Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. This was the first year I haven't been with my family for the holiday, but my boyfriend's extended family welcomed me to their dinner, which made for a very nice day. The only thing is, I usually eat so well when I'm at his relatives' house that Thanksgiving dinner didn't seem like any more or different food, except there was turkey instead of steaks. The salsa music was also a nice touch :)

At Mass this morning the priest read a section from Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation, with its powerful reminder that we have so much to be thankful for in this country even when times are difficult; and they were never more difficult than in the middle of our own brutal civil war:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God . . .

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Auspicious numbers

I just got hit with several projects on deadline, but I will definitely post over the holiday. In the meantime, Mike at BGS points out that Jeff Samardzija is oh-so-close to having a 1,000-yard season (and Maurice Stovall looks pretty good as well):

As of the close of the Syracuse game, Biletnikoff finalist Jeff Samardzija has 999 receiving yards on the year. With just one more yard, he will become Notre Dame's first 1,000-yard receiver in thirty-five years. Maurice Stovall is not far behind with 887 yards, and Anthony Fasano has 545 yards. In twelve games last year, only Rhema McKnight (610) and Matt Shelton (515) had more than 400 yards receiving.

The reminders of how much ND has not been a passing team over its history keep surprising me. It's fantastic that Quinn just broke 3,000 yards for the season, or that we've scored over 30 points a record eight straight games, but it seems someone else should have done that at some point. I have a feeling it will be a trend, though, under Weis - they're going to need to keep updating the record books.

ALSO: What is this about a possible ND-OSU Fiesta matchup? Oh, man. (The South Bend Trib had a better story on the subject, but they just redesigned their site to make it even less accessible, it seems.) Well, I can't say I'd be unhappy for the Irish to have the chance to make up for the 1995-96 debacles . . .

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sportswriting and revisionism

When things are bad, they go to worse. Or not. The former seemed to be the right summation for a few teams last weekend (Niners, Eagles), but on the other hand a few teams who have not looked steady this season came up with wins (Packers, Vikings). And the Steelers and Colts won as usual. So there's no great lesson that applies to everyone in the NFL. Which, tangentially, gets me to a point I was musing about the other day: do you ever, while watching games, mentally compose and revise the write-up as the games progress? Maybe that's the would-be AP sports reporter in me, or just a reflection on the predictably formulaic nature of game recaps, but I often find myself watching games and thinking of the (contrary) different ways it could be recorded once everything's in the books. Two examples from this weekend would be in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. Watching the Philly game and the way McNabb seemed to be having few problems moving his offense (coupled with the utter ineptitude of the Bledsoe-led Cowboys), I (and probably the actual reporters) had the narrative taking shape in my head: "Determined to prove to themselves and the world that they don't need Terrell Owens to win, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles dispatched Dallas with clean efficiency Monday night." On the other hand, on that first Dallas drive, with its 60-yard completion to Keyshawn Johnson, the first sentence in my mind looked something like it eventually would once the Cowboys did win: "Sweeping the division rivalry this season for the first time in years, the Cowboys jumped into a tie in first place in the NFC East and left the Eagles reeling." Similar with the Bucs game. Watching the game-breaking two-point attempt, I could write the two possible lead-ins: either along the lines of "With a gutsy call, Jon Gruden shocked the Redskins Sunday," or else, "Washington held on Sunday for a close victory, and a share of the division lead, after stuffing Mike Alstott on a late two-point conversion attempt."

All right, maybe that's just me, but I do find it an entertaining mental exercise sometimes. A quarterback's great play is either the impressive key to victory, or a valiant display in a losing effort. The goal-line stand is either what won the game, or "ultimately, it wasn't enough to stop" the other team. The same series can be spun in completely different ways depending on the outcome, and it's up to the writers to frame things.

Faces of abortion

Amy Welborn links to this Post article, with the note: "Read it and weep for the baby - for all the babies." It's hard to do otherwise.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Behold the Irish offense

The South Bend Trib has a nice write-up of the way the Irish offense has been shredding team records this year:

In dismissing Navy (5-4) Saturday for the NCAA-record 42nd straight year, the Irish cracked the 500-yard mark in total offense (505) for the sixth time this season, tying Ara Parseghian's 1970 team's record, and surpassed the 40-point plateau for the sixth time, tying another school record shared now by the 1991 and '92 squads.

With two games left to play, the team has scored more points and gained more yards than over the entire season for each of the past five years. Quinn has thrown more touchdowns this year than the whole team scored in 2001, 2002 and 2003 combined. What's fantastic to see each week - what makes football Saturdays fun this year as opposed to the last few - is the consistency and the way that this team can get the job done running, passing, or with a balance of both. The last few weeks alone have proven that: Stuff the box with eight men, and we'll throw on every down. Blitz, and Quinn will dump off quick passes. Don't blitz, and he'll have so much time he can throw to his fifth read. Double up on Jeff Samardzija, and Maurice Stovall will catch three touchdowns. Drop more men back in coverage on all receivers, and Darius Walker will have another 100-yard game. And, for good measure, if you slow down the offense for a spell, Zbikowski will score on defense or special teams.

I love being in the top ten and feeling like we belong there.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Baby bear

How cute is this bear? I ought to be over my addiction to the National Zoo's Panda Cam, but like most addictions (others of mine include U2 music, Dr Pepper, and popcorn), this one is hard to kick. Today the panda cub, who's still figuring out how to walk smoothly, discovered how to stand up on his hind legs. He then promptly fell over backwards, but unbothered, he just spent awhile rolling around on his back. He also climbed up on the exhibit rocks for the first time I've seen. He fell off the rocks too, but still wasn't fazed. Later he climbed up on his mother's back, until she stood up and tossed him off. At that point, he sprawled on his back a bit, curled up, and finally fell asleep. It's very entertaining stuff. Should be fun to get to see the cub in person when the exhibits open up in December.

(Photo copyright Smithsonian Institute and used under fair use provisions.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

In honor of pork

Great column today from Richard Cohen (I don't think I find myself saying that much) in the Washington Post, mocking Senator Stevens's recent impassioned defense of the bloated appropriation of $250 million dollars for a Bridge to Nowhere. Cohen dreams of a statue (of a man feeding pigs, he suggests) being erected in Washington to memorialize how Stevens "turned the issue into one of virtual civil rights," and even "that he was the first senator in American history to take himself hostage." Heh.

Bad trends on STDs

Background to this post is Eugene Volokh's post here on the thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of infertility caused annually by STDs; Chris Geidner's and my almost simultaneous responses to Volokh's claimed lack of moral objection to casual or promiscuous sex (each of us taking somewhat different views, though agreeing that we were concerned about STDs themselves); and finally Chris's response to me. Key points: I wrote, "I think real sex education must deal with a complete understanding of the best context for sexual relationships, in terms of not just physical but also emotional, psychological, relational, and yes, even spiritual health. Sex is just about the most intimate relationship two people can have, and when it is abused or treated casually . . . , it frequently has negative consequences." Chris wondered:

IL wrote them, however, so she saw those words as supporting her preference for abstinence-only education.Also, as IL is the author, those ellipses are important. They represent a parenthetical -- "(or even taken seriously and well-meaningly, but still done outside of marriage)." IL, as we all know, strongly opposes marriage equality. As such, the parenthetical gives essential insight to a phrase in the first sentence of the above-quoted paragraph: "the best context for sexual relationships."

Is IL writing that sex education is only "complete" if homosexuality is excluded?

The short answer to that question is yes, I don't think there is a place in high school (or younger) sex education for homosexuality, in any kind of normalizing discussion there. My parenthetical was mainly intended to refer, however, to those many, many well-meaning people who take sex seriously and don't "sleep around" in any kind of promiscuous way - only having sex with the few serious significant others in their lives - who nevertheless are not waiting for marriage to one single person (the best overall context for this kind of intimate expression) and who often still are seriously hurt.

To the news that prompted the instant post: the other day the CDC posted new statistics on the STD infection rate last year, noting that while gonorrhea infections fell (to "only" 330,000 last year), both chlamydia and syphilis are on the rise. The increase in syphilis is attributed mainly to the cyclical nature of the disease and risky gay male sexual behavior. For chlamydia, almost 1 million new cases were reported last year alone, with the CDC suggesting the number could really be almost three times greater. The last news in the survey was that the CDC doesn't even bother to track new cases of herpes and HPV because they're so common, implying that there are, at least, more than a million new cases of each every year. They may be common, but they can be even more devastating diseases, as HPV is linked to causing cervical cancer and those 600,000 new cases of mostly female infertility every year.

This is what sex outside of marriage results in for millions of people in this country every year, to say nothing of emotional, psychological, or spiritual damage that can be done. (Also to say nothing of the newly-higher 35% rate of out-of-wedlock births, plus our still close-to-a-million abortions per year.) I'm pretty sure most of these people didn't somehow miss the "safe sex" message we're all taught in school, either; that is, I think it can be assumed that many people who have sex outside of marriage aren't being promiscuous, are using condoms or other contraception, are taking sex seriously . . . and yet for millions of them anyway, they're going to end up with new lives (frequently aborted or born into situations in which they'll never know their own mother and father) or with incurable sexually transmitted diseases, some of which may rob them of their fertility, their health, even their lives.

The best way to avoid the heartache and physical and other damage is to save sex for its ideal context: marriage. That doesn't include homosexual 'marriage' because I don't believe there's any context that legitimizes those forms of sex, which is an inexcusable belief to many but one that, in keeping with my understanding of the right nature of sexuality, I hold. And the best way to live outside of marriage - straight or gay - is chastely. I think we should always be seeking to cultivate strong relationships in our lives since they can enrich us immeasurably; but sex should be reserved for marriage, and unfortunately while our society doesn't accept that proposition we will continue to read of these staggering statistics every year.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

T.O. in limbo

I've been watching Terrell Owens since he came into the league with the Niners, as the intended eventual replacement for Jerry Rice as the team's primary receiver. He was always a talented receiver, but pretty early on showed impatience that the team didn't sufficiently "recognize" his superior skills. When a guy starts insulting Hall of Famers like Jerry Rice and Steve Young, it's a sure sign he's got an over-inflated sense of self. And that's the way it's been from the beginning - the immaturity of the man is just unbelievable. I can think really of only one instance where I really thought Owens got the game's meaning: when he caught the winning TD pass from Young in the team's 1999 playoff victory over Green Bay, holding desperately onto the ball as he was instantly smashed by about three players at once (aside to my reader who watched that game with me: no, Rice did not fumble earlier in the drive!). Back to T.O.: he'd dropped a few passes earlier in the game and this catch made up for, and I think he was sobbing in the end zone. Moments like that are a lot of what football's about.

But for Owens, it was never enough. He was never appreciated enough, people never paid enough attention to him - and even if they did, he couldn't resist insulting his teammates, particularly the quarterbacks and coaches who, one would think, would be important in actually getting him playing time and the ball. Even when you could grin at the Sharpie or the pom-poms, even as you had to admire Owens's sheer ability as a receiver, Owens was poison to his teams. I couldn't have much sympathy for a man who would go out of his way to publically denigrate classy guys like Steve Mariucci and Donovan McNabb. Owens may have over 100 touchdowns, but he's also an immature jerk, and he's finally talked himself out of probably the best job he was ever likely to have. (Although as Deadspin notes, his obnoxious agent helped him out.) After all that, I still can't quite say "good riddance," but maybe getting fired will finally wake Owens up to the fact that in the adult world, actions have consequences.

ESPN's Len Pasquarelli thinks Owens will land with another team, dismissing the likes of Oakland as possibilities, but suggesting New Orleans, Miami, or Denver. Owens catching passes from Gus Frerotte? Have fun.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

No such thing as a "good" divorce

The Institute for American Values' Elizabeth Marquardt has been getting a lot of attention for her new book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. Today she had a great op-ed on the subject in the Washington Post, and it's worth reading the whole thing. Marquardt, herself a child of divorce, conducted a research study of over a thousand young adults from divorced and intact families to find out what they had to say. As she points out, the whole myth of the good divorce is one based not on children's actual feelings or experiences, but one which is designed to assauge parental guilt. Minimize conflict, respect the other parent in front of your children, don't drag children into parental disputes - these are markers of the "good" divorce, but as Marquardt sensibly asks, if parents can manage to do all of these things after a divorce, why can't they work on doing them within their marriage and save the kids (and themselves) the heartaches and unnecessary challenges? Most divorces end low-conflict marriages, where the husband or wife merely feel bored, frustrated, or disillusioned; relatively few divorces actually end high-conflict or abusive marriages. Marquardt's research demonstrates that when parents give up on making all the little compromises that are part of the day-to-day experience of two people building a life together, the task falls to their kids, who often feel they have to become, essentially, two different people under the two different households they now must navigate (every-other-day-and-alternate-Thursdays, or whatever arrangement is designed). It's been rather fashionable for the last 30 or 40 years to denigrate the notion of "staying together for the kids," but aren't they worth it? Listening to their voices should be enough to convince us how much it matters.

I recently wrote more about divorce here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quick thoughts

- It's frustrating when the major news of the day happens at 8 a.m. and I can't really blog at work. Granted, that's a self-imposed restriction, but I have to think it's generally a prudent one. Well, I suppose it checks the tendency to fire off more impulsive posts throughout the work day.

- Speaking of getting home a bit later, I think I was too late for Halloween yesterday. I don't like Halloween that much myself, but I had bought several bags of candy for any trick or treaters in my apartment complex last night. I only had two little kids come to the door (one was Batman, the other possibly a cowboy). At least they were cute. They got a lot of my candy.

- On football: It can be fun to watch Jerome Bettis, can't it? He only had 22 yards last night in Pittsburgh, but 11 of them came on a nice first down run on the Steelers' efficient game-winning drive, and Bettis bounced back up after each run. After so many years, he's still a significant player on that team. Of course, it does help to have a cool new second-year QB wonder in Roethlisberger.

- And Charlie Weis affirmed his commitment to the Irish last week by signing a major contract extension that will keep him in South Bend through his son's college education. Excellent news. For anyone who might still be inclined to wonder snidely why Willingham did not get a similar contract after his 8-0 start in 2003, Jay Mariotti at the Sun-Times spells it out in an article that otherwise does have some snide elements, but contains this true statement: basically, "he is far inferior to Weis in most coaching facets." BGS had more here.

- I'll be at a law firm retreat for new associates this week through Friday, but it's in town so I should be able to stop by a computer at random intervals. Check out Confirm Them for Alito news and commentary, and the occasional song and poem parody (as the NYT noted this morning - cool). Have a good Tuesday!