Saturday, December 28, 2002

Blogger down or something -- this is a test

Friday, December 27, 2002

Championship. This weekend is the Blogger 2k3 championship pitting the scrappy Florida Blogistas against the San Juan Pirates. These two teams met once during the regular season, with the Blogistas winning that one primarily due to Marcus Pollard's 9 point game (for a TE! Randy Moss only had 4 points that week). But if recent weeks are any indication, Ben's team should take the game -- in the past four weeks he's scored 73, 75, 85 and 88 points whereas the Blogistas have scored 72, 70, 67, and 90. That's right, last week, Mark's team would've beat Ben by 2 points due to the phenomenal game turned in by Kerry Collins -- but those other scores indicate a win for the Pirates.

Each coach has a number of tough choices to make:

Mark - should he let Kerry Collins ride? Even though he's facing the Eagles secondary? Other choice are Brad Johnson with the bad back and Drew Brees going against the Seahawks.
-Tight End - Mark has Ken Dilger starting, yet TB seems to be platooning pretty him regularly with Ricky Dudley. I'd start Pollard and hope for a repeat performance.
-Defense - currently Mark has four possible defenses and he seems to be going with Indy -- not bad when you look at how Shaun King performed last week -- except King will not get any playing time. I might be inclined to go with the Ravens hoping that Maddox will give me a turnover TD.

Ben - has to decide between Derrius Thompson and Peerless Price -- yeah, there are other WR -- Gardner, but I think it comes down to these two. Who knows which Drew Bledsoe will show up? He's blown 2 of his last three, so who knows? On the plus side for Price is wanting a big sendoff for free agency. On the minus side is the weather.
- Defense - Oakland against the explosive Chiefs or the 'skins against the Cowboys? Ben is picking the 'skins at this point. In Oakland's favor is the fact that Priest isn't playing. On the other hand, the Raiders might have to use Lester Hayes or Willie Brown at corner. The Chiefs scored 48 against Miami and 49 against the Rams -- so this might be a good pick.
- Corey Dillon or Tiki Barber? Ben's going with Dillon -- I agree, just because I think that he's more likely to get TD(s) against Buffalo than Barber is against Philly.

Having said all this, I think Moss will destroy the Lions -- four TDs -- and when Sam Adams, of all people, scores a touchdown to lead the Raiders in a shutout of the Chiefs, Ben will regret fielding the 'skins D.

Update -- okay, I was half right about the Raiders Defense -- they pitched a shutout -- I don't know if Sam Adams even played. I do note that Ben still went with the 'skins D. Also, I see I should've gone with Charlie G -- I fielded Jerry Porter who gained less than 15 yards receiving -- zip. In the early game, Shockey came through for me -- not Akers. Also, the Philly D gave the Burghers about a dozen points, so with 3 of my players active today I figure I'm down by one already. That leaves my five against the results of seven.
Third Day of Christmas. Bob and Doug have a great version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" [Flash Version] which includes this little quiz at the beginning:
Bob: Here's a quiz. Quiz for Doug.
Doug: Okay, I have my thinking touque on.
Bob: Yeah, right. What are the twelve days of Christmas? Cause, figure it out, right. Christmas is when?
Doug: Uh, the 25th.
Bob: Right, and what's the 24th, Christmas Eve, right? So, that's two. And then, what's after that?
Doug: Um... Uh, Wrestling Day.
Bob: No. Get out.
Doug: Boxing Day, yeah, yeah.
Bob: That's three. Then what's after that? Nothing.
Doug: New Year's.
Bob: Four. And what's...
Doug: New Year's Eve.
Bob: Five. Where do you get twelve?
Doug: Uh... There's two Saturdays and Sundays in there, that's four. That's nine. And, three other days, which I believe are the mystery days.
Of course, as I've noted previously, the 12 days of Christmas are the season in the Church calendar which follows Advent and runs from December 25 through January 5, which is the day before the Epiphany, which is on January 6. In Latin America the 6th is known as el Día de los Tres Reyes or Three Kings Day and is a time for gift giving (in my attempted brevity, I'm skipping over the nine days of Posada - the processions which recreate Mary and Joseph's nine-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their attempts to find lodging -- yet, this should not be overlooked -- it's a wonderful tradition which I hope takes root in a multicultural USA).

Anyway, it seems to me if you want to get away from the "commercialism" of Christmas, a good way to do it would be to return to the Church calendar with Advent being a time of fasting and Christmas being a 12 day period of feasting and celebration, with gift giving done on el Día de los Tres Reyes. Plus, this is a good response to those hosers who note that Jesus wasn't born on December 25.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Currently Reading: [Corrected Version] I'm just finishing an audiobook of Black Sunday, which I probably read when it came out back around 1975 -- I know I saw the movie with Bruce Dern playing the role of the Wacko Vietnam Vet. Yet this book written so long ago gives all of us a good warning of the militant fanaticism of Islamic terrorism that has been at war with civilization since the 1960s. While some things are out of date, the ideas behind it are frighteningly fresh.
"Citizens of America," she said, "today the Palestinian freedom fighters have struck a great blow in the heart of your country. This horror was visited upon you by the merchants of death in your own land, who supply the butchers of Israel. Your leaders have been deaf to the cries of the homeless. Your leaders have ignored the ravages by the Jews in Palestine and have committed their own crimes in Southeast Asia. Guns, warplanes, and hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed from your country to the hands of warmongers while millions of your own people starve. The people will not be denied.

"Hear this, people of America. We want to be your brothers. It is you who must overthrow the filth that rules you. Henceforth, for every Arab that dies by an Israeli hand, an American will die by Arab hands. Every Moslem holy place, every Christian holy place destroyed by Jewish gangsters will be avenged with the destruction of a property in America. We hope this cruelty will go no further. The choice is yours. We hope never to begin another year with bloodshed and suffering. Salaam aleikum."
The second book I'm also finishing up is also frightening -- this one however looks at a scourge below the radar. The book is by Dr. Meg Meeker, a doctor practicing in pediatric and adolescent medicine. In Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids Dr. Meeker lays out the "epidemic" facing this country's teenagers. Please note that I do not place the word epidemic in scare quotes -- this is how the Centers for Disease Control characterized the problem during the Clinton years. See, for example, this press release dated December 5, 2000. Dr. Meeker's not only gives the statistics and sources for her contention, but gives the anecdotal testimony of real cases she has seen, which makes this a compelling book. It seems that Dr. Meeker trusted the condom and birth control medication in the past, but the inability of these two legs to keep the stool upright has caused her to be a convert to the simple truth of abstinence.
Update Friday's NY Times has a story linking changes to various webpages within the government to the politics of the Right:
As for the disease control centers' fact sheet on condoms, the old version focused on the advantages of using them, while the new version puts more emphasis on the risk that such use may not prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and on the advantages of abstinence. . .
Yet, according to a
letter to Secretary Thompson from House Democrats said that by alteration and deletion, the disease control agency "is now censoring the scientific information about condoms it makes available to the public" in order to suit abstinence-only advocates.
Based on what I'm reading in the Meeker book I think it is the House Democrats who are censoring scientific information about condoms and STDs
[End Update]

The third book, which I'm just starting, is The Punch by John Feinstein, an in-depth look at the fight between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets in December 1977 and the blow by Kermit Washington to Rudy Tomjanovich which nearly cost Rudy T. his life.

I remember the Punch vividly -- I was a big Laker fan back then -- and the videotape played pretty regularly on the TV back then. At that time, I lived in the D.C. area, where Kermit Washington was from and I can tell you that he was thought of very fondly here. In fact, it was almost unusual how fondly he was thought of when you compare him to others from this area who went on to become bigger stars, like Austin Carr, who was from the same time period. Part of that is because Washington went on to play for tiny American University and went from being a non-starter in his senior year of high-school to a college All-American. A larger part of it was that Washington was a decent person who shouldn't be thought of in terms of the punch he delivered.

Yes, the blow was horrifying and, as Feinstein notes, nearly killed Rudy T:
Once it became apparent to Tomjanovich that he wasn't going to get to Washington, he and Vandervoort proceeded to the locker room. Dr. Shields had already gone ahead and placed a call to the pager of Dr. Paul Toffel, a thirty-four-year-old who specialized in head trauma. Toffel was at a pre-Christmas fund-raiser for the University of Southern California Medical Center at a hotel not far from the arena. When he called Shields back, Shields told him there had been a fight during the game at the Forum. "I've got a guy here who appears to have a severely broken nose and other facial injuries," he said. Toffel told him he would meet the player in the emergency room at Centinela Hospital as soon as he could get there.

"Do me a favor and tell them to get started right away on X rays," he told Shields. "That way I can see what we're dealing with as soon as I arrive."

At that moment Tomjanovich was sitting on a training table, with no intention of going to a hospital. He had a game to finish. "If my nose is broken, hook me up with a mask," he told Vandervoort. Firmly, Vandervoort told him there would be no mask and no more basketball on this night.

"There's an ambulance outside," he said. "Ambulance?" Tomjanovich said. "What the hell is that about?"

A few minutes later he was in the ambulance. Then he was in the hospital and they were making X rays. He wondered what he must look like, because the looks he was getting from the people in the emergency room were not that different from what he had seen on the court from Jerry West. "And these were people who were used to seeing stuff," he said.

Dr. Toffel arrived a few minutes later, still in his tuxedo. When he was given the X rays, his eyes went wide. "Oh my God," Toffel said to the emergency room doctor who had given him the X rays. "This isn't a sinus injury. The posterior portion of his face is way out of alignment." (Translation: the top part of his skull was actually about an inch off line from the lower portion.)

"Who is this guy?" Toffel asked. "Rudy Tomjanovich. Plays for the Rockets." Toffel knew the name, knew Tomjanovich was a very good player.

Tomjanovich was wondering when he was going to get to call his wife back home in Houston when Toffel, now wearing scrubs over his tuxedo, walked in carrying X rays. He introduced himself, put a glove on one hand, and told Tomjanovich that he was going to see if he could move his upper jaw.

"It moved very easily," Toffel said later. "Which confirmed what the X rays had shown. I knew then this was a very serious situation."

Tomjanovich was still trying to figure out the quickest way to get out of the hospital. He asked Toffel if whatever he was going to do was going to take long and, more important, if he couldn't play any more basketball that night, how soon would he be back? The Rockets had a game in Phoenix the next night. Could he play there?

Toffel looked Tomjanovich in the eye. "No, Rudy, you can't play tomorrow," he said. "You aren't going to play basketball for a while. You aren't going to play any more this season."

Tomjanovich, whose eyes were already swelling shut, looked at Toffel as closely as he possibly could. Even though they were slits, his eyes told him that Toffel was completely serious. Any pain he was feeling disappeared, replaced by rage. "Not play this season?" he repeated. "Okay, look Doc, I know you gotta do what you gotta do, but give me an hour. I promise I'll come right back. I need to go back and find the guy who did this to me."

In Tomjanovich's mind at that moment, he was about to walk out of the emergency room, hail a cab, and go back to the Forum. Not play for the rest of the season? Now he really wanted to get Kermit Washington, regardless of the consequences. "I can't ever remember being angrier than I was at that moment," he said.

Toffel's face didn't change expression. His voice was very soft. "Rudy, let me ask you a question," he said. "Do you have any kind of funny taste in your mouth?"

Tomjanovich's eyes opened slightly. "Yeah, I do," he said. "It doesn't taste like blood either. It's very bitter. What is it?"

"Spinal fluid," Toffel said. "You're leaking spinal fluid from your brain. We're going to get you up to ICU in a few minutes and we're going to hope your brain capsule seals very soon. Do you know what the ICU is, Rudy?"

Tomjanovich nodded. He knew what ICU stood for: intensive care unit. The rage was gone. It had been replaced by fear.
[This excerpt is taken from the first chapter, which is available online here.]

Like I said, I'm in the early stages of reading this one. However, since I've included a snapshot of the Punch, there's another photograph that also should receive wide circulation -- in fact, I hope that Feinstein can include it in the paperback. This was from USA Today. I can't deep link it -- go here to see it.
The Feast of Stephen is today, December 26.
Yesterday we celebrated the temporal birth of our Eternal King; today we celebrate the triumphant passion of His soldier. For yesterday our King, clothed in the garb of our flesh and coming from the palace of the virginal womb, deigned to visit the world; today the soldier, leaving the tent of the body, has gone to heaven in triumph. The one, while preserving the majesty of the everlasting God, putting on the servile girdle of flesh, entered into the field of this world ready for the fray. The other, laying aside the perishable garment of the body, ascended to the palace of heaven to reign eternally. The One descended, veiled in flesh; the other ascended, crowned with blood.
The latter ascended while the Jews were stoning him because the former descended while the angels were rejoicing. 'Glory to God in the highest,' sang the exulting angels yesterday; today rejoicing, they received Stephen into their company. Yesterday the Lord came forth from the womb of the Virgin; today the soldier of Christ has passed from the prison of the flesh.
Yesterday Christ was wrapped in swathing bands for our sake; today Stephen is clothed by Him in the robe of immortality. Yesterday the narrow confines of the crib held the Infant Christ; today the immensity of heaven has received the triumphant Stephen. The Lord descended alone that He might raise up many; our King has humbled Himself that He might exalt His soldiers. It is necessary for us, nevertheless, brethren, to acknowledge with what arms Stephen was girded and able to overcome . . . that thus he merited so happily to triumph.
Stephen, therefore, that he might merit to obtain the crown his name signifies, had as his weapon charity, and by means of that he was completely victorious. Because of love for God, he did not flee . . . because of his love of neighbor he interceded for those stoning him. Because of love he convinced the erring of their errors, that they might be corrected; because of love, he prayed for those stoning him that they might not be punished. Supported by the strength of charity, he overcame Saul, who was so cruelly raging against him; and him whom he had as a persecutor on earth, he deserved to have as a companion in heaven.
St. Fulgentius, Third Sermon on St. Stephen.

And, of course, from the carol "Good King Wenceslas"
Good King Wenceslas looked out,
On the Feast of Stephen . . .

* * *

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.
BTW, Wencelas is a Latinized version of Vaclav.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas! This jolly fat man is feeling pretty cranky right now -- all my elves abandoned me and I'm left with all the Santa duties . . .

Ah well, my oldest daughter had a nice Christmas post on her blog earlier today (even though I was hurrying her along)-- that's what I need to concentrate on.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Cover Watch. Time has the "Person of the Year" which is always it's big issue. Who is it? A mild surprise -- see below. If I were picking up one magazine, it'd be Newsweek with its cover story of the Matrix -- I loved that movie and I confess that I had to start reading the cover story -- the movie sounds good.

Time magazine declares the Persons of the Year are the whistleblowers -- in the FBI, Enron, and Worldcom. This leaves me with mixed feelings -- I like the recognition of the whistleblower -- it's important -- but who really is a whistleblower? And why are these particular women lauded, when prior whistleblowers like Jean Lewis, Notra Trulock, and, yes, even Linda Tripp pilloried?