Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Paying My Respects to Miss Baker

If you spend much time on this blog (and I know that not too many people do), you're familiar with this image of a monkey with a rocket, the "album cover" for the Scrambies: Ideas Worth Ignoring Podcasts. I found out this weekend that the space monkey pictured is one Miss Baker. Miss Baker and her counterpart Able (the monkeys were named after the first two letters in the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet) were the first two monkeys (and the first two Americans) to survive a trip into outer space. Able died in June 1959, days after returning to earth. But Miss Baker lived until 1984. She is buried, next to her husband Big George, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This weekend, the kids and I made a trip to the Space & Rocket Center. While the purpose of our visit was not to pay our respects to Miss Baker but to take in the "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit, I'm glad that we had the opportunity to visit the grave of this pioneering squirrel monkey.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Morning Trivia

(I'm using the Tuesday Night Trivia graphic because I still haven't made a Friday Morning Trivia graphic.)

Here's the challenge:

Two cities have won both a World Series and a Grey Cup. Name them.

Technically, it should read, "Two cities have been home both to a team that has won a World Series and at least one team that has won a Grey Cup." But you know what I mean.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pakistan Needs Help

While the United States has spent the last couple weeks bickering about replacing a Burlington Coat Factory in Manhattan with a religiously affiliated community center, floods in Pakistan have killed more than 1,500 people and left more than 4 million people homeless. Yesterday the World Health Organization announced that "cases of acute diarrhea have topped 204,000. The number of skin diseases -- such as scabies -- has topped 263,300." 20 million people have been affected and the UN "has termed the flood crisis bigger than the 2005 tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake." Yet aid to Pakistan has been slow compared to other large-scale disasters.

Wanna help?

Follow @weepwith for updates.

Ideas Worth Ignoring Podcast—Epidsode 10, "Assorted Sports-Related Ideas Worth Ignoring"

Now available in the iTunes Music Store.

In this episode I give you ideas worth ignoring related to tennis, baseball, korfball, and swimming. Enjoy.

Click here to subscribe or download individual episodes or make your way into the podcast department of the iTunes Music Store and search for "Scrambies."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Follow @weepwith

Weep With Those Who Weep (@weepwith) is a new Twitter-based effort to draw attention to disasters, conflicts, epidemics, and crises from around the world, particularly those that most North Americans otherwise would overlook. For example: ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, a cholera outbreak in Cameroon, a fire at a nursery in Romania, and continued problems in Darfur. @weepwith also alerts followers to ways they can respond to these tragedies. Click here to follow.

Picture: "The Loss of Love" by Leslie Brown

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ideas Worth Ignoring Podcast—Epidsode 9, "Hexagon: Three Teams, Two Balls"

Now available in the iTunes Music Store.

In this episode, I introduce you to the sport of Hexagon, which (unlike other team sports) involves three teams playing on a hexagonal field with two balls, and ask your assistance in working out some of the details. At 30:55, this is the longest "Ideas Worth Ignoring" podcast yet.

Click here to subscribe or download individual episodes or make your way into the podcast department of the iTunes Music Store and search for "Scrambies."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Night Trivia

Tonight, a two parter involving the Periodic Table:

1. Two vowels are not symbols for elements on the Periodic Table. Name them. (I count "Y" as a vowel.)

2. 14 symbols for elements on the Periodic Table are single letters. Almost all of these letters are initials for the English-language name of the element they represent. Two are not. Name them.

To clarify part 2: Were "scrambium" an element represented by the symbol "Z," it would be one of the answers.

A Proper Soundtrack for a Movie Set in the Mid 1990s

Middle Men, which chronicles the birth and rise of adult content on the Internet, is set in the mid 1990s. Since this is perhaps the first major period piece set in the era in which I came of age, I was curious to check out the soundtrack and see what music the filmmakers used to re-create that time period. Strangely, Middle Men has a very un-1995 soundtrack. "California Love" by Tupac and Dre, while a good choice, is the only 1995-appropriate song on the list. Assuming the story in the film continues into the late 1990s, "Hypnotize" by Biggie and "Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba also fit, even if neither is a particularly inspired choice.

Since Middle Men missed an opportunity to musically recreate my late teens, I decided to put together a proper soundtrack for a hypothetical movie set in the mid 1990s, one comprised entirely of songs released between 1993 and 1997, inclusive. I've given myself the rule of using no more than one song by a given artist. My intent is to choose music that 1) captures the time period and 2) lends itself to a movie soundtrack. ("INT - ANDERSON'S ONE-BEDROOM APARTMENT Dejected, Anderson throws himself onto the couch and stares at the ceiling; "Dropout" by Urge Overkill plays in the background. . . . EXT - AERIAL SHOT OF INTERSTATE 57 Anderson leaves the Adelaide, Illinois in his 1987 Ford Escort en route to Winnepeg. "Voodoo Lady" by Ween plays on the car stereo.") My aim is not to put together a "Best of 1995" or "Josh's Favorite Songs From the Mid 1990s" compilation.

I came up with a double album. Here it is:

1. "Voodoo Lady," Ween
2. "Old Friend," Rancid
3. "Bones," Radiohead
4. "I Ain't Goin Out Like That," Cypress Hill
5. "Nashville," Liz Phair
6. "Sappy," Nirvana
7. "She'll Come Back to Me," Cake
8. "Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check," Busta Rhymes
9. "I Took Your Name," R.E.M.
10. "Retreat From the Sun," that dog
11. "California Love," 2Pac and Dr. Dre

1. "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams," Weezer
2. "Hey, Johnny Park!" Foo Fighters
3. "C.R.E.A.M.," Wu-Tang Clan
4. "Lord Only Knows," Beck
5. "Muzzle," Smashing Pumpkins
6. "Dropout," Urge Overkill
7. "Smile," Pearl Jam
8. "Later Than Now," *asterisk
9. "Shutterbug," Veruca Salt
10. "Gin and Juice," Snoop Doggy Dogg
11. "Take Me Home," National Biscuit Company*

* Any soundtrack for which I am the executive producer will feature one song from one of my old bands.

Might Not Be Safe for Work

This is not staged. My children (all three of them) decided, on their own, to dance shirtless on the kitchen counter to "Rock Me Gently." (Mally needed some help getting his shirt off.)

Note: I used 29 seconds of "Rock Me Gently," which is totally covered by Fair Use, YouTube!

Monday, August 09, 2010

First Day of School

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday Morning Trivia (or Tuesday Night Trivia on Friday Morning)

This trivia challenge is a replacement for this week's Tuesday Night Trivia, in which I made an embarrassing error. Thus, the Tuesday Night Trivia graphic.

Here's the replacement challenge:

In the Western Hemisphere four pairs of neighboring countries have names that begin with consecutive letters. Name them.

To clarify: If Canada (C) and Dominica (D) shared a border, they would be the fifth pair. Also: Maritime borders don't count. (That would make things way too complicated.) So Bahamas and Cuba are not one of the pairs.

Hint: Two countries are part of more than one pair.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"Ideas Worth Ignoring" Podcasts Are on Hold . . .

. . . until I figure out where my children put my microphone. Until then, listen to the archives here or at the iTunes music store.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday Night Trivia

First the answer to last week's trivia challenge:

  • Iceland, Ireland

  • Iran, Iraq

  • [The] Gambia, Zambia

Here's this week's challenge:

202 Major League Baseball players have had fathers who also played in the bigs. Of these second-generation baseball players, only one has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Name him.

It's an easy question. I just thought it was interesting that only one of 202 second-generation players was in Cooperstown (though he won't be the only one for long).

Monday, August 02, 2010

I'm Not Sure It Works That Way, Anne Rice

You may have heard about best-selling Vampire/Jesus novelist Anne Rice's Facebook outburst about leaving Christianity. If you aren't, here it is:

For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

(Quick backstory: Rice grew up Catholic, but left the church when she was 18. She returned to the Roman Catholic Church in the late 1990s, and her reclaimed faith influenced her subsequent novels.)

Like Rice, I refuse to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-science, etc. Unlike Rice, I have no plans to leave the church. In fact, I'm not sure that faith in Christ works outside of Christ's body, the church. I could give you a laundry list of concerns and complaints about the universal church, about my denomination (The United Methodist Church), and about any congregation I've ever been a part of. Despite these concerns and complaints, I love the universal church, I love The United Methodist Church, and I love every congregation I've ever been a part of. These bodies aren't supposed to be perfect.

I don't want to be too critical of Rice's comments because a) I suspect they were impulsive, and one of the curses of the Internet age is the inability for any public figure to be impulsive without her impulses being over-analyzed, and b) because I can relate to her. About ten years ago, I left Christianity for a time, and frustration with the church as an institution was a factor in my decision. But my love of the church, with all its flaws, brought me back and helped me reclaim the faith I'd walked away from.

In reclaiming my faith, I also realized that Christianity is a communal religion. Christianity traces its roots back to the Hebrew scriptures in the Christian Old Testament, where God establishes a covenant relationship with a nation, rather than with individuals. And much of the New Testament was written to early Christian communities, giving them instructions on how to be the church, the "body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Granted, Rice claims to be a follower of Jesus, not Paul, and Jesus said far less on the subject of church than did the writers of the New Testament epistles. The word "church" only appears in the Gospels four times, all in Matthew. A scholar could probably make a convincing argument that Jesus never actually said the word, but that it came from the author of Matthew's reconstruction of teachings that had been kept alive orally. Still, nothing in the Gospels suggests that faith in Christ is an individual endeavor. Much of Jesus' teaching deals with how his followers should live in relationship with one another and with those whom they consider enemies or strangers. Jesus sent his disciples into the world as a group, and his final words to his disciples in Luke (24:44-49) anticipate the birth of the church in Acts.

I say all of this as a Protestant. Rice is/was a Roman Catholic. So she has less wiggle room than I do when it comes to disagreeing with the church on social issues. That said, the Catholic Church is far from monolithic, and I don't think that Rice would have much trouble finding a parish of like-minded believers on the West Coast (where she lives).

Speaking of wiggle room, I am a part of the ultimate wiggle-room denomination. The United Methodist Church notoriously avoids taking hard stands on most controversial matters; as a result, United Methodists who are (for lack of better adjectives) very conservative or very liberal often get frustrated with the church and consider leaving. On several occasions, I've heard United Methodists, unwilling to leave the church they love despite its flaws, announce their intention to "stay and fight." I'd prefer they stay and love.

See also: Scot McKnight on Anne Rice.