Friday, October 28, 2005

The Teacher's Purple Heart

I normally don't blog about feels like there can be no positive outcome from doing so. But today's rite of passage merits mention.

It took 9 years and somewhere between 1000 and 2000 students, but today, for the first time in my career, I was cussed at by a student.

Five years ago, I would have absolutely gone postal, but today, I just said: "Come on. You can disagree with me without cussing at me." I'm pleased at how I kept my cool. I'm always surprised when I find evidence that I've grown up.

His response to that: "I'll disagree with you however I want." Geez. I threw the kid a rope, and he used it to make another noose for himself.

In one year, this kid will be either in college, have a job, or be in the military. I hope I can teach him something useful and important as we wade through the fallout of this next week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

He's a flamer

If you know the location of my other website, you can find a page where I make lighthearted (but fairly ruthless) fun of both Cubs and White Sox supporters. Not too surprisingly, three years after I wrote it, a few people are hitting that page with White Sox-related searches.

Today, I got the following email, which I reproduce verbatim and in its entirety:

"What a dickweed! Nice website, moron! --Fred"

Cool! I laugh. But then, the testosterone gets going. My brain tells me to let this dork fire off his flame. It's a bit of an honor, actually. But lesser parts of me decide to seek revenge. Maybe even of the Matt Jackson or Laura Krishna variety.

I begin investigating.

Incredibly, he sent the email from WORK. He works at Central Auto Rebuilders in Brookfield, Illinois. Here's my chance. All I have to do is fire off an email to the boss and say that some idiot kid is firing off rude emails to strangers on company time and with the company email.

But alas...

Fred is the CO-OWNER of Central Auto Rebuilders. (Motto: "A Friendly Place to get your Car Repaired!")

--I'm assuming the guy is a White Sox fan and not a Cubs fan. He is actually living down to White Sox fans' repeated reputation for being hoodlums--a reputation solidified in the World Series.

--Business must not exactly be booming at good ol' Central Auto Rebuilders.

--I tell some jokes about Sox fans' lack of educational prowess. This email has made my joke so much funnier. I mean, seriously. From his photo, this man must be in his 40s, and he's still using the word "dickweed."

--He sent it using his work email! To reiterate, they pitch themselves as "A Friendly Place to get your Car Repaired!"

Anyway, I find this hilarious. Thanks, Fred! I won't go Jackson/Krishna on you, mostly because this site isn't popular enough to do it well. I wish it were. Really cool of you to say hi nonetheless.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sorry, Rosa

[According to a Harvard study], During the past 25 years, "there has been no significant leadership towards the goal of creating a successfully integrated society builty on integrated schools and neighborhoods." The last constructive act by Congress was the 1972 enactment of a federal program to provide financial aid to districts undertaking efforts at desegregation, which, however, was "repealed by the Reagan administration in 1981." The Supreme Court "began limiting desegregation in key ways in 1974"--and actively dismantling existing integration programs in 1991.

"Desegregation did not fail. In spite of a very brief period of serious enforcement..., the desegregation era was a period in which minority high school graduates increased sharply and the racial test score gaps narrowed substantially until they began to widen again in the 1990s...In the two largest educationaa\l inovations of the past two decades--standards-based reform and school choice--the issue of racial segregation and its consequences has been ignored."

The study is from Gary Orfield and his colleagues. The book is Jonathan Kozol's current The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. I urge, in the strongest terms I possibly can, everyone who cares about the country to read Kozol's beautiful and sad descriptions of what's going on in schools that are 85, 95, and even 99.8 percent African-American and Hispanic. It is devastating. It (yes) shames me as an American. It motivates me.

Rosa Parks died as I was reading Kozol's book, gearing up for the sermon and talk he'll give at my church next week. I now will always associate Kozol's pleas with her death.

Mrs. Parks, thank you for your fight. On behalf of those who love what you and America stand for, I'm sorry we've let you down. I hope we earn back your victory and your legacy, but I currently have no reason to be optimistic.

Fox Sports Sucks

I dislike Fox Sports for many reasons. Even if we ignore Tim McCarver (but his whiny voice and smug demeanor make it hard to do that, even on the sporadic occasions when he makes a good point), I can't ignore the talking baseball and the stupid sound effects that accompany boxes flying onto the screen or--unforgivably--dressing up their NFL highlights with artificial sound effects.

But my close intimate friend BloggingRef seems very angry at Fox for another reason.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dude. This is gonna suck.

I'm on Prednisone to clear up swollen vocal cords from a recent undetected sinus infection. One of the possible side effects is insomnia.

It's midnight, and I've nothing to do. I've watched everything on the TiVo, looked at everything on the internet, and after 60 pages of Jonathan Kozol's latest, I don't think I'm emotionally ready to read more about our society's failings and endure the consequent feelings that I'm not doing enough to help my country fix them.

At least the dosage goes down tomorrow. Maybe the insomnia will go down too.

Relationships with parents

I've had a series of work-related events lately that have me focused on a key question. That question:

At what point will the current generation of kids get to grow up and become independent?

As I see it, high school is time for the parents to start letting go. I'll certainly let parents know when kids are struggling or if something concerns me, but under routine circumstances, I'm not going to go overboard to contact A, B, and even C students' parents. I think, in most cases, that's bad for kids in the long run.

My sophomores are 2 1/2 years away from complete independence. They will not be taking progress reports home to be signed then. They are living their lives. They are primarily responsible for their own education. Their parents have the right to information, which is why I have a website they can look at if they'd like. But high school is practice adulthood, and kids should have the right to set their own priorities and even--within reason--to make their own mistakes.

Lasseiz-faire is a legitimate, and usually positive, parenting style when it comes to most high schoolers' academic lives. Keep an eye out, but don't lean on the kids. Let them bloom on their own. Leave them, and their teachers, alone to do their jobs. Both will do better that way.

I recently talked over my philosophy with three colleagues--one junior high teacher and two elementary school teachers. They all disagreed with my philosophy. I'm not surprised to see "helicopter parents" arguing that they need an umbilical cord from me to them, but I was taken aback to see my colleagues siding with what I see as overbearing parents. Some of that might be because they all teach younger kids, where parent involvement is a positive and natural thing.

The junior high teacher, Ms. A, politely insisted that I'm doing kids a disservice by not sending home 170 progress reports every three weeks and ensuring they get back signed--even if the kid is getting an A or a B.

An elementary school teacher, Ms. B, stated this, which is close to a verbatim quote: "I've found through the years that much of my job consists of teaching parents how to parent."

Another elementary school teacher, Ms. C, talked about her frustration with a lack of communication from most of her recent HS graduate's teachers. Her son is a freshman in college now, and she said that while she can't see her child's grades until the end of the semester (and sounded like she'd look regularly if she could), she was thrilled that the college's departments set up parent nights where parents are given syllabi and told in some detail about the courses' contents. "That way, I know exactly what he's learning!" she gushed.

This article in the Arizona Republic is the best I can find on overinvolved parents at the college level. Read the whole thing. But here's the best quote, from author Helen Johnson:

"These kids have never, almost ever, done anything on their own," Johnson said. "They have been surrounded by adult-supported, adult-scheduled, adult-originated activities all their lives, and to them, this is usual."

But it's not conducive to them becoming independent adults who make their own decisions, accept consequences and revel in their own successes. Hovering makes kids lazy, instills self-doubt and impacts their ability to bounce back, Johnson said.

"If a child never learns how to be resilient, they'll have very little confidence in their ability to handle things," she said.

Instead, parents should urge their children to resolve their own problems, offer suggestions for them to consider, and remind them of their love and support, Johnson said.

(In the interest of equal time, you might read this letter to the editor from an admitted "helicopter parent," a Charlotte mother of a Hobart College freshman. I'll lay equal money this kid eventually will need big-time therapy to break free of his inevitable mother issue.)

So Ms. A, Ms. B, and Ms. C are all, as I see it, unwittingly suggesting that I contribute as a teacher to raising powerless, lazy, impotent college kids and young adults.

To Ms. A, I respond: Parents have a right to information, sure, but at 15-18 years old, requiring a signature from parents of all students sends the message that this is the parents' education, not the student's.

Ms. B is truly scary. Unless the child is in imminent physical danger, she needs to leave the parents alone. She asked me "Wouldn't you tell parents if their kids have no curfew and are out drinking? Wouldn't you tell them to stop?" Well, that's illegal behavior, so sure. But where do we stop? What if there's no curfew, but it's not affecting the kid's education? Do we suggest curfew times? Do we tell parents not to let their kids see rated R movies? Do we tell parents of the fat kid not to feed him/her so much? Helping a kid is one thing. Malicious do-gooderism (the thing I hate most about American liberalism) is another. I'm sure Ms. B is a good teacher--and she needs to butt out. I almost hope she teaches our children someday, just so I can see the wife chew her out for that bullshit response should we do something in a manner Ms. B disagrees with. I'd pay admission!

To Ms. C and the Charlotte letter writer: Who's going to college? You or your son? Who needs to be in charge? You or your son? Who's life is it? Yours or your son's? Why are you elbowing your way in so much, as though the college education were yours? I respect that parenting is a huge portion of one's self image. I look forward to taking that role on in the next few years. But my wife and I will need to send a message to our children that their lives are theirs, that we love them for their thoughtful decision-making skills, and that we're there to help, but they are making their own decisions, their own educations, their own personalities, and their own lives. Hovering over them like some sick guardian angel will not help.

My dad is a regular reader of this blog, and I'd like to give a shout out to him and Mom for the ideal way they dealt with my high school and college years. To be sure, I was probably not too difficult from their perspective in most ways. I was a good student and never got within two time zones of trouble. In college, they were a loving presence whom I knew I could call at any time--and I have called them almost every weekend ever since then, except when we've lived in the same town. (Note that many current college kids call their parents every day.) But the education, the decisions, and the life I was leading were my own from the word go. To wit:

I'll never forget a conversation I had with Mom and Dad the summer before I left for college. They sat me down and said: "We want you to know that when you get to college, your roommate and all your friends will be getting care packages, cookies, and lots of letters from home. won't be getting those things. We tried it with your sister and brother, and we're really bad at it. We love you very much, and we want you to call us, but we won't be sending you stuff." Guess what? I laughed out loud. And I respected them for not having me as the sole epicenter of their emotional landscape. What's more, it meant that the one time they actually did send cookies, it was a fantastic surprise.

I blundered and went to a very ill-fitting college for me as a freshman, and had to transfer out after a semester. My parents knew I was screwing up from the start, and they let me. It was a lesson I had to learn on my own. If they'd busted in and insisted that I go to a better-fit college as their decision, I would have gotten the good education, sure, but none of the lessons of independence and decision-making I needed so badly at 18.

My dad shook (and shakes) his head at the fact that I never took a hard science class in college. But has he only brought this up when I've taunted him about it. NEVER did my parents talk to me about my course selections, major selections, career choices, choices of schools (I've been to quite a few), or anything else academically-related. They were the phone call I'd make to talk it out myself, and for the most part, with the exception of the original college choice, I'd say I've made good decisions.

One time a parent volunteer for Kenyon, my college, called up my parents asking for them to donate money. Dad was brusque and to the point, saying he felt the tuition checks he was writing were sufficient contributions. Mom was more gentle, saying that while my parents regularly contribute to their own alma maters, they wanted me to create an ongoing relationship with Kenyon--not them. They said they hoped I liked Kenyon enough to contribute someday, but that my parents had their own colleges to give to. The parent volutneer found that to be a strange, novel approach. I find it incredibly healthy.

They were willing to step in for help when needed. I did the semi-obligatory year at home at the age of 24, and was really embarrassed about that. My dad said: "You have a job and you have a plan. Stay here until you can move." Their choice to help me was based on my own decsion and plan, not some desire to hover over me or shape me. I couldn't have found whatever success I found without them, but the point is that it is my success in life, not theirs.

This entry has gone a direction I didn't expect it to go, but I guess that in the course of writing this, I've found that I use my own parents' loving but lasseiz-faire (within reason...if I'd been doing drugs, they'd have laid the smack down) attitude towards my high school and college years (after a good deal of involvement at the elementary and junior-high levels) to be the gold standard for parenting. And I find the let-me-have-my-own-education-without-calling-mom-and-dad attitude of my teachers to be the gold standard for teacher/parent contact.

Parents and teachers need to be allies--and the basis of that alliance should be to let the kids soar on their own and for themselves.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

World Series pick

Chicago in six. They continue to impress me more than any other team in the playoffs, and the AL is the superior league this year.

Easy come, easy go.

Kenyon football lost at home to the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan today. Ugly. 41-14.

No way they catch Wabash.

(Wabash's nickname is the "Little Giants." Did they name themselves after their penises?)

But it's still exciting to see such progress. 41-14 is a typical blowout, not the sad scores of previous years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You know you want it.

As I see it, the only issue with this is that it hasn't been dumped in the deep fryer.

Add a layer of marshmallows and make it crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Vikings

NFL Countdown's commentators just did a piece on the Vikings' sex-cruise controversy. The question: "Has coach Mike Tice lost control of his team?"

Okay. I can see where a team might have a culture, but I don't see how a team is responsible for players having sex with women they'd brought across state lines for the purpose, doing it in front of the crew, and even offering to pay female crew members to dance for them (in some ways, this is the most disturbing piece to me, since it involves innocent people), to the point where the crew felt scared.

We're forgetting something: Athletes are responsible for their own behavior. The notion that the coach should be held accountable for a sex party to which he was not invited is rather silly.

We are in a culture where a significant subset of athletes believe they don't have to follow the rules. They believe that special treatment, including special sexual treatment, is an expected benefit to their performance. Case in point:

--Michael Irvin, when he was caught by police in a hotel room with drugs and "freelance models," famously said as he was being arrested: "Don't you know who I am?"

--During the Colorado University rape scandal, one player denied his teammates committed the crime by saying: "We don't have to rape anybody. We're Big XII Champs!"

--I forget which NBA video game it was...but there was a game where, as you get better as a player, you could "buy" attractive women with the money/points you earned.

How much of this is societal, and how much comes back to the player? In a way, we're all to blame for creating the atmosphere in which the Vikings' Love Boat Cruise is possible. But anyone who believes they can ask a stranger to dance for money before screwing somebody in front of that stranger is responsible for his own behavior, even if it's in part a product of a sick society.

Anyway, the last word on this should go to BatGirl, who, as usual, has a commentary on this that makes me laugh out loud:

[BatGirl] was totally relieved to see this headline in the morning's Strib:

Tice Will Crack Down on Tardiness, Rule Breakers

Next time you guys have a big sex party and totally screw Batgirl's hopes for Legovision Park, BE ON TIME.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

NCAC Football Fever!

My wife thinks I'm a dork for a lot of reasons, but today she thinks I'm a dork because I listened to a few minutes of Kenyon football over the ol' internets. Kenyon stayed undefeated in conference play, knocking off Allegheny for the first time since Kenyon's only conference championship year of 1989. (A goal-line stand to end the game--including a Mike Jones-like tackle at the two on the game's final play!)

Kenyon's last two wins have come against Wooster and Allegheny. Wooster beat us 84-21 last year, and Allegheny knocked us off 42-9. Yeah--we're resurgent.

And we're resurgent enough that I think a share of the conference championship is possible.

Three teams are still undefeated in the North Coast Athletic Conference: Our Beloved Lords, Wabash, and Wittenberg.

Wabash and Wittenberg are clearly the two best teams in the conference. They play each other next week. Someone's gonna lose.

In an incredible stroke of luck (for us), Kenyon does NOT play either Wabash or Wittenberg this year. It is a tangible possibility that Kenyon could finish the year undefeated in conference play, sharing the title with whichever one of those two win out.

To wit:

Kenyon's two remaining road games are at Hiram and Earlham. They are really the two weakest teams in the NCAC this year, and they're two teams Kenyon beat last year--and I think Kenyon appears vastly improved. On the one hand, I think Earlham might be able to give us a game (they played Oberlin tight up at Oberlin today, losing by only a field goal...and we beat Oberlin by one up at their place), but on the other hand, they lost to Hiram 7-2. (More on Hiram later.) So they're not gimmes, but I think they're both very winnable.

Kenyon's two remaining home games are tougher--Ohio Wesleyan and Denison. Next Saturday's game is absolutely critical. OWU is 2-1 in the conference and might be a little bit of a tall order...but they beat Allegheny by 5, and we beat Allegheny by 7. With home field, it's doable. Denison looks like they're having a better year than OWU, but in the final game, at home, against the big rival, with the conference championship at stake? I believe it's possible.

If there are co-champions, I don't know how the NCAC or NCAA decide who goes to the Division III tourney, or even if the NCAC gets an automatic invitation. I can't find that information on-line. Maybe it's like the Rose Bowl used to be--maybe it goes to whoever has gone least recently. Kenyon would get its clock cleaned in the first round, I suspect, but hey--I'd love that second conference championship in over a century of football!

Now, back to Hiram. They lost to Wittenberg yesterday 66-0. The box score is one of the most astonishing documents I've ever seen.

Some highlights:

Hiram earned 3 first downs in the game, compared to Wittenberg's 25.

Wittenberg outgained Hiram in the running game 311 to negative 45. That's right...Hiram totaled negative 45 yards on the ground.

Total net yards: Wittenberg 542, Hiram negative 1. Hiram lost a yard for all its work all day.


I feel for Hiram's team, and it does look like Wittenberg actually let up in the second half. But I especially feel for Hiram's sports information director. How do you write about a loss like that?

By playing up the (barely) positive and ignoring the negative. And keep it short. Like this.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

On hold with the gastroentorologist

They play Culture Club's "Miss Me Blind."

Isn't this already going to be an unpleasant experience? Why add to it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hey sports fans...

My close personal friend BloggingRef is lonely. He's writing all sorts of officiating-related commentary over at Illegal Screen--way more than he thought he would--and yet very few people visit.

If you like sports, go over there. Invite your friends. He'll thank you for it.

I told a good one today.

We're talking over some Greek myths...Prometheus, Pandora, that kind of thing.

STUDENT: Is it possible to have a gift from hell?
ME: I'm not sure. What are you thinking?
STUDENT: I think it'd be more like a curse or something.
ME: Yeah. Gift from hell feels like an oxymoron. What do you have in mind?
STUDENT: You know...something like a little piece of hell, all wrapped up in a pretty package.
ME: A little piece of hell wrapped up in a pretty package?
ME: Sounds like my ex-girlfriend.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fearless Championship Series Predictions

St. Louis in six. My preseason-pick Braves are done, so I can go to the team that has consistently been the best all year long. Houston's 18-inning marathon will take a while to get over. The Cards are going to the World Series. They'll lose there for the second year in a row.

Chicago in five. They seem to be hitting on all cylinders right now, and Los Angeles of Anaheim of Southern California of the Western States of the US of North America of Earth revealed too many weaknesses in the Yankee series. They'll be a major curse-breaker in the WS for the second year in a row. The AL was simply the vastly superior league this year, so I'm going with them even if the Angels make it. But I don't see how they will.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Loose punctuators

A colleague was bolstering some grammar skills in the classroom, talking about overuse of commas. She used the term "comma splice." A student responded:

"What did you say?"
"Comma splice. It's a comma splice."
"Oh. I thought you called me a comma slut."
"No, no I didn't."
"Well, that's okay. I think I am a comma slut."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Something I can't find on the internet

How did the "flea flicker" get its name?

I've found three different attributions for inventing the play (Heisman, Stagg, and Zuppke), which is interesting enough...but I want to know who came up with the name. Can't figure out why it's called what it is, and not even Wikipedia knows. (Indeed, Wikipedia has a minor error in it I might clear up.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

43rd worst president?

This post started as a comment to this post on Hugh's blog, but it got so stinking long I felt it needed its own home here.

Around election time a year ago, I believed that George W. Bush could be named the worst president in US history. I'm offering a non-partisan criterion to measure goodness or badness: quite simply, whether the nation improved itself or declined over the course of the guy's presidency.

Lemming disagrees with me. She offers James Buchanan as worse, arguing the following:

Buchanen [sic...Lemming, you're a smart woman, but a terrible speller!] came to office while the Supreme Court was debating the Dred Scott decision. He secretly found out what the decision was to be ("once a slave always a slave no matter where you live"), pushed the justices to a 7-2 decision instead of a 5-4, then in his innagural address told the nation that they should accept the "pending" court decision as final.

When faced with economic crisis, Buchanen used a strict construction of the constitution to claim that he could do nothing to help with recovery. Buchanen made the same claim when secession began, while allowing supplies at Ft Sumter to be depleted and moved to help the attackers.

(UPDATE: Lemming has posted in more detail on this issue here.)

All true, and quite impressive.

Lemming gives good evidence that Buchanan was incompetent. I agree. However--remember my criterion for bad president: leaving the country far worse off than you found it. Can anyone convince me the country took more of a downhill dive under his watch than it has under GWB?

In 1857, the country was in serious shit already. Yeah, the Dred Scott decision--arguably the low point in our country's history--was horrible and embarrassing. But it's not on Buchanan--he had no say in the decision. The war in Iraq and the failure to find WMDs--another embarrassment, another low point in our country's history, although not as low as Dred Scott--is 100% on Bush.

We've fought an unneccessary, elective war at the cost of many of our people and many more of theirs. The war has featured beathtakingly bad intelligence and a naive, sad lack of planning. By the time of Buchanan, the Civil War was both unavoidable and necessary, both morally and for the future of our nation. His Ft. Sumter decisions hurt us, but not on the same large scale as the war in Iraq has. He hurt us in a battle, but Bush hurt us in a whole war--a war that we didn't even have to go to!

Under Bush, we've gone from surplusses to record deficits...because we've cut taxes while increasing spending. (Imagine!) Lemming states that Buchanan did nothing in the face of economic hard times, but were those hard times a direct result of his own reckless policies--policies that a high school accounting student can see would result in seas of red ink?

Under Bush, we've even failed to protect our own when faced with a domestic natural disaster. I can't think of a similar situation from 1857-1861, although Lemming convinces me Buchanan couldn't have handled it any better. didn't happen, so by my criterion, this round goes to Bush as well.

We've gone from having friends all around the globe--being close enough to Arab states that Syria was in GB41's coalition, for goodness' sake--to being thought of negatively through most of the globe. We've lost our reputation and much more. I don't see a similar turnaround in the 1850s.

I am certainly convinced that Buchanan was incompetent. But can anyone convince me he hurt us more than Bush has?

I'm open to hearing other presidents as nominee for the worst as well. (Hoover? Is he to blame for the Depression, or were we cruising there anyway?)

Monday, October 03, 2005

And in a related story...

but much less verbosely:

Atlanta over Houston in 4.
St. Louis over San Diego in 4.

Anaheim over the Yankees in 4.
Chicago over Boston in 5.

TRP's Baseball Prediction Results

In the interest of full disclosure, we now revisit my preseason predictions for the major leagues.

How do we measure success? Arbitrarily.

I have decided that a pick within 8 wins of correct--5% of a team's total games played--is a "hit." Within 4 games is a "big hit". Over 8 is a miss, and over 12 is a "big miss."

In parentheses are actual wins, games off, and whether the pick was a "hit" or a "miss."


Los Angeles of Anaheim 93-69 (95, +2, big hit)
Texas 90-72 (79, -11, miss)
Oakland 87-65 (88, +1, big hit)
Seattle 76-86 (69, -7, hit)


Minnesota 95-67 (83, -12, miss)
Cleveland 86-76 (93, +7, hit)
Detroit 80-82 (71, -9, miss)
Chicago 79-83 (99, +20, big miss)
Kansas City 66-96 (56, -10, miss)


New York 94-68 (95, +1, big hit)
Boston 93-69 (95, +2, big hit)
Baltimore 79-83 (74, -5, hit)
Toronto 77-85 (80, +3, big hit)
Tampa Bay 65-97 (67, +2, big hit)


Los Angeles 89-73 (71, -18, big miss)
San Diego 85-77 (82, -3, big hit)
San Francisco 81-81 (75, -6, hit)
Arizona 67-95 (77, +10, miss)
Colorado 53-109 (67, +14, big miss)


St. Louis 97-65 (100, +3, big hit)
Chicago 92-70 (79, -13, big miss)
Houston 82-80 (89, +7, hit)
Milwaukee 80-82 (81, +1, big hit)
Cincinnati 73-89 (73, holy shit)
Pittsburgh 61-101 (67, +6, hit)


Atlanta 100-62 (90, -10, miss)
New York 85-77 (83, -2, big hit)
Florida 84-79 (83, -1, big hit)
Philadelphia 72-90 (88, +16, big miss)
Washington 69-93 (81, +12, miss)

Number of big hits (4 or fewer off): 12
Number of hits (4-8 off): 6
Number of misses (8-16 off): 7
Number of big misses (>16 off): 5

Average games off: 7.13 (an overall hit!)

Best-predicted division: AL East (4 big hits, average of 2.6 games off!)
Worst-predicted division: AL Central (only one hit)
Best-predicted team: Cincinnati (exact)
Worst-predicted team: Chicago White Sox (20 games off...I didn't see it coming.)

Playoff comments:

I picked 5 of 8 playoff teams.
My preseason picks for NLCS--Atlanta vs. St. Louis--can happen.
I had Anaheim bowing out in the ALCS to Minnesota. Anaheim can make it there. I might have 3 of the 4 Championship Series teams.

And my preseason World Series pick--Atlanta--is still around, although they can't beat Minnesota. I don't currently think it will happen--the AL has proven to be the superior league this year. I do think the AL is a crapshoot right now, since the hottest teams, Boston and the Yankees, don't have the home field in the ALDS. And I don't trust Atlanta's young players to survive the postseason...

But I have a rule. If I can stick with a preseason pick at the start of the postseason, by God, I do.

So, much to my wife's chagrin, I will be loyal to the Braves until they lose.

Ethics are confusing.

The topic has come up twice. First, it came up sort of tangentially on Basket Full of Puppies. In this post, Matt discusses the hubbub over this photo from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Some groups were angry that dogs were evacuated on the plane while there were people, mostly African-American, left behind. Matt disagrees with those critics, saying the following (I think eloquently):

It just really burns me that someone trying to do a good thing is getting raked over the coals for failing to do the very best possible thing he could have done had he had perfect knowledge.

I love dogs. I love my cat. (Much to my surprise. I always thought I was a dog person, but the kitty I got with the wife has won me over.) And I assume that there were not people pounding on the door to this plane trying to get on, but who were told "sorry, can't save your life--have to save my golden retriever's instead."

But, assuming there were, all other things being equal, I'd save the people over the dogs. In an immediate, life-threatening situation, people's needs trump animals' needs.

Joe seemed to disagree. He asks:

So everybody who spent time piling up sandbags around property instead of driving people out of town was wrong, then? The folks who evacuated the zoo and aquarium were in the wrong?

Well, no, Joe. I wouldn't call that an immediate life threatening-situation. In the build-up, it's reasonable to protect animals and property, because it's assumed that the people will be taken care of. (In retrospect, we know this wasn't true, of course.) But this has my mind cooking.

Assume you have the only fire truck in town. You get calls for two blazes. One is in the closed library--no people there, just books. One is in a building full of people who won't all be able to get out.

Where do you drive?

Okay, you've answered. Is your answer changed if the library is the National Archives? If it houses irreplaceable items?

Is your answer changed if the building is the packed UN? A senior center? A preschool? A prison? A halfway house for violent pedophiles?

If it contains only one person?

To me, that's more like the question I had in mind. If there is an immediate life-threatening situation, we must save the people. Always. My religious beliefs and my common sense make that a basic baseline.

But then I encountered this post from Jack Bog, and I suddenly seemed to be on the other side of the argument.

I told Jack I feel like his post generated more heat than light, and I stand by that. His juxtapositioning of Bush's desire to get back to the moon with a photo of a starving person is simply too easy, because we could use that picture to criticize any spending. Just keep the picture and replace it with an article about Clinton funding the NEA, Ford funding college scholarships, anybody funding roads...

and what do you know, I'm mirroring Joe's and Matt's arguments, which I'd been against over on Matt's blog. I believe that scientific exploration is a good thing, and I find I'm upset that "someone trying to do a good thing is getting raked over the coals for failing to do the very best possible thing he could have done."

What's the difference here? The person in Jack's picture in every bit as much danger as the hypothetical people knocking on the door to the buses in Louisiana.

Is it that I can see how throwing a dog off the bus can save a life, but I can't see how not exploring the moon can?

Or is it that the generosity of the bus has limits...eventually, we run out of seats, and we help all that we can? While the generosity of a government's budget is more or less unlimited, because we can literally cut every program to give to the starving?

I don't have an answer to these questions. I'd like your help. Help me tease out the difference between these situations.