persons will not change this. The cultural, linguistic, economic, and geographic barriers are too great.

If we are serious about equipping and empowering United Methodists abroad, we need parallel boards and agencies: for instance, an African Publishing House, an African Board of Discipleship, and an African Board of Church and Society (or, perhaps, smaller boards and publishing houses in each of several African nations or regions). Boards and Agencies in Africa, Europe, and Asia could turn to their American counterparts for counsel and support, but the entire church would look to the leaders of these new institutions as experts on evangelism, social activism, resource developent, and so forth in the regions they serve.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Open Letter to My Congressional Representatives Regarding the Global Food Crisis

More on the food crisis here.

Since we're discussing the food shortage, take a few minutes to play the Free Rice game.

Senator Alexander/Senator Corker/Representative Cooper:

Rising food prices and a shortage of basic foods such as rice have led to a global food crisis. Many nations are increasingly unable to meet their citizens' food needs. In nations such as Ethiopia, Indonesia, Italy, and Yemen, the food shortage has sparked violent protests. If the United States and the international community does not address this crisis, further violence and starvation will ensue.

Considering this global crisis, I encourage you to keep the following questions and concerns in mind when voting on legislation that could have an impact on food production and distribution:

  • How does our treatment of the environment affect food production? How might greenhouse gas emissions and air, water, and soil pollution be contributing to the food crisis? I would ask that you keep in mind the global food shortage whenever you consider legislation related to the environment.

  • How might our commitment to ethanol production be contributing to the food shortage? By devoting so much agricultural land to energy rather than food are we contributing to the problem? What effect might large-scale ethanol production have on food prices? Since ethanol is only one of many renewable energy options, and since some contend that increased ethanol use will actually have a detrimental effect on the environment, rethinking our commitment to ethanol as an energy source may be in order.

  • How can we, the United States, use our natural and human resources to help meet the developing world's food needs? How can we make better use of farmland and subsidies to provide a variety of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables to the people who need them most?

Thank you for your consideration,
Josh Tinley

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Paradise by the GoPhone Light: Long Version

Check this out. It's an extended version of the Meatloaf GoPhone commercial. Also, to answer two questions that have been nagging at me for the last couple weeks: Yes, that is Tiffany; no, that is not Meatloaf's son. The actor's name is Adam Cagley, and his résumé includes bit parts on several Disney and Nickelodeon tween shows.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Scrambies Celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the National Biscuit Company's On the Dance Floor

On April 18, 1998 my old band, the National Biscuit Company, released its first full-length album (following two EPs), On the Dance Floor. In honor of this anniversary, Scrambies is making the album's five best tracks available for free. (You can buy the rest at iTunes, but I'm not sure that any of the songs is worth the 99¢ you'd pay for it.) Here they are (MP3s all):

Five years ago, in honor of the fifth anniversary of Dance Floor's release, I wrote (using the moniker Jefferson Wilson) a piece called "I Think I Flipped Along the Way: The Legacy of On the Dance Floor" for Carligula.com. It tells you more than you could ever want to know about this otherwise forgettable musical recording. Here's a taste:

On the Dance Floor was certainly not an ambitious studio album. The project, recorded on two ADAT machines in a home studio over the course of a few weeks for $400, was certainly no masterpiece. "If I remember correctly," Tinley recalls, "Tim was under the impression that we'd just recorded 12 demos. He didn't find out that we planned to release an album until it was too late." . . .

On the Dance Floor is musically obvious: It opens with its snappy-title track; many of the songs are built on conventional major-key chord patters; a handful of mellow tunes break up the otherwise upbeat track listing; the album's penultimate track, "Take Me Home," is its longest and heaviest and is followed by "My Everything," the album's ethereal swan song. With regard to composition, the album is safe and uninspired with a few exceptions. The title track's intro builds into a memorable chorus that repeats throughout the remainder of the song only to be interrupted by an organ solo and a short bridge. "Empty," the only song written in a minor key, provides the listener with a much needed respite from the album's unapologetic pop tunes. "Nothing New," featuring Gober on lead vocals, is musically odd, mixing raunchy guitar riffs and jingle-jangle pop, all highlighted by Fuzzell's drum heroics.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Global Food Shortage: What Can We Do About It?

From the NYT:

The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

From the International News Network:

KABUL: World Food Programme (WFP) and the Afghanistan government are concerned over increasing food prices and dearth of basic food. . . . Only 30,000 tons of 88000 tons food WFP had demanded of the donor countries for Afghanistan had been provided, he said. . . . Wheat prices in Afghanistan have risen by an average of 60% over the last year with certain areas seeing a rise of up to 80%, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said.

First, I don't understand why this isn't a bigger story.

Secondly, and more importantly, what are we going to do about this? Scientists have linked the shortage (at least in part) to climate change. I know that several people don't believe in climate change—or don't believe that human activity has any effect on climate change—and get fussy at the thought of changing their behavior to slow global warming. But, as I've said before, improving energy efficiency and producing less waste—aside from their effects on climate change—have obvious immediate benefits such as improving air and water quality, lessening our dependence on foreign oil, slowing the growth of landfills, and so forth. So, regardless of your views on global warming, turn off the lights, use fewer shopping bags, avoid unnecessary car trips, and all that; maybe you'll have a positive effect on climate change and, by extension, the food crisis.

We also need to forget about corn as a source of energy. Again, from the NYT:

The global agricultural crisis is threatening to become political, pitting the United States and other developed countries against the developing world over the need for affordable food versus the need for renewable energy. Many poorer nations worry that subsidies from rich countries to support biofuels, which turn food, like corn, into fuel, are pushing up the price of staples.

I'm not sure that anyone who doesn't grow corn for a living (or represent in Congress thousands of people who do) thinks that corn is a good source of fuel. And our obsession with ethanol is keeping millions of people in developing nations from eating. So let's forget about corn fuel and look at types of renewable energy that don't cause starvation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nashville Has a New ABA Team (and Its Website Doesn't Work . . . but It Is Holding Tryouts)

The Music City's new semi-pro hoops squad is called the Nashville Broncs (short for Broncos). Let's hope the Broncs last longer than the Rhythm, and that the team's owner doesn't go wackadoo and cuss out the coach during a game. At the moment, the team's website doesn't really work, and I can find no information about where the Broncs will play. (Wherever it is, it won't be as large or have as many occupied seats as the venue pictured on the site.)

At any rate, the Broncs are having open tryouts next weekend (April 26) at Station Camp High School in Gallatin. When I heard about the tryouts, I figured I had to show up. Sure, I don't have a realistic shot of making any team that doesn't accept all comers, but maybe I could convince the Broncs that they need someone to shoot technical foul shots and throw up desperation three-pointers during the final minutes of games that are getting out of hand (even if that someone is a short, slow, aging white guy whose most impressive foray into competitive basketball was being the sixth man on a championship C-league intramural team at the University of Evansville). Alas, the team asks prospective players to pay $125 and list their college and professional playing experience. I should probably stay home.

Speaking of the ABA, check out Wikipedia's list of the league's defunct teams. I count 127 plus 22 former teams that joined other leagues. The current incarnation of the ABA has only been around since 2000, and it has already turned over 149 teams. That's impressive, and it doesn't bode well for the Broncs.

Horribly Depressing News of the Day

This is awful (ESPN.com):

A fan died at Shea Stadium on Tuesday night when he plunged from the railing of an escalator, the New York Post reported for Wednesday's editions.

Antonio Narainasami, 36, of Brooklyn was sliding down the railing when he lost his balance and fell two stories to the concrete on the loge level, sources told the Post. His two daughters were with him at the time of the accident.

ESPN's Sage Steele just added that Narainasmi's wife was at home, pregnant with the couple's third child.

Update: The NY Daily News has a better, more detailed version of this story that disputes the "sliding down the railing" claim:

Kevin Prashad, 28, a cousin of Narainasami's who attended the game with him, said the accident occurred on an escalator that wasn't running as the family left the game about 10 p.m.

"He was walking down the escalator holding the hand railing," Prashad said. "He lost his footing."

He was not intoxicated or engaging in horseplay when he fell, police and family members said.

For What It's Worth: ESPN.com has redacted the "sliding down the railing" claim, but CNN is going with it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'm Really Not Sure . . .

. . . what I've written on this blog to warrant a Google Ad link to Great Glam Clothes Store—THE BEST WOMEN'S CLOTHING STORE ON THE WEB!

Owl or Ostrich?

Therefore wild animals shall live with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall inhabit her; she shall never again be peopled, or inhabited for all generations.
—Jeremiah 50:39, NRSV

So desert creatures and hyenas will live there, and there the owl will dwell. It will never again be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation.
—Jeremiah 50:39, TNIV

So which is it? Owls and ostriches are very different creatures. For what it's worth the old NIV says "owls"; the New American Standard Version says "ostriches."

At times like these, I wish I'd taken Hebrew in seminary. If you did take Hebrew, maybe you could help me out here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm Trying to Figure Out . . .

. . . how Google decided to include among my sidebar ads "Your Mexican Bride" and two links to self defense training sites. But I suppose that by talking about it I'm only making the problem worse.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

You've Got Brass, Son

For most, writing isn't a terribly lucrative career. Some writers get part-time jobs as tutors or pretzel-makers to supplement their income; others deal drugs and cut corners by plagiarizing. Those in the latter group may end up getting a big-time book deal to tell their story of debauchery and deception. Check out this guy (CNN.com):

(CNN) -- A Lonely Planet author says he plagiarized or made up portions of the popular travel guidebooks and dealt drugs to supplement poor pay, an Australian newspaper reported Sunday.

Thomas Kohnstamm, who has written a book on his misadventures, also said he didn't travel to Colombia to write the guidebook on the country because "they didn't pay me enough," The Daily Telegraph reported.

"I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating—an intern in the Colombian Consulate." . . .

Kohnstamm has worked on more than a dozen books for Lonely Planet, including its titles on Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean, Venezuela, Chile and South America.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Channel 4's I-Team Tries to Get People Fired for Editing Wikipedia at Work

From last night's Channel 4 I-Team Report:

Taxpayers pay the salaries of state workers, and once they see what some workers were doing with their work computers, taxpayers may want their money back.

The workers are expected to type, crunch numbers and keep government up and running.

Channel 4's Jeremy Finley found some state workers editing sometimes lengthy entries for Web sites that clearly have nothing to do with work. One person took the time to add all the lyrics of the theme song for "All in the Family."

Are you outraged? I am. I'm outraged that Channel 4 considers people playing on Wikipedia at work newsworthy. I'm further outraged that the I-Team is implicitly calling for these people's jobs.

Consider the story's description of what these state employees do at work: "The workers are expected to type, crunch numbers and keep government up and running." No one can "type, crunch numbers and keep government up and running" for eight hours a day without losing his or her soul. Go ahead and spend twenty minutes here or there editing the "Flash Gordon" Wikipedia page or "verifying Shemp's catch phrases on 'The Three Stooges.' " I won't demand my tax money back.

I have more thoughts on this topic, but I have to go to work now.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Waiting for the End of the World

Though it is the title of an underappreciated song from Elvis Costello's first album, waiting for the end of the world historically has not proven to be a fruitful activity. During the past couple millennia, several religious movements have isolated themselves from the world, huddling together to await the end of history. So far, none of them has been right. The world is still here. Many of these groups are Christian in orientation, which is interesting because 1) the Bible's eschatology is one of completion or fulfillment rather than termination and 2) in Matthew 24:36 Jesus says, "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Despite all the evidence saying that doing so is a really bad idea, a Russian cult has spent months holed up in a cave in anticipation of the end. Along the way, two of their number have died, one of cancer and one of "excessive fasting." Initially, 35 cult members camped out in the cave with the intention of staying until next month, when, according to cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov, the world will end. They had threatened mass suicide if Russian authorities were to intervene in their cave dwelling antics. Now, curiously, the nine cult members who haven't died or left the cave in frustration say that they will emerge from the cave by April 27, the Russian Orthodox Easter, days before the world ends.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Paul House to Be Released

For years, Paul House has sat, inflicted by MS and confined to a wheelchair, on Tennessee's Death Row, suffering for a crime that he almost certainly did not commit. (More on House's case at the TCASK site.) House's plight has garnered widespread media coverage, including this 2004 spot on 60 Minutes. Now, despite the best efforts of Tennessee's attorney general, Paul House will be going home. Thank God (literally)! House still hasn't been exonerated, but this is a long overdue step in the right direction.

From a TCASK news release:

In a ruling issued today, Judge Harry S. Mattice stated that Paul House will be released pending a hearing on May 28, 2008 to consider the terms and conditions of his release. In his ruling, Mattice stated:

The public has a compelling interest in the State not continuing to incarcerate individuals who have not been accorded their constitutional right to a fair trial. Citizens will not have confidence in the criminal justice system unless they are convinced that the system is compliant with constitutional norms. The federal writ of habeas corpus monitors the State's compliance with constitutional law; this, in turn, inspires the public's confidence in the criminal justice system. The State of Tennessee does not have a defensible interest in the continued incarceration of an individual whose conviction was obtained in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The petitioner in this case has been incarcerated for 22 years as the result of a trial which this court, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States , has determined to have been fundamentally unfair.

This decision to release Paul House does not exonerate him but allows him to live at home in the custody and care of his mother, Joyce, until the courts conclude this case. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will be ruling on April 30 as to whether the state of Tennessee must retry House or release him. Depending on the outcome of that decision, House will either face retrial or become a free man.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Getting Creative With Condiments

This would look great on your desktop.

If CBS Must . . .

. . . delay the start of the championship game until 8:21 CST/9:21 EST, the network could at least give us a new episode of the Big Bang Theory in the meantime. (To CBS' credit, the rerun they chose to air, Episode 4, "The Luminous Fish Effect," is a gooder.)

You Gotta Feel Bad for Sylvia Fowles

LSU star Sylvia Fowles led her team to the Final Four in each of the four years of her college career, a span that included a coaching scandal the likes of which would have set many programs back five years. Yet Fowles and her fellow seniors never once won a national title nor even played in a championship game. Last night, even though Fowles went for 24 points, 20 rebounds, and 5 blocks, the Tigers fell short once again, losing to Tennessee on an Alexis Hornbuckle buzzer-beater. All told, LSU has appeared in five consecutive women's Final Fours under four different coaches and has lost in the semi-final game all five times.

Though I feel bad for Fowles and LSU, tomorrow night's battle of the Candaces should be interesting. The way Stanford has been playing, I don't know if their beatable. Then again, I'd thought the same about LSU.

Is $5.00 for a Footlong Really a Good Deal?

For years, I felt strongly that one should be able to get a meal at a fast food restaurant for less than $5.00. But inflation happens, so I've come to accept that the cost of a fast food meal will sometimes, even often, exceed $5.00. But it should still be less than $6.00.

By my thinking a "meal" at Subway consists either of a footlong sandwich and a drink or of a six-inch sandwich, a bag of chips (or other side), and a drink. Either combination, in my opinion, should cost less than $6.00.

Thus the restaurant's new Five-Dollar Footlong campaign has been eye-opening. I had no idea that Subway's footlongs had gotten so expensive that $5.00 is a good deal. Even at this discount race, a footlong and a drink crosses the $6.00 threshold. I didn't realize that the Veggie Delite™ sandwich that Ashlee and I order now normally costs $5.18. Many of the sandwiches that include meat are normally upwards of $6.00. Those are Quizno's prices.

If only the average worker's wages would increase at the same rate as the price of a footlong (and gas and health insurance and movie tickets etc.).

Sunday, April 06, 2008

So I Don't Have Six Gold Medals; At Least I Never Overslept a Race

One of my biggest fears during my unremarkable competitive swimming career was that I would miss a race. I never did. Michael Phelps, arguably the most dominant athlete in the world, on the other hand:

Phelps, winner of six gold medals and two bronzes at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, slept through a preliminary heat for the 400-meter free earlier in the day but came back to win the 400 individual medley on Saturday night at the Columbus Grand Prix. . . .

Phelps said while he was stretching on a lower dive platform he apparently dozed off, preventing him from qualifying for the 400 free.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Apple Surpasses Wal-Mart as Top Music Retailer

Apple is now responsible for 19 percent of music sales in the U.S., surpassing Wal Mart's 15 percent and putting Apple in the top spot for the first time. This is good for a few reasons: 1) Being able to say "Apple is our top music retailer" instead of "Wal Mart is our top music retailer" makes me somehow feel better about America. 2) Apple's success in music sales vindicates idiots like me who prefer to buy music one song at a time. 3) Two of my former bands' albums are available at iTunes, but not through Wal Mart. (See the links in the sidebar.)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

IRD: Renewal or Ruin Now Available

Renewal or Ruin, a 25-minute documentary on the Institute on Religion and Democracy is now available online. If you're already familiar with the IRD, it probably doesn't tell you anything you don't already know; but if you're part of a mainline denomination and aren't familiar with the IRD, it's probably worth watching.

"Renewal or Ruin?" from Steven D. Martin on Vimeo.

Talk to Action has the transcript.

One minor point: Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, who has been unfairly targeted (and, as he says, "stalked") by the IRD, made the following point in the film:

a lot of people will say, “Gee Whiz Jim, I didn't realize that you all do so much work on alcohol abuse, on tobacco abuse, on gambling, on pornography and so forth. Wow, I had no idea!” And of course I'd like to think that those are the kind of things that some of the people connected to the IRD would actually approve of.

Not to defend the IRD, but GBCS doesn't exactly go out of its way to emphasize the work it does in the areas of gambling, alcohol abuse, and pornography. Judging by the agency's e-mail alerts and website, GBCS gives the impression that its primary concerns are war, immigration, and the environment. These issues are important to me, and I mostly agree with the General Board's stances on war, immigration, and the environment, but Winkler can't pass the blame if people get the impression that these are the only issues that GBCS cares about.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The 40th Anniversary of MLK's Assassination Is Approaching

So try, by the end of this week, to read Michael Eric Dyson's essay "The Burdens of Martyrdom" in last week's Time. Dyson argues that, in the decades since King's death, we have softened his message (overlooking his opposition to the Vietnam War and the Poor People's Campaign he was working on when he was killed), and we have made King a saint, overlooking the flaws that made him human.

See also: Happy MLK Day!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Solution to Our Energy Woes? Pond Scum

So says CNN:

"Algae is the ultimate in renewable energy," Glen Kertz, president and CEO of Valcent Products, told CNN . . . . Algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world, and about 50 percent of their weight is oil. That lipid oil can be used to make biodiesel for cars, trucks, and airplanes. . . .

Kertz said he can produce about 100,000 gallons of algae oil a year per acre, compared to about 30 gallons per acre from corn; 50 gallons from soybeans.

Before you get too excited:

Using algae as an alternative fuel is not a new idea. The U.S. Department of Energy studied it for about 18 years, from 1978 to 1996. But according to Al Darzins of the DOE's National Renewable Energy Lab, in 1996 the feds decided that algae oil could never compete economically with fossil fuels.

But . . .

The price of a barrel of oil in 1996? About 20 bucks!

Image by Robert Meike (flickr)