Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ranking the Names of Namesakes of Biblical Books From Most Conventional to Most Unusual

I like to think that my children—Meyer, Resha Kate, and Malachi—have names that are unique without being strange. But I occasionally find myself thinking that "Malachi" is a funny name to give a kid. Why would I think such a thing? "Malachi" is the name of a prophet who wrote a book of the Bible, a collection of texts considered sacred by almost one-third of the world's population. Other namesakes of biblical books include John, Daniel, Ruth, and Joel. No one considers those names unusual. On the other hand, I've never known anyone named Nahum or Haggai.

With that in mind, I've decided to rank the names of all Bible-book namesakes from the most conventional to the most unusual to see where "Malachi" lands. I've determined how conventional or unusual a name by considering the name's current popularity and popularity over time among English-speaking North Americans. (I wouldn't know how to compare "Juan" and "Pedro" or "Matthieu" and "Luc." And I have no idea how popular "Zechariah" is in New Zealand or Ireland.) Very little research or hard data has gone into the creation of this list, aside from several trips to the Name Voyager.

1. John
2. Matthew
3. Daniel
4. Timothy
5. Mark
6. Peter
7. Samuel
8. Joshua
9. Ruth
10. Joel
11. Luke
12. Jeremiah
13. Judith*
14. Jonah
15. Isaiah
16. Esther
17. Ezekiel
18. Ezra
19. Micah
20. Amos
21. Malachi
22. Zechariah
23. Enoch**
24. Titus
25. Hosea
26. Job
27. Baruch*
28. Tobit*
29. Obadiah
30. Zephaniah
31. Philemon
32. Nahum
33. Habakkuk
34. Haggai

*Book is in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles but not Protestant and Jewish Bibles.

**Book is only in Ethiopian Orthodox Bibles.

One could make a case that Malachi is more conventional than Amos, but I'm certain (thanks to Name Voyager) that "Malachi" is more obscure than "Micah" but more common than "Zechariah."

For what it's worth, none of the names ranked 26–34 is among the 1,000 most popular names in any decade according to Name Voyager. Every other name, including "Malachi," was at least marginally popular at some point in the past century.

Monday, December 21, 2009

God's Guide to College Bowl Games*, 2009

Jesus fumbles?Here's your annual report of religiously affiliated schools whose football teams will be playing in bowl games during the next two weeks. Before I go further, I should congratulate Villanova, a Roman Catholic school, for winning this year's Division I-FCS Championship. In the FBS four sectarian universities will be participating in this year's postseason, and each represents a different tradition. Presbyterians and Baptists will be spending their Christmas break at home this year as Tulsa and Wake Forest each were one win short of bowl eligibility. But Mormons, Catholics, United Methodists, and Disciples have some interesting games to look forward to:

Latter Day Saints
#14 Brigham Young vs. #18 Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl, Tuesday December 22. The Cougars return to Vegas for the fifth consecutive season; this year they bring along a #14 ranking and impressive wins over Oklahoma and Utah. But the Rodgers Brothers and Oregon State, having just missed out on a Rose Bowl bid, may be the best team BYU has faced during this five-year run in the Las Vegas Bowl.

United Methodist
Southern Methodist vs. Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl, Thursday December 24. The United Methodist Church opposes the death penalty, and if you're familiar with the SMU football program, you understand why**. While the Mustangs were one of the best teams in the country in the early 1980s, they spent the first half of the decade on and off NCAA probation. When the NCAA found in 1986 that SMU was paying its players with a slush fund (and when boosters continued making payments after their indiscretions had been revealed), the association gave SMU football the "death penalty," cancelling the 1987 season and making it nearly impossible for the Mustangs to field a team in 1988. The punishment led to the downfall of the Southwest Conference and triggered a nationwide conference realignment. SMU has not played in a Bowl Game since. Until this year. Coach June Jones returns to Hawaii, where his team likely will get destroyed by Nevada and the Wolfpack's three 1,000-yard rushers. Nonetheless, with Syracuse's recent struggles, it's nice to see SMU playing football in December.

Roman Catholic
Boston College vs. #24 USC in the Emerald Bowl, Saturday December 26. It's only a matter of time before either the Pope or Doug Flutie issues an encyclical to American Catholics telling them to stop worrying about Notre Dame and instead to put their faith in the other Catholic school with a major college football program. Were it not for some last-minute heroics from Vanderbilt (and, I confess, some questionable calls) in the 2008 Music City Bowl, BC would be riding a nine-game bowl winning streak into San Francisco. Starting a new streak will be difficult against a USC team that is missing out on a BCS bowl for the first time in seven seasons, but the Eagles usually perform well in the post season.

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
#4 Texas Christian vs. #6 Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, Monday January 4. Regardless what happens in Glendale, TCU—12–0 with wins over Utah, Clemson, and the aforementioned BYU Cougars and SMU Mustangs—will be God's college football champion. The Horned Frogs have a chance to finish #2 in the final polls, the best finish for a religiously affiliated school since Notre Dame finished second in 1989.

* I titled this post "God's Guide to College Bowl Games" because I thought it sounded catchy. God has not formally endorsed this guide.

** I wrongly imply here that The United Methodist Church disapproved of SMU's football team being punished so severely. In truth, the UMC's investigation of the Mustangs was more damning even than the NCAA's.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Big Ten Wants to Expand, and I Can Help

For the fourth time since Penn State joined in the conference in 1990, the Big Ten is exploring the possibility of adding a twelfth team. And, if reports are to be believed, the Big Ten is serious this time. (The conference has always been serious about adding Notre Dame; now it seems open to looking outside of South Bend for team number twelve.) The four most likely candidates for expansion are Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Missouri. I've also heard Iowa State, Nebraska, and Cincinnati mentioned as possibilities.

The Big Ten has high academic standards for its member institutions; and (I believe) all of the schools mentioned above would meet those standards. The conference also has an interest in expanding into new media markets. This makes Rutgers and Syracuse especially attractive and is a strike against Cincinnati. There also seems to be an interest in bringing in a team that would be a natural rival of an existing team. This makes Pittsburgh (Penn State), Iowa State (Iowa), and Missouri (Illinois) strong candidates.

All of the candidates for expansion named thus far come from either the Big East or Big 12 Conference. If one of the Big East schools defected for the Big Ten, the Big East would need an eighth football school. Memphis or Central Florida from Conference USA would be the most likely candidates for promotion into the Big East. (CUSA might then pick up La Tech as a replacement.) If the Big 12 needed to replace a team, that team likely would come from the Mountain West, probably TCU or Utah. And, if the Big Ten were to expand, the Pac 10 may follow suit, possibly nabbing a couple Mountain West schools. At any rate, Big Ten expansion likely would effect several conferences.

Of course, the Big Ten wouldn't necessarily need to take a team from another major conference. It could promote a school from a less prestigious league. A handful of MAC schools, such as Buffalo and Miami (OH!), would fit well academically. But adding a MAC school would not add a major new television market. (Cincinnati and Cleveland already are in Big Ten territory, and Buffalo doesn't really count as a major market.) A MAC school joining the Big Ten also would need to upgrade its football facilities (and possibly its basketball facilities).

Now I get creative. Here's an idea that's on no one's radar, and it would be a ten-year (or so) project. Ready? The University of Toronto. That's right, in Canada. Hear me out. The University of Toronto is a major public school in the Great Lakes region that also happens to be one of the best research universities in North America. The Varsity Blues have a rich athletic tradition. The first North American football game was played on the University of Toronto campus in 1861, and the school's football team played its first game in 1877 against Michigan (a Big Ten school). These days, Toronto's football team is dreadful, though the school excels at other sports (such as rowing).

A probationary period would be required before Toronto could become a member of the NCAA, and a complete overhaul of the football program would be necessary before the school could join the Big Ten. (The Varsity Blues would need to play at the Rogers Centre until a new stadium could be built.) It would be an undertaking, but this addition would bring a world class research university and one of the largest media markets in North America into the Big Ten. And there's precedent for this sort of thing. Earlier this year Simon Fraser University in British Columbia became a member of NCAA Division II.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not One of My Better Moments

My attempt to capture Meyer doing his impression of Russell from Up! revealed some of my shortcomings as a parent. (Needless to say, this endeavor won't be nearly as successful as the Meyer Wazowsi video, which currently has 54,188 views.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Paragraphs on the BCS

While I feel that an 8 or 16-team playoff is the only legitimate way to determine a national champion in college football, I understand that we won't be getting a playoff any time soon. So, for the time being, I'll give up my spot among the choir of voices calling for a post season tournament and focus instead on improving the current BCS system. The aim of the current system is to select the country's two best teams and have them play each other in a single National Championship Game. But the means of choosing these teams is flawed. Human polls account for two-thirds of the BCS standings. Many of the voters in these polls (coaches, former players and coaches, some local media) have knowledge of one team, conference, or region but are not equipped to compare teams from across the country (especially now that the AP poll is not part of the formula). Factors such as preseason ranking (see Auburn 2004) and program reputation (see Utah 2008) also influence the final rankings.

One alternative would be to assemble a selection committee, similar to the those that determine at-large bids to post season tournaments in other sports. Unlike poll voters, selection committee members would be responsible for watching and studying all possible championship contenders and would be required to reach a consensus on the number one and two teams. This season, a selection committee might have selected Alabama and Texas or they might have put Cincinnati in the championship over the Longhorns (since the Bearcats played a tougher schedule and had more quality wins). At any rate, they would have to reach a decision through reasoned debate. A selection committee almost certainly would have avoided the controversies in past years that led to the BCS formula being tweaked so many times (e.g. in 2000 Miami, instead of Florida State, likely would have played Oklahoma; in 2003 co-champions LSU and USC likely would have met in the championship game). Another alternative would be to rely entirely on the computer polls that currently account for one-third of the BCS formula. The biggest criticism of computers is that they can't watch the games. That's true, but computers can rely only on objective data (winning percentage, opponents' winning percentage, margin of victory if the powers that be allow it, and so on) and are completely free from bias.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One Paragraph on the "War on Christmas"

"War on Christmas" refers, of course, to the supposed battle being fought against the Christian holiday by secular culture. The American Family Association and a contingent of Fox News personalities have decided that they need to defend Christmas from the forces of secularism and pluralism and specifically from retailers who fail to mention “Christmas” by name in their advertising or dare to wish customers “Happy Holidays.” As a Christian, I can’t fathom why any of my brothers or sisters in Christ is offended by a store deciding not to exploit one of our most sacred celebrations to turn a profit. If anything, we should commend these retailers and criticize those that tempt customers to remember Christ’s birth by purchasing flat-screen televisions, gaudy jewelry, and robot hamsters for loved ones. After all, the one whom we call “Christ” warned us not to store up treasures on earth. I'd guess that he would rather us not use his name to sell digital cameras and outerwear.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tinley Christmas Card?

Tinley 2009 Christmas Card
Add Glitter to your Photos

Christmas Music Recommendations

Here are some recommendations for music to fill out your Christmas playlists:

  • Meyer singing "Away in a Manger"

  • The Nobility, I've Got a Present for You: 4 songs for $3.99. Too often when artists release original Christmas music, the seasonal songs don't stack up with the other songs in the artists' catalog. But these do. I've Got a Present for You features three great Nobility songs whose lyrics happen to be related to Christmas (and a live cover of "Good King Wenceslas").

  • David Dewese, Next Christmas: A good mix of originals and David's takes on Christmas classics. If you like the Foxymorons or Luxury Liners, you'll enjoy Next Christmas. As usual, David's voice is as smooth as creamy peanut butter.

  • Worship Feast Advent and Christmas: Five Advent and Christmas songs I wrote and recorded with Jenny Youngman as part of a project for work. Four of the songs are originals, one is a new arrangement of the hymn "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly." The songs are $2.00 each.

  • Then there's this. It's free.

Monday, December 07, 2009


I probably won't have much time to blog this week, so I give you this, which shall keep you happy until my return:

It's the Japanese trailer for the WiiWare game Muscle March. From Kotaku:

Namco Bandai's incredibly bizarre Muscle March, the WiiWare game featuring posing races between buff, bikini-clad bodybuilders and bears, is coming to North American next year, believe it or not.

Watch it. Several times.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Re: Decades

I've noticed several best-of-decade lists, awards, and retrospectives in recent weeks. December 31 will see the end of the aughts, the ten-year block that Time called the "decade from hell." But does the current decade really end in just over four weeks, or does it end in just over 56?

The Gregorian Calendar, the consensus civil calendar throughout the world, includes no year O. This is one of the great embarrassments of western civilization, and it makes arithmetic involving modern dates and ancient dates awkward, but it is a fact and something that we have to deal with. Thus the first century began with year 1 (which is kind of like beginning a day at 1:00 or timing a race with one minute already on the clock when the runners come out of the starting blocks, but that's the way it is) and ended on December 31, 100. The second century began on January 1, 101 and continued through the end of year 200. And so on. (The current century, and millennium, began on January 1, 2001.)

In theory, decades work the same way. The first decade included years 1–10; the second years 11–20; and the one hundred ninety-ninth years 1981–1990. So one could argue convincingly that the current decade will continue until December 31, 2010. But I would like to suggest a less technical approach:

We name centuries with ordinal numbers beginning with the first century (second century, twenty-first century, and so forth). Since our method of naming centuries takes us all the way back to the beginning of our calendar, we must respect that Pope Gregory VIII's calendar starts with year 1 when we determine a century's start and end dates. But we have different naming conventions when it comes to decades. Rather than using ordinal numbers, we use the digit in the tens' place (e.g. twenties, sixties, nineties, aughts, etc.). If you were to mention the "one hundred forty-third decade," few if any people would immediately recognize that you were talking about 1421–1430; but if you were to mention the "fourteen twenties," most everyone would know that you were talking about 1420–1429. As long as we define decades using the years' penultimate digit, 1970 will be part of the seventies decade, even though (unlike years 1971–1979) it is not part of the one hundred ninety-eighth decade.

Now that that's established, I'll get to work on my end-of-decade lists.