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How to fill in a tournament bracket

March 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Since I’ve been filling these NCAA brackets since before there was Yahoo and long basketball shorts, I thought I’d give you a few tips on show to be sure of having the best chance of winning your office NCAA bracket pool.  While not statistically reliable, these expert helps are on the money enough that I have never finished dead last in any contest I’ve entered.  So here goes.

Does the team have a great band?  Southern’s is known as the Human Jukebox,  so they’re a great bet.  On the music theme, if they have a great fight song, choose them.  Notre Dame, Michigan, Harvard (Ten Thousand Men of Harvard), Michigan St., Georgetown are safe to advance to the next round.  Too bad Tennessee wasn’t in the tourney because Rocky Top is the best of all.

Since geography is my thing Northwestern St. in Louisiana is a big loser because it makes no sense.  Middle Tennessee loses too because it’s pretty vague, the middle of what?  Long Island U-Brooklyn is no good too because in most peoples’ minds these are separate places.  Saint Louis is not a good pick because they don’t know that they should spell their name St. Louis.

Western Kentucky is no good either because their name rhymes with sucky, which is a reason why Kentucky is playing in the NIT right now.

Teams high on my misery index, in other words they’ve inflicted painful losses on my Jayhawks automatically can’t be chosen.  VCU, don’t want to CU.  Bucknell, yes, you’re a source of pain, UCLA, CULAter, Davidson because you almost ruined our 08 championship, not picking you.  And the biggest pain on my KU sports memory is a tie between Syracuse and Arizona.  The two most talented teams of Roys tenure you ruined, so I just want you gone.  Plus what kind of nickname is Orange?  And Crimson, Harvard?  Are you really going to pick a color?

And speaking of misery index, never pick a team whose name sounds like that word, so Missouri, (who’s never made the Final Four anyways) see ya!

Cool nickname schools always go with.  The Zips of Akron, the Zags of Gonzaga, well how cool would a Zips and Zags final be?  The Gaels of Iona is a supercool name too as is the Aztecs of San Diego St.  I know I picked against Saint Louis earlier,but you’ve got to pick them for their Billikens name.

It’s never a bad idea to go with teams named the Bears, so California, Cincinnati Bear Down!  While we’re on animals, wimpy mascots can’t inspire players to greatness so Minnesota Gophers and Oregon Ducks, but Cardinals of Louisville do get my pick because the Cubs hate the Cardinals.

Colorado, Colorado St, Boise St, Montana, New Mexico, and Pacific in Oregon all don’t deserve our support because they want to lose so they can finally be free of practice and go skiing before winter ends.  Florida Gulf Coast, Miami, you lose and you can go to the beach before it’s too hot, so lose now, we won’t care.

Notre Dame is not known to be a safe pick because their athletes have been known to embarrass themselves both athletically, see Jan. 9, 2013, and in their personal lives.

Religiously affiliated teams get my support especially Liberty, LaSalle, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Villanova, Temple, may the force be with you.

A religiously affiliated school that has a nickname of Blue Devils, well, come on now, who wants to cheer for the Devil?

And a religious school that shouldn’t be supported anymore is Marquette who had a great nickname, Warriors until the forces of political correctness changed it.  They won this tournament as Warriors in 1977, but now the Warrior Spirit has cursed the team, so cursed teams, it’s pointless to pick them.  And speaking of curses there’s the curse of Chief Illiniwek, the greatest mascot of his day.  When the same politically correct forces took away his tradition laden pregame ritual dance, the Illini have never been the same, football too.

All Big Ten teams, the awesomest league in the land (and they better back it up this year!) deserve your picks to an all Big 10 final four.

So we’re left with a few unique nicknames to make the best bet on the tournament.  If you fought a Badger, it would tear you up like paper in a shredder.  So it’s always safe to pick a Badger.

Mythical birds can never go wrong.  There’s only one mythical bird that makes the tourney every year and it’s the Kansas Jayhawk.  If you favor the free states winning the Civil War, and who wouldn’t, (that’s why you should never pick Mississippi’s Rebels) then you’ll support those very American values of Truth Justice and the Jayhawk way.

This is just (?) a test

March 18, 2013 Leave a comment

There’s a generation gap when it comes to tests. If you’re getting up into the age when you start to joke on your birthday that you’re 39, and you’re not, you’ve never had to take a high stakes test, at least during your pre college days. If you’re young enough to have never used a typewriter you don’t know what it’s like to not have the pressure of tests to graduate.

For many these tests are a source of great stress. I watched kids who had completed their credit work years earlier coming back to campus to retake their graduation tests again because they’ve failed them in their past.  In one infamous case a girl was class valedictorian yet was incapable of passing the graduation tests.  Although I give the kids credit for coming back so they can hopefully pass the test, I felt for these 20 and sometimes 21 year olds still trying to earn a valid High School diploma. The burden for passing these tests falls more on the poor and disenfranchised than among the rest of the population.

Enter 2013. Louisiana passes a law which requires all juniors to take the ACT test. The law also expects a junior in Louisiana to score an 18 on the test. While the student will not be required to make this score to graduate, the school will be held responsible for students who don’t score an 18.  In Louisiana the average score for an African American (the large majority in my school) taking the ACT is 17.5.  Until now, those taking the ACT and scoring 17.5 were willing to take the test, in other words trying their best.  Tomorrow when juniors all over the state take this test many will take it with the attitude that they don’t plan to go to college.  Now if you weren’t planning to go to college, how much effort would you put into taking a test like this?

So in a few months when the school performance score for the ACT comes out it will undoubtedly show many schools, particularly in underserved communities as being lacking in educating students.  There are hardworking teachers in these schools, I even know some!  The result will be more scrutiny for the school, staff being removed, administration being ‘reassigned’, etc.  Many of the schools in my district have different principals  each year, sometimes, more than one in a year.  Morale sinks among the staff and even the student body as the news reports of a school given a grade of ‘F’.

Here’s where the just part of things works into the equation.  Justice is a theme in the Bible that hasn’t always been stressed in our churches.  It’s been said King James didn’t like the term too much, so it appears 28 times in his famous version.  The New Revised Standard Version uses the word justice 173 times.  In something called the Common English version it’s used 220 times.  I would lean towards the NRSV in terms of its’ treatment of the word justice.  We are to work for justice.  Christians are supposed to be agents of justice.  Justice for the poor, disenfranchised, underserved, for the widows, orphans and others who are being denied opportunities for any number of reasons.

What can you do to be agents for justice?  Some can work to change unjust laws.   Letters can be written to papers, politicians, and school boards.  Volunteer in schools.  Volunteer to sit with a kid to read with him or her.  Become a teacher!  And if you do, consider teaching in the schools that need good teachers the most.  Give a word of encouragement to a teacher. (I know this sounds self serving!)  Pray for our schools.  Pray tonight for students that the unmotivated will find it within themselves to put in an honest effort tomorrow.  These are all actions that will bring about justice.

Proverbs 21:3  Acting with righteousness and justice is more valued by the Lord than sacrifice.

The Geography Blog

March 16, 2013 2 comments

I usually try to write about my work, my Christian life and how they relate to each other. Sometimes I digress and write about something totally different and this is one such blog.

Geography has always been a passion of mine. Maps on the wall in my bedroom as a kid (my wife didn’t think it’d be great decor for our bedroom), falling asleep reading encyclopedias, getting a World Almanac every year for Christmas was what I looked forward to the most.

So I’m going to write about geography. I’ll try not to bore you with intellectual discussions of the theme of movement as demonstrated by the Berbers or something like that, although that might be interesting. I’ll try to refrain from making references to the Mercator projection, or even  how the glaciers sculpted Wisconsin’s beautiful landscape.  Instead I’ll try to wow you with what I think are amazing geographical tidbits and factoids.  And I’ll start with my favorite.

The first territorial capitol of Illinois,Kaskaskia is now on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

Ludington Michigan and Manitowoc Wisconsin are 57 miles away from each other but 410 driving miles away from each other.

The Amazon River water pushes over 100 miles out into the ocean.  The Colorado River rarely flows into the Gulf of California anymore.

There are only 4 Great Lakes.  Lakes Huron and Michigan are the same body of water.

Everyone knows the Dead Sea is the lowest spot on earth at nearly 1300 feet below sea level, but did you know the Sea of Galilee is in the same rift and lies at 700 feet below sea level?

I remember hearing my grade school teacher saying that all rivers flowed South, a common misconception.  I remember thinking but was too shy to say anything that the worlds longest river, the Nile flows North.

The Atacama Desert in Chile and Bolivia have some places that haven’t recorded rain since the 1800’s. Mt. Waialeale  in Hawaii receives 450 inches per year and has topped 500 inches.

Just read this in National Geographic that a single hectare of Ecuadorian rainforest has as many insect species as all of the US and Canada combined.

A salmon is hatched way up in the still upper reaches of a stream, leaves for his/her life out to the ocean, and then finds the same spot it was hatched by smelling the water of that stream from out in the ocean.

I’ve swam across the Rio Grande to Mexico and got deported back.

Pittsburgh has 700 bridges, many of which I’ve looked at in wonder as I rode with Grandma and Grandpa Schell on the way to meeting at Beechwood Chapel.

Russia is 9 time zones across.  So if the president was going to speak he’d have to speak in the morning so the eastern parts of the country could hear him before going to bed.

Speaking of Russia, it’s our closest neighbor besides Canada and Mexico.  It’s two miles from Little Diomede (US) and Big Diomede (Russia) islands in the Bering Strait make them our third closest neighbor.

You’d travel Northwest to get from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic through the Panama Canal.

If you get lost in the Everglades just go with the water which gently flows south, eventually, if you don’t get eaten by a Croc, bit by a venomous snake or sunstroke, you’ll end up at the ocean.

Niagara Falls is moving upstream and someday will drain Lake Erie, meaning there will only be 3 Great Lakes.  I wish I’d be around for it, maybe God will let us see from heaven.

A sturgeon tagged in Lake Michigan was caught in the Atlantic Ocean.  That’s a long swim.  A mountain lion found in Connecticut was believed to have come from the Black Hills of South Dakota.  That’s a long hike, although maybe it hitched a ride with someone.

Ok I’m starting to bore you, so what are your favorites?  Do you have favorites?  Let me know!

4 days in the spring (March Madness Edition)

March 13, 2013 Leave a comment

The other day I posted on facebook something that revealed both my passion for sports and how that passion at times takes my eyes off of what is most important.

I wrote how I love March for the sports.  Basketball, baseball and golf all have marquee events in the next month which I get really excited about.  I spend a lot of time reading, watching, and generally daydreaming about these events and how my teams will do.  It’s fun, a stress reliever from the daily grind.

Sunday as our pastor is continuing through a series on John it hit me like a ton of bricks.  We listened to Pastor Bridges exposit the story of the last supper and the foot washing at the last supper.  If you’re not up on the chronology of things related to the last week of Jesus life (before resurrection) it happened very quickly.  He entered Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday.  Thursday of the week was the last supper, praying in the garden, and arrest.  Friday was the trial, crucifixion and burial.  And Sunday it all ended with the resurrection!   4 days and it was all over!  Everything!

Four of history’s most important days happened at this time of year.  This year they fall smack in the middle of all of the sports craziness that I spoke about earlier.  And what did I post about on facebook?  The sports.  My heart sank as I realized that what was on my mind was sports and not the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior.

LORD forgive me of my wayward thoughts at this important time of year.  Allow me to enjoy these sporting events that you gave me a love for, but not at the expense of meditating on the 4 days that changed everything, for me, for my family, my friends, forever.  Allow me to remember the words of the hymn that I’ve always loved.  “Man of Sorrows, what a Name, for the Son of Man who came, ruined sinners (and sports fans) to proclaim, Hallelujah, what a Savior!”  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!