Sunday, March 08, 2015

Wait for It!

Our Sunday School class is well into its current study of the Sermon on the Mount.  At our last class, we considered Matthew 5: 43-48, the passage where Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, not for any purpose or no purpose, but so that they "may be sons of their father in heaven."  This passage follows directly on Jesus' admonition against retaliation in verses 38 - 42.  Indeed, John Stott, in his book on the SOM, pairs the two sections together in the same chapter, suggesting that they are of one piece.  He writes of them as two aspects of love, one passive and the other active.

What occurs to to me as I think about these two sides of the same coin, passive love and active, is the call we have to wait on the Lord.  Our enemy strikes us on the right cheek.  Well, then, we are to turn the other cheek and then just wait.  He sues us.  In that case, we settle with the plaintiff to avoid going to court for its brand of justice.  It seems to me, then, that Jesus calls us not simply to be passive in our non-retaliation, he calls us to wait on (or for) the Lord. 

We think of waiting for the Lord as an Advent activity, and I posted a beautiful hymn just below with these lyrics:

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.
Prepare the way for the Lord,
Make a straight path for God
Prepare the way for the Lord!
Rejoice in the Lord always, God is at hand!
Joy and gladness for all who seek the Lord.
The glory of our Lord shall be revealed
All the Earth will see the Lord.
I waited for the Lord
God at my guard.
Seek first the kingdom of God,
Seek, and you shall find.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 27:14 (KJV):

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
The idea of vengeance being the Lord's (and not ours) is the same idea.  Paul expressly writes in Romans 12:19, in between an admonition of non-retaliation (vvs 17 and 18) and its counter-part, the admonition of active love (vss 20 and 21), the following:

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

Putting off the urge to retaliate is such good, every-day advice.  In our indignation, do we forget that God is in control of the situation?  Do we forget what God brings to fraught confrontations?  Can our wrath match his in its perspective, in its power (and our empowerment through his Spirit), in its wisdom, and, finally, in its grace?

So I think we are not to retaliate in order to give room for the working out of God's will in the challenging situation which is upon us.  During that waiting our hearts are strengthened, getting us ready for the next step to which Jesus calls us.  That is,  we join in God's redemptive working-out of his will by feeding our hungry enemy, quenching his thirst, and so on.  In doing so, we give ourselves a time to calm down, a time to gain perspective, a time to examine ourselves and our enemy, often only to find how alike we are.  Waiting for for the Lord is not like waiting for Godot, without hope, waiting for the Lord is like waiting for Christmas, waiting for Easter, waiting for Christ's return and having it all, in a marvelous way, at the very same time.

Taizé - Wait for the Lord

Friday, March 06, 2015

Acts Have Consequences OR the Market Will Not Be Denied

In today's WSJ, an article entitled "Ports Gridlock Reshapes the Supply Chain" reports that the

labor dispute that caused months of gridlock at West Coast ports may be over, but the disruption is expected to redraw the trade routes that goods take to reach U.S. factories and store shelves.  

The article has a great graphic that shows the three major routes of shipping from Shanghai to the US, the shortest (12 days) east across the Pacific to Long Beach, CA;  another east across the Pacific, but this one through the Panama Canal and up to New York (25 days); and the third west from Shanghai, by way of the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Med, and the Atlantic to NY (32 days).

The disruption by that awful West Coast strike will take 6 months to resolve from the end of the strike, according to the article.  Furthermore, 1/3 of the shipping to the West Coast is "discretionary" anyway, that is, it can move on the alternate routes to the East Coast about as cheaply, when US ground transportation is taken into account.  Finally, the disruption tends to get the market to rethink how the other 2/3s of the goods should be moved more efficiently.  In a way, the strike may be a good thing for the economy as a whole, but not all that great for CA.

Oh, well.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Sedentary Twins Had "Lower Endurance Capacities, Higher Body Fat Percentages, and Signs of Insulin Resistance, Signaling the Onset of Metabolic Problems."

Identical twins in Finland who shared the same sports and other physical activities as youngsters but different exercise habits as adults soon developed quite different bodies and brains, according to a fascinating new study that highlights the extent to which exercise shapes our health, even in people who have identical genes and nurturing.

*   *   *  

It turned out that these genetically identical twins looked surprisingly different beneath the skin and skull. The sedentary twins had lower endurance capacities, higher body fat percentages, and signs of insulin resistance, signaling the onset of metabolic problems. (Interestingly, the twins tended to have very similar diets, whatever their workout routines, so food choices were unlikely to have contributed to health differences.)

The twins’ brains also were unalike. The active twins had significantly more grey matter than the sedentary twins, especially in areas of the brain involved in motor control and coordination.

-from "One Twin Exercises, the Other Doesn't" in the March 4, 2014 digital edition of the NYT.

The study is published in the March 2015 Medical & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal.  The abstract is here.

I like the reference to more  "grey matter."  I need all of that I can get.  And I'm hoping this also applies to people who exercise but don't have a sedentary twin.

Friday, February 27, 2015

From Riley's "Race Relations and Law Enforcment"

Blacks ultimately must help themselves. They must develop the same attitudes and behaviors and habits that other groups had to develop to rise in America. And to the extent that a social policy, however well-intentioned, interferes with this self-development, it does more harm than good.

This concept of self-help and self-development is something that black leaders once understood quite well, and at a time when blacks faced infinitely more obstacles than they face today. Asked by whites in 1865 what to do for freed blacks, Frederick Douglass responded: “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! . . . If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength . . . let them fall! . . . And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs!” Douglass was essentially saying, give blacks equal opportunity and then leave them alone.

Booker T. Washington, another late 19th century black leader who had been born a slave, once said that it is important and right that all privileges of the law be granted to blacks, but it is vastly more important that they be prepared for the exercise of these privileges.

Douglass and Washington didn’t play down the need for the government to secure equal rights for blacks, and both were optimistic that blacks would get equal rights eventually, although neither man lived to see that day. But both men also understood the limits of government benevolence. Blacks would have to ready themselves to meet the challenge of being in a position to take advantage of opportunities once equal rights had been secured. The history of 1960s liberal social policies is largely a history of ignoring this wisdom.

-Jason L. Riley in "Race Relations and Law Enforcement,"  published in the January 2015 issue of Hillsdale College's Imprimis.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Give Me Ten Push-Ups"

After work yesterday, Carol and I drove to North Broward to meet my niece Audrey and her husband, Bob, at a restaurant that friends  had recommended and that would have some vegan entrees, Thai Spice.   (Bob and Audrey were down from Tallahassee and were staying in West Palm Beach for a day or two on business, and Thai Spice was halfway between us.)

We had been told that Thai Spice was a very popular place and it was.  Even on a Tuesday night its parking lot was packed; there were no open parking spaces.  I dropped Carol off and drove down Commercial Boulevard and found a nearby parking lot in front of small gym ("Intense Fitness") that was also busy (I could see through the big glass windows). It had a single open space.  I parked, but went into the gym to ask permission to park there.

It was a pretty hard-core gym, only young guys, very big young guys.  One of the young men came over and greeted me, and I asked him if I could park in the open space.  He said, "Sure, but you'll have to give me ten push ups" and smiled.  (I was dressed in my office attire, without the suit jacket.)

I said, "OK" and dropped down.  They all started counting, because by this time several of the guys had come over to us.  "One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Eight, Eight!" they shouted.  I got up on the third "Eight" because 10 is about how many I can do without straining.  They all cheered and gave me  high-fives.  What a great place!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Telemedicine at JMH

Before the earthquake, emergency medicine in Haiti was unreliable at best. Sometimes unattainable.

“There were many skilled physicians in Haiti,” says Dr. Toni Eyssallenne, a Haitian-American who’s an internal medicine and pediatrics specialist at the University of Miami and Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince. “But they were in a very frustrating, resource-poor setting.”

The disaster gave rise to improved trauma care in the western hemisphere’s poorest country. Today, if you suffer a heart attack or a bad road collision in Haiti, you have a better chance of getting proper treatment.

And a big reason for that change can be found not in Haiti but 700 miles away in Miami – inside a conference room at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.

On a recent morning, Dr. Shailesh Garg, a trauma medicine fellow with Jackson and the University of Miami, sat in his scrubs surrounded by enough video screens on the wall to fill a sports bar.

 Through a webcam connection he was advising Dr. Kathleen Charles, a Haitian physician at Bernard Mevs.

-Read (and hear) the whole thing on the WLRN website.

(And where's my bumper sticker that says, "My kid's a resident at JMH-UM!"?)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

"The Professors' Bookshelf" from the UC College Magazine, the Core

I love articles where readers name their favorite books.  Here's a good one from University of Chicago professors. Among the books they named are:

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian Wars.

The Bible, "especially the New Testament."

Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, a title given by a senior lecturer in Economics who"had the honor of studying under [Friedman] and [who] became lifelong friends with [him], for his argumentation, logic, take-no-prisoners attitude, and willingness to tackle tough issues and take unpopular stands." The senior lecturer also likes Stephen King, whom he views "as the contemporary equivalent to Mary Shelley or Edgar Allen Poe."

Lolita - " the novel [that] taught me how to read anew  And it does so every time I read it."  This teacher also names Bohumil Hrabal's novel I Served the King of England, which he describes as "irredeemably beautiful."  Odd description:  Why would you want to redeem something beautiful, anyway?  Is that a sort of oxymoron?

Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, from another professor.  He also names Giorgia Agamben's Homo Sacer.  He said the book he "most enjoys teaching" is Dante's Inferno.  I much enjoyed being taught it at Duke.

Alex Kotlowitz' There Are No Children Here.

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. 

Who Is Our Neighbor, the One We Are to Love?

Though there are almost no Samaritans left in the world today, there are many people we may be tempted to despise and reject.  I am thinking of people of another race, color, or culture; homosexual persons who are victims of homophobia; or people of another faith, such as Muslims.  Jesus's parable challenges us to overcome all such racial, social, sexual, and religious prejudices.  I am not suggesting that we compromise our Christian beliefs and morals, but rather that we do not allow these to impede our active love for our neighbor.  That is what "go and do likewise'" (v. 37) will mean for us.

-Stott, "The Parable of the Good Samaritan," today's reading in Through the Bible Through the Year.

All of this catches my attention, together with the whole of Stott's little essay and, of course, the Parable itself.  But what snags me most deeply during this reading is the phrase "active love."

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Crossfit for Old People

Carol and I are just into our fourth year of Crossfit ("XF") training.  Our goal is to go to the Crossfit gym ("the box" in the XF argot) three times a week, and we usually achieve that goal.  Now and then we will do four.  My conservative approach to XF training, however, includes the practice of allowing at least a day's rest between each session.  I take a conservative approach because Carol and I are two and a half to three times the age of most of the other people at the box, including the coaches, and workout routines are designed by and for those younger people, many of whom go to the box almost every day that it is open.  (I will be 69 this year.  Carol, my child bride, is much younger.) We simply don't have the time to attend so often and I don't believe we should push ourselves that far.  In many ways, we are on our own in this journey, but it is great fun - especially with Carol and me on that journey together - and the results thus far have been remarkable.

For one thing, we have had no respiratory problems of any significance during the XF period.  It is true that we are six years into a whole food/plant based diet and that has surely helped.  But we simply do not get colds anymore.  I can remember that for many years and at least once a year - usually during the winter months - I would get some sort of respiratory illness that would linger for weeks, even to the fourth week, when I would finally break down and beg the doctor for antibiotics.  I have nothing like that anymore.  Perhaps our respiratory health is related to how "out of breath" we get during the XF workouts.  We will work so hard that we will have to stop what we are doing for a few seconds to "catch our breath," that is to recover a bit, before going back to the routine.  During a given exercise component, I will get to a point where I must breathe very, very deeply; I am consciously and deliberately breathing in and breathing out at a pace that I measure but that I must purposefully increase until I just have to stop what I am doing and rest for a few seconds.  My theory is that if there is anything lurking down there in my lungs, it is being expelled or neutralized by the way that I am challenging my respiratory system.

Our strength has increased very significantly.  I regret that I have not kept a journal since we started XF, but the fact is that, even with our conservative approach we have gradually increased what we can pick up off the floor and how often during a set we can do so.  I dead-lifted 175 pounds on a 2 - rep basis the other day, which is not much for a 25 year old - male or female -  who has been doing it for as long as we have, but is still a lot of weight for an old guy I think.  I did a clean at 125 pounds two days ago.  I think that's pretty good.

I couldn't do a single push up when we started.  I now can do 20 at a time, and with a few seconds of rest, can do another ten, then a few seconds, then five.  Then I drop from a full push up to one where I leave my knees on the ground and do several more sets.

I couldn't do a sit up.  Now I can do 50 or more - even 100 if I can catch a few seconds of rest at 50 and spot another few seconds of rest every so often as I go up to 100.

I couldn't jump rope.  Then I learned, but had to stop after ten reps.  Now I can go to 50, even 60, before I have to stop for a few seconds and catch my breath.  If my life depended on it, I could go to 100 without stopping.  However, I can't do more than one "double-under" at a time.  I need to work on that.

I still can't do a pull up.  I don't know if a pull up is in my future, but I would like to do one.  (In the meanwhile I do "ring-rows.")  I can't do a hand stand push up either, but I can do a wall walk up to a hand stand and hold it for several seconds.  I don't know if a hand-stand push up is in my future. I hope it is.  I would also like to be able to walk a couple of paces on my hands, just to show other old people like me what they can do - as an encouragement.  But I'm not there yet.

Box jumps scare me.  I have fallen twice from the 18 inch boxes, and so I put a couple of plates down and jump up on them.  Maybe I'll improve, but I am definitely not pushing it with those boxes.

I never have been very flexible.  My mother could touch her toes.  I still can't.  But I'm working on it, but not at all sure I will get there.

I have a waist now, as one of younger women at our office noticed a year or two ago and remarked upon it.  That made me feel good.  When people see me after not seeing me for a couple of years, they often remark, "How good you look. What are you doing?"  I wear slim cut dress-shirts.  On the other hand, I still have a paunch.  It is not big, but it is there.  Now and then I think about having the surgery that removes that layer of fat - but its just a fantasy and of course I won't do it.  But getting rid of it would be nice.

When I was doing Weight Watchers 10 years ago, my goal weight was 155, and I actually achieved it.  People who saw me were alarmed.  They thought I was sick, and one lady at church told me to stop what I was doing.  Now I am between 165 and 170, and a good bit of that, I think, is muscle and not fat.  I feel good.  I stand up straight.  The slump that I had developed over the years is nearly gone.  This is great stuff.

I could not have done all this without the encouragement of others.  The XF box is full of encouragement.  Encouragement is a very high XF value.  The young people there are so good to Carol and me, once they get over their concern that we are going to drop dead during one of the XF sessions (called "WODs").  Then there is my family: all of my children and children-in-law do XF and they think its neat that we are doing it.  Finally there is Carol.  Every XF session is a date, and it is so much fun.

(Here's a link to the testimony of a 91-year old to the advantages of strength training.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Vicous Cycle of Tidying.

When we tidy each place separately, we fail to see that we're repeating the same work in many locations and become locked into a vicious cycle of tidying. To avoid this, I recommend tidying by category.  [My bold]

Thus says Ms. Kondo in her The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which Amazon describes as the "#1 Best Seller in Zen Philosophy." 

Please tell this lady that no one in our house is caught in that cycle, especially me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WSJ's Best Online Tools for Navigating Retirement: Here's Life Planning for You, Kid.

In the Encore section of today's WSJ, the front page article is entitled "The Best Online Tools for Navigating Retirement" and its complete with a photo of a couple contemplating retirement, a photo right out of the 50s.  So I guess that we baby-boomers have become our parents.  I mean I love(d) my parents, but that's pretty depressing, even though I look in the mirror each morning shaving and I see my dad.  Thanks a lot.

Anyway, since this article is behind the pay-wall, I'll just list the "best on-line tools" in a series of posts and give you a short description.  This is my first post in that series.  Here is this site's welcome:

Welcome to your path to freedom. That is what financial Life Planning is all about—the freedom to find your dreams, and to bring them alive. Life Planning helps you reorganize your relationship to money so that your financial resources are dedicated to supporting your life of greatest value, meaning and purpose. 

This sounds vaguely religious.  Yet this is the WSJ's "favorite." It "offers a free series of introspective exercises," probably because us boomers are pretty flabby with that sort of thing, introspection I mean.  We are notoriously outwardly directed when we are not smoking pot. We've got to get in touch with our inner selves or risk defaulting to the Villages. The site also provides links to "financial planners trained in 'life planning.'"  Life Planning "focuses on helping clients clarify their goals, values and priorities before planning their finances." 

Actually, the couple in the photo appear to be happy.  (Although it disturbs me that they are not holding hands - its sort of a knuckle-bumping walk into retirement, I guess.)  Maybe they have their future pretty much squared away.  Probably because they saved a lot of money over the years buying their clothes at Goodwill.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Investing vs. Leveraged Speculation

[A]ll individuals can still choose to do what most professionals no longer can: Invest for the long run without having to measure their performance moment to moment in a mad race to beat the market.

But if, instead, you use borrowed money to speculate in markets you don’t understand, you have taken your basic advantage and distorted it into a lethal disadvantage.

-Jaxon Zwieg, in an article entitled "Still Want to Trade Currencies?" in today's WSJ. (Behind the pay-wall.)

Friday, January 09, 2015

Althouse Posts on Decluttering (UPDATED)


I have a relatively small office at the firm.  Each business day at the office, I spend at least an hour (or should) doing what I call a "sweep."  By that I mean looking at every piece of paper that has wandered out of place and either discarding it, scanning it, posting the subject matter on a to-do list, or otherwise putting it where it needs to go, where God intended for it to be.  Cf. 1 Cor. 14:33.

Now and then, I walk into the office the morning after a complete de-clutter (usually on a Monday, after I've spent the better part of my day Saturday doing the sweep, requiring the balance of that day to be spent in a long nap) and I feel a sense a joy.  I think that is what first walking (floating? rematerializing?) into heaven must feel like.  (Or maybe heaven is simply having the time and energy to declutter.)

This is not exactly the same thing that Althouse posts about, but it is very close.

We are always misplacing things at home, and often they cannot be found for years.  There is an entire set of Barth's Church Dogmatics that disappeared amongst the clutter several years ago.  We still don't know where it is.  We refer to where it went as "the sock hole."  There are lots of things we would like to retrieve from that place, but we can't find the portal.  When the kids arrive after we've gone to heaven, they will finally unpile everything - like the lady in the Althouse link . They will discover the entrance to that Lewis Carroll kind of place, and they will have a good laugh.


I had to get back into this post because the link didn't work to the Althouse blog.  It is fixed, but I read the blog again.  You will see that Ann reviews the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and includes a YouTube video of its author, Marie Kondo, discussing the book.  Ms. Kondo advises keeping only the things that give you joy.  Hmm.  Well, Carol is certainly on the list.  Now what else?

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Living to 96?

The WSJ for this weekend has a worthwhile article (behind a pay wall) entitled, "The 15 Numbers Every Investor Should Know."  Among those numbers is one's life expectancy, that is, the age to which the subject should assume he or she will live.  (Obviously, savers and investors should be interested in this number.)  The article links to a website called "Living to 100," which includes a "Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator." By answering a few multiple choice questions, the calculator will give you the last anniversary of your birthday.  Mine is 96.

The site will give you not only the age to which you can expect to live, but also a set of comments and suggestions in light of your answers to the multiple choice questions.  Most of the comments and suggestions make sense, but there is one that is troubling.  Because I answered that I consume very few dairy products per week, there is a recommendation that I consume more to avoid osteoporosis.  Apparently, the author of the calculator, Thomas Perls MD, MPH, FACP, did not get Dr. McDougall's memo.  A diet full of vegetables and a life with periodic exercise should result in enough calcium to keep one's bones strong.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Wealth and Siblings

The print edition of the Miami Herald this morning features on the front page of its business section an AP article by Bernard Condon that the Herald headline writer entitled "Wealth gap deepens sibling rivalries."  It features Jayson and his sister Jackie, Jason materially successful and Jackie not so much.  Jayson is college educated, in his mid-thirties and single. Jackie has no-college (yet), is in her late twenties, and she married her high-school boyfriend.  But if you read to the end of the article, you see these two people moving toward each other in their views and growing in their respect for each other. 

The article on the AP website (and on the Herald's own website) has a more accurate headline: "How wealth gap complicates sibling relationships."

The Herald headline, however, advances the newspaper's agenda:  that we should all have the same outcome regardless of the choices we make and that government should make it so.

I concede that that the article also includes quotes from a psychotherapist who "says she's never had so many clients troubled by sibling wealth."  However, a sample taken from a lone psychotherapist's practice hardly makes the case promoted by the Herald headline.  Nor do Jason and Jackie.