Wednesday, November 30, 2005

For Mary

We recently received a request for more video of Aidan walking. So, here you go. In the beginning, you may notice he's tapping his head repeatedly. This is his sign for "hat". Also, we were disappointed to discover that once compressed for the .mac account, the scenes in black were much more difficult to see than when we originally made them. The effect is actually quite interesting when it is not so compressed. So, we're sorry that you can't really see it. If you really want to see the video in its highest quality, you just come on down to the Stokes house here on Sage Creek and help yourself to a heaping helping of Stokes family love.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

And Speaking of Richard Scarry . . .

Young Walter's Turn.

In Mr. Harris' chair, getting ready.

All trimmed up.
Several Years Earlier . . .



Monday, November 28, 2005

Crisis Averted!
There is a shocking lack of first-born son pictures on this blog. Blah blah blah Hurricane Damage, blah blah football, blah blah blah sister. Whatever.

Thankfully, I am able to solve this dearth of quality photography by unveiling (dum da da dum!)
Aidan's First Haircut
Back in my day, I was taken to this place called a "barber shop" where there worked a "barber" and I sat in the "barber's chair," which looked nothing like a taxi cab. Nothing.

I did, though, get a lollipop afterwards.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Photos from the Ball Game.

We arrived early and sat toward the NW end of the venerable Orange Bowl. Carol snapped this of Mary and me.

A little later, as the stadium filled up, I snapped this of Carol and Mary.

Some game action.

The UM Band takes the field.
A view of the east end zone, the beautiful South Florida sky, and the downtown Miami skyline in the distance. (You can just see the top of our building. Its in front of the taller building with tower on it, which you can see to the left of the end zone sign.)
Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever

Our kids grew up with Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever and it was one of their favorite books in their young years. They would often leave the book open on a chair in our family room so that they could go over to it through the day to look at the illustrations and words and maybe point out some pictures to me so that I could tell them the word for that picture. In addition to identifying individual words the book also had a bit of a narrative to go along with the various scenes. There were also characters who recurred throughout that book and other books by Richard Scarry. Lowly Worm was one of my favorite characters (he lived inside a bright red apple), and there were also Huckle Cat, Lowly's best friend, and Sergeant Murphy, the town policeman, among others. We read and loved the book so much that by the time our children had outgrown it our book was completely worn out.

When we learned we were going to have a grandchild that was one of the books I knew I wanted to get for the baby even though it would be a while before he could appreciate it. I began to look for it in bookstores and couldn't find it at first. Then one day I spotted it and immediately bought it. When I looked through it it looked similar, though somehow not quite the same, and it seemed thinner (fewer pages) than I remembered it. But still I was very glad to have found it and we gave it to Aidan. So I was disappointed when I read this post today on Althouse. Apparently in the newer version of the book they changed some things to make the book more "politically correct" than the old version. Some of the changes seem ok. Others seem to have taken some of the personality out of the book and also some of the life and drama that made it so interesting to our children and made them want to know the word for every illustration they saw. It also seems they've removed some of the values that were good for children to learn.

Follow the link to the Althouse and her comments and then her link to Flickr to see some of the changes for yourself. The Flickr link is very clever - you can see the changes as a slide show if you want and some parts of the pictures have comments when you move your cursor over them. The version we had was definitely the earlier edition. I think I'd like to start looking around used book stores to see if I can find the original version. (By the way, this post is by Carol.)
Going to the UM-UVA Football Game. Mary visited for Thanksgiving. She has friends in Winston from UVA. We decided to go to the UM-UVA football game yesterday at the Orange Bowl, so she could (we hoped) Lord it over them when she got back. (That is not why she said she wanted to go, but the poor thing is related to me, and that's certainly why I would have wanted to go.)

It has been many, many years since we went to a UM game - we always enjoyed them with the kids, up there in the end-zone cheap seats with the family package. We adopted UM as our school back in the late 70s, mainly because Duke had a terrible football team and, otherwise, the cultural/value distance between Duke and us seemed to grow larger as the years went by. And being in Miami, where its population is alienated from that of the rest of the state for one reason or another, the 'Canes were a natural. And we hit the football team just as its curve of success went dramatically upward.

For this game, we bought the tickets over the internet, and we had no seating choice - the tickets were simply assigned and they were all the same price ($50). That was very different from the old days. Furthermore, we were on the north side of the Orange Bowl, where the visitors usually sat. As I looked out over the north side, which was about full, and then looked over to the south side, the "Miami side", it was plain that the north side had many more people in it. And those on the north side, like us, were all for the 'Canes. Then it struck me - TV - the cameras and the broadcast booths are on the south side, they look to the north. So the strategy is to fill up the north side so the place looks crowded and boisterous (and it was). We were not so much spectators as spectatees, not so much UM fans but extras on a gigantic set.

But that's ok.

We were there plenty early to look at the warm ups. At one point, the entire UM team was on the east half of the field, lined up in rows across the filed, a row on each 5 yard line division, doing calisthenics. As they did that, I saw Coach Coker go up and down each line, shaking each player's hand and speaking to him. He took his time with that task and often had a short conversation with a player. Is this the usual sort of thing for a coach to do? It seemed to fit the idea I have of Larry Cocker - a fine Christian gentleman.

Alcohol consumption has always been an issue. I remember at one point no beer was sold at UM games, and it was controversial when they began doing so. The policy was not to sell any after the first half. As we went into the stadium, I noticed booths where they were selling not beer, but wrist bands that would entitle you to a bottle (plastic bottles it turns out). You could buy and have affixed to your wrist, two wristbands - for two bottles. I don't know how they keep track of people who, after using their wrist bands, go back and buy two more at a different booth, but at least they are trying to dampen the problem. And it looked to me like they were pretty successful. I saw people whose boisterousness seemed to be assisted by the hop, but I didn't see anyone who was fall-down drunk or mean and obnoxious.

Speaking of food and beer sales, I saw no vendors going up and down the aisles selling anything, not beer, not food - nothing. I saw people go and bring back stuff (awful stuff) to eat and drink - but no "beer guys" or those sorts of people. Maybe they were there and I didn't see them.

The fans were half the show, and I had forgotten how much fun it was just to look at people. 'Canes football in Miami really brings the community together, in all its amazing homogenizing diversity.

The game itself was a lot of fun. UVA had a good team - quick and crafty, with a smart and talented quarterback, and I thought they played with more intensity at times than did UM. The 'Canes did well to win, and the final score did not do justice to the Cavalier effort. I would say that, finally, the 'Canes were the better team, but not all that much. And UVA could have beaten them.

We parked in some public parking lots, north across the Miami River from where the Orange Bowl is located. These are lots at the "Government Center" where reside the state courts and other state buildings. The lots are opened and managed for the 'Canes games, and there were some tail-gate parties under way as we rolled in. We drove through a group of tail-gaters who wore orange shirts, and I thought they were UM fans. There was a guy playing a trumpet and the tune I did not get at first. When we got out of our car, I recognized the tune: "I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech . . . ". These people were UVA fans! They were rubbing in that unfortunate loss to the Yellow Jackets.

Fortunately, no one but the Stokes family in Dade County has any idea what that tune meant, because Georgia Tech is as familiar as the Czech national ice hockey team. So I am sure those folks got out alive.
Holy Skype! Have you seen this? RadioShack rules!

Actually, the Morningstar analyst does not believe RadioShack rules. He thinks that Best Buy, Amazon, and Circuit City will eat their lunch, not to mention the tech innovators who direct sell. The analyst thinks that RadioShack's "moat" is in selling batteries and accessories. (I think he means those things in the back of the store.) He points out that as a percentage of revenue, those categories have been declining.

What do you think? Is there a shopper who doesn't want to deal with a big box store and with the internet, and whose main exposure to technology is walking into a RadioShack while his wife is doing the mall thing. Macon says that he has not seen too many customers in the RadioShacks of the malls he has been in recently. Is this a business model that will work?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Black Friday. So Macon & Walter, consider this post a soliciation for a post from you regarding your first Black Friday as a retailer. Did today bring "we're-finally-in-the-black" bliss :) or despondant sorrow as in, "oh-shucks-we're-in-deep-pooh-pooh." :(

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"The Return".

Disclaimer: I don't think I give the plot away of this great movie. But proceed at your own risk.

The Christianity Today movie reviews listed this movie as one of the "10 most redeeming movies of 2004". It is a 2003 Russian movie about what happens when a father, absent from his family for 12 years, returns. The story centers on the relationships between the father and his two sons, the older about 16 and the younger about 13, and the two sons with each other.

Both boys are desperately hungry for a father. They have an old, well thumbed photo of their family hidden in an old trunk, and, at the beginning of the movie, when they learn the father has just returned and they see him asleep, they run to the hiding place and look at it to verify that the man they saw asleep is the man in the old picture. The photo shows the four of them, mother, father, and tiny boys, the 12 year old hardly more than a baby, happily together, a complete family, which must be the storyteller's idea of the best life can offer and with which idea I heartily agree. (This photo is tied to another, similar photo that the boys find at the end of the movie.)

Not long into the movie, the father takes the boys on a fishing trip. The older boy is compliant and submissive but the younger boy is angry about his father's absence, which is explained neither to the boys nor to us, except for hints as the story unfolds. The father must discipline the younger son (who is played by a simply remarkable young actor), and must admonish him even to call him "Dad". That terribly difficult relationship, the newly returned father and the younger son, is the lever that propels the plot. The heart of the movie is the fishing trip, but there is a sequence of photos shown at the very end of the movie which seems to offer hope to a deep, sad narrative.

I don't want to give any more away, but I will say that it is well worth a view. See the movie with some friends and then reserve some time to discuss it.
Blueprint for Action. Tom Barnett is a favorite of Sean, and I can understand why. Barnett has written a new book entitled Blueprint for Action, which I would like to read after reading this informal review by a youngish Army veteran of Bosnia and Iraq. The subject matter is the challenge of building political, social, and economic infrastructure in territory that one's army occupies. That task has fallen, in fact, to our Armed Forces in Bosnia and Iraq, and the thesis is, I think, that our country needs to develop a separate "systems" force to do this sort of thing

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Semper Fi.

Drudge points to this article on the question of how the US would come out in a war with China.

Here's a quote from this article:

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has gone public, warning that the United States would lose any war with China.

"In any case, if tension between the United States and China heightens, if each side pulls the trigger, though it may not be stretched to nuclear weapons, and the wider hostilities expand, I believe America cannot win as it has a civic society that must adhere to the value of respecting lives," Mr. Ishihara said in an address to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Ishihara said U.S. ground forces, with the exception of the Marines, are "extremely incompetent" and would be unable to stem a Chinese conventional attack. Indeed, he asserted that China would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons . . .
I like this take on torture. What do you think?

Monday, November 21, 2005

More on "True Spirituality". I am into chapter 4 of this little book by Francis Schaeffer, and I had to put it down and blog about it, it is so interesting.

He posits two realities, side by side in "space-time" as he puts it. He writes:

However, the point I would establish at this stage of our study of spirituality is the fact that there are two equal lines of reality presented to us in the universe. We are in the seen world and there are also Christians who have died, and who are with Christ now. It is not a primitive view, a kind of three-story concept of the universe. This is the biblical view of truth: there are two streams, two strands, a space-time reality-one in the seen, and one in the unseen.

Schaeffer writes that when we become Christians we are given "the earnest of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 5:4,5). With the Holy Spirit, we are now united with God and those in heaven, the people who are now with Christ, the angels, and so forth. He also cites for this proposition Hebrews 12:22-24. This is seriously cool.

This made me reflect on Scott's joke about celebrate vs. celibacy. There are a lot of jokes like that, that is, there are a lot of jokes about people dying and going to heaven, meeting St. Peter, etc. (I particularly like the ones about lawyers.) But these are really pagan stories. In these stories, Christ is far off, God is far off, we don't see Christ. Instead, we see some sort of reality empty of God but full of irony. We see the heaven of the non-Christian, the heaven of doubt and uncertainty, a faithless heaven, the heaven of the final joke that the gods play on us poor creatures.

I think the next time I hear a heaven joke, I am going to laugh and then I am going to ask the opportunity to describe what heaven is really like to me as a Christian. I will say that when a Christian dies, he is immediately with Christ, period. And then I would say that, even as we speak, I,as a Christian, having received the earnest of the Holy Spirit, am living at a junction of the two realities, and that I already find myself a citizen of the City of God, that is, already part of heaven.

I think this is why we say that when we die we go "home". Heaven is made our home the instant we accept Christ. It was not our "home" the instant before. This "seen" reality was our home.

During the dark days of my chemotherapy treatment, I often thought of what it was going to be like to die. What would actually happen? In response to those thoughts, I had this picture of Christ being there to greet me. He sort of looked like those pictures of Jesus with which we populate the walls of our children's Sunday School classes, but I think that was all right. And behind this Jesus was my grandfather with his big smile, Carol's dad, and other favorite people of mine who had gone on before. There was no one there to ask me any qualifying questions or otherwise examine me. There was simply Jesus and the others greeting me. It was quite an attractive picture, and very comforting.

The implications of Schaeffer's idea of two realities are quite marvelous. So you need to get the book and read it. Then tell me what you think.
Twinkle? Today I went to a deli for a take out lunch. The place had a TV on that was tuned to MSNBC. This was around 1215 PM. There was a debate going on among four people about the Bush policy on Iraq. I watched it while I waited for my order.

One of the people representing the Bush side was Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. She is the chairman of the Republican Party in Alabama. Twinkle was being chopped up into little pieces by at least two of the other three panel members. I thought to myself, "Is this lady the best the GOP can do in one of these debates, or did some clever MSNBC producer load the dice by having her represent the administration's views."

Maybe I caught her on a bad day.

Sometimes I think the White House and the GOP just don't get communicating with the country.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wait Til Next Year
Probate Lawyer Loses Control at Book Fair. Carol and I made our annual visit to the Miami International Book Fair yesterday. We heard William Kristol and Robert Kagan of the Weekly Standard. They are touting a book that is a collection of articles from that magazine published during the last ten years, which were the magazine's first ten years. I managed to resist buying that book.

But I completely broke down at the next author's session. This one had three authors, the common thread among them being that they wrote about military/naval subjects. Robert N. Macomber talked about his novel The Dishonorable Few. This is the latest in a series of novels he has written with a 19th Century US Navy officer, Peter Wake, as its hero. Macomber introduces Peter Wake first in At the Edge of Honor, where Wake is a Master of a small sloop stationed in Key West during the Civil War. Because it was the first in the series, I bought that book and read it this weekend. Its a worthy additon to the genre that includes Hornblower and Aubrey. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

David E. Fisher spoke about his latest book, A Summer Bright and Terrible: Winston Churchill, Lord Dowding, Radar, and the Impossible Triumph of the Battle of Britain. Fisher is a prolific writer and a professor at the University of Miami. He has a PhD in nuclear physics, but "is currently a professor of cosmochemistry and environmental sciences", according to the book jacket. I bought the book. I hope its as good as Fisher's talk.

The third author is a former officer in the Special Forces, Lt. Col. Will Irwin [ret], who wrote The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944. This tells about groups of 3-man special forces units that were parachuted into France just ahead of D-Day to link with the Resistance and disrupt supply lines, blow up bridges, etc., in connection with the invasion. Irwin said he first became acquainted with this effort while at Ft. Bragg in his Special Forces unit. He helped coordinate a reunion of the veterans of these units and got to know many of them. At about the same time, the Defense Department and CIA declassified a lot of the materials on this project and he began reading those materials. When he retired, he found the time to write this history. I found the author and the subject so interesting that I bought this book too.
A Cheerful Giver, Yes, but a Careful One Too. This article in the NYT makes me think we should be more careful about giving money to the American Red Cross. What a shame that this orgnization is acquiring a doubtful reputation in handling charitable gifts.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More Hurricane Wilma Photos The last set generated so much excitement, that we decided to post a few more.

This is the west side of One Biscayne Tower, the building where we officed for five years and which is just east of our present office.

The white marble stucture is an artwork/child's slide in Bayfront Park that the kids are familiar with. The winds blew part of it down. Bayfront Park is downtown, along Biscayne Boulevard.

This is also of Bayfront Park, at the north end. The picture shows the roof at the rear of the amphitheater in shreds.

Here we are back in Miami Springs. A huge ficus tree is down, its roots pulling up the sidewalk. A guy often mistaken for Lance Armstrong got into this picture with his bike.

This looks east on Dove Avenue from a point in the street directly in front of our house. A large black olive tree was pushed over and blocks the street. Just beyond it had been another of those trees that blew down in Katrina, and now this one in Wilma.

This is the Lahmeyer's house, one-half block west of us on Dove Avenue. Van and Juliet are the minister of our church and his wife. We had some joint suppers together during the troubles.

This is taken from our side yard, looking southwest toward the Simpson's house.

This is taken from the northeast corner of our house, looking into the front yard of our neighbors. Our neighbor has already cut back the branches from the fractured tree that you see in the picture.
Why we hardly watch and never support PBS. The left-wing slant of PBS went quite vertical in our view when the McLaughlin Group, which we had watched for many years, adopted Pat Buchanan's isolationist point of view with regard to the Iraq War. Since then, only Tony Blankley from time to time expresses views sympathetic to the Bush Administration, and he is usually shouted down by Eleanor and McLaughlin himself. So we stopped watching that show and anything else on PBS.

Until "The Journal Editorial Report" came on the air. This is a fine show and it has gotten better as the WSJ people who usually populate the panel have become more comfortable with the format. My only criticism is that the precious 25 minutes of air time is too much taken up by video features that are intended to introduce the subject that will then be discussed by the panel. (I think those features are unnecessary.) Carol and I have tried to make it a part of our Friday evening date night and have been mostly successful.

Now the JER is part of the controversy involving the deposed chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ken Tomlinson, a Bush administration appointee who dared to suggest that the Bill Moyers party line might require a little balance.

This led the WSJ to devote all of its "Review & Outlook" space on Thursday to this controversy. The commentary, entitled PBS and Us is worth a read.

This will be the last season for the JER, according to the editorial, for reasons other than this controversy. I will be sad to see it go. Carol and I will just have to spend more time at Publix on Friday nights.
Favorite Blogs of WSJ-types. Wednesday's issue of the WSJ had some "favortie blog" articles. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Regarding real estate,,, and got nods.

Health care: and

Digital content:

Here's one for Lindsay that deals with television issues: Mediabistro.

The tech writer for the WSJ, Walter Mossberg, also listed his favorites:

one for "general gadget lovers"; one for "serious techies", with which I think some of you are familiar (;

a blog by David Gillmor, "a former newspaper columnist and champion of 'grass roots journalism';"

one on cellphones, Phone Scoop;

digital cameras, Digital Camera Resource Page; and

iPod lovers, iLounge;

People who follow Microsoft have two top sites in Mossberg's book, one by a Microsoft employee, Robert Scoble, and another by a stock analyst, Joe Wilcox.

Mossberg notes that there are a bunch of blogs by people who follow Apple, and he lists several. The one he cites that sounds most interesting to me is Crazy Apple Rumors.
Fowl with the Flu are not the Only Deadly Chickens in China. An opinion piece by Nicholas Eberstadt in the WSJ this week, entitled Old Age Tsunmami, indicates that the abortion chickens in China are coming home to roost.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What was Your Literary Crush? Slate has an article where Names write about the books that influenced them most in college. It got me to thinking about mine. (It is all about me, of course.) Its been so long ago, give me a minute to remember just which college that was.


Magazines that were memorable were not included, which is just as well.

For me, they were

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism.

The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Weiner.

Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament. (I was so pleased at the time that I could read a "modernist" text with great pleasure and interest and still retain an orthodox view of scripture.)

Then Winthrop Hudson's Religion in America, the umpteenth edition of which text was being taught at Davidson when my kids were there.

War and Peace I read a second time and sort of "got it". The first time I read it I was in high school and really didn't get it.

Don Quixote. I read this in English.

Dante's Divine Comedy.

Robert Penn Warren's All the Kings Men.

Casona's La Barca sin Pescador. This is a short novel that I read in Spanish.

I look back at that time with amazement. "Your assignment, whether you like it or not, is to read really good books." Wow. What a privilege.
Study: Dads are Important. But I think we knew that. (Hat tip to Instapundit.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in Miami Springs.

Not exactly Biloxi, but still a mess.

Our next door neighbor's backyard, and what was left of a 30 foot plus avacado tree.

We live on a corner. This is our neighbor across the street, to the west of us. This is the house where the former neighbor was murdered, and I testified in the murder trial against the perp. But I digress . . .

This is looking at the NE corner of our house. Two tall fishtail palms were knocked over.

We were taking a picture of fallen underbrush, and this homeless person got in the picture. If the poor fella breaks your heart, you can send us contributions, and we will be sure he gets them.

There is a piece of someone's porch hanging in this tree. That's what makes this such an important photo.
"It's the most startling public turnaround since Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" announced that he'd been born again."

Anne Rice a Christian. I am startled. But praise the Lord!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Papal Humor:
One of the Popes died and went to heaven. He immediately asked to see the heavenly library. Entering into the ornate library with its zillion of world’s books and decrees from God, he set about to do some research. Upon finding what he hoped was not there, he began to sob and his cries got more and more loud.

Soon St. Peter came stomping into the library all upset. He said in very stern tones: “You cannot cry in heaven. It is forbidden, besides, there is nothing to cry about. Now what is the problem here?”

The Pope pointed to the heavenly decree before him and sobbed out: “There is an ‘r’ in it; there’s an ‘r’ in it!!!” It says “CELEBRATE” not celibate!!!”
More Grist for the NotForSpurrier Mill. Steve takes a shot at Bobby.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fiscally speaking, the Sky will Fall. At least according to these authorities. So I guess I'll keep working.
A Home-cooked Meal is a Blessing. Children show increases in risk factors for heart disease and diabetes if they eat out four times a week or more, research finds.
I Need Help Here. I simply don't understand the Administration's position on McCain's anti-torture amendment. It certainly feeds the impression that Jimmy Carter is right on the values thing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Peter Drucker died on November 11. Thanks to Sean for pointing at a good, short bio and bibliography on wikipedia here.

Update. Some excerpts of some of Drucker's writings, from the WSJ.

Further Update. This commentary by Steve Forbes, also in the WSJ.
Starbucks Bluetooth Declamation Dance. I walked into SBs this morning, so I can stand in line and over-pay for hypercaffienated/wayacidic brew. As I walk in, I notice a young man standing at one end of the Starbucks, the end at which I am entering, talking out loud. I see a man sitting near him at the window. Is that the person to whom he is talking? As I walk by him, I realize he isn't; he has a thingee in his ear on the other side of his head, which I couldn't see at first, and he is talking on his cellphone. He does not hold the phone in his hand. I am embarrassed to say that this misled me. I am so yesterday with tech.

I walk to the other end of the Starbucks and get in line. This guy is not only talking so loud that we all can hear him at our end, but he is doing a little minuet. He looks straight out, then he bends slightly over at the waist, then he straightens up, then he walks in a circle, sort of jiggling up and down, as he waits for his doublecaf, bigcalorie Mocha or whatever, booming his plans for the day.

People like this present one of the few reasons that banning concealed hand-guns might be a good thing.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

San Fransico Has Banned Guns Effective April 1

(I love the date.) A link.

From the Pages of the WSJ. An aging yuppie who reads the print version of the Wall Street Journal: how predictable. Well, what can I say? For me, at least, the problem is that I can't read the newspaper thoroughly every day, so I have to find time on the weekend to catch up. Hhhmm. Where shall I jot down my amazing discoveries and insights? How can I get this blog, now stuck in Spurrier, rolling again? Can we really say that talking about subjects raised in this week's WSJ is "rolling again"?

In the "Smartmoney" section on Wednesday, James B. Stewart writes that the energy sector "provides bargains". I think this guy is smoking something. He recommends Apache. Morningstar tends to agree. Maybe that's why Stewart is writing and I am reading.

Those of you who are old enough to rent cars have probably noticed all the local taxes imposed on the rental. Sure enough, the WSJ reports that "added fees can double the price of an economy car". Since out-of-towners bear these burdens, its sort of taxation-without-representation.

There is yet another investment book to consider. "The Little Book That Beats the Market", by Joel Greenblatt. "Mr. Greenblatt, 47 years old, says his goal was to provide advice that, while sophisticated, could be understood and followed by his five children, ages 6 to 15." I'm getting the book and will be looking for a group of five children in that age range.

Maybe we're not too late to slide on the real estate bubble. Another Wednesday article talks about state land being sold to developers in Arizona. My friend Joe thinks Arizona is the place to move, so it may be time to invest heavily out there. Developers mentioned in the article include Toll Brothers, Pulte Home, and Gray Development Group.

Yesterday's Weekend Journal has a "Houses of Worship" column that describes a new development to go up near Naples, FL, to be called "Ave Maria Town". This is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, who is the Domino's Pizza guy. "We'll own all commercial real estate . . . That means we will be able to control what goes on there. You won't be able to buy Playboy or Hustler magazine in Ave Maria Town. We're going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There is not going to be any pornographic television in Ave Maria Town. If you go to the drug store and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won't be able to get that in Ave Maria Town." Does this guy know about the internet? (I can't wait to read the comments on this one.)

The Catalog Critic lists places on the 'net from which you can order your turkey dinner. Pfaelzer Brothers looked the most interesting.

There were at least two articles on Microsoft. One reports that as "growth" investors have abandoned the stock, "value" investors are moving into big positions. Another article describes the "big bet" Bill Gates says he is taking on internet connected software. That article says its not such a big bet, because Microsoft has money to burn. However, the article admires the thinking that is going on at Microsoft as it seeks to reinvent itself, sort-of.

We saw the interview of Ahmed Chalabi on the Journal's weekly show on PBS last night. Impressive. He is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, despite the Bush administration's outrageous attempt to bring him down last year. WSJ had this editorial about him on Wednesday. He was received graciously by the administration on a visit this week.

Boring, right? Oh, well. I think its fun.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The MAN!!!

Reading Schaeffer. Just finished the first two chapter's of Francis Schaeffer's True Spirituality. Really enjoying it. He has a straight-forward, no-nonsense style that I like.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Southern Baptist Relief Services. My partner, Jane, and her family have moved their church home to the First Baptist Church of Homestead. While the schools were closed recently for Wilma, her highschool senior son, Sam, who works for us from time to time, spent the day working at the church helping the Southern Baptist relief services hand out supplies. The church was a distribution depot.

Jane told me that the SBC's relief work makes them the third largest supplier of disaster relief services in the US, only behind the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

To be more precise, the services are supplied under the auspices of the North American Mission Board of the SBC.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Something Different in a Christmas Gift Catalog. We're getting a flood of gift catalogs in the mail and almost round-filed this one: The Samaritan's Purse Christmas Gift Catalog 2005. Its clever. Formatted just like any other, except that the gifts are for others in the world. For example, for $15 you can "help a child learn to read and write" by making a contribution to a program that SP has that "supports schools, literacy programs and other educational projects" in Afghanistan, Thailand, Vietname. For $2000 you can "buy an airline ticket to save a child's life" (or share in the cost for $200) and get a child from Honduras to the US for heart surgery. There are 28 glossy pages of such gifts and at all price ranges. Furthermore, you can give the gift in honor or in memory of someone. (I would be pleased for someone to give a gift from this catalog in lieu of a gift for me this Christmas.) If you haven't gotten this catalog yet, you can go to the SP website, order a paper version like ours, or browse the web version.
Theodore Dalrymple: A Writer Worth a Second Look. This writer wrote a column for the WSJ to which I refer in a earlier post. He is worth a further look.
More on Immigration: US Guest-Worker Plans. We are running out of cheap labor, and that accounts for more than 600,000 illigal aliens coming in each year. Or maybe its because US employers don't want to invest in new technology that would reduce the need for cheap labor (but should). The WSJ has a good discussion of the "guest-worker" proposals and the related immigration issues in this free article.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Our Immigrants, Their Immigrants. Another really good column in the WSJ today on the problems in France. (I think Scott refers to this in one of his comments.)
"Illegal Invasion". Worldmag writes about illegal immigrants coming into Texas. What's a Christian to do here? Do the enforcement failures of the Bush administration erode the idea of the rule of law? What about public safety, the long waiting lists of people from other parts of the world who want to immigrate legally (I have an idea that people in Western Europe are soon to get very interested once again in coming here.), and the ease at which terrorists can lose themselves among the alien dispossessed?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Maybe the Muslims have not Assimilated because the French won't let them.

This interesting opinion piece by Theodore Dalrymple in the WSJ has a slightly different slant on the problems in France.
German MSM on the Violence in France.

"You don't really think that we're going to stop now? Are you stupid? It will continue, non-stop. We aren't going to let up. The French won't do anything and soon, we will be in the majority here."

From Speigel Online.
UN to Run the Internet? Scary thought.
Judicial Modesty: From today's WSJ opinion page:
The following is an extract of a book review by Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, of "Law's Quandary," by Steven D. Smith, co-director of the Institute for Law and Philosophy at the University of San Diego. The review appears in the current issue of the journal First Things.

Justice Scalia writes:

[In] a democracy, it is not the function of law to establish any more social policy than what is fairly expressed by legislation, enacted through prescribed democratic procedures. It troubles Smith, but does not at all trouble me -- in fact, it pleases me -- that giving the words of the Constitution their normal meaning would "expel from the domain of legal issues … most of the constitutional disputes that capture our attention," such as "Can a macho military educational institution dedicated to what is euphemistically called the 'adversative' method admit only men? Is there a right to abortion? Or to the assistance of a physician in ending one's life?" If we should read English as English, Smith bemoans, "these questions would seemingly all have received the same answer: 'No law on that one.'"

That is precisely the answer they should have received: The federal Constitution says nothing on these subjects, which are therefore left to be governed by state law. Smith's response is revealing: "We have not been content with this sort of modesty in our law." The antecedent of the pronoun is unspecified, but I fancy it refers to the legal academic community which establishes the permissible boundaries for Smith's thinking, or at least his writing. Many Americans outside that community yearn for this sort of modesty. Indeed, it was something of an issue in the last election…
"Why France is Burning."

British Journalist, Melanie Phillips, weighs in. What's new for me in this article is the idea that the Muslims are pushing for a sort of indepedent Muslim state within a given European state.
"The god, Jesus Christ."
Article on an archeological discovery of a (possibly) Third Century church building in Israel and maybe the oldest such site yet discovered in that area.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Republicans, please come home!
Where I return from existential ramblings to more typical silliness.
Did they wake up one morning and confront an unfamiliar face in the mirror? Like some bad political Botox, gone is Ronald Reagan's face; staring back in his place is Teddy "I will spend your money like a drunken sailor" Kennedy.

Republicans are knee-deep pork barrelers practicing the fine art of fiscal irresponsibility. Who passes the baton that began with Goldwater, took root with Reagan and gained power through the "Contract with America"?

Contrary to popular belief, the core of conservatism does not spring from "life" issues; those just suck up all of the air and make all of the noise. Conservatives are, first and foremost, proponents of limiting government's power and strengthening national defense.
For Real. The rest of the article, by Salena Zito, is here, but that was the best part.
In reading a review of Blog!: How the World of Blogs And Bloggers Is Changing Our Culture, I had a gestalt moment about blogs, postmodernity, and the emergent church. And that was: these things are not going to destroy their predecessors. There is a great deal of talk in each of these communities about how they're "the answer" to whatever the problem was with the previous administration. In the blogosphere, it's about taking down the MSM; in post-modern circles, it's about how, finally, the mess that is modernity will be revealed; and in the emergent church circles, it's about how the church will be revolutionized/saved/reborn/awakened/rediscovered.

[Aside] Yes, there are folks in these camps who are moderate. But they're neither as loud as the others, nor as interesting to pick on. [/Aside]

Allegiance declaration time: I love blogs and the deleterioius effect they're having on the current MSM structure. I'm a fervent Jimmy Long convert and have no doubt that we live in a post-modern world. While not as much as others, I gave joy, laughter, blood, sweat and tears to an emergent church while Kellsey and I lived in Charlotte.

It seems to me that in all three areas, we're going to end up in some third place (which is why I like Jimmy's preference of "emerging" culture, as opposed to "postmodern" culture). But the MSM, Modernity, and the current Church will all end up there with us, too. Of course, I think that they will be significantly affected by blogs, post-modernity, and the emergent church, but we're still going to shuffle along into history with the same limp we had before blogs/postmodernity/emergent churches came along.

And yet, I still believe that these three are in a significant way antithetical to their predecessors. And I'm glad for the change! I guess that my problem with much of the rhetoric surrounding them (and especially surrounding the "emergent" church) is that they are salvific of whatever it is that's aling us: media/reporting, culture in general, or the Church. And here, I find myself aligning with Hegel: yes, these are different; yes, this is significant; yes, we should alter our practices as a result of them; but these will not, at the end of the day, change the course of the world. The course of the world is thesis, antithesis, synthesis ad nauseum.

But I now don't than take the Marxist view, which declares that I must have faith that we will get better once the right combination of thesis and antithesis appear, finally resulting in the worker's paradise. Nor do I take the liberal democratic capitalism view which declares that I must have faith that markets will always expand, that GDP can continue to grow, and we can all get wealthier and wealthier ad infinitum.

Rather, I believe that the only chance out of the Hegelian nauseum is an extra-cosmological event to derail the thesis, antithesis, synthesis course: the Emmanual Event, where God joined himself to Man in Jesus Christ, by the Spirit. This is the only true change event in History. It's the only big change event, it's the only little change event. Blogs, post-modernity, and the "emergent" church, while significant in their way, are not enough change to offer escape from the world system.

"But, Macon," you say, "we don't seem to be out of the thesis, antithesis, synthesis system, even though your 'event' occurred ~1970 years ago." True, it doesn't seem that way. But the event ignagurated a new, unseen (though not unfelt!) world in which we can live by the Spirit, even as we walk along in our old world. We no longer have to celebrate with abandon the latest "antithesis" as savior, though we might enjoy the change in the old world (as I do with post-modernity). And, like the brilliant minds at Despair, Incorporated, we can happily point out the silliness of the current thesis/antithesis/synthesis our old world currently is in.
Je Ne Sais Pas
Dad links a good article below about the riots in France. (Thanks, Padre!) I've cherry-picked the money paragraph below:
The notion that Texas neocon arrogance was responsible for frosting up trans-Atlantic relations was always preposterous, even for someone as complacent and blinkered as John Kerry. If you had millions of seething unassimilated Muslim youths in lawless suburbs ringing every major city, would you be so eager to send your troops into an Arab country fighting alongside the Americans? For half a decade, French Arabs have been carrying on a low-level intifada against synagogues, kosher butchers, Jewish schools, etc. The concern of the political class has been to prevent the spread of these attacks to targets of more, ah, general interest. They seem to have lost that battle. Unlike America's Europhiles, France's Arab street correctly identified Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war for what it was: a sign of weakness.

I think he makes a good point, even if his rhetoric is a bit over-the-top.

A question for Sean, who is one of Thomas Barnett's web-editors: But France is "Core"! How does this fit in the TPMB Cosmology?
Thanks, cuz.

More from the wonderful Miami game last night:

That's Javon Nanton in the Miami jersey, sacking Vic, who would then fumble for a Miami recovery and touchdown, taking the score to 27-0. He went to Springs. He's one of our own.
732 [AD] All Over Again.

A Chicago Sun-Times columnist writes about what is going on in France. (Thanks, Jihad Watch)
In the Best Traditions of Dan Rather. Dennis Dodd of CBS' disses the 'Canes before the Miami/V-Tech game.

But has the guts to show up in the 'Canes locker room just after the game and write about it, which is very unRather-like. (He obviously can't last long at CBS with that sort of courage and honesty.)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Reading the American Revolution. My sister Julia gave me 1776 by David McCullough for my birthday this past summer. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it as a re-introduction to the America Revolution. The year in question was not only the year of the Declaration of Independence, it was the year of the siege of Boston by Washington's motley army. That army had bottled up the British, and the British army finally evacuated the city. Washington's army moved to the City of New York, from which it was routed when the British came back with their Hessian mercenaries, invaded Long Island and outflanked the Americans. It was the year when, on Christmas eve, the Americans got a little of theirs back from the hated and feared Hessians with a surprise attack in New Jersey.

I was thirsty for more of this history when I finished the book, and McCullough has a good, annotated biography. From that list I selected Middlekoff's The Glorious Cause, which is a one volume history of the entire revolution, and I finished it about a week ago. Middlekoff produced a fine over-view. His prose is serviceable and now and then soars. Middlekoff also includes an annotated bibliography, and he points to Page Smith's two volume A New Age Now Begins, and I have read the introduction and first chapter of that book. Smith has a wonderful style, one that exceeds even McCullough's.

Not only are these books a pleasure to read, they are especially helpful as one considers domestic and international politics and the Iraq war, which is no less a revolution itself.

Satan: "I can give you that which you can only imagine."

God: "I can give you that which is beyond what you can imagine."

See Eph. 3:20 & 21.. Compare John 8:44b.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Jimmy, I hardly know ya. Incredible interview of President Carter in the Washington Times (thanks Drudge).
Bob Lupton. This man is a Christian in Atlanta whose mission is helping build communities in poor neighborhoods. A recent article in World Magazine gives an overview of his work. He wrote Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America. He just published a new book, Renewing the City: Reflections on Community Development and Urban Renewal. I think I may have borrowed the first book from Morgan several years ago and read it (my mind is going - it may have already left) and, if so, I was impressed. I haven't read the new book. My impression from the earlier book, from what I read in the World article, and from what Walter and Morgan tell me of their experiences, Christian urban redevelopment is not easy work.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Aidan's Walking! (without a push-toy!)

You've waited and waited for the day when Aidan would finally take his first steps. Well, you missed it. It was weeks ago. However, now we finally have it on film. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Political Philosophy at Subway.

I approach the cashier at the Subway at the Flagler Station food court in Downtown Miami, where I had my order in hand, a turkey/spinach salad (a great buy, and very healthy). The cashier, a lady latin, is speaking to a young black man. He has an "island English" accent, she a South American accent. Both are obviously not from around here.

The young man: "What country are you from".

The cashier: "The best country in the world!"

The young man: "You mean here, the United States?"

The cashier: [snorts]

The young man: "Well, where are you from?"

The cashier: "Peru."

My hand was half way to my wallet and its American Express card, all to back up the offer I intended to make to buy her a one-way ticket back, when I stopped myself.

But credit the young man.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Free Books. I try to thin my bookshelves by periodically listing on the books I want to prune.

If you would like any of them, then send me an email and I will send you the book - no charge.

Here is the list.
World Magazine 10/29/2005: a Good One!

There is so much to read, I despair of getting to what is on the bookshelf and what comes in the mail. Its tough to read the WSJ thoroughly every day, and the issues pile up. At home, the mail brings Forbes and First Things, QST and CQ (amateur radio magazines), the AAII Journal, three alumni magazines, Dr. Dobson's newsletter (I never read it anymore; he was always a little much for me, and now he's too much; but God bless him), the Jews for Jesus Newsletter (don't read that either, although its a good one), the quarterly publication (or is it monthly?) of the Center for Bioethics, and assorted other Evangelical periodicals (not Christianity Today - its a good one, but I never got to it when we subscribed). (I won't go into what comes into the office or what we read on the 'net or comes via email.) Finally, there is World Magazine. It comes every week, and its just thin enough that I can read almost all of it in a MetroRail sitting. I don't agree with all of its editorial policies, but for 20 minutes a week its well worth reading. This week for example:

Joes Belz writes about church closings, an issue that is very much a live one with us at our church with its declining membership.

The Culture Beat section gives an update on what's happening in a theater near you or on DVD and this issue the "cultural editor" gives a "Peek into Narnia" and the upcoming movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Did you know that the special effects people on that project are the same as those on the Lord of the Rings series?

Priya Abraham and Marvin Olasky have a feature on the devastation of malaria in Africa and the terrible mistake the West made in banning or not supporting DVD, based on the pseudo-science of Rachel Carlson's Silent Spring. World is quite interested in African issues.

Another issue the magazine is tracking is the bird flu and this issue has an article entitled "Bird-flu Watching". Hand washing, it turns out, could be an important element in dealing with it. And there will not be enough vaccine for everyone, not nearly everyone.

Hugo Chavez is kicking out New Tribes Mission from Venezuela. But I'm sure you heard that on NPR. (You didn't?) Read what the indigenous tribes to whom NTM ministers have to say about the situation. Chavez terms NTM a "true imperialist infiltration", but his government does nothing for the people whom the Christians are infiltrating, nor does anyone else.

The federal courts come down hard on a self important state bureaucrat who tried to close down a Christian school that has a "highly successful, tough-love recover program", according to an article entitled Heartland Justice. So its not all bad news in this magazine. Not at all.

Marvin Olasky takes on Peter Singer. Part of a dignified exchange of views between these two is featured in Olasky's column. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

My favorite this issue is Andree Seu's column entitled "The Power of Now: Call forth what's yours with no double-mindedness." She (or maybe its "he") talks about being a "strenuous believer", as Seu notes and quotes Francis Schaeffer. Seu writes:

I've whined so much about a poor memory, depression, and insomnia that a friend suggested I take a bottle of "white-out" and delete Philippians 4:13 since I wasn't using it anyway. Francis Shaeffer agreed with him: "faith is simply believing God. . . . It is ceasing to call God a liar. . . . There are oceans of grace which wait. Orchard upon orchard waits, vineyard upon vineyard of fruit waits. There is only one reason why they do not flow out through the Christian's life, and that is that the instrumentally of faith is not being used."

As a board certified whiner, Seu's column hit me between the eyes.

Here is another passage from Seu's column, maybe the best:

The kingdom of God comes and "the violent take it by force" (Mattew 11:12). They sue for grace [I like that verb]. They say, like Jacob, "I won't let you go until you bless me." They ransack God's Word for promises. They believe them like a 5-year-old; and not like a sophisticate. They prefer the plain meaning to the obscurantist theology of unbelief. The call forth what's theirs in Christ without double-mindedness."

If any reader of this blog will promise to read World, I will give him (using the pronoun in its gender neutral, traditional form) a subscription for a year. Just put your request in the comments.