Monday, January 30, 2006

Was Jesus Christ Real?

An attempt to answer this very question is underway in a civil lawsuit in Italy. Atheist Luigi Cascioli, 72, is suing the local parish priest Rev. Enrico Righi, 75 in Viterbo, Italy, for asserting statements he made about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were true. Cascioli says that Jesus cannot be proven to have existed and has been fabricated. Says Cascioli:
Jesus is fiction. The Church is fooling the people -- and must be held responsible.
Jesus' existence, of course, is well understood to be true. Beyond the Bible's Gospels, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of him in the first century as well as Roman philosophers Pliny the Younger and Tacitus in the second century.

Responds Righi,
If Cascioli does not see the sun in the sky at midday, he cannot sue me because I see it and he does not.
The bottom line is that most people today consider the historicity of Jesus as accepted truth. Judaism and Islam agree with Christianity in saying he existed. The question is, was he the Messiah and is he God? It is these questions upon which the truth about Jesus hangs. The Bible says that he was and is.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Next Big Thing

The new WBA heavyweight champ of the world is the largest ever. Weighing in at 323 lbs. and measuring 7' tall, Russian Nikolay Valuev is also Russia's first champ.

Wow, can you imagine entering the ring against this guy? Yikes!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hammer don't hurt 'em

Charles Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post who has had a fascinating life and an impressive career. I used to read his columns more than I do now, but I still check in from time to time. Here's a quick description of his style from an online biography:

The late Meg Greenfield, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, called Charles Krauthammer's column "independent and hard to peg politically. It's a very tough column. There's no 'trendy' in it. You never know what is going to happen next."
In the four above sentences, two words stick out to me: independent and tough. Even though Krauthammer has been confined to a wheelchair since age 22, I long ago nicknamed him "The Hammer" for how tough and independent his columns were. I don't know how many times I'd finish reading an article of his and, whether I agreed with him or not, say to myself, "Man, he just dropped the Hammer on him/them/that issue/etc."

But of course, even The Hammer has a soft side. I found it in his latest column, "Marcel, my brother."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


According to Timothy Jones of the University of Arizona, 40-50% of the food in our country is wasted via loss. That means, according to him, we throw away almost as much as we eat.

Recently a movement has begun to reclaim some of that loss. No, we're not talking about extra food being donated to food pantries or food shelves; some folks have taken it upon themselves to reclaim food from the trash. They call themselves 'freegans'.

These particular folks, especially prevalent in big cities such as New York City, search around grocery stores, restaurants, and even private homes to salvage what they consider perfectly good food from the garbage. They then prepare this food and eat it--some of them eating it exclusively. Freeganism is a concept that only seems to have taken off in the new century, but with publicity seems to be growing.

The question of course is, can dumpster diving for food produce safe things to eat? Certainly there are probably some good things to be found, but there are also some bad. It seems only a matter of time before you'd get sick. Says John Krakowski, head of New York City's City Harvest, a food charity, "It's not a good idea to do that, because they're placing themselves at risk." It seems he would know best.

The bottom line message to all of us is that we should do our best not to waste food. Of that 40-50% wasted, most came from private households. If each home was wiser about what they bought, the problem would be less.

And if you feel like you are ready to begin eating for free, you now know of such an option.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A new era in Bolivia

On Sunday, the first native Indian leader in Bolivia's history, Evo Morales, was sworn into office. It was a truly historic moment. Today, on his first day in power, he appointed his cabinet, filled largely with political outsiders and fellow Indians, and began the process of putting his ideas into practice. Morales is definitely a move to the left in South America, and has aligned himself with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. There is very little separation between the ideals of former Bolivian freedom fighter Che Guevara, he of the truly excellent film The Motorcycle Diaries, who was killed in Bolivia, and Morales. Morales has promised to stand up for the native indigenous peoples, the Aymara (which he is) and the Quechua. However, there is some hope that he won't be only a radical as he has expressed interest in working with all if his country can be uplifted.

My wife and I had the chance to go to Bolivia two years ago, and so we have definitely noticed this occasion. The people we met and spent much of our time with in Cochabamba, Bolivia were Quechuan. We, and some others from our church, spent our time there helping a church construct a new building. It was an eye-opening experience, but the people we met there were the highlight. Bolivia is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere (behind Haiti), but the attitudes of the people we met were so positive. Poverty was obvious, but hope was apparent. I hope that Evo Morales is successful in digging the country out of poverty and helping his fellow people. There are the resources for the country to be successful, but so far that hasn't happened. Maybe this point in time marks the beginning of change for the better for our friends in Bolivia.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

81 points. 2 assists.

If the NBA season ended today, would Kobe get your vote for MVP?

Photo courtesy Noah Graham / Getty Images

Thursday, January 19, 2006

MLB player stats: history or property?

Okay, so let's say that A-Rod goes 3 for 5 in a game with two doubles, a homer, two runs scored, four RBI's, and a steal. Should a company that runs a fantasy baseball league have to pay Major League Baseball for the right to enter those statistics under A-Rod's name?

As it stands now, the answer is "yes." However, CDC Distributing and Marketing wants a federal judge to stop Major League Baseball from requiring a license to use MLB stats.

I'll be curious to see how this case is resolved.

He's rounding third and heading home... here comes the throw... it's going to be a close play at the plate...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What Goes There?

One night several weeks before Christmas, my wife and I were lying in bed about to fall asleep. Suddenly, a scratchy running noise echoed through the heating ducts above our heads in the bedroom ceiling. Back and forth, there was definitely an animal in our duct.
We looked at each other unsure what to do. What was this thing in our ceiling? A rat? A mouse? A squirrel? Then, it crawled over into our wall, continuing to make scratching noises so we had no problem knowing where it was at. Over in the wall it crawled, and down the wall towards the floor. Finally, it seemed to stop to take a rest, and we, knowing there was nothing we could do, went to sleep ourselves, knowing we shared our house with something. "Let's hope it doesn't land on our faces in our sleep," I said. My wife was not amused.
The next morning, we called our management company to get an exterminator recommendation. We did not, however, hear any signs of the animal in the morning. Were we dreaming things? Not if we both remembered it, we guessed. I called Smithereen, and there was a fee just for them to come out. Since we hadn't heard the animal, we decided to hold off; we figured it had made its way back outside. We hoped it hadn't instead begun hibernation in our wall. A few quiet days went by, and we had forgotten our late night friend. Then, one night, right where the sounds had disappeared before, a scratching noise began. Right at twilight. There was no doubt our friend was back. Maybe he hadn't left?
I called and scheduled an appointment to have our critter checked out. Since we live on the top floor of a three-flat, the exterminator fellow said he suspected a squirrel over mice or rats as those usually are on the first floor. The following several days, every night at twilight, the same scratching began. It seemed we had a permanent guest-in-residence.
The next week, our pest removal expert arrived. Of course, our little friend was not making any noise. I got the feeling he began to doubt our story. "Are you sure you heard something that had to be alive?" he asked. We went up to the roof to check for access points. Of course, there were none to be found. "I don't see how it could have gotten in there," he said. The only way to check for sure at this point was for him to cut a hole in our wall and examine the location where we had heard our critter to see if there were any signs of it. I called my wife to see if that's what she wanted. She wanted resolution since we already were on the hook for paying the pest management service, and so this was our only option. A hacksaw did quick work on our drywall. Of course, it was right in the corner of our bedroom, and so access wasn't easy. Soon, however, a square had been cut and the moment of truth had arrived. What was in our wall?

"Oh my goodness! Well, you've definitely got something here," our expert said. "I was not expecting this. You have a bat in your wall. And it's still alive."
"A bat?!!" my wife exclaimed over the phone. "Disgusting!"
Yes, folks. We had a brown bat in our wall. Our pest control friend proceeded to pull on his leather glove and reached in and carefully pulled out the bat that had taken up residence in our wall. It looked a lot like this:

Wow, bats are crazy creatures. The only flying mammal, they're great creatures to have around as they eat tons of mosquitos. They do look like flying mice, though. It's hard to see here, but on the front of his wings, at those points, are little claws. Those were what he was scratching with. He hadn't been running up and down our ducts, but flying. Darkness is no problem for these radar-based flyers. Pretty cool.

Needless to say, my wife was none too thrilled about having a bat in our wall. She was glad we had gotten it removed, though, and that at least it hadn't died in there. These sneaky little fellows can sneak into very skinny spaces, and so this one was probably trying to hibernate under a corner of our building and got himself lost inside. Our friend from Smithereen kindly took the bat with him. I know not its fate, but I have the feeling it was not good as it was pretty far gone and it is likely it was put out of its misery. I wash my hands of that part of the process. Better in the pest management van than our wall I suppose. So there you go. Next time you hear a pitter-patter, a scritch-scratch in your wall, the moral of this story is very simple. It may be a bat.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Two Very Important Records

Will you join me now in celebrating two very important world records, which were set this past weekend. Both these records will be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records (which today is highlighting the world's longest ear hair), so we know they're legit. Honestly, feats like these come along so rarely, that they certainly warrant whatever recognition we can offer.
  • In California on Saturday, a 20-year-old CIT student set the Rubik's Cube World Record. He solved that tricky puzzle in 11.13 seconds. Whoah! It probably would take me that long to even get started. He still did not win the champion title at the event due to his average time being slower despite this stellar effort.
  • In Chapel Hill, NC students from Duke University and the University of North Carolina finished playing the longest continuous basketball game. The final score? 3,688-3,444. And it figures, Duke won. It doesn't sound like a lot of defense was played to me.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sudoku Toolbox

Okay, so a while back I asked the question, "Do you Sudoku?" Well, our good friend, Tim Stall, has answered with a resounding yes.

Tim has designed a very impressive "Sudoku Toolbox." I played around with it today and really liked it. One of the things that separates this Sudoku site from others is that it explains why a move is or isn't allowed (if you ask for it).

Whether you're a seasoned Sudoku grandmaster or someone just interested in learning about the game, I'd encourage you to have a look; and if you agree that it's a fun and helpful site, I'd suggest you vote for it. "Sudoku Toolbox" is currently ranked #20 on Top 50 Sudoku Sites!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Olympics in Chicago?

You may or may not have heard the buzz building around a potential Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics. Signs, in the form of Mayor Daley, however, are starting to point to just such an occurrence.

Could it happen? Could the Olympics come to Chicago? The idea of it, although at first farfetched sounding, is intriguing. Wouldn't it be cool for the entire world to be watching the opening ceremonies in Soldier Field? Can you imagine all the awesome brand new housing complexes, initially for athletes, but then for those in need of housing? The ramifications would be huge. And honestly, the idea seems to have some potential. I'll admit, it's growing on me.

The usual concern is that it costs too much to attempt to pull all the venues, new buildings, and even the initial bidding together for it to be worthwhile. Certainly, you wouldn't want a money-loser, but even coming out financially even, I think you'd be ahead here. The draw to Chicago as a result of hosting the games would be phenomenal.

The Chicago area actually has a lot of what they'd need to pull off the event. More than most cities, at least. The one big item needed is a large track and field venue. I think there is a solution at hand. An idea recently floated has suggested building a stadium that is only temporarily 80,000 people large, but that could be downsized to ~25,000. The UIC campus has been suggested as a location. I think it's a great idea. UIC could add a football team post 2016 and also, the site could serve as a high school football venue.

I honestly hope this ends up happening. Chicago's infrastructure would grow while increasing in world visibility. There seems to be the potential for a pretty cool time come 2016 here in Chicago.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Since Sliced Bread

What's the best idea since sliced bread? Who knows? And when you think about it, sliced bread was a pretty good idea, and so it would have to be another pretty good one to match that.
Well, a site has captured this concept to attempt to improve America. has asked, "What's your common sense idea?" to strengthen our economy and improve the day-to-day lives of working men and women and their families.
Over the last few months, ordinary Americans submitted more than 22,000 ideas to begin the process of winnowing down these thoughts to one tangible great idea that could have an impact. Now, 21 finalists, or best ideas, have been chosen. It is now the responsibility of us as Americans to vote and decide what the successful winning ideas will be.
There are some truly good (maybe even great?) ideas offered. Some examples are:
  • Standardization of Health Care Data
  • Blanket The US With Wireless Access
  • Tie Minimum Wage to Cost of Living
  • Public Education Reform

And there are obviously more, all of which are pretty good. My personal favorite, though, is one called Massive Public Works Projects:

Such public works projects as the Panama Canal, Hoover Dam, The Tennessee Valley Authority, and The New York City Water Tunnels, have created infrastructure expansion, jobs, economic growth and healthcare for millions of Americans. In order to benefit Americans I propose we iniate massive public works projects, aimed at employment of Americans, economic growth, healthcare oppurtunities, and infrastructure expansion. Such projects would include re-opening steel mills, building hydroelectric plants or green energy facilities, Shipyards, bridges, roads, high-rise buildings, tunnels, and renovating existing towns and cities. When government, business and industry start public works projects every business has a chance to capitalize on the increase of productivity. Another concept would be to start pilot towns that are built around the latest technologies such as hybrid and zero emission vehicles, broadband communications, renewable enrgy sources, mass-transit systems, and other emerging technologies that need to be tested full scale. This is a common sense idea, even the Pharohs, and Emporers of ancient civilizations knew, if you keep your citizens employeed and working your ecomomy will thrive.
Obviously I am biased by my career and education, but wouldn't that be awesome? That's what I'll be voting for.
If you don't agree, it's then your duty to vote otherwise. The winner receives a grand prize of $100,000 and a commitment to work to make the idea a reality. The two runners-up take home $50,000. All 21 ideas will be featured in a book to be published in 2006.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hold Up

Well, another crazy experience has been added to my life today. Quite literally, cliche or not, I am blessed to be sitting here typing this now.

This afternoon, my wife and I were over on the west side of Chicago, in the neighborhood where we often volunteer and in which we coach a youth baseball team as a part of Breakthrough Urban Ministries. As we were standing on the sidewalk, we were approached by two young men who had gotten out of a car that had just pulled up. Our own parked car was unreachable across the street. A third man, the driver (and the apparent older ringleader) waited in the car. The two boys headed straight for me, with the one reaching under his sweatshirt as he approached. Luckily, my wife began walking away immediately and was a good distance away by the time they came up near me and pulled a gun and pointed it at my stomach. It was quickly apparent they did not just want to sell me drugs.

I don't really remember what I said or what they did, but they wanted my valuables it was obvious. I guess I protested some and they reinforced that if I didn't give them what they wanted they "would shoot." My wife said that at the same time the man in the car was yelling them to "Go after the girl" instead, as he became frustrated at them not quickly getting my wallet. Nonetheless, the only safe option was to acquiesce to their demands, and in a blink, my wallet was out of my hand and on its way back to the car, only after I was walloped upside my head. They drove away quickly while we were left unable to make out their obscured license plate.

Gone were all credit cards, my bank card, license, and cash. The all-too-real taste of the neighborhood's troubles was left for us to attempt to digest. Police report filed, legs quivering, head aching, reality began to sink in. Beyond the incredible annoyance that replacing everything would be, the harsh reality of the wrongs in our world bore heavily down upon us. The need these kids felt to fund their lives this way, the poverty surrounding the moment, the emotional chaos we quickly ran through, these all served to jar us. Here were a couple kids so similar yet so different from so many others we've sought to build into over the last four years there. Yet, it was as if we were a world apart. Here we were, an easy mark, and obviously thought of as strangers who were not valued. If only I had the chance to sit an hour in the same room on an even playing field and share the stories of where we came from; would opening windows into our lives have bridged a gap that made a desperate act possible?

The world is real, but so is eternity. We are blessed to draw each breath we do, and "Blessed be the name of the Lord" as we continue to go about our lives. Tonight, we are fortunate and thankful, and what the future may bring seems only as close as what the past has wrought. Seeds of change can grow slowly, but oh, that they are.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


So I watched the Illini beat Michigan State tonight. Dee Brown's 23-point performance in the first half was simply dazzling. When Tom Izzo was asked at halftime what his team (Michigan State) needed to do in the 2nd half, he answered, "Recruit Michael Jordan."

Many people, including myself, have been wondering exactly how good the Illini would be this season. I had figured it'd be impossible for them to replace 4 at the 3 and 5 at the 1, and therefore the team would experience a significant dropoff (i.e., losing Luther Head and Deron Williams meant no shot at the Final Four). However, after watching tonight's game (the first Illini game I've seen this season), I need to rebuke myself: "Me of little faith."

This will be a fun team to watch in both the Big Ten and NCAA tourneys. Their keys to success will be D -- and Dee.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chinese Censorship

It turns out that Microsoft is censoring their Chinese bloggers in the interest of cultivating a relationship with the Chinese government. This is an American company limiting one of their customers' free speech.
Robert Scoble, the Microsoft Geek Blogger, is dismayed. He provides all the info you need to follow this story.
I can't say I'm surprised, but if American companies are cowtowing to the Chinese in order to make a buck, I can't say I'm in agreement. Sadly, I own Microsoft stock.

edit: follow-up: Scoble expounds upon the situation here and here

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Relax. The 'Horns will hook 'em.

So college football's national championship game is upon us. It's the much anticipated showdown between the USC Trojans and the Texas Longhorns.

Yes, USC has Heisman winners Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Yes, Bush and Leinart will likely be the top two picks of the upcoming NFL draft. Yes, USC is favored by a touchdown. Yes, conventional wisdom says USC will win the national championship yet again.

However, I just wanted to say that I don't think anybody has to worry about all those things for this game. I know, I probably sound like a crazy man, but there is a method to my madness here. It's kind of hard to explain right now. It has something to do with the fact that I watched 9 minutes of the Fiesta Bowl and started to think about some stuff. Maybe I'll be able to explain more later...

Monday, January 02, 2006


Over the holiday break, my wife and I had the chance to see Syriana. It was a great movie, done in the style of another of our favorites, Traffic. I would definitely recommend seeing it.

One of the central messages of the movie is that oil-rich emirates should not squander their wealth today on trivial things because their oil will not last forever, and thus, they should position themselves such that their wealth does.

Shortly after seeing the movie, I saw this story. A Saudi emir is going to build a $26 billion resort city. A squanderous waste or a good investment? You be the judge.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Leap Into New Year

Happy New Year!
For those keeping track, you may have noticed that 2005 felt a little longer than normal. As it turns out, you're right. 2005 was one second longer than normal.
The earth, it's a-slowin' down it seems. The minute before midnight in Greenwich, England was extended to 61 seconds as the 'leap' second was added.
Very peculiar. So, welcome to the New Year, and make sure you set your clocks one second back.