Monthly Archives: August 2009

First fruits

The other day I ate a squash.  It was a yellow squash.  I sliced it, put it in a cake pan with some olive oil, onions, and tomatoes.  I baked it for a half hour or so.  It was pretty good.  At the same time, it was amazing.

It was the first thing I have eaten that I actually produced.  A few months ago I cleared a small patch of ground behind my garage.  I pulled out the weeds, broke up the ground, and mixed in some good soil.  It was a patch of ground about seven feet long and three feet wide.  In that small patch of ground we planted some carrots, cucumbers and squash. 

It didn’t go exactly as we hoped.  For one, I had no idea how many seeds to plant in each hole.  Secondly, a few weeks later when things started to grow I couldn’t tell which little green things were the plants I wanted, and which ones were weeds.  So I let them all grow.  A month later we had one squash plant and a seven by three foot patch of six foot weeds.

Yet we had some squash.  Two yellow, beautiful squash.  We picked them.  I cooked them.  We ate them.  It was the first time I ever ate something that I grew from the ground.  It felt good.  It felt useful, like for the first time in my life I was a producer and not just a consumer.

Maybe next year I’ll figure out which ones were the weeds, and we’ll have some carrotts and cucumbers too.


Filed under Fitness

Girls Fight Back

GirlsFightBackThis post is dedicated to the women in my life.  It is dedicated to my daughter, my wife, my mother, my sister, my cousins, and my friends.  It is dedicated to thousands of women who have been made victims, and to the thousands of women who will never be victims because of the work of Erin Weed.  My current Site of the Week is the home of Girls Fight Back.

I met Erin in high school.  I knew her at first only as the girl that shaved her head.  Which she did to raise money for cancer research and to honor her friend that was going through chemotherapy.  We became friends as time went on and I came to know her as a funny, kind, creative leader of our class.

The following comes from her blog:

Erin Weed is a professional speaker, author, self-defense expert and Founder/CEO of Fight Back Productions. Her calling to the field of violence prevention and self-defense began in 2001 as a direct response to the murder of her friend and sorority sister, Shannon McNamara. After Shannon’s death, Erin abandoned her career in TV production to study with the best anti-violence activists, personal safety specialists and self-defense experts in the world. In January 2002, she began traveling the nation giving keynotes and seminars in schools and businesses. To date, she has spoken to half a million people with her uplifting and empowering message of staying safe from violence and finding peace in the process.

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I’ve finally been convinced.  I have decided that Competition is the only great motivator for excellence.  Without competition, no one would strive for anything.  Without competition, we will all be pathetic weak pansies waiting for handouts.  The Oprafication of America has to stop, and Competition must be restored at all levels of society – starting with the great hallowed grounds of Competition – the sports arena.

To that end, I want to create a new temple dedicated to the heroes of Competition.  Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds, Tonya Harding and Rosie Ruiz will be bronzed for all the world to worship.  These Great Champions were pushed to new heights by Competition.

Ben Johnson and Barry Bonds were tremendous athletes.  They were world-class, highly-paid professionals, yet no one would have called them “The Fastest Man on the Planet” or “The Greatest Player Ever,” until they went the extra mile.  Driven to excellence, these two achieved all-time status.  The fact that they are both pariahs today shows how weak the rest of us are.  Bonds and Johnson put it all on the line  – took chances – risked organ failure – shrunk their testes – for Competition.  What have you done in the name of Competition?

Tonya Harding was a powerhouse on skates.  She was the most powerful jumper in the world, but that Nancy-girl Nancy Kerrigan was threatening to dethrone her.  So Harding took the Competition to the next level – outside the ice rink.  She convinced her thug husband to whack Kerrigan on the leg.  Now that is dedication.  If Kerrigan were a true competitor, she would have been wearing shin guards.

And of course, the ultimate Competitor, Rosie Ruiz.  She destroyed her competition by winning the Boston Marathon after running about 3,000 feet. Driven by the desire to win, Ruiz didn’t let anything – not even the first 26 miles of the race – stand in her way.

If conservative pundits have taught me anything these last few weeks, it’s this.  Competition is Good.  It might be the only True Good out there.  Competition drives prices down, increases customer service, and is good for all of us.  Pure, unadulterated, unencumbered, untested, untaxed, unregulated Competition is the only way we may have prosperity (its probably the only way to defeat the terrorists too).

So let’s stop the bull.  I will only cheer for athletes that are saturated with steroids.  I should be able to get stronger just by sucking the sweat out of my favorite player’s headband.  In fact, owners should test their players and suspend anyone that is not completely bathed in the cream and the clear, because they obviously don’t want it bad enough.

After all, God helps those that help themselves, right?  That’s in the Bible somewhere, I’m sure of it.  I think its right after that stuff about not making idols.


Filed under Politics

The death of baseball cards?

It was announced recently that Major League Baseball has granted exclusive rights to producing its baseball cards to Topps.  See the New York Times story here.  According to the article, the baseball card market has dropped to a fifth of what it was in the mid 90’s.  In other words, baseball cards are dying. 

It was a slow death, but this is how it happened.

1. Someone’s mother threw away her son’s shoebox full of baseball cards.  In that box were hundreds of faces of no-name players like Eddie Joost and Ray Boone, but a few of the cards held the likeness of Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, and Joe Dimagio.  This was repeated by thousands of mothers across the country.  Only a few boxes were salvaged.

For the decades from the 50’s to the early 80’s, baseball card collecting goes on without major event.  Topps is the main company. The pack includes over a dozen cards and a stick of gum, and most suburban kids can buy a few packs with the money they earn from mowing their neighbor’s lawn, or from the money in a birthday card. 

Some of the cards are put in the spokes of bicycle wheels, but a few are treasured.  When I was a kid I kept all of my Phillies cards, traded all of my Cubs, and kept the likes of Mark McGuire, Will Clark, Tom Seaver, and of course Mike Schmidt.  I treasured the Mike Schmidt cards. 

The greatest third baseman to ever play the game, on the first card he appeared alone.

The greatest third baseman to ever play the game, on the first card he appeared alone.

I would set out all my cards, and sort them into their teams.  I would put together all-star teams.  I would pour over the stats, delighting in all the tiny numbers, especially the numbers in italics, indicating that was a league-leader.  Then step two in the death of baseball cards happened:

2. Those boys grew up, and started buying those cards with the faces of their heroes, thus driving the prices up.  One ancient card with Honus Wagner’s picture on it is sold for six figures, and every middle aged man in America swears he had that card in his old shoebox this his mother threw away.

Suddenly there were new companies.  Donruss and Fleer popped up, but I stayed loyal to Topps.  Now no one dared throw a card away for hopes that a rookie card of a future hall of famer would someday bring fortune.  Baseball cards stopped being about loving baseball, and became about making money. Then Upper Deck came out, with their glossy finish and special sets and hologram cards and increased prices.  Now a deck had about 10 cards and cost three bucks.

3. The Becket monthly price guide was released.  Becket had made an annual book, one that you could look up your old cards for fun and see how much they might be sold for.  The monthly guide though, destroyed collecting.  Now prices fluctuated with every hot streak.  Buying and selling rookie cards were like a complicated futures market.  And having Ken Griffey’s rookie card wasn’t enough, because if it were a Topps card, it was worth $3, but if it were an Upper Deck card, it was worth $75. 

4. Baseball cards became a business of old men instead of a hobby of young boys.  For years the value of a card was simple.  If a player was good, the card was valuable.  If a player was very good, and you had his rookie card (and there was only one), then that card was very valuable.  By the mid-90’s there were so many companies, so many sets, so many Gold, Elite, Premium, Glossy, Hologram, Special Edition, Autograph Edition, Rookie All-Star, Future Star, College, Minor League All-Star, Top Draft Pick, Platinum cards, no one but savvy businessmen could keep track of it all.

 Can baseball cards be saved?  I think so.  This is what Topps needs to do:

  1. Make one set of cards every season.  The release date is Opening Day.  Players that played in major league games in the previous season get a card.  No one else.  This will clear up the issue of what is someone’s rookie card.  Plus, if someone gets called up in July and has a great season, there will be increased demand for his card before the next season even starts.
  2. Put all the player’s stats for his entire career on the back of the card.  One of the great things about old cards was that you could immediately tell if a player had a long career by the size of the font of the stats.
  3. Limit the special insert sets.  Every season, have only two special sets inserted into the regular packs: one for rookies and one for all-stars or league leaders.  Simplify and streamline the deck so that there is only one card for each player during any given year.
  4. Improve merchandising in stores.  Do not overcrowd an aisle with so many cards that kids/parents don’t even know what they are looking at.  Keep them (as much as possible) away from the High School Musical Cards, and the President Obama Cards, and the Miley Cyrus Cards. 
  5. Put the gum back in.  Kids like gum, its not complicated.
  6. Put more cards in each deck.  Make it something worth while.
  7. Add some sort of internet interactive game to play with the cards.  This has been wildly popular with Webkins and other toys.  Allow kids to assemble teams online with the cards they get and play other teams.  Add bonuses for getting closer to filling a full set.  This would intergrate fantasy baseball and collecting cards – and might even draw in some old guys like me.

Here is a great article about the 1987 set of Topps Baseball cards.  This was the first set that I collected seriously.  I still have many of the cards in my room at my parents house.  My Mom wouldn’t dare throw them away


Filed under Sports

More response to Jill and Kevin

I want to cut and paste the responses I got to this post on facebook. Some very thoughtful pastors had very interesting things to say.

I want to be clear that my previous post was not intended to be directed at Jill and Kevin. I don’t know Jill and Kevin. I did not see the rest of the service. Perhaps the pastor preached about the joyful dance that was meant to honor God. Perhaps they are devoted Christians, who instead of going on a honeymoon, went to Liberia to build a school. Perhaps they are egotistical jerks that are lapping up their new-found fame.  Perhaps they are somewhere in between.  I have no idea. Is this ceremony in any way indicative of the long-term success of their marriage? Not any more than any service is.

Every wedding is nearly meaningless to the marriage. A marriage is about deciding everyday to love, honor, care for and respect your spouse. There is no way to tell from any wedding ceremony if those two people will honor their vows in their heart. What I can say is this – the divorce rate for marriages that are lived in God, that are drenched in sincere prayer and heart-felt worship, with self-sacrifice, respect, love, honor, and faithfulness (and faithfulness is about a lot more than who one has sex with), is zero percent.

My post was about me thinking about what I would do if someone approached me with this idea. My response would depend on the couple and the situation.
My post was about the “look-at-me” attitude that pervades our culture – where fame is valued over humility and material gain is valued over sacrifice. Is this an example of it? Not in and of itself, but the response by the media, the recreations of it on morning shows, and the imitations of it that are sure to come, give me pause.

There is so much that I love about this video – I wish there was more of this kind of thing in church. Part of why it is so shocking is that people are dancing and having a good time in a sanctuary – which is sad. I can imagine how cool it would be if every Sunday morning the elements for Communion, the Bible, the liturgist, pastor, ushers, and other participants came into the sanctuary like this?

I could imagine how cool it would be if the offering were more like this? What if people came to bring their offering in song and dance instead of sitting like they were at a funeral – Or what about a funeral for that matter? I hope that when I die people can dance like this, not cause they’re happy I’m gone, but to celebrate a life well lived. I’m actually getting tears as I type this because I pray with all of my heart that more people could experience worship with this kind of joy.

So Kelly, please don’t think that I am judging anyone in this video. You think that God was smiling on them – I think you’re right. I think God celebrates with us during good times, and weeps with us during hard times, especially if we invite God to do so.

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