Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Way Street Production


Heather and I started our own photography business, called One Way Street Production. We just put together the website, which we'll keep updated with photos and comments and other photo and writing related material, just like a blog.

I'm not crazy about the layout right now. We're using Wordpress, which is great and easy to use, but unfortunately it doesn't allow you to change the themes that it provides unless you fork over $25 a year.

Check it out all the same! Soon we'll be updating photos as each shoot takes place.

Gonna puke

The Steelers are really making me sick. Like I've said before, they're incapable of winning close games this year and they're playing down to the competition. This is truly pathetic. It's 2006 all over again except flipped around. In 2006 we started 2-6 and went 6-2 in the second half of the season to finish 8-8. This might be in reverse, where we started 6-2 and we might end up 8-8.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Preview: Steelers vs. Raiders

Let me keep this short... What I'm looking for in this game is complete domination. In 2005 when the Steelers got hot after losing three in a row on their way to the superbowl, they were handling teams as they should have. All year long the Steelers have kept games much closer than they needed it to be.

This game should be over by halftime if we are to have any playoffs hopes.

I'm serious.

Niece + Nephews Shots

Some photos from today of my niece Meghan and my two nephews, Cayden and Rider. Cayden was full of energy today and sooo hard to shoot!

As always, you can check out more of my photos here.





Friday, December 4, 2009

Night Shots

I'm trying to practice taking some good night shots. Heather and I went out with our good friends Jim and Desiree who were kind enough to play the role of models for us. They're a great and very cute couple. We just walked around a few blocks from the Strip District heading downtown and came up with some good stuff.

You can check out the rest of these shots here.



Wedding Photos: Jerry+Rachel


Last Sunday I had the privilege of taking photos of my good friends' wedding. I finally got around to formatting and editing the photos and posted them on
my flickr page.

Here are a few samples...



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two Dollar Portrait

I was browsing photos on Flickr and stumbled upon the $2 Portrait project. The idea was started by a photographer who decided that if anyone would ask him for money on the street, he would give him two dollars and in return the person would have to pose for a photo. The project is also meant to increase human contact and interaction. The photographer not only takes the photo but learns a little bit about the subject and learn their story.

This is a cool idea, except that I would run out of money quickly. I would love it if somebody paid me to take their portrait.

I've often wanted to take photos of strangers on the street. This is certainly one way of doing it.

Good man

I respect men who admit when they're wrong and can apologize for their mistakes publicly.

Hines Ward issued an apology on his Facebook page for his comments made during the Bob Costas interview on NBC.

Nice job, Hines.

The church is not a circus tent

A little while ago I stumbled upon a Christian Universalism website called Tentmaker, with 1 Timothy 4:10 as its header.

First, I have to say that I find Universalism theology, which states that God will redeem all people, one of the more shoddy approaches in reading the Bible. It takes a handful of very selective passages, such as 1 Timothy 4:10, without taking the time or effort to consider what those passages mean in the context of the whole chapter. It also completely ignores verses in the Bible which explicitly state that not all people will be saved.

But the reason why I mention this site is because it promotes a whole array of very puzzling books. Among their most recommended are "On the Bible and Peanuts" (yes, the Snoopy and Charlie Brown Peanuts), "So You Don't want to Go to Church Anymore," "The Tithe is Illegal" and "Stop Going to Church."

I haven't read these books but I got the gist of their points by reading their descriptions online. The two books I find most telling about our "emergent church" generation, are the ones that speak out against the church.

The general motto today for this movement (which accuses the church of being too rigid and not entertaining enough for our youth) is "Don't GO to church, BE the church."

This is by far the most foolish motto any Christian could ever champion. For one, the whole existence of the church is for the benefit of the Christian Community. One of its aim is for believers to find unity, partake in fellowship and worship Christ together. If suddenly we stop going to church, the unity disappears and what you have remaining is scattered individuals who go off doing their own thing. In the book of Acts, the author Luke takes great care in showing the foundational need for unity and in supporting the tight bond that exists in the church.

Now, unfortunately I understand where this lashing out against the church has come from. Unfortunately a lot of churches (both Protestant and Catholic) have done a terrible job in continuing the community fellowship that the Apostles enacted. The preaching has become so watered down that it feels as though the pastor is just "talking" to the audience. Nobody among the "masses" knows one another's names and there is little unity between elders and members. Not only that, but members come and go as they please, occasionally offering a couple bucks on Sundays as tithes but have no relational attachment to their church. It doesn't matter to them whether the church has enough money to get by or not. They just show up on Sundays.

The cure for that, therefore, is not LESS church, but a deeper bond within the church.

I will be honest with you when I tell you that I love, absolutely love, going to my church on Sundays. I don't belong to a gigantic church with hip music, big screens, a full worship band or a pastor who is more interested in entertaining than preaching. No. Our church is small, conservative and with preaching that speaks out and digs deep into the Bible's teachings.

Not only do I know my pastor's name, I know his wife and his kids and we meet regularly for coffee to talk. I've helped him paint his house. He's had my wife and me over for dinner several times. The church has hosted game nights and Bible studies and other fellowship events. But not only the Pastor, but the elders and members in general. We are in fact the Church.

But something else that these post-modern Christian books fail to realize is that the Church cannot exist without sound preaching. We come to church to have fellowship, yes, but we come together to glorify God.

Once you remove that focus, once you say "Be the church as individuals" people start caring more about glorifying themselves than worshiping Christ. Emergent believers say the church should be more flexible, that we should look to Biblical doctrines as a trampoline instead of a brick wall, because trampolines are fun and brick walls shut people out. But in doing that, the church is destroyed. It becomes a hodgepodge of people who have no convictions and are more interested in the answers inside themselves rather than turning to the answers the Bible provides.

We are not the authority. God is. We are the Church only if God is at our center. The goal is not solely fellowship. Otherwise we might as well spend our Sundays at Kennywood. The goal is to share fellowship that is Christ centered.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Concussions and toughness

I rarely agree with Ron Cook,Post-Gazette sports columnist, but in this case, I'm totally with him.

The NFL is finally taking head injuries as seriously as they truly are, and I'm really disappointed in Hines Ward for practically calling out his QB for not playing against the Ravens. We're not talking about Big Ben's sore pinky toe or a bruised rib. We're talking about the man's brain.

I've highlighted this in the past, but if you haven't read it, please read Jean Marie-Laska's GQ article on concussions in the NFL. It made me cringe and really see all of this game head-banging under a new light.

Depression sets in

The Steelers have dropped their third game in a row. My Monday mornings are beginning to feel more and more dreary by the week.

This is the fifth game this year the Steelers weren't able to protect a lead in the fourth quarter. All the games the Steelers have lost were close. They lost four games by only three points and one by six points. This means two things. One, the Steelers are really not a bad team at 6-5, but more frustrating is that the Steelers simply cannot win close games. They cannot seal the deal. That's ugly, period. Especially if there is any chance of going into the playoffs, I don't feel confident at all in this team winning even the first round. They are extremely talented and smart, but their minds are not in the game, especially when it counts the most.

Another scary stat is that the Steelers are 2-4 when Polamalu doesn't play and 4-1 this year in the games he starts. For one, it shows how valuable Polamalu is to this team, but it also shows how the rest of the defensive unit cannot seem to get the job done without him. This is supposed to be an 11-man unit. Polamalu should not count so much towards the wins and losses of a team.

Even more scary is the fact that this Defense has allowed 29 pass plays of 20 yards or longer, six of which were of 40 yards or more. Thats in only 11 games played. Last year, they allowed only 22 plays of 20 yards or more, two of which went for 40 yards or more throughout the course of the entire season.

The big plays have come against this defense way too often, and most of them seem to take place in the fourth quarter when the defense we know gets to the QB and forces turnovers or at least stops opposing offenses in their tracks.

I will say this, I'd much rather not see the Steelers in the playoffs this year than watch them blow games in the post-season in this fashion.

My heart simply cannot handle the stress. I'm 24 years old and my wife keeps finding more and more gray hairs on my head each week. I'm sure that's correlated (at least in part) to Steelers performances.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dixon gets a start

I thought it was a joke when I saw the PG headline read: "Steelers' Dixon to start against Ravens; Roethlisberger will serve as No. 3 QB"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Preview: Steelers vs. Ravens

The last time Rashard Mendenhall faced the Baltimore Ravens, he sent a text message to Ray Rice bragging he would have a big game against the Ravens D as a rookie. Just a few carries into the game, ILB Ray Lews broke Mendenhall's shoulder with a brutal hit.

The Steelers have always done a terrible job running against the Ravens in recent years, but that's because their defense have been able to contain Formerly Fast Willie Parker. This year, Fright Night (aka Rush Hard, aka Delicious) has been averaging a very respectable 5.1 yards per carry. The Ravens are not the defense they used to be, and even though they rank No. 5 in rushing defense, they have allowed 100+ yard games to Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson. I don't think Fright Night will break that mark, but I think that the team as a whole will.

If the Steelers lose to the Ravens things will be ugly for Pittsburgh. Both teams will be 6-5, but the Ravens will be ahead. Plus, this will be the third loss in a row for the Steelers.

On a positive note, however, I was watching the Mike Tomlin Show yesterday and Tomlin said he has all the confidence in the world in this team responding after a very, very ugly loss in Kansas City.

My biggest worry is Big Ben. Regardless of how our running game goes, Ben will be the key to our offense. If he has another bad day at the office, this will be an ugly game to watch. He'll be playing in a hostile environment after receiving a hit to the head in KC.

I have little doubt that the Steelers defense will show up. They always play great in prime time and especially when facing a team like Baltimore with a reputation of an aggressive and fierce D.

I do think Flacco will have some success because he's shown so much poise as a rookie last year. He will probably throw for more than 250 yards and can air it out like a pro. In this game, we have to absolutely avoid the big play. The secondary has to really step it up in a huge game where Polamalu will be missing. Without Polamalu the Steelers are 2-4 this year. It's about time the rest of the secondary step it up to fill that void.

Need your help readers!!!

Ever since starting photography at the Post-Gazette, I've started to become much more passionate about it. In Iraq, I wrote stories and a I took photos to match the stories, but in my mind I always considered photography secondary. Now I'm becoming really passionate about it.

I've also run into Jay's wordpress blog about journalism and online media, and I really love the extended features that wordpress offers over blogger.

My "dilemma" is that I really want to start a wordpress blog so I can do multiple things with it: continue talking about the Steelers, my faith and also add photography and fiction writing to the mix. On top of that, it allows me to use the blog as an online portfolio by uploading my resume and a list of my achievements.

But if I make the switch, I'm not sure if I see a need to keep this blog going. That means that I would have to start from scratch and sort of lose the continuity that I've begun here.

I also have a website, with my own name as a URL, which costs about $100 a year to keep up. Wordpress is free. Should I make the switch completely and leave the website and this blog behind?

For those of you who have wordpress, how easy is it to use compared to blogger? What are the pros and cons? How interactive is it by combining photos and videos in your posts?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Photographay

I recently bought a Nikon D300s and it takes phenomenal pictures. The images come out so sharp, the contrast is sick and it does a wonderful job with night pictures as well. I'm not even using any high-grade, professional lenses. Right now I'm working with an 18-55mm and a fixed 50mm F/1.8. The second shot below was taken with a very inexpensive 70-300mm Nikon lens.

If you want to check out more of my shots, browse through my Flickr account. Below are some recent shots I took.

This is my little niece Mira while we were waiting around for Thanksgiving lunch.

My wife, Heather, actually took this shot. I love it. I just bumped up the saturation of some of the colors and vibrance. The man in the picture is my best man, James, with his little girl, Lilly. The little boy was playing around with Lilly at the park.

I took this shot walking back to my car from a Monday night class. The greatest thing about this shot is that I didn't touch it up one bit with any of the software I have. It came out perfect.

I've made it a point to take my camera with me no matter where I go. I always park in the same place and it's always the same walk coming back from class, but I've noticed that if you keep your eyes open, you always find new things to photograph, even on the same stretch of road if you do it every day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mix up the tradition

I think it's about time the NFL mixes up the match-ups on Thanksgiving, or at the very least figure out better opponents for the Cowboys and the Lions.

Every year I can remember, the games on Thanksgiving have resulted in one-sided blowouts. The Cowboys play the Raiders today, and even though Oakland upset Cincinnati this past Sunday, I see no reason for why they will put up a fight today. Before that we have the Lions and the Packers. There is no worse team to watch than the Lions. The Lions are by far the least exciting football team to watch (unless they're playing the Browns, I guess). How did this tradition even begin?

I like NFL games on Thanksgiving, but my goodness, let's keep the games interesting! The NFL could do a lot better in figuring out these match-ups. The only game I'm looking forward to is the Giants at the Broncos, but kickoff isn't until tonight.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Predestination: A matter of pride?

The subject of predestination in Christianity is certainly a touchy one. In a few words, predestination is the idea that God chose the people he would save even before the creation of the world. Often, this is a philosophy that's attributed to John Calvin, also known as Calvinism or Irrefutable Grace. More specifically, this philosophy believes that it is God who chooses men, not men who choose God. For previous posts on this, you can click here or here.

I can understand how predestination looks to someone (Christian or not) who doesn't believe in it. From the perspective of man, it comes across as an extremely prideful claim.

"God chose you? Really? What makes you so special? How are you possibly more deserving of salvation than me or the next guy?"

Not only that, but predestination can become an excuse for shutting people out. A Calvinist could simply say, "If you don't believe in Christ, that's not my problem. God simply didn't want you."

However, the true heart behind predestination is an utterly humble approach at God and man. Any genuine believer will say that man is nothing and God is everything. Most Christians understand that we are saved not by our works but by our faith in God. So regular logic will say that you must first have faith and then you can believe in God and then you will be saved. But from the predestination perspective, a Christian will say, "I'm not even good enough to have faith on my own! God granted me that faith!"

In other words, not only does God grant salvation, but he also grants the means of that salvation. A sinner is a man in the ocean without even a life jacket. It's God who throws over the rescue tube and pulls us in. He does everything. We do nothing to earn a chance at rescue.

In Ephisians 2:1 we discover that we are "dead in transgression and sins." Dead. Not at the doorstep of death. Not nearly dead. Not on our last breath. Dead.

To visualize what that means, think back to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John (Chapter 11).

Lazarus has been dead for four days when Christ arrives to Judea. By this point, his body had already begun decomposing. We know this because Martha, Lazarus' sister, tells Jesus they could already smell the body (11:38).

It is Christ who calls out Lazarus to come out. It is Christ who regenerates his life. Lazarus was dead. He had no way of asking Christ to come restore his life. There was nothing he could do to gain Christ's favor.

The same is true in our salvation from sin.

Now, yes, there are certainly moments where Jesus acknowledges people's either lack (Matt. 6:30) or greatness in faith (Matt. 15:28), but remember Jesus is also the one who said, "I have come to call not the righteous but the sinners" (Matt. 9:13 -- this was in reference to Jesus eating with tax collectors, but again it demonstrates God's choosing) and "no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father" (John 6:65).

This idea is extremely explicit throughout the Bible, beginning from the Old Testament to the New.

On the flip side of the coin, if we must have faith first in order to earn salvation, this alludes to the idea that certain individuals have an inner goodness already that others don't. In other words, if I have faith (which points me to Christ) and you don't (pointing you away from Christ) it means that I already have some kind of spiritual makeup that makes me better than you. How does that happen?

There's nothing in the Bible that can support that idea. Rather, the Bible always explicitly calls out man as "vile and corrupt", "evil" and the "enemy of God" (by continuing to remain attached to the ways of the world).

Now, as I've stated in my earlier posts, I do think that this question is much more complex than a few thoughts and reflections can present it. There are verses that call people to "seek" God or express praise for people who have faith. I would definitely encourage anyone to bring up these passages to help flesh out this discussion. I'm just expressing where I stand on the issue of predestination given the overall bulk and context of salvation.

Matt has already brought up good points in the past. Hopefully we can keep that going.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whoo Hoo!!

I was just offered a paid internship position with the Post-Gazette for 13-weeks.

I'm pumped!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vince Young is no QB

Against the Texans, so far, Chris Johnson has run for more yards (151) than Vince Young has passed (116).

That's an insane stat. Good for Johnson, not so good for Young as a passer.

Just as long as they win, I'm happy though.

Least watched episode?

Go Vince

I'm a Vince Young fan tonight. I'm rooting for Tennessee to win over Houston, otherwise the Texans move up to 6-4 and are very much in the playoff picture.

Go Titans.

By the way, I'm sure they're seeing the same dropsies problems we saw with Nate Washington when he was in Pittsburgh.

Monday Morning Moody Membrane

I always feel so depressed after a Steelers loss. I couldn't watch the whole game yesterday because I had my Army Reserve duty. So I listened to part of the fourth quarter on the radio on my way home when Big Ben throws a touchdown pass to Fright Night to go up 24-17 on the Chiefs. The whole time I'm incredulous. I couldn't believe the Chiefs were actually hanging in with the Steelers.

The Chiefs for goodness sake!

Then the Steelers kickoff pinned them at their own 9-yard line. I'm thinking: "Nice! Perfect picking for the Steelers Defense to terrorize Matt Castle and company!"

Instead, the Chiefs had two huge passing plays and tied up the game in eight plays they cover 91-yards in a Patriot-like manner.

Finally, I get home in time to watch the Steelers make it to overtime. Big Ben is hurt but Batch is money in these situations. We make our way closer to a doable field goal that can win the game, but then, on a Third-and-Two we get stuffed for a three-yard loss!

I wanted Tomlin to go for the 53-yarder field goal, but instead we punt the ball away.

The Chiefs treated the Steelers defense like a joke as they throw the ball twice, and go deep on the third pass. Ike Taylor almost grabs an interception, but instead bobbles the ball as he comes to the ground. I'm thinking, "That's okay. No big deal. It's third down. It's time for the Defense to feast with a sack."

Instead, the Chiefs complete a 61-yard catch-and-run play that takes them down to the Steelers 4-yard line.

Field goal. Steelers lose.

I felt so sick to my stomach. Now we were looking at two back-to-back losses, and we'd just lost to the now 3-7 Kansas City Freaking Chiefs!?!

There was some consolidation at the end of the day, however. The Bengals also lost yesterday to the hapless Oakland Raiders, and we're still in the thick of things for a playoff spot even if we don't win the division.

The Broncos lost their fourth in a row and are now 6-4. We hold the tie-breaker over them since we beat them on Monday Night Football.

The Dolphins are a game behind at 5-5. That will be an important match-up against them at the end of the season for the Steelers. That may decide whether we make the playoffs or not.

Baltimore, fortunately, fell to 5-5 with a loss to the Colts. We face them next week in prime-time. That will be a HUGE game for both teams, and you know that the Ravens will come out with a fury on both sides of the ball.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are 6-4 like us and fighting for a fifth or sixth seed since there's little chance that the Colts will lose the division now at 10-0.

Right now, San Diego leads the AFC West at 7-3 with a win over the Broncos. The good thing there, is that if the Broncos reclaim the lead, and the Chargers fall later in the season, we also hold a tie-breaker against them. I would rather see the Chargers keep winning though, especially in their Week-15 game against the Bengals. The Broncos still have a very tough schedule ahead (They play the Giants, Colts and Eagles through the next six weeks), and could very well miss the playoffs after staring the season 6-0. I'm sure there is turmoil in that locker room.

I still like the Steelers chances at winning a playoff spot, but they certainly didn't help themselves with a loss to the Chiefs. With a win, they might have still been able to win the division. Mathematically, it's not out of the question, yet, but still unlikely.

Fighting 354 Blog

Just put together a blog for my Army Public Affairs unit, the 354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. We'll be using the blog to post photos and stories about Soldiers in the Army Reserve.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

YLDS - Props to the Bengals

Jim Shearer provides us with evidence that even the mighty Steelers are human.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Touchdowns allowed

This stat, brought to you by Dale Lolley, is stunning...

That's seven consecutive games the Steelers have allowed a return touchdown, including three-straight home games that they've given up a kickoff return touchdown.

The defense has allowed 11 touchdowns all season.

Are we the '08 Ravens?

That question, actually stems from another question. Are the Bengals the '08 Steelers?

Now, naturally the Bengals defense is nowhere near as good as the Steelers defense was last year, but my goodness have they improved from years past. The Steelers were 0 for 4 in scoring touchdowns from the Red Zone, and already the Bengals have swept the Ravens and now (sigh) us. They are 5-0 in their division and there's no reason to believe that the Browns can upset them in their next match up.

Like the Ravens last year, the Steelers are still a very, very solid team despite being swept by the Bengals. If we don't make the playoffs as a wild card I will be completely shocked. I don't believe we can win the division now, even though it's still mathematically possible with 7 games left. We would have to win out and the Bengals would have to lose at least two games, but they're already sitting very pretty and the Browns are the only ones who can keep them from sweeping the AFC North completely.

That won't happen.

I've underestimated the Bengals all year. Now I'm a believer, and unfortunately now they can actually chant their obnoxious "Who Dey" chant.

Now the question becomes, can the Bengals beat the Steelers three times just as we beat the Ravens tree times last year on the way to the Super Bowl?

Man, do I hope not.

That will cause something very terrible to snap in my psyche.

The problem now for the Steelers is that we still have to face the Ravens twice, and they're not suckers of the division yet, even though their record is 4-4 pending tonight's game against the Browns (is that even worth watching?).

The Bengals' remaining games are against Oakland, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, San Diego, Kansas City and the Jets.

San Diego is playing like people expected them at the start of the season, so they'll pose a threat and my hopes is that Minnesota and the Jets will put a beating on Cincy. But I won't underestimate them anymore this year. They're very capable of finishing the season 13-3 if they keep playing like they're playing.

The Steelers, on the other hand, still have to face Kansas City, Baltimore (twice), Oakland, Cleveland, Green Bay and Miami.

I believe the Steelers are good enough to beat every one of those teams, but I know they won't.

What do you people think will be the Steelers' final record?

And will a record of 11-5 be good enough to earn a playoff spot?

We shall see. All I know is that I'm going to be watching carefully the rest of the AFC teams from this point forward.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Preview: Steelers Vs. Bengals

I've been doing homework since 9:00 a.m. this morning and I'm finally coming around doing what I love doing best, breaking down Sunday's matchup between Steelers and their opponent.

I've been looking forward to tomorrow's game against the Bengals ever since they beat the Steelers in Cincinnati earlier this season. Now the rematch is finally here.

The Steelers lost that game 23-20 in week 3, the Bengals surged from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and ripped out a win that should have been held by the Black and Gold. 

Earlier this season, the Steelers Defense was coming apart late in the game, and perhaps this was because Polamulu was missing from the lineup, which allowed opposing offenses dink and dunk their way into our end zone.

Ever since Polamalu's return against Cleveland, however, the Steelers have been allowing only one offensive touchdown and no offensive points in the fourth quarter. With Polamalu in play, the Quarterback has to think twice about where to send the ball because Troy causes such a havoc in coverage.

The past few weeks, I've had a hard time believing that the Bengals are actually back and as good as they were in 2005. But with their record standing at 6-2 and with decisive wins over Baltimore and Chicago, I had to finally admit that Cincinnati is in fact a very good team.

I still hold that the Steelers are much better. Fright Night has been running out of his mind, and Big Ben plays so well at home when the crowd is on our side. Interestingly enough, the Bengals have the second best rush defense in the NFL. I'd like to see how Rashard does agains them. I predict another 100+ yard performance.

I really don't see the Bengals escaping with another win this time. 

In fact, not only do the Steelers win this game, but I predict they win big. Steelers by 11 points, which is what they should have had in the first matchup.


Photography


For those of you who are interested, I'll be now doing wedding photography and family or individual portraits.

Pass around the word if you know someone who's interested.

Here's the link for more info.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Predestination, a call from God

I promised a while back that I would do a few posts on the subject of predestination. Finally I'm able to devote a little bit of time to do a first post.

One of the most compelling aspects of predestination and election for me, is that, not only is it explicitly stated in Romans 8 , 9 and Ephesians 1, but we have evidence to support election since the beginning of the Old Testament.

Think about it. First we have to understand that it was God who chose Israel, despite Israel continually rebelling and disobeying His law and prostituting itself to foreign gods (Jeremiah 2). There, we have a case in which God chose a people. But beyond that, God also chose the individuals who would rule and lead His people. It was God who chose Abraham and made a covenant of faith with him. It was Him who chose Jacob (and renamed him Israel) over Esau, even though Esau was born first. It was Yaweh who chose Moses, even though Moses objected because he said he wasn't a good enough speaker to face Pharaoh. It was God who chose David, even though he was the youngest of his brothers.

And we could go on and on in just about every Old (and New) Testament book.

But then the argument could be, "Well, it's not that God chose those men strictly for salvation, but to fulfill a certain role."

In that case, we have to look at how the Bible uses the word "elect" which is the word most predestination supporters use to argue the stance of God choosing man.

I am not a Hebrew or Greek scholar, so unfortunately I have to rely on the English translations to see how the word "elect" is used.

In the NKJ version, the word "elect" first appears in Isaiah (in the NIV version, the word is replaced with "chosen" which is to show, at the very least, that it is God who elects, and not us). Here, the word is used to refer to the coming messiah (Isaiah 42:1), and to Israel as His people (46:4 / 65:9).

In Matthew 24:31, Christ speaks of the elect as the people God will gather by His angels.

In both cases, the elect is a term used specifically for those people God holds closely, and not just chosen for specific purposes.

On my next post I will look at Romans specifically which is when "election" and "predestination" are used together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Props and Drops: Broncos Game

Sorry for a lag in blogging the last couple of days. Been terribly busy with the Post-Gazette and other school assignments. I wanted to comment on the past Monday Night Football game played in Denver, but I won't be able to do it extensively. On my way to class in a few minutes.

First, let me start with the...

DROPS:

The entire first half was a disaster for everybody on the team except for Tyrone Carter who scored the lonely touchdown early in the game. Up until half-time, it really looked like we were getting it handed to us. Our running game was nonexistent. Receivers couldn't get open. Ben was getting harassed every time he threw the ball.

If I could point out one player specifically who deserves the Drops Award though for the first half is William Gay. He was getting terrorized constantly and his receiver always managed to create separation from him. He allowed three big catches to Eddie Royal in the first quarter alone, but he did recover well later on and even stripped a ball that resulted in an incomplete pass.


PROPS:

Just like the Drops title in the first half, the Props should go all around for the second half performance. This team adjusted so well. Ben moved around with some bootlegs to avoid pressure and receivers finally found some open gaps in coverage. Fright Night had an astonishing performance and tore up the formerly No. 3 rushing defense, finishing off with 155 yards on the ground. The Defense too (yes, with a capital D, they deserve it) rebounded nicely. After allowing 168 yards in the first half, they were staunch and allowed only 56 in the second. More than that, they allowed only 3 offensive points to a team that was managing a healthy 25+ points per game.

I was most impressed by how the offense responded to adversity. Finally they were moving the ball when Big Ben was stripped and Broncos DE Robert Ayers returned the fumble for a 46 yard touchdown. On the very next drive, Big Ben and company drove the ball a good length of the field and reclaimed the lead.

The whole team played with passion and intent.

Monday, November 9, 2009

After a very, very rough first half, this team is really establishing its identity in the second. And for once, the Steelers are actually closing out a game in the fourth quarter running the ball against a very good running defense (formerly ranked 3rd in the league).
Holmes is acting like a leader. He got after Fright Night for going out of bounds when we're trying to run the clock.
Steelers having a monstrous second half!
Now the offense is clicking!
Mendenhall not getting a ton of yards but getting them tough.
Let's see if the Steelers come out with the no-huddle. They need a spark.
FINALLY! James Harrison draws a holding penalty. Huge!
The Broncos are dominating the clock. I did not expect this. I anticipate some adjustments in the second half.
Casey Hampton is fat and out of shape.

No news there.
Other than Polamalu and Taylor, the secondary is whiffing on some detrimental tackles.
I thought Tyron Carter would be a a downgrade from Ryan Clark, but I stand corrected. Nice Pick-Six! You could definitely tell he was running winded in Mile-High, though!
Eddie Royal is embarrassing William Gay. Awesome interception by Tyrone Carter though!
Ben is getting terrorized. But mostly because of good coverage down field. But I expected the O-line to hold up a little better.
The Broncos secondary really is all pro. We gotta come up with some better schemes to get our WRs open.
Ike Taylor looking phenomenal in coverage. Gay was getting killed early. Surprised they didn't continue to attack him on the second drive.

That missed interception was a bit frustrating but understandable with both Gay and Polamalu going for the ball.

Texting blog

My text-to-blog isn't working right now... I wanted to do a play-by-play commentary during the game, but probably won't.

Here we go...

I absolutely love Monday Night Football. So far Tomlin is undefeated on MNF. Hopefully that streak continues tonight. Big game!

Preview: Steelers vs. Broncos

I didn't do my regular Saturday preview post because I was busy formatting and reinstalling software on some Army laptops all day long. One of them caught a virus right after I installed all the software it needed and I had to start over from scratch.

I was so ticked.

But onto tonight's game!

Like I've said in a previous post, I'm actually quite a bit worried about this game especially because Denver got demolished by Baltimore in their last game and are going to want something to prove in this matchup.

Suddenly the critics are questioning the Bronco's physicality and toughness, even though they boast the number one defense in the NFL. This will be a game decided in the second half for sure, and it's certainly going to be one of those "most violent team wins" kind of games.

I think this is going to be a decisive game where we will find out a lot about our running game. The Broncos are ranked third against the rush, but the Ravens were able to churn out about 120+ yards on the ground. I believe Fright Night can take the load with several hand-offs to Parker and Moore here and there.

Statistically the Broncos seem solid in the Defense all around, although Blitzburgh from BTSC argues that it's more because of the opponents they played than their actual talent. I'm not sure I'm convinced by his argument, but I do believe we will move the ball effectively (not with ease, but effectively) when it counts.

These two teams are pretty even when it comes to sacking the quarterback, but I think our game plan is going to rely more on pressuring Kyle Orton than it is for the Broncos to attack Big Ben.

Ben is by far the better quarterback here, and Orton hasn't proven to be tested under pressure.

If we get to Orton frequently enough, we win this game. I will pin this win on the fact of us sacking and pressuring him more than the Broncos can pressure us.

Steelers (bold statement coming up) come out of this game with six sacks and a six point win.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yinz Luv... Jim Shearer


For those of you who have checked out my blog in the past will know I'm a big fan of the low-budget, no-budget Yinz Luv Da Stillers web show. I'm also gaining a lot of respect for Jim Shearer, the creator of the show. So much so that I wanted to write a feature story on him for the Post-Gazette. Unfortunately, the editors there didn't show interest (because, I think, they don't get the importance of the revolution going on online). So instead, I asked him to do a Q&A session with me regarding the world of web shows and web journalism in general.

Jim is 34 yars old, grew up in Pittsburgh, attended Shaler Area High School, and now lives with his wife in New York City. His day job is with VH1 hosting Top 20 Video Countdown. He started Yinz Luv 'Da Guins during the 2008 playoffs and had so much fun doing it, he started Yinz Luv 'Da Stillers when their season kicked off later in the year.
He has been working in television since 2001 when he started with MTV, and his dream is to come back to Pittsburgh if he had the opportunity to do a show here.

I got hooked on YLDS when I was in Iraq and couldn't catch all the games because of the time difference. So, onto the Q&A:

Q: Most journalistic reporters are not allowed to be “fans” of the team they cover. Your web show allows you the freedom to also be a fan. How would YLDS be different if you had to remain “objective”?
A: I don't think YLDS could exist if I had to remain objective. The easiest thing about doing YLDS every week is that there is always a good guy and a bad guy, a protagonist and an antagonist. The story curve is already written for me. The show takes a Pittsburgh fan's perspective, instead of an x's and o's approach, and as a Pittsburgh fan I can only be so objective to the opposing team.


Q: You’ve already done a two-part episode interview with Jack Ham for your show. What has that interview taught you about the direction of your show? Are there any other ambitions or projects you would like to take on?
A: I would love to interview more Steelers and people associated with the team (beat writers, training staff, ex-Steelers, dedicated fans, etc.), but living in New York makes that very difficult. If I could ever find my way back to Pittsburgh, you'd find more episodes like the one with Jack Ham--instead of me just sitting in my bedroom all the time. As for ambitions, my main is goal to to eventually find some type of media work in Pittsburgh; the reason I started the series in the first place.


Q: What motivated you to record and put together this weekly web-show in the first place?
A: Oops, looks like I already answered this question. After my contract ended with MTV I began looking for work in Pittsburgh. The consensus was I didn't have enough on-air sports experience (although I had interviewed a slew of athletes and worked on many a sports show while at MTV). I started the Yinz Luv series to create a make-shift sports reel and to gain the sports experience that I apparently lacked for the Pittsburgh market.

Q: You also have a career on actual television and experience with both VH1 and MTV. How is the production of YLDS different from your television work?
A: Instead of working with a team of many people, it's just me. Also, the equipment I use isn't nearly as expensive as the stuff we use on VH1. My eight years of professional production experience has helped me out a ton though. Conversely, Yinz Luv has helped me on the professional side of things. Since YLDS doesn't have a budget for a teleprompter (obviously), I'll memorize the script in my head, a technique that has helped me out on many a VH1 Top 20 shoot.


Q: If somebody approached you and said, we want to pay you and take YLDS to television, and they offered you a half-hour weekly show, what would you do to make the show fill that half hour?
A: Oooh, that would be the dream. Believe it or not, content-wise it might be easier to do a 22-minute show (can't forget about those commercials) than a 10-minute YouTube show. There's a lot of stuff I end up cutting out for time constraints. With highlights, the gratuitous comedy skit, analysis, the occasional song parody, and interviews, I'd have no problem piecing together an awesome half-hour weekly show.


Q: What opportunities has the world of the web provided you in show production that regular media could not allow you?
A: An audience and not having a chain of command saying "no" to me for whatever reason.

Q: Do you ever run into people who recognize you from YLDS but have no clue you’ve ever been on regular television?
A: It's funny, I've been on VH1 for nearly a year now, was on MTV and MTV2 for six years, and every time I'm noticed out in public, it's for YLDG and YLDS. I don't even get a monstrous amount of views, so it's odd that I'm noticed more for a low budget web-show I run out of my bedroom.


Q: How is your television fanbase different from your web shows fanbase?


A: On YLDS and YLDG it feels like I'm part of the team, part of one big Pittsburgh family. On TV, it's a crap shoot. People will like or hate me depending on my music tastes, how my hair looks, or how well I did when interviewing their favorite artist.


Q: How do you push yourself to record a show after a Steelers loss?
A: I try to make a loss as entertaining as possible, and try to make the next game feel as hopeful as possible.


Q: Do you have any crazy pre-game rituals?
A: Whenever there's a big Steelers or Penguins game, I'll make a Roethlisweiner sandwich (smoked sausage, onions, tomatoes, hot mustard, saurkraut, salt-and-pepper). The Steelers and Pens have never lost when I made them; that's why I don't press my luck and eat them before every game.


Q: You have a degree in Journalism from Waynesburg College, so I’m sure you’ve noticed how, because of blogging and the web, many of the news industries are dying out or are forced to strategize new ways of delivering their information. Do you envision television shows ever having to face that sort of crisis in the future? Do you ever feel like YLDS is ahead of the curve in that sense (having established a web base)?
A: We're in such a weird place right now. I think, eventually, TV and the web will mold/evolve into one entity. When I was younger we had 13 television channels, then 50, now I have well over a thousand. Think of all the blogs and web-shows on the internet, there's the same number of eyes with a gazillion more outlets to choose from. Although it'll be easier to reach niche audiences, it's going to be tougher to reach the mass audience. Because everything is becoming so scattered, media professionals are going to have to know how to do it all, so in that respect, I may be a wee bit ahead of the curve, since I'm an on-air host, who can produce, write, shoot, direct, and edit.


Q: You’ve said (in a Pittsburgh City Paper interview) that the local sports media are sort of “missing the big picture” when it comes to sports shows. What is that “big picture” in your mind?
A: Whenever I've heard back from the Pittsburgh sports market, it's always comments like, "We could never do a skit with copyright material." The "big picture" is that I can handle myself in front of and behind a camera, fully capable of hosting any type of sports program coming out of Pittsburgh. Half of the stuff I do on YLDS couldn't fly on TV, I realize that, but I wish someone would say, "Eight years of national TV experience, three years of making sports web-shows in his bedroom, this guy's got more than enough professional tools to work on-air in the 'burgh."

The man inside the suit


This post doesn't have to do with either faith or football, but with writing.

I'm now in my final weeks of my internship at the Post-Gazette. Yesterday I had the tremendous pleasure of doing an over-the-phone interview with Anthony Daniels, the British star who played C-3PO in all six Star Wars movies.

He was an extremely charming and delightful man to interview. He spoke quickly (and with a British accent), which made it difficult at times to catch the whole quote, but I think I came away with a very good story. Mainly, it focused on his part-time role as adjunct professor at the Entertainment Technology Center, which is a graduate program run by CMU.

I focused the story mainly on that, which unfortunately made it difficult to include some of the funnier or more colorful tidbits that came up during the interview.

But this is why we blog, after all, isn't it? So that we can include and write about snippets and pieces that don't always fit elsewhere.

Right now, Daniels is on tour with with Star Wars: In Concert, a multimedia event that combines all six movies into a two-hour concert. The show will be coming to Pittsburgh on Nov. 29.

During our phone interview, Daniels was having trouble with his phone, which started beeping.

"It's R2D2 on the other line," he said.

A few years ago, CMU started the Robot Hall of Fame, which Daniels hosted in 2003. R2D2 was the first of four robots inducted into the Hall. C-3PO wasn't inducted until the following year in 2004.

I asked Daniels if C-3PO might be jealous that R2D2 was inducted first.

As a complete gentleman, Daniels answered charmingly, "No, no, no, no. ArToo was first because he had to tidy things up and make sure everything was ready for C-3PO to arrive. C-3PO was probably doing something important then."

Which is funny because he was in fact doing something important: He was hosting the awards.

He also said that he never understood the underlining webbing of the Star Wars storyline until he became involved with this concert. I've never been a big Star Wars fan (gasp!), but the way he talked about the concert, he really made me want to go catch the show.

As he talked about the concert, and the lighting and the live music, and the standing ovations the show has received, he said, "I'm getting goosebumps just thinking of it."

He is also a big fan of Pittsburgh, but not so much of the road systems here (I did include this in the story). And, he doesn't know the difference between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Shame on you, Mr. Daniels.

By the end of the interview, which lasted about 45 minutes, he made me feel very at ease. I came away from it thinking I had interviewed a friendly college professor rather than an actor involved with one of the biggest epic stories in movie history.

The article I wrote should come out sometime this month in the Post-Gazette. I'll let you know...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jesus Loves...

Matt sent me a link to a T-Shirt that has a picture of Jesus, and reads: "Jesus Loves The Steelers."

He asked what I might think of the shirt, and quite honestly, I find it revolting. There's several reasons for why I feel this way, but the main one is this: Christ came on Earth to sacrifice His life so that we may gain ours. He died for the atonement of our sins. He is the incarnate God. He is the King of Kings. And to commercialize God for the promotion of a football team (even my very own personal favorite football team) is a ridicule of His reign. It is to use God for personal pleasure and gratification.

I actually want to thank Matt for providing the link. Don't think I'm mad at you for doing so.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bill Cowher question resurfaces

The Cleveland Browns recently fired their GM, who apparently was hand-picked by coach Eric Mangini. That's an absurd scenario, but let's move on.

I was listening to Tunch Ilkin with Craig Wolfley on 970 AM this morning, A caller came on the air saying he's a long time friend of Bill Cowher and still talks to him and Cowher said he's interested in returning to coaching within the next couple of years, but only under a couple of condition. One, he wants to go into a team that requires rebuilding, and two, he wants to have total control, both as coach and as GM, I imagine.

It didn't sound like the caller was BS'ing (though he could have), and both Tunch and Wolfley seemed very intrigued by the call.

Do you guys think the Browns will be calling up Cowher soon? It's a couple of years now that we've been talking about this, but hey, seems more possible now than ever. If not the Browns, what other team?

Redskins and Panthers are definitely two other options.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Predestination: An unpoular truth

I would say that all Christians can agree on the major doctrines of the faith, in which we know that we are sinners and Christ died on the cross in order to atone our punishment so that, if we believe, we may receive salvation and enter Heaven.

This, as Christians, we know.

There are, however a slew of topics that have brought forth heated discussion and debate throughout the years. Three that come right to mind are child baptism, observance of the Sabbath (which many Christians now call the Lord's Day), and whether Salvation can be lost.

None of these topics, however, have generated as much opposition as the discussion on predestination.

In the most basic terms, "predestination" means that believers in Christ were predestined for salvation even before the beginning of time. Even before the first sin, God knew we would be saved.

Now, the debate becomes heated on the matter of choice, or as some want to refer to as free will.

In other words: Does the Believer choose God, or is it God who chooses the Believer?

This is not your typical "chicken or the egg" question. This is a question that really confronts who we are as human beings before God. And in the next following weeks I'd like to bring to light passages that help shine the light on the answer of predestination.

Do we choose salvation? Or are we chosen for salvation?

I've already alluded to where I stand on this by the title of this post, but I'd like people to discuss and talk in the meanwhile. If you know of any particular passage that may be helpful in answering this question, please let me know.

On my next post on this topic, I will take a look at Romans 9, which, I believe, is the most explicit in discussion predestination.

And then ther was one...

Until last week, there were three different undefeated teams in the NFL. Yesterday, the Baltimore Ravens bumped the Denver Broncos off that stool, and now only the Saints remain. They play tonight on MNF against rival Atlanta Falcons at home.

The Saints are still phenomenal, so I'll give them the nod for tonight to remain undefeated.

My bigger concern is actually the Broncos.

With a decisive win over Denver, the Ravens established that they are not the scum of the division. Even after they lost three games in a row, I didn't think they were all that bad. All losses were in close games against good teams (yes, I'm willing to say the Bengals are a good team).

Their win over the Broncos worries me for two reasons. One: The Ravens (4-3) are back in it with confidence and an important win, and they are now only one game behind the Steelers (5-2). Two: The Steeler face the Broncos next on a Monday night showdown, and after they were exposed by the Ravens, they're going to come after us a little bit harder. I would have liked to see the Broncos win over the Ravens in a tight and physical game so the Steelers could roll into Denver and knock off an undefeated team two games in a row.

Despite losing to Baltimore, Denver is still a good team. They allowed a lot of points in this one (30 points), which is uncharacteristic for them this year (They had been averaging 10 points per game). I expect an aggressive and physical game once we fly into Mile High.

I'll break things down as we go through the week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Heath Miller Interference Call

Post Game Heroes thinks that the pass interference call on Heath Miller was the right call. I completely disagree with him. The two Vikings defenders stood right in front of Miller and pinned him just before the goal line. Miller was just running his route and knocked the one guy down. If anything the penalty should have been called on the Vikings. This was a pretty important call because it negated a Santonio Holmes touch down.

Watch the video, and you tell me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Botched snap

December 31, 2006.

It was Bill Cowher's last game as a Steelers head coach. Heather and I had been dating for two years, and I had recently shared with her my faith in Christ. We were both still very young in our faith, and we didn't quite know what it meant to be a Christian.

The Steelers were playing the Bengals in Cincinnati, and as a New Years celebration, I bought two tickets to watch the game at Paul Brown Stadium. We drove five hours to Cincinnati, slept at a Holiday Inn, and in the morning we prepared for the game by coating our faces in black-and-gold paint. We both wore funny hats and carried our Terrible Towels. Mine was yellow; Heather's was black.

The Steelers were 7-8 and the Bengals 8-7. Pittsburgh was out of the playoff picture after a season marked as one big Superbowl Hangover. The Bengals, however, still had hope. The week before, they had lost a game to the Denver Broncos because of a botched snap causing them to miss an extra point. They were pinning their hopes on this game for a playoff seed. The Steelers had a chance to upset their rival.

As Heather and I walked toward the stadium, the city was filled with orange-donned fans. It was strange to see that effect of fanhood in a foreign city. I had been so used to the yellow and black walking the streets of Pittsburgh on game day.

"They all look like a bunch of hunters," Heather joked. But then she warned me, "Don't get in a fight with anyone. If anybody talks trash, walk away."

"If anybody says anything, I just have two words for them, 'Botched Snap,'" I said, referring to the loss to Denver.

Heather knew my tendency to get rowdy when it comes to the Steelers. I've never had a history of fighting, but I've often lost control of my senses. She had to hold me back and keep pushing me toward the stadium when some Cincinnati punk yelled, "Go back home! Pittsburgh is 300 miles that way!"

"We own this city!" I shouted back as Heather grabbed my Polamalu jersey. "Just remember when you miss the playoffs: Botched snap!"

We sat a dozen rows up from one of the end zones. Our whole row was filled with fans wearing Steelers gear. I felt right at home. Some guy behind me kept talking trash and running his mouth about this player or that player. I offered him gum and gave compliments to various Bengals players just to show him he wasn't getting under my skin. Heather and I had made two signs. One had a picture of a diving and fierce Polamalu with the words, "Pola Gonna Maul U!" And the other with the words, "Cincinnati Bengals Suck" since the game was being broadcast by CBS.

The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage and Willie Parker churned out good yards and marked the game's first score with a touchdown from the two-yard line. The Bengals matched it with a field goal. Then, as the Steelers were about to go up 14-3, Parker fumbled the ball for a touch back. It happened on our end of the field, and I had the impulse to jump down and recover the ball.

The momentum swung like an open door into the Bengals' favor, and they came angrily with a 66-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Chris Henry. I was furious. We were letting a sure victory slip away. Another touchdown run by Parker, another touchdown pass by Carson Palmer. With a field goal, the Bengals went up 17-14. With a minute and three seconds left in the game, the Steelers tied it up with their own field goal. All we had to do is hold the Bengals and force the game into overtime.


But you could tell the Bengals wanted it. They had lost to the Steelers at home four years in a row, and they were determined to break that streak. They were determined for a playoff berth. In just five plays they set up for a 39-yard field goal to win the game. I was in disbelief. We had driven all this way. I had spent all that money on tickets and hotel and gas... Only to watch the Steelers lose.

Everybody was on their feet anticipating the kick. Heather grabbed my hand.

"Let's pray for him to miss," she said, staring into my eyes. There was something like magic in that gaze. Something that yearned. Like a power we could have over the world through prayer.

I hesitated. Prayer. Pray for a victory? Pray for football?

I thought about that idea for an instant, which felt like a moment, which felt like a second, which felt like the length of this entire game and the drive to Cincinnati combined. No. It wouldn't be right to pray for something like this. For a missed field goal. How many people in this stadium were praying for a win? How many were praying for the ball to split the uprights? Would God listen to either side more than the other? Or would He be disgusted by the notion of men asking for glory in sport, meanwhile abandoning church to surround this altar of end zones?

"No," I said to Heather as calmly as possible. "We can't pray for that."

She pulled her hand away from me and turned a shoulder. When I tried to hold her, she moved down a few rows. Away from me. Maybe she'd seen judgment in my eyes. But it wasn't that. I wanted to do right by God. I wanted to show Heather that faith in God was more than faith in a team.

She knows that now, and often knows it better than I do. But in that moment, we were young. We knew the Steelers' roster better than we knew God's character.

I held my breath when Shayne Graham booted the ball. It went up and up and swerved right just in time, like a plane changing course.

In overtime, we won the game on a slant pass to Santonio Holmes who sped past everybody on the Bengals defense.

I was happy because we'd won. But I was even happier because we'd done so without pretending that God cared about football as much as he did about our hearts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our love for children

Two weeks ago I ran into a cunning quote while reading a book for class that didn't really have much to do with God.

"The death of a child is the greatest reason to doubt the existence of God." ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

This attack on God is really nothing new, but just a stem of an old-age argument that questions how a gracious and loving God can allow so much evil to go on in this world.

But I want to focus on this question particularly. Children. They are wonderful little people. I love picking up my various nieces and nephews, making them laugh, teasing them and simply watching them smile over the little joys. There definitely is something sacred about children, but I wonder how it is that we understand and agree on this. Where did we get the notion that children are special? How did it come about?

Say that a child dies, and this proves in your heart that God cannot exist. God cannot exist because all of these ugly things are happening. Ask yourself next, if there is no God, then who are we? Why is our life so precious if God isn't there? Why is the life of a child even more precious than mine without God?

Without God, we are nothing but a very convenient accident in a very lonely universe. Without God, the only "moral" standard is whatever standard that pushes forward survival. Think about it. If God doesn't exist, there really is little basis to believe a child is all that valuable. Sure a child will grow up to further existence of the human race, but there is nothing so tragic about a child dying as long as there are enough people to keep a society alive. Yes. That is a very cruel and bitter view of life. But we cannot pretend that life means much more than that if God doesn't exist. Suddently, the existentialist is a valiant philosopher. We are just an accident. So the taking away of life is nothing more than an accident in reverse.

The Bible, on the contrary, gives a tremendous amount of appreciation for children.
But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:16)

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14-15)
Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. (Isaiah 8:18)
Children are both a gift from God and a sign of the joy we ought to manifest in praising God. The question then becomes, if children are in fact so valuable to God, then why would he take their lives, even today, in such brutal manners.

I think I'm going to leave that question up for discussion for now. I may comment on that later on in this blog. But one thing is for sure, the very idea that we find children so beautiful and valuable is because God exists.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A response

"The death of a child is the greatest reason to doubt the existence of God." ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

I will respond to this quote later today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yinz Luv Da Stillers: Episode 7

A discussion on being old. Enjoy!

Props and Drops -- Vikings Game

My wife suggested I do a blog segment where I highlight the good and the bad of Steelers performances following the game. I'm going to call this segment "Props and Drops" to give credit where it's due and point out which player(s) dropped the ball (sometimes, quite literally).

PROPS:

Definitely a lot of props to the line backing corps. Through the first three games of the season it seemed that the linebackers were nowhere to be found. Against the Vikings, the line backers accounted for 3 of the 4 sacks and scored more points in one quarter than our entire offense did the rest of the game. They terrorized Favre early and often in the game.

The ageless QB still had a tremendous game passing wise (334 yards through the air) because he was able to victimize William Gay and Ike Taylor, who both had very poor outings. But when it counted the most, the linebackers stepped it up to make the biggest plays. LaMarr Woodley scooped up a fumble and looked like a fatter, slower James Harrison returning it back for a touchdown. I didn't think he was ever going to reach the end zone. Keyaron Fox found himself with a gift in his lap when a Favre ass tipped off the hands of Chester Taylor and landed right in Fox's palms. He returned it for the game-winning score.

Another thing to note, even though the Vikings offense (which had been averaging 31 points a game) torched us in the yardage department, the Steelers D was still able to contain them to just 10 points. Seven points came off of a kickoff return. Up until now, the defense had been showing signs of crumbling in the fourth quarter, but I think they're finally getting back into the groove of things. It's not style points that matter. It's the scoreboard points that count.

Also noteworthy: Welcome back Polamalu! He saved two potential touchdowns in this game that could have shifted the momentum completely the other way.


DROPS:

Going into this game, I was convinced that Big Ben was going to have a field day against this 24th ranked passing defense. Instead, he completed just 14 of 26 passes (53.8 percent) for 175 yards when he had been completing roughly 73 percent of his passes all season and averaging 314 yards per game. My criticism doesn't go against Ben so much, but against his receivers. Hines Ward dropped a beautiful, deep pass down the middle that he typically holds on to, and Santonio Holmes let a couple balls scrape the turf that would have gone for first downs.

Ben also had 3 passes that I can remember were batted at the line of scrimmage (one of them, he threw right into an outstretched arm that had been hanging in the air for an hour before he decided to throw, so that's on him).

Hines Ward finished with one catch for 3 lonely yards. Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette gives the wide receivers a C+ for their efforts. I wouldn't be so generous, considering that the Wallace touchdown was due to a completely blown coverage. Satonio Holme's 45-yard catch and run was pretty sweet, though.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stacking up the predictions...

Just wanted to revisit my predictions and see how accurate I was...

1) Adrian Peterson didn't make it to the 100-yard mark. [+1]

2) The Steelers intercepted Bret Favre only once and it was by Keyaron Fox, not Polamalu [-1]

3) The Vikings managed more than 100 yards (112) in the first half, but they did fare a lot better in the fourth quarter (165 yards) but no offensive touchdowns [-1]

4) The Vikings owned the ball in the last two minutes but did not win the game thanks to two defensive touchdowns [-1]

5) Fright Night had the same number of rushing yards as Adrian Peterson, but his yardage average was much better (6.9 yards per carry compared to Peterson's 3.8 average) [+1]

6) Big Ben had only 175 yards passing-- a huge disappointment against this 24th ranked passing defense [-1]

7) The Vikings definitely covered Ward and Holmes very well, but Wallace did not have a 100-yard performance [-1]

8) We sacked Favre 4 times [+1]

9) Big Ben was sacked 3 times, as predicted, and I would say all of them were for holding on the ball too long [+1]

10) I predicted, "Jeff Reed doesn't miss any field goals, then he goes out to celebrate after the game, gets drunk and punches a police officer in the face demanding him to dispense paper towels." Well... he didn't miss any field goals, but the night is still young [+1] He did miss a terrible tackle during a return that was taken in for a touchdown [-7 for Reed, because that's how many points that cost us]

So overall I got about half of my predictions right. The one I cared the most about was the Peterson rushing performance. Steelers stepped up nicely to contain him for the most part, but he totally blew up William Gay on that dump pass. Peterson is a sick, sick man.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Preview: Steelers vs. Vikings

Let me begin by saying that I believe that between these two, the Vikings are the better team overall at this point. The Vikings are 6-0, the Steelers are 4-2. Both teams have pretty much played the same caliber of opponents. The Vikings are definitely the biggest challenge for the Steelers thus far.

The best teams the Vikings have played are the 3-2 Greenbay Packers and the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens. None of the teams we've beaten have a winning record. Beating the Vikings would serve as a great statement, especially going into a Bye Week.

I'd say that on paper the Steelers and Vikings match up very well, and I think both teams will score at least 20 points. The Vikings are averaging 31.5 points per game and the Steelers are finally finding their offensive identity on the arm of Ben Roethlisberger and in the hands of his wide receivers.

The key for the Steelers to win the game is to establish a lead early (at least 14-3 by halftime), and continue working the clock and ripping down yardage. Bruce Arians cannot get too greedy too early if we establish that kind of lead. I want him to be aggressive in the play calling, but not force a 50+ yard heave three or four times that result in consecutive sacks. Dump the ball off to Heath Miller and throw quick slants to Santonio Holmes. Throw in a couple of draw plays and don't be afraid to run the ball.

The key is make the Vikings' defensive front question their own aggressiveness. Fright Night, Holmes and Ward will be excellent candidates for various screens to help keep the pressure off.

If we get a lead and then try to throw bombs (and fail), it will revive the Vikings' chances to continue the running game with Adrian Peterson. If, instead, we build an early lead and work our way down the field methodically (and aggressively), it will be harder for the Vikings to resort to the run in the second half.

The challenging part for the Steelers is that Bret Favre is perfectly capable of beating us all on his own, given the success other QBs have had against our secondary. The key in that department is Troy Polamalu. If he plays and he's healthy, it gives us hope. If he's out, look for at least a half-dozen completed passes down the middle of the field in the 10-40 yard range. I saw some breakdown on the NFL network showing that Favre loves throwing it down the middle, which is where we've been the most vulnerable in our zone schemes.

Speaking of passing, the Steelers are ranked 12th in passing defense but the Vikings are ranked a lowly 24th. Also, they've allowed 24 pass plays that have gone for 20 yards or more, two of which were for 40 yards or more. The Steelers have allowed 13 and 2 in that department. Given the fact that the Steelers' offense is ranked second in the NFL in passing, the edge there goes to Ben Roethlisberger and company.

My prediction: 31-28 Steelers

Victi-crat

Okay, so I said I wouldn't get political, but this video is hilarious...


Friday, October 23, 2009

Talk Back

For those of you following the blog or popping in from time to time, what sort of posts are you looking for from a blog like this?

I'm interested in breaking down some Biblical passages and what they mean for the Christina faith.

I'm also going to break down stats and numbers for the Steelers and what they mean for the team.

I'll try to stay away from political issues, but I have a good post in mind about abortion (it is probably the one "political" issue that I cannot see justified in any reasonable or rational way).

Any topics you wish I tackled or gave my take?