Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Can't Believe It's Been Two Years Already...

On this day in 2010, my grandmother died. It still feels like only yesterday, probably because of all the time I had spent with her in the last three and a half years of her life. I am fortunate, since I truly knew her; so many people, even in this day and age of longer life expectancy have not had the privilege of knowing their grandparents the way I have known all four of mine.

I remember the day she died very well - it was a Sunday and I was at DeMatha getting set up for the Middle School Academic Challenge, a yearly tournament our quiz bowl team (of which I am a moderator) helps produce along with the school's admissions department. My mom called just before noon crying that Grandma had died; she had been in a hospital bed for a few days in her room in what only could be called hospice. Her breathing had been irregular, but when she did go, it was still a shock.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Of Course They Do...

Feel Safe. OR ELSE!!

From the same administration that has codified assassination of American citizens as well as the infinite detention of the same.  

Safety! Security!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some Observations...

It's been quite some time since I have broken out the quick-hit Sunday Observation feature here on Lattanzi Land.  It usually replaced the football picks during the offseason, but we didn't do that much.  Anyway, here we go...

- A mini war broke out on my Facebook page over the last post.  What's interesting about it is how fast it moved to talking about the whole healthcare bill at large, rather than the fairly narrow point espoused in the original post.  Now, I think this is a good thing - because for all the talk about how much the bill (The 'Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act') was going to improve the health care system and lower costs, it will do neither.  Why is this?  Because when you increase the demand (by allegedly 30 million people) while keeping the supply the same, costs will necessarily have to rise, so the only way to keep costs down is to ration what people can and cannot get.  That day is coming, mark my words.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Law Of Intended Consequences...

Close to six months ago, I blogged that it looked like the Obama administration was going to order insurance companies and health plans to cover contraception without any co-pays.

Starting August 1 of this year (religiously affiliated organizations get a one-year 'delay' and have to be in compliance by August 1 of next year)

Our ever delightful Secretary of Health and Human Services said the following...
“This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services."
The appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.  How...Orwellian.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On Sports Loyalties...

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am not a fan of the Redskins, although I do count fans of them among my closest friends - such is the nature of living in this area for nearly twenty-three years. However, despite not liking the team and actively rooting for the Redskins to finish with double digit losses every season, I can completely respect the loyal fan who knows that this is his team, no matter what.

On that note, I was gratified to read a column by Robert McCartney in the Washington Post Metro section entitled "No Self-Respecting Redskins Fan Dares Root For the Ravens".

(However, there is a caveat to this gratification - I do NOT consider the Ravens to be in any way, shape, or form to be a 'rival' to the Redskins.  At all.  Under any circumstances.  The Redskins' rivals are the Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants.  The Ravens' rivals are the Steelers and Browns.  The fact that they play thirty miles apart is of no consequence.  They don't even play in the same conference, much less the same division.  The Olympics, for God's sake, happen as often as a Ravens-Redskins regular season game.  Ok, so that is now off my chest. Back to the regularly scheduled programming blogging.)

An Interesting Little Thing...

I haven't done one of these little internet memes in the longest time, but since Nick has tagged me as the next in line for what is called the "Liebster Award", which apparently means I am beloved in some fashion (the  explanation can be found here - H/T to Nick) by Sir Nicholas.  Anyway, just wanted to thank Nick for this tagging and such - now on to the major parts of this...


1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Link back to the Blogger (or Bloggers) who awarded you.
3. Answer the following questions, down below.
4. Pass the award out and recognize other Bloggers letting them know that you love them.

Now to the questions....
  • Favorite color: Blue, although I like Green and Black also.
  • Favorite animal: Cats, always.  Especially The Real Author
  • Favorite number: 36
  • Favorite drink: Coke (can't have anymore), Diet Pepsi, Royal Wedding (Crown Royal and RC Cola), and Yuengling.
  • Facebook or Twitter? Facebook, although Twitter does serve its purpose for me.
  • Passion? Baseball, Theology, Politics
  • Getting or giving presents? Giving.  Just as the Prayer of St. Francis says, "It is in giving that we receive" - never have truer words been spoken.
  • Favorite day: November 5th - for an incredibly perverse reason.
  • Favorite flower: Tulips.  Roses are too clichéd for my taste.
He is going to absolutely hate me for doing this, but I select Adam to be the next in the Liebster line.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A View From The Wrong Side...

One of the more interesting things on Deadspin during this NFL season has been the 'roundtable' feature presented during the week.  It is essentially a glorified email exchange, but one of the exchanges today caught my eye, and it's about how 'instant classic' games are seen.  Josh Levin explains...
Some losses are totally meaningless. (For 11 examples, consult the 2011 Washington Redskins game log.) Others, like the Patriots' 45-10 stomping of the Broncos, inflict a pain that's intense but fleeting, the result of an irrefutable beatdown by a superior opponent. A third category—the defeats the Giants piled up during their midseason swoon, for instance—become a part of team lore, the valley before the peak. And then there are the losses in which your team is doomed to forever play the mark in someone else's highlight reel. Depending on where your allegiance lies, these are either known as "classics" or "those times I went catatonic."
As a Philly fan, I can speak to this pretty well on both ends.  For example, a game better known as 'classics' (in Levin's words) would be the longest game in the expansion era (since 1967) of the NHL, when the Flyers took five (yes, FIVE) overtime periods to defeat the Penguins in Game Four of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals.  My dad and I stayed up to watch this until the bitter end.  Never had a wrist shot been as pretty as when Keith Primeau sent one over Ron Tugnutt's left shoulder.  Never had we yelped so loudly at three in the morning.  Even though it 'merely' tied up the series, the Penguins played the rest of the series with a deer-in-the-headlights look and didn't win another game.

The other 'classic' I can think of off the top of my head is the famous '4th and 26' game - the Divisional Round game between the Eagles and Packers at the end of the 2003 season.  It was a devastating loss for the Packers, who only had to stop 26 yards from being gained with just over a minute to go and then couldn't do it, only to let the Eagles tie it up and then lose it to David Akers in overtime.

On the flip side, there is always going to be the two games of the 1993 World Series (Games Four and Six) that fit the 'instant classic' label, but the Phillies were on the losing side of both, including a series ending home run by Joe Carter.  Both of those games induced a catatonic state in the eleven-year-old me.  Interestingly enough, there aren't a lot of these in the other sports, since most of the defeats in football, basketball, and hockey were either full-fledged ass-kickings or losses we were completely expecting without any sort of last second or minute drama involved.   

This is just a reminder that not all losses (or wins for that matter) are created equal.  There are some we will remember much more for many different reasons - a point I covered when I looked at the Levels of Losing.  And so it must be, even if they all count the same technically.

Asininity Of Football Analysis...

I am a regular reader of Mike Florio's ProFootballTalk, and most of the time, the writers (Florio, Rosenthal, Alper, and Smith) posit good information and fairly sound analysis (except during the lockout).  This morning, though, was not one of those times.  

Florio wrote a post entitled 'Saturday's exciting finish shouldn't have happened', with the case being made for Alex Smith taking a knee at the one yard line on his 28 yard touchdown run around the two-minute warning.

On my way home from the gym early this afternoon, I heard Kevin Sheehan (a favorite target of mockery here) make the exact same point on his radio show 'The Sports Fix'.  So it is apparently a point of obviousness to the so-called 'brights' of the football media that this is what Alex Smith should have done.

And they are a bunch of asinine morons.  Every single one of them...

The first and most important thing that they all seem to miss is that the 49ers were trailing at that point in the game.  I kept hearing/reading references to Brian Westbrook from 2007, but there is a HUGE difference between leading and trailing in a game, much less a playoff game. New Orleans was leading 24-23 when Smith took off on the brilliantly executed bootleg and scored.  Competitors score.  Robots and armchair analysts programmed like robots take a fall at the one in the name of 'running out the clock'.  

Secondly, in a game where you are trailing, do you take the six points, or do you give that up for an attempt at a field goal - close as it may be?  Remember this?  Anything can go wrong, especially when a trip to the NFC Championship Game is on the line, and when the game is tied or you are leading, things like this can be risked, but not when trailing.  Just imagine the headline if Akers missed the kick or Lee bobbled the snap...

Why did Alex stop??

Florio says that had this course of action taken place (assuming a kick is made), the Saints would have gotten the ball with forty seconds left - but only needing a field goal to win. Considering that they scored a touchdown in thirty-seven seconds on the next possession, a field goal try in that amount of time is not outside the realm of possibility.  

Alex Smith did the right thing.  He was in the right, and all the armchair quarterbacks are wrong.  Of course, they will never admit to that, preferring to retreat into their silly robotic diagrams and pure hypotheticals that only take place under laboratory conditions.

*UPDATE* - Add Mike Greenberg to the Chorus of Stupid, even after admitting that the scenario would only occur in a perfect world (i.e. laboratory conditions), he still crapped on Smith for not taking the knee at the one.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hall of Fame Results...

First of all, congratulations to Barry Larkin for being elected to the Hall of Fame.  It is a great honor for him, and a very deserving one.  I was always convinced he was worthy, and so did 86% of the voters who submitted their ballots.  Unfortunately, the voters shirked their duties in many other ways....

1) Nine voters actually submitted blank ballots.  That's a good sign that they don't take their job seriously.  Craig Calcaterra over at HBT says the following about this phenomenon:
[T]hey strike me as evidence of a voter whose standards are unreasonably high and who is possessed of a basic failure of performance assessment and a general lack of understanding of baseball history. Whether you’re small-hall, big-hall, anti-PED or PED-apathetic, there has to be at least one candidate who appeals to you, right?

If, on the other hand, a blank ballot is a protest of some kind, such a thing strikes me as evidence that the voter in question is not worthy of his ballot.
2) Guys like Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are still well short of the required 75% - and with a glut of first-time candidates coming onto the ballot over the next 2-4 years, their hills are going to be even higher over that time.  Bagwell and Raines both got a higher percentage this year than last year, but both are more deserving than this.

3) Bill Mueller got a vote!  Swear to God.  It was Pedro Gomez too!

Thank God that Jack Morris didn't get in, although with close to 67% of the vote, he is having that kind of creeping last ballot momentum that propelled Bert Blyleven to Cooperstown.  The difference, of course, is that Blyleven deserved it; Morris does not.  And quite honestly, I am a bit flummoxed by the folks who keep arguing that there isn't an iota of difference between Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell.  Compare their numbers, please.  There is a world of difference, and I went over some of them here.  

I await the 2013 balloting process - it will be a mud fight of proportions never seen before.  Bring it on!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Redux: Idiotic Announcer Terminology

Last winter, around this time for the start of the NFL Playoffs (PLAYOFFS!!???), I presented a series of stupid football announcer clichés and other little statements they love to say ad nauseum with the deranged notion that they are being a) clever, b) deep, or, God help us, c) cool.  They are, of course, none of the above.  

So in 'honor' of the start of the playoffs tomorrow, I felt it prudent to bring these back, especially since any and all sports fans will be exposed to national broadcasting crews who spew these ridiculous tropes nonstop.  The clichés and silly statements presented are mostly indicative of NFL announcers (I don't mention college ones, because a) I don't care, and b) I DON'T CARE!), but they can apply to football announcers at all levels and even the CFL (yes, I watch Canadian football...so sue me).

Anyway, here are the five parts, broken down by terms.  Click on the links to get the full explanations as to why they drive me insane...Enjoy!

Part V - "Football" (As An Adjective And A Noun)

Mid-Terms! And Other Academic Musings...

Before Christmas, there was the lovely process known as semester exams (or midterms), and teaching a full year's course in the New Testament, the examination covered the following major topics of the first semester...

1) The run-up to, and the early life of Christ - in other words, setting up the conditions for his arrival on earth in Bethlehem.  This does matter, believe it or not, especially the attitudes that were fostered within the people of Israel between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago.

2) The preparation for, and the execution of the public ministry of Christ - Baptism, Temptation by Satan, miracles, teachings, the Sermon on the Mount, and the like.  One of my favorite sections to teach.

3) The final weeks of Jesus' life - this actually begins with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, which is the ultimate miracle of the public ministry.  This leads to the conspiracy, then the events of what we now call Holy Week, culminating in the Last Supper, the Agony, the arrest, the trials, and the death and burial of Jesus.

4) The early apostolic age - this begins with the Resurrection of Jesus, and how the Apostles go forward from there.  The unit and semester ends with the Council of Jerusalem - being a springboard to Paul's missionary journey into the Gentile world.

Exciting, isn't it?  Actually, I was going to discuss the exam results (without giving names or sections) and give some reaction to it from a purely data standpoint, but first, I want to place a chart here with the breakdown of sections and grades...

The first thing to note is that there were 122 students over five sections taking this exam; they all took the exact same exam in the exact same room (cafeteria), so there is no sense of different questions or environment that would skew the results.  The total grade distribution of all 122 students is thus...

The A, B, and C range also include any and all minuses that were gained - which are the 0-2 of the 90, 80, and 70 range (i.e. 90-92: A-, 80-82: B-, 70-72: C-).  The average grade of all 122 students was 79.31%, which could actually be inferred from looking at the pie chart - roughly half (64) of the total students scored an 80% or better, and about the same scored lower.  It's obvious which individual group would have the highest average, but I would be willing to bet that figuring out the order in which the groups finished after Group II would be more difficult to ascertain just by deciphering the amount of particular marks, because an 89.9% counts just as much a B just as 80.0% does (no, I don't round up - call me fickle, call me an ass, but numbers don't lie).

This brings me to an idea that has been percolating in my head for about the last year and a half - of applying the principle of Sabermetrics to grading as a way to compare students across sections and even across years. The ultimate goal I have, although I don't know how to implement it, is to make an 'Adjusted Grade' system a permanent part of high school transcripts and college applications.  Consider the problem...

Grade inflation is a bigger issue now than it ever has been, and thus, trying to raise up the best to a higher and more deserved level is ever-more difficult.  Lots of kids get A's, but the real question is: how are they doing in comparison with their peers?  Some high schools have been putting class averages on their transcripts when they send them to college to show that a particular student has been above the fold, but that is a messy proposition.  I say that it should be streamlined and made on a 100-based system, so it's incredibly easy to interpret.  

My inspiration for such a system is the adjusted statistics in Sabermetrics, especially OPS+ and ERA+ - both of these are pretty simple to interpret: 100 is average, and anything above or below is that many percentage points away from 'league average'.  How does this apply to grading and transcripts?  The fundamental principle is to show that not all grades are created equally.  A kid who gets a 95% with a class average of 93.5% does not have as impressive of a grade as a kid who has the 95% with a class average of 75%.  It can mean different things: 1) The instructor is tough and the kid in the class with the lower average grade worked his behind off to attain that 95%; 2) The instructor is easy and is giving away A's like Halloween candy, or 3) the entire class is just very smart, but that still means the kid with the 95% isn't standing out very much.

So at this point, this is all still very much a work in progress - if you couldn't tell by my stream-of-conscious style of rambling over the past couple of paragraphs!  Hopefully in the next few months it starts to come together and it will be pitched to someone (who, I don't know).  But I do know that it is time to try something new in academia.  I expect major push-back, but I think it is worth considering.  What do you think?

Happy Feast of The Epiphany!

This is always one of my favorite days and stories in Scripture - the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem.  Merry Christmas to our brethren in the Eastern Christian traditions!  And finally, January 6th also has a lot of meaning because it was my grandmother's birthday - she would have been eighty today. We all miss her and  pray to see her at the Resurrection. Rest in peace, Grandma.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The New Mass Translation - UPDATE #1

I figured here in the New Year, I would give my thoughts on the Revised Roman Missal as it has been practiced for the past six weeks. Some of you may recall that I did a fisking on an atrocious piece of journalism from the Washington Post a little over two months ago – which was about four weeks before the Revised Missal went into practice here in the United States.

Firstly, I have to say that I was thoroughly amused by the reaction of people at Christmas time who don’t normally attend Mass (the ol’ “C and E” Catholics). It was as if they had no idea that any of this was going on and were completely blown away by this ‘regression into darkness’, with regard to the wording. I am not sure how people could have missed this, though – if it made its way into mainstream papers like the Post and other publications. I suppose that, in their defense, it is a lot different to hear it rather than just read about it – which I can completely understand.

Secondly, I will admit that I have screwed up a good number of times. The biggest one is reflexively starting to say ‘and also with you’, only to switch in the middle of the stream and say something like ‘and also with your Spirit’. Annoying as hell to catch myself doing this. The spot where I tend to do it the most is at the little dialogue prior to the Eucharistic Prayer, because I would be so intent on making sure I said ‘it is right and just’ that I would totally forget to say ‘and with your Spirit’ at the first command ‘the Lord be with you’. I think it will be a whole year before everyone is completely adjusted.

The other main spot of error I keep making is during the Creed – when it comes to discussing the birth of Christ, I have said at least three or four times ‘by the power of the Holy Spirit’, instead of ‘and by the Holy Spirit, he was incarnate…’. Do you know how awkward it is to say that with NO ONE ELSE in the whole church saying it with me? Embarrassed silence ensued from me each time, indeed!

Thirdly, I really, really like the wording of the Institution Narrative in the Eucharistic Prayers. I mentioned it briefly in the fisking, but the changing of the word ‘cup’ to ‘chalice’ is a small, but important feature. In the Latin, it is rendered as ‘calix’, which is a type of cup, and gives it a sense that something sacred is going on. I have said it to quite a few people that the banal and mundane does not really have a place within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Thus, the elevation of our language demonstrates that we are in the ‘other’, that we are in the world, but not of it. The other major change - of ‘for all’ to ‘for many’ - I commented in the fisk:
Look up the actual words that are found in Scripture - Matthew 26:28: ‘this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins’. If you have a beef with the line, take it up with the Lord, not the Church.
Also, words (in the Creed) like ‘consubstantial’ and ‘incarnate’ actually do better than ‘one in being’ and ‘born of’, because they convey the theological meaning that is not necessarily present in the short phrases that we had formerly spoken. Can they be considered ‘awkward’? By our modern American English standards, probably, but it is not the same thing as being ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, and they are more impactful for the same reason as ‘chalice’ being inserted into the Institution Narrative.

So far, I like what I have seen – and for the most part, the faithful in the pews have done well in their adjustment, save for a few cranks that have no sense of irony in complaining about the new wording of the Mass. Otherwise, I expect the relatively smooth sailing to continue. The next update will probably be around Easter time, when we have gone through Lent and the Triduum. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Banished Words of 2011

Each year, Lake Superior State University publishes a list of words that they believe should be banished from the English language due to their ubiquitousness, poor use, or just plain annoyance.  I have covered this the past two years (2009 and 2010 lists and thoughts), and as always, I confess to being guilty of using some of these terms.  Consider it weakness or a character flaw.  To the highlights lowlights...

'Amazing' - this word used to be a great compliment to receive, but now it has achieved through overuse, an annoying connection with banality.  I suppose it's better than 'awesome' (a word I throw around a lot in speech, but not in writing), but when you hear things like a pair of pants being described as 'amazing', you know it is time to dial it back or eliminate it altogether.

'Shared Sacrifice' - usually on these lists, you will see terms that are used by politicians who in turn got them from whatever focus group recommended them (such as 'Shovel-Ready' from a couple years back and 'Win the Future', also on this year's list).  The public has slowly become dumbed down thanks to the nonsense on television, but they aren't so dumb that they can't see that a particular term or phrase is meant to be some kind of euphemism to help the medicine go down.

'Man Cave' - ironically, in commenting on last year's list, The Doyler commented that this term should have been on the list, and so here it is.  Now, I like the idea of a man cave in principle, although I do think it is time to retire the term since it has lost a lot of it's meaning, as one of the people submitting notes:
Overused by television home design and home buying shows, has trickled down to sitcoms, commercials, and now has to be endured during interactions with real estate people, neighbors and co-workers.
Once it started getting used by professional-types, then that's when the term jumped the shark and needs to be replaced.

'The New Normal' - I can't do justice to this one myself, so I will allow the submission to do it for me...
The phrase is often used to justify bad trends in society and to convince people that they are powerless to slow or to reverse those trends. This serves to reduce participation in the political process and to foster cynicism about the ability of government to improve people's lives. Sometimes the phrase is applied to the erosion of civil liberties. More often, it is used to describe the sorry state of the U.S. economy. Often hosts on TV news channels use the phrase shortly before introducing some self-help guru who gives glib advice to the unemployed and other people having financial difficulties.
Couldn't have put it any better.  It's one big rationalization and part of the attempt to make relativism more palatable, even though in and of itself, it will collapse under its own weight.

'Ginormous' - I use this mostly in an ironic sense, because as many note, it is a bit ridiculous to combine 'gigantic' and 'enormous'.  It is an awkward turn of phrase and just sounds like something a teenager would say (and I would know, given what I do for a living).  Just stick to the tried and true words like big, or consult the large amount of synonyms.

'Thank You In Advance' - guilty of this one periodically.  A better explanation than I can give is...
Usually followed by 'for your cooperation,' this is a condescending and challenging way to say, 'Since I already thanked you, you have to do this.
Well said.  This is mostly used in emails, and when I do use it, it's where I exclusively use it.

If there are any others, please put them in the comment thread and the reasons why they should be banned.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lattanzi Land 2012 Hall of Fame Ballot

Every year the Baseball Writers Association of America has the opportunity to put retired or deceased players into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. The rules for election require that a player needs to be named on seventy-five percent of all submitted ballots. He can remain on the ballot if he does not gain election for up to fifteen years, provided that the player has received at least five percent of the ballots. I have written about changing this process but this is the system we have.

I did a full ballot for last year's vote, discussing which players I felt deserved Hall of Fame election if I actually had a BBWAA vote; I don’t obviously, but this isn’t stopping me from sharing my opinion on the issue. Just as last year, I am separating into four categories – 1) HELL-No, 2) No, 3) Borderline, and 4) Yes.  The first two involve merely the lists of the players (there are 27 players on the ballot for this year), and the latter two involve explanations. What I am doing for the players who were on the ballot last year is excerpting what I wrote last time along with any kind of notes that should have been added since then.

If you want to look up stats - go here - the Baseball-Reference complete ballot, with links to each player's page.  When I cite stats, I use Baseball-Reference's plethora.  We begin the ballot after the jump...