Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mr. Spock's Favorite Baseball Website

Fans of the original Star Trek will recall how Mr. Spock has the helpful habit of being able to calculate his odds of survival at odd moments during the episode. Now we have a baseball site that can do the same thing for your team, live. Here it is:


These are graphs of "Win Probability Added," updated live for every game in the league. What these do is they take the point where you are in every game (bottom of the fifth, one man on second, two outs, score 7-1 against the home team) and based on the history of recorded baseball it can tell you how many teams in that precise position won their game.

For instance, the Mariners are in that position right now, and they have a 4% chance of winning the game. It's like having Mr. Spock next to you telling you the chances of winning this game are 1 out of 25.

Oops, out of the fifth inning now with no change in score. Odds are now 1 out of 33 and dropping fast.

Therefore, I am currently blogging to the tune of American Idol.

Friday, April 13, 2007

In Praise of Bacon Sandwiches

One of the best food experiences I've ever had was on an early morning, leaving Edinburgh, just off High Street among the gray granite walls and old churches turned into office space. I saw a sign for "Bacon Rolls," and I have never been quite the same since. I'm a sucker for food that is widely available, cheap, and good (well, good-tasting, not necessarily good in any other sense). Bacon rolls/sandwiches in Britain are all three. British bacon is different from American bacon, and when put on bread that's like a fluffy dinner roll, with butter, it becomes sublime.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. A group of scientists in Britain have conducted a rigorous study of 700 variants to determine the equation for the perfect bacon sandwiches. Since this is an intense area of personal (although non-funded) study for me, I was interested to get into the literature. Here it is:

N = C + {fb(cm) · fb(tc)} + fb(Ts) + fc · ta

And an excerpt from the New York Times to explain:

"In the experiment, some of the tasters sampled between four and six bacon sandwiches a day for three or four days."

"And so the formula evolved to establish the amount of force in the bite, expressed in newtons, and the level of noise, expressed in decibels, to make the perfect crunch."

"Ideally, Danish Bacon said, 0.4 newtons should be applied to crunch the sandwich, creating 0.5 decibels of noise. The formula uses these values: N = force in newtons; fb is the function of the bacon type; fc is the function of the condiment or filling effect; Ts is the serving temperature; tc is cooking time; ta is the time taken to insert the condiment or filling; cm is the cooking method and C represents the breaking strain in newtons of uncooked bacon."

I just want to know, why didn't I hear about the fact that they offer grant money for this kind of thing? A bacon-research sabbattical in Britain is looking pretty good right now.

To quote Everybody Loves Raymond:
Ray: (Reading from the Christmas letter about Frank.) "His love affair with bacon continues."

Monday, April 9, 2007

Inbetween the Now and the Not-Yet

I always look forward to Easter more than any other holiday. For the past decade or so, it has seemed to take me by surprise, to the point where I think I started to define myself by "Easter is my favorite holiday." One of my favorite topics is the resurrection passages of the gospels, and one of my favorite books the NT Wright 800-page volume on the same subject (don't knock it till you try it!). One of the reasons I was excited about co-teaching a 1 Corinthians Sunday School class was the chance to teach 1 Corinthians 15, the chapter about the resurrection (past and future). And so this year, for the first time in years, Easter surprised me the other way, as being a let-down. Nothing big or huge, or dark-night-of-the-soulish, just "here it comes, there it goes."

It reminds me of the year when I was about, I don't know, 14 or 15, and Christmas presents just weren't the thrill that they used to be. I remember looking around and thinking that Christmas is over and it just wasn't the big deal it used to be. I know that years later, as I explored more theology and music, Christmas came back, and now that it's more about being Santa Claus than waiting for Santa Claus, there are dimensions that are open now that just weren't there before.

So it's not like I'm losing faith or anything, it's just, I wish every Easter could be a 10/10, but this one, probably has to be a 7/10 or something like that. I've just thought about the resurrection and 1 Corithians so much that when the Big Day came, I enjoyed the worship and the message, but didn't feel the earth move under my feet or anything.

I suppose it was less Matthew 28, more Mark 16.

I don't necessarily take this as a sign that something's "wrong." I think some holidays, like some days, are more like you expect than others, and sometimes your expectations just don't happen. Sometimes God's right there, and sometimes He's more subtle. People like Richard Dawkins complain because they can't objectively detect God with their instruments, that there's no 10 commandments carved on the moon for all to see, or anything undeniable like that. All I know is it seems to be in God's personality, or some theological necessity, for God to be distant or difficult at times, for the future promises to be more "wait a while for that" rather than fully realized right here, right now. I think He teaches us to be OK with that. Anything, even Christmas, even Easter, can become a substitute for Him, can be idolized.

So Happy Easter Monday. In Italy they're rolling the cheeses, in England they have a Bank Holiday, and here I've got a new week of teaching and writing to do, so best to get on with it. I know I'll see God's hand in many ways this week, but I can't say for sure exactly how it will come, maybe not with trumpets or rushing wind but maybe with a still small voice. No way to find out but to do the experiment.

The sower comes by morning to scatter light like seed
But clouds are round about you, shadows veil your eyes
And when we come as children, you give us all we need
Clouds are round about you, shadows veil your eyes
Shadows veil your eyes