Friday, January 29, 2016

Greatest Hits (Volume 1)

I don't listen to a lot of music. I used to. In high school and college I would always have music playing in the car or even at home in my room when studying. I enjoyed it, and still enjoy it, though my music listening time has shifted to podcast listening time.

When I did listen to music, I wasn't one of those people who needed every album by an artist. Sure, there were (and are) bands I really like and have a lot of their releases, but for the most part, I was content being a "greatest hits" fan of bands. I didn't need the deep cut off their unreleased first studio recording. Just play the hits and I'll be good.

So at the end of every month, I'm going to release my Top 10 list, which is the 10 best articles I've linked to that month, in no particular order.

Here we go:

Football Killed Tyler Sash - Adam Jacobi does an amazing job of forcing us to decide if the sport is worth enjoying. Jacobi writes "Football's an easy sport to watch, but sometimes, it's awfully tough to enjoy."

Would He Disapprove of my Single Heathen Lifestyle - A woman takes in a Syrian refugee and writes about it... and the second half of the article is the refugee writing about his experience living with a British woman.

A Day In the Life of an Iowa Family Drowning in Campaign Ads - I think Dante left out a circle of Hell that is living in Iowa before the caucus (or living in a swing state during the election.)

This Guy Got Sir Mix-A-Lot's Old Phone Number - Not nearly important as the other things on this list, but it made me smile.

 Bill Cosby and his Enablers - Ta-Nehisi Coates on Bill Cosby and the culture of enabling.

Why Are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah -  I've enjoyed The Daily Show under Noah for what it is, but it does lack the bite that it had under Jon Stewart. I hope we don't complain about what the show isn't that we miss what it is right now.

Dear Cam Newton: Please Don't Read This -  Dave Zirin examines the bizarre need some people have for Cam Newton to meet their standards of what a role model is.

Where Life is Cheap By Design -  Craig Calcaterra writes about Parkersburg and Beckley, West Virginia and Flint, Michigan. Three places that have seen failures of government to protect its citizens and also three places that he's lived.

Sunday Service in Charleston -  Charlie Pierce visits "Mother Emanuel" six months after nine members were killed by a gunman.

How I Lost My Love of Sports - On Purpose -  This one was published in 2015, but I didn't read it until 2016 so I'm counting it.

The Big Goodbye:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Where's the Midwest

So there were two things that took over the little corner of the internet I reside on Wednesday afternoon. The first was Kanye West's twitter beatdown of Wiz Khalifa over what turned out to be a misunderstanding about a slang term for marijuana. Being that I couldn't tell you who Wiz Khalifa is or any music he's released, I'm not going to write about it, though if you're interested, you can find out details here.

The other big thing to take over was a question on that simply asked readers to identify what states were part of the midwest. I'd never really thought all that much about exactly what states made up that portion of the country and instead just had a general idea of "yeah, that's the midwest." But I quickly learned that it's not as easy as that. There are some states that everyone essentially agreed on. Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, are obviously in the midwest. For me, the inclusion of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana were also no-brainers. 

But Nebraska? Kansas? The Dakotas? Are they midwest or are they great plains? Does Missouri fit and if not, does it count as the south? I didn't know. At times I'm sure I considered them a part of the region, but if you asked me to label the Great Plains region, I'd put Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas there. So I didn't know.

Neither did the rest of the internet. Debates were had. Arguments (mostly good-natured, I think) were had and at the end of the day, it seemed most people settled on "if the state had a Big 10 school in its state prior to 1992, then it was the midwest.

You can make your voice heard on this important issue here.

And if I spent that much time yesterday on those two things, you know I had a lot of time to read. Here's the best of what I read yesterday:

Ann Selzer is the Best Pollster in Politics - Polls drive so much of our political coverage and Ann Selzer is the gold standard in polling. 

Brazil in Peril: The World Cup, the Olympics and the Zika Virus - The World Cup and Olympics were supposed to showcase Brazil to the world stage. Instead, its legacy could be spreading an awful virus around the globe.

Football Killed Tyler Sash - I linked to a news story about this yesterday, but this by Adam Jacobi does an amazing job of forcing us to decide if the sport is worth enjoying. Jacobi writes "Football's an easy sport to watch, but sometimes, it's awfully tough to enjoy.

The Useless Agony of Going Offline - Like Matthew Malady, the author, I spend a lot of time online. Also like Malady, I like to think that most of that time is learning something new. This story is his account of going offline for 72 hours and why he feels that while it may work for some, cutting the online cord isn't for him.

What I Paid to be a Division I Athlete - Luke Bonner tells of his experiences dealing with the NCAA and what he wishes he had done differently.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Perspective in Sport

Earlier this week, Maria Sharapova lost a tennis match to Serena Williams.


It was the 18th straight time Williams has defeated Sharapova, which makes you think Sharapova might just not be very good at this whole tennis thing.

But she's actually. Good. Like really good. She's won five major titles in her career, which I don't have to tell you, is five more than anyone reading this. She's currently ranked fifth in the world. But when Sharapova plays Williams, you'll see a lot of "oh, Sharapova sucks. She's not any good" and other nonsense like that.

Sure, the goal is to win, but in the end, only one woman is going to win the tournament and for 21 times in major tournaments, that woman has been Serena Williams. She's one of, if not the, most dominant tennis players ever to play the sport. She's fantastic and, in all honesty, I should probably write about her sometime.

Today isn't that day. Today it's about Sharapova and perspective. Right now she's the fifth-best woman's tennis player in the world. But the storylines that surround her are that she's no good because she always loses to Williams. Think about it. Is there anything in your life that you're the fifth-best in the world at? I grew up in a family of five and there were times I had to settle for being the fifth-best in my family.

I know when we say a professional athlete isn't any good, we're saying it in the context of how they compare to the other athletes in their sport, but take a step back sometime and realize that the players you're watching on television are the best in the world. There's no shame in being ranked fifth, or fifteenth, or fiftieth. That is an accomplishment that should be marveled at more often.

CTE Is Found in an Ex-Giant Who Died at 27 - Football remains remarkably popular in American culture, which only means more and more stories like this are going to come out. Watch or don't watch, that's totally up to you, just know what you're watching.

A Day In The Life Of An Iowa Family Drowning In Campaign Ads - I think Dante left out a circle of Hell that is living in Iowa before the caucus (or living in a swing state during the election.)

Hillary Clinton Goes Back To The Dunning School - Ta-Nehisi Coates with a brief post about what Clinton got wrong during the town hall and why it's important.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The NCAA and Del Boca Vista

Georgia Southern's athletic compliance department sent out a tweet yesterday reminding boosters that they're not permitted to tweet, facebook message or otherwise contact any players being recruited by the school. Doing so would constitute an NCAA violation and jeopardize that student's eligibility as determined by the NCAA.

This is an incredibly absurd rule. But before we get to that, it's also absurd that people, particularly people over the age of 25, would spend their time tweeting or messaging high school kids encouraging them to go to their school. It's also kind of creepy. So from a simple non-creepiness factor, the rule makes sense.

But that's not why the rule is there. The NCAA doesn't care if you're some strange middle-aged man tweeting high school seniors to come to play sports at his school because it's creepy. They care because it's against their extensive rule book. The NCAA, you see, is a lot like how Seinfeld saw retirees who moved to Florida. They "work hard their entire lives just so they can move down there, sit in the heat, pretend it’s not hot, and enforce these rules."

So if you're a booster who wants to contact high school kids and convince them to go to your school, just make sure they're not an athlete.

However, if you really want to help you school, you need to become a member of the booster club of your rival. Then, when you start contacting their recruits they'll get in trouble and thus will help your school. Honestly, the fact this hasn't been done (that I could find) is among the most surprising things about college athletics.

And on to what I've been reading. One of these days I'll find a smoother transition to the links. Today is not that day.

How Nate Silver Missed Donald Trump - It's nice to know that even Nate Silver is wrong from time to time. Though I don't think even Donald Trump thought he'd be where he is now.

Accused Murderer Married the Only Witness, Now She Doesn't Have to Testify Against Him - A strange story that has a preacher questioning his role in inadvertently protecting a murderer.

Why Are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah - I've enjoyed The Daily Show under Noah for what it is, but it does lack the bite that it had under Jon Stewart. I hope we don't complain about what the show isn't that we miss what it is right now.

A Shady Conservative Group Is Fundraising Off the Death of a Ben Carson Volunteer - Good for Ben Carson to call these people out. And what kind of person uses the death of a campaign volunteer to try to raise money?

Monday, January 25, 2016

(Spoiler Free) Making a Murderer Thoughts

There are very few shows, outside baseball games, that my wife and I watch together. Last baseball offseason I watched all of Breaking Bad, but only when my wife was in bed asleep as she refused to watch it. She, on the other hand, watched The Bachelor (or Bachelorette, whichever one it was) with her friend, usually at her house.

So when I told her I was ready to watch Making a Murderer and asked if she wanted to watch it with me, I was fully expecting a "no thanks" and would be able to watch when she went to bed. Well, much to my surprise, she said she'd give it a shot and was instantly hooked.

That was good and bad, I thought.

Good in the sense that it meant I'd get to watch a show with my wife.

Bad in the sense that she doesn't tend to watch shows as quickly as I do.

And with each show being an hour, I thought there was a decent chance I'd be able to finish the 10-episode series by late February. But much to my shock, she's been really good about wanting to watch. We watched two episodes on Friday, two more on Saturday and one and a half on Sunday (I really appreciate the Panthers blowing out the Cardinals so I didn't miss anything there.)

So with the understanding that I'm a little more than halfway through the show, here are two thoughts I've had about it.

First, I would be a terrible witness. Knowing I'd face the threat of perjury for potential misstatements, I'd be hedging everything I said.

Lawyer: "Mr. Martin, does 2+2 equal four?"

Me: "Well, I've been taught that and it seems to be the case, but not being a trained mathematician, I'm not sure I can say with certainty that is the case."

Lawyer: "You don't know if 2+2 equals four?"

Me: "I think I do, but I'm not willing to risk my freedom over something like that. There was a time if you asked me if Pluto was a planet and I said 'yes,' I'd be right, but then it changed and now it's not. How do I know what mathematical concepts are true and what might change? So I'm reasonably confident 2+2 equals four, but as I said, I can't say with certainty."

Lawyer: "You're excused."

The other aspect of the show that's caught my attention is the portrayal of the local television news media. They don't come out looking all that good in this case, at least through the 5.5 episodes I've seen. Not that I didn't already know that local television news can be sensational for the sake of viewers, but seeing all the different clips about this one case crystallizes just how bad it is.

I've got a couple friends who work in television news and I know they work hard at what they do. It's just that the format does not lend itself to hard-hitting analysis, especially when you're given 60 or 90 seconds.

And now the articles I found interesting over the weekend: 

Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and the New Dark Age: The fundamental trait of an advanced society is not the sophistication of the vehicles in which its citizens travel or the consumer products which are or are not readily available. Rather, it’s the ability for people to communicate and transfer knowledge and information to others in an efficient system.

 Who Poisoned Flint, Michigan? - Obviously this story has captivated me as I keep reading and linking to it, but it's important.

The National Review Makes Its Case Against The Republican Party - I, likewise, find the Trump candidacy fascinating.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Flip or Flop

So last night my wife and I were figuring out what to watch and since I usually get my choice, I told her we could watch what she wanted. Well, what she wanted was HGTV's Flip or Flop about Tarak and Christina Moussa. The Moussa's are house flippers, so they go buy a house either at foreclosure auctions or just in terrible shape, renovate them, and sell them for a nice profit.

It's a fine concept, one many HGTV shows follow. But what makes this particular show frustrating to watch is that they seem, to be kind, less than thoughtful. In one episode, there was major issues with the foundation of the house they were considering buying to the point cracks could be seen throughout the house. Tarak, in his wisdom, said something to the effect of "I've had to do foundation repairs before and they were about $12,000, this is pretty bad, so let's budget $20,000." No professional estimate, no contractor, just his wild guess. Turns out the three estimates ranged from $36,000 to $49,000.

But it didn't matter. He's said "well, we've got to do it, so let's do it." No actual struggle, no consideration as to what that really meant for their budget (which seems unlimited). These are just wealthy people flipping houses for what seems to be the fun of it. Which is fine and apparently there's an audience for that. I'm just not it.

So on to our last linkage of the week.

The King's Speech - The Cleveland Cavaliers played a speech of Martin Luther King Jr. during halftime of their game Monday. 

The Worst Supreme Court Decision In My Lifetime - Esquire's Charlie Pierce on the sixth anniversary of the Citizens United decision.

Where Life is Cheap By Design - Craig Calcaterra writes about Parkersburg and Beckley, West Virginia and Flint, Michigan. Three places that have seen failures of government to protect its citizens and also three places that he's lived.

 As Water Problems Grew, Officials Belittled Complaints From Flint - This story bothers me more and more as I learn more about it.

The Bush Blame Game Begins - It's interesting that people start assigning blame before the first votes have been cast, but apparently that's how the politics game is played.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fun Writing

Many of you reading this know I used to be a journalist for a small daily paper. It was fun, but as with newspapers across the country, staffing levels started to fall and we were asked to do more with less. Eventually I got burnt out, went back to school and now work in higher education, but I still enjoy writing.

Each Fall for the past four years I've had the opportunity to cover high school football games and, my uneasiness with the game aside, it's fun to be able to write a couple stories a week and see my name in the newspaper. The weekly games are fun and the preview story prior to the game is decent, if not routine at this point. As a freelance writer with an actual full-time job and family responsibilities, it's not like I'm hanging out at practice and doing fun feature stories.

So when my wife (who works at a different college) told me of an interesting story involving one of the students where she works, my first thought was to see if I could do a feature story on her. After a few emails with the Sports Editor, I got the go ahead to do it and today I get to interview her. Unfortunately the story won't run until next weekend (hopefully) but when it does, I'll either link to it or post it here.

But enough about me writing about writing, here's my favorite links since the last time I posted.

The Death of the Midwestern Church - Even if you're not religious, this story is interesting in the effect the decline of central gathering places, especially in small communities, can have on those areas.

Ta-Nehisi Coates' Flawed Attack on Bernie Sanders - A reasoned counterargument to the Coates' article I posted yesterday. For what it's worth, Coates retweeted this story.

Sledding as a Revolutionary Act - The interesting history of sledding as civil disobedience.

ISIS Has Destroyed One of Iraq's Oldest Christian Sites - I may be wrong here, but this offends me more as someone who values history more than it does as a Christian. It's a terrible thing, but if you believe God is everywhere, it's a disappointing loss whereas if you value history, it's an irreplaceable loss.

Marco Rubio's South Carolina Strategy -  As I also mentioned yesterday, elections are fascinating to me. This is what I was referring to. Seeing how campaigns plot to get to the magic number they need.

To Be Young, 'Gifted' and Black, It Helps to Have a Black Teacher - White students are 50 percent more likely to be identified as "gifted" as black students with similar scores.

How the Government - And This Columnist - Failed Flint - This story about Flint is tough and there are so many issues and so many failures by people and systems.

Obviously it was a slow day at work yesterday and I had plenty of time to read. Thanks for taking your time to read this.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I'm Here For The Jokes

I love elections. I love the strategy and the math and reading what percent of this group or that demographic that a candidate has to get in certain areas in order to win an election. It's fun and exciting stuff.

The action governing and policy and consequences of elections I find boring and frustrating, but elections, man, those are fun.

And this year, it's been a blast. Look, yes there is a reality show star leading the Republican field and he was just endorsed by former vice-presidential candidate turned reality star, but that's what makes it so great. The jokes write themselves. And not just the dumb ones I can come up with, but actual funny jokes mocking the candidates who have made a mockery of the election.

Yes, at the end of this campaign there will be a winner and there will be consequences, but until that time, the jokes will flow. They will spew forth from Bulls#%t Mountain (copyright Jon Stewart) and give us hours of joy. I mean, just look at this mashup of Sarah Palin's speech with Iggy Azalea. It's going to be fun. Well, right up until it's not fun if Trump wins. But until then, join me in forgetting about getting angry or upset at any of the stump speeches. Just hang around for the jokes.

And now the stories I found interesting since my last post.

Why Precisely Is Bernie Sanders Against Reparations - Ta-Nehisi Coates could rewrite the menu to McDonald's and I'd link to it. He's that good.

Former NFL Receiver Antwaan Randle El Regrets Ever Playing Football - On the day I wrote this about my uneasiness with football, this article comes out about a guy eight months younger than I am who is having his body break down. My entertainment isn't worth doing this to anyone.

Dear Cam Newton: Please Don't Read This - Dave Zirin examines the bizarre need some people have for Cam Newton to meet their standards of what a role model is.

The Working-Class People the NFL Screwed in St. Louis - If you demand "loyalty" from players, you need to also demand loyalty from owners too. Here, a look at the people affected by the Rams leaving St. Louis.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Love/Hate Relationship With Football

I have a love/hate relationship with football. One the one hand, it's a brutal, violent sport that often leaves the players broken and, it appears ever more likely, susceptible to lasting brain damage to varying degrees. I won't let my son play it and I remain grateful that my parents, long before the information about brain injuries came out, wouldn't let me play it either.

That said, I find the games captivating. The end of the Packers-Cardinals game Saturday night was among one of the best endings to a game I've seen in a while. I couldn't look away. Even knowing all I know about the potential damage being done to the players, I couldn't bring myself to look away.

In my limited defense, I have cut back considerably in the amount of football I do watch, but I haven't been able to completely break myself free of the game. At this point maybe I'm just a social watcher. That is, someone who watches primarily to be able to talk about the games with friends, acquaintances and coworkers. It's not a perfect solution, but it's how I rationalize it to myself

Just three stories from the long weekend as I tried to be outside doing things rather than at a computer or looking at my phone.

The Exploitation of Martin Luther King's Legacy by White Supremacy - A look at some of the myths that have arisen around Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday Service in Charleston - Charlie Pierce visits "Mother Emanuel" six months after nine members were killed by a gunman.

The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You're a Trump Supporter - I'll spare you the clickbait, it's if you're an authoritarian. Even knowing that (and understanding it's a bit simplistic), it's still insightful to read the article if you're interested in Trump's supporters.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Disc Golf

About a year ago, a disc golf course opened up not far from where I live. Not like an hour or so, but literally about 10 minutes from my house. I'd played a few times before when I lived in North Carolina and really enjoyed it, so when the course opened here, I expected I'd go play somewhat regularly.

But I never did. I don't know exactly why I haven't been. I'm excited about it being so close and it was always fun when I played before, but for what I'm sure are a million excuses, I never went.

Fast forward to last month and my son got a disc golf yard set for Christmas. It had two plastic "holes" and three discs. (Frisbee is a registered trademark, so it's call disc golf, not Frisbee golf. Use that fact to bore your friends at your next party.) It took a little while to put it together, but ever since I did, he's wanted to play. So we've taken the holes out to the yard and set them up, played 9 or 18 holes.

Earlier this week, I told him if the weather's good, we can go play on the real disc golf course on Monday when we're all off work and school. You'd have thought I told him he could have ice cream and popcorn for dinner for a month. He's looking forward to it and so am I.

And now the most interesting articles I read since I last posted:

Who Killed Lawrence Phillips - Former Nebraska football star and NFL running back Lawrence Phillips took his own life in his jail cell. Dave Zirin takes a look at the many ways society failed him.

Paul DePodesta Explains His Path to the Cleveland Browns - How does someone go from working in Major League Baseball to the NFL? This feature of just such a man was really an article about how we look at the world.

The Problem With Journalism Is You Need An Audience - Do publications have to pander to their audience to remain viable? If so, what does that mean for the future of an informed populace?

Hello, They Must Be Going - The next time someone complains about a player not being loyal, feel free to point to how team owners also aren't loyal, not only to players, but to entire cities.

Football as a Metaphor for American Decay - Just a reminder that the virtues taught by football aren't exclusive to just that game.

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare - This is about a week old, but it was recommended enough that I knew I had to read it. I'm glad I did.

This Guy Got Sir-Mix-A-Lot's Old Phone Number - It's not 1-900-Mix-A-Lot

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I miss baseball

Among the many reasons I love baseball is that it's played every day. So when you have a long, busy day with work and other obligations after work, when you get home you can turn on a game and lose yourself in it for three hours.

And that's awesome during the Spring and Summer when the games are going on. But after a long day in the winter, there's no games. No first-and-third one out with the pitcher running on fumes. No trying to guess what the pitcher will throw or if the batter can foul off a great pitch to fight another day. It's not there like it is in the summer and I miss it.

Which is the long way of saying I watched The Bachelor last night with my wife.

Didn't get a chance to read as much as I wanted the past few days, but still found a few things interesting that you might like.

 Chocolate Milk Concussion Study - The University of Maryland promoted a study about how chocolate milk could help with concussions. But when someone called to ask about anything beyond the press release, they suddenly didn't have anything to day.

Praising Kids for Effort Totally Misses the Point - Praising kids for effort without creating the opportunity for learning is misapplying the research.

Bill Cosby and His Enablers - Ta-Nehisi Coates is someone you should be reading. This piece is no exception.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Inspired by a student

My day job is obviously not that of a professional blogger. Instead, while I wait for the media world to recognize my prodigious exaggerations of my great talent, I work as an academic advisor for an access college. What that means officially is that we offer primarily Associates degrees and serve to provide a pathway to a Bachelors degree. Some come for the lower tuition. Others for the small class sizes and small campus. Others are there because they couldn't get in to their first choice.

While I typically end up seeing a lot of 18-20 year old students, every so often a non-traditional student comes in to my office and I enjoy the opportunity to speak with those students. Last week, one such student came in.

It was a Friday afternoon when this particular student,a 26-year old mother of two, came in. She'd been out of school since finishing high school and had been looking for a way to start back to college. We'd actually just had our last orientation of before classes started the day before, but we're a small school and rarely, if ever, do we turn anyone away if they meet our eligibility requirements. So she was admitted and then came to my office to sign up for classes.

It was while we were making small talk that she told me about her two kids. They'd been keeping her busy, so busy in fact that she missed the deadline to sign up for orientation. When she found out she could come that Friday, she almost didn't. But, she said, she looked at her kids and realized she needed them to see their mother going to school to do better for herself.

 So she came and we got her signed up for classes that fit her availability, which was pretty much when her kids were in school or daycare. She was excited and thanked me as she left.

Students like her inspire me. I realize I was fortunate to not only do well in high school, but have the opportunity to go to college right out of high school. Not everyone has that chance and it's easy to just think you're too busy or too old or any other reason not to go back to school. But this woman didn't and I admire her for creating an opportunity for herself.

My favorite stories since the last time I posted.

The Cost of Overconfidence - From mail-in rebates to gym memberships, we all overestimate our own willpower. Companies know this and profit from it.

"Doubly Absurd": On Teaching College Athletes - A look at one teacher's experience dealing with college athletes. Spoiler Alert: He didn't like it.

Would He Disapprove of my Heathen Lifestyle: me and my Syrian refugee lodger - One of my favorite stories this year. A woman takes in a Syrian refugee and writes about it... and the second half of the article is the refugee writing about his experience living with a British woman.

Remembering Guantanamo - A journalist recounts his six years as a captive at Guantanamo Bay.

How We Learn Fairness - We all know when things aren't fair, but how do we learn that? Is it innate?

As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, January 8, 2016


One thing I make a deliberate effort to do with this blog is share stories I find interesting, not necessarily stories I think other people will find interesting. That seems like a bad strategy if the idea is to have people read my blog, and it may be. But I don't want to try to start guessing what someone will or won't capture someone's interest. All I know is that the stories I find end up capturing my interest.

That said, I'm sure there's some psychological bias going after I finish a story that may not have been all that great, but since I spent the time reading it, I justify the time I just spent by saying it was good. Hopefully that's not the case too often.

On to what I've enjoyed the past few days:

America's Racist Obsession With Policing Cam Newton - This is probably obvious to non-whites, but a white guy like me only vaguely are aware of, but we hold black athletes to a completely different behavioral standard than white athletes.

How I Lost My Love of Sports - On Purpose - I find myself drifting towards this conclusion for all sports but baseball. An interesting article made more interesting by the fact it was posted on Sports Illustrated's website.

Turkisth Police Find Factory Making Fake Lifejackets in Izmir - Sometimes people are just the worst.

Hey Oregon "Militia": Here's the History Lesson You Missed - To borrow a line from Paul Harvey, this is the rest of the story of Shay's Rebellion.

Win Anyways: Inside the Division III Hoops Coaching Grind - What does it take to win at a small, northeastern Division III school? And I love the fact that the coach lets his players have fun, even at the expense of a technical foul or five.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ticket to Ride and links

Growing up, I was not a fan of board games. My brother loved Monopoly and would try to get me to play with him, and every now and again I would out of boredom, but I never enjoyed it. The game took too long and wasn't all that interesting. Yes, it's a classic game and every house has one (even mine, though it's the updated Monopoly Empire, which takes much less time to play), but I've never had all that much fun playing it.

Perhaps the only board game I really enjoyed, and not until college, was Risk. And most of that, looking back, was from hanging out with my friends as we played, making the same jokes about the Ukraine being weak or having that one friend who would seemingly  get bored and then recklessly start attacking for the fun of it without a long-term strategy.

But about four years ago, I read a review of a board game called Ticket to Ride by baseball writer Keith Law. He gave the app high reviews so I figured I'd give it a shot, especially since it was on sale for $1.99.

The basic premise of the game is you're trying to connect cities on a map of the United States (and a few Canadian cities) go earn points for your routes. But other people are also connecting cities and they may get in your way, causing you to have to readjust your plans. You draw colored train cards which correspond to the connections and try to earn the most points.

It was unlike anything I'd ever played before. Among other things, there were no dice and no spinners. Sure, there was an element of luck as you're waiting for your color train cards to appear, but it was significantly less luck-based than pretty much every game I'd played. After playing a few times to get the hang of it, I found I really enjoyed it. The game play was easy and intuitive. Soon, my son, who had just turned four, would sit in my lap and watch me play, eventually asking to play on his own.

We got it for Christmas later that year and after a year of playing it, we got the next version, Ticket to Ride: Europe. Another year of enjoying that (it has a few minor tweaks to the rules, but nothing complicated) and this past Christmas we got Ticket to Ride: Asia as well as an expansion pack for the original game with new destinations. It's opened us up to a a whole new genre of games that are completely different from the games I grew up playing. And to my delight, a few of my friends have picked up the game too.

It's a great family game for 2-5 players that is simple enough that my son at 4 or 5 was able to play it without being on a team with me or my wife. Granted, there is minimal reading involved so kids wanting to play will need to be able to figure out cities on a map.

And if you know me and want to try it out, let me know as I'm always up for introducing people to a game that's brought me and my family such joy.

Today's links:

The Easiest Way to Lose 125 Pounds is to Gain 175 Pounds - A brutally honest look at what it took for the writer to lose 125 pounds, and why he got to the point of needing to lose the weight.

Those Jamokes in Oregon Aren't Terrorists, They're Jamokes - This seems about right to describe the jamokes in Oregon.

Former KKK Leader Organizes Great Falls MLK Celebration - People can change and if we forget this, we rob them of their humanity.

Is the Drive For Success Making Our Children Sick? - Have we reached the point of diminishing returns on the ever-higher expectations of our kids? Did I just answer a question with a question? Are you going to read this?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 4, 2016

I want to ride my bicycle

My son (finally) learned to ride his bike without training wheels over the weekend. It was difficult to get him to overcome his understandable fear of falling off and hurting himself, but thanks to the patience of my wife and a nice grassy area at the local park to practice without fear of injury, he finally got the hang of it. He even went around the 1.25 mile loop around the park as my wife struggled at times to keep up with him.

For those of us who will never own a motorcycle or a convertible, riding a bike is the closest we'll get to experience what it's like to be a bird. We're riding at relatively high speeds (compared to walking or running), the wind is in our face and we feel like we can go anywhere. It's a freeing sensation that cars can't compare to, mostly due to the whole windshield and safety thing.

So we're going for a bike ride today to help him practice more, though I imagine soon he'll be zooming around the neighborhood experiencing the same kind of freedom a 16-year old does when he or she gets her first driver's license. It's an exciting time for him.

Today's Links (and there's quite a few as I'm still catching up from the holidays):

Cleveland's Terrible Stain - The New York Times has a strong editorial on the failure to indict anyone in the killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

Tamir Rice and America's Tragedy - The New Yorker looks at how the Tamir Rice killing is about more than just one tragedy.

A Farewell to The Washington Post - Longtime newsman Walter Pincus looks at the effect of how public relations are influencing journalism.

Racial Prejudice is Driving Opposition to Paying College Athletes - You likely know I believe college athletes should be paid. Statistically, minorities are more likely to support paying college athletes.

New Expense for College Football Programs: Looking Good - I guess when you don't have to pay the players, but have millions coming in, you've got to spend it somewhere. But at least the players didn't get any.

It's Official: There Never Was a War on Cops - 2015 went down as one of the safest years on record for police, despite claims to the contrary.

The Woman Who Broke the World Record for Visiting Football Stadiums - You'll never guess why she did it.... it was Tinder.

Meet the Man Who Gave Money Away to Anyone Who Asked - Good for this guy, seriously. We could all stand to be more generous and trusting.

Why the Post Office Makes America Great  - As much as we complain about the post office (and I do, even though my dad has worked there for more than 30 years), it's reliability is the envy of much of the world.

Sportswriters: Start Criticizing Your Colleagues - Baseball writer Craig Calcaterra wants sports writing to be more than just the "toy box" of journalism and has a way to improve it.

I'm still on vacation until Wednesday (when my kid goes back to school.) Hopefully this gets back to being more regular (with more blog posts but fewer links) soon. Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Fruit and links for your stockings

I don't know a lot and I'm cool with that. But I enjoy  learning new things, even if they're ultimately inconsequential things like what people get in their stockings at Christmas.

It's fair to say I've never thought about what other people got in their stockings, but as it got to December 24th and I hadn't figured out what to get my wife, I turned to twitter to get some help. One friend responded that she got fruit from her husband every year, which was something I'd never heard of. For me it was always a toothbrush and a deck of cards, some candy and as I got older, deodorant.

So a few days after Christmas, I turned to my facebook friends to find out how common this practice was. It turns out, it's quite common as the overwhelming majority of the 40 or so people who responded said they got fruit, most commonly an orange, in their stocking yearly.

There's a decent chance this is a "duh" moment that I'm writing about, but to me it was a fascinating bit of new information that expands, ever so slightly,

And since it's been a while since I wrote one of these, I've got several links that I've found interesting over the past 10 days or so.

Over the Line - an in-depth look at police shootings in Georgia since 2010. Nearly half of the 184 people shot by police during that time were either shot in the back or unarmed.

Church on Christmas Eve -  Former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman, probably best described as an agnostic raised Jewish, experiences his first Christmas Eve service.

The Tax Sleuth Who Took Down a Drug Lord - Google searches of old chat rooms and blog posts brought down the proprietor of The Silk Road.

Jerry Tarkanian and Walter Byers: Adversaries Who Left Their Mark on NCAA - The architect of the modern NCAA and a coach who challenged it both died in 2015.

As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short - Earning a high school degree means little if it doesn't prepare you for what's next.

A Life Unraveling - The Boston Globe spent a year with a woman trying to recover from heroin addiction. The story is raw but important.

Middy and Me - A writer tells the story of the issues his friend faces from concussions after playing Division III football.

Players Prefer Presentation - Meg Rowley examines the effect of off-field altercations like domestic violence has on opportunity costs that we all pay.

Life Under Siege: Inside Taiz, the Yemeni City Slowly Being Strangled - While ISIS gets the attention, there are other groups doing terrible things that we should be aware of, including what's happening in Yemen.

How ISIS Replaced Ebola - We're in a constant state of fear. Why is that? Charlie Pierce explores why.

That's enough for now. I've got about 10 more links that I'll save for next time.