Thursday, October 30, 2008

Only Half a Million?

I received an email this week from Despair, announcing that the catalog is in the mail. The announcement states that the document is "Now arriving in the mailboxes of a half-million depressed people."

Where do they get that number? Is that the number on their mailing list? Is it only the men in their sixties in the families to whom the catalog is sent? (Just kidding. I am not depressed. I am not.) If it's only the half-million on their mailing list, then Despair is definitely a growth company.

If the number is based on a sample of, say, 25 people randomly chosen in the Austin area, then I hope their counters are the same people who are doing the Presidential polls.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Macon Crocker on Lookout Mountain?



This photo was sent me by a gentleman from Swannanoa, NC, who found our post about Carol's father. He comments on the post and said he had a photo of a "Macon Crocker", and invited us to send an email, which we did.

Back came the photo. The back of the photo has the name "Macon Crocker" written on it. The gentleman said that the photo is among several others that were among the effects left by the gentleman's mother, for whose estate he is serving as executor.

The gentleman's family, he said, were "Montreaters." Years ago, part of the Crocker family had a house in Montreat too. We think that Macon may have been visiting and that this photo may have been of him on Lookout Mountain. The climb to the rocky crest of Lookout Mountain was a feature of our summer visits to the Christian Life Conference at Montreat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Charging Batteries

What you need to know about chargeable batteries and, perhaps more importantly, the right kind of charger.

Biden's Bishop on Abortion

There is a "way of life" and a "way of death" and abortion is a part of the way of death. This has been the consistent teaching of the Church ever since [the beginning].

Read the entirety of Bishop Malooly's letter to the editor of the [Delaware]News Journal here. (Thanks, Drudge.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Putting the Incentives in all the wrong places

From a Harvard Economic Professors Blog:

Here is a question that you may have been thinking about: How do the different candidates' tax plans affect Greg Mankiw's incentive to work?

[snip]

If there were no taxes, so t1=t2=t3=t4=0, then $1 earned today would yield my kids $28. That is simply the miracle of compounding.

Under the McCain plan, t1=.35, t2=.25, t3=.15, and t4=.15. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $4.81. That is, even under the low-tax McCain plan, my incentive to work is cut by 83 percent compared to the situation without taxes.

Under the Obama plan, t1=.43, t2=.35, t3=.2, and t4=.45. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $1.85. That is, Obama's proposed tax hikes reduce my incentive to work by 62 percent compared to the McCain plan and by 93 percent compared to the no-tax scenario. In a sense, putting the various pieces of the tax system together, I would be facing a marginal tax rate of 93 percent.

The bottom line: If you are one of those people out there trying to induce me to do some work for you, there is a good chance I will turn you down. And the likelihood will go up after President Obama puts his tax plan in place. I expect to spend more time playing with my kids. They will be poorer when they grow up, but perhaps they will have a few more happy memories.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Happened to the Abortion Issue?

Am I to understand that it is all settled now? Many Christians I know are supporting Obama, without even a nod at his views at the extreme end of the abortion continuum. Have we, then, "moved-on" from "single issue" politics. Perhaps I would, if the pro-life candidate had a minister who preached "God Damn America!" But that's not what we have here.

"Give or take a Jesus . . ."

This morning I was at the Savannah Airport early, waiting for the plane back to Miami. It appears to be a newly built airport, and it was pleasant except for the television monitors blaring everywhere. There is simply no getting away from network/cable news, at least at airports. And CNN was the newsfeed of choice.

But an author interview got my attention, this of Benyamin Cohen, who has just published a book called My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith. Although the CNN reporter interviewing Cohen was most interested in Cohen's visits to black Baptist mega-churches (I presume in Atlanta), we finally learn at the end of the interview that Cohen visited all kinds of churches, Roman Catholic, Methodist, White, etc., during his year in the Bible Belt.

At the very end, Cohen said that his own faith had been strengthened by his experience and that he learned that the Christian churches were quite similar to his own Jewish temple "give or take a Jesus."

Well, yes. That's always been the difference, hasn't it. That pesky Jesus.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nickled and Dimed

I flew to Savannah last night for an ACTEC meeting. The flight from Miami was on an American Airlines Express prop-jet. It's cruising altitude was 18,000 feet, and it was fine.

I decided to check my main bag, a roll-on, and carry my brief case with the computer in it. The charge was $15 to check the first bag, just like they say in the Southwest Airlines ads. I noticed as we boarded the small plane that many of the other passengers dragged their roll-ons and had their smaller bag as well. When we got to the plane, an attendant took the roll-ons and stowed them. No charge.

I'm staying on the waterfront in Savannah, at the Hyatt Regency, a monument of local graft, I'm sure, because it is entirely out of place here in the historic district - an architectural insult to the city. (I'm staying because it is the over-flow hotel for my meetings.)

To use the internet, one must buy one-day passes from T-Mobil at $10 per day.

But those little soap bars are still included, as far as I can tell.

Diana and Obama

In the The (Washington, D.C.) Examiner.

But, ahem, you heard it here first.

Thanks, Carol. (Thanks, Glenn.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Amazon Rocks

I posted a day or two ago on the Livescribe gadget, which I think is known as "the Pulse." I decided to get one and went to their web's "store"; went through all the steps of opening an account; hit "buy" or whatever; and nothing absolutely nothing happens. I am afraid to hit "buy" again, but after awhile I do. Nothing happens again.

This is in the evening, and I call their customer service number. They only answer during business hours.

Today I got back to the matter, and called and got someone at customer service. I hoped to be able to determine (a) whether they had a record of my having bought a Pulse, or maybe two of them, and, if not (b) may I order one over the phone? As to the latter question, No, they do not take orders over the phone. As to the former, they have no record of an order or of my even visiting. I finally said that I would try ordering again from their store, and the gentleman said to call him back if I was not successful.

Then he asked me to rate on a 1 to 5 scale, obviously reading from something, how satisfying was the experience of dealing with him! I said that, within the limitations management imposes on you, I would give you a 5. "You've been great," I said. But overall, I told him, I would have to say a 1 or less as to the "experience."

He said thank you, and to call him back if necessary. Just as I was about to hang up he mentioned, "You might try Amazon. They sell the pen too."

Zowie! Five minutes later (or less), it's ordered and will be here on Monday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Livescribe" - Have you seen this??!!

The Livescribe pen is one of Popular Mechanic Magazine's Top 10 Best Gadgets of 2008. Here is the website for the device. The introductory video on the main page is a little lame. I would suggest you look at the videos they have deeper in the website.

My thinking is that Mary might find this useful in her classes. But I'm wondering whether this might be a great way to capture my client conferences without having the laptop there.

"The Queen"

Carol and I saw this via Neflix DVD last night (We have decided to somewhat vary date night so that we alternate Publix with a DVD each week. We don't want to fall into a rut.) A film based on how Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair dealt with the Princess Diana tragedy seemed an unlikely basis for an entertaining motion picture. But it was very well done and it raised some important questions about our celebrity culture.

As I watched the movie's depiction of the struggle that the Queen had in understanding the public affection that the British had for Diana and the risk to the monarchy that the Queen's virtual silence on the tragedy seemed to pose until she came around at Blair's insistence, my mind went to the Obama phenomenon. It's not a perfect analogy, of course, but what I see as a mostly unexamined enthusiasm for Barack Obama, based on his media-inflated charisma and the idea that his election offers some sort of redemption for the tragic side of American History, is similar in some respects to the Diana phenomenon, the "People's Princess" as Tony Blair anointed her. As the stodgy, clueless, remote, and adulterous monarchy ("adulterous" not including the Queen) provided the foil for the Princess, so the difficulties of the Bush Administration and the corruption exclusively assigned to his party by the media provide the foil for Obama.

Without minimizing the personal loss that Diana's death meant to her family and friends, one can say that the public convulsion in Britain over her death probably did no permanent damage. But the risks involved with an Obama regime will be significant and the change it will introduce could well be enduring.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dave Seivright, Lemon Peels, and Web Bible Resources

Dave Seivright is a missionary to professionals and business men, and works under the auspices of Campus Crusade. He is a PCA minister and "planted" Kendall Presbyterian Church. For many years since then he has conducted a ministry that targets lawyers, doctors and businessmen. He is involved not just in conversions but also very heavily in discipleship. He also has an important work in Germany. You can read more about him here.

My friend Austin is within Dave's orbit. On Dave's website, among the Miami photos, you can see a group picture with Austin cutting up. He's the only one in the entire group of mature men who is doing the lemon peel in the mouth gag. I'm glad that Dave is working with Austin. (You have just a hint of what we have to put up with at our Friday morning breakfasts.) (You can also tell from the photo that there are not a lot of Baptists at the table.)



I'm on Dave's email list, and a recent one linked to various internet Bible study websites. I am going to use this post to list them and to list others as well, as I come across them if they seem to be useful. So I will be coming back to this post from time to time, even if it has the lemon peel problem with it:

The Bible online. (This is BibleGateway, and I use this all the time, not only to check readings and do searches but also to print-out handouts of scripture readings for Bible discussion.)

Bible Study Tools. This is Crosswalk.com. I haven't used it, except to try it out just a little when I got Dave's email. I need to work with it further.

Audio Bible. This is another feature of BibleGateway.com. I haven't tried it out yet.

Bible in a Year: Listen or Read. This is a feature of Crosswalk.com. I have become a strong believer in reading through the Bible in a year.

Another read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year site. This one is at a site called OnePlace.com.

Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. This is still another feature of BibleGateway, which has numerous resources worth exploring.

Here begin my additions:

Don't forget the Net Bible site at Bible.org! Not only is the Net Bible available there, but also Bible studies, including at least one by Micki Maris, our friend and Morgan's mother! Micki helped edit the Net Bible. (See my earlier post on the Net Bible.)

Robert Austell's Blog. This is full of wisdom and resources. Just work the search feature. That site also links to Robert's sermons.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Running Skirt/Skort

You men out there, I just need to warn you that this entire post may fall under the category of "Too Much Information" or under the category of "chicks'-stuff-and-the-strange-things-we-as-men-have-never-even-thought-might-be-issues-for-women-when-running." If you do not desire to read more about things in these categories, then please feel free to skip this one. For all of the rest of you out there, may I bring to your attention, THE RUNNING SKIRT. Yes, SKIRT. (or skort, depending upon the whim of the marketing departments in the running world).

Ah, how I LOVE my running skorts! They look like a skirt, but have spandex compression shorts underneath. I used to run in shorts. I never particularly enjoyed my shorts, although some were cute to wear. I did particularly NOT enjoy how my shorts would start to ride-up as I ran, especially if I was going uphill. I spent several minutes of my runs just pulling the legs of my shorts back down, over, and over, and over. SO annoying! Then, several months ago, I read an article in one of Macon's "Runner's World" Magazines about running skirts. I think that it was written by Kristin Armstrong. Anyways, I had always thought that if I saw a woman in an athletic looking skirt, then she must be going to play tennis. Little did I know that there is an entire movement out there in the athletic world making skirts for running, cycling, golf, etc. After reading the article, I did a little web surfing and discovered a couple of skirts on sale at sierra trading post. I was able to get my first running skirt for $25 (instead of the normal $60 that this particular skirt usually sold for). It is the "Brooks Motion Skort". It is last season, so it is harder to find, but it ROCKS! This skirt continues to remain my favorite. It is just a bit longer, it has a pocket sewn into the leg of the compression shorts underneath where I can put my key, and a pocket in the skirt where I can put my phone/mp3 player.


The most wonderful part of running in this is that I don't have to pull my shorts down over and over and over again. I just run and since the compression shorts are not riding up all the time, I don't even think about them. Of course, it is also fun to wear something that is cute and a little bit feminine while I am getting so hot and sweaty. This skort idea strikes me as really great because it serves both form and function well.

Anyway, since I loved this skirt so much, I invested in some skirts from Hind (also found at sierra trading post). These were a little shorter, and although they are comfortable, I find that I miss having the pockets which my Brooks skort has.


On Saturday, Macon and I ran in the SkirtChasers5k. The skirt that I got for registering was a very very cute little number that even had little snaps on the waistband where you can hang your race number. No more need for safety pins at the race!

However, while it was a fabulous red, and while it was so very light that I almost forgot I had anything on, there were at least two drawbacks. The "boy shorts" underneath this skirt are not compression shorts and before I had even started running I was very aware of the tendency of these shorts to ride up and cause quite the "wedgie." Also, because the skirt is SO light, when you run it bounces up higher than my others and reveals the boy short wedgie underneath from time to time. Oh, and because the boy shorts do not stay down, there is the issue of leg chafage. OUCH. After three+ miles, your skin can cause itself some damage from the friction of your legs rubbing together. For those of you who have legs that do not rub together, congratulations! That's wonderful. For those of you, like me, who do have this issue, this skirt from "SkirtSports" may not be the one for you.

P.S. After washing the skorts a few times, the compression shorts may begin to have the tendency to ride up a bit, but the secret to fixing this is to sweat just a little and then pull them down to where you want them. The sweat will hold them in place for the remainder of the run/walk.
P.P.S. Several of the running skirts do not have compression shorts underneath, they merely have "spankies" or briefs. "Spankies" are similar to briefs. Sometimes they are the same as briefs, and sometimes they fit more loosely, it depends on the company making them. If you are someone with teeny tiny legs that do not rub together then spankies or briefs underneath may work great for you. If you are not, then I cannot recommend having spandex compression shorts underneath enough. Sometimes in order to find these, you have to search for "athletic" skirts or "motion" skirts (or skorts) instead of "Running" skirts/skorts.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

First Bike for Aidan

Aidan turns 4 on Tuesday, but today we had his party. Since he was going to be getting all his other presents in the afternoon, Kells and I decided to go ahead and have his bike ready for him when he woke up this morning.

You may recall that Aidan has been riding and loving his Skuut for about a year now. Aidan and I have logged quite a few miles with him on the Skuut and me on my Cannondale. So Kells and I were quite interested to see if this would translate into anything noticeable on a bike with pedals.

On his wishlist, Aidan was quite specific in wanting a bike "with training wheels." I tried to talk him out of it, but Aidan really really wanted them to the point of starting to cry when I kept suggesting that he might not need them. So, hey, you wants the Training Wheels? You gets the Training Wheels and we are all happy.

Naturally, as soon as Aidan saw his bike this morning, he wanted to ride it. And, after the fastest change from pajamas to clothes ever seen in this household, he and I were out on the street (7:15AM). Since the bike had training wheels, I could carry my coffee in one hand and walk/run alongside him. We were out for about 45 minutes when it was time to come in to get ready for church, and Aidan said, "Dad, I don't think I need the wheels anymore." He and I decided that after church, we'd get the wrenches out and take them off.

And after a fast lunch, with him doing most of the wrench turning, the training wheels were retired with little fanfare.

Then, after four trips out and back with me running behind holding the seat, Aidan says, "I don't want you to hold the seat anymore." So I moved to lightly holding his back (which was much more fun for my back). And after two trips out and back he said, "I don't want you to hold my back again." After which, it seemed like a good idea to get the camera.



You can see that the pedals fit him fine, but the bike is just a bit too tall for him, so he has a bit of trouble keeping it up after stopping. But he regards that as a feature, since his second most favorite thing to do after riding the bike is to pretend to crash it. So usually he just lets the bike fall over and he goes over too, with much giggling.

In fact, we had to convince him to actually ride the bike "seriously" because when the camera came out, he would go for ten feet, then wobble his handlbars on purpose (saying "woah woah hee hee woah woah") and fall over. What a ham. But it's a testament to his comfort level with the bike.

Oh, and Aidan said today, "The Skuut is Honor's now, because I have a new bike."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hello, on Saturday (again)

What in the world happened to this week?! It flashed through so quickly! And here I am in the disorder of my office on Saturday morning again.

Is it over? I'm referring to the Presidential election. McCain has really not stood up well to the financial panic, because he is a man with not a lot of depth intellectually; he is someone who reacts instinctively, and his instincts are not tutored as, say, Reagan's were. And the Democrats, aided by their many sympathizers in the MSM, have done a good job of assigning blame to the Administration, both for creating the problem and now for not being able to solve it quickly. And it has been difficult for McCain to disassociate himself from Bush.

I don't watch TV or listen to the radio much anymore, but when I was near a TV or radio, I was apt to hear an Obama ad during the last two weeks. And the ads are all over the internet as well. He has been waiting to spend that cash hoard, and now he is doing it on advertising, and I would think that it is very effective.

One topic of several of the ads I've seen is an attack on the McCain health plan. If one knows anything about the topic, one can see that the ads, selecting fragments of truth, are false and misleading. But there is no answer to that attack coming from anywhere that people who are not well connected to the internet might hear. Health care is a tough and complex subject, and most people have no idea what the issues concern, except now the Obama ads tell us that McCain will tax us on the benefits provided in his plan and send the tax savings to the insurance companies. Is this just campaign puffing or is this how "information" will be managed during his administration?

There has been a messianic dimension of the Obama campaign all along. He didn't create it, necessarily, but he provided the platform for it by essentially having no history or, better put I think, denying any history. Thus he is an attractive blank slate upon which people write their fantasies of a political figure who will right what is wrong in their worlds. He enables us to act that way not only by disconnecting himself from any story line coming out of his past, but also by promising anything and everything in a broad, remarkably charismatic and pursuasive way. How will a man like this actually perform as President? I think people who have invested him with messiah like qualities will be greatly disappointed. It is one thing to be disappointed in George Bush, whom we knew or should have known to have significant weaknesses, but Obama followers are in a sort of denial about their man. What will they do when they come out of that fog?

Back to David Allen. Carol and my assistant Nancy came back from a seminar for office managers about 10 ten days ago. The speaker was Laura Stack, who bills herself as the "Productivity Pro." Nancy and Carol were greatly enthused, had some great tips about handling emails, and described Laura's "handling the in-box" method. Her approach is so similar to that of David Allen that I picked up Getting Things Done again. And I spent six hours last Saturday doing the sweep through my office, setting up the 43 folders in a new way, filling out single sheets of paper with "the next thing", filing them appropriately, and enjoying every minute of it. I didn't finish the job, but got a very good start. I'm encouraged that I will carry this through, and I will spend more time on the sweep and set-up project today.

One thing I have done is radically change the way I use my office. When we moved into this space about five years ago (five years ago??!!), I purchased some very nice furniture, including a stand-up desk arrangement for the first time, along with the standard sit-down desk, with desk chair, etc. As it turned out, I used the stand-up desk furniture simply as an extra credenza, and it became, most of the time, a place to pile things. The traditional desk remained the center of my work universe.

What I have done is to move my computer and telephone over to the stand-up desk, together with a personal laser printer. Most of the day, then, I am standing up, with the main exception being when I have meetings. But even the meetings are often with the participants standing up, especially when the meetings involve just me and one other person. Those meetings seem to be greatly facilitated by both of us facing one another and both of us able to spread out something on the stand-up desk and read it together, side-by-side, or both of us able to view my computer and it being easy for the other person, if helpful, to keyboard the computer, as I step back. Not having the big desk between us at these one-on-one meetings somehow improves the flow of ideas.

The stand up desk runs along one side of my office. It is 3.5 feet high, about 13 feet long and two feet deep. Propping up one end is a book case and the other end two sets of lateral file cabinets. One set of file cabinets is immediately at my right hand, and I can simply roll out the top drawer - and there are my 43 files. (I now maintian them, rather than my secretary.)

We are doing some office rearranging at the firm, and my big desk will be going to someone else's new office. To replace it, we will bring in a round conference table that we already own and seems to be just the right size.

When I get the office all set up, I will make a short video and post it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Update on the Adoption

I'm looking for something to do that doesn't involve reading Ulysses, so I thought I'd give an update on our adoption; since I don't know that I've done so since we began this process 13 months ago. -not sure what's going on in Ulysses. 450 pages so far. Think I read about a funeral, a news article, some advertising, Shakespeare and Hamlet, a bar, a kidney. I think I'd like some yogurt and honey-yogurtandhoney-honeyandyogurt. what is he talking about? adoption? who is ulysses? who gave him a login to post at kithandkin? I don't think this Joycereading has affected me overly.

Our paperwork made its way over to Ethiopia at the start of June. The word is that we might receive a referral in December or January, maybe. A referral means that we are matched with a child. Then it will probably be 2-3 months after the referral that we'll head over to Ethiopia to pick up the infant - so maybe March or April? It will be strange to drive to the airport with a baby seat in the car. Probably not as strange as driving home from the airport with a baby in the car. That will be pretty strange.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Clean-up Begins

The WSJ reports this morning:

Public pension funds and other big investors, riled about hits they have taken in their securities-lending programs, are now pulling out the stops to get back what they think they are due.

"Pulling out the stops" means litigation. The legal remedies of those investors who believe themselves defrauded by the investment elites have oh so many more remedies this time around.

Among the targets mentioned by the article is my old friend Northern Trust Corp.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Greatest Financial Meltdown in the History of Western Civilization!!

Carol could not find a parking space at Sawgrass Mills today and had to wait for someone to leave.

Sawgrass Mills.

Watch the Supreme Court

We have three branches of our federal government. Two have agreed on the "bail-out" and with actions of the Executive in pre-empting the market in dealing with the economic difficulties of certain private companies. What will the Supreme Court do with this, when the litigation, which is sure to ensue, finally makes its way to that court? (It may take many, many months.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Our little exhibitionist

So, tonight, Macon and I are sitting down, enjoying an end of the week movie, when I notice that I can still hear Honor talking, "daddy...daddy....daddeeeee!" It's 8:30 and she is usually asleep by 7:15 or 7:30, so I turn on the video and see that my little girl is standing in her crib naked. Yes, NAKED. What are we going to do? We have spent more money on trying to get her pajamas that she can't get her poop out of than we have spent on pajamas for Aidan in a year, and now in the most secure pajamas we can find, she has figured out how to take the entire pajamas off along with her diaper!! Thank goodness she was only wet this time...

SHEESH!!!! Here's hoping she actually falls asleep some time soon.

Any ideas as to how to keep her in her pajamas? We're open to suggestions.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

It's Hard to Hit a Moving Target When . . .

You are in a panic;

Everyone around you is in a panic;

The target may not be moving simply in a single dimension, it may be moving in two or more dimensions, and it is constantly changing form;

You are not sure whether the object that you have identified as the target is, indeed, the target at which you should be shooting; and

The President and majorities in both the House and the Senate must agree that the time has arrived for you to pull the trigger.