Saturday, September 19, 2015

David W. Bianchi, His Book, and USDebtClock.Org

I had the privilege of attending a luncheon sponsored by Fiduciary Trust Company last week where Miami lawyer David W. Bianchi spoke about the book he wrote for his subteen son, Josh, on "money, investing, and the stock market."  The book, Blue Chip Kids, is now a best seller, and David a celebrated author, all of which is really great stuff.

But what I want to note in this post especially is a web-site he cited, USDebtClock.Org.  This a fascinating and very disturbing website that presents a very large number of statistics in an accessible format.  (It will never happen, but I would like to see a debate among the Presidential candidates where the website is featured and the participants asked to comment.)

David had other things to say during his talk about national and, in particular, individual debt in the US.

As I left the luncheon, my thoughts were in the following order;

1.  Carol and I can do with one car. I'll sell mine and ride to work on MetroRail.  I'll take the cash and invest it.

2.  Then we will throw away our credit cards and go back to the envelope system that worked so well with our kids when they were growing up.

3.  And I will never retire.  I will drop dead at my desk.

And we are in a position, apparently very rare in the US, where we have no debt.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Folger Shakespeare Library and its Digital Texts

The texts are all here.  For example, Troilus and Cressida is there for the reading - and for the downloading.

You can also buy the play in "mass market paperback" with essays, etc., and etc (416 pages! where the play itself takes up 33 pages - two columns each- in my Oxford edition of the "complete works") or in ebook form from Simon & Schuster or, of course, from Amazon.

All sorts of resources are at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

As a Snail through Troilus

With the assembly of my Shakespeare "hard copy" library commenced, and the creation of my digital library also underway, I have begun with Troilus and Cressida.  That is where Professor Garber starts with the on-line lectures that I mentioned, and so that it is where I start.  As she directs, I am to first read the play, then read her discussion of that play in her Shakespeare After All, and finally listen to her lecture. This could take a while.  Really take a while.

I started Troilus Tuesday.  I am still in Act 1 and only in Scene 3.  It takes intellectual stamina and endurance and, of course, time.  The stamina and endurance should improve, but just the frequent reference to the glossary slows one down, and the cake-metaphor in Scene 1 has sent me on a side trip to internet resources to plumb its meaning.  Why would S. plant it so squarely in the play's very first scene of this story about young love (Troilus and Cressida) in Troy during the Trojan War?  (No recourse to Garber's discussion at this point.  I want to see what I can see myself, before entering her class.  If the rest of her is like her introductory lecture, she bowls you over with her views of the subject.  Let me get ready for that.)

So the cake metaphor.  And here's a resource!  "A Cake-Making Image in Troilus and Cressida," by Beryl Rowland in the Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring, 1970), pp. 191-194.  I can read this via JSTOR:

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources. JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico.

Whether JSTOR is the best for this sort of thing or not, that is where I found the Beryl Rowland reference, and JSTOR offers without charge to non-academic individuals access to three of its titles at a time for a month.

Of course, I knew something was up with the cake metaphor from the beginning.  Not only is its early prominence a signal, but its use by the older man in counseling the younger about patience in winning his true love, especially the use of the word "grinding," had to point away from the kitchen and into the bedroom.  Rowland sees that and offers much more.  Central to the metaphor is that the cake is a wedding cake, used in ancient Rome during the ceremony for a particular kind of marriage.  (Thus, anachronism.  Garber says to watch for those kinds of things, unless Rome got its cake from the Greeks.)

So, then, should I retire, what shall I do?  Read Shakespeare.  That will fill up the time.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hello, Bradycardia.

WebMD has an easy to read introduction to "bradycardia" and the article's links bring one quickly up to spead in a simple way about what can be a symptom of "an aging heart."  "Brady" comes from the Greek word bradys  for "slow" and "cardia" from the Gr. word kardia for "heart."  So an aging heart can be a slow heart, slow in the sense that it beats slower than the normal 60 beats per minute or 60 bpm.  Symptoms of a slow and aging heart include fatigue and "syncope," a word used by Greeks for a "fainting spell or swoon."

(I have these derivations of medical terms from a helpful little book at hand by William S. Haubrich, M.D., entitled Medical Meanings: A Glossary of Word Origins (Second Edition 1997)  I found it  in the bookstore at the UR medical school, when Mary moved there from Byrn Mawr.  We were first in that store because that is where the med school kept its sales inventory of new white coats for its first year students, and there Mary tried her's on for the first time.  But I digress.)

A slow heart can be a sign of a very fit heart.  But in my case, we surely have an aging heart.  It may be a relatively fit heart, but aging trumps fit sometimes, and it does in my case.  So, hello, aging heart bradycardia.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hoist on My Own Petard and William Shakespeare

A friend of mine and I have been exchanging emails about the Psalms.  The Sunday School class that I am privileged to teach embarked on a study of the Psalms at the beginning of the summer.  We consider a new Psalm each week and started with Psalm 1.  We are proceeding according to the Psalm number in the Psalter.  (This coming Sunday is Psalm 11.) The friend, who is from out of town and a Christian, came to one of our class meetings while visiting Miami, and we have been exchanging emails about the "Psalm of the week" since then.   (My friend and I often disagree on important ideas.  Sometimes I think the disagreement arises from the word choices I use, but sometimes not.)  The other day I cited some scripture during an email to my friend, and I realized that it supported an important point she had been trying to get me to see.  At the end of the email, I confessed, "Hoist on my own petard."

All of which is to say that the use of that saying has pointed me back to Shakespeare, and now I am heading back to his plays after nearly 50 years.  (That's how long since my sophomore year at Duke, when "I took the course," as if that completed anything.)  Not that I was aware that the source of "Hoist on my own petard" was Macbeth.  In responding to my email, my friend ended her response with thanks for my pointing her to Shakespeare.  I thought, "what?!"  Did I ever know that?

So, naturally, I am undertaking a Shakespeare journey.  Here is what I have equipped myself with: (a) The Oxford Shakespeare: the Complete Works 2nd Edition; (b) Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion; and (c)  Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All.  In addition, Professor Garber has lectures on YouTube, and I so far I have watched this introductory one.  She is simply wonderful.

(Despite my links to Amazon, I bought what I could in used books, when the economics make sense.  I use,, and, increasingly, Amazon's own used book offerings.)

"Tobacco giant defeats suit brought by family of Bay of Pigs veteran" but not Austin

My friend, Austin Carr, who is a "plaintiff's lawyer," recently tried a products liability case against a tobacco company in Circuit Court here in Miami-Dade County, representing the family of a husband and father who died of emphysema.  On August 18, the Miami Herald had an excellent article by Carol Rosenberg on the trial.  I have reproduced all of the article below, because I am afraid that the Herald at some point will kill the link, and I want to keep the article.  It is so well written: tight, deeply informative, and fair.  And Austin comes off as he is, a fine lawyer who keeps to the facts, and has the courage to take a case that many would decline because of its difficulty and uncertainty.

A Miami jury sided with R.J. Reynolds Tuesday against the family of a former Bay of Pigs prisoner who smoked for five decades then died of emphysema at age 87.

The jury of six ruled the tobacco giant was not responsible for the October 2005 death of Renato Santos, who had quit cigarettes when he was diagnosed with emphysema in 1990. The product liability case, first filed by the Santos family on Jan. 9, 2008, had sought $16 million.

Santos started smoking as a teen in Cuba and became a pack-and-a half a day Pall Mall smoker, said the family’s lawyer Austin Carr. “The jury found that he was not addicted, I believe, principally because he never attempted to quit until he was diagnosed,” the lawyer said.

The suit was the latest in a series seeking damages following a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision, Engle v. Liggett Group, which threw out a $145 billion class-action verdict against cigarette makers and set the stage for individuals to sue.

Carr described the smoker as a Bay of Pigs veteran who left Cuba months before the ill-fated April 1961 invasion, trained in Central America and then invaded his island. He was held prisoner until the United States exchanged food and medicine for the men in December 1962. In Miami, he had 10 children, Carr said, and worked as a carpenter on yacht interiors.

At the trial, which started last week, the family stipulated that Santos was partly at fault. In July, Circuit Court Judge Peter Lopez ruled for the tobacco company that Santos was to some degree responsible “less than 100 percent ... for causing his smoking-related injuries.” Carr said Tuesday that his side argued “it takes a smoker and a cigarette maker, and we believe that R.J. Reynolds should have had some percentage of fault in the case. They made the dangerous product that they asked their customers to smoke.”

Rebeca Santos, the dead smoker’s daughter, brought the case on behalf of her 84-year-old mother, whom Carr said does not speak English but attended the trial.

He argued that Santos became a smoker at a time when it was common. “Doctors smoked. Nurses smoked. Patients smoked in the hospital,” he told the jury. “It was a completely different culture back in those days.”

Austin has several more of these kinds of cases lined up for trial over the next six months.  Don't sleep so soundly, Big Tobacco.

Read more here:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How Do It Know?

On the Google search page this morning, the designs were birthday cakes and cupcakes.  Moving my cursor over them, I got the message "Happy Birthday, Paul."  And it is my birthday today.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Classical South Florida 89.7 throws in the towel; the slot returns to Christian Radio

Starting Friday, three South Florida radio stations will stop broadcasting classical music.

Instead, radios tuned in to WKCP 89.7 FM in Miami, WPBI 90.7 FM in West Palm Beach or WNPS 88.7 FM in Southwest Florida will find Christian music.

Minneapolis-based American Public Media Group sold the Classical South Florida stations to Educational Media Foundation for $21.7 million on Thursday, according Hadden & Associates Nationwide Media Brokers, which represented both the buyer and seller in the transaction.

The deal is expected to close in September, but EMF, headquartered in Rocklin, California, will implement its K-LOVE format this week. K-LOVE stations broadcast in 135 other markets.

[My bold.]

-from today's Miami Herald

It is hard to believe that the very upsetting sale of WMCU, 89.7 FM, by Trinity International University to Public Media Group took place nearly eight years ago.  But it has been that long.  Since then, we have listened to K-LOVE over the internet, supporting the internet channel from time to time, and then to Pandora.  There are some AM Christian radio stations here in Miami, but none of them have quite the pitch that WMCU captured - at least for us.

WMCU had been developed by Miami Christian College, a Bible college in Miami-Dade.  After many years of service to Miami-Dade Christian young people. MCC gave itself, including the radio station, to what became Trinity International University, based in Deerfield, Illinois. 

Several years later, after the president retired who was serving at the time of Trinity's acquisition of MCC and WMCU, Trinity sold WMCU to American Public Media Group for millions of dollars.  In additon, it moved "Trinity South Florida" from Downtown Miami to a modest space  in Broward, an environment probably more culturally-familiar to the Deerfield board than Miami-Dade.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ancient Greece and Donald Kagan; Disrupting Academia

Irving Kristol interviews Donald Kagan on the "origins of war and the preservation of peace," the title of Kagan's 1996 book on that subject

Kristol refers in that interview to a series of lectures on Ancient Greece that Kagan gave at Yale and that the university makes freely accessible on the internet as as an "Open Yale Course."  That's a series of lectures I want to attend.

Each lecture has an "assignment."  For example, the introductory lecture assigns: Pomeroy, Burstein, Donlan and Roberts. Ancient Greece. Oxford University Press: New York, 1999, pp. 1-40.  When I went to Amazon for that title, I saw a number of editions, the latest, the 3rd, a $50.48 text book.

Checking on, I found a 2007 paperback edition for $1.00.

Has there been so much new discovered in the last 8 years that an introductory text on Ancient Greece requires an expensive third edition?

See how the internet disrupts the publishing side of academia and how Yale itself, with its open access lectures, similarly disrupts the 20th Century model of the American University. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stay as long as you can.

If you are in a city or a community that is broken, where people are burned out or spiritually lost—stay as long as you can.
This is a quote twittered by Tim Keller, and it sounds like him.  It  has a lot of truth to it, and I get the point, but I am glad he included the qualifier "as long as you can."

Susan Thomas - Ogden Museum in New Orleans and its "Art of the Cup 2014"

Our friend, Susan Thomas, was among those artists invited to show their work at Art of the Cup 2014 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans recently.  We are fortunate to have several of her works at our home and here at the office.  The photo is one of her works that she showed.  Others are among the photos at the link.

She also paints, a gift she discovered and developed only in the last 5 years or so.  We have two of her wonderful paintings at our home.  We love them too.

Friday, May 15, 2015

"Mad Max: Fury Road" (Updated)

OK.  Who will go see it with me?


Uh. Never mind:

[I]ts not very good. Its title character is ill-defined. His mission is emotionally muddy. The non-stop car chase action becomes tiresome about 45 minutes in (though I did find myself wondering wistfully if there was a video game to go with it!). The finale is unbelievable even in context. The color palette, I admit, is beautiful but if you’re watching an enormous action sequence and thinking about the color palette…  well, you get the idea.

-from Klavan on Culture and its post "'Mad Max’ — The Critics Are Lying for Political Reasons:

We Send Our Warriors Overseas to Rescue Victims of Natural Disasters

Wreckage of missing US Marine helicopter found in Nepal mountains

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NASA's X-57 and LEAPTech

NASA’s latest experimental aircraft, the X-57, looks to break all the rules of how planes fly and may pave the way for entirely new aircraft designs.

Code-named LEAPTech (Leading Edge Asynchronous Propellers Technology) the plane will be about the size of a small general aviation aircraft, but instead of a single large propeller, LEAPTech will integrate 18 tiny electrically powered propellers into a narrow wing with a total area of about 5 square meters. A conventional plane of the same size would need three times as much wing area. 

-from World Magazine's May 16, 2015 issue and an article by Michael Cochrane.

The image above is 

only a rendering of the wing mounted to a small X-plane. NASA plans to fly the oddly shaped wing in a few years, but right now the wing is still undergoing testing. This could revolutionize aircraft, but NASA could also be grasping at straws with this model as NASA pushes for electric engines to be used in a significant part of the aircraft industry.

-from a post on by Lindsey Caldwell.

Flying Magazine reports that

NASA has selected Tecnam's P2006T, more commonly referred to as the Tecnam Twin, as the base platform for a new all-electric program named the Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology project, or LEAPTech for short. Within a few years, NASA hopes to fly a prototype of the airplane modified with a 31-foot wing equipped with 18 electric motors powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. The conceptual airplane project currently goes under the name X-plane.

I was puzzled how NASA would have the time and resources to develop this technology.  Lindsey Caldwell gives the answer: 

LEAPTech was created by a partnership between two private aviation firms, ESAero and Joby Aviation.

ESAero has a website here and Joby Aviation here.  (It is worth clicking the link to Joby to see its opening webpage.  In fact, the entire Joby website is very well done, with some great artwork, photos, and links to other articles on  LEAPTech developments. )

What say you, Sean?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Acts have consequences, large and small.

Yesterday at a funeral at church, I saw a friend I had not seen in several years.  Her sister is a Nurse Practitioner at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins, and a very good one.  As a result of the troubles in that city, the sister is very seriously considering leaving and coming to South Florida.

In yesterday's WSJ, there is an editorial about the Illinois Supreme Court's decision overturning a state law that would modestly cut back on the country's largest unfunded state-employee pension obligation.  The editorial closes with this sentence:

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has floated an alternative [to raising already high taxes and restructuring loans]: a state constitutional amendment allowing pension modifications, which would require a public referendum and two-thirds vote of the legislature. Barring that, Illinois taxpayers may want to start contemplating Indiana or Florida residency.

And so the market rules and will continue to rule.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Fate of the Tainos

I am reading Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus by Samuel Eliot Morison.  I first met Morison by way of our American History textbook at Duke, Morison and Commager's The Growth of the American Republic (probably the 1962 edition).  Morison was very large in the pantheon of American historians when I was in college.  Morison first published the Columbus biography in 1942, and I had not read it until now.  I am enjoying it, and would recommend it.

Morison admires Columbus, especially as a seaman, but he gives us both the good and the bad.  As to the bad, Morsion writes that "the policies and acts of Columbus for which he alone was responsible began the  the depopulation of the terrestrial paradise that was Hispaniola in 1492. "  Where there may have been as many as 300,000 of the aborigines in 1492, the Tainos, there may not have been as many as 500 remaining by 1548.

Morison wrote his biography as the storm clouds of WWII had gathered and were about to burst.  And so, after he discusses the fate of the Tainos, he immediately adds this little paragraph:

The fate of this gentle and almost defenseless people [the Tainos] offers a terrible example to Americans who fancy they will be allowed to live in peace by people overseas who covet what they have. 

Not so gentle and defenseless, even at this point.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Illinois Supreme Court Overturns State Pension Law Fix

Train wreck ahead.

Local Government at Work

Jose Valladares, 24, Charged with Grand Theft
The lead article on the front page of yesterday's home edition of the Miami Herald has the following headline: "5 employees suspended after inquiry."  The article's synopsis, just under the headline, states, "Investigators found cash and checks 'stashed in drawers' at Miami-Dade's parking operation where one employee faces criminal charges"

How did the investigators stumble onto this fraud?  Here is what the article, by Herald reporter Douglas Hanks, states in part:

A top county official said the misconduct came to light once Miami-Dade launched an automated system for county garages last year, ending the requirement that daily users of the parking garages pay cash in most garages. A week later, the county’s parking revenues had doubled. 

The county garages have been in operation for years and years. Why does Jose take the fall?  Why not the "top county officials" who set up this operation in the first place and allowed it to proceed, year after year?

Go get 'em, Doug.

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Marriage Humor (?)

Wife:  Honey, what would you think of our renewing our marriage vows?
Husband (excitedly):  Really?!! I didn't know the marriage had expired!

Wife:  When I met Mr. Right, I really didn't know his first name until much later.  It turned out to be "Always."