Trivial Trivia

I played in a Trivia Contest this past Friday night. It was a fund-raiser for the South County YMCA. I can’t say it was the worst one I’ve attended, but it was not very good. What makes a good Trivia contest? I’ve been thinking about that. First, there is an expectation of nominal…oh, I’ll call it “professionalism.” Things like having enough greeters/money handlers and tables outfitted with scratch paper and pencils.

But by far the most important aspect of any Trivia contest is the questions themselves. There are specific difficulty-levels of questions and there are specific categories of questions. A good mix of these two things make up a fun night of Trivia. Questions that are either too hard or too easy make for a frustrating evening. Likewise, questions in too narrow of a category are no fun at all. For example: “What is the date that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan?” This is a nice general question as far as categories are concerned, but it’s too easy. Therefore, not a good question. If the questions was “What was the name of the Naval Officer in charge of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th, 1941?” That is too difficult, but more accurately described as too specific. A creative mind can find the right mix of difficulty and specificity to balance it all out. “What was the name of the US Battleship that exploded during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the casualties?” And though this would be considered an “easy” question, it nonetheless qualifies as a good question. One way to gauge a question is your response after hearing the answer. If you hear the answer, “The USS Arizona,” and say, “Oh, yeah…that’s it” then it’s probably a good question. If, on the other hand, you hear the answer and say, “whatever…” well, you get the idea.

I’ve been thinking a long time about developing some Trivia Software. I’ll be looking for some good questions. In the meantime, I may be throwing some questions your way, which you must answer WITHOUT using the Internet to look it up first! That would be cheating.

Which of the following actors was NOT in the film “Kelly’s Heroes?” a) Don Rickles b) Rod Steiger c) Harry Dean Stanton d) Gavin McCleod?

Sands of Iwo Jima

I know, you might be getting tired of all the World War II anniversaries, but they’re important. This one is the landing at Iwo Jima. I won’t go on about it, but it’s the one where the famous picture of the Marines raising the flag was taken. It’s also the one that a movie was made with John Wayne in which he gets killed. That’s always in the trivia contests. I’ll just post this link to a story that I liked. It gives a pretty good overview of the whole thing and why it matters. I hope you’ll read it. “Sixty years ago today, more than 110,000 Americans and 880 ships began their assault on a small volcanic island in the Pacific…”

Global Jurassic Sphere

It’s pretty long, but if you’re interested in Science, and particularly “Global Warming” please read this speech by Michael Crichton. It got me thinking because at Science Camp each year, I use the Drake Equation mentioned in the piece as an example of how science sometimes really works. The kids always get a laugh when I say “Scientists estimate this to be somewhere between zero and 100%.” I’ve since regretted teaching them that real scientists sometimes really say things like this. Then, the rest of the week if I ask them something like, “how far away would you say that is?” They’d respond proudly, “I’d say it was somewhere between zero and 1 zillion kilometers” And, I’d say, “Yes, that’s right.”

I actually agree with most of what Crichton says in this piece. Except that it seems to me obvious that the kind of science he is complaining about, the kind he says is not science at all, is, in fact, the kind of science we get. This is one of the chief lessons of Science Camp; that Science is a cultural endeavor, strewn with the artifacts of our belief systems, fears and desires.

Is there such a thing as “pure science?” What we might call “Truth” or “Reality?” Something immune from postmodern relativism? Isn’t gravity “true?” Well…if you haven’t noticed yet, this gets into some philosophical areas. Dare I say, Religious areas? Go ahead, ask me what I think, I dare you.

There’s a war on

Don’t forget, we’re in the middle of a war. It’s our duty to keep up with what’s happening on the battlefield. And I’m here to help.

I’ll save you some time. Syria killed the guy. Here’s the money quote from the Guardian story:

It is Syria, with only one real ally left in the world, Iran, that is on the defensive. So are its Lebanese allies, inside and outside the regime. The conflict is an outgrowth of American strategies in the Middle East, from the war on terror to regime change, democratization and the invasion of Iraq. Syria is not a member of President Bush’s “axis of evil”, but, with Iran, it is increasingly targeted as a villain. It is regularly charged, for example, with aiding and abetting the insurgency in Iraq, interfering with the Arab-Israel peace process and sponsoring the Hizbullah militia in Lebanon. The Hizbullah are in turn accused by Israel of aiding and abetting Hamas.

The Apostle Paul turns to blogging

Would Paul have been a blogger. I feel sure he would have. Email, definitely. I’ve been reading, talking and thinking about him lately. I’m leading a group through Romans on Sunday morning and our Sunday night Bible Study is in the middle of a look at all of his letters. The Romans study is one I’d been through as a student some years ago and it had quite an impact on me. In those days, Bible study was new for me. I subsequently learned that I was not the first person that it had an impact on. Augustine, Martin Luther and John Wesley, to name a few, had life-changing experiences resulting from the book of Romans. Luther said, “…every Christian should know it word for word…” Well, I don’t, as yet, know it word for word, but I do agree that it is “a miniature New Testament.” It’s all there, the whole Gospel. Written to “Greek” minds, that is, “intellectuals.” And Luther’s reading of 1:17…

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

This simple passage that we all take for granted now, was the beginning of the Reformation that so dramatically changed history. The righteousness is from God, not from us. We are not righteous. We are not right. Even church leaders, if you can believe it.

A lazy day

I spent most of the day in my pajamas. It was great. I kept thinking about all the critics of the bloggers during the Dan Rather thing when the Main Stream Media guys kept calling the bloggers “just some guys in their pajamas.” The only problem with that is, those guys were actually doing something while wearing pajamas and today, I did absolutely nothing. The weather was fairly warm so I sat out on the neighbor’s porch for an hour or so, then it got a little chilly so we went in. A portent of my warm-weather-life; sitting out front watching the world go by.

I did have a nice long phone conversation with my sister Lisa today. She’s in California just outside of Sacramento in a little town called Roseville. Her husband Rory and son Ryder were off at a skateboard park so she called. Annette had just sent her some photos and she said she’d sent Mom a DVD of photos and we should get one soon. Pretty exciting stuff, eh? Well it’s either this or I start lecturing on Neo-Darwinism.

OK, you asked for it. I’m writing an essay on Darwinism and here’s an excerpt:

The Peppered Moth Story: The story that everybody learns in school. And guess what? It’s a horrible example of Natural Selection! Yet, if you were to ask anybody to give you an example of “Evolution in progress,” they would undoubtedly recite the Peppered Moth Story. You know the one where the moths changed color to adapt to the soot on the trees so the birds couldn’t see them and were therefore fit for survival. Yeah, that one. Thing is, the pictures we all saw in our school books were staged with dead moths pinned to a tree and these moths don’t hang out on the side of trees in the first place. And birds see mostly with ultra-violet light and probably don’t see the colors we see. Yet the moth’s color is directly correlated to the rise and fall of the soot in the air. So what’s going on? Well it seems the moths are changing color because of the soot in the air, but “Natural Selection” has little to do with it. What’s the lesson? Chalk one up for the Neo-Darwinists: Evolutionary change is pushed ahead by many complex things, but Natural Selection is not one of the big ones. And every year that goes by, it drops further down the list.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of Lent. Today, like many churches around the world, we burned the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday Service to use as the ashes for this service. We also spent a few meditative moments to write on a small piece of paper that were also burned with the palm leaves. You write what you’re going to “give up” for Lent. This could be something you’re really going to give up like red meat or chocolate, but it could also be something you take on, like exercise or reaching out to family members more often. It’s traditionally solemn, but it doesn’t have to be.

I always feel happy during Lent. It could be just the weather turning and the onset of Spring, but it’s also the renewing of life on a much deeper level. Morning has broken, like the first morning.

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

(Read about Eleanor Farjeon)

Good Clean Fun

Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I thought the Super Bowl Halftime Show was great. Am I biased? Yeah, I am. But, the four songs that Paul McCartney played were some of the best and most memorable tunes of the the last 40 years. All were penned by him (in spite of 3 of the 4 credited to Lennon/McCartney due to a verbal deal the two of them made as lads.) Drive My Car: pure, simple Rock N Roll. With its driving bass line and just a wink of an innuendo, it’s a perfect example of the art form. Get Back: Not a great song in my estimation, but without a doubt, one of the most recognizable of McCartney’s songs. For me it just conjures images of the 4 Beatles (plus Billy Preston) up on the roof at their studio in London “performing.” I can’t help but be reminded of what the movie Let It Be was supposed to be. The project’s original title was Get Back and Paul wanted it so badly to get the four of them back out on the road, performing as a band again. John just thought Paul was insane. So their last public performance as a group was up on that roof.

Next came Live and Let Die. Pure McCartney through and through. And then add in the pyrotechnics; it was great. By the time this came around, it was obvious that we weren’t going to hear a medley. He was playing complete songs and he’d only have time for one more. Which one? I guessed Let It Be, but after he sang “Hey Jude….”, I thought, “Of course, this is the Super Bowl! Hey Jude ends with a climatic build up. It’s the obvious choice.” He cut out one verse, but I doubt many noticed.

A couple of thoughts on the “Cultural” aspects of the story as it relates to last year’s fiasco. Was McCartney a “safe” choice for the NFL? Yes, it was. But is was safe because it placed actual content on the stage. After all, Paul has been arrested several times for Pot, the aforementioned innuendos of the Drive My Car song, in Get Back, Jo-Jo leaves his home for some “California Grass,” and Live and Let Die? Well, not exactly a morality poem. Again, my point being that it worked because there exists such a thing as song. And, some songs are good and some are not. We don’t have to analyze too deeply to know when we hear a good one. And gyrating on stage doesn’t improve the song if it’s no good in the first place.

High-School Girl’s Basketball Rocks!

Yeah, you heard me right: High-School Girl’s Basketball rocks!

Emily’s a cheerleader for her high-school’s girls basketball team and we go to the games when we can. A word about her school though: Metro Academic & Classical High consistently scores in the top of Missouri MAP tests. It’s a small high-school; less than 250 kids. As you might imagine, a small academically oriented school wouldn’t have much in the way of athletics. And, you’d be right; compared to the bigger schools anyway. That is you’d be right except when it come to girls basketball. In that case they are presently ranked 5th in State overall. And remember, that’s up against all the schools, even the big ones. In short, they’re awesome.

So, when we go to the games; I don’t know, there’s just a sense of excitement and youth. All the girls on both teams give it all they got, and it’s pure, addictive fun to watch. The cheerleaders ain’t bad either!