Thursday, November 26, 2009

In Defense of Green Bean Casserole

Here is a list of the five greatest American innovations of the twentieth century:

1. Rock 'n' roll
2. The personal computer
3. The Internet
4. Social Security
5. Green bean casserole

(The Apollo Space Program is number 6.)

That said, I take exception to this Slate article, in which author Juliet Lapidos argues that the fifth greatest American innovation of the twentieth century should not be a part of our Thanksgiving celebrations.

Each year, between 20 and 30 percent of American families prepare green bean casserole each year. But Lapidos has only tasted the dish once in her life. She describes her experience as such:

With all due respect for the usually superb culinary skills of the Midwestern friend who prepared it for me, the green bean casserole was a mushy, revolting mess.

Wrong. Try it again. Green bean casserole is delicious.

Regardless of whether Lapidos acquires a taste for the zenith of American holiday cuisine, her main problem with green bean casserole is that it requires canning a vegetable that is out-of-season by late November. She writes:

Our ancestors started eating green beans on Thanksgiving because it's possible to stuff them in an airtight container and forget about them until the apocalypse.

Yeah, I'm totally OK with that. If we're going to eschew any dish made from out-of-season canned vegetables, no one would be able to eat chili (which is tomato-based) in January or February. I can understand objections to cooking with fresh vegetables that are out of season, but canning gives us a means of storing and using surplus crops that might otherwise go to waste. Cooking in the cold months of the year with canned summer veggies is a good thing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tinley's Law

Allow me to hypothesize. You can call this hypothesis "Tinley's Law" (if you want to).

The more frequently a quotation is attributed to a certain person the less likely it is that said person was the actual source of the quotation.

Or the shorthand version:

The frequency of attribution is inversely proportional to the probability of authenticity.

In my work I see the quote, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words," attributed to Francis of Assisi often. Too often. Earlier this week, upon coming across this attribution yet again, I decided that there was no way that Francis of Assisi ever actually said such a thing. I was right.

(Of course, Christians would do well to "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words" regardless of whether this maxim originated with one of the faith's most beloved saints.)

Other instances where Tinley's Law holds:

  • John Wesley never said, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." Nor did he say, "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, so long as ever you can." (Again, both of these statements are relevant to Christians regardless of whether the founder of Methodism ever said them.)

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes never said, "Elementary, my dear Watson," and James Cagney never said in any of his movies, "You dirty rat."

  • Kurt Vonnegut never gave this graduation speech, and Maya Angelou never wrote this poem.

  • English statesmen and philosopher Edmund Burke never said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things I Would Totally Do If I Had the Time and Energy

  • Make a batch of carrot ketchup.

  • Write a formal rulebook for Hexagon, the sport I invented that involves three teams playing with two balls on a hexagonal field of play.

  • Build a deck on the front of my house to replace the raised-bed gardens of shrubs and decorative plants that we inherited when we moved in and have been unable to maintain. This would require purchasing some tools and taking some DIY classes at Home Depot.

  • Draw a brown-pencil-on-canvas piece called "Macaroni and Cheese in a Breakfast Nook in an Apartment on Titan." I made a rough sketch of this drawing a few weeks ago during some downtime at work. One can see Saturn in the night sky through the titular breakfast nook. I enjoy drawing macaroni noodles.

  • Write a web-based serial based in the fictional city of Adelaide, Illinois. (I've actually put some work into this project. If you are at all interested, you can read through this hodgepodge of incomplete and unedited rough drafts.)

  • Audit some physics or astronomy courses at Belmont or TSU.

  • Produce a series of "Tuesday Night Disco" YouTube videos. Let me explain: "Tuesday Night Disco" comes from a conversation I had several years ago with one of the many managers I worked for during my six-summer tenure at Wendy's. When he found out that I was going to college in Evansville, he decided to tell me about his college days in Vincennes (which is about one hour north of Evansville), and particularly about a weekly on-campus dance party called "Tuesday Night Disco." He boasted that, in college, he earned the nickname "Nasty Boy" ("You know, like the Janet Jackson song") because, at Tuesday Night Disco, he was always dancing with two different girls at the same time. The image that my brain produced of my former boss getting nasty on a Vincennes, Indiana dance floor is as vivid in my mind now as it was 13 years ago. I would love to use the magic of the Internet to bring Tuesday Night Disco to people living outside of southwestern Indiana. I mean, nothing else really happens on Tuesday nights.

  • Record a new Adverbs album, or at least some new Adverbs songs. At the moment I have an out-of-tune piano and a bunch of songs with incomplete lyrics. (You can record the last Adverbs album for free in the sidebar.)

  • Cook a spaghetti burger. That is, a sandwich with a patty made from spaghetti noodles (and the assorted ingredients required to make the noodles stick together as a patty). I like to think that the spaghetti burger is something that I came up with, but Google tells me that Rachel Ray already has a recipe for such a sandwich.

  • Write a musical based on the songs of Rancid. It would be called Alleyways and Avenues.

  • Sew a bunch of throw pillows. I'd need a sewing machine, and those aren't cheap. But small, square pillows are so simple and so easy to make that it's a shame that 1) anyone pays money for them and 2) no school or church (that I'm aware of) has made and sold throw pillows as a fundraiser.

I'm Sure You're Wondering Why Malachi Doesn't Have a Website Yet

Meyer and Resha Kate both received websites as first birthday presents. I used my limited HTML skills to program Meyer's from scratch. Resha Kate's was just a Blogger blog with a customized template and links to a couple HTML pages (which haven't been updated in eons). In both cases a domain name— and—was part of the birthday website package.

Malachi is nearly 14-months old, and he still doesn't have a website. He doesn't even have a domain name. I have a plan for giving my youngest child a web presence; I just haven't gotten around to executing it. (I've also done a poor job updating his siblings' sites.) If you would like to see Malachi on the Internet sooner rather than later, here's what you can do: Offer to babysit all three Tinley children next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights (for free). If you do that, I promise that I will have a new website finished by the time you leave the Tinley residence on Tuesday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The English and Their Unnecessary "S"s

Something fun I discovered at work when my search for the phrase "rich toward God" in the Anglicized edition of the NRSV didn't turn anything up:

Luke 12:21, NRSV (American edition): "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:21, NRSV (Anglicized edition): 'So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.'

(Emphasis mine.)

I had always assumed that the differences between the American and Anglicized editions involved the order of e and r (e.g. "center" vs. "centre"); adding a u between o and r (e.g. "flavor" vs. "flavour"); and double vs. single quotation marks (see above). Apparently, the British also prefer towards to toward and afterwards to afterward. I had no idea.

Kneeling in the End Zone November Book Signings

Friday November 20, 3:00—Nashville: Cokesbury bookstore, 301 8th Avenue, So.

Sunday November 29, 10:30—Indianapolis: Rosedale Hills United Methodist, 4450 S. Keystone Ave.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Room in the Inn Would Be Illegal in Phoenix

For years, churches and houses of worship of all stripes throughout the greater Nashville area have cooperated, through a program called Room in the Inn, to feed and shelter many of the city's homeless during the coldest months of the year. Host churches bus homeless persons to the church's campus where the guests receive a hot meal and a place to sleep. Apparently, Room in the Inn would be illegal in Phoenix:

This week, retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Corcoran, serving as a hearing officer, ruled that feeding the homeless at a place of worship can be banned by city ordinance.

The determination means that CrossRoads United Methodist Church, 7901 N. Central Ave., will no longer be permitted to feed the homeless and poor at its campus unless it appeals the decision.

Corcoran, in his 19-page opinion, noted that the church had a long history of feeding the "poor in poor neighborhoods" but the use of this property to feed the poor, who were bused in by another group, Prodigal's Home was a change. The hearing officer ruled that the "living functions" of a residential neighborhood were not compatible with the operation of a charity dining hall.

(In my opinion this is a greater affront to religious liberty than any ordinance that says that employers can't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.)

This story reminds me of the instances when my neighborhood's board of directors has decided to take down the basketball hoops in the common area for fear that the hoops bring the wrong sort of people into Willoughby Station. Fortunately, a few months ago, the people of Willoughby Station petitioned then voted to override the board's decision and have the hoops put back.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Track-by-Track Review of the New Weezer Album

I'm one of the few people I know who enjoys Weezer almost as much now as I did in the nineties. (The others are in my immediate family.) On some level I have enjoyed every album that Weezer has recorded, and I still have high expectations whenever a new one comes along.

Now that I've had several days to evaluate Weezer's latest offering, Raditude, I'll pass along my thoughts. First, if you haven't already purchased Weezer's Raditude, you're probably better off buying individual tracks than paying for the entire thing. (You can do that now, thanks to the Internet.) So, instead of reviewing Raditude as an album, I'll break it down song-by-song:

1. "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To": Outstanding. Great opening track; great single. Musically it's a lot like "A Town Called Malice" by The Jam. Lyrically, it's a lot like a romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore. One of Weezer's best.

2. "I'm Your Daddy": It's not terrible, but it's not good. The title comes from this line in the chorus: "You are my baby tonight, and I'm your daddy." Really? I'd expect a line like that from a 19-year-old college student writing his first song, not from the guy who wrote Pinkerton and Maladroit. Then again, Rivers Cuomo co-wrote this song with Dr. Luke. When you consider Dr. Luke's other work, this song makes more sense.

3. "The Girl Got Hot": Sounds like something Bowling for Soup would do.

4. "Can't Stop Partying": Fortunately, iTunes gives me the option of appending "(bonus track)" to this song's title and moving it to the end of the album—or off the album entirely. It's a travesty that "Can't Stop Partying" gets an album slot while much better Weezer songs—"Suzanne" and "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly"—are stuck on obscure movie soundtracks (albeit soundtracks for great obscure movies). And with all due respect to Lil Wayne, his contributions to "Can't Stop Partying" aren't helpful. It's not that hip hop and Weezer don't mix; it just doesn't work here. This song sounds like a B-side, or something that might one day turn up on a box set.

5. "Put Me Back Together": Good song. Sounds more like Jimmy Eat World than Weezer. (I'll let you decide whether that's good or bad.)

6. "Tripping Down the Freeway": It's fun; it's snappy; it makes a lot of sense as a Weezer song. If you're only going to buy a few songs from Raditude, make this one of them.

7. "Love Is the Answer": Love it. Good use of the sitar, and Amrita Sen's Hindi vocals are fantastic (in the same way that NBA action is fantastic). My only gripe with this one is the lyrics. They're kinda hokey. (The first line is "There will come a day when we transcend our pain." It sounds like it should mean something, but I'm not sure that it does.) I'm guessing that Rivers wrote the vocals to "Love Is the Answer" in haste while Scott Shriner was laying down the bass track. But somehow the hokey lyrics don't really hurt the song. Overall, "Love Is the Answer" is a keeper.

8. "Let It All Hang Out": "I'm going out with my homies, and I'm gonna let it all hang out." You know, Brian Wilson wrote plenty of songs about nothing more than hanging out in southern California (with or without his "best girl"), and no one complained. "Let It All Hang Out" might not stack up to "Good Vibrations," but it definitely holds its own against "I Get Around." It's best not to think too much about this one. Just enjoy it.

9. "In the Mall": Brian Wilson wouldn't touch this one. Actually, Pat Wilson, Weezer's drummer (and sometimes guitarist) wrote "In the Mall." Regardless of what you thought of "Automatic," Wilson's contribution to the Red Album, "In the Mall" isn't nearly as good. Don't buy this one unless you have a thing for album filler.

10. "I Don't Want to Let You Go": When it comes to an album's final track, Weezer always delivers with a song that is well written and sincere. "I Don't Want to Let You Go" is no exception. While it isn't as good as "Only in Dreams" (Blue), "Butterfly" (Pinkerton), or even "The Angel and the One" (Red), "I Don't Want to Let You Go" nonetheless is a nice closer.

I'm not sure how to rate Raditude as an album. On one hand, this is the only Weezer record I can't listen to straight through. (I almost always skip tracks 2–4.) And, were it up to me, Weezer would write another draft of all the lyrics, hire Ric Ocasek as a producer, and try again. On the other hand, Raditude has a half dozen songs that are better than anything on the Green Album, including a few gems that I would recommend adding to any best-of-Weezer playlist. In radians (one complete revolution, 2π, being the highest possible score, 0 being the lowest), I'll say that Raditude gets a π.

Here's how I would rate all seven:

1. Pinkerton (1996): 31π/16

2. Weezer (Blue Album, 1994): 15π/8

3. Weezer (Red Album, 2008): 13π/8

4. Maladroit (2002): 25π/16

5. Make Believe (2005): 11π/8

6. Raditude (2009): π

7. Weezer (Green Album, 2001): 15π/16

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

13 and Life

From NPR:

Is it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment to send a juvenile away to prison for life, without the possibility of parole for a crime that does not involve a death? That's the question the Supreme Court ponders Monday. . . .

Joe Sullivan was 13 years old when he was convicted of raping a 72-year-old woman. Two older defendants who had broken into the woman's house with Joe fingered their younger accomplice for the rape, and they got lesser sentences. Joe had a long record of misdemeanors, from stealing a bike to burglary. This, however, was his first felony, and the judge, declaring that the boy before him was "beyond help," sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Terrance Graham was 16 when he pleaded guilty to attempted robbery of a restaurant in which one of his accomplices hit the restaurant manager over the head with a steel pipe. Graham served one year in jail, then was released on probation. Six months later he was arrested fleeing the scene of an armed home invasion robbery.

The judge revoked his probation, but rejected the four-year prison sentence recommended by the Department of Corrections and instead sentenced Graham, by then 17, to life in prison without parole. "If I can't do anything to help you," said the judge, "then I have to . . . protect the community from your actions."

If you know anything about adolescent development or if you ascribe any authority to Christian teaching in Scripture, you must conclude that locking up teenagers for life without the possibility for parole is unjust and indefensible. Yet, as this NPR piece reveals, there are plenty of people in positions of authority who defend this practice. That's infuriating.

Christian Chirp: Because Twitter Isn't Christian Enough

Christian Chirp launched a couple weeks ago, billing itself as "The Christian Alternative to Twitter." If I were to rank all the things that need a Christian alternative, Twitter would fall somewhere between peanut butter and adhesive bandages. Twitter is a value-neutral medium. Users have complete control over what they tweet, whom they follow, and who follows them. Twitter doesn't care whether one is tweeting about the Sermon on the Mount, the new BCS standings, the situation in Afghanistan, or the latest Donald Miller book. Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt who said of Christian Chirp, "Great. All we need is another ghetto. No thanks." I concur. When we spread the gospel message in 140-or-fewer characters, we are better off doing so at Twitter (where millions of people from around the world gather) than at Christian Chirp.

While Twitter is flexible and customizable and neutral, there is one thing that the micro-blogging service does not allow: spam. Spam on Twitter involves tweeting the same message or link to several other Twitter users using the "@" command. Just as one can get in trouble for sending large numbers of unsolicited e-mails, Twitter users can get in trouble for large numbers of unsolicited tweets. This one rule is responsible for the birth of Christian Chirp.

Christian Chirp is the brainchild of Christian financial adviser, blogger, and former Twitter user James L. Paris. Paris used Twitter to draw traffic to his blog and a particular post he wrote in defense of Rush Limbaugh. He made gratuitous use of the "@" command; Twitter interpreted this as spam, and suspended Paris for one week. Paris claimed that he was being treated unfairly because of his political views, and founded a "Christian alternative to Twitter."

A Christian Chirp user named Samsonijah suggested to Paris that his suspension had nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with the overuse of "@reply" tweets. Paris then suggested that, if he had tweeted in favor of President Obama and had made liberal use of the "@" command, he wouldn't have been suspended. Samsonijah put this theory to the test by posting several "@reply" tweets saying "Obama is awesome." His account was suspended almost immediately. Paris wasn't persecuted; he was mildly disciplined for breaking Twitter's one commandment.

Here's what bothers me about all of this: In the mind of James L. Paris, Twitter punished him for defending Rush Limbaugh but wouldn't have if he had been supporting President Obama. He then concluded that Twitter was hostile to Christians and set up Christian Chirp. Paris wasn't suspended for defending the Resurrection or the doctrine of the Trinity, he was suspended (from his perspective) for defending a conservative talk radio host. It irritates me that people still equate Christianity with a specific strand of American conservatism.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Work Clothes

Meyer asked me this morning in the car why I always wear nice clothes to work. I don't usually think of the clothes I wear to the office as nice. My workplace has a pretty lax dress code (if it has one at all—I'll need to check the policies on the company intranet site), and I could count on an octopus the number of times I've worn a tie to work. (I've worn a suit to the office exactly once: when I came in for my interview. My boss-to-be even asked me, "Why are you wearing a suit?") At the moment I'm wearing a sweater over a button-down shirt, which is untucked; Target slacks; and off-brand, faux-leather dress shoes. It's not something I'd wear to watch SpongeBob on a Saturday morning; it's also not something I'd wear to a wedding.

I didn't say any of this to Meyer. And I answered his question about why I wear nice clothes to work by saying, "Lots of people wear nice clothes to work. It shows respect for the other people you work with." That was a terrible answer, but it was the best I could come up with. Still, I'm sure there's some reason why I wouldn't feel comfortable coming to work in shorts and a T-shirt. (I don't even feel comfortable going to the Olive Garden wearing shorts and a T-shirt.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

This Is the Most Horrible Thing Ever

While I was putting together the previous post (which I have since deleted), I searched Google Images for "little girls' sweater jacket" in hopes of finding a picture of something resembling the jacket Resha Kate refused to wear. Of course, whenever you type anything into a Google search field, Google Suggest goes to work and gives you a list of the most popular searches beginning with what you have typed so far.

Here's what Google was suggesting when I'd typed "little girls":

Yeah. People really are awful, aren't they?

So, for the good of humanity, drop by Google Images today (and everyday) and search for "little girls with kittens," "little girls with flowers," or something equally innocent.

See also: "Fun With Google Images"

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Tinley Kids, Halloween 2009

Below: Malachi as a tiger; Resha Kate as a butterfly; Meyer as a Clone Trooper. Just so you know, we refer to the instrument that Meyer is holding as a "blaster" (which is the correct Star Wars terminology anyway); we're not using the "g" word.