Friday, December 31, 2004

GTD: Processing Stage completed!
Whew. That took a whole lot longer than I thought it would. A few factors contributed to it's length. One: I chose to Process every single thing I could find and think of at work and home. This created a Very Large pile in my inbox. This factor I think was 50% of the reason it took so long to process. Two: Since my office is at home, it is difficult for me to completely sequester myself for hours at a time. Not because it is physically impossible, though. This well built office (if I do say so myself) can keep all "house" sounds out when all the doors are closed, and I have the ability to turn off phones and the computer. The problem is that I have this really good excuse for peeking my head out of the office door and wandering the house: Aidan (here doing his best "Magnum" pose). This is an internal problem having nothing to do with the GTD process or my physical location. Three: As I commented here, it was discouraging to come face to face (again!) with my own procrastination. Oh, and I went on vacation to Miami. That held things up, too.

Here's what my credenza looks like After InBox Processing. (Before)

The pile in the left most box is only Next Action items. Those are the items that have been "deferred" while I'm in the middle of the GTD set-up process. Three of the four file boxes are in use holding Reference Files, Incubating Files, and Action Reminder Files.

Before starting Chapter 7: Organizing, a few more observations about the Processing stage. As I went through the InBox, I realized that I had put reminders for actions in almost every place I could in my office. I hadn't realized how widespread my reminder system was until I went through it all at once. In no particular order, here's where I found things that were supposed to trigger actions: bulletin board, desktop, booksheves, "deep" physical filing system, stacks piled on the floor, the mini-filing system on my desktop, digital calendar, digital desktop, email inbox, digital to-do list, Quicken, and that only counts my Office. This, I realized, has two effects: one is that for me to know what I need to do next (and feel like I'm not missing anything), I have to look in all of those places. The second is that everywhere I looked in my office, even when I wasn't looking for something to do, I saw something to do. Some folks tell me that they can focus so tightly that they don't need a clear space to work. Regardless of whether I believe that or not (I have my doubts), for me, if I see something that might need to be done, it's hard not to start thinking about it, even if I've already got an open project in front of me. I can (and have) by force of will, focus on the work at hand, but I'd much rather expend that force of will on doing actual project, not just bringing my eyes back to the project.

Practically, what happened was I didn't look in all the places I'd placed reminders for action and so would completely forget about responsibilities I had, until it was the night before/morning of and suddenly I remembered that I needed to write that report, with all the accompanying self-recrimination for not doing it before and frustration about putting myself in this compromising position. One of the things David is trying to build in GTD is a physical place that houses all of those reminders. This won't make up for weakness of will (akrasia, the Greeks call it) in getting up the do-my-work hill, but it makes that hill a little less steep.

Another thing I noted is that previously I'd confused "Processing" as the whole GTD approach. I see now that there's more to GTD than just "getting the In Box to 'empty'". GTD is the system for housing all your action items, the explicit disciplines for looking at and doing those actions, and the physical system for housing the support documents for said actions.

Personally, as I went through Processing, I realized (again) that I really do enjoy strategizing, planning and implementing projects. As projects began to take shape out of the InBox (they'd previously been lost and scattered across the office), I got really excited about being able to come back to them and work hard and well on them. What had been frustrating me was that I would never get to those projects because I would allow the combination of Not-Sure-Where-To-Start, plus Not-Sure-Where-It-Is to stymie me and push me to piddling through my day doing little one-shot "urgent" items. These might be email requests, incoming phone calls, or administration miscellany.

If you've read it, Charles Hummel's Freedom from Tyranny of the Urgent might be coming to mind at this point. Charles advocates this process: Set Priorities, Take Inventory, Budget Time, Implement Plan. David would not argue with this but radically expands it. David has specific advice on how to Take Inventory (Processing). I think that GTD also does a good job taking into account that the other three parts of Charles' approach are in far more tension and dynamic relationship than noted in Tyranny. (The thrust of Tyranny is to help set & evaluate one's life & work priorities, which assist in getting things done. I'd highly recommend it if you need help saying, "No," to things and are looking for a Christian approach to use of time and resources.) In short, GTD does a better job of helping one get things done than Tyranny, but Tyranny is more about life priorities anyway.

Next step: "Organizing - Setting Up the Right Buckets". But there's no sense in doing it on an empty stomach. I'll start that after lunch.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Future of Media? Slashdot has a post on the future past of media. Here is the 8 minute flash video documentary created in 2014 by the "Museum of Medai History". I thought it was really interesting. Definitely something fun to talk about over Christmas dinner, at any rate.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Donna's Breath of Heaven. My friend, Donna, sang "Breath of Heaven" this morning at our worship service. Donna is a tough lawyer in a tough practice ("Family Law" as we lawyers call it, with unconscious irony, meaning that she does divorces.) My relationship with Donna has been a difficult one these last two years, because she was married to my friend Brad and the two of them went through some difficult times with each other that finally ended in divorce. (Brad attends our Friday morning breakfast/Bible study.)

So when I learned that Donna was going to sing this song, a song in which the female singer assumes the person of Mary, the mother of Jesus, I just didn't think it fit very well. I have this picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It doesn't square with the picture of a tough, female, divorce lawyer. It doesn't square with Donna, although, as I thought about it, she too is a mother and very devoted to her son, David.

But Donna did sing "Breath of Heaven" this morning, and she nailed it.

As I listened to her sing that song, with my eyes glistening, I reconsidered my picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Maybe I had Mary wrong, maybe she and Donna have more in common than I realize.

We don't know much about Mary, really, unless we go outside the Gospels to tradition. With all due respect to my Roman Catholic friends, I don't find the tradition helpful. In fact, I find it confusing and disturbing. (I will concede this: our Catholic friends challenge us Protestants to think about Mary carefully, as we ought to do.)

So how can we know Mary better? I think we can look at Jesus and observe how he dealt with the women who came into his life. I would submit that he learned how to treat women from his mother. He saw in the various women that he meets in the Gospels what Mary showed him about women. She prepared him to love women, respect them, and deal with them redemptively.

For example, take the "woman at the well". She was a tough one. She must have been very attractive to men. She had gone through several husbands and, when she met Jesus, was keeping time with yet another man and they were not married. Yet Jesus was comfortable with this woman. She did not intimidate him a bit and he, in failing to be intimidated, did not put her off. In fact, he challenged her and won her completely. She turned out to be the very first evangelist that we know about in the Bible. (Imagine that, a woman, the first evangelist. I bet you thought it was Philip.)

Jesus knew how to deal with strong women because, I think, his mother was a strong woman, a tough woman, a woman who could continue to live in Nazareth with a dubious history. Look at the son she raised - a pretty tough young man himself. May I say that there was something of the "woman at the well" in Mary without offending my Catholic friends? Something Jesus recognized, appreciated, and, finally, loved.

So when Donna sang "Breath of Heaven", I learned something about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and I learned a little more about Jesus. I also realized it was fine for Donna to assume Mary's persona and sing that song. Fine and right.
How Many Christians in the Middle East? I would say everyone over there is a Christian. Christ came on Christmas for all of them (and us) and died for all of them. Looking at the world as divided between Christian and Muslim, Chritian and Hindu, Christian and Buddist, creates a perception that Jesus may not have intended. We objectify the people who are "outside the church". Is it helpful to describe the target market for the work of the Holy Spirit as the Christian Market, the market Christ chose?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Medical Services. Over on Sean's blog, he raises the question of the high cost of medical services and related issues, and he invited me to comment on a point he made about lawyers. He set me to thinking again about the Canadian/British systems, and recalled to my mind a story.

A friend of ours is from England and her parents, middle aged, still live there. Her mother developed a heart problem and needs an operation to replace a valve. Her mortality risk is significantly higher now than it will be after the operation. She must wait several months, because of the sort of rationing system that the British approach imposes. My friend's parents are a hard working, middle class couple. If they lived in the US, they would have medical insurance. I doubt a cardiologist here would run the risk of delay. There would be no reason for him to delay the procedure, of course, because the needed medical resources are immediately available here, provided the patient lives long enough to qualify for medicare or is in the private insurance system, or (sometimes) finds some charitable support.

My friend's parents wanted to come to the US to visit recently. But the scheduled heart procedure was (and continues to be) months away. If they left England and came to the US, and, while here, she had a problem, they would have to pay for treatment here out of their own pocket. The British health system would not pay for American treatment. Getting back to England for the operation, now an emergency, could be dicey. They could buy health insurance just for the trip, but the cost would be quite expensive.

They decided to come anyway, without buying a special insurance policy. Everything turned out fine. They are back in England after a nice trip, but still waiting. They assumed the risk that she would have problems here. The risk did not materialize.

But economists would attach a value to the risk she assumed. They paid something, in a way, just as their countrymen, in a way, pay for not being out-of-pocket for their medical services. They paid by assuming the risk of delay and the additional risk of moving for a few weeks completely out of the system. How do you get to the value of that payment?

If you had a large enough group of English parents like my friend's parents who made the trip, at least one mother would have a heart attack while here. She might have died or, at least, she would have had to pay a lot of money for treatment and emergency transportation back to England. The "cost" of assuming the risk that my friend's parents assumed is the value of the hypothetical life (or the expenses, if the hypothetical, stricken mother lived) divided by the number of middle-aged English couples in our group.

That same approach can be applied to the mortality risk that my friend's parents have imposed upon them by the British system as they wait around for the operation. There are people who die over there waiting for their operation, people who would have survived had the operation been as prompt as it would be here. On the other hand, people die here because they are uninsured, have no money and cannot for one reason or another (sometimes ignorance sometimes not) get into the charitable system that will sometimes answer. Both systems have costs, to be sure. I think we tend to overlook the cost of the British system because it is so subtle.

There are other problems with the British system that I will not address in this post, but I thought the story illustrates one of them.

Edited at 10:20am by Macon to link to germane post of Sean's.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Gail Berger's Prayer Letter. Carol and I met Gail last summer. She is a friend of our minister, Van Lahmeyer, and met him when he pastored her church in Alaska. She is now a missionary with "Alongside Ministries" in Albania. She had been there for a short term mission a year or so ago, but decided to go back for what I would call a "plenary call", starting three months ago. She is a delightful young lady.

She told us about Albania when she visited our church. Van had been on a short term mssion trip there too, about ten years ago. He was familiar with this fascinating place, where God had been locked out for a generation or two by a Communist regime that considered Red China apostate. The church is now growing. When Van was there, the elders were in their late teens or early twenties, as the older people were burned out by the empty promises and lies of the Communists. Now those young people have aged a bit and made it a Gen-X church.

Gail had a wonderful story of visiting a home where she was asked to present the Gospel. Someone translated for her. In the midst of her presentation, the woman of the house stopped her and asked her why no one had come and told her about this before and she said she wanted to know this Jesus. She accepted Him on the spot. My eyes fill with tears just remembering this story.

I think of the wonderful Christmas we anticipate here in Miami Springs with all of our children, our daughters-in-law, our new grandson, and the Sewells. Then I think of Gail over there, so far from home. I thank God for her, and for all of those who serve Him so far away from home.

Here is Gail's prayer letter. I really like it. Let me know if you would like her email, and I will email it to you.

Dear praying friend,

Five years ago, a poster in a shop along the Boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey arrested my attention. The stark juxtaposition of orange and blue depicts a tiger running on a beach, chasing something at full speed. His four feet are tucked up in mid-stride beneath his massive body, not one of them touching the wet sand below. His tail is stretched taut behind him,
his eyes riveted, unwavering, fixed on something far away. Every fiber of
his being thrums with effort and concentration as he runs. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord…Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on to win the prize…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector
of our faith… (Col. 3.23, Phil. 3.13,14, Heb. 12.2).

There’s nothing like living in another culture and language to humble a person. Every day I realize how much I don’t know. Cultural idioms and histories that shape Albanian worldview, nuances in language usage, cultural jokes, and unwritten rules… these are all beyond me, not to mention the “little” things like language syntax and vocabulary that help me to
communicate like a normal human being! What is worse, there is no cramming here, either; no resplendent burst of effort and intellingence will cut it.

This job of learning is a long-term job. Run like a tiger, Gail-girl. Steady on.
A transition in living situation and in ministry focus is coming soon for me. In January, I will move out of my host family’s house down to the Torchbearers-Albania Bible School to be an “RA” for the students for the spring term. The fourteen young adults received phenomenal training this fall through powerful Bible teaching, community living experience,
evangelism and village outreach, and mutual sharpening by interaction with other sticks of “iron”-- each other, the school leadership, and the visiting professors. This spring, I will live among them to provide encouragement, direction, prayer cover, and accountability. For my part, it will continue my language study as well as be a way I can meaningfully contribute to the ministry here in Erseka.

However, it will also offer its challenges, I know: not only the struggling through speaking and comprehending, but I will also be trying to shepherd fifteen (we are gaining one more student in the spring) independent little sheep. Think “freshman dorm.” Think “herding cats.” Think “hen yard at feeding time…” Pray for us. Pray for the students as they’ve scattered to
their homes after this life-transforming three months of school together. Pray for our reunion on Jan. 8. Also give thanks for some specific acts of God this fall: one student feels called to remain after the Bible School to work in full-time church planting in a churchless town. Another after being abandoned by her parents as a child has testified that she has come to
understand God’s acceptance for the first time ever. Another has struggled with suicide, another with an eating disorder, a third with life-blackening depression. Sometimes feet still drag on the ground a bit, but their gaze is fixed on the Life-giver Himself as they press on. Tiger eyes…

I can’t believe I’ve been here three months already. Two more weeks and my time with my host family is up. Oh, how I want them to know the wind of the Holy Spirit empowering them, how I want them to be racing toward the heavenly goal and not temporal, earthly pleasures!! Pray for tiger eyes here, too—not a “chasing after the wind,” but that they would “remember
their Creator in the days of their youth” – and Him not as a distant director of religious righteousness or something to take up and put down according to selfish whim, but as a personal, powerful, intimate Abba and Lord. “Anyone who is among the living has hope…” (Eccl. 9.4—also Eccl. 1.14, 12.1). I hope in confident expectation that God can and will save these beloved ones, my host family members. Miranda, the mother, is already
a believer but needs encouragement. Gjergji is the dad, Eva the eldest daughter (age 13), Ina the baby (age 10). The “Hound of Heaven” has tiger eyes. Pray with me that He catches His prize.

As for Bilisht and children’s ministry, I continue to be full of praise at the depth of discipleship the church leadership is doing with their members, especially their “middlers” group of 10-14 year olds. The kids do a Bible study on Friday afternoons then help lead the children’s program on Sat. morning based on that Bible study. Several are also beginning to learn
guitar, keyboard, or singing to help with the worship team. There are more adults in the church than I’ve seen before, too. Pray for their discipleship as well, that the members of both the Bilisht and the Erseke church will run with all-out effort, feet flying in rhythm to the Father’s heartbeat, with eyes fixed like the tiger’s.

Thanks, my friend. I miss you. Even in all these good things, even though I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now… I miss you. Enjoy for me the snow, the pink Alaska mountains, Little Gym “Show Week,” Christmas songs in your ears. I’m sending you a big hug and I’m praying also for you, that God would give you the grace to press on in His call on
your life, running like a tiger. Let us hold unswervingly to the faith we profess, for he who promised is faithful…(Heb 10.23).

God bless you,


GTD: Processing III
I'm not through this stage yet! But yesterday I did make even more headway towards completion. There were several times yesterday when I'd look to find Kellsey somewhere in the house just so I could show her the bin that I'd just processed through to empty. Part of the reason this is taking so long is that I haven't sequestered myself completely: I still answer the phone and monitor my emails. There are also the two to three things-to-do that have to be taken care of every morning, so I'm usually getting back to the GTD work about 11am. Today there won't be much progress as I'll be out of the office at meetings in Spartanburg from about 11am to 6pm. More GTD work tomorrow! (I'm gonna lick this before I go on vacation next Wednesday!) If you have any questions for me about anything involved in my GTD work, stick them in the comments. I'm compiling a FAQ of questions that are occurring to me that I think might be of interest in this whole process.
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Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Diamond Age Approaches: Slashdot has a post about a new technology which enables power to be supplied via an Ethernet cable. Currently it's up to 13Watts, with 39Watts on the horizon, but can one-plug-for-everthing be far behind? (As found in the future-tech of Neal Stephenson's book, The Diamond Age!)
The Uncommon Sense Gene. My father enjoyed telling me this story about his great-grandfather, who fought in the War Between the States (hereinafter "the War").

My father was born and raised in Atlanta. Both his parents descended from people who had come to America during the early 18th century, if not the late 17th century. Many came South. So he had many ancestors who fought in the War Between the States mostly for the Confederacy.

My father and mother moved to Miami from Atlanta in the mid-1940s, and I was born on Miami Beach in 1946. My dad's sister, my Aunt Frances, moved with her husband and children to Miami in the early 1950s. By then my Grandmother Stokes was a widow in Atlanta. Not long after my aunt moved here, my Grandmother decided to "break up housekeeping" in Atlanta and move here too. My father went up to her house to help her with that move.

One day, he told me, he and his mother were in her attic going through old papers. Dad came across a war veteran's pension certificate from the US government issued to his great-grandfather on his mother's side. Dad had understood that this gentleman, whose family name was Paris, had, like many others of Dad's ancestors, fought for the South in the War. He looked at this piece of paper and was confused. "Momma", he said, "I thought that Granddaddy Paris fought in the Southern army." He said that my grandmother become a little embarrassed when she saw the paper Dad was holding. "Well, Walter, he did fight for the South". The confusion deepened.

"But Momma, the US government didn't give pensions to Southern war veterans, did they?"

"No, son, the Yankees wouldn't have done that."

"Then where, Momma, did this thing come from?"

She told him that the Yankees in some battle had captured Granddaddy Paris. The Yankees gave him a choice after they captured him: He could go to one of the prisons in Pennsylvania and spend the rest of the war there. Or he could join the US Army, go out West, and "guard the Indians". If he joined the US Army, they promised, they would not put him in a unit that would fight rebels.

So he joined the US Army. And he got a pension. She said it was a secret, and no one in the neighborhood knew.

Somehow, that explains a lot of things.

GTD: Processing II
I'm still in the midst of processing my In-Box. The mechanics of this process are straightforward (see the chart in previous GTD post), but doing the work creates quite a bit of internal friction in me. For one thing, the In-Box pile is just huge (especially when I add the 600+ emails sitting in the Mail In-Box). I look at it and think, "A week for this? I need a month!"

The thing that I find revealed in me as I go through this process, though, is that my disorganization is a front for the real problem: procrastination. I've been happy to let things I really didn't want to deal with sit hidden in piles/files/cabinets. For some reason, I'm happier to think of myself as disorganized than as a procrastinator. Perhaps because the former seems more tied to circumstance and the latter more tied to character.

So as I pull out of my In Box things that haven't seen the light of day for some time, but ought to have seen said light, it's discouraging! Especially when I think, "Why haven't I dealt with this? Oh yeah, it's because I didn't want to deal with it."

But I can see that this is a good step towards actually doing the things I need to do, so: Onward!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

De-Amplified: From the Best of the Web (12/14/04, 14th item):
A warning from the pages of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:

Before you wear your cool yellow LiveStrong wristband at the hospital, think twice.

Several area hospitals are putting the brakes on Lance Armstrong's cancer organization fundraising bracelets. It's not cold-hearted backlash, but rather a safety precaution.

Patients wear colored bracelets to identify safety needs, said Lisa Johnson, vice president of patient services for Morton Plant Mease Health Care. Yellow stands for "do not resuscitate."

"Hey, have you seen my new bracelet? It's to die for."

GTD: Processing
As I read David's book over the past months, his points and suggestions reminded me of previous organizational attempts of mine. Yesterday's work of Collection reminds me of the Franklin Covey Seminar (when I attended it was pre-merger Franklin Quest) that I attended while a sophomore (I think) in college.

(It was a gift from my dad. I was having trouble keeping up with and keeping track of my school work and extra curricular responsibilities. See any pattern in my life here? If you've been reading this blog for very long, you might also notice a Stokes Family pattern as well -- if something is worth doing, it's worth researching it and availing yourself to as many ways of learning as possible: via books, movies, conversations, professional seminars, experience, etc.)

To return to topic: The key of the Franklin Quest seminar/system was that it provided a space (the planner-book) where you were to capture all the info you needed for your life & work. Depending upon how small you wrote, you could do this in a very small planner-book, or a planner-book that exceeded the size of a legal pad. You were supposed to keep your calendar, address book, to-do list, and project planning stuff all in the book. When you needed to put a new month in, you were supposed to take the oldest month out and index & archive it. If you had a plane ticket you needed in two weeks, or directions to a place you were going in a few days, they suggested you clip the tix & directions to their relevant dates. That way, when you opened up your planner on that relevant date, ta-daa! your tickets were right where you needed them!

I learned several good habits thanks to the Franklin Quest seminar. One - It's a really good idea to have your address book with you all the time, as you never know when you'll need to use it. Two - Writing things down on a calendar, and then having it accessible is also a good thing. Not writing everything in your calendar makes it pretty useless. Three - Long range / Life planning can be very helpful (more on this as it relates to GTD in a later post).

Finally, this is have-things-there-when-you-need-them is a good idea! The problem with the Franklin Quest program is some things are just physically too big to fit in the planner. Another problem was that once a month was indexed & archived, it was effectively lost to me. I might have just as well thrown that month away for all that I ever looked at it again. In the Franklin Quest system there was no approach to having a filing or library system outside of your planner-book. (I have no idea if the Franklin Covey System still has this liability.)

In his Collection discipline, David picks up this have-things-there-when-you-need-them value. The point of Collection in GTD is the same point as the put-everything-in-your-planner point of Franklin Quest: have everything where you can look at it and get to it. David is trying to build a place where you've got all your info in one reliable place/system so you can relax that you're not losing/missing anything when you sit down to do your work. What David has over Franklin is that he's building a system that can tolerate things larger than a planner-book and he's got a way to help you have a filing system to hold all your relevant stuff. (That filing system comes after you've "Processed".)

Remember that all my stuff is in my "In Box"? This is what I'll be doing today:

(You'll note that it's not the whole flowchart. That's ok, I'll get to the rest of it later. I'm already daunted by the volume of stuff in my In Box, so I'm not thinking about the rest of it!)
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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

LOTR Jaquandor has a wonderful post over at Byzantium's Shores about the differences between the Lord of the Rings movies and the book, especially as they pertain to dialogue.
GTD: Collection part 2
Well, I finished the "Mind Sweep" at about 6pm tonight. It was harder than I thought it would be. For one thing, it takes some serious concentration to try to think through every area of your life to see where the undone things are. David lists about 230 possible places in one's life where there might be "open loops" (uncompleted tasks/projects) lurking to help trigger the remembering.

I found that if I concentrated really hard on thinking of open loops the progress was kind of slow. But if I could think of a few in a row, then they would come much more quickly, until I would get distracted and the spell was broken. Two analogies come to mind for this: One is the stargazing phenomena where in order to see a dim star, you have to look to the side of it, rather than directly at it. The other is the kind of gaze one needs when sparring: "soft focus." Rather than concentrating all your focus on a particular body part of your opponent (eyes, shoulders, sternum), your gaze encompasses the entire body, enabling you to kind of peripherally view all possible movement. It's when you get distracted and concentrate your focus on a particular body part (like the fist moving toward you) that you get knocked on your rear (by Chacho's hooking back-kick).

Anyway, there was a great deal to think through while doing the Mental RAM dump. I filled up almost a half of a ream of paper (recycled) during the dump. There's some redundancy in the in-box piles. That's because there was so much stuff I was trying to remember, I sometimes couldn't remember in hour four if I'd written down X in hour one. So I wrote it down anyway, just to be on the safe side.

I also printed off everything in my digital Palm memo/to-do lists, which took about 1/3 a ream of paper. In the last GTD post, Katie commented that she couldn't imagine trying to do this with her email. Me neither. And neither does David. He recommends that emails in your digital in-box stay in your email programs inbox.

So, at the end of the day today I have two in-boxes: one physical, one digital. As far as I could manage, everything that I have to do, or want to do, from tomorrow to someday in the dim future, is in one of those two in-boxes.

Tomorrow I'll begin the "Processing" part of this journey. David promises that when I'm done with that step I'll have:
1 - trashed what I don't need
2 - completed any less-than-two-minute actions
3 - handed off to others anything that can be delegated [watch out, staff team!]
4 - sorted into my own organizing system reminders of actions that require more than two minutes
5 - indentified any larger committments (projects) that I now have
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Walter's (soft) drink of choice: I tried eggnog again last night. It's probably only the third time in my life where I've tried it. The first try was when I was in high school. Verdict: bleah. The second try was during college. Verdict: bleah. This time, I really liked it! It's like drinking melted ice-cream!
Is it redundant to have both "Kith and Kin" and "Community" in the blog name? I was wondering this yesterday. If you designate that blog is for both kith and kin, who else is included in "community"? Doesn't K&K cover everyone who would post? I guess what seems to me is that a kind of community is implied in the words kith &/or kin.

Or maybe "community" is modifying "blog" instead of "stokes". As in, it's a community blog for stokes kith and kin?

Also, I learned a new word today (from an article in First Things, where else? And why aren't you reading it by now?): meliorate.

Upon looking it up in my handy-dandy Concise OED I discovered that it means the same thing as: ameliorate. Kind of like the way flamable flammable means the same thing as inflamable inflammable. Anyone want to advance any theories on this phenomena?

10:30pm Corrected: because Kellsey is a better speller than I am.
Good books: Glenn Reynolds posted an informative and, IMHO, accurate review of Neal Stephenson's latest book series: The Baroque Cycle. It's a pretty quick read, too. Bottom line: He likes all three books.
GTD: Collection
David begins the process by having you collect every single actionable item. The first half of this collection is physical. Everything that isn't supplies, reference material, decoration or (working) equipment is collected and put into the "in" box. He walks you through the process by starting the collection at your desktop, to desk drawers, countertops, in cabinets, floors, walls, shelves, through "other locations" (which for me means my whole house). Yesterday I didn't get started until 3pm, so I was only able to do this part of Collection. You can see here that my credenza/file cabinet has turned into one big InBox. (And to answer Robert's question: no, it's not a baby wipe warmer [I have to share one with Aidan], it's a shredder.) It seems strange, although comforting, to see everything that I have to do all in one place.

Today I'll finish the Collection segment by doing the other half: "Mental Gathering: The Mind-Sweep." As David puts it:
". . .you'll want to collect anything else that may be residing in your psychic RAM. What has your attention that isn't represented by something already in your in-basket? . . . write out each thought, each idea, each project or thing that has your attention, on a separate sheet of paper . . . . You will likely not keep these pieces of paper (unless you decide that low-tech is your best organizing method), but it'll be handy to have them as discrete items to deal with as you're processing. . . . go for quantity. It's much better to overdo this process than to risk missing something."

Previous GTD post | Next GTD post

Monday, December 13, 2004

"Revised View of Handguns". I guess I need to say what I mean, and just not let an ambiguous comment like that hang there, Scott. My revised view is that a law abiding citizen ought to be permitted to own a handgun, particularly for defensive purposes, and, if he chooses, carry one concealed on his person, provided that he has a license. If someone decides to obtain a handgun for defensive purposes, he has a duty to obtain training, not simply in how to load and shoot it, but also how to deal with it responsibly, and he has to keep up the training.

Both the book that I referred to in my earlier post and the NRA video that I saw on keeping a handgun in one's home for self defense emphasize the world of hurt that comes down on someone who uses a handgun appropriately to defend himself or his family. (I meant it when I wrote "appropriately".) Arrest and investigation, even when the criminal process finally results in no charges being brought, is a terrible burden that can take months to resolve. Then there are the civil law suits that often follow. Finally, there is the emotional toll of being involved in a shooting, even when it was clearly defensive.

The book makes a very credible argument that the police cannot protect you against people who are crazed or just bad. He argues that the odds of surviving significantly increase when you have a concealed firearm, especially if you are a woman, when one of these people enters your life bent on mayhem. Frankly, I was a little depressed when I finished the book. "Is the world that the author describes really like that?" I thought. What depressed me is a sense that he is correct, and that most of us walk around with a sense of security that is simply not as well founded as we think.

I am working up to buying a gun. I am not quite there yet. As a city boy who never went hunting, this is really unchartered territory. But I will let you know what happens.
GTD: Day One
Today I'm beginning to implement David Allen's organizational and productivity approach called Getting Things Done. I'll be blogging my experience with it during the set-up process, which should take a couple of days.

I spent part of yesterday getting the supplies I'd need for the standard GTD model: file folders, "inboxes", filing space, clips/rubberbands, etc. One thing I didn't have was very much space to put any new folders, so I had to create some yesterday. After a trip to Staples and the Home Depot and with the judicious use of a circular saw and Dremel, I put together this $40 credenza/file"cabinet". Now I'll have both a staging area and a place for all the new files which I'll create.

Update: Next GTD post

Sunday, December 12, 2004

"The Shootist". I recently shared with some of the family my recent interest in handguns. (I will not post what pushed me in this direction.) In connection with this latest of my various enthusiasms, I read a very interesting book called "The Concealed Handgun Manual - How to Choose, Carry, and Shoot a Gun in Self Defense", by Chris Bird, a Texan. Bird's book is in its fourth edition. He appears to me, a total neophyte, to cover the waterfront and do it very well. I would recommend the book.

Subsequently, I took a basic defensive handgun course from an NRA instructor. It included firing 50 cartridges (six at a time) from a revolver, a 38 special, at a range in South Broward. If I had not been so tense and anxious with this first experience with a handgun, I think I would have had fun.

I'm not exactly sure about where I will go next with this, although I will apply for a concealed weapons permit. (The certification I obtained from the NRA instructor is enough to support the application for that permit.) I can say that my middle-of-the-road to leftish views on handguns have been thoroughly revised.

In "The Concealed Handgun Manual", the author writes about how the movies, particularly Westerns, depict handgun shooting. In most of them, he writes, the depictions are not accurate. But Bird recommends one Western, "The Shootist", with John Wayne. According to Bird, the people shooting the handguns in the movie did it the right way. After reading Bird's book and going through the course, I rented the movie and watched it this weekend. I think I see what he means.

"The Shootist" came out in 1976, and was the last Western and the last movie of any kind that Wayne made. It is a beautifully mounted film. It is set in Carson City, Nevada, in 1901, with meticulously crafted sets and wonderful outdoor scenes. John Wayne is comfortable, credible and familiar in his role as a famous, aging gun-fighter, euphemistically known as a "shootist", who is stricken with "the cancer" and comes into town looking for a place to die quietly. Instead, word of his arrival and his condition leaks out, even to the New York Times through the local newspaper editor. That editor and others try to profit in one way or another from the shootist's fame and notoriety.

I grew up watching Westerns in the late 40's, the 50's and the 60's, first on Saturday morning at the Circle Theater in Miami Springs, then on television, when at first the movie Westerns from the 30's and 40's were standard fare, and later when TV developed its own version of the genre in series after series. So I enjoyed the cameos and bit parts of other familiar actors in "The Shootist": Richard Boone ("Have Gun Will Travel"), Henry Morgan, Hugh O'Brian ("Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, Brave Courageous and Bold, Long Live his Fame and Love Live his Glory, and Long May his Story be Told"), Lauren Bacall, John Carradine, Jimmy Stewart ("The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence", "The Far Country"), and Ron Howard (Opie from the "Andy Griffin Show", not a Western unless you count Western North Carolina).

I can't say that "the Shootist" ranks with Wayne's greatest Westerns. But the opening scene and the last gun-fight were quite satisfactory and Wayne was consistently good, even if the other actors weren't always up to snuff (especially Morgan) and even if some of the writing was bad, bad, bad. (The movie provides yet another example of Hollywood depicting Christians as legalistic, unforgiving, and profoundly in need of their own conversion.)(On second thought . . . )

I did appreciate the shooting. Here is what you do. Even when someone is shooting at you, you take care to aim and squeeze the trigger - site alignment and trigger control. Site alignment and trigger control. And you keep shooting. And you take cover. All those things "the Shootist" did in the last gun-fight. From what little I've learned, it was very well done in that respect.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A Blogroll is a list of links to other bloggers or columnists that the blogger thinks are worth reading. Some blogrolls are very sophisticated, like the ones found in the sidebar of Byzantium's Shores (the blogrolls begin with "the home port"). Other blogrolls are more straighforward, like Sean's "weblogs I read" (in sidebar). Those of you who read Drudge will be familiar with his list of columnists/pundits/bloggers that runs down the center of his page. That's a blogroll, too.

We have a nascent blogroll of our own under "non-lawyer" and "lawyer blogs". I'm interested in developing the kith&kin blogroll. Is there a blog/pundit/columnist whom you read regularly that you think others ought to read regularly? Put them in the comments section and I'll work on arranging them in our blogroll.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Christmas List. What sort of a loon posts his Christmas list on the blog of his family and friends? This one.

I thought I would structure the list according to the vendor. In every case, you can order of the internet.

American Morse Equipment

The phone number is(805) 549-8065

This titan of American industry makes the “Mity Box”. This is a small metal box in which one installs a tiny radio transceiver called “the Rockmite”. I have built the Rockmite. It consists of a small printed circuit board covered with little radio components, out of which emerge tiny cables and wires. At the end of the cables and wires are switches, jacks, and a potentiometer. But it has no real home. So American Morse offers a box for it, the “MityBox”. It sells for about $23.

Universal Radio

Universal Radio is an electronics store in Ohio (a state now held in some esteem in these parts) and sells equipment and parts for amateur radio operators and short-wave listeners. Universal Radio has a good web-site based catalog. I have bought things from them and I like them.

I would like to have a “Digital Multimeter”. This is a meter that measures voltage, current, and resistance. I use it to help me build my kits. I bought one from Universal a couple of years ago. It worked great until I left it out in the rain last month. I need another one now. Universal has two of them on its website:

The SE MM6162L digital multimeter, which sells for $21.95.

The Sinometer VX890C+ Digital Multimeter, which is more expensive at $29.95. (I thought I would tell you that this one is more expensive than the other one, just in case you missed it.)

I would also like to have a “coax switch”. “Coax” is short for coaxial cable, which is the sort of feedline ("transmission line") I use to contact my antennas outside the house to my equipment inside the house. I now have several transceivers in the house, and sometimes I have to disconnect the coax from one transceiver to connect it to another transceiver. If I had a coax switch, then I could just turn the knob and, voila!, the antenna has moved from one transceiver to another. Amazing.

There are several coax switches available. I like the Alpha-Delta switches, the “Delta- 2", which sells for $44.95, and the Delta-4, which is more expensive. The Delta-2 would be just fine. Don’t get the Delta-2N or the Delta-4N, because I use PL-259 connectors and not the N type. The N type would be for UHF and VHF antennas, and I only have one transceiver for those frequencies (so far). There is also a less expensive switch by Daiwa, the CS-201, for $21.95. Frankly, that one would be just fine.

Being a bit lazy, I would like to have a couple of pre-assembled coax cables. (I could make them myself.) These are short lengths of coax with connectors at each end. They help you string pieces of equipment together on the way out of the house to the antenna. I would like The RG-8X cables that are 12, 18, 24 and 36 inches long. Any one or more of them would be fine. They run from about $5 apiece to $6.50.

I would like a box of “coax-seal”. This is stuff you put around an antenna fitting that you have outside. It keeps the water and moisture from getting inside the fitting. It’s a perfect price: $2.99.

Another really nice gift would be a set of power pole connectors. They come in a kit of 12 pair, and I would like to have the 30 amp size. The webpage explains just what the “power pole” is. It’s a wonderful invention that allows you to have a universal plug to connect electrical things to power sources. There is no male-female problem. The connectors go both ways. But if it violates a religious scruple of any sort, feel free not to consider this item. Anyway, when you get to this page scroll down to Order #2228, item C30/PK/12. It runs $10.49. One or two of these kits would be great.

A Bencher Iambic Paddle would be nice to have. This is an advanced type of Morse Code key that plugs into a circuit that actually does the keying automatically. You will see two paddles. If you press one paddle, the electronic keyer in your transceiver will issue a series of perfect dots (we hams call them “dits”). If you press the other paddle, the keyer will issue a series of perfect dashes (we call them “dahs”). With an old fashioned telegraph key, called a “straight key”, one must push down the key and let it up to make dits and dahs. (I use a straight key, and there is no shame in it.) With a keyer and paddle, you just squeeze gently. The one I would like is #0458 BY-1, the Iambic Black Paddle. As you can see, people will spend a lot of money on these things.

Oak Hills Research.

I have bought three different kits from this company, and have had a great time building them. There are two things that I would like to have to “upgrade” the transceiver I built.

One is a kit to build a "keyer". This is the electronic circuit with which one would use the iambic paddle that I discuss above. You can install such a keyer in the OHR 100A transceiver I built about a year ago. You can find several keyers here. Be sure to get the one for the OHR 100A, not the OHR 500A. There is a basic keyer for $29.95 and one with a memory for $39.95. Why a memory? It is because there is a basic amount of information that one always telegraphs when he is involved in a conversation with someone new when using Morse Code. With a memory keyer, you can program that stuff so it automatically does the right "dits" and "dahs" while you peel a banana. But either the one without the memory or with the memory would be fine.

Another upgrade would be a “Ten-turn VFO Tuning Pot” for the OHR 100A. A “tuning pot” is a variable resister, called a potentiometer. This is something with a knob that tunes you up and down the band, sort of like those knobs that you turned to move up and down the broadcast band on the radios you had as a little person. There is already a "tuning pot" in my OHR 100A, but this one THIS ONE! has a much finer ratio. It costs $15.05.

Morse Technologies

This site is related to the Oak Hills Research site, and sells some small tools that help with kit building. The web page has a long list. Here are three items that everyone needs in his tool box:

MX-hbc 4" Brass Calipers. $3.95

MX-47553 Precision Tweezer Set. $5.95

Needle files, 12 piece set. $8.95

Small Wonder Labs

Small Wonder Labs produce “the Rock-Mite” kit. I mention the Rock-Mite above. I recently bought this kit and put together. It is incredibly tiny and puts out a very tiny signal. (I still haven’t worked anyone yet. I will announce it when I do.
I did hear someone from the Azores tonight. I called him, but I don't think he heard me. There were a lot of other hams tryng to work him. They did not have Rock-Mites.) Small Wonder Labs has a number of other nice kits. For those of you with money burning a hole in your pocket, there are several I would someday like to have:

The 7.00-7.15 / 40 mA version of the DSW-II. $150.00.

The 40 meter version of the SW+. $55.00.


Now we are getting serious.

This company builds the Lexus of amateur radio kits. Either of the following would be fine to put in my stocking.

The KX1 Ultra Portable CW Transceiver Kit. $279.00 in its most basic form.

The K2 HF Transceiver. $599.00 in its most basic form.


The “Buddipole” is a portable antenna. This would be something I would take on a camping trip. It is way cool.

Frankly I would like the Buddipole Deluxe Package Its on sale for $390. But the basic Buddipole would be fine. I can add on later.

So, there it is. My Christmas list. Or you can get me some tube socks. I like white.
Famous British philosopher changes his mind: there is a God. Well, duh!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

US Teens Among Worst in Math. The WSJ today reports that "fifteen your-olds in the US rank near the bottom of industrialized countries in math skills, ahead of only Portugal, Mexico and three other nations . . . " A left-handed compliment to Mr. Coski.

The WSJ report also states: "[E]conomists say [that this] is bad news for long-term economic growth." As would say, "What would we do without economists."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Musicians and the Internet. A recent report on musicians' attitude toward the internet is generally a positive one and appears to support what I understand to be part of Amplifier's business plan.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Steven Ambrose' book, the Wild Blue, tells the story of an Army Air Force Squadron of B-24s in WWII that, in the latter part of the war, flew from a base in Cerignola, Italy, to bomb targets in Germany and Austria. The central character of Ambrose' book is George McGovern, who commanded one of the bombers, the Dakota Queen. During the return from a bombing mission over Wiener Neustadt in Austria, McGovern's crew notified him that the last of their ten 500 pound bombs had stuck in the bomb rack. This was a dangerous situation. They could not land the plane this way.

So McGovern dropped his bomber out of the formation, went to a much lower altitude, and felt the plane jump as the crew loosed the bomb from the rack and it fell away. They were approaching the Austrian-Italian border and McGovern watched the bomb descend. "It went down and hit right on a farm in that beautiful green part of Austria", McGovern told Ambrose. "It was almost like a mushroom, a big, gigantic mushroom. It just withered the house, the barn, the chicken house, the water tank. Everything was just leveled." A crewman said "We didn't mean to do that, we certainly didn't try to do that".

"McGovern glanced as his watch", Ambrose writes. "It was high noon. He came from South Dakota. He knew what time farmers eat." McGovern said it made him sick to his stomach, and "I could not help but feel the deepest remorse and shameful guilt for the people of the village. Following the mishap, I couldn't sleep . . . "

In 1985, a director of Austrian television asked McGovern to stand for an interview for a documentary on Austria in WWII and he wanted to know how McGovern felt about bombing Austrian targets. During the interview, McGovern refused to express any regret for bombing military targets, although, he said, "I do regret the damage that was done to innocent people. And there was one bomb I've regretted all these years." When asked about that bomb, he told about the farm.

Later, when the documentary appeared on Austrian TV, the station received a call from an Austrian farmer who had seen and heard McGovern. He knew it was his farm that was hit, because it was high noon on a clear day and exactly as McGovern described the incident.

"I want you to tell him", the man went on, "that no matter what other Austrians think, I despised Adolph Hitler. We did see the bomber coming. I got my wife and children out of the house and we hid in a ditch and no one was hurt. And because of our attitude about Hitler, I thought at the time that if bombing our farm reduced the length of that war by one hour or one minute, it was well worth it."

The TV sation call McGovern and told him. Ambrose writes, "For McGovern, it was 'an enormous release and gratification. It seemed to just wipe clean a slate'."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person, according to Peter Singer. See the commentary on this position in the New York Sun by Alicia Colon.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Boys trailing girls in the classroom: what a politically incorrect thing to say! See in this USA Today article where our uni-sex ideology has gotten us in the education market.
Freeing Christ from "Christmas" Picking up again the Christ/Christmas problem that we discussed in a previous post and its comments, take a look at the "commentary" piece on that subject that was on NPR yesterday. NPR not only had a self-described "Christian" give that commentary, the commentator actually sounded like a Christian, and he had some good points.
David Brooks II. For a refreshing NY Times read, check out "Who is John Stott?" (I like the title--sounds a bit Ayn Rand-ish, eh?)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Getting Things Done
I just finished reading GTD by David Allen. Now that I've read through his whole system, I'm going to try to implement it, soup-to-nuts. I've blocked out the week of December 13 to make that happen. Would Kith&Kin readers be interested in me blogging my experience day by day? I don't want to bore anyone, so I'll only do it if folks want me to do so. (I ask because I've spoken with some K&K readers about the book and they seemed interested in Mr. Allen's approach. And I know that Dad would be interested!)
Children "Home Alone in America". See the Amazon review of this interesting study of what happens to little children whose parents both go off to work.
"Because women are economically vulnerable and dependent on men . . . " So explains a woman from Kenya with HIV. She organized a support group for women with HIV and AIDS, according to this article. This is her explanation for what is happening in Africa to women there. The article is written as we learn that half of the population with HIV or AIDS are women.

Her idea of the etiology of HIV/AIDS is important to consider. There are two problems, in her view, an economic one and a social one. Women do not have enough money. They therefore enter into vulnerable and dependent relationships with men to solve that problem. By posing the issue this way, the answers follow: women need more money and they should remain independent of men.

I can think of other women who were economically vulnerable and dependent on men at very significant points in their lives. They did not, however, contract HIV/AIDS. One is Carol, my wife, and another is my mother. We all know women like this. They are, of course, in the Bible too. I think of Ruth and her relationship with Boaz and of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her relationship with Joseph.

You can, of course, distinguish Carol, Juanita, Ruth, and Mary, from the woman in Africa. But that's the point. The distinguishing characteristic is not simply money nor is the solution to have nothing to do with men. An argument that reduces the etiology to money and men leads to political solutions that create their own problems: the substitution of the state for "men" in the power struggle, as if the state will ultimately be more benign, and a refusal to admit that what a person believes makes the essential difference.

We know what makes the difference between this poor African woman and Ruth. "Thy God," Ruth the Moabite said to her mother-in-law, Naomi, "will be my God". "Thy land", the ancient land of Judah where in the best of times the Lord reigned in the hearts of men and women and where he reigned in Boaz' heart, "will be my land."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

C.S. Lewis Resources Website. Austin Carr sent me an email linking an essay related to CS Lewis that he thought interesting. Its on a website that a college professor put up with C.S. Lewis resources and discussions on it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Photoblogging Dallas
Thanksgiving Day Weekend Kellsey and I visited the Dallas Arboretum for our first ever post-Aidan just-the-two-of-us-trip.

(Taken with Doug's super-de-dooper Nikon D70 Digital SLR camera.)
Remind me to never ever get sick in Holland.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - A hospital in the Netherlands - the first nation to permit euthanasia - recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.
The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives - a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents and as a natural evolution by advocates.
Let's hear it for State-run Healthcare!
Generally, my antipathy and outright scorn for the United Nations knows no bounds. But if this were to happen, I might consider becoming a true believer.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Better call the FTC
via Slashdot (news for nerds, stuff that matters)
This article from the Chicago Sun-Times:
The agency overseeing the national Do Not Call Registry is considering opening a loophole in the year-old program to allow companies to deliver ''pre-recorded message telemarketing.''
Here is where you can let the FTC know what you think about this. Seriously, they want to know. Seriously, you should tell them.

UPDATE: Sorry, the FTC comment link works now. The one which I previously had in the link was copied directly from the Sun-Times article, which had a typo. Thanks to Slashdot, I found the correct link. Chalk up another win to the guys in the pajamas over the MSM.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Mmmmmm, digital media
Is it too late to add this to my Christmas list? You wouldn't have to buy me any more DV tapes for Aidan videos!
Handy HTML
Here are some of the very basic HTML tags that one can use to spice up a post. Just copy and paste the code into your post. (You might want to open this post in a separate window as you put your post together.)

Inserting a basic link:

<a href="URLHERE">text</a>

To open a link in new window: (this is probably the most handy code to have)
<a target="_blank" href="URLHERE">text</a>

To adjust the size of an embedded image:
After uploading an image, blogger wil automatically add this code to embed your image

<img src="URLofIMAGE"/>

To adjust the width and heighth, add this:
<img src="URLofIMAGE" width=599 heighth=200/>
(w=599 & h=200 are good dimensions for a big picture like this one)

To add a link to an email:
<a href="mailto:EMAILADDRESS">name</a>

To make something bold:
<strong>text </strong>

To use italics:
<i>text </i>

To make something small:
<small>text </small>

To create a "bullet":
  • <LI TYPE="disc">
  • Saturday, November 27, 2004

    The Sewell Families had a little head-to-head competition yesterday after our Thanksgiving Dinner. We repaired into the kitchen where three teams each decorated their own gingerbread house. The results are below. Can you guess which pair did which house? The pairs were: Jef & Laura, Macon & Kellsey, Noah & Sue. Leave your guesses in the comments, I'll update in a little while with the correct answer.
    House A-->

    House B-->

    House C-->
    So much for Adbusters
    From David Brooks (NYTimes):
    I hate to be the bearer of good news, because only pessimists are regarded as intellectually serious, but we're in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history. Last week, the World Bank released a report showing that global growth "accelerated sharply" this year to a rate of about 4 percent. Best of all, the poorer nations are leading the way.

    What explains all this good news? The short answer is this thing we call globalization. Over the past decades, many nations have undertaken structural reforms to lower trade barriers, shore up property rights and free economic activity. International trade is surging. The poor nations that opened themselves up to trade, investment and those evil multinational corporations saw the sharpest poverty declines. Write this on your forehead: Free trade reduces world suffering.
    Being no longer constrained by the width of a shelf in a certain library/bookstore in a certain town:

    "....break the deadlock of all live scholarship; improve the curriculum by definitely insisting on a better set of 50 (or even 100) books...."

    -Dorothy Pound (wife of Ezra) to Marshall Mcluhan
    The NY Times has a good article on J.J. Abrams, creator & director of Felicity, ALIAS, and Lost. He'll also be writing and directing Mission Impossible 3.
    Mr. Abrams, who got his start writing unremarkable feel-good films and earned his big break with an earnest television series about a pretty but nerdy college girl, has become an unlikely and somewhat subversive keeper of the action-suspense form.

    Friday, November 26, 2004

    Moral Authority
    Excerpted from the article No Blood for Chocolate! which appeared in the National Post (a Canadian Newspaper), but you need a subscription to access the article there, so if you want to read the whole article, go here.

    Where are the mass protests in the streets of the world's capitals against France's military intervention in the Ivory Coast?

    This month, French peacekeepers in the former French colony launched a pre-emptive assault against the Ivorian air force. They also interferred with the internal politics of the troubled nation and sought regime change -- or at least they have been accused of both by President Laurent Gbagbo.

    They acted without authorization by the United Nations Security Council.

    They violated both the UN Charter and the terms of the peacekeeping resolution that established their specific mission in the West African nation.

    The Security Council did sanction their attacks after the fact. Nonetheless, the French acted unilaterally, and only sought and
    received a UN cover story later. There wasn't even a coalition of the willing. No Brits, Aussies, Poles or Dutch to help out; just French troops, jets, helicopters and armoured personnel carriers.

    What's galling is the way the French have done it all without any deference to the multilateral consensus-building they so smugly demanded of the Americans and British last year when the boots were on the other feet.

    Doubly galling is the silence -- even complicity -- of the UN and the international community, which last year so sanctimoniously and vocally obstructed the invasion of Iraq.

    No other nation has inserted itself militarily into African affairs in the post-colonial period more than France -- nearly two dozen times -- including on behalf of the murderous Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who proclaimed himself emperor of the Central African Republic, and in support of the Hutu government of Rwanda, whose supporters butchered half a million or more Tutsis in 1994.

    The truth is, international opposition to the Iraq war (including French opposition) was prompted as much by bitter anti-Americanism and irrational hatred of George W. Bush as it was by any true concern for peace or multilateralism.
    Via Instapundit, via The Diplomad's great post on how America ought to immitate France's foreign policy.

    "Thanks" has replaced "You're Welcome" as the response to "Thanks", "Thank you" etc.

    "You're welcome" implies that I'm doing something for you out of good will. It's a bit condescending to think that I might have something that you need, that I could give you something you couldn't get for yourself.

    "Thanks" acknowledges that I'm really just doing this for my own good, pleasure or gain.

    This is a kind of absurd post, so I apologize. But it always seems odd to me when I get a "Thanks" in response to my "Thanks". It hits close to home when I say "Thanks" in response to "Thanks", and usually it's because I'd be embarassed to say "You're Welcome"
    Spread your Wings!

    Believe, Have Faith, Give Thanks (insert your formerly-transitive exclamation here) have all been well considered by my dad below.

    I think the following would be a worthwhile survey of the canon of pop music since the late 60s:

    Does the singer talk about flying in his or her song? yes or no
    Am I duly inspiried? yes or no

    I am also interested in knowing if modern singers sing about flying because
    a. the people demand it
    or b. they would soar
    Younger Parent Estate Planning: Fundamentals: Dying without a Will: Part A

    A Last Will and Testament is a document that a person (called a "testator") signs in accordance with certain formalities required by law; that pertains to probate assets only (not to non-probate assets); that names the persons who should receive the probate assets upon the death of the testator (those persons are called "beneficiaries"); that names the person whom the testator wishes to be in charge of taking the assets through the probate process and dealing with the court (that person is known as the "personal representative" in Florida and most other states, "executor" in a few); and that may also nominate the people who would care for the children if the children are orphaned as a result of the testator’s death (those persons are known as "guardians").

    The Will can be quite simple. It can also be quite complex, especially if it addresses death tax issues or establishes trusts for one purpose or another (such as providing for the children), issues that we will address later.

    If a parent dies without a Will, his probate assets will be distributed according to "the laws of intestacy". To die "intestate" is, literally, to die without a Will. "Intestate" derives from the Latin word intestatus: in means "not" and tesatatus is the past participle of testari, "to make a Will".) The laws of intestacy are state laws and vary to some degree from state to state. In Florida, if a parent dies without a Will, then the probate assets will be distributed as follows:

    1. If the decedent’s children are also the children of the decedent’s spouse, then the spouse gets the first $60,000 worth of the deceased parent’s probate estate plus one-half of the balance.

    2. If one or more of the decedent’s children are not also the children of the decedent’s spouse, then the surviving spouse gets half of the probate estate. She doesn't get $60,000 off the top.

    3. The other half of the probate assets goes to the children. That half is immediately subdivided into equal shares for each child. So, for example, if there are three children, each child gets one-third of that half, or a one-sixth share of the probate assets.

    4. If the deceased parent is not survived by a spouse, that is, if the deceased parent is single, then all of the probate assets are divided in equal shares among the deceased parent’s children. With three children, for example, each would inherit a one-third share.

    Christmas vs. Holidays; Thanksgiving vs. thanksgiving. We had the TV on almost all day yesterday. The sound was cut very low. But we kept in touch with the two pro football games(real turkeys) and then, after a great dinner that Carol had been working on for two days and at a gathering that included Mary and my mother, I saw the first two acts of the Spiderman movie and wandered off to bed with a book (The Wild Blue, by Stephen Ambrose, a story about B-24s in WW II and featuring the last Democratic presidential candidate I voted for.)

    Sprint had been running its cell phone commercials all day - the ones where the guy in the trench coat gets off some sort of bus and greets various sorts of people. One of those commercials is set in front of a school where children are dressed up in various costumes. The camera for just a moment shows the front of the school where a sign is hanging, "Holiday Pageant", so we are given to understand why the kids are all dressed up. I thought to myself, "Don't you mean 'Christmas Pageant'?".

    Of course they don't. The Christians lost the "let's keep Christ in Christmas battle" years ago, as we joined everyone else at the altar of consumerism. But I also thought, "How ignorant of the secularists." The primary definition of "Holiday" is "holy day", although my Webster's New International Second Edition describes that definition as "now rare". Curiously, Webster's continues to list "holy day" as the primary meaning of holiday. We don't take words quite a seriously as we think we do. If we were really serious about banishing all Christian allusions from whatever it is we are doing during the season, we should come up with some other word than "holiday". So I'm fine, after all, with "Holiday Pageant".

    I looked carefully at the costumes in the commercial. I didn't see any baby Jesus, nor wise men, nor shepherds. Maybe I missed them. Did you see any sheep or lambs? I didn't recognize any of the costumes or understand from what merry place in our secular iconography the wardrobe unit derived its creations. It was hard to distinguish the costumes from the harmless Halloween costumes I saw last month, except on the basis of color and, maybe, a sort of softness to the character. (By "harmless" I mean Halloween costumes that don't deal with witches, ghosts, and the occult.) Very cute. Very meaningless: nothing linked to any history, any value other than sentimental cuteness.

    Which takes me to Thanksgiving itself. A financial planner whom I have known for many years sent me a Thanksgiving email on Tuesday, with her thoughts about the economy. I received it because I am on a list that must include her clients and other professional friends. Her introductory paragraph was as follows:

    As Thanksgiving nears I think of many things for which to give thanks, including you being in my life, and with appreciation for some positive signs in the economy.

    Other than being a little too personal, this paragraph raised this question: To whom is she offering thanks? I don't think you can have "thanksgiving" without having someone to whom to give the thanks. Is she thanking the economy? Is she thanking me for being someone who might send her business? I heard this sort of thing from non-religious people a number of times over the last week or so. "I have so much to be thankful for . . ., etc." Well, good, but whom are you thanking? Tell me. Or are you simply talking to yourself and me and really saying not "I have so much to be thankful for . . . " but "I have so much . . . look at me."

    I couldn't stand it. I sent her an email back:

    "Thank you, _______. I trust you will have (or had, depending on when you receive this) a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    And, yes, we have so much to be thankful for. I would add also, political correctness aside, we have such a great God to whom to be thankful.


    Anyway, next time someone tells you that he is very "thankful", ask that person to whom he is thankful. I would like to know. I'm as confused about that sort of statement as I am about what those little kids were wearing in the Sprint commercial.

    Thursday, November 25, 2004

    Xmas Lists
    At my mother's (annual) behest, I've created a modest 30+ item wishlist. (Well, she asked!) Following the link will take you to Google's shopping search engine, Froogle. At Froogle, you can set up your own shopping/wishlist of anything available on the net and set a link to it. As for my wishlist, there's no need to purchase things using Froogle, it's just a convenient way to point to this stuff. Also, feel free to get me used things on the list. (Also, if you want to get me the shoes, I normally wear a 10.5 in American sizing. If you have to get whole sizes, get a 10.)

    (BTW, I got the idea for a Froogle Wishilst from Sean.)
    "These Christians could at least have the good grace to accept that they lost the argument". An EU official, when confronted with the movement among European Christians to include references to Europe's Christian heritage in the proposed EU constitution's preamble.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    Ways to Support Our Troops. Go to this page on the website of the First Infantry Division.
    A Fun Editorial about President Bush. Look on OpinionJournal.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    "It has something to do with religion." So ends this morning's WSJ cover story on the rude awakening of the Dutch to the danger of "Islamic terrorists in their neighborhoods". With the murder of Theo van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri, a "well-educated guy with good prospects," according to the mayor of Amsterdam, the Dutch recognize that the "war on terrorism" has arrived in their country.

    The article quotes a Dutch social worker, as he considers Bouyeri's grisly murder of van Gogh: "Doing such a thing is beyond all limits . . . Something happened in [Bouyeri's] head that made him crazy. It has something to do with religion." The social worker speaks as if "religion" is something quite outside of his own experience and not a way of describing and ordering one's life, of understanding its meaning, of reaching our "potential", and of describing means and limits necessary to connect fully with "reality". He speaks as if he, himself, has no religion.

    What would we say to someone who comments, after a tour of the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, "Doing such a thing is beyond all limits . . . Something happened in [Hitler's] head that made him crazy. It has something to do with politics"?

    When I was a Duke, I took a class in the Sociology department taught by Dr. Tiryakian, a class called "the Sociology of Religion". This was in the late '60s, the heyday of Modernism. His thesis was that only "religion" - what modernists would call "supernatural" religion and not the National Council of Churches kind - could ultimately satisfy a hunger that each person has. It was as if I were in Sunday School, when the teacher talked about an empty place that only God could fill. Dr. T's stories that supported his thesis had to do with Africa and medicine men and the like. But he was right on.

    The religion that we call "secular humanism", so refined and sophisticated in post-Christian Europe, may be enough for those populations who were winnowed by 400 years of immigration to the New World and more recently bled out by the wars of the Twentieth Century. But it was not enough for young Mohammed Bouyeri. It is not enough for most young people on this earth.

    When we attend church, supply leadership there, push the ecclesiastical bureaucracy, formal or informal, local or regional, either out of the way or into adapting to the "post-modern" world, parse our budget to supply support for missionaries like Macon, Kellsey, and Sean, and insist on fidelity to the truth of Jesus Christ, we are face to face with Mohammed Bouyeri and his idea of "religion". Mohammed is trying to get to us, frankly, and to our children. What he is up to does not have something to do with religion. It has everything to do with religion. And religion, finally and ultimately, is everything.

    Saturday, November 20, 2004

    That's not an Atomic Clock, this is an Atomic Clock.
    [Patrick Gill's] experiments, published in Science (19 November 2004) , demonstrate an optical measurement time three times more accurate than anything previously achieved. It thrusts NPL into the lead in the international race to perfect a new type of atomic clock.
    (from Slashdot)

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    In a previous post, Walter called our attention to U2's music video as iPod commercial. In today's USAToday, there are a few articles on U2 (they were on the cover of the "Life" section). This one addresses their approach to the commercial.
    Bono emphatically states, "No money changed hands. There were about three people in the universe who shouted sellout. Selling out is when you do something you don't want to for cash. We really wanted to do this. What could be cooler than having our own iPod and exploring new digital formats?"

    The pact had practical benefits. Pop radio isn't quick to embrace noisy rock tunes, and declining sales led to belt-tightening that precludes labels from bankrolling expensive album launches. The iPod TV spots provided invaluable exposure. "Apple seemed like the most natural collaboration and something our fans would not be embarrassed about," Edge says. "Nobody wants to see their favorite band attached to something uncool. This is about looking into the future. It's a stepping stone to where the business is heading."
    I had lunch with Sean today. He commented that my personality could be described as "Perky." This made me think that this would be a word that Walter might use to describe me as well. It also triggered a memory of when I was a freshman in college and Walt was a sophomore in high school: the cartoon below was published and both Walter and I cut it out without knowing the other was doing so, each of us thinking something like, "This is a picture of me and [brother's name]!" We both had the same idea about who was who in the picture: I was the singer. The two of us had a big laugh when I came home over Christmas break and saw the comic posted on the bulletin board in our room. We were delighted that we'd been on the same page.

    I also need to say, that neither of us really thought that Walter "hated me," or that he would cuss while commenting on me.

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    McLuhan on Eliot

    "It is very inspiriting to read these words from the pen of the greatest English-speaking poet and the clearest-headed critic of literature writing in our time (T.S. Eliot):

    'What chiefly remains of the new freedom is its meagre impoverished emotional life; in the end it is the Christian who can have the more varied, refined and intense enjoyment of life; which time will demonstrate....The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail, but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the world from suicide. [p. 32]'

    How much more courageous[,] realistic and honest to say 'the dark ages before us', than to gibber cravenly in Wellsian fashion of vulgar Utopias...."

    Marshall Mcluhan - The Letters of Marshall Mcluhan pg 65.
    [T.S. Eliot - Thoughts After Lambeth]

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    No, wait, this changes everything. For real this time!
    Lufthansa now has 13 jets outfitted with Wi-Fi with more on the way.
    Graceful delays

    God's Grace manifests in delays.

    stay of execution. withholding judgement. weekends. night-time. distance.


    The Quickening

    Postmodernism moved from the elite to the masses with the advent of e-mail.

    no indoctrination was necessary.
    Subversive Virginity
    In light of Dad's post on Tom Wolfe's new novel, I thought it would be good to bring to your attention this essay that appeared in the October 1998 issue of First Things. It's a really good essay, and Sarah Hinlicky anticipates many of the observations that Wolfe "discovered" and reports upon in his novel.
    It's Still Final:
    "From Colin to Condolezza". This is the title of an excellent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today by Eliot A. Cohen, "a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins . . . " The article is here on, but of course that's a pay site. Sometimes, though, such articles show up on His thesis is that the Bush administration needs to do much better in articulating its foreign policy vision, acting far less arrogantly and defensively, admitting mistakes, seeking a consensus with our friends, and so on. I am glad this fellow was not in Kerry's brain trust. Anyway, he expresses the hope that Condoleezza Rice will take the opportunity afforded by her special relationship to President Bush, an opporunity that Colin Powell apparently did not have, to move our foreign policy forward.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004


    I'm reading Marshall McLuhan's letters right now.

    I don't think you'll see letters published in the future. It would be too self-referential to say there would be blog archives, but there it is.

    I wonder who was the last person to have their letters published. Has it happened? If not, when will it happen? it's going to happen.

    What sort of societal affects does that shift have?

    One things certain, I couldn't ask such immediate questions back in the day to such an unknown audience.
    The Medium is the instant-message

    Legislation now allows for checks to be transmitted electronically between banking institutions. The result is that the check-clearing process that formerly took days now takes hours.

    Industries were built around the resulting "float" of the few days it would take checks to clear. The float was directly tied to the amount of time it took a check to physically move from one location to the other. The movement is now unnecessary. Those industries are dying and new industries are being born.

    "Float" as a commodity is going to only increase in value now that it can't be manufactured with creative check paying. Creditors sell "float".

    "Defining Charity Upward". The Forbes article that I mentioned in one of my comments is found here. This is the article that questions charitable gifts to elite colleges and universities that have plenty of funds and charge its students a premium to attend when more worthy charities go begging. Unfortunately, you must go through a registration process to access the article on, although there is no charge for becoming a "member".
    Posting again over on Coast & Crown, my InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ministry blog. (I'm trying to post something every day. Made that decision last weekend. So far I'm keeping up!)

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Aidan Update IV
    What would be a good way to show everyone that we're enjoying their gifts to Aidan? Oh, I don't know . . . how 'bout an episode of AWS CRIBS?
    Find the former updates in sidebar.