Gridiron Prophets Year 4

“You know, my dear, the moment I looked into your eyes I knew that you did not have the mind for the noble art of Divination. See? Right here. You may be young in years but the heart that beats beneath your bosom is as shriveled as an old maid’s, your soul as dry as the pages of the books to which you so desperately cleave”

-Professor Trelawney

Saturday marked the beginning of the bowl season and the end of another year of regular season competition for the Gridiron Prophets. The winner of this years competition was Robert Henning.

The Final Standings

  1. Robert Henning – Bob’s Pick ‘Em – 2349 Points – 206-55
  2. Toby Sebring – Iowa City Spider Pigs – 2323 Points – 209-52
  3. Lowell Davis – AC000000 – 2313 Points – 208-53
  4. Jason Baier – Beamer Ball – 2312 Points – 211-50
  5. Christopher D. Bennett – Bennetdamus – 2262 Points – 207-54
  6. Corey Faust – Ricky Stanzi’s Beard – 2201 Points – 209-52
  7. Mark Wolfram – Taiwan Football – 1206 Points – 109-152
  8. Jesse Howard – Mayor Cy McWinner – 548 Points – 50-211
  9. Bill Wentworth – Cyguy2333 – 91 Points – 14-230

Past Champions
2006 – Toby Sebring
2007 – Toby Sebring
2008 – Lowell Davis

Robert had finished 2nd the last two years. Robert is no longer the bridesmaid. I will have to get his trophy in the mail. Come to think of it, I never gave Lowell his trophy from last year. I better get on that.

Proust Questionnaire Number Eleven

Proust Quote:
“People can have many different kinds of pleasure. The real one is that for which they will forsake the others.”

Confessions Question:
Your favourite occupation.

Confidences Question:
My favorite occupation.

Proust’s Answer:

Proust does give a pretty darn good answer to this question. But if you were to define occupation as a job, I doubt loving is a paid occupation.

It has long been my dream job to be me. Not to be unemployed necessarily. On the contrary to be paid to be me. To get a healthy paycheck in the mail for simply being me. Once a year I would get a performance review in the mail. It would indicate how well I had done that year at being me and I would be given a healthy raise if I had been true to myself that year or a dismal raise if that year I hadn’t been very much me. Either way, the job would come with health insurance and a cost of living wage increase.

I don’t think I would need a retirement plan. I couldn’t retire from being me. At least not in a way where I would need to continue getting paychecks in the mail.

However, if you define occupation as “any activity in which a person is engaged”, then you would have to be a fool not to figure out my favorite occupation. It isn’t board games.

This following number has a certain degree of uncertainty in it, but it is in the ball park. At least I doubt it deviates from the truth by more than a few percentage points. Thus far in 2009 I have taken 7,796 photos.

That is a healthy number, but as I reflect upon it, I can only think of a small handful of personal projects that I have made significant progress on this year.

I do not believe in New Year’s resolutions. It is folly to wait for an arbitrary point in the Earth’s revolution around the sun to decide to make improvements in one’s life. Today is the day to make improvements in your life. Nobody is promised tomorrow.

That being written, I do have a handful of goals for 2010. I have started working on these goals already, including lining up a potentially pregnant chick to do some chainsaw work in my yard. One of the goals that does not involve chainsaws is to complete a personal photo project every week. I have completed some personal photo projects in the last couple of weeks and I look forward to sharing some of those in January, when this self-indulgent exercise has ran its regrettable course.

Proust Questionnaire Number Ten

Proust Quote:
“Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible.”

Confessions Question:
Your idea of happiness

Confidences Question:
My dream of happiness.

Proust’s Answer:
I am afraid it be not great enough, I dare not speak it, I am afraid of destroying it by speaking it.

That Proust sure was a coward. “I am afraid of destroying it…” But he was from France and that is a country that isn’t exactly known for its courage.

However, I think there is some truth in the quote that happiness exists to make unhappiness possible. I think it is closer to the truth to say that unhappiness makes the experience of happiness richer. I would also argue that unhappiness is at its lowest depth before happiness arrives. But happiness is a much more powerful (although frailer) emotion than unhappiness. A little drop of happiness blows unhappiness out of the water.

There is a misery questionnaire question where I will repeat this basic information, but I think in general terms, the greatest misery is in waiting for a certain thing to happen. The greatest happiness is when that certain thing happens. That certain thing might not ever happen, therefore a person sometimes has to come to acceptance.

There are certainly things that make me happy. One of them ends frequently with the phrase “Sweet dreams.”

I have two friends that are diametrically opposed on the concept of dreams. One friend believes that dreams are an intricate part of life. They should be held up and examined every day and they should be pursued with every breath of your being. If you call his phone, the voicemail message will tell you that you have reached, “Dreams, Incorporated.” It is not a real company, so don’t give him any money. You won’t get it back. But your money will help him pursue his dreams.

This friend’s philosophy on dreams would best be summed up by the Marcel Proust quote:

“If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.”

The other friend thinks that it is pointless to pursue dreams because dreams can’t become reality. He once noted that he couldn’t “grow bat wings” in reality. All this talk about dreams is a humbug!

This friend’s philosophy on dreams would be best summed up by the Baltasar Gracian quote:

“Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.”

My philosophy lies somewhere in the middle. I certainly believe that dreams are worth pursuing. To not have aspirations or goals leads to somewhat of an aimless existence, but perhaps I don’t follow my dreams with the type of vigor that Friend One does.

If dreams are (what I think they are) our ideas of perfect happiness, then these are a few of my dreams:

Some of these are attainable dreams. Some of them are in the “bat wing” category.

To hear Jay say, “Want to come over and watch a completed version of Games 2 tonight?”
To hear Willy say, “And this is my beautiful wife…”
To hear Shannon say, “Wow! You organized that really well. If this is the caliber of person that Iowa State University produces, I should root for their athletic teams when they play anybody but my beloved UNI Panthers.”
To hear Geri D. say, “Opening night for the One Act play you wrote will be…”
To hear Jen say, “Maybe the dogs don’t like being dressed up.”
To hear Derrick say, “Yeah, Pink Floyd called and they want to open for us on our European Tour. I told them we would get back to them.”
To hear Jill say, “I think I have changed my mind… feet are funny, not gross!”
To hear Sara say, “I looked in the mirror and decided, I didn’t need that Hello Kitty humidifier.”
To hear Monica say, “I just don’t have room for all these paintings I have done. Here, take about 5-10 of these off my hands.”
To hear Baier say, “I really shouldn’t be that emotionally invested in a pro sports team in a city that is 3 hours away from where I live. I think I’m going to take that wasted energy and train my dog to be less racist. Perhaps research unicorn blood in my spare time.”
To hear Russell say, “I don’t even know why I ever even question anything you say about sports, politics, movies or life. Mr. Bennett, I am in awe of you. In the future, when you speak, I will sit silently and keep notes. It is my greatest fear that some of your wisdom will be lost to the following generations.”
To hear Nader say, “The new Harry Potter movie was pretty good.”
To hear Andree say, “Maybe I have too many televisions. 7 is a lot for 1 guy.”
To hear Scottie D. say, “I apologize for ever questioning your commitment to tenderloins. You may hit me one time.”
To hear Eric say, “Dogs are really better than cats. I don’t know why I couldn’t see that before.”
To hear Jesse say, “I’ve thought about it. Maybe I should worship somebody that actually gets some playing time during the Olympics, rather than that creepy looking Finch girl.”

There are more, but I might be on happiness overload just thinking on my dreams.

Taiwan Times – November 2009

Mark’s monthly newsletter from Taiwan.

Hey everyone. This is more of a November email, than newsletter. My apologies for not getting a full blown newsletter, and for not sending this in a more timely manner.

I wanted to give you a quick update on how things are going in Taiwan. November was another great month of teaching English and Bible classes. My 7th graders wrapped up a unit on Abraham and began to look at three lessons about the first Christmas. My 8th graders completed their unit on Moses, watched the Prince of Egypt and learned about the 10 commandments. My 10th graders completed a video news project, and my 11th graders wrote compositions focusing on the city of Chia Yi.

Right now, I am fully immersed in Christmas preparations. In fact I will be participating in activities to celebrate Christmas tonight. Christmas is a busy time of year, however the preparations and the activities are a great opportunity that God has given us. Christmas time opens many doors to share the Gospel with those who have not heard it.

Prayer requests:

-Praise God for the opportunities he has given for us to share about Christ at Christmas.
-Pray for energy, patience, and guidance as the other American teachers and I prepare and hold our Christmas activities.
-Pray also for the message that God would use the activities at church and school to bring faith and new life to those that hear it.

God’s peace,

Proust Questionnaire Number Nine

Proust Quote:
“A powerful idea communicates some of its strength to him who challenges it.”

Confessions Question:
Where would you like to live?

Confidences Question:
The country where I should like to live.

Proust’s Answer:
A country where certain things that I should like would come true as though by magic, and where tenderness would always be reciprocated.

As I spin a globe I know for certain that I obviously would choose to live nowhere else but the greatest country on God’s increasingly less green Earth, The United States of America.

But to think hypothetically, if I could change the United States here are a couple of things I would change to make this a “more perfect union.”

Close the gap between the wealthy and the poor. Things that need to change:

  • The 400 richest Americans own more than the 150 million poorest Americans.
  • Over 40% of GNP comes from Fortune 500 Companies.
  • In 1955, the richest tax tier paid an average of 51.2% of their income in taxes. By 2006, the richest paid only 17.2% of their income in taxes.
  • In 1955 the proportion of federal income from corporate taxes was 33%. By 2003 that percentage was down to 7.4%.
  • In the 60s, 70s, and 80s the average ratio of executive pay to average paycheck was between 30-40 to 1. In 2001, it was 525 to 1. In 2009, the ratio is still an astronomical 317 to 1.
  • The top .01% of American earners earned 6% of total U.S. wages.
  • The top decile of American earners earned 49.7% of total U.S. wages.

Although some are terrified of the “S” word, this country desperately needs to create a single payer universal health care system.

  • The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system.
  • In 2006, 47 million Americans were uninsured. 15.8% of the population.
  • The United States spends twice as much on health care per capita ($7,129) than any other country. In 2005, health care expenditures totaled $2 trillion.
  • 75% of all health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions that could be prevented.
  • From 2000 to 2006, overall inflation was 3.5%. Wages increased 3.8%. Health care premiums increased 87%.
  • The average family health insurance premium, provided through an employer health benefit program, was $11,480. Employees paid an average of $2,973 towards the premium amount.
  • The United States ranks 43rd in lowest infant mortality rate, down from 12th in 1960 and 21st in 1990. Singapore has the lowest rate with 2.3 deaths per 1000 live births, while the United States has a rate of 6.3 deaths per 1000 live births. Some of the other 42 nations that have a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. include Hong Kong, Slovenia, Canada, Ireland and Cuba.
  • Approximately 30,000 infants die in the United States each year. The infant mortality rate is related to the underlying health of the mother, public health practices, socioeconomic conditions and availability and use of appropriate health care for infants and pregnant women.
  • Life expectancy at birth in the US is an average of 78.14 years, which ranks 47th in highest total life expectancy compared to other countries.
  • About half of the bankruptcy filings in the United States are due to medical expenses.
  • More than 40 million adults stated that they needed but did not receive one or more of these health services (medical care, prescription medicines, mental health care, dental care or eyeglasses) in 2005 because they could not afford it.

I would want to live in no other country in the world, but we can do so much better.

Proust Questionnaire Number Eight

Proust Quote:
“Words do not change their meanings so drastically in the course of centuries as, in our minds, names do in the course of a year or two.”

Confessions Question:
Your favorite names.

Confidences Question:
My favorite names.

Proust’s Answer:
I only have one at a time.

The Proust Quote really nails this question right on the head. How much you like or dislike a name has a direct relationship to the people you know with that name. How much you like or dislike a given name can fluctuate wildly in a couple of years. It can fluctuate wildly in a matter of moments.

To answer the question what are my favorite names is roughly the same as answering who are my favorite people from this year. I don’t really care to do that, but I can answer this question with broad enough strokes as to reveal anything exceedingly meaningful (as is my style). Meaning if you eliminate everybody that has a unique name (as it applies to people I really know and have made a certifiable decision on their worth) and look at names at the aggregate level, the following is what I deduce.

I know several people by the following names and they all seem to be good to outstanding people:


I know several people by the following names that range from outstanding to worthless:


As I reflect upon it, I can honestly say that I don’t think that there is a name that is entirely negative for me. For every doucher I know, I can counterbalance them with a good to great person that has the same name. That is a satisfying piece of knowledge.

Proust Questionnaire Number Seven

Proust Quote:
“Our intonations contain our philosophy of life, what each of us is constantly telling himself about things.”

Confessions Question:
Your favorite poets.

Confidences Question:
My favorite poets.

Proust’s Answer:
Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny

I’m not sure that there are any poets that I have “discovered” this year. My affection for William Ernest Henley grew over this past weekend after I saw a movie based on one of his short poems. I had heard the last lines of this poem before, but I don’t believe that I had read the whole thing before.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The title is Latin for unconquered. On Monday mornings I struggle to leave my bed as my body is sore after Sunday night’s basketball game I feel like a bit of a wuss, because William Ernest Henley wrote this poem. William Ernest Henley wrote this poem despite suffering from tuberculosis. He wrote this poem despite having his foot amputated directly below the knee. He wrote this poem despite having lived for 30 years with an artificial foot. William Ernest Henley wrote this poem from a hospital bed. And I wince a little bit on Monday mornings because my back is a bit tender.

Of course, my fondness for the poetry of local poet Dawn Krause has increased this year as well. I encourage you to check out her writings on her blog: Impassioned Versifier

One of my favorites of Dawn’s poems:

Finding Inspiration

To be creative I must waste my time
Clear my head and be sublime
Find my muse and set it free
Let the words come in to me
Venture mourning and venture death
Give every word it’s living breath

Of course there is also the poem that this picture slightly inspired…

Thelma & Louise

Louise a waitress in small town
Not known to be much of a clown
Thelma married without a life
Is miserable as Daryl’s wife

Drive away for weekend retreat
No clue of what fate they’ll meet
Encounter with a macho cad
Turned their weekend from good to bad

A girl cries like that she’s not happy
Keeps the movie from turning sappy
Stop his words and gun him down
Hurry up and get out of town

A hint at Louise’s secret past
Cop with pity wants to help them last
To Mexico they must make haste
Avoiding Texas time to waste

Make a stop to get some money
Thelma finds herself a honey
Sexual awakening for our gal
She learns too late he’s not a pal

Money gone and time running short
To rob a store their last resort
Thelma shows off her new learned skill
Cops closing in armed for the kill

Comic relief in the truck driver
His gestures insult every nine to fiver
Final standoff with obscene man
Set ablaze his rolling gas can

Thelma, Louise in their car sit
Symbolizing fear and grit
A friendship till it’s dying day
That’s something fate can’t take away

There are days when I fancy myself somewhat of a wordsmith, but poetry just isn’t in my arsenal. There are days that I wish that it was, but most days I’m thankful that other people have put words together in a way that is pleasing to me and they save me the struggle of having to try to do it myself.

Happy Birthday Jesse!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Jesse Lee (Lex) Howard. Here is but a poor sampling of pictures of the times we have shared in recent years.

I Can Not Tell a Lie
After beating that net!

Eastern Iowa Road Trip - 2006
In Clinton, Iowa on The Road Trip – 2006

The Big Jesus Road Trip
With the World’s Largest Cheeto

The Big Jesus Road Trip
Jesse’s Picture on The Friend Wall. Eating a Bob’s Dog – LeMars, Iowa

Iowa State vs. Nebraska
Wearing an Old Lady’s Hat

Gorshe Wedding
Before Jen and Derrick’s Wedding

Arizona Day 3
With Lowell in Arizona

Tom Harkin Office Visit
Hanging Out at Snookies after lobbying Tom Harkin’s staff.

Howards - 2009
With his Family

2009 Birthday/Housewarming Party Invitation
Disappointing Steve.

Arizona Trip - Day 1
In the Denver airport.

Mankato Road Trip - 2009
With his Duke Burger

Mankato Road Trip - 2009
Enjoying the View of the Falls with Jackson, Faust and Jay.

The Big Jesus Road Trip
In Mallard, Iowa

The Girls
Failing to tickle me.

Of course there are many more pictures of Jesse in the Friends Album of the Snapshots Gallery. (Recently downsized)

Or you can click on the link below:

One more time, Happy Birthday Jesse!

Proust Questionnaire Number Six

Marcel Proust Quote:
“Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees.”

Confessions Question:
The natural talent I’d like to be gifted with.

Confidences Question:
The gift of nature I would like to have.

Proust’s Answer:
Will-power, and seductiveness.

I have many extremely talented friends. God certainly has not shorted me in talents. But as I survey my friends, the two talents that do make me slightly jealous are glaringly obvious.

The natural talents that I wished that I had:

Derrick Gorshe’s ability to play the guitar.

Jay Janson’s ability to draw. (In fairness, this isn’t a good example of Jay’s drawing ability, but if you want to try drawing in pitch black, I can set that up.)

Proust Questionnaire Number Five

Marcel Proust Quote:
“Like many intellectuals, he was incapable of saying a simple thing in a simple way.”

Confessions Question:
Your favorite qualities in a man.

Confidences Question:
The quality that I desire in a man.

Proust’s Answer:
Feminine charms.

Proust and I diverge quite a bit on this answer. (Did I mention that he was gay?) I don’t hold extremely strict regimental standards for the genders, but I do have a few thoughts on the matter. If my arm was twisted to give an answer that surpasses the answer I usually give to the question: “What attracts you?” That answer is “creativity”.

Understand that I was raised by women, so my views might seem skewed.

There are a few things that I think a man should do:

Shark Week

Not only should a man watch Shark Week, he should have a favorite shark and he should know exactly when Shark Week is being held. If you don’t know what Shark Week is, then you are not a man. Period.

I would add that a man should hold a secret wish, deep in his heart (a man’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets), to wrestle an alligator someday.

Guy Time

This is more advice than a standard. A guy should have at least one night where he can get together with other guys and do guy stuff and talk about guy things and re-charge the testosterone. A guy needs a weekly dinner club with other guys. A guy needs a weekly basketball game. A guy needs a weekly bowling night.

If a man doesn’t get guy time he starts having opinions on things like slip covers or dining sets. Before you know it, he is getting invited to Pampered Chef parties.


A guy should have a favorite. It is okay for a woman to not be able to pick between Godzilla and King Kong, but a man has to take a stand. Maybe before their epic confrontation in 1962 a man could straddle the fence between giant lizard and giant ape, but those days are over. A man has to pick a side. King Kong or Godzilla. You can root for them both when they aren’t fighting each other, but when they are fighting each other you have to pick a side.


A man doesn’t necessarily have to be able to use logic, but he should at least be able to point out the logical fallacies in a woman’s argument. If a man doesn’t know the difference between Ad Hominem and a Red Herring, I think he should lose his Man Card.

Outdoor Skills

A man should possess at least some basic outdoor skills. No, falling through ice into a stream is not a basic outdoor skill but that doesn’t mean it isn’t manly. If he doesn’t run back to the car whimpering like a little girl. But I digress. A man should be able to start a fire, set up a tent, tell direction based on the position of the sun and make basic taxonomic identifications.


A man should have opinions. Not on everything, but just about everything. A man should have an opinion on where you can find the best tenderloin (BK’s), club sandwich (West Street Deli) or nachos (Skip’s). A man should have an opinion on religion, politics and current events. A man should also be able to back up these opinions without having to use the phrase “I feel”.

Unicorn Blood

A man knows that unicorn blood is silver.

There are also a couple of things that I would like to point out that it is okay for a man to do, that aren’t normally considered manly:

Crying at the Movies

It is okay for a man to cry at the movies. It shows a sensitive soul and the ability to show empathy. Plus when a boy has to shoot a dog that saved his life several times because the dog contracted hydrophobia while saving that boy’s life, that is really, really sad. When the Tin Man says, “Now I know I have a heart, because it’s breaking.” That is really, really sad. I don’t care what set of reproductive organs you are lugging around this planet.

Scented Candles

It is also okay for a man to decorate his domicile with scented candles. There is nothing wrong with wanting your place to smell good.

However, there are a few things that a man should never do.

Bad Weather Punkout

A man should never changer or alter his plans because of bad weather. A man doesn’t leave work early or skip work because there is a little snow on the ground. A man never calls another man and says, “Do you still think we should go to the game? It is pretty nasty out there.” A man can call another man and say, “We might need to leave a little early for the game. Probably going to be some morons out on the road tonight.”

Early Departure

A man doesn’t leave a game early. I don’t care if it is freezing cold and your team is losing by 56 points. A man stays until the last bitter second ticks off the game clock.

Sweater Vest

I personally don’t wear sweaters at all, but I concede that there is a purpose for sweaters. However, a man should never wear a sweater vest unless they are doing it in an ironic way. Even then, the man most likely won’t get the benefit of the doubt from me.


A man owns a manly animal. Cats do not qualify in any way shape or form. Okay, if you owned a tiger or a puma, that would be manly, but your ordinary house cat does not qualify. With a tail or without a tail. Doesn’t matter. A man doesn’t own a cat. He owns a dog or a rat or fish that eat other fish.

Above all things, a man doesn’t carry around pictures of his cat on his cell phone to show the waitress at Okoboji Grill!


There is a reason that when I was looking for a foot to match the hand, my choice wasn’t a man. (There are other reasons than that, but for the sake of this diatribe let us pretend that there was only one reason.) The man’s foot is not pretty. It isn’t even “funny”. It is gross. I don’t want to see it. Cover it up boys.

And don’t give me that “Jesus wore sandals” hogwash either. He wore shoes that were consistent with the historical period in which he lived. I know that the Son of Man could bring the dead back to life, cure lepers, return sight to the blind and walk on water. I concede that he could have made a nice pair of LeBron AirMax VII shoes appear out of thin air. But do you really think Jesus would have endorsed a product that was surely made by small children in a Vietnamese sweatshop for a penny and a beating a day? No he wouldn’t. He would be too busy feeding the multitude with five loaves and two fish.

Not to mention, how distracting would it have been? He would be trying to teach people the Lord’s Prayer and they would just be staring at Jesus’ future shoes.