Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Meyer and Resha Kate talk pumpkins. Costume pictures later today.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Just So You Know . . .

. . . I hit 62 consecutive free throws this morning. For what it's worth, the NBA record for consecutive shots from the foul line is 97 (set by Michael Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1993).

Endorsements: Barack Obama for President of the United States

I'm excited about voting for President. That's never happened for me before. In 1996 and 2000 I voted for third party candidates because I wasn't impressed with the Democrat and Republican on the ballot. In 2004 I cast a protest vote. This year, I'll be voting for a candidate with a very real chance of winning (a 95.7% chance of winning according to who has articulated three very specific policy ideas that I absolutely love:

  • Green Jobs Initiative: "Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. . . . Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars—cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon—on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America."

    At its best, this plan accomplishes four important goals: 1) reduced carbon emissions, 2) energy independence (and, ideally, lower energy costs for consumers), 3) new job creation, and 4) giving the struggling U.S. auto industry a boost. I don't know that Obama's plan would succeed on all counts, but I appreciate that he sees how these issues are connected and how going green can have a positive impact on our economy. I also appreciate seeing a major presidential candidate challenging the (flawed) conventional wisdom that says responsible stewardship of the environment and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive—that we must sacrifice one for the good of the other.

  • American Opportunity Tax Credit: "$4,000 in exchange for community service. It will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university." I like this plan for two reasons. The first is selfish. Ashlee and I have three children and are having a difficult time setting aside any money for their college educations (in part because we're still paying for our own).

    The second is my belief in the value of service and sacrifice. Looking back now, I regret never spending a year or two with the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps and wonder if I would have acted differently had the American Opportunity Tax Credit been in effect. In fairness to President Clinton, who was in office during my college years and who actually created AmeriCorps, he did emphasize the value of service. And, in all honesty, no tax credit would have convinced the 1995 Josh Tinley to walk away from his rock 'n' roll band to spend a summer working with inner-city children in another part of the country. Still, most kids aren't as selfish as I was, and I think this program has the potential to give future generations valuable experience and perspective while helping them with the quickly escalating cost of higher education.

  • Healthcare: "The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing healthcare system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement the plan." Because of the rising costs of healthcare, the number of Americans without healthcare, the fact that many of the people lacking healthcare are those who need it most, and health insurers persistently trying to weasel out of paying for services that they supposedly cover, something needs to be done. Yet I'm not convinced that healthcare provided by the federal government is, in and of itself, the answer. As much as I'm frustrated by private, for-profit health insurance companies, I like that Obama is proposing a sort of hybrid system in which private providers still play an important role in making sure that everyone is covered. I think that keeping the current system in place and adding a safety net for those who lack or can no longer afford private coverage will be easier to implement and manage than a purely government-run system and will be much more effective than a plan that relies on tax credits and health-savings accounts (which are great for people who are relatively healthy but do little to cover the costs of chronic illness).

I could elaborate on any of these points or name other, lesser reasons to support Obama. But if I had to limit my endorsement to a sentence I'd say, "I'm voting for Barack Obama because he has come up with creative ways to address the issues that matter most."

Monday, October 27, 2008


From The Onion:

WASHINGTON—According to an FCC report released Monday, a new $300 million Microsoft ad campaign is responsible for causing televisions all across the country to unexpectedly crash.

The Microsoft ads, which began airing earlier this week, are being blamed for generating critical system errors in more than 70 million televisions. In addition, thousands of frustrated Americans said that the ads have caused their TVs to become unresponsive, their screens to turn blue, and a small box with the message "terminal application error" to suddenly appear.


Endorsements: Lamar Alexander for U.S. Senate

My endorsement for President will not be available until tomorrow morning. . . . Make that Wednesday morning.

Like my endorsements for the Tennessee House and U.S. House, my endorsement for U.S. Senate is meaningless because the outcome of the race is not in doubt. In the case of Lamar Alexander, one might say that my endorsement is one of resignation. I disagree with Senator Alexander on several issues, but he doesn't offend me, and he's going to win anyway, so why not?

Although I often disagree with him, I think that Alexander has devoted enough of his life to serving the people of Tennessee to have earned my respect. I don't get the impression that he plays politics or puts his party ahead of his constituents, which is refreshing in today's political climate. And since Tennessee's senatorial election won't effect the balance of the Senate (it will be in Democratic hands by a significant margin regardless of whether Bob Tuke can pull off an upset, which gives him a 0% chance of doing), I'll go ahead and vote for Lamar.

Endorsements: Jim Cooper for U.S. Representative, Tennessee's 5th District

Just so you know, I wrote these endorsements last night and scheduled them to publish every two hours this morning. I don't want anyone to get the impression that I am writing these at work. Actually, I'm writing this note last night; so, as I'm writing, none of the verb tenses make any sense.

I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't vote for Representative Cooper when he first ran for the Fifth District seat back in 2002. (I voted for the Green Party candidate. Back then I cast most of my votes for independents and third parties.) Since then, I've come to love Cooper, in part because he personally responds to my mail and in part because he has given me every indication that he genuinely cares about serving his constituents and the American people in general.

Endorsements: Ken Wilkison for Tennessee House, District 57

My vote for state representative is the one I am least comfortable with. I worry that I will not be voting for challenger Ken Wilkinson as much as I will be voting against incumbant Susan Lynn. And I'm still not confident that I know enough about Lynn, being relatively new to House District 57, to cast a protest vote at her expense.

At any rate, two things bother me about Susan Lynn. First, as I wrote on this blog back in April, I have problems with her interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Secondly, I'm bothered that she includes among her "honors and awards" on her Tennessee General Assembly page "2006 Recipient of the Rush Limbaugh Feminazi Resistance Ribbon." Really?

Ken Wilkinson, Lynn's challenger (who scored a coup by procuring the domain name ""), is a long-time firefighter who says that he "will bring a progressive, moderate view to the Tennessee General Assembly." I respect anyone who has the guts to describe himself as "progressive" while running for office in Wilson and Sumner Counties. Wilkinson isn't going to win, but he'll get my vote.

Endorsements: Kevin Mack for Mt. Juliet Mayor

I haven't lived in Nashville's eastern suburbs long enough to be familiar with all the key players in local politics. Thus I've had a hard time deciding for whom to cast my vote for mayor, especially since we have five candidates running in a winner-take-all election (no runoff).

But I've done some research and have decided that I'll be voting for former Mt. Juliet mayor Kevin Mack to return to office. At first, I dismissed Mack because I felt that he was just recycling his 2000 campaign. (And he is.) But as I've gotten to know a little bit more about what Mack has done and what he stands for, I've come around.

The biggest issue facing Mt. Juliet is growth. This area is growing, and it will continue growing, and all the mayoral candidates are talking about responsible growth—growing while maintaining the area's natural beauty. (Some also talk about maintaining the city's small-town charm, but I think that Mt. Juliet moved to quickly from being an unincorporated rural area to being a densely populated suburb to have picked up any small-town charm along the way. We have neither a Main Street nor a town square, for instance. I digress.) But Mack is the only candidate who provides specifics: requiring new subdivisions to set aside "permanently protected greenspace" and developing a system of bike paths, sidewalks, and greenways.

I also appreciate that Mack is clear about his priorities and that among his priorities is a put all of the city's public records on the Internet. I support this plan, not because I'm concerned about corruption, but because I believe in using the Internet to its full potential.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Disturbing Visions of TaB®

Twice in the past week the dim, fluorescent light of my kitchen has played with my eyes so as to make a red can of Coca Cola Classic® take on the purple-magenta color of a can of TaB®. All week I've been haunted by the taste of saccharin blended with aspartame blended with whatever nausea-inducing ingredients the Coca-Cola company decided to loose on the calorie-conscious public in the 1960s. I've only had TaB® once in my adult life, and I can honestly say that it was the most wretched and vile thing to have ever entered my mouth (edging out bugs that I've swallowed while riding my bike and dirty lake water at summer camp).

Image from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Re: Church Voting Guides

I believe that churches and religious organizations have a right to distribute voting guides and maintain their tax-exempt status, so long as they focus on issues and avoid endorsing candidates. But I would prefer that these guides stick to issues pertinent to the faith tradition that is distributing. I bring this up because this voting guide being distributed in the Sunshine State by the Christian Coalition and the Florida Family Policy Council is making the rounds on the Internet. Among the issues it lifts up are the candidates' stances on a flat tax structure, English as an official language, and a Constitutional amendment banning flag desecration.

I'm having trouble making connections between these issues and Christian Scripture and theology. One might be able to use Scripture (particularly the law, the prophets, and some of Jesus' parables) to make a convincing, albeit anachronistic, case for a progressive tax structure; but I'm not sure how one makes a distinctly Christian case for a flat tax. I think that Christians should be concerned about tax policy and that a Christian voting guide should take a serious look at what each candidate proposes, but implying that a flat tax is somehow more Christian than other forms of taxation is troublesome. Likewise, I can't see how one would make a biblical argument for English as an official language. One might use the Pentecost story to make a case for a multilingual, multicultural society; but overall the Bible doesn't really say anything about official national languages. Flag burning as a Christian issue is also a stretch. God might be bothered that we would treat a national symbol with such reverence that we'd amend our Constitution to protect it, but I don't think people on either side of this issue would have much success using Scripture or Christian theology to bolster their cause.

Of course, this voting guide has all the usual stuff about abortion and homosexuality, which are more relevant than the issues mentioned above, even though we have no record of Jesus ever mentioning either. Absent from this guide are poverty and sickness, both of which were central to Jesus' earthly ministry. While Christians can and do disagree on the best ways to address these issues, one cannot say that they should not be important to Christian voters. Also missing is stewardship of God's creation, which, in addition to preserving the environment, involves making sure that all of God's children have food, clean water, and other essential resources. This is a key theme in the Pentateuch and Torah that comes up in different ways throughout Scripture.

Again, I have no problem with churches distributing voting guides; I'm just not sure what makes this particular church voting guide relevant for Christian voters. And while I probably shouldn't focus so much on this one guide, I think that it is indicative of a bigger problem when it comes to Christians and politics. We have a tendency to mix our faith and politics without thinking critically about what Scripture and Christian theology have to say (or don't have to say) about the issues. Anyway, I've spent way too much time on this.

A Fun Way to Waste Time for the Next Two Weeks

I meant to bring this up several weeks ago, but if you haven't been to you need to go. It's election analysis for math nerds. This excerpt from the site's FAQ says it all:

Firstly, we assign each poll a weighting based on that pollster's historical track record, the poll's sample size, and the recentness of the poll. More reliable polls are weighted more heavily in our averages.

Secondly, we include a regression estimate based on the demographics in each state among our 'polls', which helps to account for outlier polls and to keep the polling in its proper context.

Thirdly, we use an inferential process to compute a rolling trendline that allows us to adjust results in states that have not been polled recently and make them ‘current’.

Fourthly, we simulate the election 10,000 times for each site update in order to provide a probabilistic assessment of electoral outcomes based on a historical analysis of polling data since 1952.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Meyer Solves the Curtis Problem

Thanks to Meyer, Curtis (pictured) will never dart out the front door again.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Really Don't Want to Watch the Debate Tonight . . .

. . . but I feel it's my duty as an American citizen to do so (even though I live in a state whose electoral votes are not in doubt). So I'll watch, and I'll Twitter.

I Don't Believe What I Just Saw

Today is the twentieth anniversary of Kirk Gibson's unlikely and legendary home run against Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Are Facebook and Flickr Making Today's Kids Less Tech Savvy?

I stumbled on this fascinating article from The Chronicle of Higher Education that dismisses generational theory and particularly the existence of a "digital generation."

Speaking of the digital abilities of college students, the author says:

Many use Facebook and MySpace because they are easy and fun, not because they are powerful (which, of course, they are not). And almost none know how to program or even code text with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Only a handful come to college with a sense of how the Internet fundamentally differs from the other major media platforms in daily life.

College students in America are not as "digital" as we might wish to pretend.

When I got my first taste of the Internet (which is possibly the greatest thing since Jesus) as a college freshman in 1995, there was no Blogger nor WordPress, no Facebook nor MySpace, no Flickr nor Twitter. If one wanted an Internet presence, he or she would have to build a site from scratch using HTML and some sort of FTP program. If one didn't know how to create a bulleted list or format a table, he or she would have to sift through the source code of another website until he or she figured it out. (Or he or she could just ask the computer science major across the hall.) There were no shortcuts for uploading pictures and no free templates complete with their own cascading style sheets.

Kids today have it easy. Web 2.0 gives them a free and simple way to do just about anything. They have no incentive to figure out things for themselves.

Then again, I'm not one to talk. My Internet presence these days is limited to Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. To my credit, I still use HTML in my blog posts and to customize my Blogger template. Other than that, I'm pretty much a hypocrite.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Today Was My First Full Day Back at Work

Ashlee sent me this to cheer me up:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

CNN Sends Curious Message to Girls Who Are Interested in Football

I was watching CNN Newsroom this afternoon and caught a great story about a high school football team in South Carolina that has two girls on the varsity squad. Both are placekickers (pictured), and both have put points on the scoreboard this season. (You can read more about Kaci Poole and Elizabeth Mitchum here.) As the father of a daughter who often talks about how much she loves football, I was like, "Hey, Resha Kate, check this out!" (Granted, while Resha Kate talks about football, she never seems that interested in watching it and still can't always distinguish between football and baseball. She's two.)

Resha Kate paid no attention to the story, which was fortunate, because the segment that followed was a different kind of story about women in football. It was about the Lingerie Football League. (I can't locate the transcript for these segments, so you'll have to take my word for it.) Placing the stories back-to-back seemed to say, "Hey girls, in high school you can work hard to make it and earn the respect of your teammates in a sport where girls traditionally have not been welcome; then, a few years later, you can continue your football career by stripping down to your underwear so that depraved men can gawk at you." That ain't right. That's horrible.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New Pictures of the Kids

Meyer's in the choir; Resha Kate sleeps at the top of the stairs; Malachi doesn't do much of anything; all three hang out on Meyer's bed:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Meyer Makes a Case for Playing With the Little Legos®

Seldom do we allow Meyer to play with the regular-sized Legos®—preferring that he play with the Duplo® or Quatro® blocks—because of the potential for smaller people (or animals) to swallow the tiny blocks. But today Meyer made a compelling case:

"I'll make sure Kate doesn't eat them, and Malachi won't eat them because the only things that are yummy to him are nipples."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Selfish Reasons for Using Reusable Grocery Bags

The proper reason for toting one's groceries in reusable bags is, of course, to reduce the flow of paper and plastic waste into landfills. But if you're the type of person who likes to be wasteful, if only to spite Al Gore, here are a few selfish reasons to go reusable:

  • Reusable bags are a more effective means of carrying groceries than their paper and plastic counterparts. On average, I'd say that about 16 plastic-bags-worth of groceries fit into 6 or 7 standard reusable grocery bags, resulting in fewer trips from the car to the kitchen. Second, most reusable bags have sturdy, comfortable handles. Plastic bag handles, by contrast, tend to break or cut into one's hands. Paper grocery bags generally do not have handles, making it difficult to carry more than one at a time and nearly impossible to carry more than two.

  • Reusable bags are inexpensive and potentially profitable. Kroger sells its reusable grocery bags for $1.00 each or 5 for $4.00; and the bags last forever (more or less). Many Kroger franchises also have incentive programs through which one gets about a nickel's worth of store credit per reusable bag per visit. It isn't much, but it adds up; and given the low initial cost of purchasing the bags, the frequent grocery shopper eventually comes out ahead. (I speak of Kroger, because we have four Kroger stores within ten minutes of our house, but I know other stores have similar deals.)

  • Reusable bags are versatile. Do you need to take a cassarole, a pecan pie, and two bags of chips to a family pitch-in or church picnic? Use a reusable grocery bag. Taking the family to the park or the pool? Carry your towels, sunscreen, bug spray, and whatever else in a reusable grocery bag. Need to return the razor, shampoo, loofah, water pick, and pair of briefs that a recent house guest left in your bathroom? Gather them into a reusable grocery bag.

The point is that reusable grocery bags not only improve the environment, they also improve your life.

Image from Paper Nor Plastic.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thursday Night Twittering

There's a lot going on tonight: VP debate, Cubs/Dodgers, two college football games, and a new Tinley baby. I'll be on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

First Impression of Ben Folds' New Album

Ashlee and I aren't terribly impressed. So far, Way to Normal is my least favorite Ben Folds (Five) record. I suppose that Ben Folds has done enough incredible work in his career to get away with one mediocre album.