Friday, March 31, 2006

No More Running in the Dark

I felt really awesome tonight, but I'm hoping it's the last time the dogs and I will have to run in the dark for a while. Daylight savings this weekend. Yay! I'll actually see the sun for a while after work from now on.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Well-Rounded Education

I was shocked when my wife told me about one of the schools in her district. She said the only elementary school that is fully making the mark in terms of No Child Left Behind "shuts down" at the end of first semester to focus full time on reading and math. Those are the only two subjects tested, so they are the only two that matter in terms of the law. So from the start of second semester through the testing date the only two subjects taught in the whole school are reading and math. Apparently they are not alone.
Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math

Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it. . . .

The intense focus on the two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art. A nationwide survey by a nonpartisan group that is to be made public on March 28 indicates that the practice, known as narrowing the curriculum, has become standard procedure in many communities.

The survey, by the Center on Education Policy, found that since the passage of the federal law, 71 percent of the nation's 15,000 school districts had reduced the hours of instructional time spent on history, music and other subjects to open up more time for reading and math. The center is an independent group that has made a thorough study of the new act and has published a detailed yearly report on the implementation of the law in dozens of districts.

Information Literacy Is Power

This news article reminds me of a short story by Isaac Asimov I once read, The Feeling of Power. It's a science fiction story set in a futuristic society where everyone carries pocket computers (this was written in 1957, by the way). People have become so dependent on their computers to do all their thinking, that they've forgotten how to do math--or even that it's possible to figure sums "by hand." The protagonist rediscovers how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and is thought of as a secret military weapon.

Now we're getting stories in the real world that Google and search engines have become so user friendly that students are losing the ability to do their own research. Is Asimov's vision far behind?
Searching for Dummies

In December, the National Center for Education Statistics published a report on adult literacy revealing that the number of college graduates able to interpret complex texts proficiently had dropped since 1992 from 40 percent to 31 percent. As Mark S. Schneider, the center's commissioner of education statistics, put it, "What's disturbing is that the assessment is not designed to test your understanding of Proust, but to test your ability to read labels."

The Higher Education Supplement of The Times of London reports that a British survey also finds that the ability of undergraduates to read critically and write cogently has fallen significantly since 1992. Students are not just more poorly prepared, a majority of queried faculty members believe, but less teachable.

While some blame reality television, MP3 players, cellphones or the multitasking that juggles them all, the big change has been the Web. Beginning in the early 1990's, schools, libraries and governments embraced the Internet as the long promised portal to information access for all. And at the heart of their hopes for a cultural and educational breakthrough were superbly efficient search engines like Google and those of its rivals Yahoo and MSN. The new search engines not only find more, they are more likely to present usable information on the first screen. . . .
Of course, there's no point in being alarmist, but I relate to the educators quoted in the article from my days at the high school. It was hard enough convincing the teachers that their students needed to be taught how to research, not just given research assignments, much less the students. Everyone just kind of assumed any information could be easily located and if it couldn't it wasn't worth the effort. Ideas like problem solving and critical thinking were foreign concepts.

So maybe some good news

We just talked to a friend of ours who is a realtor about a house we saw about a week ago. He thinks we can probably get financing and maybe, just maybe, get this house. Ean (the little ninja in Leelu's belly) may actually get to start out life in an actual house! Think of it! I am. I just hope it can actually work. So cross your... fingers. :D

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Catching Up

Not a lot of personal posts from Degolar lately, because I’ve been doing my best to just hang on. Not that I’m really complaining because I chose everything I was taking on and wouldn’t want to have dropped any of it, but I probably bit off a bit more than I could chew. It started Monday two weeks ago. I’d been dragging for a good week and it finally ran me down to the point that I was sick and had to call in to work so I could sleep all day. I wasn’t really better Tuesday, but it was spring break and we had programs all day that I needed to be at. I made it through work the rest of the week, but went home and rested each evening instead of working out.

I already had a bunch of plans for that weekend. The wife had been working on her administrative degree for the previous 18 months that culminated in a $500 certification test. She and a classmate had made a pact that if they each passed the test on the first try they would go to Vegas to celebrate. They passed, so they made plans to go the second weekend of spring break. Which meant I would be a lonely bachelor for 4 days. So I agreed to see V for Vendetta on opening night with Hadrian, followed by our usual night of D&D, with a Sunday dinner at Jazz to discuss Moby-Dick with the survivors.

Three nights of festivities and revelry would have been a full weekend on their own, but Wednesday night we got a call from a casual acquaintance from the community center. He had a team for the Brew to Brew run and needed someone to fill in for a last minute cancellation. I’d heard of the event--though never participated--but it sounded fun and I agreed. The race route is 44 miles from the Boulevard Brewery in KC to the Free State Brewery in Lawrence. There are ten legs, with teams consisting of 5-10 runners (or you can do it solo). I was on a 5 person team, so I would be running two legs. Sounded fun, except we were meeting at 5:30 Sunday morning to get ready for our 6:30 start.

So I got home from work Friday night and didn’t have quite enough time to work out before having to leave again to meet Hadrian for dinner. Instead I lounged and semi-napped. We met at Village West and tried the new restaurant Dave & Buster’s. A huge place, it’s one-third sports bar, one-third upscale Applebee’s-like restaurant, and one-third arcade. Actually the arcade was probably over half of the floor space. But like a Chucky Cheese for big kids (and adults). An interesting combo, and none of it really impressed us. We decided the arcade is a casino training ground. It had the same feel. You get a credit card to keep track of your money, which is called chips instead of tokens. And they have the big plastic cups/containers to hold the tickets you win at skeet ball and the like. The movie was good. Not “you have to see” awesome, but good. It’s worth checking out. Got to bed between 1 and 2 a.m.

Saturday morning I had just enough time to get a haircut before meeting my BtB team at Ward Parkway. We spent an hour getting acquainted and planning our strategy and then picked up our registration packet. Our leader rented a van and each person was to bring refreshments and power foods to get us through the race. After that I went for a casual bike ride and ran the dogs. Finished just in time for a fun night of D&D. I felt awful doing so, but insisted we quit at midnight so I could get a bit of sleep before my alarm went off at 4:30.

The race was fun. Some people were actually sampling the Boulevard brews at 6 Sunday morning before the race. Our leader had planned some costumes for us to pose in so our picture might get used somewhere along the line. But we got off in fine form and followed our runners from checkpoint to checkpoint. I ran the 5th and 9th legs, which meant I showed up early to spend the first couple of hours riding in the van. Then I ran 5 miles with only minimal warm-up and immediately jumped back in the van to stiffen up. My 4 mile leg was a bit slower, but really didn’t feel too bad considering. We finished in Lawrence a little after 12 and headed off to the brewery for lunch. I got home, very sore, tired, and stiff, around 3:30. But it was fun and I’ll do it again next year if asked.

After an hour-long nap I got up and headed to Jazz for excellent conversation with Scott, Kelly, Erica, Erica’s hubby, and Erica’s mom. Some of the conversation was even about Moby-Dick. Finally I got home and had an excellent night’s sleep.

I tried to take it easy and get lots of sleep all week to recover, but didn’t want to miss my Tuesday night spinning class with TriKC for the second week in a row. Probably a mistake. Even following that with light workouts the rest of the week I was ultra sore and not getting better. Finally I took Saturday and Sunday off, but it wasn’t enough. The ache in my body kept getting worse and the sickness I’d never given myself a chance to fully get over came back. I went to sleep at 8 this past Sunday night and continued to sleep most of Monday, calling in sick once again. But I finally woke up this morning feeling rested and recovered, and hope to get back to normal again now.

George Who?

The George Mason Patriots, a university many have probably never even heard of, much less thought of as a basketball powerhouse. Yet they are in the Final Four. They beat Michigan State in the first round, a regular powerhouse and Final Four team from last year. In the second round they took out Roy Williams and North Carolina, the defending national champions. They handled Wichita State in the Sweet Sixteen, then pulled one out against Connecticut, the overall number one seed and fairly unanimous choice as most talented team in the nation.

Out of around 3 million people who entered ESPN's online bracket challenge, 4 correctly picked the Final Four. Not 4 thousand or even 4 hundred, 4. It's the first time since 1980 that none of the four #1 seeds made it to the Final Four. I correctly picked 5 of the teams in the Elite Eight and 2 of the Final Four (UCLA and Florida), but can only get one more game right. I had Duke beating Florida for the national championship, which ain't gonna happen since Duke is long gone. But it sure has been fun to watch developing. Go Patriots.

For the Parents

I'm not so sure I agree with their conclusion, that it's simply a matter of competition. I think there are many factors beyond parenting style that influence a child's likelihood of success. Still, it's an interesting perspective. And I would hope to be able to find a compromised style that draws from aspects of both, since I don't agree completely with either.

Paper: New York Times, The (NY)
Message: Both Sides of Inequality
Date: March 9, 2006
Section: Editorial Desk
Page: 23

For the past two decades, Annette Lareau has embedded herself in American families. She and her researchers have sat on living room floors as families went about their business, ridden in back seats as families drove hither and yon.

Lareau's work is well known among sociologists, but neglected by the popular media. And that's a shame because through her close observations and careful writings -- in books like "Unequal Childhoods" -- Lareau has been able to capture the texture of inequality in America. She's described how radically child-rearing techniques in upper-middle-class homes differ from those in working-class and poor homes, and what this means for the prospects of the kids inside.The thing you learn from her work is that it's wrong to say good parents raise successful kids and bad parents raise unsuccessful ones. The story is more complicated than that.

Looking at upper-middle-class homes, Lareau describes a parenting style that many of us ridicule but do not renounce. This involves enrolling kids in large numbers of adult-supervised activities and driving them from place to place. Parents are deeply involved in all aspects of their children's lives. They make concerted efforts to provide learning experiences.

Home life involves a lot of talk and verbal jousting. Parents tend to reason with their children, not give them orders. They present "choices" and then subtly influence the decisions their kids make. Kids feel free to pass judgment on adults, express themselves and even tell their siblings they hate them when they're angry.

The pace is exhausting. Fights about homework can be titanic. But children raised in this way know how to navigate the world of organized institutions. They know how to talk casually with adults, how to use words to shape how people view them, how to perform before audiences and look people in the eye to make a good first impression.

Working-class child-rearing is different, Lareau writes. In these homes, there tends to be a much starker boundary between the adult world and the children's world. Parents think that the cares of adulthood will come soon enough and that children should be left alone to organize their own playtime. When a girl asks her mother to help her build a dollhouse out of boxes, the mother says no, "casually and without guilt," because playtime is deemed to be inconsequential -- a child's sphere, not an adult's.

Lareau says working-class children seem more relaxed and vibrant, and have more intimate contact with their extended families. "Whining, which was pervasive in middle-class homes, was rare in working-class and poor ones," she writes.

But these children were not as well prepared for the world of organizations and adulthood. There was much less talk in the working-class homes. Parents were more likely to issue brusque orders, not give explanations. Children, like their parents,
were easily intimidated by and pushed around by verbally dexterous teachers and doctors. Middle-class kids felt entitled to individual treatment when entering the wider world, but working-class kids felt constrained and tongue-tied.

The children Lareau describes in her book were playful 10-year-olds. Now they're in their early 20's, and their destinies are as you'd have predicted. The perhaps overprogrammed middle-class kids got into good colleges and are heading for careers as doctors and other professionals. The working-class kids are not doing well. The
little girl who built dollhouses had a severe drug problem from ages 12 to 17. She had a child outside wedlock, a baby she gave away because she was afraid she would hurt the child. She now cleans houses with her mother.

Lareau told me that when she was doing the book, the working-class kids seemed younger; they got more excited by things like going out for pizza. Now the working-class kids seem older; they've seen and suffered more.

But the point is that the working-class parents were not bad parents. In a perhaps more old-fashioned manner, they were attentive. They taught right from wrong. In some ways they raised their kids in a healthier atmosphere. (When presented with the
schedules of the more affluent families, they thought such a life would just make kids sad.)

But they did not prepare their kids for a world in which verbal skills and the ability to thrive in organizations are so important. To help the worse-off parents, we should raise the earned-income tax credit to lessen their economic stress. But the core issue is that today's rich don't exploit the poor; they just outcompete them.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Today in my email. . .

. . . I recieved this:

Fellow Believers,

Our day has finally arrived! The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is at last here. Maybe not inscribed on stone tablets, but it is a book. And maybe not THE Good Book, but at least A Good Book.

Delivering His Divine Message is my life’s work, and as I’ve said before, all proceeds from the book will go toward our pirate ship fund. Because as you know, global warming is the direct effect of the declining number of pirates, and His Noodliness, while he endorses boiling pasta, is against boiling the planet. With your help, and with the sails blowing on our bad-ass pirate ship (with flags, cannons, and weevils in the flour barrels below deck), we can spread His Word and save the environment at the same time.

Remember that ours is a small boutique religion, but we have BIG ideas (some, arguably a bit al dente) and we must share this rich booty of ideas with others. Within the pages of The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you will find FSM history, helpful propaganda, scientific evidence of His existence (including the 100% verifiable fact that no one has sued any school boards about us), as well as pictures and illustrations that surely test the limits of copyright law. But as pioneers we’re not afraid of a little controversy.

Since The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster goes on sale tomorrow, March 28th is a Holy day. I encourage you to dress in your Pirate’s best—paint one of your pant legs to resemble a wood finish, maybe wear an eye patch or get a parrot, and eat some cacciatore with a side of linguine. Then, go to your local bookstore to let them know that The Church of FSM is strong in your community. I can honestly say that if everyone on this e-mail list goes out and buys the book, it will be a bestseller. That would certainly get some people’s attention.

Our future is in our own hands. And in His noodly appendage.

Bobby Henderson

Hmm. . . I have a poofy shirt from RenFest last year. . .

Actually, I requested some time ago that the library purchase it, and sure enough, it's on order. W00t.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Speaking of Impending Doom

Speaking of impending doom, that feeling has traditionally informed the more conservative religious views. The idea that this world is so irredeemable that our only hope is The Kingdom of God--whether in the afterlife in Heaven or in The Second Coming of Christ and "The End of the World." God has given up on the sinners and is coming for the saved. Kind of like with Noah and the great flood. And it is going to happen anytime. Soon. Probably in five minutes. Thus the urgency to save as many souls as possible and such. The apocalypse is nigh.

One of the ways in which this attitude manifests in conservative politics is environmental policies (or lack of them). The world is doomed anyway, and will soon be over, so why bother trying to preserve nature? God will destroy it before our pollution can. And even if God doesn't, what will it matter compared to our glory in Heaven to follow? So there's no need to take care of the earth. According to Jim Wallis, though, that mindset might be changing:
The Religious Right is losing control

For more than a decade, a series of environmental initiatives have been coming from an unexpected source - a new generation of young evangelical activists. Mostly under the public radar screen, they were covered in places such as Sojourners and Prism, the magazine of Evangelicals for Social Action. There were new and creative projects such as the Evangelical Environmental Network and Creation Care magazine. In November, 2002, one of these initiatives got some national attention - a campaign called "What Would Jesus Drive?" complete with fact sheets, church resources, and bumper stickers. The campaign was launched with a Detroit press conference and meetings with automotive executives.

Recently, more establishment evangelical groups, especially the National Association of Evangelicals, also began to speak up on the issue of creation care. . . .

. . . The Evangelical Climate Initiative is of enormous importance and could be a tipping point in the climate change debate, according to one secular environmental leader I talked to. But of even wider importance, these events signal a sea change in evangelical Christian politics: The Religious Right is losing control. They have now lost control on the environmental issue - caring for God's creation is now a mainstream evangelical issue, especially for a new generation of evangelicals. But now so is sex trafficking, the genocide in Darfur, the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and, of course, global and domestic poverty. The call to overcome extreme poverty abroad and at home, in the world's richest nation, is becoming a new altar call around the world - a principal way Christians are deciding to put their faith into practice. . . .

. . . For many, poverty is the new slavery. Again, this is especially true for a new generation of Christians. The connection between poverty and all the other key issues - the environment, HIV/AIDS, and violent conflicts around the world are increasingly clear for many people of faith.

The sacredness of life and family values are deeply important to these Christians as well - yet too important to be used as partisan wedge issues that call for single issue voting patterns that ignore other critical biblical matters. The Religious Right has been able to win when they have been able to maintain and control a monologue on the relationship between faith and politics. But when a dialogue begins about the extent of moral values issues and what biblically-faithful Christians should care about, the Religious Right begins to lose. The best news of all for the American church and society is this: The monologue of the Religious Right is over, and a new dialogue has just begun.

Impending Doom

Terrorists . . . bird flu . . . nuclear weapons . . . global warming . . . the world is coming to an end, no? No. It seems to me that people generally exaggerate their current dangers and alarmists are always calling for the end of the world, yet it never gets around to happening. Look at the popularity of disaster movies (Armageddon, The Day after Tomorrow, etc.). Look at the popularity of the Bible's book of Revelation. There seems to be some self-centered need to think that our crises are more important than anyone else's have ever been.

So I'm not predicting the collapse of our national economy or anything, but I do have a bad feeling about the direction it's headed. We (and by we I mean the current leadership whom I did not vote for) keep putting ourselves into greater debt while alienating ourselves from more of the world. Our international corporations may be taking over the world, but our government is not. And private citizens seem to be following suit, as we now have more debt than savings on an average individual level as well. It seems like sooner or later it's all got to catch up to us.
Politics Drives a Senate Spending Spree

WASHINGTON, March 17 — The largess demonstrated by the Senate in padding its budget with billions of dollars in additional spending this week showed that lawmakers are no different from many of their constituents: they don't mind pulling out the charge card when money is tight.

Just hours after opening a new line of credit through an increase in the federal debt limit, the Senate splurged on a bevy of popular programs before approving a spending plan that was as much a political document as an economic one, its fine print geared to the coming elections.

Forced to choose between calls for renewed austerity and demands for more money, many Republicans joined Democrats in reaching deeper into the Treasury, leaving the party's push for new fiscal restraint in tatters. . . .
Yet we need to keep cutting taxes?
The Weak Recovery and the Coming Deep Recession

Commentary: It looks like the next recession will be deep and difficult to escape.

. . . After having been wrong once, it’s either brave or foolish to make a second prediction that the next recession will be deep and difficult to escape. But the facts point to it being just that—despite the optimism of the Federal Reserve. This is because the economic factors that helped escape the last recession have been largely exhausted, and will not be available to fight the next recession.

The main reasons why the last recession was so relatively mild are the federal budget and interest rates. In fiscal year 2000 the federal government ran a budget surplus of $236 billion dollars, but within three years this had reversed to a deficit of $378 billion. The overall budgetary U-turn was therefore $614 billion dollars, equal to about six percent of economic output (gross domestic product). This turn provided an enormous injection of spending that helped prevent a deeper recession and jump start recovery. . . .

. . . There are three significant features about this monetary easing. First, it contributed importantly to warding off the recession and generating recovery. Second, the weakness of the private-sector recovery, despite the extraordinary scale of the fiscal and monetary stimulus, points to the underlying fragility of the private-sector economy. Third, the monetary easing has promoted massive consumer indebtedness and a housing price bubble, a combination that poses grave future threats. . . .

Friday, March 24, 2006

The King is Dead, Long Live the King?

Are World of Warcraft's days numbered? Unlikely, but possible. Guild Wars has the advantage of having no monthly fee, but I hear it's just not up to the standard of WoW. Plus, it's sure to get dated. The monthly fee is what allows Blizzard to keep churning out new content for WoW (and it allow them to make ungodly profits...). Now however, a new competitor emerges. That's right kids the original big dog, D&D, makes it's entrance into the MMORPG world with D&D Online. Will it unseat WoW as king of the MMORPG hill? That remains to be seen. Certainly it has the advantage of being a tried and tested brand name, but WoW has pretty effectively established an almost hegemonic dominance of the genre since it was released. Plus, who is to say whether the two games will even appeal to the same audience- are WoW players D&D players getting their computer fix, or are they a new generation of gamers that have never been exposed to the game that started fantasy role-playing and thus, don't know what they're missing? In short, will D&D's history and name recognition count for anything in today's marketplace, or has it already been irreversibly dislodged from its place of prominence in the fantasy gaming world? I guess we'll see.

Oh, and note it's Eberron, not Greyhawk. Interesting.

The Job

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Popular Spin

I was rather surprised (although I suppose I shouldn't have been) to hear a story on Good Morning America this morning about how the press is covering Iraq. Yesterday they asked viewers if they think the coverage is too negative. I interrupted my work preparations to add my two cents to the thousands of others doing the same on their discussion board. I didn't take any time to think it through, just went with my gut reaction. Here's their question:

President Bush said Tuesday that Americans are losing confidence in the war in Iraq partly because the media covers only the violence, which is exactly what the insurgents want.

Do you agree or disagree? How do you think the media should cover the war in Iraq? Which stories do you feel are not being told? Which stories are receiving too much media attention?
And here's my response:

Are you seriously taking a survey so we can help you decide how to "create" the news? Is it all about ratings and doing what's popular? It's your job to report the reality of what is happening, positive or negative, and without sources like you we have no basis for knowing what the truth is. It's not your job to make us feel good about ourselves (or our nation). It's not your job to sway us toward a particular political position. If good things are happening, tell us about them, but don't go looking for stories just because people ask for it. Report on the actuality of the situation in a comprehensive manner so we can see everything that is going on, good and bad. Life is complex and so are the things happening in Iraq, so let us see it all, but in proportion to the experiences of those living through it. I'm not there, so don't ask me to tell you whether that means more attention for which stories, ask those in Iraq--Iraqis from different backgrounds, soldiers, etc. Don't ask your viewers.
What do you think?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Well Said

Not a new idea, but I thought Leonard Pitts Jr. states it especially well in this article:

. . . But I'll leave those questions for others to parse. My biggest frustration lies elsewhere. Put simply, I've had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.

By which I mean people like you, who dress their homophobia up in Scripture, insisting with sanctimonious sincerity that it's not homophobia at all, but just a pious determination to live according to what the Bible says.

And never mind that the Bible also says it is ''disgraceful'' for a woman to speak out in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-36) and that if she has any questions, she should wait till she gets home and ask her husband. Never mind that the Bible says the penalty for going to work on Sunday (Exodus 35:1-3) is death. Never mind that the Bible says the man who rapes a virgin should buy her from her father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and marry her.

I'm going to speculate that you don't observe or support those commands. Which says to me that yours is a literalism of convenience, a literalism that is literal only so long as it allows you to condemn what you'd be condemning anyway and takes no skin off your personal backside.

As such, your claim that God sanctions your homophobia is the moral equivalent of Flip Wilson's old claim that the devil made him do it.

You resemble many of your and my co-religionists, whose faith so often expresses itself in an obsessive focus on one or two hot-button issues -- and seemingly nowhere else.

They're so panicked at the thought that somebody accidentally might treat gay people like people. They run around Chicken Little-like, screaming, 'Th' homosex'shals is comin'! Th' homosex'shals is comin'!'' Meantime, people are ignorant in Appalachia, strung out in Miami, starving in Niger, sex slaves in India, mass-murdered in Darfur. Where is the Christian outrage about that?

Just once, I'd like to read a headline that said a Christian group was boycotting to feed the hungry. Or marching to house the homeless. Or pushing Congress to provide the poor with healthcare worthy of the name.

Instead, they fixate on keeping the gay in their place. Which makes me question their priorities. And their compassion. And their faith.
If you love me, feed my sheep.

For the record . . . the Bible says that, too.

(And for the record, my favorite place to find "Christian outrage about that" is Sojourners.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

News to Me

With Books You May Get Chips
Area libraries look at RFID technology

"But the Johnson County Public Library might test RFID equipment at its Leawood Pioneer Library later this year, said Tim Rogers, the system’s associate director for operations."

Awesome, Baby!

That's what I love about the Big Dance. The bracket is fun, but you have to fill it out knowing you will be wrong because of the impossible upsets. All six Big Ten teams are out. The Big Twelve only has one. Yet the Missouri Valley has two (Wichita St. and Bradley). And George Mason beat Roy Williams's North Carolina. Since GM and WSU play each other, one will make the Elite Eight. I doubt even their fans would have said they are one of the best eight teams in the nation, yet here they are. And I'm pulling for Bradley to take down Memphis.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

That's What I Get for Bragging

At least I only had KU going to the elite eight. My bracket's not completely busted. But 8 out of 16 for the second day is pitiful. I picked all the upsets wrong. Consider the Missouri Valley: I had Bradley losing and Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois winning, when exactly the opposite happened. At least I got WSU beating Tennessee today right.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Day One

I picked 12 of the first 16 games correctly. I'm pleased with that. I knew nothing about the Alabama-Marquette and Montana-Nevada games and picked blindly; unfortunately I got both wrong. I had a feeling about San Diego State and they had the lead going into the last minute. They should have won, but choked big-time. But the one that really hurts is Syracuse, since I had them winning next round too. That means I've already missed one on Saturday. Still, they lost to Texas A&M, and I can't be too upset about the Big 12 doing well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Littlest Giant


What is cuter than a two-and-a-half-year-old fan of They Might Be Giants singing along to "Kiss Me, Son of God"? Seriously, what is? Because we sure don't know. (Thanks to John Argentiero for this submission). Here are the lyrics to the song for those who want to sing along (to listen to a streaming version of the actual song, go here):

I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage
Called the blood of the exploited working class
But they've overcome their shyness
Now they're calling me Your Highness
And a world screams, "Kiss me, Son of God"

Go to to see the video (you will need to click on "site pass" if not a member).

Especially for Hadrian

A Frontier League baseball team from Illinois, the Gateway Grizzlies, has come up with the perfect marketing food:

"March 8, 2006 - The Grizzlies and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts have teamed up to create “Baseball’s Best Burger.” The burger, which was debuted at the Grizzlies' December 10th sale, consists of a thick and juicy burger topped with sharp cheddar cheese and two slices of bacon. The burger is then placed in between each side of a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnut."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A New Doctor Who

The Sci Fi Channel is showing a new Doctor Who series, starting this Friday. Did anyone else grow up watching the old show? I spent a few years in middle school never missing an episode on PBS. "My" Doctor was the fourth one, Tom Baker. I can't say that I remember some of the details, but I know this sci fi influence has shaped my thinking.


"But it's not just the threats to individual academics represented by Horowitz et al's lists that should concern people. There is a larger issue here, which is the professional wrestling-ization of American politics and culture that they reflect. By this I mean that today, more than ever before, the mainstream media--and at base, American culture--prefers Jerry Springer and professional wrestling-style confrontation to actual attempts at reconciliation, and America is the poorer for it. More specifically, The Professors, and the kind of political and cultural discourse it represents, are dangerous to the functioning and purpose of the university, and to the larger notion of both free speech and civil debate that have long been cornerstones of American higher education, and through it, culture. . . . "

"However, in the genre of Jerry Springer "scholarship," it matters not at all if accusation have a basis in fact, only that that they're thrown into the public sphere with enough vehemence, and via the right outlets (Fox, talk radio), to "stick." In the larger public sphere this disinterest in either presenting or encountering the most accurate version has been demonstrated in spades with the James Frey-Oprah Winfrey debacle over the pseudo memoir A Million Little Pieces, which continues to sell wildly despite being exposed as a work of fiction."

America's "Most Dangerous" Professors?


"Bush’s approval rating is now consistently back in the ‘30s and the Democrats have been running strong double-digit leads in the generic Congressional ballot. These trends are being driven by what we might call “the great bail-out”, as not only are swing and independent voters moving sharply away from the GOP, but also a serious chunk of core GOP support. The latter development is truly frightening to Republican operatives and strategists who are only too aware of how dependent their election victories in the last several political cycles have been on rock-solid core support. Take that away and it’s a long way to the bottom.

"Here are some data that illustrate the great bail-out."

" . . . The problem for President Bush is a growing perception that he simply isn't competent . . . "

Soon to be a weapon

But until that happens, this is a pretty cool event. Non-nuclear reactions producing more heat than the sun? Cheap energy? Power companies will never let it happen.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Since the Bible Says Nothing about Caring for the Poor or Needy

"At a time when Congress is slashing programs for low-income Americans, there's no justification for the sought-after cuts, which would extend special low tax rates for investment income and would mainly benefit people who make more than $1 million a year."

Tax Madness

Alan Moore's Vendetta

If you know anything about Alan Moore, you know he doesn't like movie adaptations of his books. If this is news to you, you can read more about it here. I'm still going to see the movie, though.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

March Madness

I don't watch much college basketball in general (but use the paper to keep up with scores and standings), but when March rolls around I can't stay away. The big dance always provides excellent quality play, close games, and plenty of drama. It's best experienced with friends in a sports bar, I find. Let me know if you want to plan an outing one of the next three weekends. This weekend will provide the most fun because there will be the most games on at any one time.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Multi-Tasking, or What's a Blog For? Revisited

As some of you may remember, when we first started this thing I was conflicted about its purpose. A blog about gaming, a personal blog, a political blog, or some kind of catch-all? Well, I think it is clear that it has become a bit of a catch-all. And I've never been sure if I really liked that or not. But then, who has the energy for multiple blogs (besides Kelly of course)? However, the roomie decided to gift me with a domain name and some hosting space for my birthday last year, and so far, it has just been sitting there idle. So I figure it's about time that that space got used for something. To that end, I'll be split-personality blogging from now on. This might still be the space to catch expletive filled rants about Kansas highway officials, bleeding patrons, and what not, but my political offerings will probably make the migration over to the other site. It is my intention to make it a more serious and thoughtful venue for the discussion of politics, literature, etc. than I think the Goblin should be. So, there you have it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

No One's Called It Hideous Yet

I know he's not cringing, but what do you think of the goblin image I found?

Rackham the Semicolon

A couple of fun personality tests found on the blog of The Girl in Black, who seems to be a CG reader (Yay!).

My pirate name is:
Calico Harry Rackham
Often indecisive, you can't even choose a favorite color. You're apt to follow wherever the wind blows you, just like Calico Jack Rackham, your namesake. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from

You scored 30% Sociability and 64% Sophistication!
Congratulations! You are the semicolon! You are the highest expression of punctuation; no one has more of a right to be proud. In the hands of a master, you will purr, sneering at commas, dismissing periods as beneath your contempt. You separate and connect at the same time, and no one does it better. The novice will find you difficult to come to terms with, but you need no one. You are secure in your elegance, knowing that you, and only you, have the power to mark the skill or incompetence of the craftsman. You have no natural enemies; all fear you. And never, NEVER let anyone tell you that you cannot appear in dialogue!
Link: The Which Punctuation Mark Are You Test written by Gazda on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

An Update on Hadrian's Fucking Post

Legislative move draws ire of clergy

"Although the resolution would have no legal weight, critics say it is pulling religion divisively into politics. . . . The resolution, Tyson said, is intended to portray lawmakers or others who oppose it as anti-Christian."

Waning World of Whalecraft

It is finished.

Technorati tag:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What's that, Lassie? A voice of reason?

Who'd of thought that you could get a coherent argument these days, what with the whole of Congress up in arms about port deals and whatnot? Not I, that's for sure.

Ba da ba ba ba

I'm hating it.
I'm not having the best of days in the first place, so when I go out to a certain fast-food place, I should have known what would happen. How simple is this order? Number 1 meal (Big You-know-Mac), large with a Coke. You would expect that to be pretty simple, right? Well apparently, their most popular meal is really easy to screw up. Instead of what I ordered, I get a spicy chicken sandwich, extra mayo, no tomatoes, add pickles (which by the way makes the sandwich inedible), a small fry, and a large diet Coke. I ask you, what is the world coming to when you can't get accurate service from a restaurant? Well, sure it happens all the time and yeah, it's no actual big deal, but for crying out loud. I'm hungry AND thirsty (I can't drink diet) and will be until I get home tonight. Sorry, had to get that out.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hast Seen the White Whale!

Moby-Dick has finally made an appearance in his novel. And I finished disc 19 on the way home from work tonight.

Technorati tag:

Who Needs Lance?

Floyd Landis had his breakout year in 2004. During that year's Tour de France, he became Lance Armstrong's top lieutenant, able to stay with only a select few of the world's best during the most difficult stages. Instead of waiting for Lance to retire, Floyd struck out on his own in 2005 as leader of the Swiss Phonak team. He was good, but never great all season, and some have wondered if it was difficult to emerge from Armstrong's shadow. No one has been better so far in 2006, though, and today he took the lead in the Paris-Nice ProTour race.

The report, from

"Floyd Landis is the man for the early part of the 2006 season. After winning the Tour of California, the American has taken a serious option on the overall classification of Paris-Nice as well. Landis broke clear on the col de Croix de Chaubouret with Spain's 'Patxi' Vila of Lampre-Fondital, who won the crucial stage of the 'race to the sun' in Saint-Etienne. Landis has now four days of racing over his favourite terrain for defending his lead.

"Phonak's team manager John Lelangue pointed out that their main concern is now that their team is reduced to six men, since Robert Hunter was too sick (sinus infection) to continue, and Aurélien Clerc didn't make the time cut. But four of the five domestiques now designated for backing Floyd also had the same job in California, so it won't take long before they react if the yellow jersey has to face some attacks in the next few days. It's unsure though whether someone will dare to try before Sunday's final stage in Nice, because Landis has already proven to be the strongest stage race contender in the world at the moment."

The Real Damage of the Iraq Invasion

"But the reality is that the Iraq war could not be won by a force of any size or by an expenditure of any amount. Against determined opposition, occupations in the modern world cannot prevail. They haven’t for more than 60 years. The reason is that the basic economics of warfare have changed."

Read the six reasons why. The conclusion:

"The successful use of military power—as Mao Zedong understood when he called America a “paper tiger”—entails a large element of bluff. Vietnam deflated the image that American power could never be challenged. To some extent, the Gulf War of 1991 restored that image, but the restoration was achieved by the limited aims and quick termination of that war. The Clinton successes in the Balkans came in part because all sides bought this lesson of the Gulf War. (With Serbia, the bluff came close to being called again; the Kosovo bombing campaign took 80 days and Russian diplomacy rescued us in the end.)

"But now Iraq has once again exposed what military power cannot achieve, short of nuclear weapons. Iran and North Korea have taken notice. Meanwhile, our friends, the Europeans and the Japanese, must be asking themselves: Exactly what sort of security does the American alliance buy, and at what price?

"Bush and Cheney have done more than merely bungle a war and damage the Army. They have destroyed the foundation of the post-Cold War world security system, which was the accepted authority of American military power. That reputation is now gone. It cannot be restored simply by retreating from Iraq. This does not mean that every ongoing alliance will now collapse. But they are all more vulnerable than they were before, and once we leave central Iraq, they will be weaker still. As these paper tigers start to blow in the wind, so too will America’s economic security erode.

"From this point of view, the fuss over whether we were misled into war—Is the sky blue? Is the grass green?—stands in the way of a deeper debate that should start quite soon and ask this question: Now that Bush and Cheney have screwed up the only successful known model for world security under our leadership, what the devil do we do?"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Cycling Season Starts in an Hour

Well, not really an hour, but U.S. TV coverage of the season does. As far as I've found, the only locally available TV station (without paying big bucks) to offer cycling programming is the Outdoor Life Network. Here's their schedule for the next two months (EST). And it's not the actual start of the season, just the official one; but there's always some kind of a race somewhere. Last week, for instance, was the inaugural Tour of California. Floyd Landis was the winner based on his time trial effort. Lance's lieutenant George Hincapie won two stages and Levi Leipheimer looked good as well. All three are poised for big seasons. Read more about that race at this specific address and follow all the racing results at

But more about today's race, from the OLN website: "Also known as The Race to the Sun , the Paris Nice is the first big stage competition of the season. This eight-stage cycling race kicks off the UCI Pro Tour, and covers over 1000km of road from Paris to the finish on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice." Watch summary coverage 3/5, 4-5:30; 3/6, 2-3:30; 3/12, 4-6; and 3/13, 4-6. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

It's Not All About Me

I was looking back at the blog of Scott and Kelly's friend Jeremy and came across this article by George Will that I had missed in the Star. It talks about the fact that in every poll since 1972 conservatives have rated themselves happier than liberals. Both Will and Jeremy seem to indicate that because they are happier they obviously have the more correct outlook; they are closer to figuring out the key to happiness and life and thus somehow smarter. But they seem to miss the point that conservatives always miss--of course it's easy to be happy if you only have your own happiness to worry about. If you care only about yourself and pursue only your own gain, you have a decent chance of succeeding. The thing that distinguishes liberals is that they actually care about others and, in fact, tie their own sense of happiness into the happiness of the rest of the world. I know, no matter how individually successful I am, I can never really feel this world is a good place as long as there is poverty and war and unnecessary suffering. My privileges shouldn't come at the expense of anyone else, and I can't be self-satisfied if there's something I can do the make life better for others. So, sure, I'm less likely to be happy, but only because I care.

Friday, March 03, 2006


.... or words to that effect. I'm sorry I can't come up with something more eloquent, but my brain has been exposed to too much wingnuttery, and has decided to shut down before overheating.

And how come I wasn't invited to the Enlightenment's funeral?

Okay, I couldn't get the link to work, so here is the article (such as it is) in full:

State bill proposes Christianity be Missouri’s official religion

12:28 AM CST on Friday, March 3, 2006

By John Mills, News 4

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

House Concurrent Resolution 13 has is pending in the state legislature.

Many Missouri residents had not heard about the bill until Thursday.

Karen Aroesty of the Anti-defamation league, along with other watch-groups, began a letter writing and email campaign to stop the resolution.

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

State representative David Sater of Cassville in southwestern Missouri, sponsored the resolution, but he has refused to talk about it on camera or over the phone.

KMOV also contacted Gov. Matt Blunt's office to see where he stands on the resolution, but he has yet to respond.

It Was a Time of Great Turmoil and Upheaval at The Cringing Goblin

I don't really have a post to go along with this title, I just thought it was a fun phrase to capture what will henceforth be referred to as The Appearance Wars period of this blog's history. :-)

The Century Mark

This subject heading actually applies better to the middle of the week, because I've been in double-digit chapters for a few days now.

A slightly cynical outlook: "That mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true." It also goes back to my thoughts related to Ecclesiastes in an earlier post on the book: "With books the same. . . . and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. 'All is vanity.' ALL." I'd say I'm a bit more existential in my outlook than focused on woe and sorrow, but I can relate to what he is saying. Life is not fluffy. (from chapter 96, The Try-Works)

Noooo! Enough already! "Since I have undertaken to manhandle this Leviathan, it behoves me to approve myself omnisciently exhaustive in the enterprise; not overlooking the minutest seminal germs of his blood, and spinning him out to the uttermost coil of his bowels. Having already described him in most of his present habitatory and anatomical peculiarities, it now remains to magnify him in an archaeological, fossiliferous, and antediluvian point of view." Exceedlingly exhaustive. I now know more about whales than I thought possible. I suppose through the ongoing tedium of it all he is saying something greater about life and society, but I'm only getting flashes of that and don't know if it would be enough to hold my interest without the group goal. (from chapter 104, The Fossil Whale)

Interesting . . . "Such and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it." (from chapter 104, The Fossil Whale)

Delusion or ironic prophecy? "The moot point is, whether Leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc; whether he must not at last be exterminated from the waters, and the last whale, like the last man, smoke his last pipe, and then himself evaporate in the final puff." He wonders if the whale will be hunted into extinction like the buffalo and makes a case that it will not. Yet the signs were there and he saw it coming. (from chapter 105, Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminsh?--Will He Perish?)

What a description: "He was a pure manipulator; his brain, if he had ever had one, must have early oozed along into the muscles of his fingers." (from chapter 107, The Carpenter)

Disc 17, track 5. Technorati tag:

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Only Temporary...

Since we're screwing around with the template today....

Ignorance Is Bliss: Or, You Can't Miss What You Never Knew You Had

"A survey released Wednesday showcases a bit of data that should surprise nobody: Americans know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the 1st Amendment.

"The study, conducted by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, focuses on the 1st Amendment and found that less than one percent of the respondents could identify the five protected rights: freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly and to petition the government.

"On the other hand, about 20 percent of respondents could name Bart and Homer and the other three members of the animated Simpson family. . . . "

"Which isn't to say that there aren't any drawbacks to widespread ignorance, Dorf said. If people ignore their rights, those rights might disappear, he said."


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Goblin Green and Blood Red

Good or bad? Perfect, on the right track, who cares, or horribly awful?

(And it certainly doesn't look good with the custom color Hadrian chose for his blockquote in the previous post, so if you want to judge, scroll that off the screen.)

Apparently a Must-See

I've been waiting for my copy of V for Vendetta to come in at the library. I've been somewhat remiss in not reading it before now, it being one of the major works of Alan Moore, who I don't think I need to tell you, is a bit of a big thing in the comics world. Anyway, when I saw the first trailer for the movie version, I immediately ordered the graphic novel so that I could read it before seeing the movie. Now, thanks to James Wolcott I'm questioning that decision. Wolcott's praise of the film has gotten me excited, and definitely definitely raised my expectations:

... but when it was over I knew it was the movie our post 9-11 minds craved and unconsciously had been working towards, a movie that conjured the fear of terrorism and repression and didn’t just tell us how we got into the Orwellian predicament we’re in (terrain already attacked by Fahrenheit 9-11, Syriana, Why We Fight), but made the imaginative leap that would lift us out of the news, out of the political present, and stand up to that fear—face it with fury and compassion. The irony is that to face the fear, a mask was required, a mask with a mocking grin.

V for Vendetta may be--why hedge? is--the most subversive cinematic deed of the Bush-Blair era, a dagger poised in midair. Unlike the other movies dubbed “controversial” (Fahrenheit 9-11, The Passion, Munich, Syriana), it doesn’t play to a particular constituency or polarized culture bloc, it’s working on a deeper, Edger Allen Poe-ish witch’s brew substrata of pop myth.

And make no mistake V for Vendetta is fun, dangerous fun, percussive with brutality and laced with ironic ambiguity and satirical slapstick (a Benny Hill homage, no less!). But gives the movie its rebel power is the moral seriousnessthat drives the action, emotion, and allegory. That’s what I didn’t expect from the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix), this angry, summoning Tom Paine moral dispatch that puts our pundits, politicians, and cable news hosts to shame. V for Vendetta instills force into the very essence of four-letter words like hate, love, and (especially) fear, and releases that force like a fist. Off come the masks, and the faces are revealed.

After that review, I'm not sure if I want to ruin the movie by reading the book first. Of course, it could turn out that the book is a work of art several degrees of magnitude greater than the film, but damn I'm excited about seeing this movie now. That, my friends, is a go see it on opening day kind of review. So, who's up for it?

Better Death than Sex

"A little-known debate is smoldering at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that may burst soon into a major fire. Two pharmaceutical companies - Merck and GlaxoSmithKline - have designed a cervical cancer vaccine. In clinical trials the Merck drug, Gardasil, is proving to be up to 100% effective in fighting the dominant strain of the virus causing cervical cancer. The pharmaceutical companies and a growing movement of public health advocates want all girls to be inoculated with the vaccine as they presently are for other high-risk viruses.

"The Family Research Council is leading a charge of Religious Right groups to halt any such national inoculation program. Their resistance is driven by fear more than common sense. The human papilloma virus (HPV) that generates cervical cancer is most typically passed along through genital contact with others. So as long as an individual does not engage in sexual intercourse, he or she should be shielded from the virus. The Religious Right bloc concludes that offering a vaccine for HPV would undercut their promotion of sexual abstinence for adolescents."

Read it all