2005-08-29



So, I gassed up this morning and was excited to only have to pay $2.41/gal. How far we've come. Oh well.

The good news is ... College Football starts this week!

For the most part we have our usual slate of gimmes for the big boys. But there are a few good ones on tap.

Here in Kentucky, the big excitement is the UofL / UK game. Unfortunately this one doesn't figure to be very close, unless you ask a Wildcat fan. There's the rivalry/adrenalin factor that may keep it from being a barn-burner, but there is little doubt on the outcome.

I get a kick out of any weak team's fans right now. With no games having been played, everyone is still undefeated after all. And the die-hards can come up with the most convoluted logic to try to convince themselves and others that this just might be the year. Don't worry 'Cats - basketball season is just around the corner.

According to the CBS Sportsline experts, Notre Dame vs. Pitt is the toss-up game of the week. I don't see it. Notre Dame is bringing the name recognition, Pittsburgh is bringing the talented team. They say that home field is worth 3 points in the average college game. Well I figure that being the team from Notre Dame is worth 14 points in the minds of prognosticators each week. And then they play the game and everyone remembers, temporarily, "Oh yeah ... the Irish aren't good anymore."

For my money, the big game of the week is Miami-Florida State. My heart is with the 'Canes in this one. In my mind however, the game is a toss-up, and easily the closest of the extended weekend.

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2005-08-26



... now the SEC coaches have gone and voted Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler as the preseason, first team All-SEC QB. Cutler got the nod over seemingly superior Florida QB, Chris Leak.

I admit my bias for the Florida schools. That aside, it's still hard to reconcile the SEC coaches' choice. It's not just about wins and losses, fine. Leak has almost double Cutler's yardage, and a slightly better TD/Int ratio while throwing nearly three times as many touchdowns. Did they factor in the expectations placed on the respective schools? Neither fared fared well in that case.

Regardless of the rationale, life in the SEC will go on, and eventually Florida will meet Vanderbilt in a game that you can put in Florida's column right now - write it in pen. There's no shame in that if you're a Commodore. As SEC football goes, Vandy boasts a really great Engineering department. That's who they are. Unfortunately, this also makes them a doormat for the behemoth championship contenders with whom they share the strongest conference in the land.

I doubt the Gators have circled the Vandy game on their calendars in blood. Every year they have bigger fish to fry in Gainesville. Still, when it comes time for the Commodores to visit the Swamp, I can't help but think that this will be in the back of some Gator minds - not a good thing for Vanderbilt.

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2005-08-25



New allegations: The French claim that Armstrong's blood sample from the first time he won the Tour have tested positive for a performance-enhancing chemical that was not tested for at the time.

In the eyes of some this is a no-win situation for Armstrong. Even on ESPN I heard the "these allegations keep popping up, where there's smoke there's fire," comments. Meanwhile Armstrong maintains his innocence.

I'm generally incliced to believe him. For all the allegations, he's never tested positive, and I can only imagine that as his streak has worn on, the scrutiny has only intensified. I'm totally not believing the current claim. How suspect is a 7-year chain of custody? And, the French aren't exactly renowned for their love of Americans. How much more must they hate the man who has totally dominated their event for the better part of a decade?

Armstrong has some things working against him, though. First of all, it's believable. An athlete doping is far more believable than any human being winning 7 Tours in a row. Performance-enhancing drugs would certainly help to make the unimaginable more reasonable.

Then we have the "Palmeiro effect." After reporting on the French allegations, ESPN moved to Armstrong's reaction: "I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs." Before I could catch myself I said in my mind, "Oh yeah, I've heard that one before!" You just can't believe anyone anymore. I'm not saying I think that Armstrong is lying. I'm just not going to assume that he's telling the truth. It has gotten to the point where the talk is meaningless.

For now, I will just take everything at face value. If Armstrong had been doping all this time, I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn't have eventually come up with something a little more solid than the current French claim. There have been allegations, but always from someone with an obvious axe to grind.

So, while I give Armstrong the benefit of the doubt, I also won't be a bit surprised if we wake up one morning and hear of proof positive that Armstrong cheated. That's the world we now live in.

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Right now you've got Christian Conservatives coming out of the woodwork to clarify, "Pat Robertson doesn't speak for me." At the same time, we have military moms traveling the country crying, "Cindy Sheehan doesn't speak for us!" Sadly, in our world of labels and boxes, such statements are needed.

Perhaps if more people spoke (and thought) for themself, public discourse would not have degenerated into the contentious, rhetorical quagmire that it has become. How ludicrous it is to think that simply because I voted for a candidate, or affiliate myself with a political party, or have certain planks in my world view that I can always be assumed to agree with others who hold some similar views! There aren't two human beings on this earth who agree on every single thing. Even more ridiculous is the thought that someone with whom I agree on certain things is speaking for me every time he or she opens their mouth.

There are situations in life where it is expedient for others to represent me within a narrow, well-defined scope. When it comes to assassinating South American Presidents however, I really haven't appointed anyone to speak out on my behalf.

Alas, we have only ourselves to blame. Externally, the media and others are all to quick to label and package people. It's easier that way. But personally, people seem just as willing to label and package themselves. Again, it's easier and more fun to join the movement of the week. Where were all these patriots and flags and what-not before 9/11? Where were all these military moms before the anti-War movement co-opted Sheehan?

The Sheehan case is especially illustrative. Now all the military moms who oppose her have their own group. But what happens when one of them says something stupid? Do we form a new group - the moms who are opposed to the moms who are opposed to Sheehan?

It's so easy to just follow, and it's fun to be part of an exciting cause. It takes a little more time and thought to find your own way, but it's kind of nice to stand on firm ground and not be swept to and fro by unimaginative idiots.

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2005-08-24



With Jerry Falwell fading, it appears that Pat Robertson is next in line for foot in mouth duty.

I don't want to hear the justification, or how bad a guy Chavez is. That all may be true, and it may even be true that it would be a good idea for the US to "take him out." That's not the point.

Someone who holds himself out as a religious leader has no business offering advice to the State or Defense Departments on assassinations. Yes, I know, you didn't necessarily mean "assassinate" and there are lots of ways to take a foreign leader out. Like we've never heard the "I was taken out of context" line before.

I'm not suggesting that Robertson needs to hole himself up and talk only on matters of faith. Certainly he's had his flirtations with politics, and is not totally unqualified to weigh in on foreign policy and history, especially where they intersect with the Christian life and mission. But, when you are primarily a religious leader, you need to carefully measure your rhetoric.

Robertson's comments didn't conribute anything helpful inside or outside of the religious sector. If anything they were a detriment, and sent confusing signals.

Stick to your knitting, Pat.

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2005-08-23



Wow! Another piece, this time over at WORLD magazine, that goes to the heart of some thoughts and discussions I've had lately. In Packed, But Still Empty, Gene Edward Veith argues that many mega-churches going the "contemporary" route are deep in membership but shallow in spirituality.

Here are some of the highlights:

Veith's launching off point is an op-ed piece by journalism student Clint Rainey from the Dallas Morning News:

(Mr. Rainey) says that the contemporary touches are designed to appeal to baby boomers, not to today's young people. "These churches attract middle-age adults like iron filings," he says. "But my generation isn't in such awe." ...
He says that today's young adults crave real religion.


Part of the problem is what sociologist and megachurch pastor Leith Anderson calls "generic Christianity." He points out that today, one can go into a church (especially a megachurch) of nearly any denomination—Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Wesleyan, Lutheran—and be unable to notice any difference among them. ... The sermons will tend to be about practical biblical tips for successful living, and go light on doctrine and sin. Also, all of these different denominations tend to use Sunday-school curriculum and other material from the same nondenominational publishers. These companies purposefully avoid all controversial issues and doctrinal distinctives, which would limit their market share."


And yet, this unity comes at a cost. Both liberal theologians and church-growth theologians downplay historic doctrines, seeing them as divisive and irrelevant. Both value what is new over what is old. And so both cut themselves off from the spiritual heritage of historic Christianity. Since some Christians today make up their own theology and practices as they go along ... their spirituality can seem shallow or "empty."


I can already hear the anti-megachurch crowd baying. "Oh boy! We haven't had a good megachurch-whipping in a long time!" This attitude from those who at other times champion peace, unity and reconciliation.

This piece wasn't anti-megachurch, nor should it be. Veith correctly observes that there are megachurches who remain faithful to Scripture and heritage. I would further argue that megachurches aren't the only ones who have been willing to trade quality for quantity. They are simply the ones who have been successful.

This doesn't confine itself to one type, denomination or size of church. Just like money, the pressure for numbers is great, even in a megachurch. How much do you think they worry about having to continually top themselves or risk losing their numbers to the next megachurch?

I don't suggest that we ignore numbers. You could have unimpeachable faithfulness to God's Word and mission and be totally useless without a flock to shepherd. Somewhere along the line however, there are choices to make in the face of the pressure. How far will you go? What will you compromise? Which lines will you cross? Are you discipling or entertaining? Are you nurturing or baby-sitting? Are you on a mission or a census?

Mr. Rainey closes his column with these haunting words: "In Europe, mass religious apostasy left its churches people-free, but the American megachurch could bring this irony: We, unlike the Europeans, have people in our big, empty churches."

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Ready or not, it is guys like Terry Bradshaw and Boomer Esiason who will be helping to decide which teams play for the BCS Championship this year. Harris Interactive has put together a team of 114 former college football players and coaches to fill the void left when the Associated Press requested that their poll no longer be included in the BCS formula.

Does this mean the BCS decision-making will be better? Well, the short answer is, "It couldn't be worse." Sadly, it probably won't make much difference.

It's not that I'm questioning Bradshaw's integrity. In fact, I trust him to be a little more honest than the team of journalists has been. The problem is, they are plugging the Harris group into the same system as before. Even if Harris yields fresh results, they'll be diluted by the Coaches poll and the always erratic computer models.

And, I doubt the ability of Harris to do much more than recreate the AP poll. It's not like these guys are going to be sitting around a board room debating the merits of each team in Basketball Selection Committee Style. They'll ballot. And all 114 members can't be well-versed on all the conferences and all the teams. So, a lot of them will be biased by what they've heard in the news and other polls.

Too bad, because I can totally see Bradshaw yelling, "You know what ... Texas sucks! I mean, who have they ever beaten? Who has anyone in the Big XII ever beaten except each other and a bunch of cream puffs?!"

Instead, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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Quietly and steadily, the LA Lakers are reassembling their dynasty, piece by piece. Many would argue that the return of Phil Jackson alone left the Lake Show just one dominating big man away from re-asserting themselves in the West. Now, after the Lakers latest coup in landing Aaron McKie, they find themselves just one dominating big man away from re-asserting themselves in the West.

I don't think it's out of bounds to start talking about another run at Rodman. You heard it here first.

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2005-08-22



Well, the draft was held Saturday. I didn't get to live draft as I was locked out of ESPN's site. At first I thought it was me not remembering the right username / password combo. Then I got to work today and it all worked fine. By the way, I'm still waiting for the ESPN automated, "e-mail your login information to you" system.

So anyway, my team is so-so. Fortunately they honored my no T.O. wish so that's a plus. I'll have to get with my personnel people and look things over.

More later.

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At work we're converting to Excel-based timesheets for all of our residential site employees. It's a good plan - money's tight and those sites have been grossly over-staffed. We need to figure out how people are spending their time.

Notice however, that I mentioned "Excel-based" and "all ... employees" in the same sentence. This is a daunting challenge. It's hard for some of us to remember, but there are still hordes of people out there who are taxed just figuring out how to turn the computer on.

So, we had a few people develop this new miracle spreadsheet. Problem is ... they didn't finish the job. Not really. We have a sheet we'll be sending out to all of the employees, but it's a weak, spaghetti-code of a spreadsheet. When they ran into problems at several turns, instead of thinking it through and coming up with a user-friendly solution, the burden was put on the end-user to either run through some confusing extra steps, or to just accept confusion.

In training we spent a half-hour walking the admins through how to get two worksheets open in the same window, but felt that teaching copy and paste was too much for them. Which one of those things would have a better chance of sticking because it will be used more?

Sadly, you see this kind of thing all the time. Computers and tools like Excel can be made to do just about anything you want. You can take a manual system and code in the fixes and work-arounds so the human beings involved won't have to deal with them. Instead, more often than not someone slaps together a solution that is no less confusion or cumbersome than the pencil and paper system it replaces. But, it's a new kind of confusing and cumbersome and we can pat ourselves on the back and tell others how we're "modernizing."

As the point of contact for one and a half sites, I'm bracing myself for Thursday when we deploy this thing.

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... as they open the 2005 College Football season hosting UL-Lafayette. Like all Big XII teams, Texas is ready to let their play say, "We're championship contenders and we stand ready to take on any challenge, and any team from a school no one's ever heard of. If you want to be the best (in the eyes of the poll-sters) you've got to beat the best (that the Sun Belt Conference has to offer)."

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2005-08-20



Another small slice of real football is served: the Associated Press released their preseason college football poll.

1. USC - I don't have a problem with this one. They return a squad loaded with guys who could just as easily have been playing on Sunday afternoons this Fall. My beef with USC is in the past and it's not USC's fault. Under the system that promised us 1 vs. 2 every year, they became the first team to win back-to-back championships without EVER facing the #2 team in the country. In aught 4 they drew Michigan in the consolation bowl, while "top-ranked," yet previously-thrashed Oklahoma lost to LSU in the Sugar Bowl. Then, last year, USC pounded Oklahoma in the "championship" game while real #2 Auburn was relegated to play Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Do you see the common thread? USC already has two trophies in the case thanks to a writer's block the size of Oklahoma.

2. Texas - LOLOL!!! Let me look into the future and predict how this will go. Texas is ranked highly going into the season. This is the year they're going to turn that last corner, no doubt about it. For a few weeks they'll beat up on the Southwest Armadillo States of the college football world. Then they'll look totally average in an 11-9 loss to Oklahoma and that will be that. No, no, you're right guys. Texas must be good. After all,they play Oklahoma tough every year. And you know Oklahoma's tough, because they beat Texas!

3. Tennessee 4. Michigan 5. LSU (you could put these three in any order and I'd have no problem).

6. & 7. Ohio State and Oklahoma in nearly a dead heat. Why does everyone feel the need to over-rate schools from states that start wth "O." Oh, sorry, THE letter "O," which stands for, "Oh, by the way coach, who's taking my Communications 101 midterm for me tomorrow?"

8. Va Tech - I think Marcus Vick will wind up producing twice the trouble and half the results of his brother for the Hokies.

9. Miami 10. Florida - at this point most of the writers looked over their list so far and realized that they didn't have a Florida school. The Gators at 10 get my vote for most over-rated. They were already a team on the decline in what is arguably the nation's toughest conference. You're telling me that Urban Meyer is going to turn that around in a few months?

Highlights from the rest: Louisville, at #12, gets one first place vote from some writer in North Carolina. Thanks for thinking of us, dude. He said that Louisville was the only team he could see running the table. While I'd like to, as a Card fan, pump my chest and feel like we're finally getting the respect we deserve, the truth is, we're getting respect we don't deserve.

Louisville has had a schedule full of scrimmages that count. Now they'll be tested every week. USC doesn't face any tests that are more daunting relative to their strength than the Cards will. Sure, the Cards may run their Big Least schedule. Then they'd earn the right to be thumped by the Trojans in the Rose Bowl. The Cards are good and on the rise, but they aren't championship material just yet.

18. Boise State ... Stupid writers' trick: appear knowledeable by championing a team no one has heard of. It's the sports equivalent of the movie critic who lauds a movie that no one has ever seen.

Let us remember that this year the AP poll means less than nothing. Not only are the writers still status quo fools, this year, by their own request, the AP poll will not be included in the BCS formula. So they're honorable fools.

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2005-08-15



This piece by Brian McLaren, over at Sojourners talks about being a bridge between opposites in a polarized society. It could just as easily be Brian's little epiphany, as it elicited a big, "Yes! That's what I've been trying to say for some time now," as I read.

McLaren confesses to feeling inadequate for the subject, yet does a great job of exploring this territory and capturing the angst that comes from trying to bridge a chasm the seems to continue to grow wider. I thoroughly enjoyed the piece and appreciate him showing his heart the way he did. I'd have told him as much, but Sojo didn't provide an e-mail link, nor did his church's site.

McLaren discusses Paul's "all things to all people passage."
"[Paul] was called to enter various cultures - Jewish cultures, Gentile cultures - and invite people to be reconciled to God and to one another. Of course, nobody can be everything to everybody at the same time, but you can, Paul implied, cross the bridge on the right side and enter a person’s world without judgment, and then go to the left side of the bridge and enter that person’s world without judgment as well." (emphasis added)


And that's the metamorphosis that's been going on in me for a while now. It's not that I've abandoned politics, or changed my point of view. Let me be clear - I have not. What I have realized is that when politics leads me to disrespect others, to stop hearing and processing what I take in, and to pour time and energy into fighting inconsequential fights, then my priorities have gotten out of line.

Certainly Christ leaves room for me to explore and have opinions. But that doesn't change the fact that I should be about God's work. And in following the example of His son, I believe that except in rare cases, I'm called to work to understand and engage others.

In reading throught the gospels I am struck by how Christ never allowed the Pharisees and other Religious Leaders of His day to side-track Him. These guys were relentless in trying to trip Him up. Whereas we would carry on the fight for days while waiting for the next issue, Christ had this way of quickly and clearly setting things straight and continuing about His work. He never lost sight of what was important, and never let the discussion stray into pettiness.

My favorite of McLaren's new ways of communication is: "We must stop answering questions that are framed badly." I believe that this is key. Slanted, yield-nothing questions are what generate the teaser "new survey results" which fuel endless, and pointless debate. But what they also do is allow the media to frame the discussion, and in so doing, color the participants in the discussion.

In today's political climate, we Christians, whether we like it or not, are being held up as major players in the game. And for those of us who are trying in earnest to follow God first, foremost and without being pulled off course by the prevailing winds of the day's rhetoric, I don't find that we're being painted accurately, nor positively, nor in a way that is helpful to our mission of being God's hands, feet and love in our world.

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With our fantasy draft just around the corner, we here at the Louisville Politically-Correct Mascots organization are fired up. It's going to be a great season. We'll start running down some thoughts on draft strategy in the next couple of days. But first some notes from around the office.

'Scots fans have been lining up for season tickets since last night when rumors surrounding our hiring of a pep band began to circulate. Well, let me just put those rumors to rest ... and replace them with the facts! It's true. We've retained the services of the Village People to entertain our fans at all Louisville Politically-Correct Mascot home games.

Also, while it is difficult to keep up with the between quarters and commercial break entertainment that other teams feature, we think we've come up with something that may just have fans waiting until play resumes to head to the bathrooms. I won't give you the full skinny, but to whet your appetite, let's just say that it may involve a Manatee!

Today I signed the N.O. to T.O. pledge, vowing not to draft Terrel Owens at all, no matter how desperate I may be for a receiver. There is no T-O in this team!

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2005-08-12


PCM


I'm doing ESPN's Fantasy Football this year. And, in deference to the wisdom of the NCAA, who still can't figure out their football championship but can see their way clear to dictate school nicknames, my team is the Louisville Politically-Correct Mascots.

Our draft isn't until next weekend, so I'll take the time in between to give a little background on our team.

Something the sensitive fan will notice and appreciate almost immediately at all 'Scots home games ... gender-neutral cheerleaders! And actually they're not called "cheerleaders" anymore. They're called cheer-ists. Even a follower can have hope that one day they might stand on the Louisville sidelines and be a peppy cheer-ist.

Pictured here is our head cheer-ist, Pat. When they aren't cheering, Pat enjoys frolicking in the park with their cat and dog, and hanging out with their best friend Chris. Pat says, "Come on out and help us root our PC Mascots on to a title!"

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I had to renew my DL today. No exaggeration ... five minutes after I walked in the place I was walking out with my new license!

This was unheard of. I had packed a lunch. Usually the DMV is a black hole ... while you're standing in line, you're friends are back on earth wondering whatever happened to Brian. The DMV's sluggishness has been a fact of life for as long as I have been driving. Day, time, state, it didn't matter what variable you changed.

Bravo Zulu to whoever brought about that change.

On the downside, their door handles were backward. You had to pull the push handle and push the pull handle. But that's OK. It's more than a fair trade.

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2005-08-10



On our bulletin board at work someone posted an article about post offices in Texas which were directed to remove their “In God We Trust” signs because they violated an electioneering ordinance. In righteous indignation, the article’s author implored all of his readers to write those words on every envelope that they mail. This was his idea of a way to “take back our nation.”

I’m sure the email cult will latch onto this, scrawling “In God we trust,” bible verses and other notes all over their monthly bills. Then they’ll sit back, satisfied that they’ve done their patriotic and Christian duty. Two days later their effort will be laying in someone’s trash can.

This kind of movement has always rubbed me the wrong way. I’ll concede that many enter into these things with the best intentions. But for many more there is an underlying “in your face” attitude that completely contradicts the good they pretend to do.

In Colossians 3:14 Paul writes, “And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.”

I propose that if you care to write “In God we trust” on something, write it on your heart … and your mind … and your actions. That’s where the need is.

Even without the “In God we trust” signs in Texas, and the Ten Commandments sculpture in Alabama, we still have plenty of banners and flags and pithy attempts to bind God and country together. We are long on divisiveness and short on God’s love and harmony.

The author of the piece later supports his case by pointing out that 86% of Americans believe in God. Sadly, my guess is that the percentage of folks who think that by itself that statistic means something is almost as large. What did James say? “Even the demons believe – and shudder.” (2:19)

I have no doubt that on a survey, 86% proclaimed a belief in God. The thing is, it takes only a quick glance around our community to realize that even with all of the believing in God that is going on, the workers are still few and the needs are great and growing.

Paul continues in verse 15, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace.”

The bold “we’re not going to take it anymore” stands, and the bumper stickers and the causes are all in fashion right now. What is really needed are lives that say, “In God I trust.” What is really needed is a church that reflects the peace and love of Christ, and that reaches a nation and a world in desperate need of both.

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2005-08-05



I had a Pulp Fiction moment last night, picturing Samuel Jackson, gun raised, towering over Brad (the one with the big brain), screaming, "English %&$#*! Do you speak it!?"

My Linksys router crapped out last week, and I had to call on Netgear Customer Service to help me get the new one to cooperate with the flaky way Insight treats firewalls.

I'm guessing that I was talking to the Bombay Customer Service Outpost, because I could not understand a word the guy was saying. Nothing against him ... he seemed nice enough and finally got me online. He can't help his accent any more than I can help mine.

It's just that we could have finished in half the time if we didn't have to go through a little game of 20 questions every time he gave me an instruction. Sometimes it helped to anticipate where he was going, and sometimes (when my guess was wrong) it was a hindrance.

Anyway, the new router is sweet. I'd always defaulted to Linksys as they seem to be the ubiquitious choice for a home user looking for the strongest combination of value and features. Yet everywhere I've ever worked the IT guys and gals have been partial to Netgear.

Lo and behold, I was able to pick up a Netgear router for the same price as the Linksys model (which is not much more than a song before all the rebates) I was swapping out, but delivering 5x times the wireless speed. At 54 Mbps, getting rid of the leash doesn't seem like such a drastic trade-off.

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2005-08-04



Huge news: Adidas buying Reebok to compete with Nike. Unfortunately, this is more than a simple math equation. Adidas + Reebok is not necessarily = slightly less than Nike.

Is any industry more brand-driven than athletic apparel? The original Air Jordan's were among the worst shoes ever, yet they were a hit and lifted the sneaker wars to a whole new level.

Developing and maintaining a brand's image is a touchy thing. Continuing both brands on their own sounds good on paper, but two corporate giants don't come together like this without some major culture changes.

Reebok is my favorite running shoe (although I've always wanted, but couldn't afford to try some of Nike's higher end cross-trainers), so I hope they don't fart around with that.

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2005-08-03



Yesterday on Sporting News Radio (or maybe it was ESPN, I don't know, that station switches up all the time) Bryan Cox argued that it was none of the fans' business what substance a player tested positive for in a failed drug screen. While that's not a surprising stance for a former athlete, Cox sometimes needs to join John Salley in the "How quickly they forget" penalty box.

Unless you want to give back all those big paychecks you collected because the fans make your games their business, some disclosure is appropriate.

First, as a fan I'm very interested in whether or not the substance in question was performance-enhancing. Sure, if it's an illegal, recreational drug, I don't need to know whether it was pot or heroin. However, knowing that people will tend to assume the worst, I would think that in such a case the player would want to be forthcoming.

But, when a player is using a performance-enhancing drug, that goes straight to the quality of the product (sports entertainment) that I'm buying. When someone sets amazing records using only their God-given talent and hard work, it's exciting. When such feats have been chemically engineered ... *yawn*.

I was satisfied with the performance-enhancing / non performance-enhancing distinction until another player was busted and went to the "I don't know how that could have happened" defense, followed by the NY Times' discovery that Palmeiro's failure was Stanozolol. This was the same hard-core steroid that had Ben Johnson sporting a body that looked hand-carved, and approaching light speed at the Olympics back in '88. In other words, it wasn't something Palmeiro might have harmlessly ingested via cold medicine, eye drops, ointment, or protein shakes. In other words, it wasn't the kind of thing that gets in your body without you being aware that you are taking or have taken the wrong thing.

As long as players are going to shamelessly stick to, "Gee, I don't know," as a defense, the fans deserve to know the magnitude of the substance in question. Though it has become abundantly obvious that athletes need to be militant in policing what goes into their bodies (as each year, millions of reasons why this is needed land in their bank accounts), I'm still willing to cut them some slack and acknowledge that even a careful person doesn't always know what they are getting. But, if you want to cry, "Innocent mistake!" then you need to back it up.

Finally, shame on baseball. Palmeiro failed his test early in the season. The matter was squelched and conveniently stalled in the appeals process while Palmeiro went out and collected his 3000th hit. MLB garnered a "feel good" moment, where instead it should have been brought face to face with the hypocrisy of the many "landmark" accomplishments that its players have logged during the "steroid era."

People forget that while steroids make you stronger and can help you hit more and longer home runs, its real value is in rebound time. This is why we're starting to hear that steroid use among pitchers is probably a lot more common than was originally thought. Palmeiro's 3000/500 is a feat of longevity. It is remarkable because most players can't stay healthy and productive long enough to reach both plateaus. Now the fan is left to conclude that an un-juiced Palmeiro probably couldn't have maintained his vitality that long. Just like we wonder if Bonds would be anywhere near Ruth and Aaron without his creme, and if McGwire would have had his miracle season without the Andro, and if Sosa isn't the biggest cheat the game has ever seen.

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2005-08-01



I'm convinced that there is a subgroup of people out there, and it may not even be a very small subgroup, that honestly believe the King James Version of the Bible is the very original text ... Aramaic-Shmaic, it's all Greek to me!

Maybe it's my recent travels to some of the outlying areas of Kentucky, or maybe I've just been blind my whole life, but suddenly I'm noticing these folks, and I'm just stunned.

We run residential homes for troubled youth among other things. The other day I was reviewing some of the petty cash expenses for one of our sites and noticed that they had bought KJV Bibles as graduation gifts for two of their girls. I off-handedly commented that I was surprised that we got the KJV for our girls. I wouldn't give it to a youth who had been in church their whole life, much less a troubled girl who has probably never seen the inside of a church.

One girl offered her guess ... "Well, maybe it's because that's closer to the original." The original? "The original WHAT?" I asked. No answer.

By all means, I can sympathize with a natural wariness when it comes to keeping up with the world. But I'm also very supportive of reading and studying the Bible.

When we already have to often consult with other references to gain a better understanding of what the original writer was saying, I don't see the point in adding a layer of confusion and making a person sit there with Webster's dictionary just so they can understand what the translators of the original writer were saying.

I'm sure there are still many folks out there who are more comfortable with the KJV language. They should certainly continue right on with that version, then. But there are several other versions to choose from that use language that, for many, is easier to understand and that have been translated from the orignal texts just as painstakingly as the KJV.

How on earth you can justify holding one responsible translation morally superior to another is beyond me.

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I'll just go ahead and answer the inevitable question before it is asked. "Yes, I am ready for some football."

Surprisingly however, here amid the doldrums of summer, MLB has provided some juicy news: Rafael "Never, Ever, Period" Palmeiro was suspended ten games for steroids. This is huge. He's a big name - the newest member of the 3000/500 club. He's one of the guys with a clean image. Palmeiro wouldn't have even been suspected, had it not been for comments about him in Jose Canseco's book. And Palmeiro was the poster child for the "don't believe Canseco, he's a crazed, attention-grubbing, has-been," movement.

As time goes by, Canseco is looking more like the straight-shooter and everyone else in baseball like sleazeballs pimping the national past-time.

-- B --


And, with Barry Bonds and Palmeiro having been "outed," the mantra has taken shape. "I don't know how it got there," with "there" being the athlete's bloodstream! We already knew that none of these guys had any respect for the intelligence of their fans, but this has to be the strongest evidence yet. "I don't know," is the best you can do? Granted, testing for steroids is new, but an athlete having to closely monitor everything that goes into their body is not. Here's hoping that a few years down the road a group of voters says, "Gee, Rafael, I don't know what happened to your place in the Hall of Fame."

-- B --


I am so happy to have Steve Spurrier back in College Football and in the SEC to boot! Love him or hate him, you've got to enjoy the color that he adds to things. He may not be poised to resume the SEC throne, but I bet he beats Florida in his first year with the Gamecocks. This is partly a tribute to Spurrier's prowess ...

-- B --


... and partly a tribute to the U of Florida's new-found knack for making disastrous coaching personnel moves. No disrespect to Urban Meyer. He did a great job in his very brief stint at Utah, lighting up the likes of Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado State. One could argue that there wasn't an SEC-caliber opponent anywhere in Utah's storybook undefeated run last year. Even their momentous BCS win came at the expense of Pittsburgh who won the gutted Big East only because someone had to.

How many Alabama coaching disasters do you have to watch before you realize that you can't plug just any coach into the SEC and make a go of it? Two years isn't nearly enough time to vet a coach. It's not even enough time to see his recruiting work bloom. Meyer goes from being one of a handful of good teams on his side of the Mississippi to the weakest of three teams in his own state and the weakest of a whole host of teams in the south.

At Utah he could promise an offensive prospect sick offensive numbers in 75% of their games, and a defensive prospect could count on looking like a monster against some of the nation's weakest teams. Now he can promise TV exposure, but there's no telling whether that will work for or against his young stars as every week will be a war.

I say Spurrier passes his old team by within two years.

-- B --


Back on the Palmeiro story, the best answer I've heard in a while. On an ESPN online chat, the Buzzmaster was asked if Jose Canseco was owed an apology as bit by bit the parts of his book that were mocked are coming true.

Buzzmaster: "You can bank on Jose making himself available for apologies via TV/Radio etc."

True dat! Canseco may be right, but there's just no getting around what a media slut he is.

-- B --


Finally, with Louisville moving to, or should I say taking over the Big East this year, I'll miss taunting my friend Little A and our former conference rivals, TCU.

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So, I got home from vacation Saturday night, plopped down on the couch and scanned to find viewing material for the five minutes it would take me to pass out.

And what is ESPN sporting these days? Competitive eating? Competitive eating! And that's putting it mildly, by the way. It's more like disgusting gluttony on parade. I caught the highlights while I was waiting to see if it wasn't just one of those spoofs that turns into a commercial. I mean, it was sponsored by Alka Seltzer and everything. It would have been the perfect parody.

Alas, no. It was for real and it wasn't pretty. I didn't stay long enough to figure out the details. Sometimes it's hot dogs, sometimes spaghetti, and while you're thinking about the spaghetti, utensils are not to be found, so ... yeah, that's an image that will stay with you.

Now, during the year ESPN had a lot of unconventional programming; dog shows, Scrabble, spelling bees, etc. At one point I was able to cut them some slack due to the loss of the NHL. They suddenly had a lot of room to fill.

But this was the end of July. Nothing is missing. Granted it's a slow time. MLB has moved past its All Star Game but the excitement of the pennant races hasn't picked up yet. Wimbledon is done and the US Open isn't here yet. The Tour de France is over. We're between golf majors.

But, the football teams are in camp now ... talk more about them! That's what everyone is waiting for. Granted they are already covering football. Trust me ... I'll get sick of watching a 300-lb man shove spaghetti in his face with his bare hands a lot quicker than I'll get sick of hearing about the new Big East.

Actually, I blame Poker for this. Poker was another off-the-beaten path "sport" program. Then, it exploded. Suddenly the WSOP was commanding premium time slots, and other networks couldn't seem to rush poker derivatives to air fast enough. Does ESPN see competitive eating as the potential next big thing? Please, no.

Poker is something that has a mystique about it. Like a lot of sports, it's something the viewer can at least imagine themself doing well at, and that vision is appealing. Sitting at the final table, rolling chips through your fingers, a cool customer behind your Oakleys, waiting for your opponent's million dollar call.

Competitive eating is something anyone could do, but who wants to? I'm not sure what money level I'd have to reach before I'd be willing to point someone to my highlight reel, but it's a lot higher than what they're paying out, even with the Alka Seltzer sponsorship. "Dude, check this. I totally kicked butt in the Jell-O round! No, that's not blood on my shirt, it's gelatine residue."

ESPN, please! There's got to be a hopscotch tournament somewhere ... find it!

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