Saving Baseball

I realize as I write this that there are only about three baseball fans left in America and that America’s Pastime has become more America’s Big Meh. Still, I really think this is unfortunate and in an effort to save baseball from itself I have devised a plan.

I would like to institute a simple handicapping system based on team payrolls. When a higher-paid team plays a lower-paid team, the lower-paid team’s players would receive an additional strike for every ten million dollars the higher paid team receives above what they receive.

Thus, if the New York Yankees ($197,962,289 starting 2012 payroll) played the Kansas City Royals ($60,916,225 starting 2012 payroll), the Yankees’ players would receive the traditional three strikes per at bat while the Royal’s players would receive the traditional three strikes plus fourteen more.

I believe this handicapping system would put some competition back in the sport and make it interesting once again for most people. Plus, it would benefit the players as well who otherwise may be forced to take real jobs and actually earn a living once they manage to run off their handful of remaining fans.

Reflection for October 18

Christ sent the disciples out in pairs on His mission, telling them “behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.”

What a radical faith in Jesus it takes to obey such a mandate. Can you imagine being given such a task? Go out, He says, without your Visa and your MasterCard; you won’t need them. I will provide what you need, not on expense account but directly to you. Don’t take that trendy and stylish messenger bag with your Kindle and your iPhone and your Gameboy.  Those are just distractions; they take your mind away from the things that should occupy it. Don’t even take your shoes with you, He says. He is telling us that we think we need so many things of the world, when what we really need is God Himself. God provides.

And do not stop along the road to visit or to gossip. Recall that when the Lord sent Elisha forth in Second Kings to lay his staff on the body of the dead child, he was sent in haste. He was told to speak to no one along the way. His task was too important; time was too much of the essence.

This is how Christ sends His disciples forth. He is giving them an apostolic mission, and it takes a radical faith in the Lord to accept such a mission. It takes a firm belief that God is sending you, and that you are important to Him. He will not forget you; He will not abandon you. In fact, He will be with you every step of the way, providing everything you need.

Authentic Christian discipleship can only be undertaken with this sort of faith. God may not call all of us to visit foreign cities to spread the Gospel, but He does call all of us to specific tasks. Often, our success depends on our faith in God. Do we load ourselves up for the journey with things we think we will need, but in fact will only serve to distract, or do we put our faith in God to lead us to the end He desires? It takes great faith to trust that deeply in the Lord; as Christians, that is the faith to which we are called.

Reflection for October 17

“The works of the flesh are obvious,” St. Paul writes to the Galatians, and he lists many examples. As we look down the list, it seems very clear that these evils are still very much a part of our world. I don’t know how rampant sorcery is today, although I have heard it suggested that what is called “sorcery” in Scripture would include abortion, in which case it is very rampant today.

I’ve got a very clear understanding of how common selfishness is. And jealousy. And hatred. And so on down the list.

But we as Christians are called to something else. We are called to the knowledge that these immoral acts and those like them can only lead to misery and slavery to sin… and eventually to our ruin. But we were created for something much more than that. We were created for the joy and freedom that comes from living in communion with God.

God, in His mercy, sends us the Holy Spirit, and, as St. Paul writes, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” It is in these that we discover our true happiness and our true freedom because it is in these that we come ever closer to the Lord and to the life we were always meant to live. It is through the grace of God and discipleship in Christ that we come to understand that the fruit of the Spirit is both the means and the end of a genuine Christian life.

The Squirrel Survives

I was on the back porch practicing with one of my slingshots. And, yes; I mean it when I say one of them. I am a grown man who owns multiple slingshots, and I practice with them. Anyway, I was practicing with one of them shooting chickpeas at a six-inch steel target on a metal sculpture near a tree about twenty yards away.

The advantage to shooting chickpeas is that they are light and cheap. Unlike, say, a lead ball of similar size, they don’t go very far. Also, they don’t accidentally break the neighbor’s window or kill his cat if I miss the little steel target. The disadvantage is that between being very light and frequently marginally to moderately ballistically eccentric, they don’t always fly straight and true.

So, I’m plinking away at the target and getting a resounding ping about half the time when all of a sudden a squirrel pops out from behind the tree just above my target. Naturally, I looked at him. Equally, naturally, that changed my point of aim… just as I let the chickpea fly. Now, if some chickpeas wander a bit in their flight path, then this was the speeding bullet of chickpeas. No deviation. No variation. It flew from my slingshot to the target without wandering even so much as a hair from its flight path.

Thwack! I got him square in the hindquarters. Now, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t seriously injured and I actually do feel pretty bad about hitting him at all, but hit him I did… and it was enough to knock him out of the tree. I’m also – and I say this having heard the squeaks and squawks he made upon impact with the ground – reasonably sure I was roundly cussed in squirrel tonight.

My dog Ladybird was on the back porch with me and she was, as she customarily is when I am shooting chickpeas out into the yard, only moderately interested in what was going on… that is, until she saw her arch-enemy the squirrel suddenly and forcibly decamped from its tree and deposited unceremoniously in a heap on the ground. Instantly, she had laser focus. She knew an opportunity when she saw it and she was not about to let it pass without taking immediate action.

‘Bird was off at top speed in a straight line for the squirrel. Now, the squirrel could have just gone back up the same tree he came out of… but that would have meant taking a step-and-a-half toward a charging, snarling, slobbering bundle of bloodlust and fang, and squirrels just don’t do that. (Note: I am being dramatic in ‘Bird’s description for the sake of the squirrel’s little remaining dignity. In truth, she has never snarled in her life. And if she did one day happen to catch the squirrel, I am quite certain it would end badly for her. I am equally convinced that the squirrel is out there somewhere in a tree sharing a walnut with a squirrel buddy and saying, “I swear to the Nutfather… the last thing I heard before being beaned with a bean was someone shouting ‘At my signal, unleash garbanzo hell!’”)

So the squirrel spins and charges up the next nearest thing. A chain-link fence.

It was at this point that the neighbor’s boxer decided to lend an assist. It was also at this point that I knew that neither dog was really serious about catching the squirrel, because the slow speed chase that ensued down the length of the fence was absolutely hilarious, and either dog could have quite easily snatched the squirrel off the fence at any time.

Though the squirrel’s diminutive little squirrel legs were enough to propel him awkwardly along the chain-link fence, they were not long enough to lift him clear of the points on the fence, each of which took its turn poking him in his soft, squirrelly undercarriage, which of course only succeeded in adding to the insult and injury that he was suffering.

It was about a fifty-foot run down the fence, which must have seemed like an eternity to the wobbling, cussing squirrel but passed entirely too fast for the dogs, who though saddened by it were forced to abandon their pursuit when the squirrel made it to the next tree and was able to make good his escape.

Ladybird returned to the porch with a doggie grin on her face spreading from floppy ear to floppy ear and, I am quite certain, the notion that I had purposefully knocked the squirrel down for her. As for me, I hope squirrels do not have much of a long-term memory, otherwise I expect to see that squirrel out front as I leave tomorrow, ready to rain walnut death from above.

The Sign of Peace

On February 24, 1981, Pope John Paul II celebrated the first Mass in Japan ever celebrated by a pope. He began his homily, in Japanese, by quoting John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” The Holy Father went on to teach that these are the words of Christ to His disciples, and that these words are addressed as much to us today as they were to the disciples then, for “In this way, Christ Himself every day shares with us His peace, just as He shares with us his Body and Blood in the Eucharistic species … From this place, in which the Eucharistic liturgy is celebrated, the sign of peace spreads out in great waves to people, to families, to neighborhoods, to nations, to the whole human family.”

The Sign of Peace is not simply an expression of goodwill, nor is it just a greeting. It is something that we are given in and through Christ and a way of living to which we are called. We do not simply wish for peace for others; we ourselves become peace, and we give witness to the Peace of Christ through the manner of our lives and through our relationships.

Christ calls us to love our neighbor as our self and to pray for those who persecute us. This is only possible if we become that to which we are called: a vessel for the peace of Christ, so that through us God’s peace may spread to our families, neighborhoods, the nation, to our whole human family.

Beef Frankfurters

Unlabeled Toxic Ingredients
BENZENE HEXACHLORIDE, Carcinogenic.
DACTHAL, Carcinogenic (can be contaminated with dioxin); irritant; strong sensitizer.
DIELDRIN, Carcinogenic; xenoestrogen.
DDT, Carcinogenic; xenoestrogen.
HEPTACHLOR, Carcinogenic; neurotoxic; reproductive toxin; xenoestrogen.
HEXACHLOROBENZENE, Carcinogenic; neurotoxic; teratogenic.
LINDANE, Carcinogenic; neurotoxic; damage to blood forming cells.
HORMONES: Carcinogenic and feminizing.
ANTIBIOTICS: Some are carcinogenic, cause allergies and drug resistance.

Labeled Ingredient
NITRITE, Interacts with meat amines to form carcinogenic nitrosamines which are a major risk factor for childhood cancers.

Music Pirates

There was a very interesting op-ed article that ran the other day by an executive in the music recording industry who was writing about the theft of music online, and the impact that has on the music industry. He thought that “piracy” was too benign of a word; he wrote of the billions of dollars lost each year through illegal copying of music and of the toll this has in terms of jobs lost, which, according to him, was more than 70,000 jobs.

It cannot be overstated that theft is wrong. Within a Christian context, there are only extremely limited instances in which theft can be either justified or excused; stealing music, music piracy, online “sharing,” or any other form of illegal music copying is never justified. A person who engages in such activities is engaging in a sinful activity, and what follows should in no way be taken as a justification of such activities; two wrongs do not make a right. That having been said, there is another side to the music executive’s argument that I believe deserves pointing out.

It borders on laughable that someone who represents an industry that has been peddling sex, drugs and rock-and-roll (largely to minors) would seek the moral high-ground when he feels himself aggrieved and his industry cheated. The music industry’s stock-in-trade for fifty years has been moral corruption and rebellion against every form of authority, and now they have the audacity to complain of being themselves slighted when what they have preached for so long is put into practice in such a way that it negatively impacts their bottom line.

Certainly, it would be wrong to condone theft of any sort, be it the theft practiced when music is downloaded illegally online or the theft of decency that has so long been practiced by many record labels in their pursuit of absurd profits and in their pandering to the basest of prurient concepts and the glorification of all forms of immodest behavior. Theft is theft and is by its nature wrong, but the master thief has no right to claim grievous injury when the apprentice whom he trained steals from him.

That the music industry considers “piracy” too benign a word to describe the act of stealing music is, in my opinion, absurd. But, I do have a different word to offer them for their use: sin. It is a word with which they should reacquaint themselves. For far too long, they have ignored its meaning while glorifying its pursuit, and now the only possible outcome of such recklessness has become a reality: sin destroys always; that is its nature. It is hardly a surprise that the music industry now suffers the effects of what it has so long promoted.

Great Pizza Crust Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Warm Water, 110 Degrees or so
  •  1 Tablespoon of honey
  • Packet of Dry Yeast (Approx 2 1/4 t.)
  • 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons of salt
  • 1 Cup dark Rye flour
  • 1 Cup Quinoa flour
  • 1/2 Cup Teff flour

Cookin’ It Up

Mix water, yeast and honey until dissolved. Add oil and salt. Mix in the flour, and let the dough rise. Give it at least half an hour. Longer works, too. Spread it on a pizza stone, top, and bake at 425ish until the crust is done and the toppings look like pizza.