December 31, 2004

Interesting Take on Healthcare

I came across this on a The Sports Economist blog. It's not related to sports, but to health care, and it's terribly interesting. It also makes sense to anyone who has spent hours in a doctor's waiting room with a serious illness while the doctor treats people with the sniffles who got there first.

Gisser on Health Insurance Reform

Talking Tribe

The 2004 Cleveland Indians surprised many by remaining in contention late into the season. At one point they found themselves in a virtual dead heat with the Minnesota Twins. At that point, the Indians promptly began an 8 game losing streak, permanently dropping them from contention while handing the Central Division to the small-market Twins. The main culprit in dragging the team from a first place tie down to a losing record (80-82) was the relief pitching. The starters, led by the ever-improving (and ever-expanding) C.C. Sabathia, and the hitters, led by MVP candidate Travis Hafner, more than held there own, as the Tribe scored the fifth most runs in the American League last year, while Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee combined with Sabathia to win 39 games, while losing only 27. The bullpen, on the other hand, managed to blow 28 saves, most in the American League. Of course, the save is a somewhat overrated, but if the Indians has converted half of the blown saves into wins, they would have won 94 games and the Central Division.

Obviously, the focus for 2005 should be pitching. A young lineup will only get better, and the starters will all have another year of seasoning. Adding relief pitching and another starter or two would go a long way toward catching the Twins while fending off the White Sox and Tigers. There's another team in the division, but Kansas City is so far from contending, they almost don't warrant mentioning.

Thankfully, Mark Shapiro has seen his team's deficiencies and focused on improving the pitching without sacrificing too much elsewhere. The big noise coming out of Cleveland the last month has been the announcement that Omar Vizquel had signed a three year contract with San Francisco after spending 11 seasons with the Wahoos. Vizquel was much loved by the fans in Cleveland for his flashy glovework and competent hitting. All that said, a 38 year old shortstop with his only average offensive skills already on the decline is hardly worth the 3yr/$12.25MM contract Brian Sabean gave him to play in San Francisco. While he may have a serviceable or even good season next year, by year three, when he's trying to be a 41 year old backup middle infielder making four million dollars, the only word that could describe that season is likely "craptacular." Don't worry about the Indians, though. They'll be fine without him as they can turn the shortstop reins over to the unfortunately named Jhonny Peralta (that's really how his first name is spelled), the 2004 International League MVP for the AAA Buffalo Bisons. Additionally, Jose Hernandez was signed to play second base, which should be another good signing on the cheap ($1.8MM)

Most recently, the Indians have been close to signing Kevin Millwood to a one year deal to help shore up the rotation after losing out in the David Wells and Brad Radke sweepstakes. He underachieved last year in Philadelphia, and a return to even close to his norm would be a big shot in the arm, at least for the 2005 season. On the bullpen side, outfield Matt Lawton was traded for setup man Arthur Rhodes. While he's not exactly Brad Lidge, he'll do. Also, Bob Wickman returns for 2004 as the closer. He missed three months of 2004, and the Indians hope his surgically reconstructed right elbow can hold up for a full season to help shore up the bullpen deficiencies.

Here is the possible lineup for next year:
C: Victor Martinez, 1B: Ben Broussard, 2B: Jose Hernandez, SS: Jhonny Peralta, 3B: Aaron Boone, DH: Travis Hafner, OF: Grady Sizemore, Jody Gerut, Coco Crisp, SP: C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Kevin Millwood, RP: Arthur Rhodes, Bob Wickman

It's not a bad base to work with, and Shapiro deserved his recently signed contract extension. He seems to have realized that the key to operating a small/mid market team is to develop from within while signing short term free agents to fill in the holes while the youngsters develop. This is obvious from the short term veteran contracts like Jose Hernandez, as the team still hopes one-time prospect Brandon Phillips will eventually figure out how to hit Major League pitching as a second baseman. Shapiro has avoided chasing after "proven veterans" and overpaying for such. The Indians should be a force in the Central next year and for years to come, as long as the team avoids overpaying for past-their-prime veterans (see: Giants, Sanf Francisco) and lavishing fat contracts on mediocre players coming off career years (see: Yankees, New York). It's still only December, but I would predict that Indians will win the division next year and keep hold of it for a while.

December 30, 2004

Excellent Requests

So far my topic request has yielded four excellent suggestions, and I'll try to tackle them one at a time. I'll start with the MINI Cooper.

I've had it since March, and everything has gone very well. I haven't had to take it in for service and I've had no problems. The only real issue is that the windows on the doors are frameless. They go down about half an inch when the door is opened to clear the roofline. This way, they can be frameless, but still make a good seal. While I was in Ohio, it snowed and there was ice on the window preventing it from going down. It opened ok, but when I closed the door, the glass crashed into the pillar, cracking a plastic covering. The car is definitely drivable, so we've decided to wait until the 10,000 mile service to get it dealth with. If the dealer was down the street, I'd get it done now, but when it's 100 miles away, we have to plan our visits more carefully.

There are a lot of cars a person can buy. I don't know how many models are available, but I'm sure it's more than a hundred. This makes the choice difficult, but I felt like I knew what I wanted when I bought a car. I liked the good gas milage, the sporty performance, and the small size. It's also pretty cool. We already had a good sized car in the Saab if we ever needed to carry something bigger than a few bags of groceries. Another point of consideration was that the price difference between the MINI that I wanted and the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, or Ford Focus was very slim. The base of each of these cars was less expensive, but the base didn't have things like air conditioning, power windows and locks, and antilock brakes. After learning this (as well as having a couple of bad Toyota dealer experiences) the decision was pretty easy once we picked out the color and features we wanted.

The goal of the car was to recapture the spirit of the original while tossing in BMW's creature comforts and precision engineering while keeping the price lower than BMW's more traditional offerings. I think they've accomplished this with the base MINI, which we've got. The S version is supercharged and built more for performance and meant to evoke the model's racing heritage. The convertible is priced the way convertibles tend to be priced. Overall, it's a car that can be bought by youngsters like Janet and I, or it can be jazzed up for the dentist set.

If I had it to do over, I would definitely buy the car again. It's been a good car, and it's definitely fun to drive. If anyone is in the market for a new car, and you don't need a ton of cargo or passenger space, I would definitely recommend it. The only drawback is that it requires premium fuel, but it still costs less to fuel than any truck, SUV, or car with a larger engine.

Well, that's the report after the first 8500 miles or so. Here's hoping it lasts way more and the next car replace is the Saab.

December 29, 2004

Holes

This is all I've got tonight. I need some inspiration. You could leave suggestions for blog topics as comments to this post.

I just read Holes by Louis Sachar. Yeah, it's a kids book, but it was entertaining. I bought it for Janet for Christmas, since I knew there was a movie about it that looked interesting. I read it while we were waiting for the American medical system to work on Janet. I recommend picking it up at your local library. It's about a prison camp for juveniles in the middle of nowhere. The inmates have to dig a five foot deep hole every day at the bottom of the dried up lake. Go check it out.

December 27, 2004

Come on home

Janet came home from the hospital this, and she'll be fine.

Janet will be fine

It's been a long day. We went to the hospital because Janet seemed to have all the symptoms of appendicitis. Since she wasn't dying or screaming or spurting blood anywhere, she was somewhat a low priority, so we were there for a good long time. Turns out, she probably doesn't have appendicitis, so no surgery for her, thankfully. They did decide to keep her overnight, so I'll be sleeping at home alone tonight with the cat. She's to see the specialist tomorrow, and then hopefully come home with some antibiotics. Be praying for her, as doctors and hospitals make her really nervous, though I hope she is sleeping right now.

December 26, 2004

You'd think we were in Buffalo

Actually, we're in North Carolina. It snowed here last night, which I noticed when I woke up and looked out the window. Of course, church was canceled, not that we were going, with my sick laying on the couch while I wait on her hand and foot. Now you need to understand, the grass is not all the way covered, so we're talking about an inch of snow, tops. Janet rushed to turn on the weather on TV to see what they were saying, and boy were we not disappointed. Every church in Raleigh is closed this morning. The funniest part was watching the news reporter out on the street talking about how there is about 1/4 inch of snow on the road, so everyone better just stay home. Then they talked on the phone with the highway patrol, and they told everyone to just stay home and don't drive anywhere. This much snow is a big yawner up north, but here, it's a big stinking deal.

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas to All

This is my gift to all my readers. Now don't say I never gave you anything.

December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

It's late on Christmas Eve, I'm sitting here playing internet pool in Yahoo! Games with my brother Steve. It's a pretty even matchup. If anyone wants to play, you just need a Yahoo! ID, which is free. Let me know on IM if you want to play and I'll school you a good one.

All right, so this post isn't quite as much of a thinker as my usual fare, but what do you expect for 11pm on the night before Christmas?

December 23, 2004

Back in action

It's ok everyone. I'm still alive. We made it back to North Carolina just before the apparent blizzard of the century hit Ohio. I'll get back on my blogging horse here this weekend. Maybe I'll write a post or two next week when I'm one of what looks to be about four people at work. I hear other places shut down for a week at Christmas. Not Infineon (well, not this year). I would have to burn some vacation time I don't have to get next week off, so I'll be there doing cartwheels down the cubicle aisles, hanging out in the boss's office, replacing all the coffee with decaf, signing up my coworkers for spam, that sort of thing. If you're off next week, think of me fondly.

December 15, 2004

Hail to the Chief

Messiah College has hired a new president to follow after the late Rodney Sawatsky. Interim President Kim Phipps was given the full-time job in an announcement made today on the Messiah website and in an email to alumni. They shortcircuited their planned selection process to announce her good fortune early.

I'm not sure how I feel about this selection. I personally was wary of two things in their search. First, I was afraid they would hire a minority just for the sake of doing it. I have no problem with hiring the most qualified person, no matter what race they are, but after spending four years there and seeing the way things operate, it would not have surprised me if they would have done it just so they could say they did it. Well, it didn't happen, as Dr. Phipps is not a minority. The second thing I was hoping for was that the new president would be from outside the "Messiah Family." The school seemed like it was a bunch of people with similar ideas that all agreed with each other. I felt like bringing in someone new would be a good shot in the arm. This is what they did when they hired Dr. Sawatsky, and the school experienced a ton of growth, both in size and stature nationally. Unfortunately, from my perspective anyway, they just promoted from within. Dr. Phipps was first academic dean, then provost, then acting president before getting the call as the eighth president of Messiah College. I don't have a whole lot to say about Dr. Phipps, since I didn't get the chance to interact with her at all while I was at Messiah, so my only impressions come from the times she spoke in chapel or at some other gathering. At least from that exposure, she doesn't seem like a very inspired choice, as her public speaking was nowhere near as dynamic as her predecessor in office. She comes off as a bit wooden in her delivery. Like I said, I don't really know her, and her disappointing oratorical skills may mask the makings of an outstanding president, though I'll admit I'm skeptical on that last point. I'll have to ask my uncle about her, since he worked at Malone College, which was her last stop before Messiah.

I'll get the chance to ask my uncle in person, as Janet and I have loaded down the MINI with Christmas gifts and an air conditioner we don't need anymore, and we're heading north tomorrow afternoon in order to help celebrate my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. We'll be back Tuesday night, and it's likely I'll only be able to blog sporadically, if at all, while we're gone.

December 13, 2004

Sunday go to meetin'

We had our second congregational meeting in two weeks last night. This one was a bit more contentious than the previous. I think the last one was a little easier because the decisions reacher were easier. Our pastor tendered his resignation a few weeks ago, which was a bit of a shock to the members, though not entirely unexpected. He had taken a sabbatical about 18 months ago, so it was obvious that all was not well. The reasons for it were varied, but the church voted to accept the pastor's resignation last week. This week the church was to vote (or choose to postpone voting) on the dissolution of the church. The elders put this one to us at the same time the church voted on the pastor's resignation. It's hard to say what they were thinking, since most people at the church are not interested in finding a new one, though the elders, who have put in a lot of time and effort, apparently are. It's a bit disheartening to hear that sort of thing, but I imagine it's how they really feel. The problem I had is that they can be tired and can resign if they wish, but there's no need to drag a whole church down with them. Just walk away, that would be my advice. Find another church where you can blend in for a while. Don't stand up in front of the church and tell them that you don't think they can go on without you. The arrogance inherent in their statements bothered me as well as a lot of other people. I understand that being an elder of a small church is a difficult job, and I would understand if they decided not to do it anymore, but adding, "oh, by the way, we don't think you should be a church anymore," seems unnecessary. It even seems more strange to know that some Presbyters have made it known that they oppose the dissolution of the church, yet the session continues to push for it. Anyhow, much debate ensued, and the moderator did a fair job running things. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't quite get the whole Robert's Rules of Order thing, so they tend to just stand there and speak emotionally, rather than speaking for or against the motion at hand. Occasionally, you'll get the open-ended rhetorical question that really doesn't move things forward, but we survived it all. In the end, the congregation voted down the motion to dissolve the church, thus sending a message to the Eastern Carolina Presbytery, who actually has the authority to dissolve a church under its governance. The Mission to North America committee meets on January 6th, and the Presbytery meets on the 22nd, and after that we'll probably have a better idea of what's going on after that meeting. It is an interesting situation, as regardless of what happens, it looks like the church may regress to where it once was with a smaller group that may not necessarily meet like a traditional church. It's really hard to say, and I think it depends on how many people stick it out. If there are enough people to keep the church afloat financially, then we may just have a chance. I do wonder about this, though, because there were 43 members at the meeting yesterday, and I imagine 8 of them were the session and their wives, and at least 10 or so were college students or just out of college and not gainfully employed (like the guy with the engineering degree who is having trouble finding a job, so he's thinking about grad school.....in English). This makes the finances a little tough, if 2/3 of the families/individuals won't be able to support the church in that manner. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm just saying that it will take a lot of prayer and probably some things that aren't obvious now, but will appear when the time comes.

December 9, 2004

On "Why I Apologized to Planned Parenthood" by Jemila Monroe

As promised, here is my look at Jemila Monroe's article. I was further spurred to write a response after receiving an email from ChristianityToday.com thanking me for linking to one of their stories and getting the discussion going. If you scroll down a few posts, you'll find my two original entries about the article have generated a whole bunch of comments from more people than I had imagined could find this corner of the internet. Before continuing, please be advised that Jemila has written another piece as a result of the discussion that took place on this page. It can be found here, though my discussion below will only pertain to the first article.

Rather than go into a full-blown analysis of every point put forth in the article, I will instead talk about one thing I agree with and one thing I disagree with. To begin, I can agree with the idea of showing grace to people who have had abortions, want to have an abortion, or are involved in providing abortion. To deny them this is to suggest that those people are somehow a lower class of sinners, when there is no biblical precedent to support the idea. If every Christian chose to refuse association with this group of people, the effect on the pro-life movement would be staggeringly bad, and the public perception of Christianity would be much worse. There is a place in Christianity for organizations like the Capital Area Pregnancy Center that focus on trying to stop future abortions, help women avoid the situations leading to abortions, and show love to those who have had abortions. It isn't enough to write an article or go to a rally and shout pro-life slogans; there must be people who find a way to relate to these women, as no one ever made the decision to get an abortion or give a baby up for adoption based on a sign or a television commercial. It is a clear cut case of "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." Treating abortion proponents (or anyone you disagree with, for that matter) as a person with value is the only way to make any headway. If we dismiss them, they will continue to dismiss us.

Thus, I agree with the overall point of the article that each of us could show a little more grace in this critical conflict. However, though I agree with the message, I have some problems with the execution. Mainly, the article makes it sound as though the Planned Parenthood receptionist felt validated by Jemila and her husband's visit to the clinic. I wasn't there, but if that's the case, I'm not sure the pro-life message really got across. Quoting from the article: "It's not right for believers in Jesus to judge or despise you. It's just awful, and we wanted you to know that we don't hate you or believe you are terrible people." Now, I can understand how it might be hard to say it in person, but it would have been nice if added to that sentence was, "but you are involved in doing terrible things, and we wish you would stop." That's the message that didn't get through in the clinic visit, the message that there is no excuse for taking part in the termination of thousands of lives, often for a reason no better than the convenience of the mother. The real heart of the visit, to me at least, came when the receptionist said she's really just trying to help keep babies from ending up on the trash heap. That statement would be laughable but for the sorrow contained within it. Planned Parenthood has taken part in tossing millions of babies on the trash heap over the years, yet this woman stood there with a straight face and claimed just the opposite. That this visit would send Jemila and her husband away feeling good at all is a bit baffling to me. Is the receptionist a terrible person? No more terrible than any sinner, a group to which we all belong, but that doesn't mean that Christians should make her feel good about what she does for a living.

All that said, I truly do believe that Jemila's overall message to show grace to supporters of abortion is a good one, and I think it does ultimately get through to the reader. Again, my arguments are with the execution of this message on one occasion in one Planned Parenthood clinic. I don't really know why Jemila and her husband decided they should go in there and say the things they said, so I won't speculate as to their reasoning. I'll only say that I don't believe it was the right thing to do. One last time, I agree with showing grace to abortion supporters, hating the sin and loving the sinner, and realizing that we're all sinners at heart, but I disagree with walking into an abortion clinic and making the people who work there feel good about what they do.

December 8, 2004

Update on my life, well, not really

It's more an update on Janet. She's been getting her applications in for grad school. Just a few minutes ago we submitted her application to NC State for this fall. The Public History program would be lucky to have her, don't you think? Anyone reading this should send her an email telling her that you think she's sure to get in and will make an excellent grad student. All that's left to do is make sure her last recommender gets his act together, and then she has to get her transcripts and writing samples squared away. After that, she can sit back and wait for them to send her a letter begging for her presence in their program so they can possibly gain some measure of greatness simply by having her nearby.

December 1, 2004

Just call me Pinnocchio

Because I've got no strings, not because my nose grows when I lie. I'm pretty sure it doesn't. What I do know is that I'm typing this blog post on Janet's computer while sitting on the living room couch. Our wireless router and extra wireless PC card arrived today via the good folks in brown. We decided that $20 (after rebate) was too good an offer to pass up. It took some convincing to get all the equipment to play nice, but it seems to have finally worked. The goofiest part was when I installed the new WiFi card in my laptop, and it worked except for the fact it made my laptop speakers make weird noises every time data came in. To solve that, I just switched cards with Janet and it was all good, after some of the issues involved with the fact that Janet is the only person on the planet still using Windows 98. Windows 98 was designed back before anyone had heard of wireless networking, so the software is a little different. XP does a bunch of stuff automatically, which is nice.