Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Night Trivia

It's not one of my better efforts, but here's tonight's challenge:

A U.S. state and a major world religion both derive their names from a river that empties into the Arabian Sea. Name the state, the religion, and the river.

Look. The Man Drugged and Raped a 13-Year-Old Girl.

I had been working on a post about all those who have rallied to defend Roman Polanski since Swiss police apprehended the acclaimed director this weekend in Zurich. But that post wasn't going to be finished anytime soon. In the meantime, I found this excellent already-written piece at Salon by Kate Harding that says everything I was working on saying better than I would have said it:

Roman Polanski raped a child. Let's just start right there, because that's the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in "exile" (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never -- poor baby -- being able to return to the U.S.). Let's keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she'd rather not see him prosecuted because she can't stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let's take a moment to recall that according to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go . . . .

You can read the details at Salon.

(I'm glad that Harding specifically dealt with this piece by Huffington Post blogger Joan Z. Shore, which is the most ridiculous defense of Polanski I've encountered thus far. Shore actually writes: "The 13-year old model 'seduced' by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. [It's probably 13 by now!]" The age of consent for sex in California is 18 and has been since 1913. It hasn't been 14 since 1897, and it certainly isn't 13 now. Bloggers have a responsibility to check facts that are germane to their arguments, especially those facts that can be verified in less than two minutes.)

The claim that the judge in Polanski's case acted inappropriately is legitimate. And if Polanski were a kid from the streets who lacked the means to hire a decent attorney and who wasn't actually guilty of the crime he was being charged with, I'd feel sorry for him. As it were, the United States has mechanisms for dealing with prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, and these mechanisms tend to work for defendants who have lots of money (and therefore good lawyers). And, as it were, no one denies that Polanski drugged and had sex with a child.

I also understand that Polanski has had a rough life, that he escaped the Holocaust and that his second wife was brutally murdered by the Manson Family. For these tragedies Polanski gets my sympathy; and because of these tragedies I'm willing to excuse some bad behavior. I am not, however, willing to excuse drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.

I don't think that Roman Polanski is a danger to society, and I don't know that society will benefit from putting the 76-year-old back on trial. But I reject the Hollywood meme that Polanski has been persecuted unjustly or that he was apprehended unfairly. Again, to quote Harding's piece in Salon:

Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Morning Trivia

It's been too long. Here's this morning's challenge:

11 two-letter postal abbreviations for U.S. states also happen to be abbreviations for elements on the periodic table. Name five of them.

I'll give you one: "MT" abbreviates both Montana and Meitnerium (atomic number 109—I confess that I hadn't heard of Meitnerium until I put together this challenge). You can decide whether or not to count "MT" toward your five.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jim Crews Out at Army (Reportedly)

From the Times Herald-Record:

Jim Crews has been fired as Army men's basketball coach after seven losing seasons, several sources have confirmed to the Times Herald-Record.

Crews, who did not return calls to his home on Tuesday, leaves Army with a record of 60-139 (.302). His best season came two years ago, when the Black Knights finished 15-16 and reached the semifinals of the Patriot League.

ESPN isn't ready to confirm the report:

Army officials refused to acknowledge a report Wednesday in the Times-Herald Record that said Army coach Jim Crews had been fired.

I'll assume that Crews has been let go.

I'm not sure why Jim Crews ever left my alma mater, the University of Evansville, to go to West Point. Between 1986 and 2000 his Evansville teams only had one losing season. And a decent season in the Missouri Valley Conference can earn a team an at-large NCAA tourney bid. (During my senior season, Evansville was 23-10 and earned an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The Aces, an 11 seed, lost to Kansas in the first round.) That doesn't happen in the Patriot League. Maybe Crews was feeling the heat from Aces Nation after losing seasons in 2000-01 and 2001-02. Maybe he wanted to mimic his mentor.

Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, Crews was rumored as a candidate for just about every big-time college basketball job that came available. He was never offered any of these jobs, but his name was always in the mix. After all, this is a guy who coached my Purple Aces to four NCAA Tournament appearances and six 20-win seasons. So it's sad to see Crews unceremoniously dismissed from a job in the Patriot League after coaching 24 seasons in Division I.

Meyer, With No Training Wheels

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Kneeling" Cracks Top 500,000 on Amazon

The cover of my forthcoming book, Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports, is now up on Amazon. It also has cracked the top 500,000 in sales—#492,350 at the moment, #442,786 last night. (I'd still prefer that people buy the book from Cokesbury, but I won't be picky.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Abortion Is a Political Hot Button Only Because Humans Are Mammals

I don't identify myself as either pro-life or pro-choice, and I don't lose much sleep thinking about abortion. But debates and discussions about abortion fascinate me. The question of when and whether abortion is morally acceptable is a unique ethical dilemma. It is a dilemma that arises when one distinct human organism lives entirely within another distinct human organism and depends entirely on its host for sustenance and protection. It is a dilemma that must acknowledge that a new human life begins at conception but that, in most human cultures, personhood begins at birth. (We celebrate birthdays, not conception-days; we issue birth certificates, not conception certificates; etc.) It is a dilemma unlike any other; and it is a dilemma that exists because human beings are mammals.

Were humans birds or reptiles or amphibians, debates about the morality of destroying a fertilized egg would be much different than what they are now. The rights of the unborn human being would not conflict with the rights of its mother—a human person—if the unborn human were living in an eggshell outside the mother's body. I'm sure someone (Peter Singer, perhaps) would construct a compelling argument in favor of destroying the occasional fertilized human egg, but I would assume that most cultures would outlaw or frown on such a practice. (That's probably a dangerous assumption to make considering how we treat baby chickens who actually have hatched from their eggs.) While we likely would have intense discussions about how best to care for orphaned eggs, we would be spared vicious fights about abortion.

Alas, humans are neither birds nor reptiles, so I guess our political discourse will forever be poisoned by a painful ethical debate for which there is no antidote.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Trivia Will Resume on Tuesday

In theory I don't believe in writing blog posts that amount to, "Sorry I haven't been blogging lately. Here's my excuse: __________." But I do it all the time.

Anyway, I have failed to keep up with my semi-weekly trivia challenges, writing neither a Friday Morning Trivia nor a Tuesday Night Trivia challenge in the past week. It's been a busy week. I was hoping to resume my trivial pursuits this morning, but it's not happening. Check back next Tuesday for trivia and hopefully sooner for other blog stuff.

In the meantime, keep working on your carrot ketchup recipes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are There Non-Tomato Ketchups?

The other day, as I was pouring some Heinz Tomato Ketchup onto my plate, I asked myself: Why do Heinz and other ketchup producers always describe their product as "tomato ketchup"? Are there other varieties of ketchup that aren't tomato-based?

The Mt. Juliet Publix—which gets an A+ for customer service—doesn't sell any. Every bottle of ketchup in their condiment aisle names its contents as "tomato ketchup," which looks funny as there are no other ketchup varieties available. But Wikipedia says, "Although today's ketchup is invariably tomato based, it did not appear until about a century after other types." Apparently there's such a thing as mushroom ketchup. (Wikipedia also mentions walnut ketchup.) In fact, mushroom ketchup recipes abound on the Internet. I would have to imagine that mushroom ketchup is a very different condiment than its tomato-based sibling. But I'd still like to try some with my French fries.

At some point, I'll give mushroom ketchup a try. In the meantime, I'd like to explore the possibility of other ketchups, ones that persons who only know the tomato variety would recognize as ketchups. So far, I've come up with one vegetable that might be worth ketchup-izing: carrots. As you can see, I made a bottle of Heinz Carrot Ketchup in about ten minutes using the open-source image-manipulation software The Gimp. (I could have done it in five if I'd had Photoshop.) But, if I ever get around to it (and I probably won't), I'd like to make a batch of actual carrot ketchup. I figure I'll boil the carrots then put them in the food processor. I'll add vinegar, salt, sugar, and some spices and see what happens.

If you would like to try your hand at making carrot ketchup, please let me know how it turns out.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wanna Get Baptized After Practice?

Jesus fumbles?This is just bizarre. From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

The head football coach at Breckinridge County [Kentucky] High School took about 20 players on a school bus late last month to his church, where nearly half of them were baptized, school officials say.

I belong to a tradition that considers baptism a sacrament to be performed in the context of a faith community that makes a long-term commitment to nurture the person being baptized. So the idea of eight or nine football players being baptized en masse at their coach's urging seems weird to me.

Oh, and the school superintendent was in the congregation:

But Superintendent Janet Meeks, who is a member of the church and witnessed the baptisms, said she thinks the trip was proper because attendance was not required, and another coach paid for the gas.

Meeks said parents weren’t given permission slips to sign but knew the event would include a church service, if not specifically a baptism. She said eight or nine players came forward and were baptized.

I'm not gonna go all ACLU on the Breckinridge County School District, but this sort of activity falls outside the bounds of what I would consider acceptable coach-player, school-student relations. But who am I to judge?

(Actually, to answer that last question, I am the author of Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports, coming next month from Pilgrim Press and available from Amazon, Cokesbury, and other bookstores.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tuesday Night Trivia

Tonight's challenge:

Two major world cities, each with a population of over 1 million, form an anagram. That is, the two cities are spelled using the exact same letters, albeit in a different order. (An example of an anagram is "evil = vile.") The two cities happen to be in the same country. Name the two cities.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Malachi on the Piano


White House Releases President's Back-to-School Speech

Here's the text of the speech the president will be delivering to many of America's schools (just not the ones in Wilson County) tomorrow. If there's something controversial about this speech, you'll need to point it out to me. It's actually a really nice speech, and I'm really disappointed that the students in my school district won't be hearing it.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Wilson County Schools Has Decided to Be Part of the Problem

The Wilson County School District, my family's school district, has decided that its schools will not be showing the president's speech to students next Tuesday:

Some Middle Tennessee school districts are directing administrators not to show a back-to-school address by President Barack Obama next week after parents complained that it was foisting a political agenda on children, a sentiment echoed by Republican critics.

Wilson and Williamson counties have directed schools not to dedicate time to the speech, while others are allowing parents to have their children opt out of watching the address.

Yep. If you're not familiar with this controversy, here's the gist: President Obama plans to give a televised speech to school children about the importance of education and setting educational goals. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush made similar speeches in the 1980s and early 1990s. Shouldn't be a big deal. But many of the president's political opponents have decided that such a speech amounts to indoctrinating the nation's youth with leftist politics and is a first step toward establishing a program akin to the Hitler Youth.

I tried to e-mail Wilson County Schools director Mike Davis to voice my disappointment, but the district's server has been down since yesterday afternoon. To be fair, Davis says that the reason for not showing the speech is not political:

At this time we feel it is more important for your teachers to protect our instructional time by focusing on teaching the content standards.

It's not like the president is asking for a full school day or even an afternoon. I can't imagine that this speech would detract from teaching content standards anymore than would a pep rally or say-"no"-to-drugs convo. But whatever.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Morning Trivia

I'll try to have a Friday Morning Trivia graphic ready for next week. In the meantime, here's this morning's challenge:

There are two national capitals whose names one can spell using letters found in the name of the capital of a neighboring country. Name the two cities; also name the appropriate neighboring countries' capitals.

To clarify: One can spell Omaha using letters found in Oklahoma City. Were Omaha and Oklahoma City capitals of countries that share a border, you'd have one of the answers.

Hint: Both of the answers come from the same continent.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tuesday Night Trivia

Tonight's challenge:

There are three pairs of countries in our world for which the two countries share a border and have names with a common first and last letter. Name two of the three pairs.

For example, if Austria and Albania—both of whose names start and end in a—shared a border, that pair would qualify. (Just to be clear, Austria and Albania don't share a border and don't qualify.) I should also note that I'm going by countries' English names (e.g. "Germany" instead of "Deutschland.") Avoid looking at a map, except to check your answers (including spelling).