Wednesday, November 22, 2006

christmas gift ideas

Every year I say I don't want Christmas gifts. And every year I receive gifts. They're kinda cool to get but the money could be better spent elsewhere. I am rather poor out here but I can scrape together the money to buy pretty much anything I really need, and I try to stay out of the race to acquire material wealth, so "stuff" generally isn't an issue. Nonetheless, every Christmas season one or more folks out there will insist on getting me something. So if you're going to buy a trinket of any kind for me, at least make it a trinket I need and for various reasons have not purchased yet or something I really want but can't make myself spend money on. To that end, I present Jesse's Tiered Christmas List, separated by price but otherwise in no particular order. There's a lot of stuff here so it will likely serve as my own checklist for the foreseeable future as well. Anyway, on to the list...

Tier 0 (pricey stuff, don't bother looking here unless you have lots of money and want to change my life dramatically -- in other words, if you don't know me)

House. A house would be nice. Real nice. I'm tired of throwing gobs of money away for rent with absolutely no hope of getting any return on it. Something a little more permanent is in order, or at least something that's mine and can be altered/improved/destroyed by me. Nothing big or fancy, just enough space to live comfortably in -- which implies not so big that parts of it go to waste or just get junked up over time. You know, two or three bedrooms, a couple bathrooms, some living space. And yeah, enough land to do something with like play games outside or build stuff on or something. If it's measured in acres and not square footage that's a huge plus. And no cookie-cutter crap with measly yard space. If I were buying I'd spend my money on land and character/architecture and not on space or luxury.

Car/Truck. A new ride would be cool too. I really like that Chevy Avalanche for some reason, and Chevy seems to be making good trucks these days from what I hear. Also, a co-worker was talking recently about a new 300-hp diesel engine Mercedes is offering in some of their cars that burns cleaner and runs quieter than just about anything out there and gets 55/38 mpg to boot. One of those would be damn sweet. Actually, with the ~$50k price tag I'm not sure I could afford to insure it. But if you get the car I'll gladly take care of the insurance and maintenance.

Vacation. As long as I'm at it, any vacation packages big or small are always welcome. I'm not picky when it comes to traveling; I just want to go everywhere. Knock yourself out, and be sure to include at least one guest in the deal.

Tier 1 (also up there in price but at least realistic)

Laptop. With multiple opportunities for overseas trips coming next year, a laptop is rising fast on my short list of big-ticket items. They've been super handy in the past for journaling and picture storage/labeling. And with wireless internet becoming ever more prevalent, a laptop's resourcefulness keeps growing. The computer I have now has been unreliable in the past and seems to be a bit slow. That and it's a bulky desktop that takes up space and is difficult to haul from place to place. Top-of-the-line specs aren't so important, as I'm not a gaming addict or CAD guy or anything. But reliability is huge -- been there, wasted money on an unreliable laptop. I don't want to hassle with that twice in my life. No Toshibas, no refurbished crap, etc.

Camera. A newer, better digital camera would be nice but by no means necessary. Mine works okay but it's a few years old and picture quality is noticeably absent when compared to shots from better cameras. Other than that I don't have any gripes, though, and it's held up well over the years even with its first real use having been in three weeks of scorching Egyptian summer heat. (When a camera can get so hot it's hard to hold and yet still keeps clicking, it must be made well.) But if I get another one it needs to be a good camera, not just a good deal. So don't go here unless you're willing to plunk down decent money on a higher-end model.

Kayak. A kayak has been on the list for years and its necessity is growing. However, those things are very specialized pieces of equipment that involve boat length vs. rider height, body proportions, intended use, skill level, etc., and so I'd probably be much better off getting that one myself and learning more in the process. But if you know enough to buy one then go for it.

Hiking/Trekking/Outdoor gear. Always nice to get. Outdoor outfitters are for me what clothes outlets and gadget stores are for others. I have to be careful how often I go because I have this insatiable urge to trade several paychecks for hordes of items whenever I'm in one. But it needs to be good, as I'm told by folks who would know that quality really matters with this stuff. (Note what tier this is in.) I may end up needing a bigger, more rugged backpack for possible excursions in the Grand Canyon and Peru, but that could be a few hundred bucks depending on specials and such. Hiking poles are also on the list. A smaller, lighter sleeping bag is needed as well, at the bulky one I have is warm enough to get me through an ice age but too big and heavy for backpacking. Other things I intend to pick up over the coming months (years?) include a good weatherproof jacket, lightweight and fast-drying clothes, maybe a small camp stove, and so on.

PLC + software. A decent PLC with a reasonable scanning frequency and plenty of I/O capability would be cool to have just to mess around with, but even more so than kayaks these guys are very technical and require some background to know how to use and what to look for. So if you don't even know what a PLC is, just move on. I need to do a bit more reading myself. But I'd love to have one just to toy around with and see what I could automate and such. It'd be a good hobby that would have the side benefit of putting to use some of the few solid engineering skills I have -- or had at one time anyway. But one issue here is that for a PLC to be fun to mess with I'd pretty much have to have a laptop as well.

Tier 2 (still kinda expensive but workable)

Luggage. Good luggage is an absolute necessity at this point. The stuff I have works but it's tough to use when it comes to packing delicate stuff because it doesn't have a hard shell. In other words, it puts precious souveneirs at risk. So something pretty big with a sturdy shell/outside and handle/wheels is called for. I've already had to borrow a friend's once (for the Philippines trip) and I need to go ahead and get my own.

Good clothes. Believe it or not, clothes would be near the top of this list, mainly because whoever you are you probably know more about styles and what looks good and such than I do. It's become obvious to me over the last several months that I have very little really nice clothes to wear, and being the professional adult that I am that stuff is actually necessary every now and then (unlike my college years, when I could get away with being a slob pretty much all the time except in interviews). I've been slowly trying to acquire some nice stuff but I haven't done a great job of it. So any good shirts (17 neck, choker shirts suck; my arm length seems to fall conveniently between the common 32/33 and 34/35 sizes such that neither fits too great) would be nice. I mean good ones too, not Wal-Mart stuff that I've got plenty of from my own forays in clothes shopping. I also have zero good sweaters -- make that zero sweaters of any kind -- as I've avoided wearing them in the past because they're uncomfortably hot. But maybe there are some nice ones out there that don't have this problem. They'd be slick to have for stuff like dinner parties and such, which I find myself going to on occasion. Pants and ties aren't as much a necessity, so I'll probably acquire more of them over time as I start replacing or at least supplementing the crap I have.

Electric razor. It's crossed my mind to get one, but this is another thing that one can't try to scrimp on. Good ones are good ones and bad ones are bad ones. The extra money would be well worth it for a good razor that actually does its job well enough that I'm not forced to give up on it. A razor that doesn't cut close is just junk that I don't want to store. It needs to do at least as well as I can do the hard way. My gut tells me I'd better handle this one on my own, but if you want to...

Tier 3 (the list that folks like me would generally buy from)

Books. They're always welcome, though I don't read enough these days and own a lot I haven't read. No book in particular comes to mind, but I've looked at Civil War stuff (Foote) and C.S. Lewis boxed sets recently. Sooner or later I'll probably come up with that stuff.

Music CD's. Again I can't think of anything specific. There are some good Christian artists out there, like Aaron Schust (or something like that) and Casting Crowns. Good bluegrass music would be nice to have since I own so little of it now. A good hymn CD would be awesome but I've done some looking and haven't found one that's the right mix of singing and music that I really like. Some mandolin stuff would be good too, so I can have a sound to aim for.

Cooking stuff. A good, BIG mixing bowl, would work well, as long as it's basic enough that someone like me would be able to use it. Stuff like rice cookers, toaster ovens, and other small stuff (not a blender or crock pot, already own 'em) comes to mind, though it might belong in the next tier up based on price.

Mandolin songbooks and self-teaching stuff. I've actually got a little bit of that now, but I've been so terrible about picking up my mandolin enough to make any progress that I've used barely any of it in what's been almost a year. I wonder if that wouldn't change if I had something a little more user-friendly and angled at total novices like myself. But the main problem there is a lack of time and/or discipline on my part. So I probably ought to learn more so I could at least know what I need.

So there you have it. Happy shopping! Again, I don’t request or expect anything, and if any of that were vitally important I'd have already forked over the dough myself. But inevitably someone out there will get me something. (Actually, I have a good idea of who the usual culprits are, as adopting a no-gift policy has not been tremendously successful in the past. But I guess I don't obey theirs either so we're even.) So there are some ideas for ye to start with.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

quotes overheard in the arkansas athletic department offices

5. "It's about time we matched the interference signals from that damn screen with the opponents' headset frequencies!"
4. "Now I bet if we add another 55,000 seats in Razorback Stadium we could be national champs!"
3. "You think they'd let us charge a pay-per-view toll on 540 whenever the stadium screen is on?"
2. "Why do they keep putting 'University of' in front of our state? It's almost like they think our kids should attend classes somewhere."
1. "Huh, we aren't allowed to have special athlete dorms? I guess we'd better close up the Washington County Jail." (Okay, that one is out of bounds, but I had to throw it in anyway.)

Sorry, wanted to turn this one into another top ten list but couldn't come up with enough ideas.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

under construction

The ugly blue-green-orange theme just wasn't doing anything for me so I decided to play with the colors a bit. Unfortunately I only made the problem worse. So I owe anyone who visits an apology for hurting their eyes. Bear with me as I try to right the ship before Blogger shuts down my site for excessive ugliness. I'm going for a sort of medieval, royal kinda theme, but my dark background greatly limits the range of colors I can work with because so many are either hard to see or distorted against that dark backdrop. But I really like the background I have going so I don't see changing that. This sucks. It's easy to see why men generally don't bother with such BS. In progress...

what kind of name is rutgers?

That's got to be near the top of the list for weird university names. Given that its full name is actually "Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey" its common name is even weirder. Why not just "University of New Jersey" or something similar like that? Oh, because New Jersey is the crappiest hell-on-earth place known to man and so Rutgers folks don't want the scorn that would come with having their state name tied to their place of higher learning. That's understandable; I'd feel the same way were I associated with New Jersey. As a co-worker puts it, New Jersey is a great state to be from. (Being from there, he would know.)

Anyway, being curious as I am and doing nothing better on a beautiful day like today than sit inside and stare at my monitor, I decided to get to the bottom of this. Below is a very brief account of how Rutgers became Rutgers, taken from the school's website. (I should add that the site is all hosed up such that text selection can't be done. That's just great. Jesse has to copy their stuff the long way, letter by letter. Bunch of New Jersey idiots...)
Chartered in 1766 as Queen's College, the eighth institution of higher learning to be founded in the colonies...the college developed as a classic liberal arts institution. In 1825, the name of the college was changed to honor a former trustee and Revolutionary War veteran, Colonel Henry Rutgers... Rutgers College became the land-grant college of New Jersey in 1864... Rutgers assumed university status in 1924, and legislative acts in 1945 and 1956 designated all its divisions as The State University of New Jersey. [Much to the chagrin of all associated with the university, I'm sure.]
So money talks...big surprise there. I should have known that'd be at the root of any name change back in the day. So Arkansas and Rutgers have more than just upstart football teams in common.

Friday, November 10, 2006

top ten bowl game names

I was thinking at work today -- something that rarely happens -- and got to wondering about bowl game possibilities. Some big names have already gone on the record as predicting the Razorbacks to make the BCS, and Rutgers just took sole possession of the Big East top spot by thumping Louisville. So here we have two very unlikely teams surprisingly close to a huge bowl berth. Is there anything that could be more freakish than those schools getting into the elite tier of postseason play?

Why, yes. What if they played each other? Now that would be wild on a whole new scale of weirdness. I know I've said this before, but I can say with absolute certainty that if such an event happens then the end times will most assuredly be upon us. Such a meeting would be so unusual and unlike anything before that the bowl game would deserve a new name. I mean, we already have names of the likes of Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, MPC Computers Bowl, and San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, so apparently no level of wackiness is off the table. The least we could do is give an Arkansas-Rutgers bowl a unique name that actually makes some sense and fits the occasion.

So, in the spirit of stupidly weird bowl names and comments sure to be mentioned with respect to such an occasion, I shall offer my ideas for bowl names via a Top Ten List. But, unlike the crazier names out there, mine will actually be relevant to the game at hand and would certainly be heard on the field or in the stands anyway. So, without further ado...

Top Ten Names for an Arkansas vs. Rutgers BCS Bowl
10. The "What the hell are they doing there?" Bowl
9. The "Whose luck will run out first?" Bowl
8. The "It's a good thing the (soon-to-be) Sharpe newlyweds aren't fanatical sports loyalists!" Bowl
7. The "Should we still buy off the zebras even if the other team sucks? Hey, it's worked all year!" Bowl
6. The "About time some academic schools made it big in football -- oh, well one did." Bowl
5. The "We've got your once-in-a-millennium event right here!" Bowl
4. The "Hey, ain't you supposed to be Rutgers? Well aren't you supposed to be Arkansas?" Bowl
3. The "This must be the Humanitarian Bowl!" Bowl
2. The "What's this little 'BCS' thing on our jerseys? Whose initials are those?" Bowl

And the number one name for a Hogs-Knights BCS matchup (drumroll)...

1. The "Civil War II: Forget the minor stuff, this is about FOOTBALL!!" Bowl

Thursday, November 09, 2006

weren't they supposed to just roll over?

Holy hand grenades!!! Rutgers is bleeping for real! Tied with Louisville (with possession no less) with less than five minutes to go? Are you kidding me!? I thought I'd only had one beer tonight but maybe I lost count somewhere back there. That or I guess I'm going to have to shut up about the Scarlett Knights being overrated. Then again that entire conference could be overrated and maybe Louisville actually belongs down in the high teens where Rutgers currently dwells. Either way that's a much tighter game than I expected. How could Louisville have seen before the season that Rutgers would be their toughest test? That's usually the first one they put in the win column for sure. Wow. What a shame I have to go to sleep early tonight; I can't wait to see who wins this one...

UPDATE: Rutgers 28, Louisville 25. Final. Rutgers' D held the Cards, coming off a 44-point torching of then-#3 West Virginia, scoreless for the entire second half. Unfreakingbelievable. Jesse's attempts to understand anything about college football have just come to an end.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

republicans get what they deserve

So the Republicrats have lost control of the house in a big way. They're struggling to hold on to the Senate via Cheney's tiebreaking power. It seems that even if they manage to hold on for a split they'll have lost any momentum and sway needed to accomplish much. Add to that the Rumsfeld resignation -- which I'm not convinced was necessary but the GOP needed a scapegoat and Rummy was too easy a target -- and it looks like total chaos in Washington. If you're a Republicrat, at least.

Big deal, I say. It's not like our home boys were doing much of anything great up there anyway. They did manage to run up sizeable budget deficits and keep quiet about immigration, and that was more than enough to earn my disdain. I guess they did also stay behind the effort to take the war to where it belongs, regardless of how bad that's going and how much fixing is needed there. But as a whole I'd say they didn't do much the Democraps wouldn't be proud of.

Yet many insist we should be upset that suddenly the other guys are getting behind the wheel? Come on. It's not like the direction of the country will change dramatically or anything. Okay, they might step on the gas a little more and approach that cliff of America's demise a little quicker, but the change will likely be too slight to notice. Like frogs in warm water, "conservatives" (I use the term loosely here to represent those that claim to be conservative) get all uptight when the water starts warming too fast but are content to let you destroy what they stand for slowly. Just don't make any fast moves or you might wake them from their slumber of ignorance.

To that end, I think it could be a good thing that the Republicrats got the solid a$$-kicking they needed. The country was certainly going down the tubes before, though I admit that much won't change in the short term. But I can think of two reasons off the top of my head to not only not join in the pity party but be happy with the results of yesterday's beat down.

First, the GOP has needed the wake-up call for too long. Even lukewarm conservative Americans have been getting tired of their spineless appease-them-all crap. That came out in this election in the form of droves of moderates flocking to the Democrapic camp and many conservatives either not bothering to hit the polls or voting for outside candidates with real values. In a better world it would snap the current GOPers out of their funk and bring them back around to the ideas they claim to stand for. In today's world I don't hold much hope of that happening. But at least they've been temporarily derailed from that moderate, "let's focus on emotional issues and be careful not to address any real problems" crap. Whether or not the impact reached their principles remains to be seen.

Also, since most things our government does these days are bad, a deadlock in Washington could mean less bad stuff gets shoved down our throats. Neither major party is reliable to abide by the Constitution or keep the feds from further encroaching upon our lives. Neither seems to care about the regular 99% of Americans without huge money or influence. Neither seems eager to make any substantive changes to the status quo. So if they just sit up there and bicker and argue about who's better than who, and fail to pass new laws or spill their ideas over existing ones, America wins. When it comes to federal power and greed, nothing is better than something.

So let there be much rejoicing!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

the return of rex grossman

The real Rex Grossman, that is. We all knew it had to happen at some point and more likely sooner than later. To back up my claim of prior knowledge of current affairs, allow me to quote a previous post of mine: " long as Rex Grossman doesn't realize that all Florida QB's are supposed to suck in the NFL..." Go figure. Someone must have reminded him of his alma mater. Our friend Rex decided that he wanted to throw interceptions instead of touchdown passes today, and that's sure what he did. How's 18/42, 1 TD, 3 INT, 1 FUM for a bad day? Thanks for that one Rex. Way to step it up against that uber-dangerous Dolphins D.

Oh well, I was hoping he'd at least hold out until the end of the season and be a one-year wonder. And I still hope he'll bounce back in the coming weeks, but judging from his performance against Arizona three weeks ago and the one against Miami today I'm not holding my breath. It appears that the days of the semi-reliably awesome Rex Grossman are over for the foreseeable future.

His performance points out the strength of consistent QB's. Not just guys like Manning and, well, anyone else that plays on that level for streaks of games -- guys that are good enough to rely on to win games. I mean guys like Trent Dilfer in his Ravens days, McNair with the Titans, or the Hogs' Mitch Mustain, the ones that may rarely put up huge numbers but are reliable to not do so bad as to cost their team the game. They don't do much but that's the point. You know about what to expect when they step out there and they consistently deliver.

For example, Mustain currently has 10 TD and 8 INT, and a mere 7 yds/pass average, through seven plus games. Not great stats, but he's been consistent. Except for the Alabama game he hasn't done anything so crazy as to put his team in danger of losing. Arkansas doesn't put him out there to take over the game but to be a role player in support of one of the nation's best ground offenses. And he's undefeated as a starter.

Or take McNair before this year. The Titans didn't expect him to carry the offense, they were basically a running team that needed him to do just enough to keep the defense honest and not make too many stupid plays. And that's what he did. He was basically a running quarterback who could hurt you on occasion with his arm. He rarely put up gaudy numbers but he rarely cost them games too. The Titans did well for several years back there with him at the helm and even made a trip to the Stupid Bowl.

Contrast those players with guys like Rex Grossman or former Hogs QB Matt Jones. They're flashy and they can do a lot with the ball, and they often do. The problem is, they run the big risk of doing a lot to hurt their own team. Grossman is a prime example, and we all remember Matt Jones' antics with the Razorbacks.

I don't know if there's ever been a player who was more suspenseful to watch than Jones. He'd either win the game or lose the game in unbelieveable fashion. Those are some of the most aggravating moments in my memory and I probably lost a few years off the end of my life just from watching him in the waning minutes of games. But I must admit, the game was always thrilling to the max with a guy like that in charge.

Consider Grossman this year. When the Bears' offense has been hot, they've been unstoppable and Grossman has put up killer numbers. Hapless opponents like the 49ers and Seasquawks have had no answer for him. But when he's been bad, he's been real bad. Six turnovers against the Cardinals (4 INT, 2 FUM). Four turnovers earlier today against the Dolphins (3 INT, 1 FUM). And neither of those defenses are reknown for their ability to keep opposing offenses from scoring at will. He's nice to have when he's throwing TD passes, but with that luxury comes the cost of him every so often giving opponents the ball deep in his own territory several times in a game. So the guy will win games, but he'll also singlehandedly lose games.

In closing, I guess I must say QB's like that have had success -- Kurt Warner and Michael Vick come to mind. But it's more than a bit unnerving having the Stupid Bowl aspirations of your favorite team riding on the roller coaster performance of a guy like that. And it's even worse when that guy is an ex-Florida QB who is guaranteed to come down to earth and start consistently sucking eventually. Let's hope he can hold out for another 11 games and get a ring first.

news flash: hogs unveil passing game

I guess I'll have to hold off on the Hogs naysaying for a while. I expected them to get pushed to the limit at South Carolina and instead they took care of business and seemed to win the game more handily than the score showed. The best thing is, a dangerous Arkansas passing attack finally emerged from hiding, albeit with the backup QB in the game. But at least they showed they can be two-dimensional on offense when called upon -- perhaps Casey Dick should be the starter. Anyway, I saw this as their second tough test at the season (disregarding the USC debacle) and now they're 2-for-2. I'm not quite ready to jump on the bandwagon yet but at least they're not just riding on one impressive victory anymore.

I doubt the Razorbacks will move up any in the rankings this week though. West Virginia should stay in the top ten after a respectable showing at Louisville and LSU will probably jump the Hogs and replace Tennessee as the third-highest SEC team after that impressive win at Tennessee. Of course, it's a shame the Volunteers didn't win that, as that would have hopefully made them more complacent coming into Fayetteville next week. But as it is, they'll probably be pissed and looking for some redemption. (On the other hand, since they're totally out of the SEC East race now maybe they'll be discouraged, though I highly doubt it.) And there's the other issue of the SEC West standings, in which the Hogs currently hold a one-game cushion though Auburn and LSU are both down there waiting for Arkansas to drop two of the next three. And with Tennessee and LSU both left on the schedule, that's not just a remote possibility. But I think if Arkansas pulls off a win against Tennessee at home next week then the race is over. It would take a loss at Mississippi State to give anyone else an opening. Go Hogs!

Elsewhere it was a great week too. Ball State forgot they were supposed to be schedule fodder for Michigan and played the Wolverines as well as any Big Ten team has all year and a heck of a lot better than those overrated prep boys over there at Notre Dame. Illinois even managed to throw up some garbage points at the end to make their game vs. Ohio State look close, though upon closer inspection they were never in that one. And best of all, Miami and Florida State both lost. Both are now 5-4, have losing conference records, and are in the bottom half of the standings in their respective ACC divisions. Ain't this season great!? One of the few things that could make it better is Arkansas routing the third Florida team in the SEC Championship Game.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

jesus, men, and revelation

Another good "Wild at Heart" study tonight. What a shame I've missed so many of those over the past several weeks. I really ought to go through the entire study manual and re-read the book a few times anyway. Next to the Bible there's probably nothing better I could read right now. Dunno if that John Eldredge is for real or a one-hit wonder, but either way he sure hit the mark with "Wild at Heart."

Anyway, the discussion centered around how being a warrior is part of being made in the image of God and how men are supposed to be warriors but have lost that in today's culture and become resigned to just be nice guys who don't rock the boat. That's another topic that ought to be fleshed out a lot more -- on second thought, just go read Eldredge's treatment of it -- but I'll touch on that in a bit. During the study we read some passages in Revelation (chs 1, 19) about Christ being a fierce warrior and discussed how that is in such stark contrast to the meek, humble, nice Jesus we typically see in the rest of the New Testament. So which picture is accurate?

The answer is, of course, they both are. Christ is both a warrior and a servant at the same time. Yet the church today seems to have latched on to this picture of Jesus as some lowly, polite, kind little dude that wouldn't harm anything. Frankly, it's just pathetic. That weak contemporary version of Jesus would have never conquered the world and started the movement that became Christianity. It seems absurd to me and has for a while that the church focuses so much on the nice, palatable aspects of who Christ is while barely mentioning the vengeful and in-your-face attributes that are just as much a part of His character.

(It's worth mentioning here that these traits of Jesus are even on display in the Gospels numerous times when he confronts Pharisees, drives out demons, and otherwise battles evil, but we don't often read it that way. The confrontation part is somehow missed or glossed over. But Jesus really shines as a warrior fighting for good in Revelation.)

During the discussion it occurred to me that a skewed view of the book of Revelation could have a lot to do with this confusion. If this Revelation-style Jesus that metes out justice and brings sinners what they deserve is seen as some holy hero that will drop in at a later point in time, then how easy it would be to just cast those attributes into "coming attractions" space and ignore them altogether. I think modern-day "comic book theology" has done the church a lot of harm in this regard. The implied thought here is, "Yeah, Jesus has that power and he'll be a bad dude when he comes back, but for now we're in a different time and he's just showing his lovey-dovey side to humanity. But if we don't get in line we could face the coming wrath." So, in effect, certain attributes of Christ are implied to be more present in some time periods and less present in others. And this would imply that Christ, one of the three members of the unchangeable Trinity, changes over time. So our Rock, the strength and hope of our salvation, isn't exactly the same from one day to the next. Hmmn...I won't drop the H-word here but that's sure straying close to the line.

However, if Revelation is seen as applying to the entire church age, then it provides great insight into the spiritual warfare taking place in our time. We can't see this with our own eyes but we can sure see its effects. And the book of Revelation reveals a picture of this greater battle to us. But that idea of the book is often lost these days. After all, if it's nothing more than a script for the last days on earth, then those attributes of Christ in that script can't logically be inferred upon the present-day Christ. But if Relevation is meant to depict general principles of spiritual warfare and not specific events, then it must apply to each and every day of the church age. So it is as relevant in our time now as it was in the time of the Acts church and will be in generations to come. This means those warrior qualities of Christ are as much a part of His character today as they always have been and always will be. This, to me, seems a much more reasonable interpretation of Revelation.

If people more commonly read Relevation as symbolic in this way of a greater battle, and not so much as a preview of the coming clash of powers, then they could not help but see the warrior side of Christ. They would see that Jesus is not only loving and compassionate but also fiercely loyal to God and protective of those He has chosen. And as Christians, we are to imitate Christ as best we can. This includes not only showing humility and kindness to all around us but also putting ourselves in harm's way and defending truth and the church at all costs. Read Revelation 19:11-21 and tell me if that doesn't mean showing a bit of anger and defiance every now and then.

So, what are men then supposed to think? What's the takeaway from all of this? To me it clearly implies that we can't simply be pew-warmers and just stay in the background lest we shake things up or hurt some feelings or challenge some norms. We shouldn't just be trying to get by here on earth and make this place a more pleasant home to humanity. We're part of a much greater battle that takes place in the spiritual realm, the effects of which shape everything we see and do and experience. So just playing by the world's standards of nicety and pleasantness can't suffice. Yet it seems too many of us have fallen asleep in the supposed comfort and security the world offers.

One of the themes Eldredge hits on is that a man willing to live out his faith recklessly and dangerously with total reliance on God is a huge threat to Satan's dominion and Satan is well aware of this fact. After all, God has advanced His Kingdom throughout history by using the actions of such radicals. Even supposing Satan didn't catch on right away, he's certainly a student of history and has figured out what kind of people he'd rather didn't exist. And as C.S. Lewis points out in "The Screwtape Letters" (which I haven't actually read but intend to soon), Satan's purpose isn't necessarily to beat Christians head to head but to keep us distracted from the battle at hand. He knows a Christian allowing God to work through him will win every time, so what's his only resort? Make sure that Christian doesn't allow God to work through him. As long as men don't try to rock the boat or otherwise let the warrior side of God's image in them show too much then the devil doesn't have to worry about them changing much of anything.

So if Satan can keep men complacent and apathetic enough to stay on the sidelines then he has neutralized a force he knows he can't contend with. And that's where the true battle is. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

proof that football commentators are no smarter than the rest of us

So it has been brought to my attention that some windbag(s) on ESPN have talked about the possibility of the Arkansas Razorbacks playing in the BCS National Championship Game. My first reaction is, that's bullbleep. There's a better chance of a meteor landing on Razorback Stadium than its home team playing for all the marbles. But let's do some math and see how it all falls out.

Step 1: The Hogs need to win out. This much is obvious -- like heck a two-loss team will get a shot at the championship. This would entail beating tough outs Tennessee, LSU, and Florida. But if that happens then Arkansas will have the schedule strength numbers completely in their corner. With USC and Florida on top of a loaded SEC regular season schedule, they'd be right up there with one of the toughest schedules in the land. And in BCS World that's worth points.

Step 2: Eleven of the 12 teams currently in front of Arkansas need to slide down and make some room. So, barring upsets, here's what Jesse's crystal ball says needs to happen:

Step 2a: Three of those are undefeated Big East teams that haven't played one another yet (West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers). If they go even against each other then each would have one loss and that's one too many in the very weak Big East. But it's far more likely that impostor Rutgers will be thrashed by both Louisville and West Virginia, leaving the winner of tomorrow's top ten showdown in Louisville undefeated and alone atop the conference. (As a side note, it's been said that tomorrow's game could be the biggest ever played in the state of Kentucky. I believe it.) But even if that happens, it's very possible that schedule strength woes could keep the Big East champ out of the mix.

Step 2b: Florida and Tennessee would have been defeated by Arkansas. Check, check.

Step 2c: Notre Dame gets to walk on two more service academies before a real test at USC. The Irish need to win that season finale to keep their hopes alive. If they lose, they're out in the cold.

Step 2d: Both California and USC need to drop. Cal has cake games left minus the USC one, so it's not likely they'll lose more than one more. That one needs to be the Trojans. But if USC wins that then they need to lose to either Oregon or UCLA. (Notre Dame is also on the schedule, but ND needs that loss -- see above.) But both the Ducks and Bruins have been upstarts during the latter half of the season, so that's possible. A huge reach, but possible nonetheless.

Step 2e: Texas has some potential upsets left on its schedule, with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M both remaining, not to mention the conference championship. It's not likely they'll lose any of them, but again, it's possible. And this is Texas we're talking about. Before miraculously not choking last season they were a posh pick for a late-season fall every year.

It gets extra hard from here...

Step 2f: Auburn, despite getting spanked at home by Arkansas, is still a real threat to the BCS standings. They have Arkansas State, Georgia, and Alabama left. The only real hope for a loss is that rivalry game at Alabama, but the Tide are too weak this year to do any damage. But just imagine the furor that would engulf Razorback Nation if Auburn slipped in barely ahead of Arkansas despite the Hogs being the champs of the best conference in the nation and having embarrassed the Tigers on a national stage. There would be riots on an unforeseen scale in Fayetteville. The whole city would burn to the ground. So for the welfare of tens of thousands of Arkansans, Auburn needs to lose in some way just to prevent such a doomsday scenario from playing out.

Step 2g: Either Ohio State or Michigan needs to drop a game then beat the other to end the regular season. Michigan gets Ball State and Indiana. Ohio State gets Illinois and Northwestern. Hmmn, no losses to be found there. So I guess the only hope is that the loser of the unofficial national championship game slides down enough spots to let Arkansas and Florida jump it in the BCS ranks (since the Gators would still be up there prior to the SEC Championship Game the next weekend). That's a stretch, to say the least.

So, is it possible? Sure, as long as the laundry list of stuff above plays out. So I don't guess those ESPN nutjobs are as far off their rocker as I suspected. But probable? I'm putting my money on the meteor. With the unofficial championship being at Ohio State, I think the Buckeyes will survive that test and punch their ticket to the real thing. From there it gets dicey. I expect the Big East to become a nonfactor in the championship race, and so either Florida or Auburn -- whoever wins the SEC championship -- will get the other spot. But neither can beat Ohio State. Buckeyes 38, Gators 20.

this headline speaks for itself

From Former Negro Leaguer Silas Simmons dies at 111

Yeah. One hundred eleven years old. That's just crazy.

And for added effect: "He was born in Middleton, Del., in 1895, the same year as Babe Ruth..."