Monday, September 27, 2004

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Hurricane Jeanne Good-bye. The fourth hurricane to threaten us this season has passed us by with little damage. Jeanne came onto the Florida east coast last night so far north of us (around Stuart) that only wind and rain in barely tropical storm gusts reached us. This morning the sun is struggling to shine on us through the over-cast. The wind and the rain, what of it there is, is light. We did not lose any power at any point.

Yesterday (Saturday) we worked all of the morning and half the afternoon preparing for storm. The main issue is putting up the shutters. We also took the revolving tops off the roof turrets and replaced them with lids. (The turrets are new, because we have replaced the roof since the last hurricane season to threaten us. So I had to drill holes for the new lids.) For the earlier storms, I had already taken down the mast for my amateur radio dipoles. But I continue to leave up the uhf/vhf vertical antenna, which has little wind resistance. This afternoon we will take the shutters down, even though we are only half-way through the hurricane season. One thing I will do is store the shutters on the floor of the garage, rather than the loft, to make it easier next time to take them out.

Today Carol and I will also go to the office and bring our network back on line. Part of the preparation process for the office is to distribute tape backups for the network to several people (who live in different parts of town) and go through the process of turning the network off. We also wrap each of the work station computers in heavy plastic. Those computers in work stations in outer offices we remove to inner offices. All the folks at the office worked on this late in the work-day on Friday. Today Carol and I will bring our particular work-station computers back into our offices, as well as the papers we boxed up to transfer to inner offices.

We will go to church this morning. Carol asked me whether we should dress "Hurricane Casual", which is how we dressed for church after Hurricane Frances. Thus a new style has been born. We will dress Hurricane Casual.

Our friends the Carrs called up about some friends of theirs who are staying in a local motel. They are hurricane refugees. They came down from Indiantown, FL, near Stuart, an area hit hard by Frances and now hit hard by Jeanne. They live in mobil homes there, one of them already damaged by Frances. The Carrs said that they do not have much money and asked whether they could they stay with us for a few days if they decided they needed the help. We said they could. One of them suffers from PH, which is how the Carrs know them.

My mother stayed at Epworth Village. After moving there in June last year, it has become a home to her. She prefers to stay over there during the storms. I think that's fine.

Thanks for your calls and prayers.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Call for Fiction Titles. My friend, Raquel, who owns Downtown Book Center, told me today that she received an order for three thousand fiction titles for new federal prisons that are opening in the Southeast. She said that the prison authorities leave it up to her to choose the books, but require her not to pick titles that deal directly with violence. Half the titles are to be in Spanish and half in English.

I think Raquel would be receptive to some suggestions on titles. So if you know of some Christian or Christian-value fiction that I could suggest, fiction that might interest younger prisoners in prison, I will pass it on. I was thinking that perhaps the Frank Peretti series might be a candidate. I was also thinking of the CS Lewis science fiction series, maybe even the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the Tolkein series. But I would like to hear of what Kith and Kin folks would suggest.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Gods and Generals. Having recently finished reading Grant's Personal Memoirs and Carol being out of town for the weekend, I picked up this 3.5 hour video produced by Ted Turner and saw it yesterday. I had seen Turner's production of Gettysburg several years ago, and it was pretty good. Gods and Generals, however, was disappointing.

The story centers around Stonewall Jackson, who seems a parody to me of a 19th century Christian. A better word for him would be a "primitive". We first meet him teaching artillery at VMI. The movie contrasts Jackson's allegedly Old Testament view of about everything except, maybe, marital sex (we see him three or four times in bed with his wife), with that of the reasonable Major chamberlain, a Union officer from Maine, whom we first meet teaching philosophy at his college in Maine.

There is a thoroughly unbelievable relationship between Jackson and a black man named Jim , who volunteers to be his cook. Now let me get this straight, Ted. Jim wants slavery to be abolished, but will serve one of Lee's best generals and become such close friends with him that in one scene they pray together out in the bitter cold. (Oh, I get it now. The slave's name is Jim. Jackson is a type of Huck Finn. Of course.)

I was fascinated by Robert Duvall's Lee. He looked like Lee - a great make-up job. And Duvall had the accent down just right. I couldn't believe him as Lee, of course. It was always Robert Duvall playing Lee. But he did a simply terrific job on the accent. It showed a lot of hard work and a great ear. If you didn't have to watch the rest of the movie to see Duvall do his thing with the make-up and the accent, it would be worth the price of admission.

The reviews I read of this movie were pretty critical, but most of them gave it at least a B on the battle scenes. Well, maybe. I guess I have read too much of John Keegan to appreciate a war movie that focuses on the officers to the detriment of the soldiers. As to the "common" soldier, Turner mainly gives us stereotypes you've seen in every other B grade war movie that Hollywood has pushed out. There is the grizzled old sergeant; there is the soldier who announces that in the battle that is about to commence he is going to die.

On the other hand, I was moved by one battle scene in which an Irish unit on the Union side advances on an Irish unit of the Confederate side. Each of the opposing units has a battle flag with the same harp symbol of Ireland on it. They recognize each other as Irish, and keep on firing away. At a lull in the battle, one of the Confederates weeps.

The movie's thesis is that Virginia fought because it was invaded by the National army and the war was not about much else. Lincoln, to the extent he is considered by the movie, is not very competent and is out of touch. There has been a lot written about the various causes of the Civil War, and maybe its fair to pick one that you like, boil it down to the point that it sounds like propaganda, and make it the intellectual back-bone of your movie.

I can certainly say that Ted took this movie very seriously, as he did the movie Gettysburg, which I heartily recommend. At the end of Gods and Generals there is an announcement that Gods and Generals is part of a trilogy with Gettysburg. I will definitely go see the third one when it comes out. But my expectations will not be that high.

As a footnote let me add something about the books on which the movies Gods and Generals and Gettysburg are based. Gettysburg is based on a book by Michael Shaara entitled "Killer Angels". This is about the best historical/military novel I have ever read. It ranks right up there with Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire", which to me is the best. The movie Gods and Generals is based on a book by the same name that Michael Shaara's son, Jeffrey Shaara, wrote. I could not get into son Jeff's book nor his book on the revolutionary war entitled, the Glorious Cause. Son Jeff has another book out on the Civil War, "The Last Full Measure". It is this book upon which Turner's third movie in the trilogy will apparently be based. I haven't read that book and probably won't.
His to Lose. When Kerry was nominated, several people said that the election was his to lose. I agree with that. And I think he has.

Friday, September 10, 2004

On Working too Hard and on Rest.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. Ecclesiastes 4:6. (KJV)

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteouseness for his name's sake. Pslam 23: 1-3. (KJV)

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said: No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore ye shall flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. Isaiah 30: 15-16.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Some Wisdom. "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." Francis Bacon.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Wheels turn to help lift veterans out of depression. Here is an interesting and positive article in today's Miami Herald about helping veterans at Miami's Veterans' Administration nursing home.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Press during the Civil War. In chapter 47 of his Personal Memoirs, U.S. Grant describes the military situation at the point where he assumes the position of General-in-Chief in early 1864. His thesis is that the opposing forces in the East "stood in substantially the same relations toward each other as three years before." What arrests me about his discription is what he says about the press.

"Battles had been fought of as great severity as had ever been known in war, over ground from the James River and Chicahominy, near Richmond, to Gettysburg and Chambrsburg, in Pennsylvania, with indecisive results, sometimes favorable to the National army, sometimes to the Confederate army; but in every instance, I believe, claimed as victories for the South by the Southern press if not by the Southern generals. The Northern press, as a whole, did not discourage these claims; a portion of it always magnified rebel success and belittled ours, while another portion, most sincerely earnest in their desire for the preservation of the Union and the overwhelming success of the Federal armies, would nevertheless generally express dissatisfaction with whatever victories were gained because they were not more complete."
Keeping up with Current Events. Macon's post about the Dennis Miller interview made me think about where I am getting my "news" these days.

I have all but given up listening to NPR. (I continue to listen to the Diane Rehm show, when I can. And I listen to Tavis Smiley too.) During the last Presidential election, I gave up reading the New York Times, but will go to its website when I see an article from the NY Times cited or linked somewhere else. I have given up reading the Miami Herald, except for a glance at the headlines. I now read the Wall Street Journal, World Magazine (which often tries my patience), Google News, the Miami Business Review, and, of course, the various blogs, including Sean's, Macon's, InstaPundit, and Opinion Journal. I also read First Things. I get emails from Christianity Today magazine that take me to its site and from the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity to its site. I like to read these magazines too: QST, CQ, Nuts and Volts, Home Power.

We don't have cable or satellite, so our TV menu consists of the local stations and their networks. We never watch network news, however. We once watched the McLaughlin Group consistently, but it has become a broken record of left-wing liberalism, aided and abetted by two isolationist Republicans, McLaughlin and Buchanan, in large part. I don't mind hearing other views and they often make me think further about an issue and sometimes change my mind, but I know exactly what everyone is going to say on that show on any given news event before the show even begins.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Ulysses S. Grant Personal Memoirs. I am reading Grant's memoirs, which he wrote at the encouragement of his friend, Mark Twain. One of his signal successes occurred when he took command of the Union army at Chattanooga in October of 1863. The Union army was surrounded on three sides by General Bragg's Confederate forces, half-starved and discouraged, when Grant relieves the general who had been in charge. Bragg describes the situation in a letter to Jefferson Davis as follows:

"These dispositions [that is, the near surrounding of the Union army at Chattanooga by the Confederate army at the time Grant assumes leadersip], faithfully sustained, insured the enemy's speedy evacuation of Chattanooga for want of food and forage. Possessed of the shortest route to his depot, and the one by which reinforcements must reach him, we held him at our mercy, and his destruction was only a question of time."

But Grant acted quickly, and I will not describe what he did. But what is interesting is what he said about the results of what he did, and I will quote further from the book.

"But the dispositions were not 'faithfully sustained', and I doubt not but thousands of men engaged in trying to 'sustain' them now rejoice that they were not. There was no time during the rebellion when I did not think, and often say, that the South was more to be benefited by its defeat than the North. The latter had the people, the institutions, and the territory to make a great and prospeperous nation. The former was burdened with an institution abhorrent to all civilized people not brought up under it, and one which degraded labor, kept it in ignorance, and enervated the governing class. With the outside world at war with this institution, they could not have extended their terriroty. The labor of the country was not skilled, nor allowed to become so. The whites could not toil without becoming degraded, and those who did were denominated "poor white trash." The system of labor would have soon exhausted the soil and left the people poor. The non-slaveholders would have left the country, and the small slaveholder must have sold out to his more fortunate neighbor. Soon the slaves would have outnumbered the masters, and, not being in sympathy with them, would have risen in their might and exterminated them. The war was expensive to the South as well as to the North, both in blood and treasure, but it was worth all it cost".

So they ended their 4th encore last night at the Frank Erwin Center.

$55 dollars and worth twice as much.

I've never seen such pyrotechnics upstaged by a completely bada$$ show.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Invitation to Stokes Kith & Kin: I'm starting a new project over at Coast & Crown and welcome your input as I go along.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Dennis Miller was interviewed on NPR yesterday. On the program Here And Now, Robin Young spoke with Dennis on the phone during a lull in the action at the RNC. The interview came at the end of the 45 minute show (listen to the whole show here).

I clipped just the Dennis Miller interview (which is not directly available on the Here & Now site, you've got to listen to the whole show to hear Dennis). Listen to the Dennis Miller interview here.

Dennis is funny as he explains why he became a Republicanan and why he doesn't care that this might make him unpopular in Hollywood. One of my favorite exchanges between he and Robin is when they talk about whether or not NPR's "guy" is John Kerry (as opposed to Dennis's "guy": George Bush). I highly recommend you spend 6 minutes to listen to this exchange.

UPDATE: I had to delete the Miller audio to make room for more important things, like pictures of Aidan Walter Stokes. If you want the file, email me ( and I'll send it to you.
Hurricane Frances. With Charley only 2 weeks or so in the past and Hurricane Andrew "seared, I mean seared" in our memories, we have been watching Frances make its way toward us this week with considerable interest and concern. This morning we awakened to a "Hurricane Watch", and at 11 AM the watch turned into a "Hurricane Warning". At the office we went into pack-up mode, according to plan, as the business day began, moving everything from the outer offices to the inner offices except for the large pieces of furniture. By the time the weather service declared a "Hurricane Warning" we were nearly finished, and everyone had left for home by about 1 PM.

After we arrived back home, Carol and I pulled the camper out of the garage so that we could retrieve the metal pots and pans that would work better on our grill and camper stove. Getting the camper out of the garage also gave us room to bring down the shutters that are stored in the loft. People all over the neighborhood were out hammering, sawing, and putting up shutters too. I drove over to Reyna Luisi's house, the widow of my friend Mike who died two years ago of the same cancer I had. Reyna had bought my mother's house, and I wanted to see if she was getting up the shutters OK. Several of her friends and relatives were helping her, so she was well set. I returned to our house, and Carol and I finished putting up our shutters up about 5 PM. After a visit to the home of a new family in our church (more on that below) I took down my ham radio antenna while Carol made dinner (boy, can that lady cook!).

Several people younger than I either called or came over to see if we needed help. In years past, we were the ones calling older people with the same inquiry. Carol and I seemed to have passed some sort of threshold, and I'm not sure I am all that happy about it.

The minister of our church and his family prepared for their first hurricane. As we were putting our shutters up, he was driving by on his way to help a new family in our church with their shutters. He stopped to say hello and to tell us where he was going, in case we could get over there too. He and his family had already put the shutters up on their house, and they were all squared away. His son, a high school senior, came over about a half our later to see how we were doing. He was one of the people who wanted to know if we needed any help. We were about finished, so all of us went over to the house of the new family, where we found the pastor hard at work with the father of the family and a friend of his.

That pretty much defines his ministry approach.

We are hoping that Hurricane Frances will bear north and hit around Daytona Beach. We hate to wish such a thing on other people, but we still think that we are due some slack from Providence in light of Hurricane Andrew. We also pray that the hurricane will simply stall and weaken before it gets here. It is a very big one.