Archive for April, 2007

Oracle the top boat!

Monday, April 30th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background)

The first round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup wrapped up over the weekend.  The great news is that the Oracle team is in 1st place.  They only lost one race, a tight one to the hometown favorites Desafio Espanol.  In that race, the Spanish got a great start, squeezed Oracle out, forced them to tack away on the first beat and managed to hang onto that lead for the rest of the race.  More importantly, Oracle beat both of the other favorites, Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand (TNZ) in their races, concreting their spot as the boat to beat in the LV Cup.

Go BMW Oracle!  Bring the Cup home!

America’s Cup action

Monday, April 30th, 2007

For those who don’t know me well, my main sport is sailing.  I never played organized football in high school (and of course that means no college either), but I was one of the bay area’s best youth sailors.  I won’t bore you with my list of championships won as a teen, because the point of this post isn’t my accomplishments.  I’m just giving some background on the below post and follow up posts on the America’s Cup:

The Americas Cup is the superbowl of sailing.  It’s where the big boys go with their VERY expensive toys to prove that they’re the best.  The America’s cup happens every three to four years and the cost of a competitive campaign is around 200 million dollars.  Since sponsorship dollars can’t raise that much, most of the sydicates are owned by billionares like Larry Ellison (of Oracle fame) or Ernesto Bertarelli (a biotech billionare) or Patrizio Bertelli (of Prada fashion fame) and then supplimented by sponsorship dollars.

The America’s Cup dates back to 1851 when a US boat called “America” sailed to England and won a race around the Isle of Wright called the “One Hundred Guinea Cup”.  It then took the trophy back to the US and dared challengers from England to come take it back.  Over time, more countries became interested in winning the cup from the US.  With each successive victory, the cup more firmly established its name as the Americas Cup.  In fact, the winning streak of the US lasted 132 years (the longest sports winning streak ever) and 24 victories before the Austrailians won it in 1983.  In 1987, the next race after 1983, the US won it back, defended it twice in 1988 and 1992 before losing it to New Zealand in 1995.  New Zealand became the first country outside the US to successfully defend in 2000, in the first cup match that didn’t include a US team.  In 2003, New Zealand lost the cup to Switzerland.

Which brings us to the 2007 cup, currently going on in Valencia, Spain (nowhere to sail in Switzerland)…

The format of the America’s Cup is fairly complicated.  Unlike most boat races where there are lots of boats in the same race, the America’s Cup is what is called match racing.  There are only two boats in each race.  Furthermore, because one race isn’t very indicative of who the better boat is, there is a series of races, similar to how basketball and hockey have 7 game series to determine the winner.  In the America’s Cup, it’s a best of 9 series.

To add to the complication, more than one country is interested in challenging for the cup each time it is held.  Some times there is more than one challeger from a single country (Italy has 3 this time).  As a result, there is a long regatta held before the America’s Cup to determine who gets the right to challenge for the Cup.  That regatta is called the Louis Vuitton Cup.  For 2007 the format of the LV is as follows:

  • There will be two round robins, where each boat races every other boat.
  • At the end of those round robins, the top 4 teams (two points for each win in the round robins plus 1-4 points for seeding based on pre-LV Cup racing) will go to the semi-finals, a best of 9 series.
  • The winners will race in the LV Cup finals, another best of 9 series.
  • The winner of that series gets to race in the Americas Cup.

This year there are 11 challengers.  Only one of those teams is from the US, BMW Oracle Racing.  It’s funded by Larry Elison, CEO of Oracle and is sponsored by the Golden Gate Yacht club (each team needs a yacht club sponsor) in San Francisco.  Three different Bay Area yacht clubs (Golden Gate, St. Francis and San Francisco) have challenged for the Cup over the years and although they’ve come very close, they’ve never been able to win.  The Cup was always raced in New York during it’s first stint in the US for 132 years and was then in San Diego for its second stint.  If BMW Oracle were to win, the Cup would be brought back to the Bay Area for it’s next iteration in the 2011 timeframe.  For all Bay Area sailors, the idea of the Cup being in the Bay Area is very thrilling, and so we’ll all be rooting for BMW Oracle to win, as will most US sailors who want to see the America’s Cup back home.

Next up… the current LV Cup standings.

List of Cal Bears taken in draft

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Here’s the final list:

  • Marshawn Lynch: 1st round, 12th pick to the Buffalo Bills
  • Brandon Mebane: 3rd round, 22nd pick (85 overall) to Seatle Seahawks
  • Daymeion Hughes: 3rd round, 32nd pick (95) to Indianapolis Colts
  • Desmond Bishop: 6th Round, 18th pick (192) to Green Bay Packers

Overall, I’m glad for those players because they all ended up on teams with either a tradition of winning or currently very strong.  In the end I thin the Bills and the Colts will be most happy with their picks long term, with perhaps the Packers getting the best deal of the bunch but it’s hard to say.

Neither Tim Mixon nor Mickey Pimentel were selected, which makes sense overall.  I’ve always thought Mixon was great, but I think college may be the top of the ladder for a guy of his size.  While he was a great shutdown corner against average WRs, he had a tendency to get burned against speedy recievers.  That was partially a speed issue and partially symtomatic of how he played, very agressively.

Finally, I think the numbers show just how good of a coaching staff is in Berkeley.  As I was scanning the list, I saw 3 instances of some college named “Stanford”, two in the 3rd round.  Obviously 3 guys don’t make a team, but nevertheless it is a sign that there is talent on that team.  Obviously the big schools out there like USC had far more than 4 players picked.  In other words, Cal is still ramping up on getting elite talent and to be in the position it is now, where two out of the last 3 years it has given the concensus best college football team of the decade a run for their money for the Pac-10 crown, is a sign of just how well coached Cal is.

Further proof that the Catholic Church is growing

Friday, April 27th, 2007

In an number of recent articles I’ve linked to on this blog, the claim of the Catholic Church shrinking and dying is frequently errantly reported.  I usually make sure to correct them on that, but just so there is no doubt, here is an article about the growth of Christianity and particularly of those Christian denominations that actually have stuck to their beliefs instead of bowing to modern crap-theology.

One particular note about the article is that I thought understated the growth of the Catholic Church was the use of percentages instead of raw numbers.  It’s not hard for a smaller denomination like the Mormons and Assembly of God churches to grow 15+% over a decade because of their size.  The 15% the Catholic Church grew in the same decade is a HUGE number.  In fact, that 9 million additional people is more people than the entire population of any organized denomination in the US besides the southern Baptists, including the Mormons.  Said another way, if for some miraculous reason the Catholic Church was able to convince the Episcopalians, the Assembly of God, the Presbyterians AND the Pentacostals to join the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church still would not have grown as much as it did in the last decade.

What to do with accused priests

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I found this article about the lack of due process for accused priests very interesting.

One of the most overlooked aspects of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is how to deal with priests who have been accused.  Of course, it goes without saying, that it is more important to first consider protecting children before one considers the issue of handling the priests.  However, that doesn’t remove our obligation to treat every human being with the dignity they deserve.  The reality is that even the worst criminals who are put in jail are still given a place to live (the jail) and food to eat.  So what do we do with priests who are accused to both protect our children while accepting that when the priest was ordained the Church took on the duty to provide for them?

I think it is a very difficult issue, one that I’m not sure the article did a good job of addressing.  Furthermore, I think it is important to note that we face the same issue in civil society.  When a crime merits refusing bail, we still take the freedom of that criminal away while they are still presumed innocent.  If they later are found not-guilty they get no more than an “oops” from the state despite the fact that the state took their life away from them for at least a year in most cases.  Similarly the complaints about feeling obligated to take early retirement feel a lot like a plea-bargain.  Often times they are done not to admit guilt but to find the most pain-free way out of a bad situation.  I’ve seen many articles in the news where the accused felt “forced” to accept a plea-bargain in a civil trial.

To some degree, it sounds like the current process within the Church has a similar format to civil courts.  There is an initial analysis/hearing to determine if there could potentially be any merit to the case, similar to an arraignment.  Then there is what is effectively a “preliminary trial” done by the diocese.  The final trial does not occur until the Vatican gets involved.  That all sounds pretty good.

However, there are three aspects of the current process that worry me:

  1. The most troubling to me is the level of penalty the “preliminary trial” can assess.  Layicizing a priest doesn’t sound like a “preliminary” action.  While removing them from ministry and even notifying the public of that may be necessary for both safety and PR issues, denying that person their ordinational right while still awaiting the full trial seems inappropriate.
  2. The next issue that exists is one that is addressed in US law that probably is missing from the Church canonical process: the right to a speedy trial.  I know it can take the Vatican years to get around to these types of trials, which is unacceptable if a man’s life is hanging in the balance.  It further makes the “preliminary trial” all to much like the final trial.
  3. Finally, the housing and income of the priest.  I’m very concerned that they can be cut loose when guilt has not been conclusively determined.  I’m fine with forcing them to live at a retreat house or something similar, but denying them their Church income and telling them to go find their own means of living while they are still presumed innocent is unfair.

To some degree I am OK with the idea that the Church overshot in its initial reaction to the crisis.  It was an important time to make sure as many loopholes as possible were closed for those who were abusing our children and, as a result, robbing our money through the lawsuits brought against the Church.  However, it is important that over time the Church refine its processes so as to protect both the rights of our children and the rights of our priests who have dedicated their lives to serving God and the Church.

Hopefully articles like this can help the Church to continue in a prayerful and thorough analysis to determine what if any revisions of the norms need to be made.

drowning man to coast guard: do you know what your problem is?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

(hat tip to Mark Shea for the analogy in the title and the link to the column)

I can’t decide what aspect of this column about more women deciding to stay at home after having children bothers me the most.

Perhaps it is just how misguided Ms. Hirshman is about the value and impact of a stay at home mom.  Why staying at home to raise children is at all relevent to “participation in public life allows women to use their talents and to powerfully affect society”  I’m not sure I’ll ever know.  Is she really trying to tell us that to all of the stay at home moms who use part of their time to help in their community at schools and libraries and homeless shelters and churches and hospitals and a host of other important “public” entities are not “participating in the public life”?

And that says nothing of the value and importance of children being raised by people who are doing it for more than the financial benefits of running a childcare facility.

Perhaps it is the amazingly biased use of words like “pressure” to refer to the reasons mothers decided to stay at home while she stares down her nose at stay at home moms who are “doing the easy thing”.  Is she really so incapable of reading her own writings to see the distain she has for those who choose to stay home in her desire to see them “liberated” from it?

And that says nothing of the financial strain that many families find themselves under that pressures women who would otherwise stay at home to work.

Perhaps it is the complete refusal to recognize that it is indeed a matter of choice even though she quotes in her column the evidence that makes it clear: “New mothers with husbands in the top 20 percent of earnings work least, the report notes.” and “they are unlikely to affect the behavior of the highly educated women with the highest opt-out rates.”  Is she really so incapable of seeing that there might just be something to this staying at home thing considering it is the smartest women and the women with the financial means who are staying at home the most?

And that says nothing of… um… OK, I can’t keep up the format forever.

Perhaps, as an extension of the above point, the troubling yet odd libertarian mindset of putting choice as the arbitor of all government decisions…. unless that decision happens to be a traditional one, in which case we need to compel those people to comply with what the column’s author believes is right.

However, in the end, I think  commenter John Henry on Mark Shea’s blog summarized the column, and hence the err in it, best:

“All the progress I have poored my life into is being flushed by the rising generation.”

I guess when it is put that way I have some sympathy for Ms. Hirshman.  It is hard to see what one has worked hard to accomplish undone.  However, in this case, I think it is the chickens coming home to roost.  After the baby boomers spent a generation telling their parents that they don’t care about the collective wisdom their parents had to pass on to them, it is fitting that the following generation is giving them a dose of their own medicine.

Maybe, just maybe, we have found that life’s meaning has less to do with work and more to do with God and our families and we really don’t care that we’re undoing The Feminist Cause ridiculously displayed in the column.

What does freedom of religion mean?

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

I’m a pretty precise kinda guy.  I like things to have clearly defined lines, particularly when it comes to the goverment.  The reason I bring this up is because I find myself more and more confused as time goes on with what exactly the 1st Amendment means and should mean.  In my latest moment of confusion I read this blog post about a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for their resolution condemning the morals of the Catholic Church.

Obviously I think the city of San Francisco is run by anti-Catholic bigots who are the biggest hypocrits ever for their constant message of “just let people live their lives the way they want… unless you want to live a Christian life.”  But just because I think it was a horrible resolution doesn’t mean I think it is worthy of a lawsuit based on 1st Amendment grounds.

Just for clarity, The 1st Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

It’s a pretty broad statement that says more than just “freedom of religion”.  But in regards to religion is says 3 things:

  1. It is illegal for the government to set up its own religion (called ‘the establishment clause’)
  2. It is illegal for the government to prevent people from practicing their own religion (called ‘the free exercise clause’)
  3. It is illegal for the government to prevent people from preaching their religion to others (called… um… the free speach clause?)

Generally the thing that I find difficult to determine is what a “religion” is from a legal standpoint.  Lots of people have religious beliefs that are illegal.  I’m pretty sure it is still illegal for canabals to eat human flesh, even human flesh of someone who consented to be eaten after their natural death.  As such, for obvious reasons, there is both a history and a good reason to bound the free exercise clause to mean “within reason”.  But who decides what “within reason” means?  It’s not just about infringing on the rights of others, as my canabal example shows.  And who is to decide what “within reason” means?  It can’t be the general population/majority because this clause is a right that is there to protect the minority.

So it’s all very confusing to me from a purely theoretical standpoint.  What I do know is that my Catholic faith should be protected because it historically and currently falls “within reason” and I’m fairly sensitive to the way our country is going with regards to infringing on Catholics right to practice our religion.  There are currently laws on the books in regards to abortion and birth control that place minor limit the rights of Catholics to practice their religion by compelling them to either act in a way their religion finds objectionable or refer others (which is in itself an afront to Catholics) to someone who will act in an objectionable way.  I fully believe that this trend will continue and there will be more significant legal abuses of the 1st Amendment against Catholics that will have to be fought all the way up to the Supreme Court.  As such, despite my theoretical confusion, I find in practice the 1st Amendment essential for Catholics in this country, despite being vague and confusing.

But this case against the city of San Francisco has nothing to do with my above confusion.  The city council is in no way preventing people from exercising their faith nor from having free speach.  So really, at least based on numbers two and three in my list, there is no case against SF.

Which brings me to my new confusion.  What does the establishment clause really mean?  And I guess in some way this comes back to the original confusion of, what exactly defines a religion?  We know that athiesm is indeed a religion from the various lawsuits athiests have brought forward protecting their right to practice their religion, so “having a God” is not a requirement for a religion.  So is all that is required a set of moral beliefs?

If that is the case, any time the goverment speaks to what is right and what is wrong (separate from what is legal and illegal), they’ve broken the establishment clause.  They have created a moral framework and if that’s all that is required to call your beliefs a religion, the government does it ALL THE TIME.  It does this on both sides.  We’ve got the various sex education measures that are constantly pushing a certain morality.  Yet on the other side, the Catholic Church in the US, which is very aware of the issues surrounding the 1st Amendment and is very protective of its freedom is constantly calling on the government to make moral proclamations.

So it’s all very confusing to me.

One take-away I have from this case is that I think it would be wise for the government to take a step back from the highly public service announcement model it has evolved into, including how it teaches things in public schools.  While there are minimums that can reasonably be taught without getting into murky areas, we long ago crossed over that line.  Somewhere the line between reasonable minimums like “don’t break the law” or getting the facts out like “AIDS can kill you” and making moral pronouncements like “teen pregnancy is bad” (purposely chosen for it’s lack of controversy) got blurred and then forgotten.  Perhaps it is time to re-draw that line.

As to whether there is actually a case against SF, I’m still not sure.  My gut says yes because not only were they making a moral statement, one that reeks of a anti-Christian religions mindset, but also because their statement was directed at a specific religion as opposed to a general “this is good” statement.  At the same time, I’m not so sure how to specifically corolate that to the specifics of what the 1st Amendment requires without breaking tons of reasonable precident.

Sports and faith

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Today, the combination of two different blog posts (one from Mark Shea about a new documentary and one varia post on TBIOOTF that ends with the following video that you must see) helped me to find the words to comment on the Virginia Tech tragedy in a way that could sound crass but I believe is meaningful.

One of the reasons I love college football over pro football is because college football is about more than an owner and his team.  The NFL tries to deceive people into thinking they are there for the community just like corporations try to fool people into thinking their motives are bigger than the bottom line, but it’s all a joke.  The reality is that the job of the NFL is to make the 32 owners money just like it is the job of corporations to make money for their owners/shareholders.  Sometimes the best way to do that is by being a “good citizen” but in the end, they exist for one and one reason only.

Not so with college sports.

There are many out there that think college football is just as comercial as pro football.  While it may seem that way, and while there are definitely comercial aspects of college football, the reality is there is far more there.  To make my case I give you two proofs:

  1. Name me a pro-football team that has “boosters” who are willing to donate money to the cause?
  2. There was no talk of the New Orleans colleges and University leaving for a new town like there was with the Saints after Katrina.

At it’s heart, college sports are about people.  It’s about students at a college and the alumni who used to go there.  It’s about the hope and pride of those individuals.  No matter what happens, those people have a link to that college.  The college can’t just move and no longer be the Houston Oilers and now is the Tennessee Titans.  Nope.  My diploma will always have the same name on it.  I will always be bound to that school.  While in good times it will be easy for me to show my pride, it is just as true that in bad times I can not deny my ties to them.

That’s why when I watch the video I linked above, it gives me chills and makes my eyes water.  Because it’s the same people who filled that stadium with hope and joy who were struck down by fear and sadness last week.

May God give peace to those affected by the tragedy so that they may again find hope and joy. 

Post-Spring depth chart released

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

The post-spring practice depth chart for the Cal Bears has been released.  You can find it here.  This is always interesting to look at because it is the only real quantitative data one gets from spring practice.  One can only trust all the quotes one gets from the coaches so much.  They’re playing a delicate game of cat and mouse with the other coaches of the Pac-10, the media and their players.  Everything is a bit too veiled to take too much away.

But the depth chart has cold hard facts.  It has who would start and who would be the backup if the season started tomorrow.  Here are my thoughts on it:


No surprises here.  Even the offensive line, the one area in flux, turned out just about as everyone expected.  Probably the most noteworthy thing is that, again as expected, Montgomery is indeed Forsett’s backup at tailback.  Considering just how much talent there is at RB, it would not have been surprising for there to have been a surprise here… er… you know what I mean.


The biggest surprises here at cornerback and linebacker.  Robert Peele, a guy who got a fair amount of playing time last year in a backup role in the defensive backfield but didn’t get that much attention during spring ball, locked up the spot across from Syd’Quan Thompson.  Charles Amadi takes the backup role along with Darian Hagan the backup behind Syd’Quan.  The backups were frequently mentioned as the likely candidates for the starting role, so the Peele decision is, at least to me, somewhat of a surprise.

The other surprise is that Zack Follett didn’t get a starting role at linebacker.  He’s still fighting it out at strong-side linebacker with Justin Moye and is consider the backup to Anthony Felder on the weak-side.  I would have expected him to get one of the two jobs to himself with how strong of a spring he had. 

Outside of that, the fairly wide-open situation on the defensive line now is a little clearer with Cody Jones, Matt Melele, Mika Kane and Tyson Alualu getting the starting nods across the front.  The only one of the 4 that may have pulled a little bit of a coup is the sophmore Alualu who got an defensive end nod over senior John Allen.  Rulon Davis may feel a little snubbed as well on the other end.

Special teams:

No surprises at all here.  The only noteworthy thing is that Justin Forsett, Lavelle Hawkins and James Montgomery will be fighting it out to return kickoffs next year.  Since the ball will be moved back 5 yards next year, there will be a lot more return opportunities meaning a good return man will be very important.

That’s it!  I’d like to welcome you to the slowest part of the football calendar.  No recruiting news.  No practices.  No calendars to be announced.  No TV info.  Nothing besides the potential sounds of precisely thrown beer glasses from frustrated backup quarterbacks to hold us over until early August when fall ball starts.

Happy Anniversary Benedict XVI

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Today is the 2nd Anniversary of Pope Benedict’s election.  I still remember with fondness the memory of his election.  Since that time he has come under fire from just about every political group for one thing or another.  Too liberal about the middle east, too conservative about sexual issues, too liberal about immigration, too conservative about sexual issues, too liberal about care for the poor, too conservative about sexual issues, too liberal about torture, too conservative about sexual issues.  So the evil conservative is routinely denouced in the media for being an evil conservative.

Personally, I think he’s done a fine job and clearly is doing his best to follow God.  He is neither conservative nor liberal.  He is merely Catholic.

UPDATE on 4/20: Do yourself a favor and go check out the comments on the post Where were you? at Amy Welborne’s blog.  It brings joy to my heart to read similar experiences to my own of the pure and unexplainable anticipation and joy of the papal election.