Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Is Helpful

Nina Shen Rastogi at Slate looks for the greenest way to de-wrinkle clothes. I will confess that, despite my sustained efforts to eradicate the practice, I sometimes have lapses in which I use the dryer to smooth out the wrinkles in already dry clothes. I'll keep working on it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Resha Kate Entertains Her Baby Brother

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tigers Take Batting Practice While Jesus Suffers on the Cross

From the Associated Press:

DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers have upset some Roman Catholics who are unhappy that the club’s home opener is scheduled during holy hours on Good Friday on April 10.

Traditional Christian belief says Jesus hung on the cross from noon to 3 p.m. on Good Friday.

All 30 American and National League teams play April 10, but the Tigers’ 1:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers is the only one during holy hours.

The above image is indisputable evidence that Jesus loves baseball and is present with players when they take the diamond. Normally Jesus would be delighted to spend a few hours with the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers, but on the afternoon of Friday April 10 he'll be busy dying for the sins of humanity.

Honestly, I'm a little surprised that this sort of conflict doesn't come up more often. (I know that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has to ensure that Brigham Young will not be scheduled to play on Sunday.) I suppose most other holy-day worship experiences are not restricted to a specific time of day.

I Dream of a World Without Paper Receipts

I was going to offer two cats to any person who could come up with a viable paperless receipt. Then I came across this. A company called allEtronic is already on it. (If allEtronic hadn't invented a paperless receipt, I would chide the company for its annoying use of camel case.) allEtronic has compiled this data:

In one month, a single big-box retailer will print enough receipts to wrap around the circumference of the Earth - twice, it says. Printing receipts burns through 9 million trees each year, allEtronic claims. And for each ton of paper that’s manufactured, it takes 390 gallons of oil and more than 19,000 gallons of water, while producing enough CO2 emissions a year to equal that of 13 million cars.

(If you still aren't sold on the need for paperless receipts, there's this.)

Anyway, here's how allEtronic's paperless receipt system works:

When allEtronic’s software recognizes the customer, it blocks the receipt from being printed and redirects the receipt to be printed digitally on its servers. . . . Customers who shop at retailers supported by allEtronic receive a paperless receipt by setting up a free allEtronic account that links to accounts for their credit or debit cards. Businesses that enlist the allEtronic service reduce the cost of providing printed receipts or coupons at checkout while also helping the environment.

Sign me up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Problem With the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament and How to Fix It

In the interest of driving up attendance—and by extension making the tournament financially viable—many first- and second-round games in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament have long been played on the home courts of member schools. Until recently the top four seeds in each region hosted opening round games. Now hosting does not necessarily depend on seeding, and several lower seeded teams have hosted higher seeded opponents.

The purpose of seeding is to reward the teams that had the best seasons. Thus I find it unfair when an 8 seed (i.e. Middle Tennessee State) and a 1 seed (i.e. Duke) have to play a road game against a 9 seed (i.e. Michigan State) or when a 2 seed (i.e. Auburn) has to play a road game against a 7 seed (i.e. Rutgers). One could argue that Michigan State's one-point victory over MTSU would not have happened if the teams had met at a neutral site or that State would have upset Duke so easily if the game had not been played on the Spartans' home court. (Rutgers may have upset Auburn regardless.) In all, true home teams have gone 12–4 in this year's tournament; lower seeded teams playing in their gym are 4–3.

I understand the need to attract crowds, but I would prefer that tournament games be played on neutral sites or (at the very least) that lower seeds not host higher seeded opponents. So here's my solution: true regionals. Currently, the men's and women's tournament fields are divided into four regions that are named for the sites in which third- and fourth-round games are played. The teams playing in each region may be from any part of the country, and opening round games in the Midwest Region are not necessarily played in the Midwest. I would suggest dividing tournament teams into actual geographic regions, where teams in the southeast would play games in the southeast, teams on the west coast would play games on the west coast, and so on.

More specifically, I would divide the tournament into eight, eight-team regions. Each region would include four conference winners and four at-large teams. (Next year, when the Great West Conference begins play, there will be 32 conferences—exactly four per eight-team region.) As much as possible teams would be assigned to geographically appropriate regions. For example, the Big Ten, MAC, Missouri Valley, and Horizon League winners might be assigned to one region with four at-large teams from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, or Ohio. This year that region might include Ohio State (Big Ten), Ball State (MAC), Evansville (MVC), Green Bay (Horizon), Purdue, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and DePaul. Representatives of the four conferences would determine a site (or sites) for regional games. Since the participating schools are so close to one another, finding neutral sites that would make travel easy for students and fans of all the schools should be no trouble. Attendance figures would go up and participating schools would save money on travel; so true regionals would make the tourney much more economically viable.

I'll be writing this up and sending it to Indianapolis.

Friday, March 20, 2009

God's Bracket 2009: Women's Edition

Now that my men's tourney bracket has gone to Sheol, it's time to turn my attention to the women's bracket and take a look at the religiously affiliated school's in this year's NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. I am happy to say that, for the first time in God's Bracket history, my Evansville Purple Aces are part of the United Methodist delegation.

Anyway, here you go:

Roman Catholic

  • Notre Dame (#7, Trenton)

  • Sacred Heart (#14, Berkeley)

  • Xavier (#5, Seattle)

  • Gonzaga (#12, Seattle)

  • Villanova (#8, Raleigh)

  • DePaul (#7, Berkeley)

United Methodist

  • Duke (#1, Berkeley)

  • Evansville (#15, Trenton)


  • Baylor (#2, Raleigh)

  • Liberty (#14, Raleigh)

Disciples of Christ

  • Texas Christian (#10, Raleigh)

Note: My forthcoming book, Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports (Pilgrim Press 2009), includes an appendix with a complete list of religiously affiliated Division I schools. Stay tuned for details

The Kids Are Alright

So says Pete Townshend and so says blogger Mike King:

Unfortunately, one of the most successful strategies for funding youth ministry involves demonizing young people. This process involves painting a picture using statistics, stories and alarmist scare tactics in order to convince adults to give money to help reach the youth culture because “it’s never been worse.” . . .

Here is my problem with this. Today’s teenagers are no more sinful than today’s adults. . . . Unfortunately, the stories of today’s youth who are doing amazing things don't get a lot of press. They are proportionately much more engaged in community development, volunteerism, and global issues than their parents’ generation. I am thrilled to see increasing numbers of young people embracing a compelling vision to co-operate with our Triune God’s mission in the world.

Word. I get sick of reading on youth ministry and parenting blogs about how teens today are particularly at risk or are somehow morally depraved. I understand that the millennial generation has its problems (foremost the music it has chosen to listen to), but its problems—in my view—are no greater than those of its predecessors. When I think of this current crop of youngsters, some of words that come to mind are "awareness" and "sacrifice" and "compassion." Sure, these words don't describe all adolescents today, and millennials are by no means immune to selfishness and greed. But, as King says, kids today are proportionately more invested than previous generations in the vision of God's kingdom articulated in Scripture—good news to the poor, release to the captives, freedom to the oppressed, and all that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

God's Bracket 2009: Men's Edition

Here it is: my annual look at the religiously affiliated schools in the NCAA Tournament.

2009 was not a good year for men's basketball at Protestant colleges and universities. Only four Protestant schools and two denominations (United Methodist and Baptist) are represented (and that's only if one counts Wake Forest as a Baptist school, which is debatable). Calvinists must be especially frustrated: Though both showed flashes of brilliance during the season, neither Davidson nor Tulsa made a convincing case for a Presbyterian bid. (The Wildcats and Golden Hurricane were not predestined to be in this year's field.) Belmont (Baptist) lost its hold on the Atlantic Sun Conference; Oral Roberts (Charismatic) lost its grip on the Summit League; Pacific (United Methodist) fell short in the Big West; and the ELCA, Missouri Synod, United Church of Christ, and Church of Christ all failed to produce a conference winner.

As usual, Roman Catholic schools dominate. But Ben XVI will nonetheless be disappointed because this year's six bids is a plenary-indulgence-sized step back from last year's eleven. Georgetown, Notre Dame, and San Diego had disappointing seasons and fell off the bubble. While Providence and St. Joseph's had good seasons, neither was able to put together a tournament-worthy résumé. If this trend continues, a Papal Council on Hoops may be in order.

Anyway, here is this year's God's Bracket breakdown:

Roman Catholic

  • Xavier (#4, East)

  • Gonzaga (#4, South)

  • Marquette (#6, West)

  • Boston College (#7, Midwest)

  • Villanova (#3, East)

  • Siena (#9, Midwest)

United Methodist

  • Duke (#2, East)

  • Syracuse (#3, South)

  • American (#14, East)


  • Wake Forest (#4, Midwest)

Latter-Day Saints

  • Brigham Young (#8, West)

Note: My forthcoming book, Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports (Pilgrim Press 2009), includes an appendix with a complete list of religiously affiliated Division I schools. Stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Pictures of the Kids

Because Not All Religious Leaders Are Middle-Aged Men

Paul Raushenbush at Progressive Revival takes a look at the five pastors that serve as President Obama's spiritual advisers and is disappointed that none of the five are women. (Raushenbush refers to this New York Times article.) From what I can gather this is not an official group of clergy who have been chosen and appointed but a list of five religious leaders whom the President talks to regularly for spiritual counsel.

I too am disappointed that no female clergy were included. (I hesitate to say "excluded.") I'm also bothered by the lack of generational diversity. Of the five—Ottis Moss, Jr, Joel Hunter, T.D. Jakes, Kirbyjon Caldwell, and Jim Walis—four are Boomers and the fifth (Moss) is even older. All four also strike me as safe, obvious choices. I'm not suggesting that Obama put together a team of hot-shot know-it-alls straight out of seminary, but it would be nice if he found a religious adviser who was in her thirties or early forties, especially since younger generations were so instrumental in electing the President. (A rabbi or other non-Christian religious adviser also could be valuable.) I'm not sure whom to suggest (Beth Quick was the first person to come to mind), but it would be nice if the President were to acknowledge that graying men aren't the only people who can offer meaningful religious leadership.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Aces Are in the Post-Season for the First Time Since 1999

Yesterday, the University of Evansville women's basketball team upset Creighton (with a last-second shot) to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Aces are 15-18 and almost certainly will be a 16 seed and an appetizer for Connecticut or Oklahoma. Still, an NCAA tourney bid is an NCAA tourney bid.

The men meanwhile, having failed to earn a bid to the NCAA, NIT, or CBI tournaments*, will be hosting Belmont in the inaugural College Insider Tournament (CIT). The CIT, which also features conference foes Drake and Bradley, is probably the perfect tournament for the Aces.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Don't Care What The Zula Patrol Says, Pluto Is Not a Planet—Deal With It

I just watched an episode of The Zula Patrol that was nothing more than Pluto propaganda. Qubo devoted an entire Zula Patrol episode to convincing kids to feel bad about Pluto being demoted (correctly) to a dwarf planet. The episode paints the gas giants, and particularly Jupiter, as bullies who refuse to play with their small and lonely brother with the irregular orbit. Jupiter remarks (again correctly), "You're not a planet. I have moons bigger than you." The episode also presents a hypothetical debate between astronomers about Pluto's status. The astronomer arguing for planethood is an American with a strong, super-heroish voice; the astronomer arguing for demotion is a rude and sassy French woman.

Ultimately, with the help and encouragement of the Zula Patrol and Charon, Pluto's moon (and lover?), Pluto saves the solar system by preventing a comet from smashing into Mars and earns the respect of the eight real planets. Sadly, Qubo missed an opportunity to introduce kids to the other dwarf planets: Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. In fact, I would argue that The Zula Patrol's approach to the Pluto "debate" is part of a larger problem: Bellyaching about Pluto is impeding knowledge of the other four dwarf planets.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Can You Say, "Swiper, No Swiping!"?

Resha Kate faithfully follows all of Dora's instructions and answers all of her questions. I don't know whether to be impressed or concerned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Regarding Junia

Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed has an excellent post about Romans 16:7:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
—Romans 16:7, NRSV

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
—Romans 16:7, NIV

Notice that the NRSV says "Junia," a woman's name, while the NIV says "Junias," a man's name. The consensus among scholars is that the original Greek manuscripts read "Junia"; later Greek New Testaments changed "Junia" to "Junias" using the following logic: Women can't be apostles. Therefore Paul could not possibly have meant to call someone named "Junia" an apostle. McKnight tells the story of how modern Greek New Testaments have dealt with the Junia/Junias question and the impact of this single verse on the ordination of women in some denominations.

Those who really want to keep women down can still argue that Paul was saying that Junia was held in high-esteem by the apostles and not as one of the apostles. Many Greek prepositions have several meanings and are not easily translated into English. (This is one of those rare instances in which I can put to use the Greek I took in seminary.) This ambiguity is reflected in the English preposition among. McKnight feels that the most faithful translation has Paul calling Junia an apostle. He notes that, for John Chrysostom in the fourth century—who was the "earliest Greek-reading commentator" and who had no interest in empowering women—it was "clear as a bell": "Junia was a woman, and a woman who was called an apostle. It is also worth noting that, elsewhere in Romans 16, Paul refers to a woman named Phoebe as a "deacon" (verse 1) and defies convention by listing Prisca before her male partner Aquila (verse 3).

Romans 16:7 is one of the main reasons why I'm reluctant to use the wildly popular New International Version. (That and the fact that the New Revised Standard Version is, for all intents and purposes, the official translation of many mainline Protestant denominations, and I'm a devoted mainliner for better or worse.) I was glad to see that Today's New International Version atoned for the sins of its predecessor by replacing "Junias" with "Junia." I'll be eager to see what the Common English Bible does with Romans 16:7.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Dakotas: A Hotbed for College Basketball

For years North and South Dakota were two of only three states not represented by a Division I college athletic program. But a few years ago, North Dakota State and South Dakota State began the move to D-I. Neither was eligible for Division I postseason play until this season.

While most basketball programs in their first year of Division I eligibility are lost in the bottom half of a lesser known conferences, each of the Dakota State schools will be sending a team to the NCAA Tournament.

The South Dakota State women's basketball team is 31-2 and ranked in the top 20 in both polls. They have wins over Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Gonzaga; their only losses are to Maryland (currently ranked #4) and Oakland (who finished second in the Summit League with a record of 26–6). The Jackrabbits should end up with a 6 or 7 seed, and their best player is the subject of this tear-inducing story that ran in USA Today a few weeks back.

Meanwhile in Fargo, the North Dakota State men's team overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to defeat Oakland and win the Summit League's automatic bid to the Big Dance. Senior Ben Woodside hit a jumper with three seconds left to give the Bison, who spent much of the year atop the Summit standings, the win. NDSU, which likely will end up with a 13 or 14 seed, has the kind of senior-led team that could pull off a major first-round upset.

Earlier this season in South Dakota, Don Meyer, coach of Division II Northern State, overcame a severe car accident and the amputation of his left leg to become the all-time winningnest coach in men's college basketball.

Still Adjusting to the Time Change

I still haven't adjusted to this Daylight Savings Time nonsense. I come from a land where there was no Daylight Savings Time. (Much of Indiana did not observe DST until 2006.) Growing up in Indianapolis, I spent half of the year on Eastern Time and half of the year on Central Time. This was weird, but not nearly as strange as traveling through time twice a year so that the sun will set at 4:30 in the winter and not until 9:30 in the summer.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Yes, She Has Underpants on Her Head

Meyer got for his birthday a Weezer greatest hits compilation. (It's an interesting mix of songs: two from the Blue Album, two from the Green Album, and two from Make Believe; none from Pinkerton, Maladriot, or the Red Album.) The other day, I walked in on Meyer and Resha Kate having a Weezer dance party. This is what I saw:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Needless to Say, Continue Praying for Darfur

An escaped former Sudanese soldiers tells CNN about how he was ordered to kill civilians and rape children. This is one of the most depressing, disturbing, and disheartening news articles I've ever read.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Mountain West Conference Submits a Fascinating College Football Playoff Proposal

The Mountain West is asking not only for a BCS automatic bid (which they deserve, if only because of the tradition and historical success of many member schools) but also for a playoff. Here's the gist:

The league Wednesday unveiled a plan that would recast the BCS' four current bowls — FedEx Orange, Allstate Sugar, Tostitos Fiesta and Rose — as quarterfinals in an eight-team playoff, quadrupling the number of teams that get a shot at the national title. . . .

The Mountain West's proposal also would alter the way teams are placed for the BCS bowls, setting up a 12-member selection committee that would rank the top 25 at the end of the regular season and slot eight teams into a playoff format, with the ninth and 10th teams in a separate, new game outside the playoff.

It's not perfect, but I like it. This also is interesting:

The Mountain West plan would require all automatically qualifying leagues to post a .400 winning percentage over a two-year period in a minimum of 20 games against teams from other [BCS] conferences.

As a Parent (and as a High School Sunday School Teacher), This Horrifies Me

Yesterday, I came across this article about teens, and particularly teen girls, being sexually harassed on the job. The sorts of workplaces that employ teenagers also tend to be the sorts of workplaces that aren't equipped to deal properly with sexual harassment:

Most often, teens work at low-wage restaurant, retail, or service jobs, where they're likely to be supervised by transient managers who are themselves low-skilled, inadequately trained, and poorly paid. Their bosses too often ignore sexually tinged behavior, dismissing it as harmless flirtation and not recognizing that predators are unlikely to back off. Indeed, psychologists say that the men are often seeing how much they can get away with, pushing further each time.

Moreover, young people aren't always aware of their rights and often don't know what to do when a boss or co-worker makes an unwanted sexual advance:

Federal sexual harassment law allows all employees to file a complaint, but it doesn't make any special allowances for teenagers. A lawsuit is likely to be stronger if a victim has complained—If not to the harasser, then to her supervisor or to Human Resources or another designated person. But most teenagers won't do that. "They're used to doing what Mom and Dad say, what their teachers say, what their coaches say," explains Jennifer Drobac, an Indiana University law professor and former employment attorney. "Yet the legal system expects these girls to confront their first workplace authority figure and say, 'That's completely inappropriate conduct on your part.'"

There are a couple reasons this horrifies me:

First, and most significantly, after doing a little research on the subject, it seems that, of the few workplace sexual harassment situations involving teens that are actually reported and dealt with legally, many end in settlements and no admission of guilt on the part of the employer. I suppose it's nice that the victim gets several hundred thousand dollars for her trouble, and I suppose that employers that have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money will take sexual harassment more seriously, but I worry about any legal arrangement in which there is no admission of wrongdoing or acknowledgment of the seriousness of the problem. (Sexual harassment awareness training, in many workplaces, is dismissed as a joke or a necessary evil. I think that this is largely the fault of the cheesy training videos.)

Second, I find myself becoming the type of parent who is afraid to let his children go out into the world. I had told myself that I would not be an overprotective parent, that I would not shelter my kids, that I would allow them fully to experience life's goods and bads. But when I think about specific situations they might face, I get nervous.

Monday, March 02, 2009

And When the Child Is Five Years of Age, He Shall Learn to Rock

Meyer got a Squier Mini Strat for his fifth birthday. Here he shows off some smokin' licks:

Meyer Is Five!

Today is Meyer's fifth birthday. On one hand, it seems weird to me that I have a five-year-old. On the other hand, since I have two children younger than Meyer, it's probably good that he's five now.

Meyer has very specific plans for this evening's birthday celebration, which you can read about on his blog.

I've been impressed with how much more mature Meyer has become in the weeks leading up to his fifth birthday. There are still times when he tears through the house like an irritated wart hog, but overall he's been unusually attentive and helpful.

You may have noticed Meyer's glasses. Those aren't prescription glasses. We got them at Dollar General. But he needs them. He often forgets that he needs them, but he needs them.