Thursday, October 29, 2009

Philip Spooner

This made me all teary-eyed, right around 2:00 mark:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Al Franken on bankruptcy

Here's Al Franken, kicking some health care reform debate butt:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home Page for Articles

Writing Life Update: 

1. Regular readers have probably noticed a drop-off in both blog posting and Smile Politely columns lately.  I'm working on a longer-term project, which I don't want to say anything about until I get further along.  I do plan to keep my toe in the blogging world, or perhaps a knee or a thigh, but it won't be my focus for the next few months. However, I did enter a Washington Post Pundit contest, and if I make the cut for the next round, all that will change. 

2. I had another article accepted at Geez Magazine, about how Jesus might run a Bed and Breakfast.  Not sure of the publication date, but I'll link to it when it comes out.

3. I had a very nice rejection letter from The New Yorker.  Looking back, I'm not even sure why I submitted anything, since I am the secretary of the Science Club and The New Yorker is the Prom Queen. But the Prom Queen, or more likely, the 23-year-old intern-assistant of the Prom Queen, actually sent back a note, saying the article had "evident merit and humor."  Hurray for good rejections!

4. The extra Geez article has made me feel especially writerly, and inspired me to create a Dan Schreiber The Writer Home Page.  It includes selected highlights of things I've written, including articles in print magazines, Smile Politely columns and other things of which I'm either proud or not ashamed.  I plan to also put a few blog highlights there, but slogging through two and half years of blog entries seems daunting right now.  In any case, it will be a good place to archive stuff I want to show other people.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


My Smile Politely column this week is on the Liberty Council's Adopt-a-Liberal program, where I admit my preference for being prayer at than being yelled over. Available here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Nobel?

I suppose if you believe that Obama’s image took on a permanent smudge after the Olympic Committee ignored him (and awarded the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro), you have to admit that winning the Nobel Peace Prize is a much bigger vote of confidence.

Does he deserve it? No, not yet. We are still in two wars, Israel continues to kill Palestinian civilians with American weapons, and he presides over a military budget that is almost as much as the rest of the world’s combined. And I don’t think continuing the ban on homosexuality in the military really counts as a way to reduce the presence of standing armies in the world (one of the original criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize). On the other hand, clearly stating the importance of international diplomacy and "cooperation between peoples" is worth rewarding at this point in history.

So, I agree with the criticism that this is more about what he wants to do than about anything he has actually done. At the same time, it’s ironic that conservatives are so mad that he got the award for having accomplished so little, when they are the ones that dug the hole he is standing in, and the ones standing in his way of accomplishing much.

Nonetheless, an American President winning the Nobel Peace Prize should be a cause for national pride. Let's hope people can turn away from "hating Obama more than they love America," as Jon Stewart so aptly put last week.

UPDATE: Obama just gave some remarks about the award, essentially saying that is it a call to action for him, rather than acknowledgement of any accomplisments. He shares the award "with everyone who strives for justice and dignity." Full text available here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Those Soulless Referees

Raider's cornerback Chris Johnson was flagged on Sunday after he intercepted a pass, fell to his knees and thanked God.

Raider conspiracy theorists believe he was flagged because he was wearing a Raiders uniform. Some Christians believe this is just another example of Christian persecution. However, the trouble with the persecution angle is that you can't really tell that he is praying to Jesus. Instead, he could have been praising Zoroaster or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And really, it looks more like he was asking people to praise Chris Johnson.

While the video is still available on-line, you can judge for yourself:

Referees may or may not have souls, but they were at least correct to call the penalty. There's a rule against celebrating in the end zone by dropping to your knees or using the ball as a prop. Call it a Raider-hating, Christian-persecuting rule, but they applied it correctly.

As it happens, I think they should outlaw prayer and/or thanks to God during a game. I think it is unsportsmanlike of God to determine the outcome of specific plays, and it's unsportsmanlike of players to request such a thing. The penalty should be greater than 15 yards too, since the effect of God overturning free will to favor one side is likely much greater than a 15 yard advantage.

However, the grief refs are getting for this reminds me of one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits, where John Goodman is on The Referee Pitman Show (of which no video seems to be available):

Host: Okay. Next question for the Ref.
Audience Member: Hi. Great show, Ref. My boy and I were wondering what it's like for you to have no soul. And also, what do you use to fill up your body where the soul would be? Now, is that human excrement, or dog excrement?
Ref: [chuckles] I wish I had a dime for every time I was asked that one!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Things You Can Do With a Trumpet

Defying all expectations, the Ten-Year-Old chose the trumpet for his 5th grade band instrument. After an early life of hitting everything in sight with sticks, the $400 drum set we bought 2 years ago remains idle and dejected in the basement.

However, the trumpet has brought musical enthusiasm to the house. He seems to be a natural trumpet player, as he spends much of his time trying make it go Higher, Louder, Faster. But mostly Louder. Here are his experiments and results so far:

  • Play Standing Up Inside the House (good loud notes often accompanied by yells to be quiet)

  • Play Lying Down on the Ground (hard to get a lot of air out, sound is muffled)

  • Play Sitting Down (Better than Lying Down, not as good as Standing Up)

  • Hold Trumpet up to Sister's Ear and Suck In Breath (can't even get note off before getting yelled at by parents)

  • Play Outside (loud notes not accompanied by yells as much, plus can play in direction of neighbors whose kids’ had high school bands for six years)

  • Play While Marching Around (hard to keep lips on mouthpiece)

  • Play on Top of Play Structure (Loudest yet, sound bounces off houses)

Other experiments:

  • Can You Kill a Bug by Playing a Trumpet at It? (Not yet)

  • What if You Put the Bug in a Glass and Play Directly into the Glass? (Yes, that does the trick)

  • What if You Play Along with a CD? (Based on experiments conducted so far, can play louder than Miles Davis on "Kind of Blue")
I’ll report back on any other interesting things he does to or with a trumpet. I am already dreading band camp in three years.