Friday, October 30, 2009

Stuff I've Posted on Facebook but Haven't Posted Here

Thursday, October 29, 2009

East Africa Can't Win

Pray with the People of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Somalia. After months of severe drought in these nations, El Nino is threatening to make things worse by bringing heavy rains and flooding to East Africa. From CNN:

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Heavy rains triggered by El Nino weather patterns could potentially prove devastating for east African nations that have been water-starved for months, the United Nations has warned.

Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda are facing mudslides, crop destruction, waterborne diseases and disrupted road networks, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Friday. Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia could also be affected.

The effects of flooding are expected to be exacerbated because so much greenery has disappeared in the drought.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 2 1/2 Hour Gang Rape That No One Bothered to Stop

Maybe you heard about this. It's infuriating. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

It was a crime shocking not only in its brutality but in its callousness, Richmond police say.

A 15-year-old girl leaving early from the homecoming dance at Richmond High School was enticed into a darkened alley just off campus to hang out with as many as a dozen young men who were drinking.

When the girl joined in and became drunk herself, police say, the men attacked her.

One after another, as many as six men raped the girl, police said Monday. Others watched. For more than two hours, no one tried to stop the attacks, and no one called police.

Predictably (and sadly) several comment-posters around the Internet are suggesting that the 15-year-old victim in this story bears some of the responsibility for her being raped.* (See, for example, the comments attached to the CBS Crimesider blog.)

God bless former Nashville Is Talking blogger Brittney Gilbert (who currently writes the Eye on Blogs blog for San Francisco's CBS affiliate) for crafting this post, in which she offers pointers for preventing rape and sexual assault. Among them:

If a woman is drunk, don’t rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don’t rape her.
If a women is drugged and unconscious, don’t rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don’t rape her.
If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don’t rape her. . . .

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them! . . .

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

Read the entire thing.

* Also predictably (and sadly) because the alleged perpetrators in this case were Latino, overtly racist comments are even more prevalent than the blame-the-victim comments.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Carving Pumpkins

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slate's Prescription for the WNBA

In short: Stop trying to sell women's basketball to men (at least to straight men). Even though I'm a straight man who appreciates the WNBA, Slate's Josh Levin makes a convincing argument:

It stands to reason, though, that you're more likely to succeed by marketing your product to people who already like it than by trying to win over people who don't. Which leads to the second way to address the male-hoops-fan problem: ignore them. The audience for the WNBA is, by various accounts, between 60 percent and 80 percent female. The league also has a major following in the gay and lesbian community, a community that some franchises court and others aggressively alienate. If the WNBA focuses primarily on these fans, they can still have a large enough customer base to survive and succeed.

This comes after the sad news that the Detroit Shock, one of the WNBA's most successful franchises, are moving to Tulsa. This is sad because of the tradition the Shock built during their time in the Motor City, but mid-sized cities with no other major professional sports (i.e. Tulsa) might be a good fit for the WNBA in the long run. (And the Shock should be thankful that they're only moving. The Houston Comets, by any measure the league's most succesful franchise, folded last winter.)

Sally Reese Unloads on the Titans

Sally Reese, wife of longtime Titans general manager Floyd Reese, called into George Plaster's show on 104.5 Wednesday with these gems:

  • On her husband being released from the team because of supposed tensions between him and Jeff Fisher: "So bottom line is my husband just went along and did his job and everything was just fine and one day he went to work and said, 'Gee after 21 years we're going in a different direction.' Floyd still kind of didn't get that. It was like, 'What, what?' Now what I read and I hear all that stuff. My husband was totally oblivious. All he did was his job."

  • She adds: "[Floyd] kept Jeff from getting fired two times," she said. "So if he'd let [Jeff] get fired, he'd still be there." No comment from the Titans on this one. (And don't expect a comment any time soon.)

  • On the Titans' 59–0 loss on Sunday to New England, Floyd Reese's current employer (he is a "Senior Football Adviser" for the Patriots): "But you know paybacks -- can I say bitch? -- payback's a bitch. Sunday I was hoping they'd run it to 100. And I love Tennessee. All you Tennessee people, my dad's from Tennessee, but when you get sucker punched, you want to sucker punch back." Wow.

More at NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk.

I'm disappointed I missed this when it aired, as I usually catch a good chunk of Plaster's show on my way home from work on Wednesdays. Reese's comments came in response to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain's suggestion that Floyd Reese's departure from the Titans was the result of tensions between him and Jeff Fisher. (McClain, who covered the team when they were in Houston, is a guest on the Zone every Wednesday afternoon.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Resha Kate Learned to Write Her Name

Learn about it here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Costume Industry Has a Very Low Opinion of Little Boys

I went to Hobby Lobby today in search of materials with which to make a Halloween costume for Meyer. Unable to find what I needed, I decided to walk down to Halloween USA—a costume store occupying a space vacated by Circuit City—to see if I could save myself some work by buying a pre-made costume. We've had success with pre-made costumes in the past: Meyer has been a giraffe and a chicken; Resha Kate has been a ladybug and Uniqua. Resha Kate and Malachi both will be wearing adorable pre-made costumes this year.

Here's what I learned at Halloween USA: Costume companies make fantastic pre-made costumes for children age 3 or younger. Once a child grows out of his or her 3T clothes, cute pre-made costumes are hard to come by. Tacky and disturbing costumes are not . Halloween USA has, in children's sizes, every sort of demon, zombie, and ghoul—costumes that would be awesome to a ten-year-old but terrifying to a five-year-old. The scary costumes didn't really surprise me. Halloween, after all, is a celebration of the macabre, and the spirit of the season surely prompts many parents to dress their children in get-ups that aren't age appropriate.

What did surprise me were the pimp and executioner costumes. (Pimp costume pictured.) Considering some of the costumes on sale for little girls (that's another rant for another time), I suppose dressing up a little boy as a pimp makes a certain amount of sense. But who (aside from Ice-T and the parents of the model in the picture) dresses up a child in a pimp costume? I wouldn't even know how to explain to Meyer what a pimp is; I certainly can't imagine allowing him to walk around the neighborhood imitating one. The executioner costume is nearly as baffling. "Daddy, why do I need to carry this axe?" "Well, that's what you use to chop off people's heads."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Meyer Reads Books Now

Find out about it here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Piano Stairs in Sweden


Read more about this video here (LA Times).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On Co-ed Sports

As children, girls and boys often compete against each other or as teammates on the field, court, or diamond or in the pool. But as children become tweens and physiological gender differences become more significant schools and community sports programs split the sexes: Boys play on teams with other boys; girls play on teams with other girls. Boys play baseball; girls play softball. Boys and girls no longer face each other on the tennis court or race side-by-side in the pool.

There are occasions when men and women, even as older adolescents or adults, compete as equals or teammates. Several girls have earned spots as placekickers on high school football teams; Janet Guthrie, Sarah Fisher, and Danica Patrick have had successful careers in auto racing; and all four Grand Slam tennis tournaments have a mixed doubles competition. But calling football, auto racing, or even tennis a co-ed sport would be a stretch. Women are a rarity in football and racing, and mixed doubles is a novelty in a sport where men and women play in separate professional tours.

But apparently rock climbing is a truly co-ed, "gender-blind" sport. From Double X:

Sports generally reward bulk, speed, strength, and, often, height—all traits in which men tend to have the physical advantage. But climbers can’t rely on brute strength alone. The typically feminine assets of balance, flexibility, and a sprinkle of grace are essential to navigating the vagaries of ancient rock and plastic gym holds. (To effortlessly “dance up the wall” is a high compliment.) Excessive bulk, be it muscle or fat, while not a showstopper, is a definite disadvantage in a sport that rewards a high strength-to-weight ratio. Height can help or hinder, depending on the contours of the rock.


I invented a sport. It's called Hexagon and involves three teams playing with two balls on a hexagonal playing field. (To my knowledge, only one game of Hexagon was ever played, and I was not a part of it.) For what it's worth (and it's not worth much), my intent has been for Hexagon to be a truly co-ed sport, a sport in which equal numbers of men and women would be on the field at all times—a Title IX advocate's dream.

Meyer Took Some Pictures

You can see them here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ways the Titans Can Make the Rest of This Season Worth Watching

The Titans are 0–5, and in the last two games they haven't been competitive. They're headed to New England next week, and corner Nick Harper has a broken arm—a blow to an already depleted and struggling secondary. Yes, if the Titans were to win 10 of their final 11 games, they would still have a reasonable chance of making the playoffs. Of course, the Titans have no reasonable chance of winning 10 games, or even 5. So the time has come to take chances and make things interesting. Here are some things the Titans could do to ease the suffering of their fans by making losing fun:

  • Inappropriate onside kicks: There's precedent for this one. During a game against the Colts late in the 2004 season (possibly the Titans' worst season since they've been in Nashville), the Titans attempted three onside kicks in the first quarter. (I believe they recovered one of the three.) The strategy didn't really work—the Colts won that game 51–24—but it was interesting.

  • Eschew the punt: First-string punter Craig Hentrich is on injured reserve. The team should announce a) that it will be taking back-up punter Reggie Hodges off of the active roster in favor of an additional defensive back and b) that, until Hentrich comes back, the Titans will not be punting. When you're 0–5, you can't waste perfectly good downs on a play whose sole purpose is giving possession of the ball to the other team. Adopting such a philosophy may mean going for it on fourth and 23; and it may mean attempting the occasional 70-yard field goal. Either way, interesting.

  • Chris Johnson returning kicks: Normally, teams don't use their number-one running backs on special teams because the risk of injury is too great. But the Titans really don't have much to lose at this point. When you have the fastest player in the league, why save his talents for an offense that scores fewer than 17 points per game?

  • A two-quarterback package: Anyone who thinks that Vince Young gives the Titans a better chance of winning than Kerry Collins hasn't been paying attention. That said, Collins has had some struggles, and VY has a unique skill set (albeit one that isn't really suited to being a starting quarterback in the NFL). I say play Vince Young . . . and Kerry Collins. Put them both in the game. The opposition wouldn't know to whom Kevin Mawae would snap the ball. He might snap it to Collins; he might snap it to Young; he might snap it to Young, who would then toss a lateral to Collins; he might snap it to Collins, who would then hand it off to Young. Would it be a gimmick offense? Yes. Would it work? Probably not. Would it be interesting? Certainly.

There you go, Jeff Fisher. Let's make this happen.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Tuesday Night Trivia

Many American Presidents have had biblical first names, but only two share first names with persons from the Old Testament. Name them.

As usual, Wikipedia is not allowed. Quick note: The name "Barack" is basically the same as "Barak," the name of an Old Testament judge. But for the purposes of this trivia challenge, the extra "c" disqualifies the current president's name. Similarly, several presidents have been named "James," which is a derivative of "Jacob," an Old Testament name. Again, for the purposes of this challenge, names that are spelled differently than their Old Testament relatives do not count.

Cheerleaders Challenge Establishment Clause With Proverbs 16:3

Shameless self-promotion: I'm going to use this story to explain what my book, Kneeling in the End Zone, is all about.

From Salon:

[For] nearly a decade, in the small Georgia town of Fort Ogletorpe, the cheerleaders of the Warriors football team have opened their games with that and similar sentiments -- holding banners of Bible verse for players to burst through at the start of their games. 2,4, 6, 8! “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed!”

This season, however, is different. Just a few weeks into the new school year, a parent alerted the Catoosa County Schools Superintendent that the Warriors were setting themselves up for a lawsuit, and the county reluctantly pulled the plug.

Instead of getting into the issue of whether putting Bible verses on public school football banners violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, I will ask, Why did this school feel a need to open its football games by having players burst through words from Scripture? Were the Bible verses meant to inspire players? Was the school or student body making a statement about its beliefs or values? Were the banners a means of evangelism?

I don't have answers to any of these questions, but as I point out in the book, this sort of thing is not unusual. Well, public-school-sanctioned Bible banners at football games are unusual, but using sports as a venue to promote one's faith is not. Kneeling in the End Zone opens with several examples of athletes, fans, and broadcasters injecting faith into sports. It then turns the sports-faith relationship on its head and asks what sports can teach us about faith. "What can Cubs fans teach us about hope? What can we learn about being one in Christ from Joe Louis, Roberto Clemente, and Billie Jean King? What lessons about faith and perseverance can we glean from George Mason's unlikely run to the Final Four in 2006?" (Kneeling p. 6)

(I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the cheerleaders in Georgia.)

Choose Your Vice: Waste Water or Spread Germs

For the first time since the beginning of the flu season, I took time to read the signs posted in the bathrooms at work devoted to preventing the spread of germs. The signs advocate fully drying one's hands then—after one's hands are dry—turning off the water with a paper towel. It makes a certain amount of sense. Touching faucet knobs, which are home to millions of bacteria, undoes the work one has done by scrubbing one's hands with soap and water. But leaving the water running while one walks over to the paper towel dispenser, dries one hands, then returns to the sink with a paper towel is wasteful. And the illnesses caused by a lack of clean water tend to be much more dangerous than those caused by the bacteria that live on bathroom sinks. (There's also the matter of all the bacteria living on the lever of the paper towel dispenser.) I suppose one could get paper towels beforehand, but this would involve touching paper towels with dirty hands then setting them down next to a bacteria-covered sink. Until my workplace installs automatic sinks and hand driers, I'm not seeing a solution here.

(For more on the travails of hand-washing, read this article from Slate.)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

United Methodists Still Struggle on the Gridiron

The aughts have been a dark decade for United Methodist football fans. SMU, a reliable United Methodist football power for many years, still hasn't recovered from getting the death penalty in 1987. Syracuse picked up the slack in the late 1980s, winning nine bowl games between 1988 and 2001 and producing several NFL players (most notably Donovan McNabb, Marvin Harrison, Dwight Freeney, and Keith Bulluck). (Syracuse had a great football tradition long before the 1980s thanks to all-time greats such as Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, and Ernie Davis.) But Syracuse had some struggles early in the decade, and the school in 2004 fired coach Paul Pasqualoni, during whose tenure the Orange had six bowl wins and only one losing season. Since then Syracuse has not had a winning season. Duke, the other United Methodist school with a Division I-FBS football program, has never been a national power. The Blue Devils have had only one winning season in the last 20 years and last won a bowl game in 1960.

This weekend proved that United Methodist college football won't be returning to prominence any time soon. SMU, which seems headed in the right direction (albeit slowly) under June Jones, kept up with old Southwest Conference rival TCU—the only Disciples of Christ-affiliated school with a major college football program—for two quarters before the eleventh-ranked Horned Frogs pulled away. Syracuse, who has shown significant improvement this season, missed an opportunity to get a big win over undefeated South Florida in the Carrier Dome. Much like their United Methodist brethren in Dallas, the Orange played well for a half. Then South Florida pulled away. I was hopeful that SMU and/or Syracuse would pull off the upset. I had no faith in Duke, but the Blue Devils played a very respectable game against #6 Virginia Tech. Maybe David Cutcliffe, with his 42 freshmen, is building the next United Methodist football power in Durham. Probably not. But maybe.

This past Saturday, all three teams had an opportunity to give United Methodist college football a head start on returning to prominence in the 2010s.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Animated GIFs: Fun in the Nineties; Fun Today

Friday Trivia

Here's today's challenge:

The IOC awarded Rio de Janeiro the 2016 Summer Olympic Games today, making Rio only the third city in the southern hemisphere to host the games. To date the Olympic Games have been held 44 times (26 in the summer, 18 in the winter) but only twice south of the equator. Name the two southern hemisphere cities to have hosted the Olympics. (Bonus points for naming the years in which they hosted.)

Wikipedia not allowed.

Goodness Gracious: Conservapedia Launches the Conservative Bible Project

The folks at Conservapedia have decided that existing English translations of the Bible, and perhaps the Bible itself, are too liberal. So they're using their wiki to develop a conservative translation of the Bible. You can read about it here. I really shouldn't get too worked up about this, but I should point out a few problems:

  • The translation will "exclude later-inserted liberal passages," particularly the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 7:53–8:11. Most scholars agree that this passage was not original to the Gospel of John, but it's been there for centuries, has been included in every English translation of the Bible ever published, and certainly was not inserted by liberals (at least not in the contemporary sense of the word "liberal"). In fact, one might argue that the more "liberal" a translation is perceived to be, the more likely it will be to point out that John 7:53–8:11 is not original to John's Gospel. I'll be interested to see what they do with Mark 16:9-20, which is unquestionably a later addition but which is anything but liberal.

  • The Conservative Bible Project aims to "express free market parables"—"explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning." OK. To this I respond, "Though shalt avoid anachronisms." I'm not convinced that Jesus meant for any of his parables to extol the virtues of an economic philosophy that wouldn't be articulated for another 17 centuries. But whatever. I'm curious as to whether these free-market explanations will appear in footnotes and commentaries or inserted into the actual biblical text.

  • This translation will "prefer conciseness over liberal wordiness." I had no idea that wordiness was liberal.

  • Finally, and maybe I'm misjudging the intentions of the Conservative Bible Project, there seems to be little concern with maintaining the original Greek and Hebrew text. The people at Conservapedia seem more interested in including "powerful conservative terms" than being faithful to what Scripture actually says.