Archive for August, 2005

Finally a prayer for those in New Orleans and the surrounding areas

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

I wanted to make this post last so that it would be on top. Despite the failures that helped exaserbate this disaster, the people down there deserve our prayers:

Heavenly Father, we pray today for all those who have been affected by this tragedy. For our sake, bring those who have lost their lives into your heavenly kingdom, forgiving them their sins. Give comfort and peace to those who have lost loved ones. Help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods to find their daily bread and to take comfort in their family and friends. Help all those who are rushing to assist those in need to be able to deliver the services that will help save more lives and bring comfort to those who have lost so much. We ask this through Christ our Lord, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Repairing and maintaining our levees

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

I was reading an article about the hurricane disaster in New Orleans when I came across the following quote:

“New Orleans, which lies below sea level, has 350 miles of hurricane levees built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane, according to the Corps of Engineers. The Category 4 Hurricane Katrina caused two levee collapses”

People need to realize that when things are designed for a certain set of parameters (like what category hurricane they’re designed to withstand) we can’t fault those things when they fail when pushed beyond those limits.

What really is to blame in this case is the failure to build levees designed for a higher category hurricane. I mean it’s just nuts to not pump the needed money into proper storm protections when there are so many lives and so much property behind those levees. I can understand not building really expensive levees when all that is being protected is 8 houses and 1000 acres of farm land. For those resources it is reasonable to have a levee breach every 50 to 100 years. But the ENTIRE city of New Orleans is behind those levees. Those levees should be built to withstand category 5 (isn’t that the highest level?) hurricanes. Sure New Orleans only gets hit with one of those every few hundred years (I’m just guessing), but the fact is that every few hundred years it happens.

And it makes sense from a purely financial perspective. I’m sure the relief effort in this case is going to cost several billions of dollars. I’m also sure that the cost difference for building and maintaining those larger levees can’t be 100 million (earth fill levees are surprisingly cheap). In the long run you’ll save a fortune by spending the money up front to protect the town.

Hell, just the human life lost justifies spending the money, even if you take a cold finacial perspective of it. A human life is worth several million dollars according to the courts and all the wrongful death suits that have been decided in the last couple decades (airplane crashes, OJ Simpson, etc.). So if you lose 50 lives from a hurricane because the levy broke, you’ll easily have justified the building expenses.

The worst part of what I’m writing is that when they patch up the levees, they’ll just restore them to what they were like before. Despite the fact that they’ll have just witnessed why better levees are vitally important for a town like New Orleans, they’ll be quick to forget and be a sitting duck for the next category 4+ hurricane that comes there way.

Stupid SF Chronicle polls again

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

OK, I’ve blogged about this before but today’s SF Chronicle poll was one of the worst. Here’s the question and options:

Would you buy a home behind a levee?

a. Yes, floods are just one part of the risk
b. No, New Orleans shows levees inherently unsafe
c. Only with a ton of flood insurance

Yet again, a complete lack of reasonable options. They need to just stop adding the commentary to the options. How about “No our California levees are old and damaged” or “Yes, but only if it is a newer levee or one that has been updated for modern standards” or “Yes, I have confidence in California levees”. And if I pick option ‘a’ in the presented poll am I saying I’m going to buy it without flood insurance because option ‘c’ exists?

Really, there should just be two options: Yes and No. Let the people answering the poll decide what there reasons are. Or if you just insist (and my question is why you insist, but I digress) on having reasons, you’d better have “Yes – for a different reason” and “No – for a different reason” options so that people can answer the poll without being trapped in the limited foresight of the poll asker.

It’s just part of their apparent policy to add their own opinions to just about everything. They can’t even take a poll without introducing their bias.

What my family is known for…

Monday, August 29th, 2005

Since we’re on the topic, I figured it would be fun to elaborate on what my family is well known for:

-Bulldozers: We’re a family of bulldozers. If you’re in our way, watch out! You could get flattened. Whereas my wife’s family is known for their peace-making and consciously going out of their way not to criticize anyone or point out when they’re wrong, my family aches for the opportunity to run you over and show you what kind of an idiot you are. And I don’t say “what kind of an idiot you are” as a euphemism. We’ll literally break down all of the different types of idiots there are and explain why you fit in the category you do. (Credit goes to Seth Hensley for coming up with the term.)

-Knuckle Scrapers: This speaks to both our personalities and our physical attributes. There is something primal about the short legs and arms that characterize my family. The short legs in particular suggest that our knuckles might scrape the ground if we weren’t careful, particularly if we hunched over as we are all too likely to do. But just as well as it describes our physical appearance it describes a personality aspect of ours. Crawford’s are survivors and not just because of our mechanical skills. We can out-sweat, out-shiver, out-stink, out-bleed, out-eat (no question here), out-starve, out-sprain (as opposed to break), and in most other ways out-last other people. We may not catch the gazelle, but I’ve got money on the Crawford when the bear comes into the tent. The uglier it gets, the more likely a Crawford is going to end up on top. (Credit goes to Paul Swagerty for helping me think up the term.)

-Fundamentalists: I don’t mean this in the religious sense of the term. I mean in an over arching sense. We think in fundamental terms. We don’t get bogged down in nuanced thought. Nope, it’s the cold hard facts that matter to us. As opposed to appealing to emotion or difficult scenarios, we’ll bulldoze right through those and force everything into whatever fundamental categories we’re bulldozing you with (like what type of an idiot you are).

-Irresistible force meets immovable object: This has two aspects as well. First, we take great pride in being stubborn. And there’s nothing you can do to change it! Second, whenever Crawford’s come together you can expect explosive conversations. Explosive like the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. (Credit goes to my Dad for constantly repeating this mantra of our family.)

-Jovial: This is the first of two redeeming quality of the Crawfords. We love to laugh and have a good time. We love to cheer and generally be excited. Part of why we have explosive conversations is for the fun of it. Don’t sit next to us at a football game if you don’t want to hear some yelling (this includes both Jovial and Bulldozing/Knuckle scraping aspects). Our favorite way to have a good time besides cheering is to laugh. We’ll make jokes all day long and as long as they’re funny to us, we’ll keep them rolling. On the down side, we often lean towards sarcasm and mocking in our humor. Luckily, we do really great bad impressions, particularly of those in the family.

-Thick skinned: Just like with the knuckle scraper, it refers to both a physical and emotional aspect of the Crawfords. We do seem to physically have thick skin. It helps in our ability to out-bleed others. But thank God for this attribute in an emotional sense because with all the above primal and seemingly unforgiving aspects, one would think we’d never be able to get along with anyone. But we’re not. We’re generally well liked once people get to know us and a big part of that is because of our ability to not let stuff bother us (as well as our otherwise jovial nature). At first I was going to write that we were quick to forgive but in reality we never let stuff bother us in the first place. In fact, we didn’t know that it was supposed to bother us. What knuckle scraper would know that?

I think that about sums up my family. We take great pride in who we are. It may seem harsh at first but it’s really not. It’s really a lot of fun. Want to come over for dinner some time?

Beating a dead horse

Monday, August 29th, 2005

I was re-reading an e-mail I sent earlier today and came across a joke I made about my family. I started busting up. I must be a funny guy when I can make myself laugh through an e-mail loop. Anyway, here’s what I thought was so funny (written to my brother’s girlfriend):

“As for beating a dead horse, you’re dating a guy from a family of experts on the subject. You can just imagine this exchange from a farm back in ‘ol Scotland (make sure to add Scotish accents in your head):

Farmer: “I’m sory Mr. Crawford, but the horse has died.”
Mr. Crawford: “I’ll show you a dead horse (whip)!”

My brother thought it was hilarious and that’s probably because we both used the same voice for Mr. Crawford: Willie from the Simpsons. Yes?

Man, Lynch is fun to watch

Monday, August 29th, 2005

I was reading an article in the SF Chronicle about Marshawn Lynch. (He’s the starting running back for Cal this year for those not in the know.) That guy was amazingly exciting to watch last year. I was usually more excited to see a run play when he was on the field than when JJ Arrington was on the field.

That guy could make a tiny hole look like a wide open field with his ability to accelerate. He could make a solid tackle look like a feeble attempt with his balance. He could make a nimble linebacker look like a stumbling dufus because of his quick cuts and good footwork. He was just amazing. There were a couple plays last year where he’d run into a pack of defenders and the play looked like it was over. I’d even turn away. Then, what seemed like 10 seconds later, the crowd would yell and I’d look back to see 5 defenders holding each other on the ground and Lynch 15 yards down field after having bounced his way out of the pack. Truly amazing stuff.

And if that wasn’t enough to get you excited, he’s added 20 lbs this year to increase the amount of power he has. I can’t wait to see him in action this year. He truly does have “the gift”. I won’t be looking away anymore.

Auctioning a car? Whatever happened to Bingo?

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

So our parish has a sizeable scholarship fund. That’s a good thing. A Catholic education can be very expensive, particularly here in California. To send a kid to Catholic elementary school costs about $5K per year and high school can be $8K+ if you’re not good at a sport. (I don’t think sailing counts either…) A Catholic college can be $25K-$35K.

So, we have a scholarship fund. As I said, that’s a good thing. However, the group that runs the fund leaves much to be desired. I’ll enumerate:

-They usually have about $10K in scholarships each year. Instead of giving meaningful scholarships to a few individuals, they seem to divvy it up to nearly everyone who applies and gives out about $500 each. That’s not going to make much of a dent for just about anyone when they’re trying to come up with $8K+ (I don’t know if elementary school kids are eligible and most of the winners are seniors on their way to college).
-Despite the fact that this scholarship is for parishioners only and therefore supposedly bound up in one’s faith, how active one is in their faith seems not to be relevant to whether someone gets a scholarship. People who show up at Christmas and Easter seem just as likely to get a scholarship as the leader of the teen group.
-Despite the fact that there are tons of scholarships for every level of education based on “need”, this scholarship also takes into account the financials of the parents as well. (Despite the fact that a $25K a year college is a significant burden on a $75K a year family and that they aren’t eligible for other “need” based scholarships.)

These points have been true for as long as the committee has been around but this year they decided to up the ante.

It used to be that most of the funding for the scholarships came from a golf tournament and that they were able to get about $20K in profit from (about half goes to scholarships and half goes to an endowment fund for future scholarships). This was a good wholesome event that cost $100 for participants and used corporate sponsorship to increase the revenue.

Now, $20K isn’t good enough for this committee (and in fairness to them, there are a lot of deserving kids). So instead of adding to the great golf tournament, their scraping the tournament (yes you read that right, it will be no more) and instead appealing to everyone’s greed. That’s right, gambling here we come!

First prize (for your $100 ticket, I might add) is a brand new yellow mustang (and it was parked on the walkway to the main entrance to the church this morning)! Or if you don’t want the car, you can take $15,000 in cash! 2nd prize is $1500 and 3rd is $1000. Plus if you buy your tickets by October 15th, you’ll get another chance to win in our $1500 early bird drawing!

Excuse my language but…


OK, I know the American Church has a history at using minor gambling (bingo nights) to raise funds, but at least with the old stereotypical bingo night it was a big social gathering (stereotypically for the old ladies). One could wash the gambling under the table as it was only one aspect of what was overall a fundraising effort. The winnings were small to not enough to be praying on anyones greed. This car raffle doesn’t have any of those caveats to save it. This is an outright, simple gambling ploy based on the desire to fleece money from people based on their greed for a cool looking car. If that’s not enough it has the following downsides:

1. The money I would give to help a family get their kid through Catholic school will be significantly reduced by paying for the prizes (which will statistically go to the person who gives the most to the auction and hence should least needs that car).
2. The whole “you can just donate the money instead of getting a raffle ticket” compromise is BS. If everyone but three people do that it won’t change the fact that the total money given will be reduced by $20K for the prizes. The only difference will be that the actual raffle will be a big loss. The only upside here is that they’re very unlikely to do the raffle next year.
3. Also, with the raffle we lose all of the corporate sponsorship money. There’s no ability to put signs on the golf course (or equivalent) with sponsors. We lose a big avenue for revenue. (See point #7 for an aspect of why this is important.)
4. $100 per ticket is WAY too much. What about those who can only afford $20 this year? By setting the number that high you’re trying to hard-sell people into giving more. It’s like the charitable giving requests in the mail that have $10K, $5K and $1K checkboxes and anything smaller has to be a write-in amount. See point #2 about just “donating” $20. Plus the person who can only donate $20 is most likely to make good use of that car. Also, it is not the same as the $100 entry fee for the golf tournament as a round of golf on the weekend costs $50+. So in reality the donation is only $50 (if that). Plus I’m pretty sure they invited those who didn’t play (either because they couldn’t afford $100 or didn’t play golf) but donated whatever they could to the reception.
5. Even if they’re going to do this raffle, why scrap the golf tournament that everyone loved? Why can’t you do two things!?! It’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll net more income for the scholarships.
6. If you still insist on the raffle, why do the prizes have to be so big for any other reason that appealing to people’s greed? Why not give away a top prize around $1000 (plane trip to Hawaii for the family?) and 2nd and 3rd place prizes in the few hundred dollar range (TV set, DVD player, computer, etc.). This would make it so much more of the revenue would actually make it into the scholarship fund. It would also be easier to do if the tickets weren’t $100 each…
7. $20K (really $40K if you consider the gross revenue vs. net revenue) from a parish every year is A LOT of money. Remember that there are tons of other causes that these parishioners are giving to (feeding the poor, etc.) not to mention what they’re giving the parish in tithing (we just completed a $2 million dollar expansion). Just because there is more need for scholarships doesn’t mean that we should be doing anything and everything possible to fleece people of more money. There is a limit to what people can afford to give. This is particularly true because half of the families in the parish have school age children. So every dollar you get from those parents is robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak (pretty funny since it is Ss. Peter and Paul parish…).
8. Along the lines of $40K being a lot to raise, how much did the golf tournament cost us? In other words, how much of the money donated didn’t make it into the scholarship fund? I have a hard time believing it was $20K. I’d guess more like $10K (Quick math, 150 golfers * $50 = $7500 plus $2500 for food & reception type stuff. That seems like a pretty generous estimate too (as they’d likely get a discount for the rounds of golf and that’s one hell of a banquet at $2500).) So it would only take $30K from the parish (and maybe less considering the corporate sponsorships we got) to raise $20K.

Do I need to continue? Good, because I’m running out of good complaints. Needless to say, both the committee and our pastor will be getting a big long letter about this.

God forgive us!

A homily I wish I had recorded

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

Boy, the priest who gave the homily (that’s the Catholic equivalent of a sermon for those not in the know) at Mass this morning must be reading my blog because his homily seemed like a perfect defense of my position about selfishness down in the family statistics comment thread. Every 5th word out of his month was selfish and he tied it very strongly to marital issues. I believe the quote went something like this:

“If you’re getting married to be happy, it won’t work. If you’re getting married to make your spouse happy, it’ll work.”

Booya! (Is that really how that is spelled?)

Breaking Bears news

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

According to Matt Hayes of the Sporting News, Mr. Booya (Joe Ayoob) has lost his starting job to Nate Longshore. Ayoob is the highly touted JC transfer from SF City College. Longshore is the redshirt freshman. It seems (according to this reporter) that Tedford liked Longshore all along but was worried about his lack of mobility in the pocket. Longshore worked tirelessly in the offseason to improve in this regard and has improved to the degree to get the starting nod from Tedford.

Very interesting… if it is true.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Catholic programming.

Go Bears!

Friday, August 19th, 2005

OK, it’s starting to be college football time again, so this blog is going to mix-it-up a little bit and add some secular discussion to the mix. Some starting thoughts:

1. This is straight from an analysis of UCLA this year: “Defensively, the Bruins could not stop anybody on the ground last year, giving up 210 yards per game. With five of the front seven back, this number should go down dramatically.” Or to paraphrase: Last year these guys stunk but with the same guys on the team this year they should be much better. Only in college football can you get away with that kind of analysis.

2. Stanford can only go up… or stay right where they are. They’re picked last in the Pac-10 by just about everyone and were one of only two Pac-10 teams not to get ESPN poll votes. And that’s even with the new highly touted coach they took from Pittsburg (for us Californian’s that’s a team in the Big East conference, not a mislocation of De La Salle High School in Concord (although as my brother said, we’d all probably have more respect for the De La Salle guy)).

3. We’ve got GREAT seats for the Cal Bears game this year. Middle height? check: rows 44 and 45. Seats close to the exit: check: 38 is the exit row. Isle seats? check: seats 1-3 and 1-2 in those rows respectively. Two rows instead of one long row so that we’re all closer together, have more leg room through cooperation and my boys can kick they’re legs all they want without dirty looks from the grump in front of me (unless you want to call my brother a grump): check. 50 yard line… er… yeah… that’s where section DD is.

4. My brother still owes me $220 for his ticket (look who’s the grump now)!

5. And most importantly, it looks like it is going to be a good year in Berkeley! People are already touting the Cal vs. USC game as the Pac-10 game of the year with $10 general adminision tickets going for $70 a piece on E-Bay and reserved tickets going for $100-$300.