Thursday, September 21, 2006

Breaking News

City considers banning "Thinking Arby's" in cars

Roeland Park, KS -- City officials in Roeland Park, KS have proposed a groundbreaking ban within their city limits. In a move similar to the ban on using a cell phone while driving in New York, drivers in Roeland Park would face a fine of up to $100 dollars if caught "Thinking Arby's".

The proposal has been made in response to the current national advertising campaign by the fast food roast beef chain. Television advertisements show various people completely unaware of unusual or catastrophic events happening around them, all the while a "thought balloon" hovers above their head and a voice-over says, "I'm thinking Arby's."

Mayor Steve Petrehn is concerned for the welfare of his town's residents. "Imagine the consequences this could have on the citizens of our great town if people are allowed to drive their vehicles completely distracted by the mouth-watering goodness of an Arby's Regular Roast Beef Sandwich, topped with zesty Horsey Sauce."

Yet, others in the community have reservations over what some have called "thought legislation". Ron Milner, a Roeland Park resident for over 35 years, doesn't think the government needs to intervene in the personal freedoms of those it represents. "They're already making me put on my seat belt -- now the government is going to tell me I can't daydream about curly fries and a jug of sweet tea? Why don't we put our resources towards something useful, like drilling for oil in the old Indian Mission?"

The proposal has not been well received by Arby's officials. Judith McPheeters, General Manager of the Arby's franchise in neighboring Mission, KS, says the ban on "Thinking Arby's" could have a devastating effect on her business. "All of a sudden, you would have people who have a clear desire to purchase a delicious Arby's Market Fresh Southwest Chicken Wrap suddenly fearing the possibility of being pulled over and fined. Most of our potential customers will find it far easier to just visit the McDonald's across the street. They may have their "Snack Wrap", but let me tell you, it is most decidedly not Market Fresh."

And while there is still time before the issue is put before the Roeland Park City Council, Roeland Park resident Bill Chumley may sum up things best:

"I'm not sure what the big deal is. When was the last time you went to Arby's?"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Daft Draft Philosophy

The Royals have escaped both the praises and criticisms of my keyboard for some time now. They have been playing reasonably well over the second half of the season, but not well enough to really get excited about. The only thing I have been really paying attention to is the fact that, despite their recent successes, they still had a lock on the first pick in the draft next year.

Well, due to the flailing about of the supposedly up and coming Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Royals no longer have dibs on the top pick.

Shouldn't that be a good thing? Shouldn't finishing without the worst record in baseball be something to strive for?

Normally, I would say yes. But two reasons make me disagree this year.

First, the record we finish with this year is virtually meaningless. Sure, pride factors in at some point, but pride hasn't helped the other four iterations of 100-loss Royals teams from escaping such a lowly designation.

Some good things have happened this year. Mark Teahen appears to have put it all together and will be one of our better hitters for the next few years. Ryan Shealy has been allowed to show why he was regarded so highly as a prospect in the Rockies' system. David DeJesus has put together another very solid year as a leadoff man.

A solid core of youngsters has been incubating in Wichita. Wrangler third baseman Alex Gordon won Texas League MVP and was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year. Right fielder Billy Butler won the Texas Leauge batting title and contributed to the USA Olympic qualifying team. Outfielders Mitch Maier and Chris Lubanski had solid campaigns. Zack Greinke got back on track to being one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the game. Billy Buckner and Tyler Lumsden added solid performances in the Wichita starting rotation. And last year's number one pick, Luke Hochevar, ended up making some starts in AA in his first professional season.

All of these things add much more to the pride of the Royals organization than the title of "Worst Record in Baseball" can subtract.

Secondly, and more importantly, the opportunity to make the number one pick is significant. In his 11-part study of baseball's amateur draft, Rany Jazayerli from Baseball Prospectus gives us this piece of evidence:

"Draft Rule #1: The greatest difference in value between consecutive draft picks is the difference between the first and second picks in a draft. The typical #1 overall pick is worth more than 46 WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) in the first 15 years of his career; no other draft slot comes within even 10 wins of that total. Just as importantly, the benefits of the #1 overall pick do not extend to the #2 pick; in fact, historically, the #2 pick has been worth slightly less than the #3 and #4 picks, and from that point random variation kicks in and strongly influences the downward progression for the rest of the first round."

Unfortunately, some disturbing comments emanated from the Royals' scouting director Deric Ladnier today:

“Actually, I’d rather pick third next season, rather than first. Picking third would mean we really had a strong finish. I’d trade major-league wins for draft leverage any day.”

Now, I like to see the Royals win as much as the next guy. But a few extra wins in this forgettable season is not worth dropping two spots on draft day. It's not even close. I understand that the Royals' front office can't come out and condone tanking the rest of the season just to secure their draft position. And the players (most of them, anyway) are competitors and don't want to lose. Not to mention the fact that they get paid to win ball games. But the Royals really have something cooking right now and to be able to add another top-notch talent in the form of a #1 pick will only strengthen their growing youth movement.

Here's hoping the big club loses just enough to ensure yet another impact player gets on board.


The past few mornings have been chilly. What does this mean? That the carefree days of Summer are over and the god-awful cold of Winter is not far away.

Some people enjoy Winter. I understand that viewpoint about as well as I understand quantum physics. What is the least bit enjoyable about cold weather? Certainly not these things:

* The "Gray Slab" of clouds that hangs over this town 75% of the winter
* The fact that it never snows during the Christmas season
* January, February and March
* Scraping the frost off your windshield in the morning
* Going outside to scrape off the frost on your windshield in the morning
* Going outside in the morning
* Going outside
* Staying inside but not being able to stay warm without setting the thermostat to "Melt Polar Ice Caps"
* The Chiefs' annual collapse
* Decline in laundry efficiency (no shorts, short sleeves; more pants, more sleeves more fabric, more quarters for the dryer)

I can find some positive things about cooler weather, though, such as:

* Breaking out long-sleeve t-shirts and sweatshirts
* Turning off the a/c at home and sleeping with the windows open
* The idea of cozying up to that special someone on a chilly night (though it's been a long time since reality trumped fantasy on this one)
* The leaves changing color
* The climate in my office will now be closer to Earth's and less like Pluto's
* Hot chocolate, hot chai, hot buttered rum and the fact that it's the only time of year I can drink coffee
* New, Fall TV season
* KU basketball just around the corner

Honestly, that's about as good as it gets. There are far more reasons to despise the cold weather, but we have to take advantage of the seemingly short Fall season before we get to Winter. Otherwise, the despair just gets stretched out over a couple of extra months. But I hold on to one thing that makes Winter even the least bit bearable: Without it, I would really take Summer for granted. Sure, I would love for it to be 80 degrees and sunny all the time, but I think I wouldn't appreciate it as much if I didn't have three or four or five months to pine for it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Real-Life Dillema

As a follow up to the Crocodile Hunter post, I have another interactive post. This time you, the reader, can directly intervene in my life. Sound like fun? Keep reading...

Over the past few months, I've been seriously considering going back to school to get my degree. Obviously, this is not a decision to be made lightly. Particularly, since there are risks involved. Maybe not stingray-barb-through-the-heart kind of risks, but risks nonetheless.

Coincidentally, it sort of comes down to a decision between the relatively comfortable life I've presently carved out for myself or an attempt at following some passion. But, of course, it isn't even quite that easy.

To start, let's go over what I have. I have a good job working with wonderful people in a division that is making lots of money in a company that is the very definition of stable. I have a 401k plan, excellent health insurance and a manageable, though not overwhelming, salary. I have time to sit at my desk and write essays about my favorite sports teams or the choice between wadding and folding or whether I should even continue to sit at this desk. One other benefit that adds a wrinkle to this situation: tuition reimbursement.

Additionally, I also have a parent with health issues that lives 5,000 miles away. And a monthly child support payment to make. And the looming fact that I'll have one child attending college in six years, with another on his heels.

Something else I have is a reasonable amount of free time at home to read, research interesting topics and write. And someone's unsecured wireless network from which to "borrow" broadband internet access.

Now, what don't I have? I don't have a college degree. I don't have a plethora of options in which to advance upwardly in my company, and if I did, I'm not sure if I would even want to. I don't have the occupational flexibility to be able to move somewhere else in the country and be reasonably assured of finding a job. While I like my job, I don't have a passion for doing it.

Additionally, I don't have a car payment. Or a high car insurance payment. Or a cable bill. My electricity bill is low and I don't have to pay for natural gas, water or trash pickup. Not to mention all the other miscellaneous expenses that come with living in a house rather than an apartment. I don't have a car that feeds on gas like Mark Mangino feeds on hoagies; my car will run for two weeks on $25 worth of gasoline. The only debt I have will be completely paid off in about eight months. For the most part, I don't have many expenses. This is advantageous when thinking about living the college life.

Most importantly, I'm not sure I have a real passion. Sure, I really like to write and seem to be moderately skilled. But I don't have the longing to do it as much as I have/had the longing to play baseball for a living. Writing about baseball is fun, but it doesn't hold a candle to actually playing. Of course, playing baseball for a living isn't a realistic plan, but it doesn't diminish the feeling in my gut about wanting to do it. What bothers me is that I don't have that same feeling in my gut about writing. Or anything else, for that matter. But maybe that's just the way it is; you start doing something you like and go from there.

So, what to do from here? Mull over the scenarios.

Do I stay at my low-risk, low-reward job that allows me to write and do other things in my free time as a hobby that may or may not go anywhere OR go to school to acquire skills and a degree that allow me to either move up in my current company or make a living somewhere (almost anywhere) else while writing full-time.

Do I go back to school and, as an additional benefit, give my children a good example to follow OR do I stay where I'm at and continue to lead a content life in which I'm able to give my kids the attention that they need?

If I don't go to school, do I continue to write merely as a hobby and creative outlet OR do I make a concerted effort to try to get something published?

If I do go to school, should I go part-time while keeping my current job and benefits (such as tuition reimbursement) and complete my degree in who-knows-how-long OR should I quit my job and concentrate on school full-time, forsaking health insurance and trips to Hawaii along the way?

I've been praying about this and will continue to do so. What makes it hard is that I feel like I can honor God no matter what decision I make. Maybe that should make it easier. I don't know. Feel free to chime in or spout off. Or feel free to just sit back and think about how this might apply to your life.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Talk

Saturday was the big day.

I had finally carved out some time (and cojones) to have "The Talk" with Dave. I had two tickets to the KU football game, accomodations for Samantha and a 45-minute car ride each way from Lawrence in which I would have a literally captive audience.

The only thing I didn't have: A way to start off the conversation.

I had been mulling/agonizing/hashing over what material I was going to cover and how I was going to cover it for most of the summer. I had a decent idea of what the message was going to be, but I asked God to help me make it intelligible. And for a way to break the ice.

Thankfully, I remembered that two years ago David had a couple of girls calling the house wanting to talk to him/harass him. That was my in.

First, I asked him if he had seen kids from the schools he had previously attended. Then, I asked him if those girls who used to call him now went to his new school. He said that they did but that he didn't really talk to them.

"So, with all these kids and a bigger school, I bet there are a lot more good looking girls wandering the halls, eh?"

He smiled a sheepish grin and managed to utter a barely audible "Yeah."

I told him that I noticed the fact that he was now looking at the girls who jogged by just like I did. Again, he begrudgingly agreed, though he added,

"I don't look all the time but you turn and look at every one, Dad!"

It was my turn to sheepishly agree.

I told him that it was okay to glance but not stare. Then, I asked him if girls were less disgusting now than they used to be. He replied with another "Yeah" accompanied by some gazing out the window at the passing fields.

The next 10 minutes was a blur of conversation about Sex Ed class, puberty, what to do if a girl asks you to do something you aren't comfortable doing, love, lust and masturbation, all sprinkled with about five or ten entreaties to make sure he knows that he can talk to me about any of those situations. There were nervous giggles, honest exchanges and some horrified glances but we managed to somehow make it through one of the most uncomfortable conversations you can have in life.

I came away relieved that the whole ordeal was over and assured that he understood that he could come to me with any question or crisis. I think he came away glad that the whole ordeal was over and assured that he would soon be in Memorial Stadium thinking about football and eating a bbq brisket sandwich.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Croc Questions

The recent untimely death of Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter", brought up an interesting thought. Is it okay that he died while doing something he was totally passionate about even though it left his wife and child without a husband and father, respectively?

There are quality arguments from each point of view. My first thought when I heard about it was that it was about time: when you put yourself in a position to risk death enough times, statistically, your chances of surviving those chances dwindles with each occassion.

My mind is just inundated with a number of questions:

What he did affected a lot of people. Was that impact enough to put his life and family at risk? Will the number of people he touched due to his passion outweigh the major impact to his family? Will the fact that he followed his passion (even unto death) have a positive or negative on his family? Would it have been possible for him to scale back on the dangerous activities he pursued in order to minimize the risk to himself and his family? Or would scaling back on his activities have reduced his impact on the world at large? Which impact is more important? If his passion isn't inherently immoral, is it acceptable to pursue? Is it immoral to pursue a passion to the degree that it puts his life at stake in the face of leaving his family alone? To compare, is it okay for a soldier to risk his life for his country even though he has a family that counts on him? Is it any different for Steve Irwin to pursue his lifestyle even though he has a family that counts on him? Is the honor of serving your country more important than the educational and entertainment value Irwin brought to the world?

Personally, I don't have an issue with him pursuing his passion. God gives you certain abilities that you should maximize to honor Him and better the world. And he did, quite successfully, as a single guy with no familial attachments. He continued this lifestyle even after getting married and committing himself to another person. And he continued this lifestyle even after he and his wife had children. My thinking is that you can justify those risks as a single individual who has no one depending on you financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. And I think you can justify those risks once you're married, considering your wife is on the same page with you. I have a harder time justifying that risk once you have children. Each child deserves a chance at growing up with the love, support and guidance of both parents. I suppose if both the husband and wife agree that the risk is worthwhile, it is up to them to make the ultimate judgement about what is right for their family. But, to me, it just doesn't seem right to continue a high-risk lifestyle once there's the chance that someone could lose out so drastically.

It seems to me that Steve Irwin had plenty of opportunity to impact the world-at-large with his nearly insane passion for the animal kingdom. Could he not have scaled back his risk (and, admittedly, the impact of his broadcasts) for the overall sake of his wife and children? He could have still followed his passion, be it at a lesser degree, and still given his family a significant chance of keeping their patriarch. According to Wikipedia:

"Irwin was as enthusiastic about his family as he was about his work. He once described his daughter Bindi as 'the reason he was put on the Earth'.His wife once said, 'The only thing that could ever keep him away from the animals he loves are the people he loves even more.'"

I'm just not convinced that the Irwin children will be just as well off knowing their dad died while doing something he was passionate about rather than having him around to share his slightly less dangerous experiences, wisdom and knowledge with his them. It all just seems like a failed experiment in risk management. An experiment in which the Irwin family unnecessarily loses.

What do you think?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Part Two: The Eternal Debate

The toilet seat
A sordid place
From which to choose
The bum or face

In continuing yesterday's scatological theme, today we visit the age-old question of whether to throw up or rapidly move the bowels.

If your stomach is in turmoil and you want to alleviate that feeling, you have to make a decision. Do you bend down and curl up next to the most reviled fixture in the house or plant your fanny firmly atop it?

To me, the decision is easy: keep your mouth shut.

Is there a more unnatural bodily function than having food and beverage you previously enjoyed reverse its course? Well, yes there is. Having that same food and beverage manage to take a detour through your nose. This may not happen every time, but the possibility is always there. I suppose the benefit to choosing this path is that you can expedite your misery more quickly. But I don't see how it can be remotely worthwhile. Your stomach cramps and you can't breathe momentarily; you have remnants that find their way onto your face; you can't get the taste out of your mouth or the smell out of your nose. Even the terms to describe the function sound icky and painful: yack, barf, retch, blow chunks, puke, heave, spew, vomit.

Conversely, the names for diarrhea sound almost comical: runs, Montezuma's revenge, backdoor trots, loose stool, blow mud, Aztec two-step. While the descriptions sound humorous, the act seems much more civil. In general, this is a function that is performed quite often. Most folks sit on the pot at least once per day. Some even look forward to this time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a chance to drop trow and collect one's thoughts. The only difference in this situation is that the results can sometimes be explosive. But at least it's completely contained. Splash-back, you say? Definitely a risk, but no more so than vomiting. And, sure, the odor can be offensive, but it's a temporary affliction, not one that parks itself within your sinuses. Plus, it gives you a chance to refine your wadding skills.

The clincher for me is this: which body part would you rather have nearest the toilet, your rear-end or your face? Even the most anal retentive housekeeper has to admit that the toilet is not a place you would prefer to be within nose-reach of. Yet, people have been known to camp out on the cool, unsanitary tiles 'round the latrine all night, if need be. And the ladies sometimes require an assistant to hold back their hair. All of this is unnecessary if you just keep your head above your heels.