Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pickup Basketball

Anyone who has played pickup basketball knows the characters.

11 Guys At The Playground -

Which one are you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Underground Cities

I am frequently blown away by all that we don't know about our world. What's more surprising, though, is what we sometimes don't know about even the history of what we humans have built in this world. Often we've completely forgotten what the pinnacles of past societies were. Like in 1911 when Machu Picchu was rediscovered after being lost for centuries.

BLDGBLOG now points us to the underground cities of Cappadocia in Turkey. The ancient Hittites, who came to area from east of the Black Sea around 2,000 B.C., are believed to have begun the excavation of these cities. It is believed that these underground cities were enlarged during early Christian times to provide refuge for the Christians from invaders and persecutors.
He quotes Alan Weisman from The World Without Us,

No one knows how many underground cities lie beneath Cappadocia. Eight have been discovered, and many smaller villages, but there are doubtless more. The biggest, Derinkuyu, wasn't discovered until 1965, when a resident cleaning the back wall of his cave house broke through a wall and discovered behind it a room that he'd never seen, which led to still another, and another. Eventually, spelunking archeologists found a maze of connecting chambers that descended at least 18 stories and 280 feet beneath the surface, ample enough to hold 30,000 people – and much remains to be excavated. One tunnel, wide enough for three people walking abreast, connects to another underground town six miles away. Other passages suggest that at one time all of Cappadocia, above and below the ground, was linked by a hidden network. Many still use the tunnels of this ancient subway as cellar storerooms.

Did you catch that? Up to 30,000 people lived in this underground city!

And BLDGBLOG notes, it is likely there is more exploration of these cities waiting to happen. Another underground city, Gaziemir, was just found earlier this year.

What other crazy remnants of a past society are out there still waiting to be found again?

Monday, August 27, 2007


Once in awhile we get to see the future come. But most of the time, we don't even notice it. Here now, take a peek at it...

All I can say is, I don't think we'll ever trust pictures the same way again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And so it begins...

In understated fashion yet another blog has begun. But this isn't just any blog...

It gives me great pride to announce a sister blog to IJAB. Yes, the Westy's have found another place on the web.

As most of you know, my wife and I are expecting a child very shortly. Inspired by that--and maybe to ensure we are able to keep the grandparents happy with plenty of updates--the many odd tales of the Windy City Westy's can now be found on her new blog.

Definitely check it out and watch for updates as our family grows.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Does College Secularize Students?

The problem with when what's considered a given hasn't been tested is that we often find out it's not a given.

For years the running assumption has been that higher education secularizes students. Christians have typically believed that secularization of the young results from the promulgation of a secular agenda, while those of a more secular bent have preferred the explanation that more education naturally exposes the irrationality of religious faith.

Like most people who haven't given it much though, I had usually accepted the conventional thought that college tends to be a secularizing force. Now, though, a study has been released that shows it might not be so.

A new study by Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker, and Margaret Vaaler in the Spring 2007 issue of Social Forces suggests both sides are wrong from the outset. Their conclusion is that higher education doesn't secularize students.

It actually makes sense to me. Do you agree?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Random Movie Reviews

So this past week I caught up a little on my movie-watching, renting my first three movies of the year. (Previously this year, I had seen two movies at friends' places and perhaps two in theaters. So I guess this means I've now seen about seven movies total this year. Oh, and I saw "Happy Feet" on the plane. So maybe it's eight.)

Anyway, I might not see as many movies as the average American, but when I do, I really try to enjoy them. I don't get my hopes too high. I just want some small amount of entertainment where all I have to do is sit back and take it all in. If the movie indeed turns out to be more than that, well, then that's just icing on the cake.

The three movies that I rented and watched over the past week were Pulp Fiction (1994), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and Signs (2002). I hadn't seen any of these movies before, so despite their age, they were "new" to me.

I got Pulp Fiction because Ving Rhames has been in the news recently, and all the media reports kept referring to him as "the Pulp Fiction actor." I got Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon because I've heard good things about it; and I got Signs because it just seemed like it might be my type of movie.

So without further ado, here are my three random movies reviews:

Pulp Fiction - Toaster scene. 'Nuf said.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Have you seen this movie? Did you like it? Well, if you liked this movie, then please just skip to my Signs review.

Apparently Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (or as it's known in China, Wo hu cang long) won the Academy Award for "Best Foreign Film" of 2000. Now, this means one of two things: 1) The voting is rigged or 2) 2000 was a down year for foreign films.

First off, let's start on a positive. This movie was based on a novel by Du Lu Wang, which for all I know could be an excellent book. But I'm sorry, this movie was difficult for me to watch, mainly because I didn't connect with the characters and most of the action scenes looked corny to me (such as the many times characters were floating around awkwardly).

My biggest problem was with that Long chick (the one who steals the sword in the beginning and causes all sorts of mindless trouble throughout the movie). Seriously, this chick had major issues and about 20 minutes into the movie I was actively cheering for really bad stuff to happen to her. Toward the end when she used the Green Dragon sword to cut the older lady's arm (Yu Shu Lien) and then Li Mu Bai steps in and yells, "You are not worthy of that sword!" I thought, "Finally, he's going to decapitate her like the Highlander would." But no, they just float around the trees for a little bit and then when he gets his chance to show her who's boss, he goes back to wanting to train her again (even though she's burned every bridge 10 times by this point in the movie.)

And of course, this annoying ninja chick has a long lost lover from the desert named "Dark Cloud." Although, I think his name should have been "Clouded Judgment." He's a desert bandit capable of kidnapping and enslaving any chick he wants, but for some reason he insists on falling in love with this violent, indecisive, snobbish, back-stabbing daughter of a nobleman. At the end, the movie tries to make us believe that these two will live happily ever after in the desert. But come on, you just know she's going to change her mind not long after the credits roll. At the very least, there's no way "Dark Cloud" is going to be able to put up with her "thunder and lightning" for long.

Now, you might be curious as to why this movie is called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Well, me too. I would have called it Crouching Catfights, Hidden Plot.

Signs - Okay, so if I had seen this movie in the theater without knowing anything about it, I probably would have really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, that's not how I went into this movie. Instead, I've seen the trailers and teasers repeatedly, as well as having heard some things through the rumor mill. I went in kinda knowing what to expect, which kinda defeats the purpose of this type of movie.

That being said, I did think that it was a good movie. Some parts were scary, some were funny, and some were thought-provoking.

In closing, I thought Pulp Fiction worked well as a comedy for me; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon belongs on Mystery Science Theater 3000; and Signs was worth the $5 rental.

Oh, and speaking of rentals. It looks like I have a $1.99 rental at Blockbuster that's good for another week. Do you have any movie suggestions?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stop Snitchin' Redux

CBS News' 60 Minutes last week re-aired an updated segment on the Stop Snitchin' campaign popularized by rappers today that's become a way of life in today's inner city.

As I told you about earlier, the reluctance to assist police in urban ghettos has led to a clearance rate in the single digits for murder in some cities. Geoffrey Canada observes,

You don't need someone destroying you when your own people are the worst messengers possibly. And this is what black people in America have not come to grips with. If we had a bunch a people in robes saying this stuff, there would be a movement all over America to shut this thing down. That it's young black millionaires, we are doing nothing.

Definitely watch the segment. (make sure to click through to the 60 Minutes videos to watch the entire segment)

What will it take to turn this credo around?

Monday, August 13, 2007


Usually the articles I find enjoyable because they're pertinent to my job most people wouldn't.

This may be the exception:

Road signs first appeared in ancient Rome as stone markers counting the distances to various cities in the empire. In the age of the automobile, they began popping up on the side of the road a little more than a decade after the Ford Motor Company released its first Model T. Auto clubs and state highway departments placed the markings with little thought toward uniformity or consistency...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


As you probably know, NFL star Michael Vick is accused of financing and running a dogfighting operation in Virginia.

ESPN has an intriguing article on the situation. It begins,

A History of Mistrust
Having trouble understanding why so many black Atlantans see the Michael Vick case as a racial conspiracy? Try walking a mile in their shoes...

I thought the article does a great job of outlining the overwhelming role race plays in peoples' reactions whenever drama such as this plays out so publicly, especially in the south. One can quickly remember how quickly blacks sought to defend OJ a decade ago.

To be honest, though, I do wonder if the reaction is greater because Vick is black. Lang Whitaker points out,

Obviously, the food we eat — and yes, I am a world class carnivore — isn’t made to fight each other before we tuck into it, but is it any worse to electrocute a dog than it is to shoot a bolt into a cow’s head? Nobody cares that Brett Favre, the NFL’s golden child, spends his off-season in the wilderness hunting unsuspecting animals?

I too, though a dogowner, wonder if this issue is being blown up more than it should be. The Sports Guy notes,

Vick could have been accused of murdering a stripper, blowing up a shopping mall or funneling his Nike money to Al Qaeda, and people wouldn't have been even 1% as outraged as they are about the dogfighting allegations. You can get away with just about anything these days; just don't tick off dog lovers.

Is the dog worthy of more moral consideration only because it's domesticated? Is the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty' discarded when the defendent is black? Tough questions, but worth asking.

Saturday, August 04, 2007