I've Been Thinking, Hobbes...

Monday, April 27, 2009

This feature story, like the people in it, is conflicted. Sure, Christians are supposed to forgive, but to what extent? Also, are you a profiteer if you're a convicted murderer and you use your testimony to draw people to your mega-church?

One spring evening about two years ago in Clyde, Texas, I found myself in a very scary situation. I was umpiring a little league game, and a comebacker up the middle hit the pitcher square in the chest. It was a solid 10 seconds (or was it? The way time moves in these situations, it was hard to tell) before the kid caught his breath. I had heard all kinds of arguments against children using metal bats, but had never before been forced to deal with it on a personal level. We used metal bats as kids, and nothing ever happened to any of us. My experience as an umpire forced me to reevaluate my stance. These bat companies are increasingly making metal bats more dangerous for anybody of any age to use - better for performance, yes, but also more dangerous. The issue is examined more deeply here. A couple days after finding that article, I came across one that makes a similar case against maple bats in the MLB.

Some thoughts about literature and baseball. A great read if you love either. Lots of stuff for Rangers fans in there.

A no-frills (some might argue no-substance) preview of this summer's upcoming movies.

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (the creators and head writers of Lost) answer questions about the direction of the show. Lindelof: "I think our hope is that looking back on the entire run of the show, that people remember the EXPERIENCE of watching it — what it actually felt like to be mystified and frustrated and surprised — as opposed to just where it landed storywise." Um, Damon? I'm worried about where it ends up storywise.

The Written Word
Walter Benn Michaels apparently espouses a fairly narrow-minded view about setting in contemporary fiction. Still, it sparks an interesting debate.

This tone matrix doesn't fit the technical definition of "game," but it's fun to play with, so it counts.

Jason Kottke weighs in on the ever-growing Twitter debate. If you've decided to side with Jason, here's how to get started.

The New York Times profiles a team that's trying to beat the land speed record. Pretty cool.

The new Parkland is going to be green.

Rick Perry started a controversy a couple of weeks ago when he "asserted Texas' right to secede." (Aside: Two years ago, Perry was calling Bush-haters "unpatriotic." Really?) Turns out, he was wrong.

U.S. Politics
It's kind of hard to believe, but the waterboarding debate has resurfaced. I don't see how anybody can say this is not torture. The act suffocates the detainee and simulates drowning. Nevertheless, there is a contingent that supports the use of it in the name of national security. I don't understand this. If another nation violated the Geneva Convention so blatantly and then tried to justify it by redefining the act through dubious memos, we would probably carpet bomb that nation anyway. Lest we get too serious, here is a light-hearted (or perhaps heavily sarcastic? Let's opt for that) look at a recent DOJ memo:

We can't separate pain and suffering? The justification machine is running on all cylinders.

Sean Hannity has offered to be waterboarded to prove that it's not torture. The Huffington Post says here that Keith Olbermann has "called his bluff" and offered to pay $1000 to charity for each second he can last. I wouldn't go as far as HuffPo goes in its praise of Olbermann - this is just one blowhard trying to outshout another blowhard - but he raises a good point. This debate is serious, and it sure seems like one side is just trying to justify it so their former leader won't look so bad. Lost in all this is the fact that neither one of them has actually done what they say they're willing to do. These days, I guess it takes a Playboy reporter to do the real journalism. This clip has some language, but power through. It's worth it.

I found what the soldier said interesting - waterboarding isn't torture because it "invokes an existing fear of drowning." I have a fear of being whipped to death. If you whip me almost to the point of death, is that torture?

Finally, this story just came out about a soldier who killed herself after refusing to participate in torture in Iraq.

Switching gears: The Hurricane Katrina flooding trial against the Army Corps of Engineers has begun.

World News
Front page photos rarely startle me, but this one from Friday made me look twice for some reason:

The U.S. has declared a public health emergency. Three cases have been identified (sort of) in Dallas.

The Economy
Some time last week, the front page of the Dallas Morning News started to look a little bit more optimistic. Headlines wondered aloud if the economy could be starting to turn. Not so fast, says The Economist. Recommend that you skip this if you're already the slightest bit depressed.

I've always been dissatisfied with the idea that Paper covers Rock. Following a very lame flip of a "coin" to make a decision this morning, Ira, Jodi, and I spent some significant (read: way too much) time trying to unpack exactly what kind of covering Paper is doing that defeats Rock so. Unable to come up with a satisfactory explanation, we turned to Wikipedia. The official answer? Um, nobody knows. Finding this to be a terrible oversight (who decided on these three "weapons," anyway?), we have now begun a quest to find the perfect rochambeau. Luckily, the same Wikipedia page is a great starting point. Jodi is partial to the "cat-tinfoil-microwave" variation, while I want to further explore the "earwig-human-elephant" variant. Also contained within the article is a hilarious idea that fire and water be added to the original three, with the caveat that "a player may only throw (fire) once in his entire lifetime." What say you, readers? Any good RPS alternatives?

Video of the Week

One of the best of these kind of videos I've seen.

Movie Trailer of the Week

I haven't seen Earth yet, but I'm already pumped for Oceans. Release date: Earth Day 2010.

Image of the Week

Check out this heart-breaking gallery.

I've Been Thinking, Hobbes...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I know I'm about a week late on this, but Slate (!) ran an opinion piece on passion plays during Easter week.

The Dallas Morning News profiled the Cowboy Church movement.

On Thursday, Ian Kinsler of the Rangers hit for the cycle and collected 6 hits at the same time, becoming the first player in the modern era to do so. He was a triple and home run away from the "bicycle." The next day, the Rangers got themselves beat down by the Kansas City Royals. Evan Grant says Ron Washington surrendered the game, and all but called for his firing. Consider me on that bandwagon.

2015 is still six years away, but apparently we're close enough to evaluate predictions made in Back to the Future, Part II.
What it got right and
What it got wrong
No examination of the $50 Pepsi can. I call shenanigans.

I just discovered this pretty cool site that aggregates rankings from social networks, music blogs, etc.

The Written Word
Someone has resurrected an essay from the February 1960 issue of Harpers about billboards. The author, Howard Gossage, argues that billboards are an invasion of privacy. This is a fascinating read, and the style kind of reminds me of the giant video boards of Fahrenheit 451.

Also, I just stumbled across an on-going feature from The Guardian: Digested Classics, which is just what it sounds like. Beloved literary works are retold in 700 words or less. Here is one of my favorite books, Lord of the Flies.

After I received my new computer, it wasn't long before I found my way to Minesweeper. I was surprised to see that the design had changed, and my curiosity about it led me to Wikipedia. What I found was a whole bunch of theory on how to play. Minesweeper is supposed to be mindless fun, people!

Speaking of Back to the Future, apparently we're not really that much closer on the flying cars, either.

The war between Dallas and Arlington continues as the two cities find themselves outbidding each other for a museum that hasn't even announced a desire to relocate: The College Football Hall of Fame.

Politics/World News
I don't usually condone paying attention to idiots on the internet, but take a look at the comments on this story. (Read the story while you're at it.) The response reminds me of several tragedies throughout history, perhaps most notably the internment of Japanese people during World War II. Disgusting.

The Texas Senate has rejected Rick Perry's attempt to play politics with money that could be helping people that need it. Good for them.

The Economy
So we all know by now that the housing bubble caused this whole crisis, whatever that means. So why didn't the technology bubble do the same thing?

Last week's story had to do with flatulence. Why mess with a good thing? Also, this is creepy.

This is the worst thing I've ever seen. (Okay, that's an exaggeration.) Most of these kind of videos look staged, but the best man's horror is anything but manufactured.

Movie Trailers of the Week
Our first trailer reminds me of both 2001 and Solaris. I have high hopes for this. Release date: June 12.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince looks epic. This is my favorite book in the series and the only one of the movies I've been excited about seeing. Release date: July 17.

Image of the Week
I've mentioned before that I think The Big Picture is the best site on the internet. It's now got competition: Life has opened their photo galleries.

This week's image is much sillier than all that. Blow this image up and post it in your time machine. As always, click to enlarge.

Workout Playlist Update

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You may remember that a short time ago I asked for your help in compiling The Ultimate Aerobic Workout Playlist. When it's finally all said and done, I hope to post a list that you can scan through, complete with streaming music. Here's how it's going so far:

After taking suggestions and doing some research, I created a playlist of 133 songs I already own, and I've been taking my iPod with me to the gym to try them out. I still have about 200 songs that I'm slowly downloading and adding to that playlist. I'm still very early in the process, and I've found 7 songs that have a chance to make it into the final rotation. I'll use iTunes Genius and Pandora Radio to then generate similar songs and try those out. As you can see, this could end up being a very cyclical process that could take a while.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want to give you another opportunity to share the songs that work for you. Also, I want to give you a taste of what I've got so far. Right now, it's just a list - no music.

Bowling for Soup - "Ohio (Come Back to Texas)"
Smashing Pumpkins - "1979"
Deep Purple - "Highway Star"
Black Eyed Peas - "Let's Get Retarded"
Eminem - "Lose Yourself"
U2 - "All Because of You"
Soft Cell - "Tainted Love"

I've Been Thinking, Hobbes...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A reflection on Easter.

We've started posting short recaps of every Rangers game on Odd Man Rush.

The Simpsons are getting their own stamps.

*Ahem* U2 will be playing at the new Cowboys stadium on October 12. Tickets go on sale on April 20, and will likely sell out that same day.

The Written Word
Roger Ebert thinks about Twitter culture.

This site poses the question, "What if Criterion released video games?"

As I noted before, the Dallas police officer that stopped Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats received some national attention for his lack of professionalism during the stop. Here's a positive story about an officer that ran last week.

Politics/World News
The Economist has a report on the gap between the rich and the poor. An interesting read, especially in light of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

A soccer player was given a yellow card for, um, distracting a shooter.

I've never noticed this before, but of course I've never paid THAT much attention to Disney movies.

Movie Trailer of the Week
Two adaptations of children's books I have fond memories of are coming out soon. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs drops on September 18, and Where the Wild Things Are will be released on October 16.

Image of the Week

(click to enlarge)

President Obama hosted a traditional Seder dinner in the White House on Thursday night.

Arkansas Recap

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My brother-in-law Bret has been posting day by day recaps of our trip to Arkansas. I have three videos and 1 photo from Day 3, although the photo belongs to Part 2, which has yet to appear.

New Project: I Need Your Help

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My new computer comes in on Thursday (hooray!), so I am just about ready to start a new collaborative project that I've been thinking about for a while: I am on a quest to create the ultimate aerobic workout playlist(s). I have compiled over 100 songs into a playlist that I have placed on my iPod and I have been taking it with me to the gym to try them out. I picked them in a fairly arbitrary fashion, although I did reference this article and a couple of others. As you can imagine, some of them work pretty well, but others turn out to be duds. My problem is that I have a limited knowledge of music. That's why I need your help. What are the songs that you like to work out to? I want songs with a good rhythm and that I don't mind having to listen to. Songs from every genre, from rock to country to rap to Christian, are welcome. If there are enough songs that I like, I may make multiple lists, and perhaps some based on genre. Leave your submissions in the comments, and I'll download the ones I don't have onto my brand new computer and go try them out on the bike. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

MLB Preview 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I posted this on Odd Man Rush as well.

Opening Day is here!

Predicted Standings for 2009

First number in parentheses is predicted # of wins, following number is differential from 2008.

AL East
New York (98, +8)
Tampa Bay (Wild Card) (94, –3)
Boston (90, –5)
Toronto (84, –2)
Baltimore (67, –1)

AL Central
Chicago (91, +2)
Minnesota (89, +1)
Kansas City (80, +5)
Cleveland (77, –4)
Detroit (76, +2)

AL West
Los Angeles of Anaheim (91, –9)
Texas (83, +4)
Oakland (79, +4)
Seattle (66, +5)

NL East
New York (94, +5)
Philadelphia (Wild Card) (92, +/-0)
Florida (81, –3)
Atlanta (75, +3)
Washington (58, –1)

NL Central
Chicago (95, –2)
Cincinnati (88, +14)
St. Louis (84, –2)
Milwaukee (80, –10)
Houston (73, –13)
Pittsburgh (66, –1)

NL West
Los Angeles (95, +11)
Arizona (86, +4)
San Francisco (78, +6)
Colorado (62, –12)
San Diego (60, –3)

Preseason Power Rankings

1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Chicago Cubs
4. New York Yankees
5. New York Mets
6. Philadelphia Phillies
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
8. Chicago White Sox
9. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
10. Minnesota Twins
11. St. Louis Cardinals
12. Toronto Blue Jays
13. Cincinnati Reds
14. Arizona Diamondbacks
15. Texas Rangers
16. Oakland Athletics
17. Florida Marlins
18. Milwaukee Brewers
19. Cleveland Indians
20. San Francisco Giants
21. Atlanta Braves
22. Kansas City Royals
23. Detroit Tigers
24. Colorado Rockies
25. Houston Astros
26. Baltimore Orioles
27. Seattle Mariners
28. Pittsburgh Pirates
29. San Diego Padres
30. Washington Nationals

Individual Awards – American League

The top vote-getters are listed in order for voting awards, and in statistical order for other awards.

MVP: Mark Teixeira, Grady Sizemore, Josh Hamilton
Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Jon Lester, Joe Nathan
Rookie of the Year: Matt LaPorta, Matt Wieters, David Price
Comeback Player of the Year: Francisco Liriano, David Ortiz, Andruw Jones
Batting Champ: Ian Kinsler, Nick Markakis, Dustin Pedroia
Home Run Champ: Grady Sizemore, Evan Longoria, Jermaine Dye
RBI Champ: Josh Hamilton, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis
ERA Champ: Roy Halladay, Jon Lester, CC Sabathia
Wins Champ: Roy Halladay, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Andy Sonnanstine
Strikeout Champ: CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Zack Greinke
Saves Champ: Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, David Price

Individual Awards – National League

The top vote-getters are listed in order for voting awards, and in statistical order for other awards.

MVP: Albert Pujols, David Wright, Aramis Ramirez
Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels, Brandon Webb
Rookie of the Year: Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Motte
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Harang, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Carpenter
Batting Champ: Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot
Home Run Champ: Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols, David Wright
RBI Champ: David Wright, Aramis Ramirez, Albert Pujols
ERA Champ: Tim Lincecum, Rich Harden, Johan Santana
Wins Champ: Brandon Webb, Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley
Strikeout Champ: Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren
Saves Champ: Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton

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