Monday, March 28, 2005


A new place to visit

I have decided that I want to move my spiritual posts to a new blog. From now on, Pops 'n' Buzzes will be dedicated to the non-spitiual. I have opened Land of My Sojourn and I will be posting all kinds of stuff there as I diarize my spiritual walk. Please come visit and join me in my travels.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Baseball Season Preview - Part 1

So, I said I would take a run at a season preview and I'm gonna do it. Let's start with the NL East:

Atlanta Braves: Yet again the class of the NL East, but they're going to face stiffer competition this year. The Braves have always been recognized as a well-managed organization, acquiring top-drawer talent through smart trades while avoiding spending Yankee- or Met-sized dollars on free agents. This season is no exception, as the Braves made a smart deal shipping Jose Capellan and a couple of other minor leaguers to Milwaukee to land Dan Kolb while Charles Thomas and others were packaged to Oakland to deliver Tim Hudson. The Kolb deal allowed John Smoltz to return to his happy place, the starting rotation and, along with Hudson, create a pretty fair starting rotation. Hudson and Smoltz lead the way and Mike Hampton, John Thomson and Horacio Ramirez fill out the back nicely. The Braves should have little trouble getting the ball to Kolb, but I sense a lot of low-scoring games. The Braves offense is iffy, especially with senior citizen Brian Jordan and perpetual headcase Raul Mondesi starting in the corners between Andruw Jones. If one or the other fails to perform, rookies Ryan Langerhans and Jeff Francouer are next in line. Both have raw talent, but no real MLB experience, which could cause problems in the pressure cooker of the stretch drive. GM John Schuerholz may need to make a deal for a proven outfielder. Marcus Giles and Chipper Jones provide solid performance on both sides of the field and Rafael Furcal should rebound from an underwhelming 2004. Adam LaRoche MUST perform this year and Johnny Estrada's solid behind the plate. Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone are in the business of winning, and this year should be no exception. 94-68.

Florida Marlins: A number of folks seem to think the free-agent signing of Carlos Delgado will move this team over the top, but I see Al Leiter as just as important, as he brings veteran stability to a rotation seemingly knocked wobbly by their World Series win in 2003. Recurring injuries to starter Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett's return from Tommy John surgery seemed to combine to keep Florida just off-balance enough. The deadline deal with L.A. last year will pay full dividends this year, as the staff will benefit from a full year of Paul LoDuca behind the dish and Guillermo Mota has all the tools to be an awesome closer. There is a lot to like about this offense, which still sports two serious jackrabbits atop the order in Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo, and big pop in the middle from Mike Lowell, Miguel Cabrera (a major star in the making) and Delgado. They won the 2003 Series as a wild card and I like them to be in the hunt this year. 92-70.

New York Mets: Well, they made the splash of the offseason, shelling out a bundle to land Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. Victor Zambrano is still hurt and may well be a villain at Shea if Scott Kazmir (who the Mets traded for Zambrano) lights it up in T-Bay, as is Steve Trachsel. That leaves the rotation in disarray after Martinez, Kris Benson and Tom Glavine, although the acquisition last week of Kaz Ishii from LA for catcher Jason Phillips (talk about overpaying) gives the Mets a much-needed innings eater. Braden Looper is a good-not-yet-great closer and the bullpen is iffy. The Mets' signing of Beltran created a shmozz in the outfield as Mike Cameron balked at moving to right field, but he's hurt and the Mets are trying to move him before he comes off the DL. That move almost seems more motivated by a desire to see Victor Diaz join Beltran and Cliff Floyd in the outfield. The infield is better defensively with Doug Mientkiewicz at first and Mike Piazza behind the plate, but the big boost should come from Kaz Matsui (now with a season under his belt) and future stud David Wright. Lots to like here, but still some holes. I think the Mets are going to be active this offseason gearing up for a serious run at the top in 2006. 83-79.

Philadelphia Phillies: MLB's most schizophrenic team. This lot should have done much better last year. Instead, they were a dog's breakfast during the second half and manager Larry Bowa (deservedly) took the fall. Now the laid-back Charlie Manuel is in charge and he inherits a collection of challenges. First is sorting out the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. After Jon Lieber (who's going to have a MONSTER year), Randy Wolf and Cory Lidle, it all gets muddy. Vicente Padilla has nearly played himself out of the rotation and Brett Myers hangs on only because nobody better is stepping up. Lots to like offensively, as Kenny Lofton will provide, along with Jimmy Rollins, a lot of go and you can't go much better than a 3-4-5 of Bob Abreu, Jim Thome and Pat Burrell (assuming Burrell has head on straight). If the bullpen holds together, Billy Wagner waits (and he's healthy, too). I think time's running out for this organization and they're either going to do well or push too hard from desperation and Ed Wade will break them up at the trading deadline. I choose the latter. 88-74.

Washington Nationals: I think it's somewhat cool that I have this division picked to finish in alphabetical order, which tells you where I think the ex-Expos will land. Things are still not settled in the land of lies and deceit, and there are just too many holes and what-ifs in the Nationals' lineup. Livan Hernandez is a good, reliable starter who would be a good #4 almost anywhere else. In Washington, he's the ace. Zach Day has, for all intents and purposes, been banished from the rotation, Esteban Loaiza crashed back to earth in 2004 after a miraculous 2003 and Tony Armas and Tomo Ohka both battled through major injuries last year. The offense is a little thin, as they have only three significant power threats in Brad Wilkerson, Jose Guillen and Nick Johnson. This of course assumes that Johnson stays physically healthy and Guillen doesn't go postal. Chad Cordero is a goody in the closer role and he'll get more than his share of save opportunities, since the Nats will win a lot of 2-1, 3-1, 3-2 games. Sadly, I see a lot of abuse in the Nats' future but better days are likely ahead. 70-92.

Tomorrow (or whenever): NL Central.


Things that make me happy

......MAN. I'm glad I didn't have to go to Toronto today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Idol (updated)

Haven't gotten around to this week's 24 yet, but we did watch American Idol last night, and here's some observations:

GREAT show last night, as almost everyone turned it up a notch and cranked out great performances. I was really impressed with Carrie's take on the Heart song "Alone" and Vonzell was awesome, too.

Nadia wins best hairstyle ever. That mohawk will never be matched.

Constantine sings "I Think I Love You" by the Partridge Family. Yeah. I have a sneaking suspicion his buds weren't talking to him after that one.

Who keeps feeding Mikalah downers? Somebody get this girl some Jolt Cola, STAT!

As much as I hate to say it, I think I'm losing a Final 8 tonight, because I think Mikalah's dodged the bullet as long as she can and goes buh-bye.


Someone bungled the phone numbers and they had to scrap the voting for this week, so we got a rehash of Tuesday's show tonight. Voting results are up tomorrow. I still think it's Mikalah leaving.

Monday, March 21, 2005


March Madness

I do not follow basketball at any level. I like to play, but I can't get into it as a spectator. This all changes at this time of year, as my favourite time on the US college calendar, March Madness, goes into high gear.

For the two people out there unfamiliar with the format, 64 teams are entered into the tournament. These are the winners of various conferences and a handful of "at-large" bids. The 64 are broken into 4 regions and seeded 1-16. On the opening 4-day weekend, 48 teams go home in a series of single-elimination games. So, on Thursday and Friday, there were 16 games per day and another 8 per day on Saturday and Sunday. The surviving 16 meet this Saturday and the winners play this Sunday to create the Final Four. These teams meet April 2 and the winners play Monday, April 4 to determine a champion. It's frantic, anything-goes pace guarantees upsets and rewards consistency. It's also awesome TV, as students from the competing schools make the trip to the games and help create a super hot crowd.

Having watched bits and pieces of about 10 games this weekend, I am now officially rooting for Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Any team that plays that hard deserves a little glory. My game of the tournament is split between NC State-Connecticut (a great finish and an underdog upset of the defending champs by State) and Wake Forest-W. Virginia (another upset of a no.2 seed as W. Virginia won in a thrilling double OT). I have yet to see Duke (my favourite team) play, but of the four #1 seeds, they have been least convincing in their wins thus far. North Carolina is whomping so far, having won by 28 and 23 points so far, but they should get a stern test in the Sweet 16 against Villanova. Washington looks OK and, if they get by Louisville, should roll to the Final Four. Illinois looks good, too, but they have Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 16 and I smell an upset.

My final 8:

Chicago Bracket - Wisconsin-Milwaukee v. Arizona
Albuquerque Bracket - Washington v. Texas Tech
Syracuse - UNC v. NC State (That'll be a ring-a-ding-dong dandy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Austin - Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Back with a final four next Monday. Also coming 2005 Baseball Picks. Don't miss 'em.

Also, for those with a taste for controversy, I'm not done yet with spiritual v. political, same-sex marriage and Brian McLaren/emergent.

It won't be dull.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I'm not done yet

I've been doing a lot of reading on our responsibility as Christians (or, more broadly, as people of faith) and how we should interact with the political forum. I am trying (in my spare time) to put together another post on the issue, eliminating the same-sex marriage focus and making it a broader question, which I think is the real grounding of the issue at hand.

More later, I promise.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Cool brain game

There's a very cool little test I encourage you to take. In a nutshell, it presents 40 simple sentences and asks you to choose a suitable word/set of words to complete the sentence. Here are my scores:

English Genius
You scored 93% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 94% Expert!

Have fun. Also, do take the time to share your scores (even anonymously).

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


More on same-sex marriage

I went back and re-read my original post before writing this one, just to make sure I'm in relatively the same spot. I think I am.

I have thought a lot about this. Before I start, allow me to clarify this. If the government were to call a referendum tomorrow on the same-sex marriage issue, I would be at the voting booth first thing in the morning and I would vote against it. My reasons are moral, and here it is:

I believe the definition of marriage to be "one man and one woman, united under God, until death do you part". Therefore, marriage is, to me, a creation of God, blessed by Him, designed to last for the duration of the couple's life spans. Adam and Eve were instructed to go forth and fill the earth. God designed us physically so that a man and a woman are both required components for successful child birth. He also gave us the joy of sexual union so we would find the process enjoyable. He did not say anywhere in the Bible that pre-marital sex, cohabitation without marriage, adultery or homosexuality are acceptable and divorce could happen only under certain specific conditions. God also did not provide men carte blanche to beat their wives and God did not say that parents could simply refuse to honor their responsibilities. I also do not accept the idea that homosexuality is anything BUT a choice, since I do not believe that God has a sense of cruelty about him that he would wire men to desire men or women to desire women.

Based on this, I oppose same-sex marriage.


But those are MY beliefs. Ask my neighbor or a co-worker, you just might get a different answer. That is why the marriage definition will be changed. The government has come down saying that they are redefining civil unions. That's cool, as far as it goes. It's important to remember that, in our society, a government is not for the Christians, by the Christians. It is not for the homosexuals, by the homosexuals. It is not for Hamilton, by Hamilton (although things would be better if it was;-) ).

It is FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE. Anyone with the ear of an MP or MPP can, if they make a successful case, get that politician to put forth a member's bill seeking a new law or changes to existing ones. Once it gets into debate and a vote, it is up to our elected officials to step up. We can express our pleasure and/or displeasure with them in a number of ways, most importantly by voting. If my MP votes for same-sex (and I already know Beth Phinney will), she has zero chance of getting my vote in the next election. The Conservatives could run someone who runs on a platform "How I hate the New York Yankees" on Hamilton Mountain and I'll vote for them. But it is not up to my MP to consider my moral position to be any stronger or more important than those who have sent letters in support of the issue.

If we really want to preserve true marriage, here's what those who claim to follow God need to do:

Seek a bill to separate marriage from civil unions. You wanna live common-law, marry in front of the justice o'the peace, marry within your sexual classification, knock yourself out. But you are NOT married, you are civilly joined. Marriage is for those who seek God's true meaning of the word.

Followers of God MUST go to work on healing their marriages. This can only be done by putting God first. A great deal of disillusionment about marriage and the ensuing erosion of the institution stems from the fact that those who claim to hold it most dear perform equally badly (or worse) at it than those who don't base their marriages on God.

God gave us an awesome gift when he created marriage. There is no earthly relationship that requires more energy, but the payback is phenomenal. We, however, surrender to the temptations of the world and allow our marriages to suffer, wither and die. The Meeting House has a great bit on marriage and I quote:

For instance, my wife and I might have a "tradition" that every Tuesday night we snuggle on the couch to eat popcorn and watch a movie. It can be a weekly routine that we enjoy and that contributes in its own little way to the intimacy of our marriage. But if we were to let other more important relational issues slide, rarely speaking to one another or prioritizing each other's desires and feelings, but still made a point of watching a movie and eating popcorn every Tuesday, whether we like it or not, it would soon become evident that this Tuesday night ritual is not helping us maintain a close marriage. In fact, it might actually be working against us, allowing us to "pretend" that everything between us is good without actually having to relate to each other in any meaningful way.

I think many Christians are, sadly, pretending. We need to be examples of how to have Godly marriages. We need to model those qualities so necessary in a successful marriage (patience, forgiveness, tolerance and love). If we live the example and reclaim the marriage banner as God had intended it to be, perhaps it would no longer be under the attack that we feel it is. There is no doubt that fundamental Christian beliefs are slowly being marginalized in the public eye and, as sad as that is, I think we have let ourselves in for it in so many ways.

If we want to see marriage restored, we (God's children) must lead the way so that future generations will learn from what went before. Only then can true repair happen.

It's late, I'm tired and I think I lost the thread toward the end. Comments are, as always, welcome.


Sunday, March 06, 2005


A betrayal beyond deep, a forgiveness beyond great

I want to share a passage from the book “The Story We Find Ourselves In” by Brian McLaren:

“…..For several seconds, Neo continued looking down into the water, breathing slowly, brow furrowed, lips pursed. Then he continued, first looking at each of us, then staring down at the fraying bandage on his forearm as he talked. There were just two sounds: his deep, slow voice and the water lapping against the boat: ‘When I was married, my wife – my ex-wife – had an affair, more than one actually. It was… was beyond words……devastating. I was a pastor, a good husband, I think. I’ll never forget….

‘Unless you’ve experienced it, you never know how physical betrayal feels……You trust someone, you think you know them, and then you find out, you find out you’ve been fooled, used, taken for granted, taken advantage of. You feel cheap, and violated.’

Now Kerry interrupted…..’Yes, I know, Neo. Your whole world goes empty, your stomach burns and your legs feel numb, your neck feels cold and your lungs feel like you’re breathing some poisonous gas and your brain is like one big fire alarm buzzing so loud you can hear it in your body. It’s exactly as you said: betrayal is something you feel in your whole body.’

Neo took a deep breath and resumed his story. ‘Anyway, we got counselling, and we talked, and she said she was sorry. She said all the right things. And I loved her, and I made solemn vows to her. I really believed in marriage vows and I still do. So I forgave her. And that was one of, no, that was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

‘I don’t know how to make that into a theory, but ever since that day, when I think of the Cross, I think it’s all about God’s agony being visible – you know, the pain of forgiving, the pain of absorbing the betrayal and forgoing any revenge, of risking that your heart will be hurt again, for the sake of love, at the very worst moment, when the beloved has been least worthy of forgiveness, but stands most in need of it. It’s not just words; it has to be embodied, and nails and thorns and sweat and tears and blood strike me as the only true language of betrayal and forgiveness.’”

*****Commentary withdrawn for revisions. I will re-post.***************

Friday, March 04, 2005


For all the worrywarts out there

Next time a study tells you something is bad for you, go read this. Thanks to Jason for posting a great reality check.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Lots of stuff

First, the answers to the NYPD Blue quiz:

1) Det. Martinez was played by Nicholas Turturro, Lt. Fancy was played by James McDaniel, Det. Licalsi was played by Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy), Det. Russell was played by Kim Delaney and, finally, Deputy DA Laura Michaels-Kelly was played by Sherry Stringfield, who left after Season 1 to join the cast of ER.

2) The cast member is Brad Whitford (aka Joshua Lyman). Whitford had gotten wind of the fact that Licalsi's dad was a corrupt cop who took his own life and that his daughter was also corrupt. A somewhat less-than-savory video was used as a blackmail tool to get him to back off.

3) The cast member is David Schwimmer (Ross). He played a character who lived in Laura Michaels' building and was known by the nickname 4B (given to him by David Caruso's John Kelly character). 4B was mugged in the building laundry room and decided, against Kelly's advice, to turn vigilante and start packing a gun. When the mugger came back, 4B pulled his gun, lost it in a struggle and was killed.

4) The two PAA's were Donna Abandando (Gail O'Grady) and John Irvin (Bill Brochtrup)

5) Debra Messing played Donna's younger sister who showed up just long enough to destroy Donna's budding relationship with Detective Medavoy (Gordon Clapp).

6) Melina Kanakaredes played reporter Bonita Alden for 5 episodes in season 2. An old friend of Det. Simone's (Jimmy Smits), the two become more than friends until a story breaks that gets a witness killed. Simone blames Alden for leaking the story and ends the relationship.

7) Oldest-to-newest: James McDaniel as Arthur Fancy (1993-2001), Esai Morales as Tony Rodriguez (2001-2004), John F. O'Donoghue as Sgt. Gibson (2004), Currie Graham as Lt. Thomas Bale (2004-2005) and, as of yesterday, Dennis Franz as Sgt. Andy Sipowicz (2005).

8) Oldest-to-newest again: David Caruso as Det. John Kelly (1993-1994), Jimmy Smits as Det. Bobby Simone (1994-1998), Rick (Not Ricky) Schroeder as Det. Danny Sorenson (1998-2001) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (of Saved by the Bell) as Det. John Clark (2001-2005).

9) I accept a little bit of error on this one. Benzali made numerous appearances as Defense Attorney James Sinclair on NYPD Blue, first defending mobster Alphonse Giardella and later defending Det. Janice Licalsi. Benzali was so good in the role, he received the lead playing basically the same character on "Murder One". However, the character name on Murder One was Teddy Hoffman. So, my bad. BTW, Murder One is historic for another reason, as it was one of the first primetime non-soaps to carry its major storyline across 24 episodes.

10) Wives: Katie Sipowicz, Sylvia Costas-Sipowicz and Connie McDowell. Kids: Andrew Jr. (by Katie. Died in season 6 in the line of duty.), Theo (by Sylvia), Andy also had a child with Connie, whose name I don't recall. Connie also adopted her nephew, and Andy became the girl's father when he married Connie.

So there you go. Feel smarter?

As far as the Oscars go, I was right on 10 of 18 picks. I blew it on Director and both actress categories as well as some of the smaller awards, but, considering that the only nominated films I have seen this year are The Incredibles, Shark Tale and Shrek 2 (betcha didn't know I have kids), 60% ain't half bad. Shockingly (to me), I got both screenplays right, which I NEVER get.

Idol eliminations tonight. Christine and I agree that Celena and Janay should be the girls going home, but it's WAY too close to call with the guys. Guess we'll find out tonight. I'm also watching 24 tonight so I can hear with my own ears how many times they say "override". Guaranteed I'll work the word into my next conversation with Amy as many times as I can.