Saturday Ramblings: September 17, 2016 — National League Central Champions Edition!


Step one: complete.

Chicago Cubs fans like me are hoping for an end to a 108-year drought in World Series championships this year. I have rambled around for 60 of those years, and it is one of the great longings of my lifetime to see my team become world champs at least once.

grandpa-mike-brettAnd what shall I say of my sainted grandfather? He was born the year the Cubs played in their first World Series, 1906, losing to the “Hitless Wonders,” the crosstown White Sox. They then won consecutive championships in 1907 and 1908 over the Detroit Tigers. So he was too young to enjoy those, and he never saw it happen again.

I used to sit with him in his recliner when I was a small boy, watching the Cubs on WGN TV, mostly grumbling when they lost, but enjoying every moment with him. The picture on the right shows me at as a toddler with my Grandpa Mercer and my cousin. I’m the one wearing the Cubs hat. This is my life, folks.

Well, I’m happy to say that the Cubs completed the first step toward a World Series title this year by winning the National League’s Central Division on Thursday night.

There is a lot more to be done, and October baseball is never a sure thing, always full of surprises. There are no guarantees; the games must be played. But this is the best chance the Cubs have had for a long time, and I can’t wait to see how it works out.

Go Cubs Go!

• • •


Brian Grim, associate scholar at Georgetown University’s Religious Liberty Project, recently presented a new study on the worth of religion to American society. Grim tabulated that religion is worth a whopping $1.2 trillion to our economy.

To put a value on the work of the nation’s 344,000 religious congregations — representing all faiths — Grim looked at the schools they run, the soup kitchens, the addiction recovery programs and their impact on local economies. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship mostly spend locally — employing hundreds of thousands of people and buying everything from flowers to computers to snow removal services.

Grim came up with three estimates and settled on the middle one — the $1.2 trillion — as what he called a “conservative” appraisal of the work of religious organizations in American society annually.

The following chart, presented in another article on the study in CT, shows the breakdown of various religious organizations and what they contribute.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2016-09-12 16:08:10Z | |

Religion, as it turns out, is good for the economy.

• • •


Child abuseAn article at RNS reports:

In the wake of the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis, many Catholic as well as Protestant seminaries began offering training on abuse prevention as part of ministry ethics, pastoral care or personal formation classes. And seminaries work with denominations on this kind of clergy training.

Now, Dallas Theological Seminary, a non-denominational evangelical seminary, has made it a graduation requirement that students intending to become ministers must take a short training class in sexual abuse awareness. This is unique among evangelical schools.

The one-hour “Ministry Safe” class is described as “entry-level certificate training” by the seminary. In the spring semester, the school plans to offer a fuller course on the subject, with more than 40 hours of instruction on abuse prevention in ministry settings.

Good for them.

• • •



CBS News reports that the world’s oldest man, 113-year-old Yisrael Kristal, will finally get the chance to have his bar mitzvah.

Kristal was born in 1903 in Poland, but World War I got in the way of his original bar mitzvah.

During World War II, he spent time in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and survived the Holocaust.

Kristal lost his family in the Holocaust and moved to Israel where, this week, a hundred relatives are gathering to celebrate his 113th birthday and to hold that overdue bar mitzvah.

“We will bless him. We will dance with him. We will be happy,” his daughter said.

Mazel Tov!

• • •


uber-self-driving_1463674456732_2386074_ver1-0Should Edward Snowden be pardoned?

Did the NCAA make the right call in North Carolina?

Are American Christians really persecuted?

Is it easy to visit Cuba?

What does it feel like to ride in a self-driving Uber car?

Will there be a resolution soon to the Dakota pipeline controversy?

• • •


In case you’ve ever wondered what a culture of animal sacrifice looks like, the Times of India has posted a graphic story and pictures from Dhaka, the capitol of Bangladesh.

Large-scale animal sacrifices marking the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha combined with heavy rains have turned the streets of Bangladesh’s capital into rivers of blood.

Muslims traditionally mark Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, by slaughtering livestock. Usually a goat, sheep or a cow is killed to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith.

The meat of the sacrificed animals is shared among family and friends and poor people who cannot afford to sacrifice animals as a gesture of generosity to promote social harmony. Dhaka residents used parking lots, garages and alleys to kill the animals and the blood flowed into the flooded streets, turning them into rivers of blood.





• • •


polar-bears-reu-759TASS, the Russian news agency, reports that some scientists are going to be stuck for awhile.

About a dozen polar bears have besieged a weather station located on the remote Troynoy island in the southern part of the Kara Sea, the station’s head told TASS on Monday.

“A female bear has been sleeping under the station’s windows since Saturday night. It’s dangerous to go out as we have run short of any means to scare off the predators,” Vadim Plotnikov explained. “We had to stop some of the meteorological observations.”

He said some ten adult bears, including four female bears with cubs, were spotted around the the weather station.

“On August 31, the bear killed one of our two dogs and has not left the station since then,” he added.

Plotnikov said he had informed the Arkhangelsk-based Northern Meteorological Department of the bear dilemma but was advised to act independently.

The Mikhail Somov expedition vessel delivering cargo to Arctic weather stations will reach the island only in a month, while the station’s five staff members need flares to scare off the polar bears.

Apart from that possible solution, the crew are hoping that by the end of October, or in the beginning of November the near-shore waters will freeze and the bears will leave the island in search for food.

• • •


Oh yeah, an alert reader sent me a link to this…this…well, whatever it is.

 • • •


Internet privacy is, apparently, not something that humans alone worry about.

In August 2015, Google Street View captured images along the banks of the River Cam, in Cambridge, England. As the cameras snapped their way through a meadow called Coe Fen, a cow crossed the road.

Google apparently decided it would behoove it to add an identity-protecting blur.

When an editor at The Guardian found the blurred face this week, he took a screenshot and shared it on Twitter, much to the Internet’s delight.

• • •


The late, great singer-songwriter Steve Goodman (“City of New Orleans”) was a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan. After every Cubs home win, his anthem, “Go Cubs Go” is played at Wrigley Field and the fans revel in joining in.

In honor of their National League Central championship in 2016, here’s Steve singing his heart out for them. Wish you were here to see it, friend.

49 thoughts on “Saturday Ramblings: September 17, 2016 — National League Central Champions Edition!

  1. Not so fast, Mike. The Giants are feverishly working with the MLB front office to get a 3rd wildcard playoff position installed before season’s end. If I were you, I would be scared. Really scared.


  2. Well, Last Temptation of Christ showed that “Piss off those Xians” IS a viable (and very successful) marketing strategy — a self-generating, self-sustaining FREE publicity machine. Just poke ’em and let them go.


  3. Just think: if those christian hospitals doubled their charges, they could become an even bigger part of the economy!

    Seriously, anyone think that bragging about how much ‘revenue’ your hospital brings in is not a straightforwardly good stat?


  4. Yes and yes. I’ve also wondered if the Starbucks controversy was started by someone else knowing that a certain group within Christianity would fall for it and unwittingly give lots and lots of free publicity to Starbucks – and succeed in making themselves look like idiots, again. I mean, I don’t like taking out “merry Christmas” and things like that, but the cup thing was way over the top.


  5. Christianity Today ultimately is about selling a product. To them, persecution, persecution, persecution = outrage, outrage, outrage = clicks on website and magazines sold = $$$$$$$.


  6. As for the linked article, with its talk about how Pittsburgh is such a tough driving environment, I can’t help but notice that this is all in the summer. Whenever I ask about winter driving I get a pat on the head and the assurance that super smart people are working on this, so I need not ask such silly questions.

    I spend 7 years in Pittsburgh and have trouble imagining self driving cars there. Especially on those cobblestone streets with a 30 degree slope (and maybe more) as you wind around to a stop sign on a blind corner. In the summer. Much more fun in the winter.

    Then again CMU has been working on self driving for a few decades. On the nicer roads at first but still maybe they’re ahead of Google in tech but not in PR.


  7. From Handmaid’s Tale (Win the Culture War, take over, and Force Everyone Else into Godliness) to neo-Amish (take your ball and go home, seal yourself in your Christianese bubble, and sulk with the Other Righteous Ones).

    One makes you a Threat, the other makes you a Reality/Freak Show.


  8. good one ….. over at TWW some of us were discussing the coming Christmas season and how dreadful Christians will be acting if they don’t get what they want culturally from ‘the world’ ……. last year, they couldn’t handle plain red cups at Starbucks, so this year, their ‘tolerance’ for the ‘disrespect’ of their awesomeness will likely be little to none, and all hell will break loose if these ‘christians’ don’t get their way

    Persecuted? that bunch of whining pitiful extremists?
    As far as I’m concerned, last year they lost their minds and this year I hate to think how badly they will behave.


  9. I’m not sure how that’s related, tbh. Maybe I was a little opaque in my opinion. It’s not that they agree on foreign policy at all – it’s that they agree on the narrative of what happened. A good counter-example is Benghazi. The two parties *may* deeply collude on foreign policy (and realistically, there is no appreciable difference between Obama’s and Bush’s foreign policies), but they nearly always disagree on the narrative. In Snowden’s case, there has been no political point scoring. The facts of the investigation are also illuminating. Too long for a blog post, but I would encourage everyone to read it.


  10. > Were it a better piece of journalism we would have been told how frequently

    The word I have heard is that the driver takes over approximately 4 times an hour.


  11. “And if you ask the questions everyone assumes you are somehow anti-technology;”

    Yup. I have asked similar questions, and gotten that reaction. I find particularly curious the combination of utopianism involving massive infrastructure investments and the certainty that fully autonomous cars are going to be here within a year or two.

    As for the linked article, with its talk about how Pittsburgh is such a tough driving environment, I can’t help but notice that this is all in the summer. Whenever I ask about winter driving I get a pat on the head and the assurance that super smart people are working on this, so I need not ask such silly questions. Oh, an from the article, we learn that the human still has to take over. Were it a better piece of journalism we would have been told how frequently, but this is a puff piece, not intended to investigate or enlighten.


  12. They are scientists… they should be able to improvise how to but Bear Burgers on the menu.

    Oh… I am confusing Scientists and Engineers… my bad. Poor dog.


  13. > : you won’t believe the number of problems that people overlook and are unaware of for *years*

    Oh yeah, I would.


  14. >Should Edward Snowden be pardoned?
    >. When dems and GOP agree on something, we need to pay attention.

    It is always good to pay attention when competitors disagree… but in this case I’d counter that the GOP and the Dems are so deeply colluded concerning American foreign policy and military posture that no other result was expected by anyone.

    I believe this mostly comes down to one’s perspective on said American policies. If you believe the policies are sane, or even effective, you probably consider the report noteworthy. If you believe they are categorically destructive then you have little interest in the report; because, myself for example, I am OK with having some collateral damage if what happens injures the credibility of the United States. And I do not feel bad about that – as accepting all manner of collateral damage in a variety of forms is the exact argument used to morally justify the consequences of our policies. Everyone is wearing a gray hat.

    If you disagree with American foreign policy and military posture those are issues for which you have no party which speaks for you.


  15. Tip:
    Enter “persecution” into “Search This Website” fat the top of the page and hit the Search button next to it. You will find a LOT of posts on this subject.


  16. Some churches have identified Macho Christianity as their target market and are scrambling for their slice of market share.

    Remember MMA Cage Fights for JESUS?

    Several watchblogs (like Wartburg Watch) are exposing abusive churches for whom Male Supremacy (“Complementarianism” in Newspeak) is the Fourth Person of the Trinity. With this goes something called “Hypermasculinity” — defining masculinity entirely as Aggression (including sexual), Domination, and Power, burning out everything else (“Sissy”) with a white-hot iron, and firewalling what’s left. “ME MAN! RAWR!”


  17. Life Imitates Art.
    I remember something similar as a skit on either SNL or Laugh-In. The accompanying dialogue went like this:


  18. I do not believe two wrongs make a right. The information about PRISM needed to come out; that being said, Snowden did a LOT more than that, and we have no idea who he released or sold the information to. The recent congressional report is illuminating.


  19. LOVE the pic with your grandpa! Classic Americana.

    “We will bless him. We will dance with him. We will be happy,” his daughter said. He’s 113! Apparently longevity runs in the family if his daughter is still alive.

    Should Edward Snowden be pardoned? Absolutely not. A bipartisan committee found him to be responsible for stealing mostly military and defense secrets. When dems and GOP agree on something, we need to pay attention. The report was pretty damning, and tin-foil hat aside, I have no reason to call its veracity into question.

    Did the NCAA make the right call in North Carolina? Of course. They are, first and foremost, about academia, and they have a responsibility to make an ethical choice. That being said, it is hard to not see it as hypocritical given the way they exploit collegiate athletes while ignoring things like brain trauma.

    Are American Christians really persecuted? LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!

    Will there be a resolution soon to the Dakota pipeline controversy? Maybe, but probably not. Larger infrastructure projects like this need a much more democratic process to represent all stakeholders. That being said, this isa classic “not in my backyard” situation. As much as I dislike the fragility built into fossil fuel industry, I’ll bet most of those protesters drove a nice new four door pickup truck to the rally.

    The cow thing was hysterical. Someone at Google has a sense of humor.


  20. I doubt Edward Snowden will be pardoned as long as President Obama is in office, but that will only be a little over four months. We’ll have to see what Mr. Obama’s successor will do.

    I’m ambivalent about a pardon myself. I’m concerned about Snowden’s actions, but I’m equally concerned about the federal government’s actions.


  21. I think the NCAA would do well to clean up its own house first before worrying about the laws of North Carolina or any other state.


  22. I’m a bit of a control freak; plan to keep my fingers tightly gripped around the steering wheel and do my own navigation.


  23. Google street view is a great tool. I use it quite a bit. It often serves as an archive of pre-existing conditions when I’m looking at damages or problems related to underground utilities I’m responsible for. (Side note: you won’t believe the number of problems that people overlook and are unaware of for *years* that are suddenly ‘created’ by me when a utility incident occurs near their home.) I have often chuckled at the number of privacy blurs the software has created to hide the faces of my fire hydrants. Lol


  24. >> he is the real patriot . . .

    Good to hear this from our northern neighbor. Seems like the whole world has woke up and smelled the coffee except for Americans who keep hitting the snooze button.


  25. Yes the idea that American Christians are being persecuted is ludicrous. Having your beliefs criticized is not persecution. Atheists writing bestsellers is not persecution. What is happening is that religion is losing its privileged position in our society. And of course the folks whining the most about persecution are the ones who have been banking (literally and metaphorically) on those privileges.

    Now I have this mental picture of John the Baptist tackling Jesus and throwing him into the Jordan river. And then the Heavens open and there is the Almighty pumping his fist and giving Jesus the Highest Five of All!


  26. > What does it feel like to ride in a self-driving Uber car?

    Assuming [which is an assumption] that the technology works perfectly – there are so many questions around this that people not involved in transportation never ask –
    1.) What happens when, unsupervised, someone trashes the car?
    1.1.) there is throwing up, wetting the seat cushion,… and ‘worse’. Yes, all these things happen, rather frequently. Especially if your passengers are young or old. People talk about letting out their personal self-driving vehicles to operate as ride-share when they aren’t using them… yeah, I doubt many people are going to do that twice?
    2.) Will these companies discriminate in the neighborhoods they server? [they already do, with driven cars]
    3.) When used as a substitute for a transit service how does this interact with ADA requirements, accessibility, and the elderly?
    4.) Given that – no way no how regardless of your magic math – you cannot operate an automobile for less than $0.37 a mile. And that is a vehicle without all the technological accoutrements of being self-driving [which is going to require certification, period inspection, etc… – also something nobody talks about]. The cost curve is harder to climb to real profitability than many people imagine.
    5.) How will we deal with the congestion induced by vehicles in constant orbit around a destination waiting for their host to need his/her exit ride? Running away to a parking ramp 20 minutes away means 20 minutes of lead time when summed – sort of mitigates the advantage of the personal vehicle. Every real transportation nerd I talk to expects to see lots of orbiting empty vehicles; consuming energy, and more importantly space in the right of way, while carrying nobody.

    Also, so far IN JUST 2016 Uber has LOST $1.6 BILLION dollars; the largest share of that in subsidizing rides to make the drivers believe they are ‘making money’ [often still doubtful, again – people’s magical math about the automobile]. What happens when investors want to start to see a return and the subsidies decline?

    The blinkered techno-optimism on this topic seems boundless. And if you ask the questions everyone assumes you are somehow anti-technology; which I certainly am not – but every solution/answer always raises its own new problems/questions.


  27. I would think it is obvious – pardon Snowden, he is the real patriot. But I am not so sure he would be wise to return to the US in that case still – activist judges, armed nutcases – there is a long lis of problems. It might help him move to a better location like Paris or even Canada…


  28. >The peril of American Christianity isn’t persecution: it is irrelevance

    Truth. Some days I feel the only reasonable response the Persecuted White Christianity is full throated laughter. Loud enough to be sure they can hear it. It is an absurdist notion.

    > The peril of American Christianity isn’t persecution: it is irrelevance

    From my perch the desperation of this quest looks to be fading; it is beginning to retreat back into isolationism. The desperate questers that remain are just ever more desperate and are masking the change to a degree. Fewer and fewer Evangelicals seem to be calling for Yet More Culture War, some are even decrying it [Mere Orthodoxy for one example] and attempting to develop a doctrine of Christian Isolationism [without calling it that, of course].

    I find this turning to be fascinating and informative; the roots are being laid bare for why folks I ‘agree’ with, and used to associate with much more than now, never really FELT like we were in agreement.

    > Once this fad passes, it will be something else in the chase after popular culture

    I am not so certain.


  29. I’m going to connect two of these items. I could only read the preview of the Christianity Today piece, but based on that it seems that CT found a Christian in Syria who is willing to say that American Christians are being persecuted, and CT is absolutely thrilled by this: giddy like a school girl after her fist kiss. Excuse me a moment while I guffaw.

    The peril of American Christianity isn’t persecution: it is irrelevance. Gay marriage? Conservative Christians aren’t being persecuted. They are being ignored. And they know it, aren’t happy about it, and are raising a stink about it. This also is why the fake “war on Christmas” resonates so. When the cashier says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” this is an implicit acknowledgement that American Christianity isn’t as dominant as it would like, and it reacts with a hissy fit like a child unhappy he has to share.

    Which brings us to the desperate quest for relevance. This takes many forms, few of them pretty. In the “extreme baptism” video we see it taking the Macho Christianity form. That sound you hear is my eyes rolling. Some churches have identified Macho Christianity as their target market and are scrambling for their slice of market share. Once this fad passes, it will be something else in the chase after popular culture. This is a reason to get out of bed on a Sunday morning?


  30. My coworkers and I discussed this and decided that this should be made into a SyFy TV drama. And of course it must be named “POLARBEARNADO “.


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