Friday, December 31, 2004

Lobster.

I want to have lobster tonight. So the baby and I are going to the Keg Steakhouse, the only place I can somewhat afford to go that serves lobster. Then we'll play board games with my brother and his wife.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Big Question

Couldn't resist looking at this article about how various faiths are responding to the inevitable questioning of a benevolent God in the face of the tragedy in Asia.

As the rabbi from Portland points out, smaller personal tragedies probably do more to cause us to question God than the biggest impersonal ones. Indeed, on the religious level, "why are there over 100,000 dead in Asia" probably has the same answer as a huge personal question like "why is my nephew autistic" or even something much less important like "why do I have nasty food allergies."

I've never, ever had an issue with answering those questions with "I don't know." I guess I'm just hard-wired that way. So I feel great distaste for the first four or five clergymen they interview in the article. They all seem to say we've caused the tsunami. They are arrogant enough to assume they understand God's motivations for things, which is troubling. But I see an even greater evil to that perspective. Think about the loved ones of tsunami victims in these guys' congregations. In addition to their shattering grief over the loss of loved ones, they have to feel guilty because they are partially to blame for the disaster. I can't get over how any man of God would do that to someone.

The personal tragedy I associate with questioning God came when many innocent kids were killed in the horrible shooting at my alma mater high school. I don't want to pretend I went through anything like my teachers went through that afternoon, but that tragedy was nonetheless very difficult for me. I had a marvelous priest then. The day after the killings, I set up an appointment, went to see him, and bawled about how frustrated I was that I couldn't pray. His response: "Then don't. The rest of us will take care of that for you. It'll come back to you soon enough." What a stud. If he were still my priest, I might not have switched religions.

Still, in spite of my inability to pray for a few days, something did happen almost immediately after I learned of the killings. It didn't take too many tears before I knew--KNEW--three things:

1. That I would never understand why this happened,
2. That it was perfectly okay not to understand, and
3. Everyone in the country and world would dedicate the next several months to convincing me of their reason why it happened--a reason that always stems from a political/religious agenda.

Looks like that's happening again.

"Why did God do this to us?" is an understandable question, of course, and one that is perfectly natural for any victim of a tragedy to go through. For the rest of us, however, I don't think it's a productive question, because (newsflash!) unanswerable questions don't tend to get answered. The question to ask, always, is what we can do to love each other in the current circumstance. Thank God there are real men of God like the Portland rabbi to take us past the static questioning and into active love.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I'll take yucky parenting for $800, Alex

Overheard from a parent at one of my games today (5th grade girls):

"Katie, I took today off of work for this, so you'd better play well!"

Monday, December 27, 2004

Current Events

Reggie White seemed like a nice guy. Yeah, I was really bothered by his speech in front of the Wisconsin State Legislature, since it might be the most offensive speech anyone has delivered in my lifetime. But he apologized for it, and as I wouldn't want to be judged by my worst day, I will not judge him based on his. He did a lot of good stuff. R.I.P.

So, maybe it was because I watched football all day yesterday, but still, The Fiancee noticed something. She hadn't heard of Reggie White before yesterday. By the end of the day, she knew all of the minutiae of his life, but we had barely seen a glimmer of the 23,000 dead in Thailand. Then, today on MNF: more Reggie eulogizing.

That bugs me. But not enough to give up football.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My gift to you...

this Christmas: is the Guess the Dictator or Sitcom Character game!

Go here.

(And thank you, Jack Bog.)

But I'm warning you...it's fun. You'll spend a good deal of time on it.

Have a great holiday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

How to talk to a coach

My most recent game was another blowout. I'll be having quite a few of those this year, since I have to re-establish myself at the bottom of the list and head back up to get better assignments. This game was one of those where, as soon as we looked at the schedule, it was over. (Red wound up winning by close to 40.)

As I might have said, some of the conferences in my area are switching to 3-official crews this year. It's an adjustment...while we switch, I'm spending time and mental energy trying to determine whether I'm in the right spot on the floor and whether I'm watching the right area. But that doesn't worry me too much...that'll all come with time. What's most challenging to me right now is coach communication during a 3-official game.

In a two-official game, as soon as I make a call that a coach doesn't like, there's somewhere to go. I have to haul ass down the floor be the new lead, across it to in-bound the ball, down low to administer a free throw...there's a legitimate excuse to leave the coach's vicinity. "No, coach, I'm not ignoring your tantrum, since it would be rude to ignore you...I'm headed off to do the next thing." It's not the same in three-person. In the three-person game, the mechanics have been changed. It used to be that the official who called the foul would immediately be sent to the opposite side of the floor from the benches--the rationale being to avoid coach-ref confrontations. This season, however, they've totally turned that on its head and are requiring the calling official to go to the bench side...right next to those coaches. The rationale is to increase coach/ref communication...to force us to learn to talk to each other by sending us next to each other after fouls. Okay--that's fair enough. But it's going to take some adjustment.

Which brings me back to my blowout game. It's early--three minutes in. White is already losing by about eight. White is taking it up the floor against pressure. The point guard catches a pass and starts heading up the sideline, right in front of white's coach. I see a red defender take position. It's not great position, but as I see it, it meets the rulebook's definition of "legal guarding position:" two feet on the floor and facing the opponent. Red shuffles her feet a little bit, backs up a touch, but then there's contact that knocks her over. I call a player control foul (that's a charge, for those of you into NBA terminology).

I stand by the call, but I'm not thrilled with it...maybe my eyes weren't on the defender as much as they could have been, but I do think she'd established position. That mans I have a player control foul. Coach goes ballistic. "WHAT??? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!" In the past, this is where I would get away from him. There's nothing to be gained from a conversation that starts this way. I feel I need to remove the coach from what the Catholics call "the proximate occasion of sin:" that is, a situation where we both know that he is likely to commit an act he won't like later. But, alas, this is three-person...I have to stay by the bench. Yuck.

Here's how I remember the conversation:

Him: "WHAT??? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!"
Me: "I have player control. She was there."
Him: "You've got to be kidding me! That's terrible!"
Me: "Player control, coach."
Him: "No way! That's awful!"
Me: "(shrugs) Well, it's possible I missed it."

This last line, "it's possible I missed it" (sometimes presented as "if it happened your way, I missed it") is a standard ref line. It's an absolutely true statement, shows a little humility, and there's no real response to it. It usually pacifies a coach. Not this one. I think he mistook the statement for apathy, however--the inadvertent shrug didn't help. He told me a few minutes later that a ref who says "it's possible I missed it" doesn't deserve to be on the floor. Eventually I had to warn him and shut him up. He did, so no T for him. In fact, we even shared a joke later:

Him: "SHE'S BEING MUGGED DOWN THERE!!!!"
Me: "Coach, my partner down there had a better look at the play."
Him: "But you're right next to me. You're much easier to yell at."
Me: "Understood." (I laughed. That was funny, you've got to admit. He didn't laugh, but whatever.)

But I need to work on coach communication. I've talked with a ref who is also a coach, and he suggested that, table-side or not, I still get the ball in-bounds and get away. I'm worried that this will look like I'm simply ignoring the coach, which is exactly what the three-man bench-side mechanic is designed to avoid.

Sigh...always more learning to do. How to talk to someone who is having a tantrum. How not to talk to him. Tough stuff.

A little disappointed...

I think CBS should have done a little bit more to follow up on The Shove (not to mention The Constant Abusive Verbal Haranguing) in yesterday's episode of The Amazing Race. I can't say I know exactly what...the phone number and website for a domestic violence hotline? an intervention featuring the producers? wrestler Lori kicking the shit out of Jonathan?...but they did more or less nothing, which doesn't feel right after how last week's episode made us all feel.

So, at my baby's suggestion, I wrote an email to CBS. Odds of me receiving a reply that actually refers to my suggestion: 10-1 against.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I weigh in on Amazing Race abuse

I'll skip the background and send you to Swankette's fine review of it instead.

For starters, this is abuse. Yeah, I know I haven't seen them when the cameras are off or outside of the stressful environment of this race. Yeah, I know that the producers of a reality show can take the footage to emphasize certain aspects, attractive or unattractive, or an individual's personality. But give me a break. I am not a perfect human being--I can be a little insensitive, and I have a temper. But I have never berated a woman (or, for that matter, a man) as Jonathan is berating Victoria, and I have never--EVER--shoved a woman for carrying MY STUFF. He's been an asshole from the word go. His and Victoria's responses on their blog show even more that their relationship is abusive. He both downplays his behavior and blames it on "a heighten [sic] version of stress and obsession mix [sic] with medication for a sickness called Sarcoidosis." She insists that he's really a very nice guy when the cameras aren't running. Both of these responses are, if I'm not mistaken, fairly textbook examples of abuser and victim justifications for abuse. It heightens my belief in my own eyes. (Still, just in case, I looked up Sarcoidosis' most common drug treatment, Prednosone, on WebMD. There are seventeen side effects to huge doses of Prednosone. The very last and least likely of these are "changes in behavior." In Jonathan's case, of course, a change in behavior would have caused him to start acting kindly to his wife...so I think we can say his behavior wasn't caused by the drug.)

Because Swankette's blog has received so many hits over the past week from individuals searching on phrases like "Jonathan is abusive," I've become especially interested in this episode and what it all means. It's clearly touched a nerve nationwide. A search on Yahoo News for "Amazing Race 6" shows that there are loads of people in newspapers nationwide writing about last week's episode, what it means, and what CBS and the rest of us can do about it. And I've reached a couple of conclusions.

--First of all, I don't blame CBS or hold it culpable in this. Reality TV needs a villain, so casting an asshole or two is okay by me. Anyone who sees Jonathan for 90 seconds on TV sees what an asshole he is...and I trust the same is true in real life with him as well. So while I'm sure CBS knew it was getting an asshole, I don't think they knew they were getting an abusive asshole. Once he's on the show, their job is to show what happens, and this happened.

--Second, Jonathan continues to look worse and worse as he responds to this. In addition to his comments about passion, stress, and drugs causing his abusive behavior, he insists that he's been edited unfairly. Jonathan, that is BULLSHIT. At a moment your wife was crying and damned near physically broken from carrying your backpack, you chose to verbally berate her and then very nearly knock her to the ground with a push to her backpack. That's not editing, man. That's you. Even if it's your life's worst moment (and, given how much shit you've been giving her at every moment of every show, I doubt it is), it's a sign that you have a terrible problem.

--As angry as I am with Jonathan, I can't help but think about Victoria in this. Don't get me wrong: I understand the basics about domestic violence. I get that these women have low self-esteem, I get that they are terrified of their partners, terrified of receiving even worse abuse in response to fighting back. I get that it's the abuser's fault and not the victim. Honest, I get it. But that doesn't mean I can't be bothered by a victim's poor choices. At some point, Victoria chose this man--and at multiple other red-flag points, she chose to stay with him. This genuinely troubles me. Maybe it takes me back to those yucky high school days, when the beautiful girl I had a big crush on turned me down in favor of a guy who called her "buffalo buns." (I later learned she had an eating disorder. Surprising, that.) From what little I notice of Victoria over Jonathan's shouting, she seems to be a fairly decent catch. She's good-looking (Playboy's Playmate of the Month for January 1996), an artist (I won't gauge the quality of her art, but still, she gets points for that), and has a sense of adventure. She had a choice of men to be with--a much larger choice than many women have. She chose this one. And I don't get that. At all. But I guess I'm glad I don't get it.

Anyway. This has developed into a 2AM rant. I need to wrap it up.

Swankette has challenged us to make something positive out of this. I can't help Victoria, but I might be able to help one of her sisters in pain. I have therefore donated some money (not much--just the cost of a night out, really) to a local battered women's shelter. On the on-line donation form, I put "In response to Jonathan and Victoria (Amazing Race 6)."

I challenge anyone else troubled by Jonathan to do the same. 11 million people watch The Amazing Race every week. If enough of us do this--and write why--we can make something positive happen.

Spread the word.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Welcome, Bog visitors!

Wow, actual traffic! Poke around, y'all, and hope you like it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Surfin' for charity

Jack Bogdanski is giving $1 to various Portland-area charities for every unique hit to his site on Wednesday (up to $1250). Surf on over there please.

Here's the link.

NFL officials' observers...

Check this out. (And thanks to Swankette for sending it to me.)

Much to my surprise, in addition to the massive experts scrutinizing every ref's move while in the stadium, there are even guys from the mailroom who help look at the game four or five times to ensure clean play and quality officiating.

It could be worse. You could be the guy assigned to be the NFL Fashion Cop.

First impressions...

Had two younger-kid games this afternoon. Ran onto the court to meet my partner...we didn't have time to do any pre-game preparation, as we both zipped straight in from work. Partner's first words to me were: "I'm on Percoset right now. I took three." He'd had his wisdom teeth out three days earlier. And he's reffing???? At halftime, he opened his mouth and pulled back his lips in an effort to show me the holes where his wisdom teeth used to be. Keep in mind I have never met this man prior to this game.

We muddled through.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Who am I?

Joe got me started on this...

I am Princess Leia. My fiancee will be jealous, as she'd like to be her.

I am Mr. Spock. I've been told I look like Leonard Nimoy.

I am Giles. I've never really watched this show.

I am Chef. That kicks ass.

I am Zoe. Never even heard of her. What has become of Sesame Street?

I am Casey. This was a terrible quiz, and besides, I've always been way more of a Dan.

I am the United Nations. This one is perfect. "Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long way to go."

I am A People's History of the United States. Funny...last year I was Love in the Time of Cholera.

I am South Dakota. Huh?

And I am a classic cotton bra.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A blowout this evening...

but I am BACK!!!! Tonight was my first time in The Zone since my return. Athletes talk about it...that place where all of the world outside the game disappears, and their whole world becomes the movements, challenges, and nuances of the game. Refs have that too. I knew how much I loved doing this, but I've forgotten how good it feels. I LOVE being completely physically challenged (these little shits tonight really kept running the ball up the floor!), intellectually challenged (constantly solving puzzles on the fly), and interpersonally challenged (how do you address an emotionally charged situation?) AT THE SAME TIME.

The visiting team tonight was Our Lady of Perpetual Toe Jam. The parents from OLPTJ are known to be simply terrible. They were quite during our game tonight. Their team jumped out to a 12-2 lead and was never challenged...and their new coach is a genuinely nice guy and good communicator, and since the #1 factor in the atmosphere in a gym is the coach's behavior, I think things are going to get better than they've been. Still, they hit a little bit of a new low tonight. The guy I was sitting next to while I evaluated the JV game did some of the usual grumbling, and was, as most fans are, usually blissfully ignorant of what officials do. My partner arrived during the first quarter of the JV game and this parent, loud enough for us to hear, turned to his wife and said "Oh! That's the same official we had on Friday night! He was AWFUL!!!"

Who the hell thinks this is reasonable adult behavior?

But whatever. It was AWESOME. My nerves completely melted away almost right after the jump. I still have to work on not yelling--my vocal cords are a little raw again--but that will come with time.

And no, I won't be posting about every game.

Probably.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tonight's game

Had a helluva good return to varsity ball tonight. Yelled almost never and hung in there for a fairly tough blowout game. Partner and I called it tight (down the stretch especially)...didn't want the frustrated kids to lash out. Not a peep from either coach...even the one who lost by 24 after trailing by as many as 40. Game took a long time. Felt good.

Then, the evaluator arrived.

HIM: I didn't like your call selection. It impeded the flow of the game.
ME: Huh. Thanks for letting me know. What call did you notice this on?
HIM: Hunh?
ME: Can you give me an example of a call like that?
HIM: Well, you know, a call that goes against the flow of the game.
ME: I understand. When did I make a call like that? I'd like to know so I can work on it.
HIM: Well, like when there's a rebound, and two players get a little tangled up away from the ball, but there's a fast break, and you call the thing away from the ball.
ME: I don't remember doing that.
HIM: Well, that didn't really happen.
ME: Oh. OK, can you give me an example of something I called tonight?
HIM: Gee. Hmmm. Well, just work on that.
ME: (nothing)

Plus, the evaluator misinterpreted two rules...he wanted a closely guarded count on a dribble (nonexistent in girls' hoop) and block/charge, which he simply had wrong.

HIM: I thought the player was moving backward at contact. Should have been a block.
ME: Hmm. I thought she had established legal position before moving back.
HIM: But she was moving.
ME: Yes, I saw that, but thought she had position first.
HIM: So, if she was moving after getting position, what's the call?
ME: Player control foul. Charge.
HIM: (silence).

I screwed up though...I simply should have said nothing to him. "Thank you sir, may I have another!" I effusively thanked him for his feedback, and I hope that was enough to make it look like I wasn't confrontational. I won't make this mistake again. But then, next season, I'll likely ask not to have this evaluator again.

More on separation of church and state.

'Preesh, yall. But I still want more for my little nippers:

France is an example of a strict separation of church and state. It's so strict that religious kids can't wear turbans, headscarves, or yarmulkes in school. Is it possible that this kind of -strict- separation might actually reduce freedom of religion?

Question two. My country is 96% practitioners of Otisianism. That overwhelming majority wants their Otisian beliefs reflected in their government, and elect representatives (or, in a direct democracy, they themselves) to make it happen. But my country has a constitution that separates church and state. Could you argue that this undoes democracy and what it stands for?

Mass Bay Colony. Check. But is it a democracy? I still want an example of a country that is a democracy and is closely tied to a religion. Israel, and...who?

Thanks, smart friends and strangers...

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Damn, it's early

Since my readers are, on the whole, quite smart and exceedingly well-informed, and I want opinions on this, I ask:

What do you see as the primary advantages of separating church and state in a democracy? What are the advantages to government? To religion?

What do you see as the primary advantages of a close relationship between church and state in a democracy? What is an example of such a democracy?