Thursday, July 31, 2008

Resha Kate Takes Her Chores a Little Too Seriously

A couple weeks ago, Resha Kate asked if she could feed the cats. Since then, she's done the dinnertime cat feeding every day. RK had gotten so good at feeding the cats that I'd stopped helping her; I'd just say, "Resha Kate, time to feed the kitties," and the bowls would be full within two minutes. She does her job with zeal—maybe a little too much zeal, judging by yesterday's feeding:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

UM College Wins Distinction of God's Top Party School

The highest-rated religiously-affiliated school in the Princeton Review's 2008 list of top party schools is Randolph-Macon College, a small United Methodist school in Ashland, Virginia. Randolph-Macon is the only private school in the top 15. John Wesley wouldn't be impressed, but maybe this partially makes up for our losses in God's Bracket.

Solar Power Via Satellite?

"According to ex-NASA engineer O. Glenn Smith, solar-panel satellites could gather massive amounts of energy and beam it to earth for the price electricity costs now." Listen to the story on NPR's Day to Day here.

A Fundamental Misunderstanding of the Problem

Yesterday NPR's Morning Edition did a story on the rising number of people who go to work when they're sick. Not surprisingly, many of these ill employees take their viruses to work because of the financial repercussions of staying at home.

In response to this trend/problem, some cities have required many of their employers to offer paid sick leave. Federal legislation has also been proposed.

What struck me about this story were the comments of Mark Burgat, vice president of government relations for the California Chamber of Commerce, who opposes such measures:

The best way to deal with sick leave? Leave it up to the marketplace, Burgat says. . . . "When an employee comes in to look for a job — whether it's an entry-level job or a higher job — they're not looking at just the salary, but the entire benefits package," he says. "Sick leave and medical insurance and those sorts of things are part of that total package, and that's what allows one business to attract employees over another business."

Here's the problem: People who can't afford to call in sick generally don't have the luxury of choosing a job based on the benefits package. Many are lucky to find a job that offers any benefits at all. I'm not saying that a free marketplace is bad; I'm just saying that this guy doesn't get it.

While I'm on the subject of not getting it, I've heard more than one commentator suggest that the key to surviving the sluggish economy is putting more money in savings. One pundit advised having enough money in savings to cover 9–12 months of living expenses (as opposed to the six-month reserve that financial advisers often advocate). When asked where these savings-account deposits might come from, the commentator in question advised selling stocks or investing less in stocks. Again, the people who are being hurt most by recent economic woes may not have more than 9–12 days of living expenses tucked away. They probably aren't investing in many stocks, either. Telling them to save more isn't terribly helpful.

Monday, July 28, 2008

$10.00 . . .

. . . gets you two large pizzas and an order of Crazy Bread® at Little Caesar's these days (at least at the Little Caesar's on Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Best Innovation in Football History

I've long advocated that football teams with quarterback controversies just put both quarterbacks on the field at the same time. It would create all sorts of confusion for opposing defenses. Deadspin introduces us to a high school coach who runs a two-quarterback offense, but takes it even further. The set, called the A-11, features two tight ends and six wideouts, and every player is an eligible receiver. The genius responsible for this brilliant bit of gridiron wizardry is Kurt Bryan, head coach at Piedmont High School in California. His offense has a website.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Me in The Journal of Student Ministries

Hey. My most recent article for The Journal of Student Ministries is now featured on the magazine's website. Check it out; it's called "The Top 12 Most Humorous Scriptures . . . And Why It's Okay to Laugh at Them."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

L.A. Bans Plastic Grocery Bags

From the AP:

The [Los Angeles] City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic shopping bags from stores, beginning July 1, 2010. Shoppers can either bring their own bags or pay 25 cents for a paper or biodegradable bag. . . .

[Councilman Ed} Reyes said the ban will minimize cleanup costs for the city and reduce trash that collects in storm drains and the Los Angeles River. The city estimates more than 2 billion plastic bags are used each year in Los Angeles.

I generally think that such bans are a good idea. The Tinleys have long been trying to trim our plastic bag usage, taking reusable bags to the grocery store and requesting no bag for small purchases. Even so, we still somehow end up with silly numbers of plastic bags, many of which eventually get recycled. On the other hand, were my plastic-bag supply eliminated, I wouldn't be able to reuse them as trash can liners.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Death Penalty Opponents Don't Make Sense as Terror Suspects

Sportswriter Dave Zirin writes in his Huffington Post blog about a bad experience he had with the Maryland State Police's Department of Homeland Security. According to documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, the department spent nearly 300 hours spying on an anti-death penalty organization of which Zirin was a part. Some members of the organization were designated as terror suspects in the homeland security database, simply because they organized peaceful protests. No evidence existed that the group was engaged in any criminal activity. (More at the Baltimore Sun.)

Aside from the obvious first-amendment issues, the Maryland Police's choice of target is a curious one. Anti-capital punishment activists are among the least violent and threatening people in our country. These are people who are opposed to using violence even to punish the most dangerous criminals. Spying on these activists in hopes of foiling a terror plot is a waste of time, money, and faith in government.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blogging Will Be Slow For a While . . .

. . . on account of the terrible twos. For Resha Kate, the terrible twos are a strange mix of fierce independence (insisting on doing all sorts of things for herself, many of which she is physically incapable of doing) and even fiercer dependency (refusing to leave the side of one or both parents). We've survived this phase before, and we'll have to do it again, so I'm sure we'll be fine.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My High School in the News

You may recall the popular movie Freedom Writers starring Hilary Swank. It was based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary, a compilation of writings by teacher Erin Gruwell's "at risk" students at a Long Beach, California High School. Students, teachers, and librarians in the state of Indiana nominated the book for the Eliot Rosewater Award.

Anyway, teacher Connie Heermann at my alma mater—Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis—decided to use The Freedom Writers Diary in her class of "at risk" students. She got permission slips from parents, but the school board never officially said "Yes, you may teach this book" or "No, you absolutely may not." They fired her. Well, they put her on 18-month unpaid leave, but you know.

The Man used to get me down when I went to PMHS—I used to write about it in the school paper, The Focus—but never did anything this ridiculous.

This all went down a few months ago, but this week it became the subject of Anna Quindlin's Newsweek column. Go Falcons!

In more positive PMHS news, Perry Meridian's favorite daughter Katie Douglas picked a good day to have one of her best games of the season. Douglas went for 20, 5, 4, and two steals as the Indiana Fever beat the New York Liberty in from of 19,000 at the WNBA's outdoor game.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Kids

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tell UN Security Council to Hold Sudanese President Bashir Accountable for Genocide

The Save Darfur Coalition is circulating a petition to pressure the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to hold Sudanese President Bashir accountable for genocide the Dafur region of his country by fully deploying UN peacekeepers in the area. This petition is partially in response to the International Criminal Court prosecutor charging Bashir with genocide.

Player Leaves New England Revolution for Priesthood

As a believer in vocational discernment, listening for God's call, and not selecting a profession solely based on salary or benefits or convenience, I found this story encouraging. From the AP via ESPN Soccernet:

"I felt called to something greater," Hilgenbrinck said. "At one time I thought that call might be professional soccer. In the past few years, I found my soul is hungry for something else.

"I discerned, through prayer, that it was calling me to the Catholic Church. I do not want this call to pass me by."

Hilgenbrinck accepted the calling on Monday when he left the New England Revolution [of Major League Soccer] and retired from professional soccer to enter a seminary, where he will spend the next six years studying theology and philosophy so he can be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

(For what it's worth, the Revolution are in first place right now.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tinleys on the Beach

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Think This Guy Will Need to Sue the Holy Spirit

From WSMV, channel 4:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A man said he was so consumed by the spirit of God that he fell and hit his head while at a Knoxville church.

Now he wants Lakewind Church to pay $2.5 million for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering he said he's endured from his injuries.

Assorted Thoughts

I've been on vacation and mostly without Internet access. Once I got past the withdrawal phase, I came to appreciate my Internet sabbath. I should do it more often. At any rate, a few things:

  • I've decided that I'm no longer interested in the presidential election and won't be until running mates are announced.

  • I'm also no longer interested in the Tour de France. Cycling may police itself better than any other sport, but by so effectively catching and punishing dopers, the International Cycling Union has given casual fans the impression that the sport is full of cheaters. I should applaud the UCI for cleaning up the sport, but the organization has done its job so well that professional cycling seems tainted.

  • I've decided that Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network is one of my favorite television programs, which is strange because no menu item featured on the show is compatible with my vegetarian diet.

  • Also in television: New episodes of Monk and Psych this week! It's sad how much I'm looking forward to Friday night for this reason.

  • I'm getting tired of reading stories like this. There've been way too many of them this summer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Choose Your Boycotts Wisely

The American Family Association is boycotting McDonald's because the company gave $20,000 to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. (There are probably much better reasons to boycott McDonald's, but whatever.)

Meanwhile, several other people—including many Christians, albeit none with a voice as loud as the AFA's—are boycotting major chocolate producers (Hershey, Nestle, and Cadbury most notably), protesting the tens of thousands of child slaves working on chocolate plantations in Cote D'Ivoire, from which these companies purchase much of their cocoa.

While the complete success of either boycott is unlikely, if the AFA's boycott is successful, McDonald's will no longer give a tiny fraction of a percent of its profits to gay-friendly organizations. If the other boycott is successful, thousands of slave-owners will go out of business. I'm just saying.

An aside: I wonder if The United Methodist Church could use its considerable presence in Cote D'Ivoire to do something about slavery on cocoa plantations.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

For What It's Worth, I'm OK With a Candidate Who Has Flip-Flopped

Based on what the cable news people are telling me, both major presidential candidates are being accused of flip-flopping on their positions regarding Iraq. Without discussing whether these accusations have merit, I would like to say that flip-flopping, in and of itself, doesn't bother me. I respect anyone who can admit that he or she had been wrong or who can discern when changing circumstances warrant changing his or her stance on a given issue. Granted, many politicians have changed their positions solely for political reasons. But before chiding a candidate for changing his or her mind, we should first consider his or her reason for doing so.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Doing the Backstroke Across Lake Erie Would Be Hard Enough . . .

. . . but 14-year-old Natalie Lambert swam the butterfly for 20 kilometers (over 12 miles) across the Great Lake. And she did so in record time.

I swam the butterfly in high school and 100 yards (or meters during the off-season) wore me out. 200 meters, the longest competitive distance for a butterfly race, hurt me for days. This girl swam 20,000 meters, or 100 200s. That's ridiculous.

Why did she do it?

She dedicated her swim to raising awareness for Y-Knot, a YMCA program that allows physically disabled children and their siblings to participate in sport together. Her 17-year-old sister Jenna, an avid marathon swimmer who crossed Lake Ontario two years ago, has cerebral palsy, and the program allows the sisters to train together.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Happy 30th Birthday Ashlee

My wife Ashlee turns 30 today. Here's the video birthday card the kids and I made for her:

(I should note that I am nearly two years older than Ashlee.)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Paul House Released . . . Kind of

After spending over two decades on death row for a murder he almost certainly did not commit, during which time he developed MS, Paul House now gets to live at his mother's house—on house arrest—while he awaits a new trial. And it all happened a mere two years after the "U.S. Supreme Court concluded . . . that a jury could have found reasonable doubt if DNA evidence would have been available at trial" and only six years after the "Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals . . . ruled that House deserved to have new evidence of his innocence examined by Tennessee state courts." Hooray justice! (Prosecutors have said that they won't seek the death penalty this time, so that's something.)

Obama's Right on Track With Faith-Based Initiatives

Many people are justifiably concerned that Barack Obama's plan to re-create and continue the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will blur the line separating church from state. I understand where they're coming from but think that Obama has the right idea. I'll let Jim Wallis explain why. From his Huffington Post blog:

I have hoped that both presidential candidates would re-commit the nation to this necessary and positive vision of partnership between the public sector and the faith community on the goals of poverty reduction. . . . The key to today's proposal is that it is based on public and faith-based partnership, and will not become another replacement for sound public policy. To truly be successful, this initiative must utilize the unique resources and identity of the faith community, while at the same time recognizing the indispensible role that government and public policy must play in tackling the root causes of poverty. Obama's proposals also contain necessary protections for religious liberty, pluralism, and constitutional safeguards.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A New Picture of Myself, and What Happened to the Free T-Shirts?

I rarely get my picture taken. This isn't intentional; I think it's just the result of living with two photogenic kids. It's been over a year since I've had a new picture of myself to post on this site. So here I am hooked up to a plasma machine. (My glasses are crooked.)

At some point in my blood-donation career, the Red Cross decided that I have good plasma, so they ask me to come in once every five or six weeks. In order to take time away from work to give plasma, I'm supposed to document my experience, hence the picture.

As an aside, it's been about a year since the Red Cross gave me a T-shirt with my donation. I know that I should not be motivated by free clothing, but Red Cross T-shirts had become an important part of my wardrobe. This time, I got two free song downloads. Unfortunately, the songs were in a DRM-protected WMA format that my MacBook hates. Again, I understand that free stuff shouldn't be a motivation for giving.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Unintelligent Design or Masterful Storytelling?

In response to Louisiana Governor (and possible McCain running mate) Bobby Jindal's signing into law a bill allowing the teaching of intelligent design in his state's public schools, NYU professor Gary Marcus posted this entry to his Huffington Post blog. He says: "When you get right down to it, from an engineering perspective, the design of the human mind (and for the matter the human body) is a bit of mess." Marcus describes several of these design flaws and concludes that Darwin's theory of natural selection is the only explanation for the imperfections of the human body.

Before I continue, I should say that my knowledge of the development of life on earth comes from high school biology, a few Discovery Channel shows, and a couple books that I've read. So I don't reallly have an informed opinion on this subject. But for what it's worth, I believe in a divine creator but have no problem with evolution as a means or method of creation. (A few years ago, I wrote this post on the subject.) I'm also skeptical of the intelligent design movement. I guess you could call me a theistic evolutionist.

That said, I disagree with Marcus's premise that an intelligent creator would be interested in creating beings without significant physical or mental flaws. I like to think of God as a master storyteller, and the best stories feature characters with very obvious shortcomings. Conflict and obstacles are what makes life interesting. A world populated with perfect or near-perfect beings frankly would be boring.

Of course, we Christians believe that human beings have been crafted in the image of a perfect deity. In that regard, I suppose that a fickle memory and a backwards retina would be problematic. Then again, Christians for centuries have been reconciling human imperfections with the concept of Imago Dei; so this is nothing new.