Sunday, January 31, 2010

Words for a Sunday Evening

Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward the evening and day is far spent: abide with us, and with your whole church. Abide with us in the evening of the day, in the evening of life, in the evening of the world. Abide with us in your grace and mercy, in you holy word and Sacrament, in your comfort and your blessing. Abide with us in the night of distress and fear, in the night of doubt and temptation, in the night of bitter death, when these shall overtake us. Abide with us and all your faithful ones, O Lord, in time and in eternity.
From Rhythm of Life: A Celtic Prayer Book by David Adams

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Your Video of the Day

We are going crazy here at Redhead in Rapid. Here is another video, telling you how to make a 90 second news story.

Awesomesauce (particularly if you've ever watched the bbc)

Parties and the American Political Process

One of my favorite political commentators (not policy commentators, those are two different things) is Jay Cost of His use of analysis combining historical understanding with the modern day situation is outstanding. From his latest post:
At its essential level, a political party is an extra-governmental conspiracy to control the government. Our constitutional system disperses power across three branches, two chambers of Congress, and federal, state, and local levels. The parties are centralizing forces, trying to unite all governmental power under the party banner. They accomplish this task when conspiring officials across the government coordinate their activities with others whose views are similar. 
To be successful, a conspiracy requires a shared belief among the conspirators that their interests are linked - something to the effect of, "Whatever happens, we sink or swim together." This is really the only glue that binds a political party together. American party structures are very weak; partisans participate in the "conspiracy" only if they believe it will help them in the long run.
He goes on to argue that Dems have nearly reached the tipping point--where political calculation will drive the party apart, limiting the leadership's ability to get anything substantial passed. Excellent analysis.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Failure of Post 9/11 Interrogation

I am not a Bush hater or baiter. I don't ascribe magical evil powers to him and his underlings. That said, his administration was extremely disappointing in how it handled interrogations and intelligence. The push to get information from suspects led to gross miscarriages of justice. But more than that, the waterboarding and other measures were ineffective and hurt our nation's ability to fight the Global War on Terror. First, we lost the moral authority to act; and, second, we hurt our ability to gather good intelligence from the bad guys. Rumsfeld and Cheney failed us. And now it is harder for our intelligence officers to do their job.

Only on the Internet

Much ink has been spilled about the changes wrought with the coming of the internet. Much smarter people have given much better insight about these dramatic shifts. But let me throw my proverbial hat in the ring.

When you turn on the television you can see sights from around the world. Dig through imaginations on Sci-Fi channel or head to the markets of India on the Travel Channel. You can rent dvds about anything. But it is only on the internet where you can get the latest update on the developments of the People's Liberation Army Navy (China's Navy). Like any old intelligence analyst you can break down the meaning of new mast on a new ship, discuss capabilities, and give your opinion on how the USA should respond. Really amazing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Your Video of the Day

For all economic freaks:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gut Punch

The Vikings lost in the most horrible way possible. Fumbles, interceptions, and some lame calls. Still hurts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Conference Championship Picks

The Vikes survived and thrived last week. But we got another one. I'm picking the Vikings in a close win, but I wouldn't be surprised if they won by 30 or lost by 30. We'll see what team shows up.
Vikings 31 ;  Saints 27
Colts 20 ;  Jets 13

Reason #17 that I'm Getting Old

When you read this blog, please be aware of the time it was posted. Then subtract an hour. Then remember that the 24th is Sunday. And then you'll say to yourself, man, unless Redhead in Rapid has kids (which he doesn't) he must be old, cause who is going to get up so freaking early.

Fortunately, the internet exists to confirm my bias and make me feel good about myself. To that end:
Early risers are more proactive than evening people:
Yes, according to Christoph Randler who surveyed 367 student participants and found a correlation between their self-reported 'morningness' (as revealed by their answers to questions about how easy they find it to get up in the morning and how alert they feel) and their self-reported proactivity (measured by their agreement with statements like 'I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself' and 'I feel responsible for my own life'). The correlation was relatively weak (.44, where 1 would be a perfect match) but was statistically significant. 
Yay! Statistically significant!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Money Money Machine...

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court expanded "corporate personhood" and allowed unlimited spending on political campaigns (but not for politicians). Like most change in politics, this news brought lots of's the end of the world and Exxon is going to buy all politicians from here to Timbuktu. I'm not so sure. As highlighted in Marginal Revolution, from a paper by Stephen Ansolabehere, John de Figueireido, and James Snyder.
Finally, we illustrate that when one controls for unobserved constituent and legislator effects, there is little relationship between money and legislator votes. Thus, the question is not why there is so little money politics, but rather why organized interests give at all. 
Now there are some problems with this paper because it only accounts for direct campaign contributions (from individuals, PACs, etc...) and doesn't address 507 spending. Nevertheless, the study holds true with my experience of politics. At the end of the day we still have one vote for one person. The hyperventilaters assume that people are idiots. I don't think they are idiots and I don't think this is the end of the world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reason #29 Astronomy equals Awesome

I like astronomy and space and stars far away, despite the fact the America's space program is a complete disaster. I even flirted with becoming a physics major in college so that would have a chance at going to space (not great thinking on my part). Anyway, this from popsci just makes me smile:

Future humans won't have to wait to travel to Pandora for the chance to mine unobtanium, because Neptune and Uranus may have diamond icebergs floating atop liquid diamond seas closer to home. The surprise finding comes from the first detailed measurements of the melting point of diamond, Discovery News reports.
Scientists zapped diamond with a laser at pressures 40 million times greater than the Earth's atmosphere at sea level, and then slowly reduced both temperature and pressure. They eventually found that diamond behaves like water during freezing and melting, and that chunks of diamond will float in the liquid diamond.
I hope this is true.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's the End of the World! OR Sweet Victory!

As you've probably heard, a Mr. Scott Brown is now the Junior Senator from Massachusetts. This surprising for two reasons: (1) his last name doesn't begin with a "K"; and, (2) he's a Republican. Senator Brown has revitalized the formally extinct, Northeastern Republican. The theme over the next few days will be "overwroughtness." Democrats will bemoan the lack of faith of the American people. They will blame Obama for not being liberal enough and their leaders for fecklessness. On the other hand, the Republicans will crow and strut and declare ultimate victory. Both of these sentiments are wrong. This is simply the pendulum swinging and doesn't necessarily herald the inevitable rise of the GOP. Right now, the GOP don't have any better ideas about fixing the major problems facing America. Fortunately for the GOP, the Dems play tribal politics like no one else.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The invention of the cannon inaugurated a sea-change in the implementation of war. Castles no longer provided appropriate protection, nor could an army just stand outside the gates of a well defended fort. Napoleon's great contribution to war fighting was his expert use of smooth bore cannons, maximizing the effectiveness of this devastating weapon. Throughout the 19th century cannon technology was improved until it became artillery in the first world war. And on the Western Front, WWI was an artillery war, with rolling bombardments and the "Big Bertha," a German howitzer capable of firing a 2,100 lb shell 16,000 yards.

Artillery continued to play an important role in WWII, Vietnam, and other theaters of operation. However, it soon lost its supremacy in war and though still in use, fell out of popular imagination. Artillery seemed like a tool from another age--useful, but old and crusty. Today, when we think of modern war and the Global War on Terrorism we don't think of artillery and its role in knocking out the bad guys. Fortunately, artillery is still alive and well, kicking butt in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With that in mind check out these photographs of artillery in action and this quote:
There is no exaggeration saying that an Excaliber round could destroy a parked car twenty miles away on the first shot.  The accuracy is incredible, given all the unpredictable winds and other factors the round will encounter during it’s flight through the sky – which literally could be shot on from a crystal clear mountain, taking the round far higher than the summit of Mt. Everest where it could pass through winds going different directions and at very high speeds, snow, and then down through a hailstorm and finally through rain.  
HT: The Best Defense


MLK Jr has become the man for all people. If you want him to be an agitator for social change, he is that. If you want him to be a man who applied his Christian faith to the world, he is that. If you want him to be a man who led his people to the promise land, he is that. If you want him to be a man who is a sinner, he is that. He is a man, so he is full of contradictions and change, and thus he can be all things to all people.

But more than that, he was a man (along with millions of others) who helped America become a better America. He showed us that America can change, and should change, and still be America. Our past does not chain our future. Today is a celebration of change.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Speaking of Faith

One of the best shows on radio or tv is Speaking of Faith from MPR. The host, Krista Tippett, takes faith and its consequences seriously as they address a wide range of issues and topics. It's worth a listen to every week, but let me draw your attention to this week's episode:
British activist Ed Husain was seduced, at the age of 16, by revolutionary Islamist ideals that flourished at the heart of educated British culture. Yet he later shrank back from radicalism after coming close to a murder and watching people he loved become suicide bombers. He dug deeper into Islamic spirituality, and now offers a fresh and daring perspective on the way forward.
Of the many interesting things Mr. Husain said was that (if I may paraphrase) "in Britain politicians don't understand faith, so they focus just on the consequences of Islamic extremism and think they can deal with the problem by shoveling money at it."

For me, this highlights one of the great failing of secular liberal democracy (including Western Europe and USA) and its battle against Islamic extremism. Secular, capitalistic, liberal democracies fight the battle as if they were fighting communism, i.e., the lifestyle of the West is so rich and great and irresistible that if we can only get our message out, than the other folks will understand. You get this sense when people talk about how its folks in poor economic conditions that become terrorists. This is obviously false. Nevertheless, what the "West" needs to realize is that the western lifestyle is not only not irresistible, but repugnant to some. We can not buy our way of the problem. We need to make sure we are telling the better story.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFL Division Playoff Weekend

Well, the best weekend of pro football is upon us. We have four good teams playing their hearts out. It's much better than the Super Bowl (too much time off and distraction) and the Conference Championship games (quality is too hit and miss). But the division playoffs have great teams playing for their lives. Here are my quick picks:
Jets: 20; Chargers: 27
Indy: 17; Ravens: 20
Saints: 35; Cardinals: 27
Vikings: 31; Cowboys: 24
Go Vikings!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Rapid Rocks

Four days ago the high was around 5 degrees. Today the high will be 54 degrees. I love it. You get winter and then a nice littler break to melt the snow (which is absolutely necessary since they don't plow here) and then you'll appreciate the next snow storm. It's pretty all over again.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Quote of the Day

Many Christians have decided that the best way to compete in an era of political correctness is to play the victim card. But these believers are colluding in their own marginalization.
If you treat your faith like a hothouse flower, too vulnerable to survive in the crass world of public disputation, then you ensure that nobody will take it seriously.

Ross Douthat, New York Times Op-Ed

Friday, January 8, 2010

Would they do it like this today?

I'm reading a history of Christianity. And in the book the author discusses the social history of the early church (first 300 years). Lots of fascinating tidbits jump out, but let me talk about just one.

The early church saw an explosion in growth in the first 300 years. This was despite the fact that the practice of the day was to:
  1. Limit the involvement of non-baptized to either nothing or just the initial worship service, keeping them out of the communion dinner and fellowship.
  2. Baptisms took place only once a year (usually on Easter Sunday). Before baptism they would be interviewed to make sure their faith was sound and deep.
  3. It often took three years from when a person expressed interest in Christianity to when they were baptized. During this time they would get educated on the specifics of the Christian faith.
That's taking Christianity really seriously and not worrying about your church growth as an indicator of God's blessing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lamentations 4:4

The tongue of the infant sticks
   to the roof of its mouth for thirst;
the children beg for food,
   but no one gives them anything.
Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians. The terrible siege had wrecked its devastating blow. And Judah was worst than a vassal state--a destroyed nation. I haven't heard any sermons on this verse (or much of lamentations for that matter) yet it speaks to the terrible power of war and politics and the suffering that can befall upon any of us. Such sadness.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Tolkien

Today is Mr. JRR Tolkien's Birthday. He would be 118 today. In his honor is a comic from my favorite cartoonist.

Shocker of the Day

Leeds United beats Man U:
Jermaine Beckford's winner gave League One leaders Leeds a famous FA Cup victory over their fierce rivals Manchester United in a thrilling tie at Old Trafford.  
Forty-two league places separate the two clubs following the Yorkshire club's dramatic fall from grace during the last decade but Simon Grayson's side showed the rate of their recent revival with a memorable triumph. 
Man Utd had never before lost in the third round of the Cup - or been knocked out of it by a lower-division side - during Sir Alex Ferguson's 23-year reign as manager, but they began 2010 on the wrong end of their biggest upset in this competition since they were dumped out by Bournemouth in 1984. 
Back in the day Leads United was one of the best teams in English Football. In the last decade they've fallen on hard times and gone down two divisions. Wowzers.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Depressing Fact of the Day

For all my readers striving to become professors. From the New York Times:
In 1960, 75 percent of college instructors were full-time tenured or tenure-track professors; today only 27 percent are.
HT: Marginal Revolution.

Awkward Names

Jesus called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.  
This passage from Luke 6 highlights one of the most unfortunate names in history.  Now Mr. Judas son of James had no way of knowing how unfortunate his name was while growing up in that small little village or while bumming around with Jesus. But as soon as Judas Iscariot becomes a traitor, well awkward questions appear. And for the next 40 years people give Judas the stink eye until they find out he is the son of James. Awkward.