Thursday, March 30, 2006

Body Armor in Iraq

Uncorrelated has a good post about body armor's availability in Iraq, and the fact that soldiers don't want it. He demonstrates the Democrats used the body armor issue to their political advantage, rather than listening to what the troops actually say.

Sportswriters Get Paid For This Part II

John Donovan of SI.COM is convinced that Jeff Weaver can become, "An ace, top-of-the-rotation type. In the running for the Cy Young award."

This is the same John Donovan who last year wrote,

"My surprise early NL Cy Young pick -- you can laugh at me later, if you'd like -- is L.A.'s Jeff Weaver... Weaver is one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. He is a gamer, a guy who gives quality innings and quality starts, and he's maturing into his role as a staff leader. With a little luck and a little offense, he can win 20 games this year. Believe it."

The funny thing is, is that he was called on this prediction last year. He defended himself by writing:

"OK, OK. Truth is, despite his last dud of an outing, I'm still on the Weaver bandwagon (where an upgrade to a relatively empty first class can be had for a bargain). Look up his quality starts from last year. Look at his stuff. Look at the innings he had last year and his record despite the abysmal run support. I said he was a longshot for the Cy, but I do think he has the stuff for it. And the mental stuff you talk about ... he's way past that. Check him out."

I doubt that Donovan can be persuaded that it is foolish to project a pitcher like Jeff Weaver as an "ace." But Weaver's monthly splits historically show inconsistency. Looking at comparable pitchers through age 28, Weaver's last season, clearly shows that Weaver is not in an elite class.

Serious study of this type of pitcher shows that rarely will break away from the mean. Sure, Weaver has games and months of brilliance, but he has as many games and months where he is terrible.

Weaver's career ERA is 4.44 after 209 career starts and 226 career games. Is it realistic to expect this kind of pitcher to put it all together at age 29, after so many seasons of mediocrity?

I am not saying that Weaver is a bad pitcher, or that he has no value. All I am arguing, is that he will never be an ace on anything but an average pitching staff, and he will never contend for the Cy Young award. He consistently exceeds 30 starts and 200+ innings pitched each season, with a league average ERA. Pitchers like Weaver do have value, but let's not confuse them with true aces.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sportswriters Get Paid For This?

Barry Rozner of the Chicago Daily Herald wrote this in his column today:

"Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before, but it’s difficult to see anyone other than Mark Buehrle winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2006."

What is Rozner thinking? Is he thinking? Mark Buehrle is that much of a lock to win the Cy Young? Give me a break. I can think of at least five pitchers that have a better chance to win the Cy Young than Buehrle.

Former Cy Young award winners Roy Halladay, Johan Santana are obvious favorites, not to mention Randy Johnson, Rich Harden, and last year's winner, Bartolo Colon. Buehrle is a good pitcher, but who, besides a White Sox fan would put him in front of all of these other pitchers?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Easter Insanity

Our culture has become so overwrought with political correctness that pagan symbols associated with Christian holidays are no longer to be tolerated.

The Star Tribune reports that the St. Paul City Council Offices had to remove a "cloth bunny and pastel-colored eggs with the words Happy Easter" on it.

It amazes me that there are people who actually believe that displaying the Easter bunny is, "advancing the cause of religion." It amazes me that there are people so incredibly ignorant, sensitive, and absolutely insane. But of course this is "not about being politically correct or anything else." This is idiotic--pure and simple. Does Council President Kathy Lantry actually believe this?

This article reads like something you'd find in The Onion.

Our culture is in serious decline if this is what we've come to. We are more worried about pagan symbols "advancing the cause of religion" than we are about just about any other more pressing issue.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century

One of my life goals is to read every novel on the Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century list. I have many of the unread books on my bookshelf ready to read, but I haven't gotten around to them yet. So far I have found the list to be very helpful. I do have some quibbles with some of the selections however, though more often with the order in which they are ranked.

1 ULYSSES by James Joyce
2 THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4 LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
5 BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
6 THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
7 CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
8 DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
9 SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
10 THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
11 UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
12 THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
13 1984 by George Orwell
14 I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
15 TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
16 AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
19 INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
20 NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
23 U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
24 WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
25 A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
26 THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
27 THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
28 TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
30 THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
31 ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
32 THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
33 SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
34 A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
35 AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
36 ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
37 THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
38 HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
39 GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
40 THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
41 LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
42 DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
43 A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
44 POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
45 THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
46 THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
47 NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
48 THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
49 WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
50 TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
51 THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
53 PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
54 LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
55 ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
56 THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
57 PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
58 THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
59 ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
60 THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
64 THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
65 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
66 OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
67 HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
68 MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
69 THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
70 THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
71 A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
72 A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
73 THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
74 A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
75 SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
77 FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
78 KIM by Rudyard Kipling
79 A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
82 ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
83 A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
84 THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
85 LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
86 RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
87 THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
88 THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
89 LOVING by Henry Green
90 MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
91 TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
92 IRONWEED by William Kennedy
93 THE MAGUS by John Fowles
95 UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
96 SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
97 THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
99 THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy

The Myth of the SUV

Many of us have been duped into believing the SUV is a safe vehicle, it seems that is all a myth--and one that signals an alarming change in automotive safety.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

WBC Not a Total Loss

Sure, Japan may have won the first World Baseball Classic, but find me a bigger winner in the tournament than Peter Moylan, a 27-year-old pharmaceutical salesman from Australia who hasn't pitched professionally in seven years -- and promptly signed with the Braves for $30,000 after the WBC.

Moylan's story is made-for-Disney stuff. The guy signs with the Twins in 1996 but after two years in rookie ball is run out of baseball in 1999 with an 88-mph fastball and immaturity issues. He goes back home to Australia, gets a job, gets married, undergoes two back surgeries and plays for a local club team. Six months ago, while tossing a baseball in the outfield, he tries throwing sidearm and -- voila! -- suddenly he is throwing 96 mph, a development for which he has no possible explanation.

Fast forward to the WBC, and he whiffs Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu and Ramon Hernandez of Venezuela and suddenly the scouts are scrambling to sign the guy. Fast forward to October and ... well, picture a guy with glasses, a goatee, sideburns and tattoos -- his Australian manager called him "Wild Thing" after the Charlie Sheen character in Major League -- on the mound in a tight playoff game for the Braves. At this cinematic rate, why not?

"He's got real good stuff,'' said former major leaguer Pat Kelly, a coach for Australia and a scout for the Seattle Mariners. "He's a real character, but the key is if this time he really works at it and stays focused. He's got a shot if he does.''

Tom Verducci SI.COM

This is great story--one that I hope is not over. I hope to hear more of Peter Moylan in coming years.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bonds and Steroids

ESPN has a good article about Barry Bonds and steroids. It is becoming increasingly clear that Bonds purposefully and knowingly took steroids. The evidence is mounting and those "in the know" are becoming more vocal about it.

My respect for Ken Griffey Jr. increases after reading about his unwillingness to participate in the steroid culture around him.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pro-Life Politics: Abortion and the Death Penalty

The Star Tribune, along with much of our culture seems to have forgotten thousands of years of history. In an article that reads like an editorial, Chuck Haga says, that "South Dakota executes a tricky life-death dance," by enforcing the death penalty and outlawing abortion.

Haga presumes his moral convictions upon his reader by drawing parallels between abortion and the death penalty. He clearly believes that those with a pro-life agenda concerning abortion are hypocrites for enforcing the death penalty.

Yet this is the history of our nation--which is rooted in Judeo-Christian morality. We all too quickly abandon the principles upon which this nation was founded.

Hamlet in Review

Naomi and I attended Hamlet at the Guthrie Theater on Saturday evening with two friends. I found a Star Tribune review of the play over the weekend.

Rohan Preston, who wrote the review was very positive of the play--and rightly. The play was well done. I only had two problems with the play--neither of which detracts significantly from the production.

Santino Fontana, who plays Hamlet, does not evoke the sympathy of the audience in the manner he should have. His performance was very good--yet there was something lacking from it that kept me from embracing his character.

The gravediggers, or "clowns" as Shakespeare calls them, were done poorly. They were made into greater fools than Shakespeare would have intended. Yes, one of the gravediggers does get the best of Hamlet, at least in words--but Hamlet came out better than he ought have.

Shakespeare liked to use peasants in his plays to make fun of serious noble characters--and Hamlet is no exception. Yet Dowling decided to make his gravediggers more post-modern comedians than poor peasants making fun of the rich noble university student.

Peter Michael Goetz's Polonius steals the show--until his demise. Goetz played Wiley Loman in Death of a Salesman--so he is accustomed to playing a lead--and it is evident from his performance in Hamlet. I strongly encourage all interested in theater to visit the Guthrie theater's final production at Vineland Place.

Sidewalk Art

Justin Taylor has linked to a site with some amazing sidewalk art by English artist Julian Beever.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Politcs and Baseball

A fan at a the Netherlands versus Cuba World Baseball Classic game displayed a sign that read "Down with Fidel" in Spanish. Evidently the "top Cuban official" at the game didn't appreciate it and got a lesson in free speech.

Good job, sir.

Hamlet at the Guthrie Theater

William Shakespeare's Hamlet opens at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The Star Tribune has a couple articles about the play in today's paper. Hamlet is the final production at the Guthrie Theater at Vineland Place. The new theater will open this fall along the Mississippi River front.

Naomi and I will be in the audience this Saturday evening with friends. I have been looking forward to attending a performance of Hamlet for nearly ten years.

Past Productions

Trouble Still Brewing at St. Thomas University

The Star Tribune published a follow-up article to one they published in January. I commented on the original article, as did Woodchips and Musings.

The original article dealt with two University professors who have lived together for twelve years, yet they were told they would have to rent separate rooms on a University sponsored trip. The two professors said, "It would be hypocritical and duplicitous and was not something we were willing to do."

According to the Star Tribune, "Disagreement over the University of St. Thomas' policy barring unmarried couples from staying together during school trips has intensified into a bigger debate about tolerance at Catholic universities."

It appears that my analysis of the situation was an accurate one. Faculty and student groups are now waging campaigns in support of a gay student group, and "More than 130 faculty members have signed a letter opposing the trips policy, and a dozen faculty members showed their displeasure with it by skipping an event they were to be honored at last week."

St. Thomas has evidently hired faculty and admitted students that clearly oppose the teachings of the Catholic Church. Now they find themselves back-tracking and it has left faculty and students outraged. It is hard to blame them, really. How can St. Thomas be taken seriously when they are trying to balance on an impossibly thin theological tight rope?

Update: The St. Paul Pioneer Press has an article about this as well.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The World Baseball Classic and Pitch Counts

I am already on record saying that the World Baseball Classic is stupid. Here is an example of one of my primary concerns with the WBC: pitch counts.

Players have routines--ramping up their pitch counts and slowly working in all their pitches as they rebuild their arm strength in spring training. Santana threw more pitches in 3 1/3 innings pitched in his second spring start than normal. So many more pitches that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is enraged, saying, "Don't get me started. Don't even go there."

If this continues for Santana, I predict arm trouble by the end of the season. He may start hotter--since it takes him a while to hit his stride, but I suspect by the end of the season his arm could wear down--when he is customarily at his best.

Again, the WBC is not only stupid, but an unnecessary injury risk--particularly for pitchers.

Morning After Pill: Conscientious Objections

The Star Tribune has an article today about a bill in the Minnesota Legislature that would allow conscientious objection to filling morning after pill prescriptions. I have written about this previously, and originally here.

Bill would allow refusal of morning-after pill

Legislation backed by the Minnesota Pharmacists Association seeks to balance patients' rights and pharmacists' consciences.

Conrad deFiebre, 651-222-1673

Pharmacists would be allowed to refuse to dispense drugs such as morning-after contraception pills on moral or religious grounds, but only if patients are assured of "timely access" to the drugs from other sources under a bill approved by the House Health Committee on Wednesday.

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate spoke out against some provisions of the bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, and backed by the Minnesota Pharmacists Association, but it was sent to the House floor on a lopsided voice vote.

"This is a compromise, balancing the liberty of pharmacists to exercise their conscience with the right and necessity of patients to get legally prescribed medication," Emmer said.

Although the head of the Pharmacists Association noted that the instances of patients having been refused prescriptions amount to "a statistically negligible problem," the bill sparked sharp debate.

Erin Matson of the National Organization for Women said it will spur more pharmacists to deny birth control and emergency contraception to women, sending them on "wild goose chases" to get the drugs.

The bill's requirement that pharmacists' employers ensure alternative access to such drugs poses moral dilemmas for pharmacies at Roman Catholic-run hospitals, said Rep. Tim Wilkin, R-Eagan, who said it could even force some to close.

The bill, HF 3032, would make refusal to fill a prescription grounds for discipline by the state Board of Pharmacy. But it also would allow exceptions for pharmacists' professional judgment that a drug would be harmful, for drugs not in stock and in cases where payment is refused. Under the bill, pharmacists could refuse prescriptions on moral grounds only after notifying their employers in writing of their objections.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tom Kelly on Kirby Puckett

Pat Reusse has written an excellent article about Tom Kelly reflecting on how his career was affected by Kirby Puckett. It shows the side of Puckett that I hope to remember, and is worth reading.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What Next?

A new book written by two San Francisco Chronicle writers, Game of Shadows, details Barry Bonds' steroid use --and expands upon what we already know about Bonds' use of "the Clear " and "the Cream."

Sports Illustrated has a short piece about the book and the allegations against Bonds. If the accusations are true--what next? What does Major League Baseball do with his records? Can they do anything?

Please, Mr. Bonds, retire.

Oscar's Crash

Denny Burk has linked to a article that scorns the Academy Awards for giving the Best Picture award to Crash. Burk focuses on the racial aspects of Crash, yet my favorite line from the article is about the Academy's increasing irrelevancy:

The Academy, ... “is not a serious body of voters who vote rationally. If they’re influenced by a DVD sales pitch, they’re not worth my time.”

Are they worth anyone’s time? Once again, they showed themselves susceptible to something other than a legitimate search for “the best.” Once again, marketing appears to have won. The Academy is 78 years old and acting every bit of it, and last night they took another doddering step towards irrelevancy.

Kirby Pucket: 1960-2006

Kirby Puckett, a childhood hero, passed away yesterday at the age of forty-five. There is little that can be added to the writers I've linked to below.

I hope to remember Puckett for who he was before he retired. His smile, charisma, and love for baseball were infectious. My respect for Puckett has grown the older I get, but is unfortunately tainted by the knowledge that Puckett was all too human. He was able to transcend baseball in many ways, but Puckett could never transcend the human condition.

Kirby, thank you for the memories. We will miss you.

Tim Kurkjian
Associated Press
Jim Caple
Jayson Stark
Ralph Wiley
Puckett's Hall of Fame Induction Speech
Patrick Reusse
Sid Hartman
Jim Souhan
Joe Christenson

Friday, March 03, 2006

Busy-Body Retiree

A good friend from my days at Bethel sent me a link to an article about his Dad, who was profiled in the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper. Paul Swan is a former math teacher at Adlai Stevenson High School in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. He coached both football and basketball while there. After retiring in 2002, he began coaching football at Bethel University.

Paul is one of my favorite fathers of my friends, and I encourage you to read the article. It sounds like he has a pretty great way to live in retirement.

"Freedom Ride" to Visit Bethel University

A self-professing Christian group affiliated with Soulforce Equality Riders will be visiting Bethel University in April. The Star Tribune has a column by Pamela Miller about the group and how Bethel will be responding to the "Freedom Ride" visit.

Westminster Presbyterian Church
in Minneapolis hosted the event organizers prior to them flying to Washington D.C. for training today. Miller reports, "Thursday's service, which featured a civil rights theme, included a performance of "We Shall Overcome" by the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir."

The column concludes:

"Education, as much as protest, is the group's goal, Reitan said. "A lot of people don't know that I would not be allowed to attend Bethel," he said. "These policies are based on religion, but we don't believe that's what Christ came to do. He came to throw off old laws, to expand our understanding of what God meant. Perhaps talking to people, we can get them to see that they need not be so unbending."

Rather than comment myself, I choose to let the Apostle Paul do the talking:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Message, Thrice Sent

As many of you know, my wife and I live in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Yesterday was the third vote for a property tax increase to pay for "hiring more teachers, librarians, aides and a guidance counselor. The district also hoped to restore and expand academic programs, improve transportation and restore junior-high athletics."

The Star Tribune has an article today about the vote. For the third consecutive time, the property tax increase was rejected--though this time by only one hundred votes. The first vote was in September, then November, and again yesterday.

Finally it seems that the message has been received, after the voters sent it to them three times. Pragmatically, the tax increase is long overdue. But I firmly believe that the school system does not require as much money as we are told it does. As long as there is too much waste and mismanagement in the system, I will never vote to increase my taxes to pay for public schools.

Our educators have enough money the way it is. Money is not the solution to the problem. Per pupil spending has more than tripled since 1965, yet all this money has done nothing to improve our educational system.

School districts, legislators, and teacher unions will never learn how to utilize their budgets as long as they are ever expanding.

Coincidentally, my alma mater passed their property tax increase yesterday, according to the same Star Tribune article.