Friday, September 30, 2005

Anthropic Coincidences.

"It has been found that many features of the laws of physics seem to coincide exactly with what is required for the emergence of life to be possible. This is what is meant by the term anthropic coincidences."

-Barr, Stephen M., Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. (U. of Notre Dame Press 2003), p 118.

See Stephen M. Barr's article in First Things entitled "Anthropic Coincidences".

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Retail! This weekend, Walter and I will set up our first three Despair Carts (pat. pending) at three different malls in San Antonio. This whole enterprise has been a just-in-time exercise, which makes things interesting. Every other day is kind of like a Dukes of Hazzard cliff hanger: at the end of the day I can hear the voice-over, "Well, let's see if the boys will get out of this one tomorrow. Will they have enough inventory? Will the liability insurance arrive in time? Will they finish the Cart Operations Manual in time? Tune in tomorrow!"

This Sunday at Noon the NorthStar Mall Despair Cart opens, Monday at 10am the Despair Carts at Ingram Park Mall and Rolling Oaks Mall will open. Ready or not.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Huckabee's Ark. The name of an opinion piece in the WSJ on how Arkansas has dealt so well with the hurricane refugees, and does so with little help from the US government and lots of help from churches, scout camps and small towns.
No more delay on DeLay? Sean wins.
Don't Date Him, Girl! As the saying goes, "Hell hath no fury . . ." A new website, hatched in Miami (where else?) outs cheating husbands and boyfriends. This is testimony to how the systems the community once had for vetting prospective dates have completely broken down, and women are jumping blind into relationships. I wonder if the defamation lawyers will see an uptick in their market?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Vera Drake. This is the name of a movie from Britain that Carol and I viewed on DVD this past weekend. Its one of the "Critic's Choice for 2004" from the's movie review page. Its an interesting choice for CT, because its about abortion by a producer who is not anti-abortion. The film is sympathetic to all sides (even the police are treated with dignity), but I won't go into much detail here. It is so good, and its worth watching it unfold without knowing exactly what to expect.

I would like everyone to watch it, so that we can blog about it and the issues it raises. If you are a died in the world pro-lifer, this movie will be good for you. It won't change your mind, but it will help you approach the subject with more respect for the difficulties and inequities that this fallen world presents to the truth of the sanctity of human life, whether in the womb or without.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A new word: cicerone.

"Years later he [George Otto Trevelyan, the great British Historian] acted as cicerone to his talented son George Macaulay Trevelyan."

From the "Editor's Introduction" by Richard B. Morris of The American Revolution by George Otto Trevelyan, "a condensation into one volume of the original six-volume work." (David McKay Company, Inc. New York 1964.)

cicerone: A guide who conducts sight-seers to places or objects of interests, as museums or antiquities; hence, loosely, a guide.

Morris refers to the elder Trevelyan's travel with the younger through Italy.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Curses! Duck of Doom!

Aidan should have known better than to pick up a duck in a dungeon!

(For all those who've ever played Munchkin with us.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Self-Defense Update. I get ready for work in the AM: wallet, keys, change, watch, Palm Pilot, DayTimer, cell phone, brief-case, S&W .38 in its pocket holster, bullet strip. I collect the latter two items when Carol is not in the bed-room, because it still upsets her. But I am very nearly (but not quite completely) used to having the gun in my pocket as I go to and fro to work. One thing about the baggy suit pants that is part of the lawyer's uniform, I can stick the gun in its holster in my right front pocket, and no one has the slightest idea that a guy looking like a sheep is, ahem, a sheepdog. (I don't take it to the court-house, of course, which may be the most dangerous place I go during the month.) When I'm at work, the revolver, unholstered, and the bullet strip, goes in a drawer in my desk, a drawer reserved just for this equipment, a drawer about knee high and just to my right as I sit there and work.

Makes me think of Gary Busey, who played Eddie Lomax, the investigator in "The Firm". Except that Eddie didn't quite make it alive through the entire movie. But he went down swinging.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Worrying and Seeking. At TWT Wednesday night, we finally had "small group" sessions with the high-schoolers. Our group consisted of five ninth grade boys and one boy-crazy tenth grade girl. We read together Matthew 6: 25 - 34. (One of the boys was Justin Hume, of the famous Virginia Gardens Humes, whose older siblings played soccer with all our kids. And Justin is not the last Hume of his generation - there is a younger one than he! I really liked what I saw of Justin. For that matter, I liked what I saw of all of them.)

The passage you should read in its entirety. As usual, I learned something I didn't quite get in the past. Usually I have read this passage in pieces - or at least have thought of the pieces separately. The pieces are (a) Don't worry, God loves you, etc. and (b) Seek first his kingdom. What I didn't really get until Wednesday night is that the way to avoid worry is to get busy with God's kingdom. This is so obvious! What else have I missed in scripture? (Lots. But I have only been reading the Bible or having it read to me for about 59 years.) A corollary is that one is not of much use in God's kingdom if he is going around worrying about things.

How the kingdom is to be "sought" is an issue, of course. But that's for further consideration and prayer. The point is that we don't not worry because worry is not good for us, we don't not worry because we have other, more important things to do.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Alias season premiere - Thursday, Sept 29, 8/7C. Oh, yeah.

Austinites-can you get in the "mood" at 7?
You know I have gone over the edge when . . .
This column appeals to me.

I especially like the part of the "Code" dealing with Daddy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Where Does Fantasy Come From? And why? It is God-given. I guess that is an obvious answer for a Christian. Our imagination gives rise to fantasy and to its perhaps more legitimate cousin, art.

Then the question is, "Why would we be given this gift of imagination?" I would think that imagination allows us to behold mystery in a way that gives us joy and assurance.

The other day a young man I know who stubbornly asserts that he is an atheist said to me that the Trinity is simply unbelievable, because how can one thing be three things at once. How can Jesus be on the Cross, speaking to the Father, if the two of them are one? Putting aside my suspicion that the young man is being a little perverse to draw attention to himself, I don't see how you can begin to grasp the Trinity without the imagination, without the same sort of faculty that produced the Fellowship of the Rings and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

So, when I visit Macon and Kellsey and see their collection of fantasy/science fiction novels, I think I understand what is going on. They have lively imaginations, God given ones. They embrace mystery at a very serious and profound level. They exercise that gift in play when they read those books and watch those tv shows.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rita, Hello, Good-bye. Hurricane warnings went up yesterday morning, and so we closed the office at 1:00 PM, having learned a thing or two after Katrina's surprise visit. (I should say "relearn" a thing or two.) Came home, pulled the shutters out, and up they went. (Carol did a yeoman's job. Pioneer woman material.) I also took down the two vertical antennas I had left up during Katrina. Stuffed everything in the garage.

Some pretty stiff winds came by, but we got only the northern edge of the storm. Instead of the center passing over our house, it passed below Key West, threading the needle between that island and the island of Cuba through the Florida Straits. By the time it was about due south of Key West it had cranked up to a category two storm - Katrina had been barely a category one when it toured Miami Springs. So Rita is serious business.

About 3 this afternoon I went out and took down the shutters. We never lost power. No trees blew over or branches broke off - I think because Katrina had already done the pruning. So we were fortunate.

Now, however, Rita is breaking out into the Gulf of Mexico, with a track that could take it up to Texas and LA. We pray that it will simply blow itself out before it makes it that far.
"Narnia on Tour". Something with this title is having a lecture on C.S. Lewis in Austin on October 9.

The primary goal of the tour is to foster informed, local conversation about Lewis, his faith, imagination, and writing.

It appears in Charlotte on October 22. For a city near you, see the list of tour dates.

Friday, September 16, 2005

What is with these "Republicans"? Bush gives an open-ended promise to reconstruct the ravaged Gulf-coast, certain Republicans in Congress fall all over themselves to second him. If I want the federal government to play God, I don't need the Republicans - that's a Democrat skill-set. Makes me glad I haven't changed my registration.
Democratic Fantasies in Iraq? I sure hope this guy's wrong, but I have this uneasy feeling he is on target.
Dependent "Adults". Three times this week I have run into situations with grown-up people, people in their thirties, forties and even early sixties, who arranged their lives according to the wealth they expected to inherit from their parents. These people are neither happy nor competent in living well. For them, family wealth, either actual or imagined, has been a curse.

(I know what you are thinking: Sour grapes.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My Man, Cornelius. Our pastor, Van Lahmeyer, is taking us through the book of Acts. (Its a great trip with such a driver.) Recently, we looked at Cornelius in chapter 10, the Roman centurian whom God used to instruct Peter on the Gospel being meant for all people, not just the Jews. There are lots of things to say about this fascinating chapter, but one thing particularly struck me.

Cornelius is introduced as follows in verse 2:

He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

Cornelius was both pious and generous to those in need. He was a two legged man of God.

In the church in which I was raised, it was all about piety, all about "coming to Christ", daily Bible reading, and sending out missionaries. I don't remember much of anything about giving generously to those in need. The only thing that I heard along those lines was the work of medical missionaries, a not inconsequential work, to be sure, but one that was presented as sort of "bait" to get people to come to Christ, not something that stood on its own feet that Christians should do.) I would describe that as "one legged Christianity". We just sort of hopped around at our church. Its hard to prevail against the gates of Hades with an army of one-legged warriors.

(Obviously, Cornelius' generosity to those in need was not about getting those people to "come to Christ", because Cornelius had probably not himself "prayed the prayer", poor man.)

I am aware that "a text without a context is a pretext", but don't you think that the Cornelius story points us in the direction of ministering to the poor simply for the sake of their need and our plenty?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More Amalekite Lessons. I think it is instructive to think about the Amalekites as a sort of business entity. What they did was raid unprotected towns in Palestine, carry off the women and children to sell in the Egyptian slave markets (see Joseph and his brothers) and liquidate the rest of the booty. With many towns unprotected because the warriors were off fighting the Philistine/Hebrew wars, it was high cotton.

Other lessons include the very obvious one of not anticipating that David and his warriors might come home early. The question should have been "What can go wrong? What can go wrong?" They forgot to keep asking that question. I think a business that doesn't keep asking that question will finally fail.

This has a family dimension as well. I often see clients who "cash in" too early and point themselves at a life of leisure. In fact, I think I see an entire "demographic", the one that I am in, the aging yuppies, who are ready to do that and, if they cannot, are pretty upset. (The favorite retirement goal of South Florida, non-Latin white yuppies seems to be to retire to the mountains of North Carolina and play golf or tennis for the rest of their lives.)

That generation may ask: "What can go wrong?" All kinds of things. Stock market crash. Hyperinflation. Serious illness. Sudden single-ness for those who are married, brought about by death or total disability of the other spouse or by a broken marriage. Unanticipated and dramatic need among the younger generations that you believed were "set" and for whom you thought you had no further responsibility.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Amalekite Lesson. Thirtieth Chapter of 1 Samuel. David and his men leave behind Zilag, their base village, to go with the Philistine King Achish to battle Saul. (Achish had given refuge to David.) Achish's confederates reject David's help and Achish sends David and his men back home. When they arrive back in Zilag, they find the town destroyed by the Amalekites and their women, children, and flocks taken away.

After some weeping, gnashing of teeth, and talk among the men of stoning David, he leads them in pursuit of the Amalekites. They find them, and prepare to do battle, but by then 200 of David's men are so exhausted that only 400 can go with him on the attack. Nevertheless, the attack is brilliantly successful and every woman and child, beast and chattel is recovered and additional plunder as well. At the end of about 24 hours of battle, the scripture says that four hundred young, Amalekite men get away on camels. That's the same number of David's men going in. So the total Amalekite contingent must have been far larger. How could David have been so successful? I know the Lord is very much in this, but what data is there that could have indicated this "upset".

At our Bible study this morning, we concluded that prior to David's arrival the Amalekites had enjoyed too much success. When David's little army come up on them the Amalekite were "scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking, and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah". They were too greedy. "Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered".

I have seen negotiations where one side not only gets a bargain, but gets far more, to the great and even gloating satisfaction of everyone on that side. But those sorts of victories often turn against you. I think we need to be careful about our successes. We can seek too much, we can win too much, we can get bogged down by the spoils of our victories.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Today's Fun Run Music
During the run, while moving across a grassy playing field: "The Color Green" by Rich Mullins
"Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise"
A good moment to thank God for legs, and running and grass and breathing and air.

From the sublime to the banal. On my cool-down walk around the block:
"Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake. Oh yeah, baby.
"Just another heart in need of rescue.
Never seem to find what I'm looking for.
Dear Lord I pray you give me strength to carry on.
Cause I know what it means
To walk along this lonely street of dreams! (enter crunchy guitar riff!)"
Other than the facts that I wasn't lonely, or on a street (Sage Creek Loop), or altogether dreamy, it really applied to my situation.

And, it also a gives me a smooth segue to send a shout out to my friend Dave Zimmerman, who writes a way cool blog over at IV Press, and who just quoted RATT to me in an email. That guy has got guts!
Thirty-fifth Wedding Anniversary. Carol and I were married 35 years ago today, September 12, 1970, in Greensboro, N.C. What a blessing she has been to me and our family!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Carol Gives CNN a Piece of her Mind. Here is a copy of an email that Carol sent to CNN. As you may know, CNN went to court to get authority to take pictures of bodies of those killed by Katrina.

I find your request to photograph the bodies recovered from Hurricane Katrina to be appalling. It shows a complete lack of sensitivity to the feelings of those who have lost family members in this tragedy. Especially when contrasted with the decisions not to publish photographs of those killed on 9/11 (including those jumping from the buildings) and photos of those murdered by terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq so as not to "inflame passions" it calls your motives into question. Could it be that you do want to "inflame passions" over this event? Could it be that since your coverage from the beginning of the hurricane has focused on the federal response that you hope to "inflame passions" against the Bush administration? Could it be that you don't want to "inflame passions" in any way that might show the true nature of and danger from the enemies of our country? Your motives are transparent and are the reason why many of us no longer trust your reporting and seek other sources for our news.
The Miami Party

the menu:

Assorted galletas
Guayaba con queso crema
Plaintain chips
[Thanks to Mom for the above]

Sangria (traditional and white)

Ropa Vieja
Arroz (blanco y amarillo)
Platanos maduros
Plaintain mash
Spinach salad with green apples

Tres leches

the playlist:
All the songs listed have some connection to Miami. Ask if you can't figure out how.

1. Dreams--The Cranberries
2. Hands Down--Dashboard Confessional
3. Miami--U2
4. Vivir sin Aire--Mana
5. Ice Ice Baby--Vanilla Ice
6. Miami--Will Smith
7. Carry this Picture--Dashboard Confessional
8. Switch--Will Smith
9. Discotheque--U2
10. The Power of Good-bye--Madonna
11. Paso a Paso--Miami Sound Machine
12. Upward over the Mountain--Iron and Wine
13. Quizas, quizas, quizas--Omara Portuando & Teresa Garcia Cartula
14. Dreaming my Dreams--The Cranberries
15. Mysterious Ways--U2
16. Buena Vista Social Club--Buena Vista Social Club
17. Conga--Gloria Estefan
18. Just Another Day--Jon Secada
19. Whoot, There it Is (ultimix)--95 South
20. Don't Cry for me Argentina--Madonna
21. Universtiy of Miami Fight Song
22. Miami--Counting Crows
23. Vice (from Miami Vice)--Grandmaster Flash
24. Thong Song (edited version)--Sisqo

the scene:
We didn't get too many pictures, with none from our dinner outside on the patio, but here's a sampling of the fun.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Disaster Guns. We have had little if any Katrina discussion on the blog. If you are like me, you are in an ongoing assimilation process with respect to all of the data (and opinion) coming through the internet and other media. Events tumble over one another so that whatever we might say has to be provisional at best. The issues raised by the events are not abstract ones to me, however. They are quite personal, having lived not only through Andrew but also the civil "unrest" that occurred in Miami during 1980. In fact, it is the 1980 anarchy to which I most often refer as I view the Katrina images. In 1980, Miami had race riots after the trial of some policemen who beat to death a black man. That trial resulted in the acquittals of the policemen.

On the Sunday following the verdict, we came out of church in Miami Springs. We looked to the east and saw columns of smoke rising up about three miles away, where black neighborhoods were predominant. Foolishily, I thought that I had to go to the office that afternoon, and I took the expressway east to get there. Its route took me on the south side of those neighborhoods, but I saw police at each ramp and through-traffic on the expressway was unimpeded. I arrived at the office downtown. When I got to our floor, high in the building, I walked down the hall to look out the north and west side, and what I saw horrified me. At least eight columns of smoke arose from the area of town which I had skirted coming in. Finally, belatedly, I realized that the danger was personal, not just to me but to my family at home. I called Carol, described what I saw, and told her I was on my way back.

As I drove up the ramp to get on the expressway, still in the city, a black man emerged on the side of the ramp ahead of me and to my left. I kept driving in his general direction and then saw that he had a large, broken concrete block in his two hands and was eyeing me. Before I could do anything, he heaved it. Fortunately, the missle first struck the hood of my car, about two feet in front of my face, and richochetted to my right, hitting the windshield on the passanger side and shattering it. The force of the concrete block hitting the hood actually penetrated the hood to some extent.

(Ironically, the City of Miami police headquarters was on the other side of the ramp. Those people, however, were otherwise occupied, which is part of the point.)

I kept driving until I saw a highway patrol car on the side, and I pulled over and told the trooper about what happened (this was before cell phones were ubiquitous). He radioed a report immediately. I drove on home unmolested.

When I pulled up in the driveway, Carol came out of the house, saw the windshield, and started crying.

Even then, back at home, I felt relatively safe. Because of some peculiar urban geography, Miami Springs is accessible only at certain points, and the police were at each one of those points. But we were not, after all, that safe. Now I would certainly stay home and would be much better prepared.

Which brings me to the most recent Carnival of Cordite, which I recommend. The theme for this edition is "Disaster
Guns". I would subtitle that theme "Arming Yourself for Anarchy". No less a noted figure than Glenn Reynolds is quoted as saying that including a gun in one's survival kit is appropriate. There are a number of links to blogs where people make recommendations about the appropriate firearms. (For example, one can purchase a very simple shotgun at Wal-Mart for less than $90.)

Yes, I am beginning to sound like every right-wing NRA gun nut NPR has ever panned, but you have to think about what is happening in NOLA and what could happen in the event of a disaster where you live, whether generated by the weather or by one of America's enemies with a WMD.
Situational Awareness
It seems to me that one of the main issues in the discussion on my running habits is that of situational awareness. (Brian raises an aesthetic issue, and while important, it comes down to an "I like chocolate, you like vanilla" discussion.) SA is one's awareness of the threat level created by persons, objects & possibilities for action in your vicinity. (My own definition.) Having headphones on compromises one's SA because hearing what's going on around you is an important part of your overall assessment of those persons, objects & possibilities for action. I am happy to stipulate, for this discussion, that headphones have this effect on one's SA.

That said, let me also say that I have a constant Threat Assessment program consciously running in my head at all times. I'm not saying that I'm the best at it, as I'm sure that specially trained military folks are way ahead of me here, but I do think that I take it very seriously. I think about it while running, while walking with Aidan to Sbux, while walking around inside my office, while walking through my own house, for crying out loud! In other words, I'm constantly updating my SA, even when I'm sitting at my computer in my dining room, in my own house, in the day, with all my doors locked.

There are a few things that have contributed to this:
--getting assaulted in Middle School: nothing alerts you to the physical threats of the world like getting punched so hard you are knocked out
--going to a very middle class and very overcrowded public high school
--studying Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate with blue collar folks where bruises were not optional and if you weren't ready to puke by the end of the class, you weren't at the end of class
--studying said Karate in a dojo located in a warehouse district in Miami-Dade County, across the street from a Miami-Dade County Detention Center
--going out with friends in Miami: Downtown, Coconut Grove, Hialeah. You know, places known for their safety.
--reading books like this, and this

So while I think the world is a beautiful place, filled with exciting possibilities, and I delight in sunshine on my face, a breeze ruffling my hair, and I look to see the Lord's gracious providence at work in all places -- I am equally convinced that there's a real possibility that around the next corner is someone/something that could do me serious harm. In fact, every corner I turn where there isn't someone/something lying in wait I thank the Lord for his gracious providence. In other words, rather than viewing the world as a good & happy place where bad things are the exception, I view the world as a place where bad things happen, and when they don't, it's a direct result of the Lord's gracious providence. Like Pope John Paul II & Jacques Ellul it seems to me that the world is bent on self-destruction and it is the Lord who preserves the world in spite of itself.

Getting back to running with headphones. I don't use them when, in my assessment, they put me at unusual risk. (Remember that I already think that the world is a risk, so going for No Risk situations is not an option, as well as being naive and foolish.) So running on the street and going around a blind corner: the earbuds are out. Running along a frequented trail the earbuds are in. Of course, being a fit (relatively) 30 year old, 6 foot, 160 pound male plays a big part in my Threat Assessment. And even when my earbuds are in, I'm observing shadows, looking for and avoiding the blind corners/dark alleys, visually sweeping my area, etc.

There are some days when I'm running to work out general frustrations with the day. And on those days, I occasionally run through a dark alley or two. Not because I didn't notice they're dark, but because maybe there'd be someone there who'd volunteer to help me work out my stress. But that's only occasionally. Seriously. Don't worry Mom.

I do, however, run with scissors. Is this a problem?

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Beach High Soccer "Carry".

I remember a great soccer game in which both Macon and Walter played during high school, when the Springs High varsity played Beach High. (Macon was a senior, Walter in ninth grade.)

The Beach High players (who were really good and played really dirty, which was fine) had, as part of their bag of tricks, a "carry". Their "carry" was the ball itself, which they did when the refs weren't looking.

On the other hand, I noticed Walter took some action regarding a Beach High player when the ref was not looking. Much to the cheers of his team-mates on the sideline and his old man.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I put the Free World in jeopardy again today
by going running with my shuffle & headphones. (If you're lost, then clearly you haven't read the comments to this post.)

While some have advocated for me to take certain measures for protection, I'm currently thinking that this would be more appropriate. That way, I'll be safe and if I ever need to join the US Millitary for the Global War on Terror, I'll be ready. 'sides, I think running with that would be a serious deterrent to any would be attackers. Shoot, it would deter anyone from even being on the same block as me!

Completely unplanned, my run began with "We're Not Going To Take It," by Twisted Sister and the very last (uphill!) block was run to "Sloop John B," by The Beach Boys. ("I feel so broke up, I want to go home," expressed my end of run sentiments exactly.) In the middle was alot of good stuff, but I thought it was a particularly fun beginning and ending.
A Carry for Scott. I haven't figured out how to do links in comments, but I did want to respond to Scott's concern about a carry while bicycling. This might do for Macon too as he runs around with his iPod.
Dimes, Sugar, and Quarters: An old Nita-ism.

In her inventory of idioms, my mother, Juanita, keeps this one close at hand: "Too much sugar for a dime, and not enough for a quarter".

I think we all know what this means, but maybe you can do better than I in expressing that meaning. The idea is that whatever effort that a result seems to require is more than the result is worth, but the effort itself is not particularly meaningful either.

The saying also provides a handy excuse for not doing something that, perhaps, ought to be done. Finally, it gives a basis for criticizing some other person's proposal or some other person efforts.

There is at least one song with this title. The song is by Merle Travis, and you can read the lyrics here. The gist of the lyric is that the relationship in question is not worth the cost. The "sugar" is not quite worth the time and treasure, reminding me of the lyrics to an old folk song much sung in the sixties called "The Lemon Tree":

Lemon Tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

That was a good lyric for a teenage boy to have in his head.

But I digress . . .

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Back on the running wagon
In terms of getting me out the door and putting one foot in front of the other, my iPod Shuffle is one of my most important pieces of gear. I've just started running again this past month and my Shuffle plays a pretty crucial part in that. Here's how my internal should-I-go-run-now? calculus works: (+) indicates a motivator, (-) indicates a demotivator

(+) my favorite shorts don't fit like they used to, (-) but it's hot outside!, (-) I'm already tired from the day, (+) but I know I'll feel better both in the medium and long run if I go, (-) but in the immediate short term I'll feel really poor due to all those hills outside! (-) umm, did I mention that I'm tired, (+) but I'll actually get a better rest tonight if I exercise today, (+) I really want to be able to run around the soccer field with Aidan in 10 years without injuring myself &/or embarassing myself, (-) I'll get all sweaty and have to take a shower before bed, that's a good 20-30 minutes I could be doing other things, (+) oooooh, I wonder which songs will get shuffled up the next time I listen to my shuffle? Let's go see!

Seriously, that's pretty much how it goes. Other observations on my thinking while I'm at it: generally, my reasons for not running (or exercising in general) are short term, and my reasons for doing so are long term. Being interested in the variety of my own music served up is a short term (even if admittedly small) reason, and seems to be enough to push me over the edge in doing it. Funny that. Seems like all the long term reasons are really good ones, but they get trumped by the short term ones, and it takes a short term reason to help me get going.

(Merlin Mann of 43 Folders calls this a Life Hack (e.g. something you do to/for yourself that helps you to do the thing you need to do). He's got lots of them here. And all you productivity geeks like me should be reading his blog anyway.)

I've had a number of different "audio sources" for my runs since High School: the Walkman, basic radio strapped to the arm, Nike flash player, iPod, but the Shuffle beats them all for these reasons:
-- it's super light. I have a back pocket on my running shorts and I don't notice it at all when I drop the shuffle into it.
-- it's easy to operate. The user interface is really straightforward and so easy that I don't even have to take it out of my pocket to play/pause, vol+/-, or <> songs. I can do it by touch through the fabric.
-- it's easy to fill with a robust variety of good music. This takes a little bit of preplanning, but I've rated most of my songs and set up a "Top Rated" playlist that automatically populates itself with all the, you guessed it, top rated songs in my library. I plug the shuffle in, click "Autofill" which is preset to the "Top Rated" list, and the shuffle is filled with 150 songs randomly selected from the playlist, with the filling weighted towards higher rated songs. My library is big enough at this point that I am still surprised at songs that come up ("oh yeah! I forgot I had this one!"), but am guaranteed that the only things in the shuffle are songs that I like.

My previous audio sources failed on at least one of those three criteria and wound up being one more reason not to go running.

When the shuffles first came out, I read an article about how Apple had discovered that most people used the shuffle function on their iPods more than anything else, and enjoyed the random strings of songs it put together. When I read that my reaction was, "well, ok, that seems kind of strange, but whatever." But now I repent and confess that I get it. It really is fun to hear Johnny Cash followed by Green Day followed by Over The Rhine. As songs reach their end, I'm thinking, "what's next? what's next?" And my brain gets distracted from the complaints from various muscle groups by thinking about connections between songs, or the absolute disconnect from one song to another.
Colorful Language and Handling Anger in I Samuel.

I am having a good time at the Tuesday morning Bible Study, led by Worth Carson at Granada PC[A]. Today we covered I Samuel 25, where the major characters are David, Abigail and a dunce named Nabal.

This passage relates that David and his men (who are out in the wilderness avoiding Saul) had been providing protection from the Philistines to Nabal, a rich sheep and goat herder. Shearing time has arrived, which is a festive occasion. David sends word to Nabal and asks most respectfully whether he and his men may come and party with Nabal and his clan. Nabal sends word to David that David may go fly a kite. This really angers David. Really.

Worth is a Hebrew scholar, and he related the literal translation of some of the passages. In my NIV, verse 13 reads "David said to his men, 'Put on your swords!'" Worth said that the literal translation is simply "Swords!!" I think the Hebrew communicates something here that the NIV does not.

But what is more interesting is the literal translation of the oath that David makes in verse 22, so angry is he. The NIV reads, "May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him [Nabal]."

The Hebrew translation is " . . . if by morning I leave alive any among them who pisses against a wall."

Colorful. What else are we missing not knowing Hebrew?

The main point of the story is how Abigail staunches David's anger. What a wise and beautiful woman. I want to read more about her.

We discussed the matter of dealing with anger, of how men deal with it (often poorly, when they are left to themselves), and how an intelligent, beautiful, God-fearing woman can transform a very dangerous situation. What a blessing for any man to have an Abigail nearby at a time of crisis.

(Or any other time, for that matter.)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Why it may not be a bad idea to know how to handle a gun.

Neighbors helping neighbors.
More on Amateur Radio and the Ionosphere.

This hobby never ceases to amaze me. There is software to map what the ionosphere is doing on a near real time basis.

The software integrates with another program that pulls satellite data off the internet to actually make the map.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Blowing Away the Other Generations

THE top 100 of 1964, Ladies and Gentlemen

As I understand the rules:

a) bold the songs you like
b) strike through the ones you hate (html code is "strike" inside the brackets)
c) underline your favorite
d) and ignore the ones you don't remember/don't care about.

The problem is that I would listen to all of them, even "Dang me".

1. I Want To Hold Your Hand, The Beatles

The above was my favorite (don't know how to underline)

2. She Loves You, The Beatles

The problem was that year, she really didn't

3. Where Did Our Love Go, Supremes

It never arrived in the first place, so though I liked this song, it wasn't about me. And I was all about me then. (Then?)

4. Oh, Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison

I wanted to sing like Roy then. Now I do, of course.

5. I Get Around, Beach Boys

6. Everybody Loves Somebody, Dean Martin

And you were right, Dean. My mother loved me.

7. My Guy, Mary Wells
8. People, Barbara Streissand

This song seems so maudlin now. But I listened to her albums all through college. I thought she had the most fantastic, expressive and wonderful voice. She totally mesmerized me.

9. Last Kiss, J. Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers
10. Hello, Dolly!, Louis Armstrong
11. We'll Sing In The Sunshine, Gale Garnett
12. Java, Al Hirt

13. A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles

Wow. To have one of those! A Hard Day's Night! I didn't know what that consisted of, but I was ready.

14. Love Me Do, The Beatles
15. Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Manfred Mann
16. Under The Boardwalk, Drifters

17. Dancing In The Street, Martha and The Vandellas

I saw Martha and the Vandellas in the fall of '65 perform at the Stallion Club in Durham, which was a huge black night club. Will never forget it.

18. Little Children, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas
19. Love Me With All Your Heart, Ray Charles Singers
20. Please Please Me, The Beatles
21. Chapel Of Love, Dixie Cups
22. Suspicion, Terry Stafford
23. Glad All Over, Dave Clark Five
24. Rag Doll, Four Seasons
25. Dawn (Go Away), Four Seasons
26. Bread And Butter, Newbeats
27. It Hurts To Be In Love, Gene Pitney
28. Dead Man's Curve, Jan and Dean

29. Come A Little Bit Closer, Jay and The Americans

She wouldn't. She didn't. That was a good thing.

30. A World Without Love, Peter and Gordon
31. Have I The Right?, Honeycombs
32. Don't Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man), Serendipity Singers

33. Baby Love, Supremes

Discovered the Supremes when I went to Duke in the Fall of '64. The rock and roll stations in Miami did not do black.

34. Let It Be Me, Betty Everett and Jerry Butler
35. Wishin' And Hopin', Dusty Springfield
36. You Don't Own Me, Lesley Gore
37. Walk On By, Dionne Warwick
38. The House Of The Rising Sun, Animals
39. G.T.O., Ronny and The Daytona

40. Twist And Shout, The Beatles

Did that a lot.

41. Memphis, Johnny Rivers
42. White On White, Danny Williams
43. Hey Little Cobra, Rip Chords
44. The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss), Betty Everett
45. Bits And Pieces, Dave Clark Five
46. My Boy Lollipop, Millie Small
47. Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Major Lance
48. The Little Old Lady, Jan and Dean
49. Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying, Gerry and The Pacemakers
50. A Summer Song, Chad and Jeremy
51. The Girl From Ipanema, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto
52. Can't Buy Me Love, The Beatles
53. Remember (Walkin' In The Sand), Shangri-Las
54. C'mon And Swim, Bobby Freeman
55. Do You Want To Know A Secret, The Beatles
56. Keep On Pushing, Impressions
57. Baby I Need Your Loving, Four Tops
58. Navy Blue, Diane Renay
59. Diane, Bachelors
60. Out Of Limits, Marketts
61. Little Honda, Hondells
62. See The Funny Little Clown, Bobby Goldsboro
63. Because, Dave Clark Five
64. (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet, Reflections
65. For You, Rick Nelson
66. Today, New Christy Minstrels
67. Can't You See That She's Mine, Dave Clark Five

68. Leader Of The Pack, Shangri-Las

Burrruummm! Burruummm!!!

69. Funny, Joe Hinton
70. The Way You Do The Things You Do, Temptations
71. Anyone Who Had A Heart, Dionne Warwick
72. I Love You More And More Every Day, Al Martino

73. It's Over, Roy Orbison

I liked this one, even though it never got started.

74. Ronnie, Four Seasons
75. Surfin' Bird, Trashmen
76. What Kind Of Fool (Do You Think I Am), Tams
77. The Door Is Still Open To My Heart, Dean Martin
78. You Really Got Me, Kinks
79. The Shelter Of Your Arms, Sammy Davis Jr.
80. I'm So Proud, Impressions
81. Money, Kingsmen
82. Haunted Houses, Gene Simmons

83. Dang Me, Roger Miller

There ya go, Scott!

84. Do You Love Me, Dave Clark Five

And the answer was . . .

85. (You Don't Know) How Glad I Am, Nancy Wilson
86. I Wanna Love Him So Bad, Jelly Beans
87. Don't Throw Your Love Away, Searchers
88. Hi-heel Sneakers, Tommy Tucker
89. How Do You Do It, Gerry and The Pacemakers
90. Walk, Don't Run '64
91. Cotton Candy, Al Hirt
92. Shangri-La, Robert Maxwell, His Harp and Orchestra
93. Chug-a-lug, Roger Miller
94. Steal Away, Jimmy Hughes

95. Louie Louie, The Kingsmen

There was a secret, maybe sexy message in there. But could never figure out what they were saying. But we always listened. We did get the word "Louie" several times.

96. A Fool Never Learns, Andy Williams
97. Bad To Me, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas
98. There! I've Said It Again, Bobby Vinton
99. I Saw Her Standing There, The Beatles
100. Needles And Pins, Searchers

Friday, September 02, 2005

Posted while watching the SG-1 Fan Favorite Marathon. Woo!

Because (1) It's been way to long since I posted, and (2) I'm so proud of him for coming out as such a strong opponent against idiotarianism, I'm going to follow Sean's lead and take a plunge into the Songs-That-Came-Out-My-Senior-Year-In-High-School Meme. But only 50, not the full 100. Cause I know you people like me and think I'm fairly interesting, but I'm not going to push my luck.

Here's the way you play:
1) Go to and, in the search box provided, enter the year you graduated high school.
2) From the search results, click the link for the top 100 songs of that year. [Or 50]
3) With the resulting list:
a) bold the songs you like [Sean's definition (which I'm adopting): I'm going to define 'like' as 'i'd listen to it if it came on the radio and not change the channel]
b) strike through the ones you hate (html code is "strike" inside the brackets)
c) underline your favorite
d) and ignore the ones you don't remember/don't care about.

I'm in the class of '93.
1. I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston
And IIIIIIIIIII-eyyiiiiiii will always hate this soooooooongggggggg

2. Whoomp! (There It Is), Tag Team
This is the 1993 equivalent to "Who let the dogs out?" kind of song.

3. Can't Help Falling In Love, UB40
I think this list is going to indicate fairly quickly that I am a certain kind of romantic. Cause while I hate #1, I really like this song. Really alot.

4. That's The Way Love Goes, Janet Jackson
5. Freak, Silk
6. Weak, SWV
7. If I Ever Fall In Love, Shai
8. Dreamlover, Mariah Carey
9. Rump Shaker, Wreckx-N-Effect
10. Informer, Snow
11. Nuthin' But A "G" Thang, Dr. Dre
Don't remember this at all. I'm just striking it out on principle.

12. In The Still Of The Nite, Boyz II Men
See? I really like this one too.

13. Don't Walk Away, Jade
14. Knockin' Da Boots, H-Town
Yeah, there were some real winners this year.

15. Lately, Jodeci
16. Dazzey Duks, Duice
A definite winner. I want to dance just hearing it in my head.

17. Show Me Love, Robin S.

18. A Whole New World, Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle
There were some girls I knew at Davidson (one of whose initials are "K" and "S"), who watched this movie ALOT. Because I'm a sensitive guy, I watched it along with them ALOT-1 times. I'll be happy never to hear it again. [Update: (in response to a certain commenter) Where ALOT = 2.]

19. If, Janet Jackson
20. I'm So Into You, SWV
21. Love Is, Vanessa Willlams and Brian Mcknight
22. Runaway Train, Soul Asylum
Great song. Even better, if very very sad, music video.

23. I'll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me), Expose
24. Ditty, Paperboy
25. Rhythm Is A Dancer, Snap
Truer words were never sung to a super cool backbeat.

26. The River Of Dreams, Billy Joel
Not a fan of BJ.

27. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), Proclaimers
28. Two Princes, Spin Doctors
Ooooooh! Two good ones! I danced many a night away at Sig Ep to these two songs. [Update: Cause, just like Sean, I forgot to underline my favorite.]

29. Right Here (Human Nature)-Downtown, SWV
30. I Have Nothing, Whitney Houston
31. Mr. Wendal, Arrested Development
32. Have I Told You Lately, Rod Stewart
I agree with you, Sean.

33. Saving Forever For You, Shanice
34. Ordinary World, Duran Duran
Too bad the Duran Duran comeback didn't make it.

35. If I Had No Loot, Tony! Toni! Tone!
36. I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), Meat Loaf
I do not understand the fascination with Meat Loaf. His name should be Meat Lame.

37. Slam, Onyx
One of the all time great Let's-Get-Hype! songs.

38. Looking Through Patient Eyes, P.M. Dawn
39. I'm Every Woman, Whitney Houston
Sheesh. She was having a banner year.

40. Baby I'm Yours, Shai
41. Come Undone, Duran Duran
42. I Don't Wanna Fight, Tina Turner
43. I'd Die Without You, P.M. Dawn
44. Whoot, There It Is, 95 South
45. Hip Hop Hooray, Naughty By Nature
Sig Ep. Dance Floor. Impressing the Ladies. Moi.

46. Another Sad Love Song, Toni Braxton
47. Will You Be There, Michael Jackson
48. Comforter, Shil
49. Good Enough, Bobby Brown
50. What's Up, 4 Non Blondes
The Strident and Angry Criticism Loudly and Continuously Voiced by the Mayor of New Orleans.

Demonstrating once again that the best defense is a good offense.
I have no idea who has been talking about oil prices in 1980, but . . .

Economist David Rosenberg at Merrill Lynch says, in a research note titled You Will Never Hear These Words Again: " "Don't worry, gas prices are still below 1980 levels in real terms" … As if comparing things to 1980 was supposed to make anyone feel better in any event -- it was one of the worst recessionary phases the economy endured in modern times."

-Today's WSJ.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Too Clever by Half. From what I read, it will be weeks and perhaps months before the economic disequilibrium caused by Hurricane Katrina will stabilize, although we are assured that it will stabilize. The length of time that it takes will depend in part on what reserves or "slack" in the economy we had at the time that the disaster began. With "just in time" processes well embedded in the economy, processes meant to banish idle resources from the system, unanticipated jolts could make recovery more difficult than it would be otherwise. So, in the longer run, day to day efficiency may be more costly than allowing a bit of inefficiency to linger in the system.

A law school professor of mine once described the advantages of inefficiency in the criminal justice system. He said that we would really not want to have a zero crime rate. Instead, he said public policy should seek an optimum crime rate, which would not be zero. He argued that the application of enough coercive government force to attain a zero rate (assuming it would even be attainable) would create a police state that would be intolerable.

"Inefficiency" and "slack" are probably the wrong words to use in this discussion, because they are pejorative. Maybe the right words are "rest" or "Sabbath". When there is no "Sabbath" in the economy, then a crisis can break the system. It remains to be seen whether our economy will be broken or merely strained.

And this, of course, applies in our individual lives as well. We are maxed out, and then we get sick and we find ourselves behind where we would have been had we taken care of ourselves right along. Married couples with children are maxed, whether it is because both spouses work outside the home in demanding jobs, or because a full bridge, golf, church, or soccer schedule sucks up time and energy, and nothing is left in the tank when the family gathers except to watch TV.

On the other hand, just think what God could have done had he worked that seventh day?