Monday, December 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Season Review 2007

This season has been one of the most entertaining and rewarding Hokie football seasons in recent years for me. It had some ups and downs, mostly ups, and the downs made the ups more enjoyable. And of course, winning the ACC championship and beating UVa is all a Hokie fan can hope for in a season. Here are some thoughts about the season:
  • Emotionalism: The ECU game was my first trip back to campus since the shootings, and it was good to get back and hard to remember.
  • Disappearing act: Brandon Ore has a really bad junior season after possibly being the best back in the conference his sophomore year. Part of it was poor line play, but he seemed tentative and maybe a step slow all season (except the148 yards against UVa).
  • Patience: The offensive line took a long time to gel, but the end of the season seemed to click along. The key was getting Ed Wang back from injury so Nick Marshman could move back to guard from Wang's tackle spot.
  • Heartbreak: The Hokies looked like they had a win at home versus BC, up 10-0 with 6 minutes and one second left in the game and the defense playing outstandingly. Matt Ryan rallies the Eagles with 2 TDs in the last 2:45 to win 14-10. The loss sparks the Hokies to rally and win the last 4 games of the season, led by Macho Harris's post game speach "A Minor Setback for a Major Comeback"
  • Controversy: A quarterback controversy actually worked out in the end! Redshirt junior Sean Glennon, who was mediocre most of last season, lost his starting position in the middle of a terrible loss to LSU, 48-7 early in the season. In comes freshman Tyrod Taylor, who's mobility relieved some pressure from the line as it comes together. When Taylor got hurt versus Duke, Glennon comes in and plays great. The rest of the season, the QBs alternate as the situation dictates. We probably don't win against Florida State without Taylor, and Glennon carries us versus Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and the championship game. The QB rotation doesn't work in most cases, but I think it works here because both QBs approach the game with some humility and really enjoy and respect each other.
  • Redemption: All you can ask for: another shot at BC at the end of the season in the ACC Championship game, where we won 30-16 to finish 11-2 and earn a bid to the Orange Bowl versus Kansas.
  • Attendance: ECU, Ohio, UNC, Miami, and BC at home; Duke on the road, and on to the Orange Bowl!
  • MVP: It was such a team effort this year, this one is hard to give out to an individual, so I'll give it to the entire defensive unit, that played lights out for the 4th year in a row and gave the offense some time to mature. Special shout out to Eddie Royal for being such a joy to watch for 4 years.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top 5 Albums of 2007

Once again it is time for the annual top 5 albums of the year. It gets harder every year, but I thought there was some decent music out there this year. I don't think my top five are as differentiated as last year, when I had a clear number one.

  1. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky - Suprise! Chris puts a Wilco album at #1. OK, maybe not, but I really liked this album. It is definitely a Wilco album, but also has a different feel than any other Wilco album. If I ever sell-out, I will also sell-out to Volkswagen, so that gets bonus points.
  2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Great indie pop-rock album. Infinitely catchy yet musically interesting.
  3. Avett Brothers - Emotionalism - North Carolina duet shows how much depth that country music can have when it tries.
  4. Caedmon's Call - Overdressed - Without Derek Webb, CC is just an average Nashville-sound Christian Band. With him, they're thoughtful, clever, insightful, honest, and beautiful.
  5. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger - Uneven album , but enough stand out tracks to merit a top five spot.

Non-album things I loved in 2007: Simple Shoes, my Senseo coffee maker with ecopads and Caribou Tanzania coffee, Urinetown, Heroes,

Friday, December 07, 2007

God says stop! and a podcast.

Well, my commute was about an hour today due to a wreck on the Neuse River bridge, but it let me listen to a good podcast that tied together a lot of things I've been thinking about a lot recently. Speaking of Faith interviewed Harvey Cox on the on the divide between religion and atheism. Cox is a theology professor at Harvard who is most famous for writing a book in the 1960s about the growing secularism in America and recently teaching a course on morality and Jesus which hundreds of Harvard undergrads take electively every year. Some thoughts:
  • He and the host speak about Richard Dawkins and Christophjer Hitchens (whose book God is not Great I recently read). The host says she hasn't interviewed them for the same reason she didn't interview Jerry Falwell: they have all the answers already. I was struggling with how to write a book review on it, so I'll leave it at that. He has some correct points that religion has done some bad things, but overall the book is divisive and hateful. I take the Niebuhr approach "Religion is both necessary and dangerous" or as one my favorite authors, Bruce Feiler, said in "Where God was Born", that the only answer to fundamentalist religion is moderate religion. People are jerks, but that does not necessarily make all religion bad. Cox says you can be very highly educated and also be very strident and also close out of your discourse important issues, which are current and new forms of thinking, and really not be in touch with the current state of the dialogue. That's what bothers me about them. They really don't seem to be interested or don't have the time or the discipline to engage or to tune in to this really quite remarkable, new series of conversations that's going on.
  • He speaks about a need of a basic religious education, as I read recently about in"Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't", which was a good book but pretty long for it's basic idea: so much of our society uses religious ideas and language, that since we don't know anything about religion it makes us bad citizens. It was written by a Harvard religion professor, Stephen Prothero. Cox was asked to teach a class on Jesus and Moral Reasoning as one of 35 elective ethics classes (Harvard students must take one.) There is a book based on the class that I'd really like to read now.
  • He speaks about how the Market has replaced God in America, following the 60s. This was very convicting, particularly how some of the language we use echos the language used of God in the Bible, and went along with Colossians Remixed, which I read and reviewed earlier this year. Cox on reading financial literature such as the Wall Street Journal: that we have a kind of a confidence, indeed, faith that the market will solve things, or at least many people have that, I don't have it, maybe you don't either, that you just leave it to the market. It will allocate things and in the long run, maybe the very long run, it will all come out fine. Just don't tamper with this, what Adam Smith called the invisible hand...

Anyway, interesting stuff...worth a listen in my opinion.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rob Bell says the Gods aren't Angry

The night before Thanksgiving, we went to see Rob Bell speak at Raleigh's Meymandi Concert Hall on his God's Aren't Angry Tour. As most know, I'm a big fan of Bell and really enjoyed my front row seat for the talk. To set the record straight, I am not a stalker because I've only travelled to Michigan to see him once. The other two times I've seen him, he's travelled to North Carolina. Who looks like a stalker now?
He started off with a story imagining a pre-historic woman and how she interacted with nature and created religion. He continued on to talk about some pagan religions around the time of the Exodus and the nature of the sacrifices of these religions. The God of Abraham, he argued, illustrates a very progressive idea in the early books of the Bible, in comparison to these religion. With this God, there is an idea of a sufficient sacrifice, and that this sacrifice is actually for your benefit, not for God's. He went on to talk about how Jesus' death extends the idea further, saying that no religious sacrifice is needed to be right with God. He closes with examples of how we worship gods today that demand unlimited sacrifices: money, career, control, etc. and suggests that we can leave those gods behind.

Now, I've read and listened to a lot of Rob Bell and none of his talk caught me by surprise. I thought it was a solid and thoroughly entertaining lecture. From some reviews online, and from the picketers outside of the hall, it shocked some people. I've read several blogs online that complained that Bell skipped over the concept of hell, judgement, and sin. There were folks handing out tracts outside the event along with a guy wearing a sandwich board saying "God is Angry at your Wickedness." I have several answers for the critics.

First, that wasn't the topic of his talk. He talked for almost 2 hours, and if he wanted to cover hell, sin, and judgement in the depth he spoke, I would have demanded a bathroom break and maybe something to eat. They were picketing the title of the talk without even understanding the topic of the talk. His intent was not to refute the famous John Edwards sermon. He likes to give his talks and sermons thought provoking (sometimes like spiritual double entendres) titles. You just walked right into it.

Lastly, sometimes I feel concepts like sin and hell and judgement are so distorted by us (Christians) that those words don't even mean what they used to. So they may not belong in the public square. He talked about habits and thoughts and lifestyles that are detrimental to us and how a God who created us out of love wants us to leave these behind. "You don't have to live like this anymore." That sounds pretty Orthodox to me, even if he didn't overtly use certain words. To me, if you insist on making tracts, you could make it into a pretty good tract (I won't tell you where to stick it when you're done.)

His talk was much more interesting and had much more depth than how I described it. Anyway, Rock on Rev. Bell, and I hope to see you again next year.

Here's some friends thoughts on the talk:

Monday, December 03, 2007

What are the presidential candidates worth?

I found this fascinating from this month's Kiplinger, on how the presidential candidates invest. Their list of the candidates' net worth:
  1. Mitt Romney $190-$250 Million
  2. Rudy Giuliani $18-70 Million
  3. Hillary Clinton $10-50 Million
  4. John Edwards $30 Million
  5. John McCain $21-32 Million
  6. Fred Thompson $2.6-8.3 Million
  7. Barack Obama $456,000 to $1.1 Million
It's interesting, not only how rich some of these guys are, but also how much Obama is worth. He's not really running as a populist (having read his book, he seems to bill himself mostly as a good politician), but he could probably stake a more legitimate claim at that than rich guy John Edwards. I know plenty of people who are worth more than Obama, and I will probably be in his ballpark when I'm his age. I don't know if he's the best candidate for president this go round, but there are an awful lot of things I like about him.
And man, Romney is stinkin' rich (he's a former venture capitalist, funding, among other things, Domino's pizza).