Thursday, September 27, 2007

Quick Takes

It's been a busy couple of weeks and very little time to blog. Hopefully we'll be able to post more soon. In the meantime, a few random items for your consideration.

Who said this? See if you can identify the author of this quote. It seems particularly relevant to the current War on Terror. The answer is at the end of this post.

"It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers. In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor-geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late. Accordingly, I am readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I will, in turn, do my best for the Cause by writing editorials - after the fact."

This is not good news. According to an article in The Independent, children are spending less time reading with their parents:

Children of primary school age spend more time on their own or playing with
friends than they do in the company of their parents, according to research
published today. Even mealtimes are squeezed into as little time as possible so
that children can leave the table and watch television or play with their

Hat tip: Tim Ellsworth

Labor Pains. From the Associated Press:

A small Russian city just got a really big addition: its resident has delivered her 12th baby at 17.05 pounds _ the biggest on the nation's record.

Tatiana Khalina, 42, delivered the girl by Caesarean section at a maternity clinic in Aleisk, a town of 30,000 in the Altai region in southern Siberia, Svetlana Gildeyeva, a nurse at the clinic, said Thursday.

Gildeyeva said the birth on Sept. 17 went smoothly and both the mother and the child were fine.
Debating atheism. On Faith, the online forum on religion sponsored by Newsweek and The Washington Post, is hosting a symposium this week on atheism. They started off with the following question:

Best-selling atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote: "Religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children." Why is he right or wrong?
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas responded with this astute observation:
He is right. That is exactly what religion is. Religion is a creation of man designed to control people who don't agree with whatever brand is being promoted. God has nothing to do with religion. What God has everything to do with is relationships. It is THAT he wants from human beings, a relationship with Himself. But since He is holy and we are not, he demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, He sent Jesus to die for us (romans 5:8).

That is not a message to be held or patented as the exclusive property of anyone; rather it is a message to be shared with whosoever will come to Him on His terms. As the offended party, He gets to make the rules (after all, He did make the universe). That some reject his message is their right, but they also must accept the consequences, for "The fool has said in his heart 'there is no God'" (Psalm 14:1)

Hat tip: Kathleen Miller

Bye, Bye Barry. San Francisco Giants' slugger Barry Bonds played in his last home game at Pac Bell Park last night and possibly the final game of his career. He's a free agent at the end of the season and the team has already said they don't plan to re-sign him. He doesn't plan to retire but maybe he should rather than trying to prolong his career as a designated hitter in the American League. He's already got the career home run record (even though he is suspected of cheating through steroid use) and has the stats to get him into the Hall of Fame. Baseball would be better off if he would just retire.

Why did the chicken cross the road? It's an old joke but one company (who sells a cool device for roasting chickens) has assembled some of the best answers to this joke. My personal favorite is from John Cleese:

This Chicken is no more. It has ceased to function. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It's a stiff. If it wasn't nailed to the road it'd be pushing up daisies. It's snuffed it. It's metabolic processes are now history. It's bleeding demised. It's rung down the curtain, shuffled off the mortal coil and joined the bleeding Choir Invisible. This is an Ex-Chicken. Ergo, it did not cross the road.

Reminds me of the Dead Parrot Sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus:

Coming soon....I've got several DVD and book reviews to post in the next couple of weeks including some educational resources that will be of particular interest to fellow homeschoolers. I also hope to have a couple of author interviews in the next few months so check back often for updates.

Answer to the quote quiz. The quote at the beginning of the post is from General Robert E. Lee (1863). Hat tip: Evangelical Outpost

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Biggest Loser - Week 1

My family and I got hooked on NBC's The Biggest Loser during the summer as reruns from the previous seasons were airing on the Style Network. So when Tuesday night's premiere rolled around we were all glued to the set ready to check out the new season from day one. The show has been a big motivation to both my wife and I as we have tried to lose weight. We were all curious to see how this season was going to play out.

It was obvious looking over this year's crop of contestants that the producers were looking for people that had the potential to lose a lot of weight. Just about everybody was very obese. I don't think anyone was just slightly chubby this year. Last year, Erik Chopin went from 407 pounds down to 193 pounds in winning the grand prize. It's clear they are looking for those kinds of people as it does make for great television.

I like Allison Sweeney as the new host. She seems more empathetic that Caroline Rhea did maybe because Allison has struggled with weight issues of her own (something she mentioned in the opening episode). It will be interesting to see how she does as the season unfolds.

I'm glad Jillian Michaels is back if for no other reason than it adds intrigue to the show. The return of the "black team" to the campus next week after being eliminated by the other players will no doubt cause more than a few fireworks.

I'm not going to pick a winner now but I've got to like Jerry, the 62 year old grandfather's chances after an astounding 31 pounds lost in the first week. How did he do that? Think he's got something to show the younger contestants? You bet he does. It's also no accident he's on Bob's team. I don't know exactly how he does it but something about the way Bob trains his folks always gets great results even if the player has been eliminated and is left working out on their own at home. If I had to pick one of the three trainers, it would be Bob.

We also weren't surprised that Amber was eliminated in the first week. If we've noticed anything it is that you have to go in with the attitude of sticking with the program and working through the routines especially when you don't feel like it. It doesn't take long for players to realize this. It was encouraging, however, to see she had already lost 65 pounds after being eliminated. I'm curious to see how she looks at the finale and whether she's really been able to make headway in her weight loss.

A few years ago I read a book by Clay Jacobsen (one of my favorite novelists) called The Ultimate Reality Show. It's about a guy who gets whisked off to a Survivor-type game and has a shot at winning $10 million. It exposes many of the manipulative things that producers of reality shows do when they are making these types of programs. Maybe because I was more acutely aware of it after reading this book it was easy to see how the players and viewers are being manipulated for the sake of entertainment. It was more of a distraction for me than a deterrant for watching the show.

Anyway, we'll tune in again next week and see how things unfold. I'm hoping that we will at least learn something from these folks about weight loss and nutrition that we can use. That's where I have to tip my hat to the producers of the show. They know that they're not just entertaining folks. They are changing lives for the better.

By the way, be sure to check out my review of The Biggest Loser over at Blogcritics. Please leave a comment and let me know you stopped by.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Best Baseball Poem Ever Written

Though many poems have been written about our national pastime, there is none better that Game Called by Grantland Rice. Although Rice would rewrite the poem in 1948 to eulogize Babe Ruth, the original 1910 version is the best. In these few, short lines Rice captures the essence of the game as well as any writer ever has:

Game Called.
Across the field of play
the dusk has come, the hour is late.
The fight is done and lost or won,
the player files out through the gate.
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
the stands are bare, the park is still.
But through the night there shines the light,
home beyond the silent hill.

Game Called.
Where in the golden light
the bugle rolled the reveille.
The shadows creep where night falls deep,
and taps has called the end of play.
The game is done, the score is in,
the final cheer and jeer have passed.
But in the night, beyond the fight,
the player finds his rest at last.

Game Called.
Upon the field of life
the darkness gathers far and wide,
the dream is done, the score is spun
that stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor yet defeat
is chalked against the players name.
But down the roll, the final scroll,
shows only how he played the game.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Author Madeleine L'Engle Has Died

Author Madeleine L'Engle, whose best known book A Wrinkle In Time was rejected several times before finally being published (and went on to win a Newberry Medal for best children's book in 1963) has died at age 88. From the Associated Press:

Author Madeleine L'Engle, whose novel "A Wrinkle in Time" has captivated generations of schoolchildren and adults since the 1960s, has died, her publicist said Friday. She was 88. L'Engle died Thursday at a nursing home in Litchfield, said Jennifer Doerr, publicity manager for publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Newbery Medal winner wrote more than 60 books, including fantasies, poetry and memoirs, often highlighting spiritual themes and her Christian faith.

For many years, she was the writer in residence and librarian at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Although L'Engle was often labeled a children's author, she disliked that classification. In a 1993 Associated Press interview, she said she did not write down to children.

"In my dreams, I never have an age," she said. "I never write for any age group in mind. ... When you underestimate your audience, you're cutting yourself off from your best work."

She will be truly missed.