Saturday, February 28, 2004

More on the Passion. Carol visited the beauty parlor today. She said that the women who work there are young, attractive, Latin, worldly, and her impression is that their morals are "contemporary". But when she walked into the shop today, they were talking about the movie. A young woman who worked on her hair said that she didn't want to go to see the movie, because then she "would have to be good, and I don't want to be good". Carol encouraged her to go.

I hope Carol will have the opportunity to see this young woman again and tell her that you don't have to be good. I hope that the young woman sees the movie, because there is a woman in it with whom she can identify, a woman that keeps as close to Jesus, as he takes the walk, as his own mother.

Isn't it interesting that there are two Marys in the movie and in the gospels, each at opposite moral poles from one another, both keeping him company after the other followers (except John) flee, both loving Jesus, both died for by him, and both redeemed by him. With those two women bracketing womanhood, that pretty much includes every woman in between.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Wednesday, the opening day, the movie sold $26.6 million in tickets; that it was the biggest Wednesday opening ever after "The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King" and "Star Wars:Episode I-The Phantom Menace"; and that the first day take surpassed the entire box-office ticket sales of previous "religious fare" such as "The Last Temptation Christ".

Tomorrow our church is taking over 100 teenagers to the movie. About 40 of them are from our youth ministries group and the rest from the high school. There is a Christian club at the high school known as "the Fight Club" and they promoted our effort over there. We offered free tickets, bus transportation, and a return to our church for pizza and a discussion led by our minister.

I had lunch yesterday with a dear friend of mine, a lawyer who is Jewish. I decided not to bring up the movie, but he did. He asked if I had seen it, and when I told him that I had, he asked me what I thought. He had been to a lecture that I gave years ago on the legal aspects of the trial of Jesus.

(At that lecture, I showed how the trial of Jesus before the Jews was not in compliance with Jewish law, that the prosecutors could not get a conviction, and it was for that reason, at least in part, that they went to Pilate. Thus, I argued, Rome killed Jesus, not the Jews, which, of course, is theologically correct, because Rome represents all of us. The idea that the Jews went to Rome because the Sanhedrin did not have the power to levy capital punishment is demonstrably wrong, because the Sanhedrin later levied capital punishment on Stephen.)

I told my friend that I did not think it anti-Semitic, but I offered to go with him to see it and help him with it. At first he said he didn't want to go, but he kept asking me about it, and then finally said that, yes, maybe he would go to the movie with me "after everything settles down".

Frankly, I don't think things will "settle down". I think we are going to see a worldwide awakening as a result of this movie. But I am hoping and praying that my friend will let me take him to see it.
So What are you Smoking Now? Dept. Recently heard lyric: "If you remember the sixties, you must not have been there"

Saturday, February 21, 2004

End of Life Decisions. This summer at the Christian Life Conference, I will be leading a seminar entitled "End of Life Decisions and the Christian Faith". Two things happened over the last several months that prompted me to think more deeply about this issue. One was the Terry Schiavo case, which you may have read about. This is the case of the woman in a "permanent vegetative state" who depended on a feeding tube to live. Her husband, using the courts, obtains a court order allowing him to disconnect the tube, which he does. The Florida Legislature steps in, passes an emergency bill to permit the governor to countermand that order, which he does, and the tube is reconnected. The other thing that happened is that a client of mine died for whom I was the surrogate under a "living will". I had prepared that document for her. When she was "terminally ill" under the terms of the document and the physicians made the appropriate diagnosis and requests, I gave the OK to withdraw medical intervention except for "comfort care". She died. This is the second time I have been called upon to make that decision, the first time being for my father. It gives one pause.

I will use the blog to post my thoughts and to give references on this subject as I prepare for the seminar. I invite you to join me in thinking about this subject. Somebody in the kith and kin community may someday be the designated surrogate for someone else in that community. You can either post comments to a blog post, or, if you would like to be in a position to make a blog post yourself and you do not already have authorization, let me know, and I will arrange it so that you can post directly. A direct post, as distinguished from a comment, has no limitation on the length of your statement.

From the Why-Did-God-Make-Mosquitoes Department. In Britain, the health authorities now prescribe the application of sterile maggots to wounds in order to encourage healing. I am not making this up. See the article here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

This week Grandmother Stokes was diagnosed with bone cancer. The Stokes community (all the kith and kin!) is not unfamiliar with cancer, as more than a few of the extended family and friends have dealt with it in their own bodies.

I can't think about cancer without thinking about the very nature of Evil in the world.

Cancer doesn't live or grow without a host, it doesn't just appear ex nihilo. In fact, it's not made of something different from the host, but takes cells that would otherwise be fine in a different spot in the body, accumulating them in a place where it is not fine for them to be.

And it's not content to mess up a particular place in the body, but once it gets a certain size it's like it aggressively spreads itself across the rest of the host. Cancer is even inherently self-destructive. It will eventually end up killing itself as it takes over its host.

Fighting against cancer seems to me to always be a rear-guard action, as well. That is, once it's entered the body, you must always watch for it, always be on your guard, even if it's been gone for years. And even though I realize I'm anthropomorphizing here, cancer does seem to have it's own mind and bent will, responding as an alive thing to chemotherapy and radiation treatment, sometimes retreating, sometimes advancing, but always a menacing presence within its person.

It seems to me, this is what Evil itself is. Evil is not creative, it can only twist, misplace, deform, and defile. Evil does not, cannot, create ex nihilo. That is, Evil is dependent upon the Good, since it's very nature is to spoil the Good.

This, as some of you will recognize, leads easily to one of my pet peeves: the silly idea that one must have a taste of the "bad" in order to really appreciate and know the "good." It's in fact completely the opposite: Good is inherently self-contained. It needs no referent. Evil, on the other hand, needs Good as not only a referent, but something which to befoul.

Tolkien had a grasp of this, I think, when he was writing the Lord of the Rings. His evil creatures: orcs, trolls, uruk-hai, wild-men, were all variants and defilements of previously created "good" creatures (elves, dwarves, men, or some combination thereof). Peter Jackson captured it marvelously when he showed the orcs as maimed, slimy, cobbled together pieces of flesh, the antithesis of the healthy, clean & smooth elves.

Evil also isn't content with defiling the corner it's currently in. It spreads, continuing to pervert and corrupt as far as it can go. And it's a rear-guard, containing action that we fight against it: always watching, waiting for it to pop up again, knowing that if we don't see it, that just means that it's "gone to ground" and will return.

Like cancer, it seems that Evil is only truly defeated at the destruction of the host. There is something about the way Evil binds itself to our current reality that there is no parseing it from the rest of reality. The eventual redemption of the cosmos comes only at the cost of its destruction followed by its recreation.

Which brings me back to cancer. It may be that it brings death, but that is it's own destruction. It seems to me that the only room for hope in talking about cancer is the hope in the Resurrection. This hope that cancer will eventually be stopped, that it can't leap the fire-break which is death, and that at our resurrection it will be left behind. Finally only the true and the good will be. Thanks be to the Triune God of Grace.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Skiing, Airplanes, and (drums) Life Itself. Carol and I went skiing for the first time over New Year's. Doug and Sue, Kellsey's parents, invited our entire family to their new town house near Beaver Creek in Colorado. And then Doug volunteered to teach Carol, Mary, and me how to ski. ("Greater love hath no skier . . . ). Carol and I were not apt students. Mary did very well. I have been thinking about what skiing is since then, and I have decided it is a metaphor.

Skiing is really falling down the mountain in a controlled way. I had the wrong attitude, because I kept wanting stability. Instead of falling down the mountain, I just fell over right at the start and got nowhere. You have to give yourself to the fall, but learn to control it, you need to keep falling in the direction you want to go, but see to it that the fall never quite gets finished until you are down the mountain. In the meanwhile, you are to have fun. I did not quite get the hang of this. But I recognize the problem now after thinking it over.

There has been a lot in the media about the Wright brothers in the past few months, given the centennial of their first flight at Kitty Hawk. According to one analysis of their success, the Wright brothers knew as others did not that a successful airplane had to be inherently unstable. Others had insisted on building a machine that would be stable, and that idea resulted in one failure after the other. The Wright brothers, probably because of their intimate knowledge of two wheeled bicycles, understood that their machine needed to be controlled but did not have to be, could not be, inherently stable. Their machine could fall through the air in a way that was successful. They had control surfaces to direct the movement. They gave themselves to the wind. They were heedless of the ground passing below them. They accepted the risk and dealt with it successfully. Going from point A to point B meant yielding to gravity and airflow enough to build momentum and lift, giving oneself to those natural forces (which took courage), but devising ways to control the progress (which took smarts). In the meanwhile, they had fun.

Aaaah. So it is with life. Here we are, hurtling toward death. As we move down the mountain, to be very, very careful, very, very conservative, to be absolutely sure things will come out right before doing anything, is deadly, deadly. To give yourself to where the end is pulling, to learn to control as you fall toward whatever is next, to have courage and to be smart (intellectually and morally), makes for blessings and makes life if not always fun finally meaningful (or at least interesting. Which reminds me of the Chinese curse: "May you have an interesting life". Which perhaps is why the Chinese have had so much trouble until recently, to think that an interesting life is a curse.)

So I thank Doug and Sue for a really important holiday in the Rockies. It was just great to see them and the family and to have so much to chew on as I look back on that visit. Here's a picture of the whole group (except for our much esteemed and beloved hosts, Doug and Sue, whose photos will be on a later post) at the foot of the mountain.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Just a few small corrections are in order for what is an otherwise exceptional retelling.

One is that the chapter actually did get it's charter back later that same year I was president. That we got it back was in no small part due to the help I received from my father, the lawyer, who helped me write an appeal to the SGA regarding its ruling. That's when I learned how to write a "brief." I can still vividly remember sitting at my desk, at my computer, underneath my lofted bed, on the first floor of Watts dorm (#36, Ned Erickson was my roommate). I remember cradling the phone between my chin and shoulder as Dad and I strategized over the best way to format and word the appeal. When I handed it to the SGA President (who, although not in the IV chapter, was so embarrassed that the SGA had done what it did, BTW) he was very impressed and confidently left my presence to present the brief to his cabinet (which had the authority to revisit the issue).

Before that moment, though, and before the vote, my dad told me,
"Don't let the bastards grind you down."

I've always been particularly proud of my dad for telling me that. It's what I needed to hear at the moment, and I dust that quote off in my head periodically when the situation calls for it. (Maybe we need to begin a thread of memorable parental quotes?)

While the chapter didn't get it's charter back when Kellsey was president, the chapter, and the chapter president (Kells) went through the whole thing again the next year! This time, though, the SGA eventually decided not to take our charter away. Of course, they put Kellsey through the wringer before that happened. So nice of them.

Finally, I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Kuykendall, more than just "wary." I still disagree with his decision not to provide leadership during a time when he could have brought a sensible and nuanced voice to the (what I thought was) sophomoric discussions going on in the SGA. In some ways, I can see what he was doing in letting us duke it out, but I still think it was the wrong decision. That the Lord redeemed the decision and brought good from it, does not, in my mind, justify the decision itself.

That being said, in every other aspect of our relationship, I love the man dearly! Sean McGrew and I went to lunch with him periodically throughout our Junior & Senior years and really enjoyed those lunches. Dr. Kuykendall wanted me to go into the pastorate as well. He thought IV was "a young man's" thing to do, but not a lasting career choice. (I guess this is the one other thing we disagree about!)

I think, though, that he will eventually appreciate the vitality & theological acuity that IV graduates bring to his PC(USA) churches, even if that "eventually" is retrospectively from heaven.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Dr. Kuykendall of Davidson College. John Kuykendall was president of Davidson College while Macon, Kellsey, and Walter were there. He had retired from that office by the time that Mary began, but he continued teaching in the religion department. Mary took three of his courses. He was reputed to be a tough grader, but Mary made an A in each. He told me once that "Mary is as bright as a new penny!".

I first met him when he was in Miami calling upon a client of mine who was an important Davidson supporter. The client asked me to have lunch with the two of them, because Macon was then a student at Davidson. Dr. Kuykendall was just a splendid man.

Macon and Dr. K. butted heads over whether Dr. K. should step in when the Davidson Student Government Association took away the charter that the InterVarsity chapter at Davidson enjoyed. The executive board of the chapter had refused to permit a self-avowed, unrepentant homosexual to be a small group leader. The chapter continued to welcome this young man to small group, large group, and other IV events. But the exec would simply not permit him to be a leader. The exec's position was in line with "national" IV policy.

Macon was president of the chapter at the time; he took the brunt of the pressure that the young man and the campus community brought to bear. It was rough. Macon thought that Dr. K. should intervene, but Dr. K. kept his hands off. (Dr. K later explained to me his rationale, as he did to Macon. He told me that Macon was just furious with him. He told me that with a smile.) Macon held up well through all of it. (I was so proud of Macon.) And the next year, when Kellsey was president of the IV chapter, SGA reversed its ruling.

Dr. K. retired from the Davidson faculty the same year that Mary graduated. With the last Stokes kid gone, he must have figured it would be too dull.

He is now serving as interim president of Louisville Theological Seminary.

My wife, Carol, who reads Presbyweb avidly, picked up an article about Dr. K. It concerns a speech he made to a Presbyterian Church (US) body about confessions, and its worth reading. You can find it here.
Cornerstone 2004. Cool webpage that linked from Sean's blog to information about Cornerstone 2004, the InterVarsity, inner city event that took place last weekend in Greensboro. Thank you, Sean. Did you create that Cornerstone site?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Peggy Noonan's Column on the President's Interview. I did not see the interview, but I read the transcript. Noonan writes that the President looks even less impressive when you view the interview than he looks when you read the transcript. He looked unimpressive enough just reading the transcript. She compares him to Reagan in the sense that Reagan gave poor interviews (he could not remember the "talking points") but gave great speeches. She also writes that Republicans are all about "philosophy" and that democrats are all about "policy". This also accounts for the President's unimpressive showing, she argues. To read her column press here

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Transcript of President Bush's Interview on Meet the Press. Go here for it.
Inner City Faith and Works. I meet with a group of men for breakfast, Bible Study, and prayer each Friday morning. Austin Carr, a lawyer in my church, is the guiding light of the group. There are three or four other lawyers, a caterer, two insurance agents, a private investigator, a marine surveyor, and some others who show up from time to time. Usually we have four or five men attend a week. Austin and I hardly ever miss it. Its bread and butter for my soul.

Recently we finished a study of Romans, helped in part by two detailed and very helpful charts that Micki Maris prepared just for us.

One of the lawyers, Pat Talbot, attends an unusual Assemblies of God church just off I-95 at 165th Street, known as Trinity Church. The minister is Richard Wilkerson. (The older people in our blog community may know of his father, David Wilkerson, of "The Cross and the Switchblade" fame.)

For many years Trinity had been in decline because of the church's changing neighborhood, and it was just about dead. Then the leaders of the AOG denomination decided to allocate some significant resources to Trinity to see if the church could make a real difference in the neighborhood, now full of poor people. Thus came Wilkerson and a Calvary Chapel-like team and a good bit of money. My friend Pat, who converted from nominal Roman Catholicism in high school and went to Regent University Law School, works in Trinity's "Peacemaker's Family Center" in addition to holding down a full-blown, high-stress maritime law practice with a national law firm.

The Miami Herald ran a piece on the church Saturday, featuring a lady who moved with her husband and children from Chicago to answer a call to do social ministry in this church. The Herald article describes her as a lady in her mid-30s who "had collected all the right numbers: a master's degree in engineering from Stanford and a good-paying federal job, one good-looking husband, two photogenic kids, [and] a five-bedroom house in the Chicago suburbs." Her husband now works as a volunteer at the church and does computer programming and community college teaching in Broward County.

Are we beginning to see what the millennium will look like? I see the PCA doing such great work as Walter and Morgan are doing in Austin and others in that denomination are doing in New York City. I see Pat Talbot and the AOG folks doing their work at Trinity. I see my new friend Ann Manning being so effective leading Habitat Humanity of Greater Miami. I see InterVarsity doing the sort of thing that Macon and Mary are doing this weekend in Greensboro. One of these days these people and people like them from different traditions will find themselves working hard together on some project bringing Christ and hope, literacy, food, and shelter to people who need to all these things; the workers will take a break from their labor; they will sit down with each other at table; someone will pick up a tortilla and a coke as he or she leads them in grace; and then the Holy Spirit will move that leader to hold up both and say, "and the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread . . . " Maranatha.

NPR will probably skip this one.. Read the statement that the judge of the Federal District Court delivered as he recently sentenced Reid, the shoe bomber, for trying to bring down a Paris to Miami passenger plane in 2001. Carol, Mary, and I flew on a Paris-to-Miami flight the day after he made that attempt.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Prayer for Toddy. Morgan and Walter's friend, Toddy, has melanoma and she needs prayer. Walter called me yesterday, because Toddy this week found out that the cancer has spread to a lymph gland, despite surgery that removed the tumor some time ago. Those of us who have been through a crisis and have had others praying, know that one has an almost physical feeling of being washed with God's grace. What a comfort it is! So remember Toddy. Give her that gift. And I would ask Walter and Morgan to keep us up to date.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Enabling "Comments". Macon suggested that we add to the blog the ability for the reader of a post to make a comment. I researched this to find that, which hosts our site, does not yet have this facility. But the people at referred me to other internet sites that would, somehow, connect a "comment" feature to our community blogsite. I went to, read up on what it offers , and, with a good bit of trial and error, figured out how to import the feature.

(Amazingly, offers its service for free! But so does Isn't that something! Note that I even programmed in haloscan's little logo at the bottom of our blogsite page. Cool, eh?)

Just as I connected the feature to the feature, Walter must have entered our blogsite, only to leave a smarty-pants comment. You know, you work hard at creating something for your family and friends, and then one of your own flesh and blood . . .

And did you read that nasty post about hell freezing over from Macon? (And by the way, we don't use words like that on this blog. I referred the matter to Mr. Powell.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the comment feature. Just part of our ongoing effort to counteract the centrifugal forces that the American culture applies to the community of our kith and kin. (I need to figure out how to import some nobility music to go along with my posts.)
Gone for the weekend. This past week there's been a flurry of activity at the SC IV Area Office as I prepared for Cornerstone Project 2004, in Greensboro, NC. Now, at 11:45pm on the night before, preparations are finally ready (I hope!) and I'm off to my usual pre-conference fitful sleep.

This has been one of the most interesting preparations for any conference/project I've ever done, as I've had to visit most of the Family Dollar Stores in Charlotte. There are a bunch of them, and they all sell pretty much exactly the same thing, but the state of cleanliness & orderliness varies greatly across the city, pretty much paralleling the kind of neighborhood in which they're located.

Why is this? Is this a local store management issue? Do stores in poorer neighborhoods get less attention from the national chain? I spent the better part of the day thinking about this as I drove between stores and couldn't figure it out.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

From the hell-freezing-over news desk: Paul Stokes called me at 11pm last night to talk about the blog. This is serious, folks. Dad is into this. Not only was he awake at 11pm, not only did he call me, but he sounded very awake and excited. The least you can do is contribute to the blog.
Irony in Spell Check. There is a "posting" tab on the blogger web page for those who want to post on a particular blog, and have "rights" to do so. From that tab, one clicks on the "Create New Post" subtab. The blogger is then presented with a box in which to type his or her post.

The "Create New Post" box has a little tool bar at the top. Among the tools is a spell check.

The spell check does not recognize "blog" as a word and suggests that it be replaced with "bloc". It does not recognize "blogger" and wants to replace it with "blocker".

This is one of life's great, but probably unrecognized, ironies, and I thought I would point it out.
Welcome, Macon!. Macon accepted the invitation to join the blog, and has posted two of them! He even figured out how to do a link. I sent invitations to others, and I will send some more out shortly.

In the meanwhile, I am going to see if we can set up the blog to do threads. I was just itching to edit Macon's blog. Don't get me wrong, though, it was a good first draft. (Actually, as "administrator" of the blog, I could edit Macon's posts without having to use a thread to comment on it. But I will restrain myself.)
I think this blog is a good idea, Padre. As a family we've had fun concatenating email responses on responses. But eventually the thread of an email conversation gets lost. Maybe with this blog we can keep some of those threads going, or, at the very least, we'll know where to go to find conversation threads that we dropped, in case we ever want to pick them up again! Thanks for sharing your blog with us.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Pretty soon, Dad's going to be wearing one of these!
With some of my xmas money I made my very first eBay purchase! (Not the first time I ever bid on anything at eBay, but definitely the first time I was the high bidder on something.) Besides being flush with success at being the high bidder, I'm also excited about my purchase: a 3com Audrey. As you can see from the link, the Audrey is a discontinued "internet appliance," from back in dotcom bubble days when technophiles saw a computer on every kitchen counter in every home. What I'm most interested in is its ostensible capacity for Kells and I to hotsync our Palms to it and create a master household calendar, so we can see when each other has made appointments during the day. I also hope that it could be our electronic "rolodex", and maybe even a digital "family communicator." (although i think I'd have to write "Macon, Lijia called" somewhere on it with a permanent marker for that to happen.) We'll see if this all works out. I'm not sure I have the skillz to integrate it into our Mac household. I surely don't have the kung-fu to do any nifty hacks on it, but if I can find the time and the right websites, maybe I can get it to do some cool stuff!
Buying and Selling Books on About a year ago, I heard about a place to buy used books at half-price on the internet, I searched it out and found that you could buy new books, very used books, and books in between. Many of them could be purchased at much less than half price. Its not a store like Amazon. It is a meeting place where people can list their books for sale at whatever price they like. is a sister site to ebay, except it works the other way. On ebay, a person lists a thing for sale and then potential buyers bid on it. On, would-be sellers list their book at a price they set, competing with each other, and lower their prices when their book does not sell.

I have both sold books and bought books on this site. In the past year I have sold nearly $800 in used books. I just went through the house, pulling down books I haven't looked at in years and had no further interest in. Then I listed the books for sale, according to some very easy steps that the site describes.

When someone buys a book, I get notified. That buyer would have an account at, probably connected to his credit card, and that account would be charged. Every two weeks or so all of my sales for that period are accumulated by the wizard and dropped directly into my bank account, less a commission.

When I receive my notification, I put the book in an envelope and mail it to the person described in the notification.

One can buy and sell videos and dvd's on The other day I was looking for an old western with Henry Fonda, "My Darling Clementine". I checked an internet movie site that would have charged me about $11 to rent it for a week. But I found it on for $3. With the postage, that purchase came to a little over $5. And it was not a rental. I now own that movie. Its amazing.

If you want to see what I have to sell, go to and search for books by a seller known as "stokes70". If you are one of my children, you probably ought to check the site anyway, because I just may have listed one of the books that you left behind. I'd be glad to sell it to you.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Learning Spanish on the Fly. Richard Razook, a friend of mine for many years and a brilliant international tax lawyer in Miami, is learning Spanish. (He already knows Arabic, and his Latin American "market" consists of business people in Central and South America of Lebanese descent.) He found that he could not keep a schedule with a tutor, so he commenced a self-study project.

The public center of Richard's effort is a daily email that initially he sent to friends of his who are Spanish speakers. The email is centered about a Spanish phrase or sentence that Richard picked up in his reading or his listening. His email gives his idea of the English translation, and he comments on the phrase or sentence, first in in Spanish and then in English. Each day there is a new phrase or sentence, with his commentary.

The purpose of Richard sending his daily email to Spanish speakers was to solicit their corrections and comments. But non-Spanish speakers heard about what he is doing and asked to be put on his email list. He obliged. He now has hundreds of people on his email list.

Each morning, early, he gets up, prepares his email for the day, looks at replies to the email from the day before, responds to those replies, and also studies his Spanish. Then he comes to work at the Miami branch of a large, national law firm.

I have been receiving his emails for about two weeks. They are very helpful in my own quest to learn that language. My colleague, Juan Antunez, a Spanish speaker, finds the emails very helpful too, and asked Richard to add him to the list. In fact, if you ask Richard, he might add you too. His email address is

Juan suggests a website that those seeking to learn Spanish might find helpful: One of the webpages on this site offers an instant translation service: you type in a word, phrase or sentence in English, hit a "submit" button, and back comes a pretty good translation. Try it here.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Radio Shack and Parallax. I visited the Radio Shack in Doral Saturday. Its the back half of these stores that fascinates me, not the front where all the satellite dishes, cell phones, and stereo equipment reside. The back half harbors the stuff for people who like to tinker and experiment and, obviously, for word-oriented, liberal arts types who wonder about the decision they made 45 years ago not to go to engineering school.

I have never seen anyone but myself actually poke around in the back half, but there must be quite a few of us or there would not be a back half in a Radio Shack. I wonder when the others visit? Who are those people? What do they look like? Do they know how to write a paragraph?

Anyway, I came across a new thing: a microprocessor kit, built around a "stamp" or computer chip. The kit includes a book that is to teach you all about what to do with the chip and how it works. It promises to teach you to program the chip with BASIC. And the kit includes a little motor and other things that the chip will operate, once you do the programming.

The manufacturer is a company called parallax and the website is This company seems to be mainly in the business of designing microprocessor systems, but someone there is interested in teaching people "12 years of age and older" (I qualify) about what microprocessors do. According to the website, parallax entered into an arrangement with Radio Shack to put together a package for about $75. Separately the cost of the parts and the book, it is alleged, would add up to over $150. The blurb on the back of the package and on the website talks about how "educators" can order the packages in bulk to use in their junior high and high school science classes. I didn't buy this thing, but I am going to go back and get one this weekend. I am going to try to find a junior high kid to help me with it.