Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We Cancelled our Subscription to the Miami Herald Months Ago. Any questions?

UPDATE: The link was to a nasty Morin political cartoon. Morin is the Herald's editorial cartoonist. If you tried the link recently, you will see that the Herald asks you to register, even if you have registered before. My guess is that this new or renewed interest in its web-subscribers is a result of the buy-out of Knight-Ridder, the Herald's parent company, by McClatchy. Maybe McClatchy will require an upgrade of the site, which cannot hurt. One hopes that this change will be good for the Herald generally. In reading about the acquisition in the Herald (yes, I confess, I read the one at the office), the "journalists" who write for the Herald allege that McClatchy has a "hands-off" approach to the "news" vs. "business" end of the newspaper business. Oh, I hope not.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Let's See. Today I think I will insult about everybody who believes in Christ, except for old-time Missouri Synod Lutherans and the church of my employer. Anthony Scaramone over at First Things today. This guy has moved from clever to annoying.
Living Vicariously through Kim Corson. Kim and I were classmates at the University of Chicago Law School and we re-established contact at the recent 35th reunion. Kim is sailing around the world (although taking his time) and has a blog titled "the Wanderer". I will post it on our list of blogs so you can keep up.
"West with the Night". Picked up this classic on audio tape for our vacation. Its a biography written by Beryl Markham, the first woman licensed to fly in Africa. She was raised in Kenya.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Immediate Job Opening! "Campus Life" staff at Coral Gables Sr. High School for Greater Miami Youth for Christ. This is one of the better high schools in the Miami-Dade Public School District. One must raise his or her own support. However, it is just down the street from Granada Presbyterian Church (PCA) which will provide financial and practical support. (I know the minister - a super guy). Granada PC sees the high school as within the orbit of its evangelical responsibilities, so its people are anxious to get a Campus Life ministry started. A local foundation will also help with support for at least the first three years. And the staff person can live at our house until she or he gets oriented (free meals there too). Of course, a love of high schoolers and for the work of the Lord through evangelism and discipleship, together with the appropriate gifts, is a must.

Contact me or the executive director, Andy McDaniel (305) 796-9880.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mary Has a New Post. Here.
WSJ: "Chrysler Plans to announce a major discounting program by the end of the month. A GM spokesman said the company is monitoring the situation closely." Why don't they just try building better cars?
God and Getting Fired. Some friends of mine are in a business that suffered from layoffs this past week. "Layoffs" is a nice way of saying that a bunch of people were fired. It conveys the idea that maybe some of those fired will be rehired someday. "Downsizing" is another euphemism. Fortunately, we have institutions like Despair.com to remind us, if in an ironic tone, that life is tough out there. My friends survived the firings, but it upset them. They also don't have the anger that those who were fired have to sustain them. In fact, there may be some guilt instead.

It made me think of the times I had been fired in my life. There was my girl-friend during the late fall of my senior year in college who dumped me. That was a sort of firing. Then the big Atlanta firm that I worked for as a summer clerk while I was in law school: at the end of the summer the hiring partner said that the firm would not be offering me a permanent job when I graduated. That was a sort of firing. Seven years ago, the managing partner of the big firm in which I was a partner walked in one day to tell me that, after 27 years of loyal service, I needed to go.

Of course, those things destroyed me.

As to the girl friend, as a result I became a reclusive bachelor for the rest of my life. After Atlanta, I mainly kept to small towns and less competitive places. After I was fired from Kelley Drye & Warren, I retired from the Bar and became a homeless person.

Tonight I get to give the devotional at the monthly board meeting of Greater Miami Youth for Christ, and I have been thinking about this for some time. Specifically I have been thinking about Acts 15: 36-41, when Paul and Barnabas entered into a "contention that [became] so sharp that they parted from one another" right at the beginning of Paul's second missionary journey. They broke up because Barnabus wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul refused to do so because, on the first missionary journey, John Mark left the two of them not long into that journey. I know that this argument over John Mark must have upset Barnabas and Paul, but can you imagine how John Mark felt? I would say that he was sort of fired. I have chosen this incident for the devotional, because it teaches so much about how enterprises work and how getting fired, as difficult as it is for everyone, is one of the ways God works out his will.

My guess is that Barnabas was a better mentor of leaders than he was a missionary. When Paul first comes to Antioch, Barnabas takes him under his wing and introduces him around and thereafter helps Paul grow into the great leader he became. By the time the first missionary journey is over, the scripture refers to "Paul and Barnabas" and not "Barnabas and Paul" as it referred to them when the journey began.

My guess is that Paul, for the second missionary journey, needed a Silas and not a Barnabas. And that John Mark didn't need a second missionary journey, he needed the close companionship and mentoring of Barnabas.

We know it came out all right for John Mark. In II Timothy 4:11, Paul calls for John Mark to be brought to him "for he is useful to me for ministry". And in Philemon 24, Paul identifies him as one of his "fellow laborers" who is with Paul. He was such a help to Peter that the great man refers to him as "Mark my son" (1 Peter 5:13), and, finally, he was published (the Gospel of Mark).

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose". (Romans 8:28) Even getting fired (or not) works out God's purpose.

"Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Cor. 15:57)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Haven't posted lately
but it doesn't mean I've been unconstructive.

Before


After

(I didn't add the grass. That's been growing regularly for the last 12 months.)
FT on Superman and other Current or Impending Entertainments. First Things has a post on the entertainment world by one Anthony Sacramone. He's got wit! So check out the piece he posted today (June 19) after the post by Fr. Neuhaus on the Episcopal Church's continuing and successful efforts to destroy itself. Here's a quote from Sacramone's post concerning Superman.

"In case you don’t subscribe to Trailers on Demand from your local cable service, another Superman movie is set to be released this summer, for reasons that elude everyone. What’s of passing interest, though, is that some people think Superman is really about Jesus, which would have come as a great surprise to Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, Superman’s creators, both of whom were Jewish. I know there’s a long history of baptizing things not-Christian so that they can be embraced by Christians without fear of apostasy, blasphemy, idolatry, sorcery, and a whole host of other “-y” things. But before this gets completely out of hand: Iphigenia—not Jesus. Neo in The Matrix—not Jesus. Harry Potter—not Jesus. Garfield—not Jesus. Aslan of Narnia . . . All right, you got me on that one. For a fascinating exploration of what some people think they see in works of literature that no one else seems to see, Alan Jacobs has written “The Code Breakers,” an opinion piece that will grace the pages of First Things’ Aug/Sept. issue, available in July. (I’m only telling you now so that those of you deprived of a subscription can break out the chaise longues in front of those Barnes & Noble magazine racks to make sure you’re first in line to grab one. But be nice—no pushing!)"

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mmmm! Good! My theory is that I am "richly blessed" (as they referred to the good life in the Baptist Church of my youth) because I am a pretty weak character and God realizes that there is only so much difficulty that I can take. (This is a sort of contrarian view of the "Wealth and Health" gospel.) Whatever the reason, chief among those blessings is my marvelous wife, and among her many, happy gifts is the gift of cooking. She loves it and she does it so well. (This kitchen project is all about exploiting the poor woman. I am not only of weak character, I am shameless.)

When I was diagosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, now 15 years ago, we moved away from red meat, fat, and the like, and toward a diet with more vegetables and fruits. Carol has developed a great collection of healthy, savory recipes. Mary is following closely in Carol's footsteps, and a year or two ago Mary introduced a recipe for "Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese." Carol fixed it last night, and it was terrific.

A dish with that title will probably not get posted on the NRA site. (Actually, I don't think they have recipes at all. But they should.) It has a sort of effete sound to it, and it does not help that Mary found the recipe on the Whole Foods website. (It's not there anymore, so I had to find the recipe elsewhere.) But it really tastes good, and I would heartily recommend it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Bench is Not that Deep. Van will not be at church tomorrow. Still on vacation. Nor will Donna, the heart and soul of the Praise Team. But with them gone for the second Sunday in a row, I am up there singing away. I have to say that I enjoy it, especially with two professional, studio musicians behind me, Steve Quinzy on the keyboard and Mitch Farber on the guitar, plus my friend Jack on the drums. (He is an amateur, but he is very good.) Last Sunday I sang Chris Rice's Untitled Hymn. I have sung that one before. Tomorrow I will sing Chris Rice's Go Light Your World, a song I mentioned a week or two ago, and which Macon gracefully explicated. It will be the first time I have sung that one. His songs are very singable, and I like the way he performs them.

Tomorrow Austin Carr will preach. I shouldn't say that the bench is not that deep with Austin up there. (I was referring to myself.) Austin is a Florida Bar Board Certified Trial Lawyer, and leads our Friday morning breakfast Bible studies. We have been forever on Job, going on two years. Austin is fascinated with that book. Sometimes I would like to move on. It is trying my patience. (That's a little joke. Let me know if you don't get it.) I'm looking forward to hearing him tomorrow.
Notes on Saturday.

An SUV instead of a Civic. That's the choice we made in the face of high gasoline prices heading further north; in the face of increasing demand for oil from China and India; in the face of petrodollars being recycled in Saudi Arabia to advance militant Islam; in the face of Florida's main supplier of oil being Venezuela. Why would we do such a thing? Although the need for something suitable to pull our camper motivated us in part, the main thing for me was fear of being in a smaller car in an accident. Just recently we learned of two serious accidents. Carol's aunt survived nearly unscathed an accident that totaled the car Carol's cousin was driving on the highway from Charlotte to Spindale. The car was a Toyota Avalon. The teenage niece of one of our neighbors was in a single car accident, where she hit a tree. It took rescuers 4 hours to get her out of the car. Her legs were terribly broken and she may lose them. With that memory we went to CarMax and came back with a 4Runner.

The 450-Watt Skateboard. I've returned to reading Popular Mechanics after a 45 year hiatus. Its full of interesting applied-science news and features. In an earlier comment, Macon suggested that it was time to attach the Stihl two-cycle engine to the venerable skate board. The power-skateboard people have gone much further than that. This article discusses the "450 Watt Skateboard" pictured below.

(Childrens, I will forgive you for being late with the Father's Day present, provided it is the Raptor 4.0 - plus a box of band-aids.)

Brain Genes. Yesterday's WSJ, on its front page, features a story about a University of Chicago professor of human genetics who has published some papers that suggest that evolution among human beings in the last 100,000 years may have made people from the Middle East and Europe smarter than those who remained in Sub-Sahara Africa. Needless to say, the suggestion generated a good bit of backlash, which the article details. The professor, Bruce Lahn, is a Chinese. The Chinese are not among the groups that Dr. Lahn identifies as being favored genetically. The reaction to his findings is so stiff that he is backing away from this sort of research. But maybe it wasn't really the criticism he received. The last three sentences of the article read as follows:

Dr. Lahn says he once tried testing himself for which type version of the brain genes he has. The experiment's outcome was blurry but "it wasn't looking good", he says. He hasn't tried testing himself again.
New Car-Rar. Well, new to us.



Thursday, June 15, 2006

Uh-oh. Kettlebells. Got my copy of Enter the Kettlebell a couple of weeks ago in the mail. Then, earlier this week, the 32kg kettlebell arrived in the mail. I've thumbed through the book, and am thinking it would be good to have a coach for awhile, although the photos of Pavel, the guru and who wrote the book, are pretty clear.

Walter said he would send me a DVD, however. Maybe that will be enough.

At the end of the book are some FAQs.

For example,

Is kettlebell training a fad?

The girya first appeared in a Russion dictionary in 1704(Cherkikh, 1994) Yes, it is a fad. I expect it to go away in the next 300 years.

Once I have put up the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) Rit of Passage numbers, where do I go next.

Get registered to vote and join the Marines; you are a man now.

Will they let a 60 year old man in the Marines? If so, I'm ready.

The kettlebell is very, very heavy. I may order a lighter one to get started.

The whole point of this, I think, is to use your whole body to lift and not to isolate on particular muscle groups. (But, gee, I want to look like a freak of nature.)

Pavel, the Kettlebell guru, is not the only guy who thinks simply lifting a big weight is good for you. So does his friend, Dan John. On Dan's site is a link to The Ten Commandments of Lifting, which is interesting.

I told Walter that we all need to go to one of Pavel's training sessions. Maybe we could make this a two or three day thing: one or two days with Pavel, and the last day with David Allen. If we find some dates, we will let everyone know and the entire Kith & Kin community can gather to do some heavy lifting.

CORRECTION! CORRECTION! Walter called me, deeply concerned. Did I really get a 32kg Kettlebell? That's 70 lbs! No, I didn't get that bell. I made a mistake and got my kg and lbs mixed up (after all, I am a history major). I bought a 16kg bell, and thats about 35lb. No matter, really, its still too heavy. I am going to get the 12kg (26lb) bell. By the way, 16kg is actually 1 "pood". A pood is some sort of ancient Russion measure of weight. The is interesting in that the French call their girly little dogs pood-les, and the Russians measure their manly weights in poods. I think I may be on to something here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Greatest Kos Post Ever. The Daily Kos is a left wing blog, much quoted and much reviled in the "conservative blogosphere". This post by someone named "CheChe" is being hailed as perhaps the greatest post ever hoisted in the left-wing media. I have to say that it left me breathless, particularly only a few days before Father's Day. (Thanks to the First Things blog, of all places, for picking it up.)
CarMax Redux. 2004 Toyota 4Runner. Blue. Last night. Figure us to buy an SUV at a time when everyone else is getting a smaller car.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Following the World Cup. Here.

UPDATE: The US loses to the Czech Republic, 3-0

"The US team displayed several nice combinations in midfield throughout the match, but they struggled to translate them into clear scoring opportunities. Czech Republic, meanwhile, did not create a host of chances but they had the quality to capatilise on the ones they did make for themselves. Things will not get easier for the States, as they will face Italy next in another difficult Group E clash, while the Czechs will play Ghana." -Yahoo sports.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Thomas Sowell on the Duke-Lacrosse Case. Here.
MIA-yo
It's good that as they're spinning "Everday I'm Hustlin'" (censored portion of lyrics below) on the radio these days that Miami Vice (new trailers) is coming soon. We wouldn't want things to get too out of control down there.

Lot of drug dealin' 'round me goin' down in Dade County
Don't tote no twenty-twos, Magnum cost me twenty-two
Sat it on them twenty-twos, birds go for twenty-two...
I touch work like I'm convertible Burt
I got distribution so I'm convertin' the work
In the M-I-A-YO...
Everyday I'm hustlin'
Ev-everyday I'm hustlin'...
Morning prayer. This morning Van is out of town. Pepe (the Director of Miami Springs Youth Ministries) will preach, and I have the privilege of leading in prayer. The prayer will have two parts. The first part is as follows, and the second part will have our petitions, which I will not reproduce. (I don't like to extemporize in these situations, so I write these kinds of prayers down on the few occasions I accept this sort of duty.)

Heavenly father,

We praise you and lift you up for the God you are not.

That you are not a God who hides the truth, truth which is secret, not connected with any idea of what is right and what is wrong, and accessible only to a selected few who have some special code that the rest of us do not, but who reveals the truth to all of us, reveals it in the manifold splendor and marvel of your creation, whether it is the beauty of a South Florida sky, with its pastels and the endless shapes of clouds, or in how a light emitting diode works on the panel of some kitchen appliance;

Who reveals truth in history, whether the history is of the earth or of a people or of a family or of even one us, as we are privileged to explore that history and to see it working out according to your loving and redemptive purpose;

Who reveals the truth in your Scripture, in the written word of the Bible, words that we can read and understand, words that make light bulbs go off in the best parts of us, words that warn us, words that comfort us and guide us, that show us who you are and who we are;

who finally reveals the truth through the flesh you made of yourself, through your very incarnate person, Jesus Christ, the same as you are, but a man whom we can know, who shows us that you are not only a grand creator, but also a brother to us, a friend;

who gives us a guide along the way of truth, your Holy Spirit, who helps us understand what we find difficult and who helps us express things so deep and profound that, without your Spirit’s guidance, we can only express in groans and sighs.

We praise you that you are not a God who tires of us, some currently preoccupied deity who long ago put together creation like some sort of clock, wound it up, set it working, and then wondered off to other places, leaving us here fatherless, blind, bereft of any purpose other than to wind down and die.

We praise you that you are so near to us, before us and behind us, so intimately involved with us that it is you who sends every electric charge through our hearts that makes them beat, that it is you who decides each time whether even to allow our heart’s next beat;

That you know our rising in the morning and going to bed every night and all points of our day in between; that you refresh us when we sleep and you guard us from moment to moment; that you have a plan for the United States in the Middle East, yes, but you have a plan for each of us as well, whether we acknowledge you or not, a plan to prosper us and not at all to harm us;

That you, even in your intimacy with us, mysteriously make room for the working of our own wills. That you do not run us like robots, but that you will stand by and wait and let us come to you, for you told us that you are like a father who looks down the road each day for the return of a wayward son who went off to join a world without you in it, willing to allow him to make destructive decisions, but always ready to welcome him home, to embrace him, to redeem him, to love him.

We confess that we lose track, sometimes carelessly and sometimes willfully, of who you are and who you are not, with all the attendant consequences of that inattention. Please forgive us.

Thank you for loving us, for forgiving us, and for listening to our prayers, especially as we pray this morning for people who are struggling. We pray for . . .

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I'm listening to Mary Poplin at veritas.org--the topic is "Mother Theresa: The difference beteween religious work and social work." She has some great things to say about Mother Theresa, whose work was only to serve Jesus, not people--that's the difference between religious work and social work. And it's all about prayer. Poplin speaks of her own experience as a volunteer in Calcutta.

She starts to address more issues related to education in her q and a's... and I look forward to listening to her talk on that subject next.

MORE: I'm listening to the education talk--some really good stuff--probably the most sound and reasonable educational reform ideas that I've heard. A few good bytes:

  • Regarding the top-performing teachers at schools she studied: the top people on the list have been resisted by their principal; but they're not fighting the particular programs being perscribed by NCLB stuff--they're using it; there is a lot of accountable talk in their classrooms; there is a lot of academic talk; there is not wasted time.

  • "...we must address social justice and accountability together--they're separated now...Both the left and the right are completely committed to their particular ideologies--behaviorism (the right) and constructivism (the left) must be combined."

  • The biggest predictor of reading level is how many books have been read to the child when they're young. (Thanks, parents, for reading to us so much.)

  • "It is not easy to teach children who have missed being read to...or who are growing up in dangerous situations. It can be done, but it takes serious, hard work."
  • "How Can Such a Beautiful Woman be so Stupid?" Come on, husbands, you know you that this will pop into your mind from time to time as you deal with a dip in the matrimonial bliss scale.

    Carol found some husband/wife jokes that are very good, one of which has an answer to this profound question.

    The husband, in a fit of frustration and anger, asks that question of his helpmeet: "How can such a beautiful woman be so stupid?"

    She answers: "God made me beautfiful so you would be attracted to me. He made me stupid so I would be attracted to you."

    Perfect.

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Bye-Bye, Bobby. Davidson's president is retiring.

    UPDATE: I spoke to Parker Engels of the Davidson development office about this yesterday. (He and I have become friends over the last few years, another dividend of the privilege I have of representing a particular former member of the board of trustees.) He called me to give me a heads-up. He said that Bobby will resign at the end of the next school year, and that will make his stay at Davidson a round ten year term. Parker said that a ten-year term is becoming the standard term for a president of a private college, especially for a president who is coming off a very successful fund-raising campaign, as Bobby surely is. Parker said that this will make room for his successor to ramp up for the next campaign. He also said that Bobby will be much involved next year in guiding the search process for the new president.

    As I think about that last point, I note that the board of trustees which will be involved in the search process will be very much Bobby's board. As you may recall, certain board members, incensed by Bobby's watering down of Davidson's Christian commitment (to the extent such a commitment remains - and I believe one does, as weak as it may be), left the board in reaction to those developments. Now they are not there to have a hand in picking a successor.

    This reminds me of the orthodox Presbyterians who have left the PCUSA over the past 40 years over doctrinal differences, rather than stay and fight it out. Those people left the rest of us weakened, and it has taken many years for the orthodox Christians who remain to recover that lost influence, as I believe those Christians are doing, despite the headlines to the contrary.

    But leaving the board of trustees of Davidson in anger, as those several trustees did a couple of years ago was, at least to me, about as smart as it would be for a US Senator to resign because the majority voted on some profound national issue that was contrary to his own views. It is not easy to get on the board of trustees of Davidson College or any other institution of such influence. Now Bobby's legacy will not only be his watering down of Davidson's "traditions" (I would call it something like "weakening Davidson's soul"), but that legacy may well include his arrangement for a successor who will, clonelike, continue the slow death of Christ's influence on that campus.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    A Gift Subscription to World Magazine.

    For the person who first identifies in a comment to this post who wrote this:

    "I studied the Kuran a great deal. . . . I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. So far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.”

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Golden Boy
    Google vulnerable?
    Prof. Reynolds speculates in the affirmative.

    Pedant pre-emption: I have absolutely no idea if one can, actually, "speculate in the affirmative," but it sounded good at the time.
    This Just in from our "Oh for crying out loud! Give me a break!" Department. The Toronto Star reports:

    The 17 suspects who were arrested Friday, men and youths alike, were allegedly “motivated by an ideology based on politics, hatred and terrorism, and not on faith,” [Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair] told a gathering of Muslim leaders and concerned community members.

    Hat tip to Drudge.

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Blogroll Addition
    Didja notice that I added ktontheloose over there? What? You don't have K&K set as your HomePage and do all of your intarweb surfing through the lists there on the right?

    And you call yourself a lurker. Hmph.

    Be that as it may (or June), do check out Katy's blog. She is a friend of Kellsey's (and mine, though I'd say we've only just passed beyond the friend-in-law stage) from waaaay back. Katy's the one who sent Kells the link for the superhero test we all took a while back. Just don't tell her she looks like a softball player, though.
    Ahhh, Dave.
    Dave Barry reviews the book, Doing Nothing, by Tom Lutz. I'm sure it's a fine book, but I really don't care. All I care is that Dave Barry wrote something. He's funny.

    (The link is to the NYT, which requires registration. This is frustrating, but not as frustrating as the fact that the WSJ charges you to view it's content. And not by-the-drink, but they charge an actual subcscription! While the NYT is frustrating, at least there's very little worth reading. Stupid Socialists. The WSJ actually has articles & edtorial pieces that are worth linking to and discussing. Which is why their lack of access is so disappointing. Stupid Capitalists.)
    Good Listening at Veritas.org

    I've been holed up a bit this weekend with migraine-related difficulties; yesterday I didn't have much of a headache, but had seriously blurred vision. I couldn't really read or watch anything, so I started to do some listening to online talks at veritas.org. For those who don't know, Veritas is a sort of Christian lecture series that happens at various university campuses around the country. I think Oz Guiness and Ravi Zacharias were instrumental in its founding. Lots of great people take part in this series.

    I listened to a talk by Don Miller (well known these days in 20-something circles for the uber post-modern Blue Like Jazz); this was basically the same talk he gave at Davidson last year and which I had already heard a recording of; it's worth listenting too--nothing too deep, but offers good insight into the post-modern condition, I'd say; I'd be interested in what the older generation thought of his musings.)

    I listened to a talk by Frederica Matthews-Greene, which was very good, but led to a momentary personal crisis regarding my failure to have gotten married thus far in my life (Frederica promotes getting married as soon as possible--something that I'd happily do if there were an eligible bachelor around; the personal crisis was exacerbated, I'm sure, by the migraine narcotics I was hyped up on).

    Then I listened to two slightly longish and slightly rambling talks by Fr. Neuhaus--but really, is there anyone better to listen to ramble? I don't think so. I was happy to reflect, too, that he is not married.

    Anyway, if you're planning any summer roadtrips or find yourself unable to see clearly, you should consider downloading some of these lectures. Interesting stuff.
    Inner Gardener Update. This is the second weekend of my getting in touch. More high tech highlights to report.

    I discovered a great lawnmower shop on 79th Street near Biscayne Boulevard, Joe Blair Garden Supplies, Inc. Miami folks will recall the location as the heart of what has become "Little Haiti". The Haitians definitely upgraded the neighborhood, in my view at least, when they began moving in 20+ years ago. Before then it had become a prostitute ridden, dangerous place. (When Macon was first born, we bought baby furniture from a store in that district. The store, "Holland's Babyland", had been there for a generation. The proprietor, a stubborn man who was a member of Central Baptist Church, had refused to move out. He was murdered in that store a few years after we shopped with him.)

    I found the lawnmower shop on the internet, and I called yesterday morning (a Saturday) to see how late they would be open and to discuss my need for an edger. A lawn edger, in my experience, is a thing almost as big as a lawn mower, with a pretty serious Briggs & Stratton engine and at least three wheels. You walk behind the thing, and its perpendicular blade, spinning like crazy, throws dirt, rocks and grass out in front, about a half a block. It makes a great little ditch next to the sidewalk, giving all sorts of satisfaction that males need.

    Anyway, I had not seen one of these things at Home Depot, so I decided to call around and see where I could find one. Dave Blair took my call and said that homeowners were really not buying them anymore, and that they were only being bought when you had miles and miles of sidewalk to edge. Instead, he suggested I look at a two-cycled engine sort of thing that is like a weed-eater, except it has an edger device on the bottom with a single little wheel. Actually, it sounded a little effete to me, but Dave was so thorough and impressive on the phone, that I went up to 79th Street to see the place.

    Wow. This place was something. I think every professional yard man in North Dade was in an out of there during my visit. There was not only Dave, but also his sons (who are in the photo on the website) and a bunch of other people who worked there. They had a huge inventory - mainly directed at the pros - and a big maintenance section. Dave is about my age and told me that the shop was on its third generation of family ownership (he was in the second). He went to North Miami High, graduating three years after I graduated from Hialeah. He treated me as if I was the only guy in the store, in between greeting people by name as they walked by. (Note: the "professional yard man" in Dade County tends to be either black or brown. Dave is anglo.)

    Dave sold me my edger in two pieces. (Its a Stihl product) The first piece is the engine, the second piece was the attachment for the edger. You can take the edger attachment off and use several other accessories: a weed-eater, a chain saw, a blower. Amazing. (I just got the edger.) But it was a 2 cycle engine. Those things don't have a good history with me. (I can't get the darn things ever to start). Here more progress has obviously been made. Dave put the pieces together for me, added some fuel, took me outside and we cranked it right up.

    But would this relatively light contraption still enable me to throw rocks, dirt and grass a half a block or more ahead of me as I walked down the sidewalk? And would we have a nice, deep, black ditch running along the sidewalk? Yes! I am happy to say. Yes!
    Paranoia about Christians. The view that Christians somehow seek to impose their values and beliefs on others bewilders me. My answer to the people who hold that view would be, "Why don't you just ignore us. None of us has a gun in his hand. Our dollars are no more valuable than yours. When a Christian votes, it is only counted as one vote. What is, exactly, the problem?"

    A light bulb came on as I read Fr. Neuhaus recently over on the FT "blog". He writes:

    People ask [Christians, in this particular case Dominican preachers,]“Who are you to impose your truth on me?” In his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, John Paul responded to that question by saying, “The Church imposes nothing; she only proposes.” But what she proposes is the truth and the truth imposes itself because, as Augustine and Thomas understood, human beings are hardwired for the truth.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Finally, Ann Althouse Weighs (?) in on the William Jefferson Matter. I've been waiting for that shoe to drop. Maybe someone can tell me how she stands on the matter.
    God and Chance. Stephen Barr has a post today on the First Things "blog" regarding the God versus Darwin matter. (I put "blog" in quotes, because the First Things site is pretty clunky. It doesn't have discrete posts to which one can hyperlink. I have been looking around for a wooden door on a local Catholic Church upon which I can nail this complaint.)

    Professor Barr's post discusses some problems he has with a Vatican authority's take on evolution and God. The discussion is somewhat beyond me, and maybe one needs to be an insider on this entire subject to keep up these people who write in First Things about first things. I am not such a person. My interest on this subject, I must confess, fades in and out.

    But Barr quotes a verse from the Pslams that arrested me:

    The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Psalm 16:33.

    Here is "chance" intersecting with God. Pretty neat, I think. And this intersection is what Barr is writing about in his post.

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Update on Baby Stokes

    First, as my friend Lindsay says on her blog: "TMI Warning". If you are unfamiliar with the term "TMI" it means "Too much information". So, if you are squeamish about baby things or the many things that happen to the mommy in the midst of pregnancy, then this post may not be for you.

    If you don't mind these things, or if you're just particularly brave, then read on.

    I am now about 6 to 6 and 1/2 weeks pregnant. 2 and 1/2 weeks ago I began bleeding. I tried not to get too worried about this as I bled for 4 or 5 weeks in the beginning of my pregnancy with Aidan and he turned out simply perfect. (as you can see in this lovely photo).

    I went to my first OB appointment yesterday, and after waiting quite some time I was able to have a sonogram. The good news is that I got to see the baby (ever so teeny tiny at this point...about the size of a small lentil actually), and I got to see the heartbeat. This is wonderful news! Then, I sat down with another doctor who explained to me that while it is very good that I have seen the heartbeat, that because I have been having prolonged vaginal bleeding that "we are not out of the woods yet". So, please pray for the little lentil that he or she will grow healthy and strong and that my body will also be strong and healthy.

    The other thing we discussed yesterday with the doctor was whether we would like to attempt a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Ceasarean) or do another planned C-section (Aidan was breech and they were unable to turn him). We learned that only 70% of women actually are able to deliver vaginally successfully after having had a C-section. Which means that 30% of women who try this labor and labor and then have to do a c-section anyway. We also learned that 2% of women who try this have a ruptured uterus and that this can be catastrophic--it is even possible that if you rupture while laboring that they may not be able to get to the baby in time to prevent brain damage or sometimes death. While we know that this only happens 2% of the time, we decided that it just seems to us that while the chances of anything happening are small, if something does happen it is so bad that it is simply not worth the risk for us. So, we will be having another planned c-section, probably sometime around Jan.15th (give or take a few days). So, while the official due date is January 22, 2007, Baby Stokes will probably be arriving sooner. So, mark your calendars! =-)
    Modern Islam and Women. From the State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for A.D. 2000:

    "The testimony of one man equals that of two women . . . Female parties to court proceedings such as divorce and family law cases generally must deputize male relatives to speak on their behalf . . . Women play no formal role in government and politics and are actively discouraged from doing so . . . The government does not keep statistics on spousal abuse or other forms of violence against women, [which] appear to be common problems. Hospital workers report that many women are admitted for treatment of injuries that apparently result from spousal violence . . . Women are not admitted to a hospital for medical treatment without the consent of a male relative. By law and custom, women may not undertake domestic or foreign travel alone . . . In public a woman is expected to wear an abaya (a black garment that covers the entire body) and to cover her head and face? Daughters receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers? Women must demonstrate legally specified grounds for divorce, but men may divorce without giving cause? If divorced or widowed, a woman may keep her children until the age of 7 for boys, 9 for girls."

    As quoted in "Islam and Women: The Christian Science Monitor's Distortion and the Reality" by Serge Trifkovic in Chronicles Magazine. (I am going to try to find the original source, and I will update when I do. Right now, I am reading Trifkovic's The Sword of the Prophet: Islam History, Theology, Impact on the World, a very disturbing book.)