Friday, March 31, 2006

Disclaimer. I am not the one changing the little sayings at the top of the blog, just after the main title. I have my suspicions about who is doing this, but mainly I just want everyone to know it is not me.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

GTD, 16 months later
In Dec04, I began practicing GTD-do (GTDo?), the way of Getting Things Done. Three houses, four offices, three jobs later, I'm still working through the way I follow this path. I'm still not satisfied that I've figured out the best use of my asap contextual lists/folders, and I haven't locked down on the Weekly Reviews, but I've still gotten so much out of David's approach.

My view of the process of work has been fundamentally changed. Practicing GTDo has built the habits of mind that make me think incrementally and next-action-ly about each project. This alone would be worth the price of the book. I've had some fairly massive projects in the last 16 months, and big reason I survived was the next-action approach. In my most overwhemled days, I was able to gain momentum by taking seriously baby steps towards the goals. This may seem the self-evident way to do things. It certainly seems so to me, but getting my brain to, by default, think about the next tiny increment of movement forward was a huge retraining for me.

The other major difference in how I approach work is in how I view the stuff that comes across my attention's field of vision, whether it's digital or physical. The discipline of categorizing things according to David's workflow has been very helpful. It's enabled me to process a whole lot more stuff & information than I used to be able to do. Actionable? Y - Do, Delegate, Defer; N - Eliminate, Incubate, Reference. I find this to be key in keeping the stuff & information flow moving.

In terms of working with folks colloboratively, I am less tolerant of business meetings/discussions that don't end with actionable outcomes. I'm fine if the outcome is deferred a long way off, but I know that unless we agree on what we decided to do, and who is responsible to do it it probalby won't get done, and that meeting was probably a waste of my time. Not to say that I'm mean about it, just that if no one else asks, I'm going to ask, "Ok, are we agreed to do A? Then my understanding is that John will do 1, I'll do 2, Jane 3, and then we'll meet again so we can put it all together for A. Is that right?"

Moving to a black-belt level in GTDo will involve building the discipline to actually do Weekly Reviews, er, weekly. I think once I start doing that, I'll finally be able to sweep up to the 5,000 feet, 10,000 feet & stratosphereic views of my work to make some top level decisions about long-term goals and such. The great thing about GTDo, though, is that I can get work done, done well, and have a good sense of accomplishment, even if I don't have any major life goals planned out in advance.

But, seriously, that Weekly Review would be so helpful.
Does Bush Have it Wrong on Immigration?
At least one columnist thinks so. And this is not good. Is America the "Big Pinata"? My friend, Joe, was talking about this issue during our daily ham radio QSO two days ago. He's alarmed and talking about it - and talking politics is simply not done on ham radio, which is an indication of the worry this matter is raising.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Kells & I will start the new member process at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA) next week. One of the things I really enjoy about the Sunday service there is the liturgy. Here's how it went down last week:

Call to Worship (standing, call & response)
Hymn of Praise (standing, hymn)
Prayer of Adoration (standing, hymn)
Prayer of Confession (seated, prayer in unision)
Silent Confession
Assurance of Pardon (standing, hearing from the pastor)
Grateful Response (standing, a stanza of a hymn)

Greeting (everybody shakes hands, etc.)
Life of the Church (announcements)
Offering (Money & Musical)

Gospel Reading
Song of Praise
Song of Response

Perhaps this is standard Presby(USA) practice, but only since attending WHPC has it come to my attention: We don't talk to each other, in announcements or "Greeting", until we've all Confessed, received our Assurance of Pardon, and given a Grateful Response. I really like that.

It's as if the entire congregation gets to start fresh at 11:20am (or whenever we're done with the Grateful Response) each Sunday and then we all start interacting together. That seems right to me: that we all confess our sin to God & each other (even if it's via a formal unision prayer), receive the pardon of God, and are then free to interact both with God (in/during the preaching of the Word) and with each other with clean consciences.

Sometimes we get late to Church and walk in right at the "Greeting" time. I always feel like I'm one step behind everyone else and not quite ready to shake anyone's hand yet. They've all gotten to confess their sin to each other and God, but I missed out on that community act. It kind of feels like I've skipped the most serious part of the service and am only sneaking in for the easy stuff. (As in, grinning, shaking hands, and passively listening to an entertaining and thought provoking sermon.)
I get hit upon at Subway. (Obviously, I'm not ready to go back to work.)

Years ago, when I was with the "big firm", one of my married contemporary lawyers (now divorced) remarked on how a particular attractive secretary was "hitting on" him. (I take that to mean "to flirt with intention".) I expressed surprise. Really, I had never heard of that happening in the firm, we were all so busy and intense, but he said that it happened to him a lot. "Why, it never happens to me!" I blurted. (I thought to myself, "Why did I say that?" "Am I disappointed?" "Am I relieved?" I didn't come up with an answer for myself.)

He said, "Well, you just don't have the look". He was not able to explain the look that you have to have to invite female fishing expeditions nor the look that I have that doesn't. Just as well, of course.

So Monday I am standing in line at the Subway where I go. Its not in the nicest area nor is it the nicest Subway. Its in a dipalpidated "food court" in a run down building next to Macy's (ne Burdines) on Flagler Street. I walk right past a new one to go there, because I started going there years ago and got to know the manager, a Pakistani who brings his little boy to help him when school is out. He's such a nice man that I have become one of his more loyal customers.

He has developed several other Subways over the years, and lately he has left the store in the hands of his employees, whom I also know and who are competent people. He is off managing his growing sandwich empire. At the cashier's position, where he used to sit, is a new member of the team, however, a Pakistani woman who is somewhere, I think, in her early forties. The main thing that arrested me about her appearance was the diamond in her one of her nostrils (which I find, uh, painful to look at).

She's been there about 10 days. Monday I get my sandwich and move over to her spot to pay. I am untypically fully dressed in my lawyer's uniform, because I had an appointment outside the office and came back by the Subway for lunch. (Usually I'm without the coat, my tie is loosened, my sleeves rolled up, and I am reading the WSJ.) Today I am 100% spiff and undistracted by any newspaper.

She says to me, "Hi, you're the reason I come here every day. Just to see you."

(I think "What? . . . What did she say?")

"Oh, uh, Hi, how are you? I don't want the combo. Just the sandwich. Bye!"

Really, this has me puzzled. Have I crossed over the Santa Claus line here, so that when younger women see me, they think, "What a sweet old man!" Or am I getting hit on at Subway? Each of those possible answers has its definite down-side.

Whatever, its Wendy's for me from now on.
What's Wrong with this Picture.

I went to the dentist yesterday to get my teeth cleaned. There are three or four dentists there and three or four "hygentists" (Does that mean that the dentists aren't?). I have my dentist (the dentists are all male), but I have formed no attachment to any of the hygenists (hereinafter refered to as "h" in the singular and "h's" collectively)(the h's are all younger and female). I have been going there for several years and so each of the h's has cleaned my teath at one point or another. The h's have one thing in common. They talk a LOT. (It would be fine if they said nothing. Really.)

I had a new one yesterday, and, sure enough, she talked a LOT. She noted right away that I was a lawyer and asked what kind of law I practiced. Then she told me her son was applying to law school and was waiting to hear from them. That's the story I would like to tell, the story about her son as she related it to me. Nothing really earth shaking, but I am taking a break here, you understand, and this is all I've got right now.

(Note to Florida Bar: she did not engage me as her attorney, and there is no attorney-client privilege involved.)

Her son graduated a year ago from a FL school that is in the Final Four. He had a double major in Business Admin and Engineering, graduating in five years. I say more power to him, because the Lizard school has a great reputation in each of those areas. But after a year as an engineer, he decided he didn't like it and applied to law school. He quit his well paying engineering job and went to work for Legal Aid earning next to nothing, while he did his law school applications and waited to hear from them. (At this point, my right eyebrow shoots up, but she is working on my upper right molars and does not notice.)

He applied to (1) the Lizard Law School, which I consider the top one in FL, (2) the law school of the Florida Native Americans who, among other things, wrestle FL Lizards for big tourist bucks but, as far as I know, do not populate the student body in any appreciable number, and (3) the Ibis Law School, which, of the three is probably the least in terms of reputation. Not a bad law school, mind you, but I rank it number three. State resident tuition is about $7000 per year to the two state law schools and $30,000+ to UM.

For a reason which was explained to me by h at great length but which I will not detail here (I've already lost half of my readership by now to Sean's blog), he will miss admission to FL for this fall, but could get in for next fall, if he waited. That leaves UM and FSU. He wants to go to UM. (My other eyebrow shoots up, but she's on the left, lower molars by now.)


His girl friend lives here.

He wants to go to law school NOW.

Let's see here. $21,000 for a state school versus nearly $100,000 for mediocre UM.

I took that sucking thing out of my mouth and said something like, "He could fly her up every weekend for the difference!" H said, "Yeah, that's what I told him". I mumbled something, and she said, "He's really very bright and was at the top of his class at UF", etc.

Maybe its a Florida Lizard thing, but would someone help me here? This guy is going to become a lawyer with this sort of judgment? (Well, maybe he'll go into politics.)

On top of that, this family does not have the money. He will borrow this money. H said that they could probably handle the FSU tuition, but not the UM tuition. So he graduates from law school with a $100,000 debt. Nice way to start life, especially since you don't have to start that way, especially when you are getting less value for your money at UM than at FSU or Florida.

Maybe someone will explain this to me. Is he so head over heals with this girl that he is afraid to leave her alone in Miami? Does he really think he'll have all that much time to check up on her during his first year of law school even if he is in Miami? Do you think this is a genetic thing and I should ask for another h next time?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

April 15 is coming. Don't be a Moran. (Actually, its April 17 this year.) Or maybe you can get someone to do it for you. (Caution: the last link is a little risque.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Dalrymple on D.H. Lawrence and "Lady Chatterley's Lover".

"[L]iteral-mindedness is not honesty or fidelity to truth - far from it. For it is the whole experience of mankind that sexual life is always, and must always be, hidden by veils of varying degrees of opacity, if it is to be humanized into something beyond a mere animal function. What is inherently secretive, that is to say self-conscious and human, cannot be spoken of directly: the attempt leads only to crudity, not to truth. Bawdy is the tribute that our instinct pays to secrecy. If you go beyond bawdy and tear all the veils away, you get pornography and nothing else. In essence, therefore, Lawrence was a pornographer, though a dull one even in that dull genre."

-from Our Culture, What's Left of It: the Mandarins and the Masses.

Lawrence was big in the Duke English department 1964 - 1968, as Playboy was in the men's dorms. Is he of any moment now?
"I Survived 'Right to Choose'." Bumper sticker seen at the Hialeah MetroRail Station parking lot this morning.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Metonymy. The NET Bible is a load. Not counting the cover, the book is nearly 1 and 3/4 inches thick. Not counting the satellite pictures of the Holy Land, there are 2,543 pages. It does not fit neatly into my back pocket. It does not fit into any pocket. So it is my Sunday morning Bible, and the center aisle of our church is wide enough for the dolly.

What makes the thing so big are the footnotes. For most of the pages, I would say that the footnotes take up at least one half, if not two-thirds, of the page. For a lawyer, this is like candyland. We live for footnotes.

There is enough space in our worship service to do a little multi-tasking, using the NET Bible as one's screen. For the past several weeks, in addition to following the minister as he moves through Acts during his sermons, I have been looking at other passages that are suggested by his remarks, diving down into the footnotes for as long as I can stay down there without having to come back up to the verse for my breath. This morning I decided not only to follow the Acts passages, but also to start reading the psalms during the services. So I started at the First Psalm and blew all the way through to nearly the fourth verse of Chapter 1.

The first verse of Psalm 1 reads "How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers." This verse has 9 footnotes. The footnotes are so thick on the page where Psalm 1 begins that the scripture text only gets as far as the beginning of verse 4.

The first footnote is at the end of the phrase "How blessed", and I want to talk about that, but let me say something about how fresh is the NET Bible text. There is nothing contrived about the translation, and contrivance really puts me off. (I hate to admit this, but I just cannot relate to "the Message", as great a scholar as Peterson is.) I find the NET translation crystal clear thus far, and there is a sort of pleasure in reading how the translators express anew passages with which I have been familiar nearly all of my life.

The footnote that follows "How blessed" states: "The Hebrew noun is an abstract plural. The word often refers metonymically to the happiness that God-given security and prosperity produce . . . "

"Refers metonymically". This is a new adverb for me. Lawyers do not think that way nor write that way. I had to go look that word up. The noun form is "metonymy" and, according to Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition (1938 - If I were a pagan I would worship this book!), it is a rhetorical device that means

"The use of one word for another that it suggests, as the effect for the cause, the cause for the effect, the sign for the thing signified, the container for the contained, etc. (darkness was the saving of us, for the cause of saving ; a man keeps a good table , instead of good food ; we read Virgil , that is, his poems; a man has a warm heart , that is, warm affections)."

(As a synonym for metonymy, the dictionary gives synecdoche, and that certainly clears things up for me.)

But back to metonymy and Psalm 1.

Look at verse 2 of your NIV. The NET Bible translates the first part of verse 2 as "Instead, he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord's commands". Appended to "instead" is footnote 11. The footnote states that the literal translation of this part is "his delight [is] in the law of the Lord", which, to one who first memorized Psalm 1 in the KJV, is the more familiar translation. The footnote indicates that the translator went directly to the idea to which the literal Hebrew metonymically refers:

"In light of the following line ['he meditates on his commands day and night'], which focuses on studying the Lord's law, one might translate, 'he finds pleasure in studying the Lord's commands.' However, even if one translates the line this way, it is important to recognize that mere study and intellectual awareness are not ultimately what bring divine favor. Study of the law is metonymic here for the correct attitudes and behavior that should result from an awareness of and commitment to God's moral will; thus 'obeying' has been used in the translation rather than 'studying'."

I think what I like about the NET Bible is that the reader is simply not patronized, neither in the text translation nor in the annotations. The reader is treated like a grown-up.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Remind me of this and take away my keys when the time comes.

"Motorists 85 and older now surpass 16 year olds in frequency of fatalities per mile driven, and nearly match teenagers in rates of insurance claims for property damage, according to statistics from the insurance industry and the federal government. Drivers 65 and older are more likely than teens to have fatal multivehicle crashes at intersections, the data show."

-- Today's WSJ
The forecast.
There's a 90% chance that I'll be teaching here in the next school year.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jesus Unempowered. Last night at our Bible study at TWT we looked at Mark 6:1-12. There are two sections to this passage, and the first part, the part dealing with Jesus returning to his home town of Nazareth, raises the question (at least in my mind) of the extent to which or the way in which one's will participates in God's redemptive work.

The townspeople reject Jesus. Really, they go beyond that. Their remarks imply that his power is not from God but from Satan, that, if we take away these evil powers from Jesus, what we have left is a mere laborer and, actually, worse than that, we have the son of a fornicator. Pretty nasty stuff.

In this passage, Jesus "could not do any miracles there [in his home town], except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them." Jesus apparent inability to perform miracles is clearly linked to the lack of faith of the townspeople. "And he was amazed by their lack of faith".

The only other part of the Gospels where Jesus is described as being "amazed" is in Matthew 8, where Jesus is amazed at the greatness of the faith of the Roman centurion. That faith is connected with Jesus healing the Roman's servant from a distance.

There are many places where faith is linked to God's intervention and great works.

Maybe this is a lot simpler than I think it is. But sometimes I read theology that seems bent on banishing the significance of one's works from the most profound questions of a person's relationship with God. So the idea of "faith" (which is a kind of work, is it not?) having such a profound influence on the working of God's will seems new and surprising.

But, of course, there is a sort of Catch 22 here. The counterargument seems to go like this. One has this "saving faith" only because the Holy Spirit is working in one's heart. Grace is, finally, irresistible. So, really, we do not have an individual "work" of one's will. We have a work of God. Hmmmm. Not a completely satisfying argument. This is why I don't make my living as a theologian.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Human Heart.

Gradually it was disclosed to me [in the Gulag] that the line separating good from evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts.

Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago, as quoted by Dalrymple in Our Culture, What's Left of It.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bearing Arms
Glenn Reynolds writes over at the UK's Guardian:
. . . this led me to speculate a few years ago that the right of people to be armed to resist genocide should perhaps be regarded as the next international human right.

An article forthcoming in the Notre Dame Law Review takes a much deeper look (pdf) at that very question, with particular emphasis on Darfur, and notes that the victims of the genocide are effectively disarmed by law and international embargo while the perpetrating janjaweed militias are armed and financed (as is common in genocides) by the Sudanese government. For the people of Darfur, relying on the government to protect them is absurd, as the government is behind their murder. Relying on the international community, on the other hand, is absurd because the international community is - at the most charitable - absurd. In fact, as is also the case with most genocides, much of the international community is complicit, at least to the extent of turning a blind eye to conduct that would otherwise imperil important government contracts, or oil ventures.

Given that this sort of behaviour is par for the course when genocides occur, who would dare to say that the inhabitants of Darfur do not have a right to arm themselves and resist their killers with force?
This makes me think even more seriously about exercising my own 2nd amendment right.
Cultural Winds
From an article by Frederica Mathewes-Green
The influence of the culture on all those individuals, including Christians, is less like that of a formal institution and more like the weather. We can observe that, under current conditions, it's cloudy with a chance of cynicism. Crudity is up, nudity is holding steady, and there is a 60 percent chance that any recent movie will include a shot of a man urinating. Large fluffy clouds of sentimental spirituality are increasing on the horizon, but we have yet to see whether they will blow toward or away from Christian truth. Stay tuned for further developments.

As Mark Twain famously remarked, everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. I think much of our frustration is due to trying to steer the weather, rather than trying to reach individuals caught up in the storm.
J. Long used culture as weather imagery way back when he first wrote Emerging Hope. I find it to be quite an apt & useful metaphor.
. . . when Christians gather, there's less talk about humility, patience, and the struggle against sin. Instead, there's near-obsessive emphasis on the need for a silver-bullet media product that will magically open the nation to faith in Jesus Christ. Usually, the product they crave is a movie. Now, I'm delighted that Christians are working in Hollywood; we should be salt and light in every community that exists, and so powerful a medium clearly merits our powerful stories. But it's telling that the media extravaganza so eagerly awaited is not a novel or a song, something an individual might undertake, but a movie: something that will require enormous physical and professional resources, millions of dollars, and, basically, be done by somebody else.

This focus on an external, public signal is contrary to the embodied mission of the church. Christ planned to attract people to himself through the transformed lives of his people. It's understandable that we feel chafed by what media giants say about us and the things we care about, and that we crave the chance to tell our own side of the story. It's as if the world's ballpark is ringed with billboards, and we rankle because we should have a billboard too. But if someone should actually see our billboard, and be intrigued, and walk in the door of a church, he would find that he had joined a community that was just creating another billboard.
Ouch. That nicely puts language around on of my greatest fears in creating culturally relevant evangelism &/or worship services. Not that this isn't a good project, just that this is clearly one of the occupation hazzards of the project.
One excellent way to see how much our culture's passing weather patterns have influenced us is to read old books. If you receive all your information from contemporary writers, Christian or secular, you will never perceive whole concepts that people in other generations could see. Every Christian should always have at his bedside at least one book that is at least fifty years old-the older the better. C.S. Lewis has a wonderful passage on this phenomenon in his introduction to St. Athanasius' "On the Incarnation":"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."

The "old books" can help us discern the prevailing assumptions of our cultural moment, not only concerning the content of our discussions, but their style.
Here at K&K we never pass up an opportunity to broadcast the signal: You Should Be Reading More & Deeper!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Night Stand
What texts are moving through the MLS queue.

Recently exiting:
The First World War, John Keegan. Excellent & Educational. I'm looking forward to reading his books on WWII.
Ghost Bridades, John Scalzi. A kind of sequal to Old Man's War, but you needn't have read the latter to enjoy the former. A quick read, but very fun.
Moneyball, Michael Lewis. Recommended by many, but put in my hands last week by Joel Bush. I can see what the fuss was about: a great & heretical view of the business of baseball. I never want to be in that business, but it was very interesting to read about. Many non-baseball insights in that book.

Now entering:
An Army Of Davids, Glenn Reynolds. Indeed.
The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker. Recommended by Jef Sewell. He said, "I recommend this book to everyone, but nobody ever reads it." How could I not read it with a challenge like that?
The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. A birthday gift from Walter & Morgan. The kind of birthday gift that says, "Here's a little two year project for you."

Running in queue:
Getting Things Done, David Allen
Ready For Anything, David Allen
Concerning The Inner Life, Evelyn Underhill.

Stalled in queue:
Essential McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan, Eric McLuhan. I think I would have been better off reading one of Marshall's actual books to begin with, rather than an anthology. But I will finish this and move to one of those.
One Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse. Recommended by a neighbor, but I have trouble staying engaged with Marxist rhetoric. Slow going. I much prefer Capitalist rhetoric.

What's going through your reading queues?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Surprise Ice
I'm cleaning up the kitchen after Kellsey & I had a neighbor over for a delightful dinner. There's all kinds of commotion in Austin, between SXSW & a March Madness with UT at the dance. But I'm taking my time washing dishes, sipping my left-over wine from dinner, and listening to the Kings of Convenience's latest album, Riot On An Empty Street, play on the stereo.

Kells & I both highly recommend the album. They're a kind of a 21st Century Simon & Garfunkel. (In fact, they explictly state that they love S&G and model themselves after them.)

What struck me tonight was their lyric in "Suprise Ice":

Love comes like surprise ice on the water.

Lots of falling-in-love imagery stress the suddeness of it, but don't take into account other aspects of falling in love. This lyric feels like a better metaphor to me because love often happens in a context conducive to love. But just because you have a conducive environment, doesn't necessitate falling in love.

So you have a cold cold day, but no ice. And it stays cold. No ice. Then, suddenly one morning there's ice on the water. It isn't that you can't look back and see the set-up for it, but you never can predict when the gestalt moment will happen.
"Mr. Jordan" and Small People. Could be our genes, Aidan, but its way too early to tell. "Mr. Jordan" was small. He was your great, great-grandfather on my mother's mother's mother's side, and married Della Lanford, daughter of Malmouth Lanford. He was a fine businessman in Atlanta. He was always referred to as "Mr. Jordan" by everyone else in the family, a sign of deep respect. I never met him. He died before I was born. But his widow came down to see us every year. When she was here, she worked around the house all of the time, never letting up. She was a small person, and she was of absolutely sterling character. Good genes come in small packages.

(By the way, Jordan is pronounced "Jer-den".)
'Nita and Names. I picked up my mother from the hospital this morning and brought her home to Epworth. She was in great spirits and in good shape. (On the way down in the hospital elevator, she "hit" on a young intern who had been in to see her the day before. He said "I'm married".) Whatever her affliction on Wednesday, it passed on by fairly quickly. (I think it was gone by the time I reached the ER.) I spoke to Steve Fields this morning, and he said that nothing showed up on the tests and he has perscribed no medication. (Thank you, Steve.) She definitely has these "spells" and, maybe, one day one of those spells will send her on to Glory. But for now, she's back. I'm glad.

Which is the occasion for reflecting on how she talks, especially names, since we had some (mostly negative) interest in the first name of my children's great-great-grandfather's Malmouth Lanford. The following is a table showing how a given name in our family is spelled and how it is pronounced if you are from deep, deep East Point, Georgia.

Malmouth is "Mammoth"

Paul is "Paw-uhl"

Walter is "Wuh-all-tuh"

Carlos is "Call-us"

Juanita is "Wuh-oo-nee-tuh". That "Wuh-oo" part takes so long in rolling off the tongue that the name is usually shortened to "'Nita".

Ken is "Kee-un"

Tim is "Tee-um"

Francis is "Fray-in-sus"

Hemperley (my mother's maiden name) is "Hemp-lee"

There are more, but they don't come to mind right now. Maybe you have some to add.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Malmuth Lanford. My mom (Juanita) had what we can only describe as a "spell" yesterday and made her way to the nurses' station at Epworth. They were alarmed, called 911, and she's in the hospital. I saw her in the ER last night and she was better, but they admitted her. I spoke to her this morning and she had already seen Dr. Steve Fields, the son of the doctor who took care of me as I was growing up and for whom I baby-sitted (baby-sat?) a couple of times. (Steve's parents remain friends of ours and are clients. Steve takes care of Nancy Jones' mother too. Nancy is my paralegal. Who said you can't have deep and complex relationships in South Florida?) Mom said that Steve doesn't believe its her heart, but she will stay at least one more night and see a cardiologist today. We can't figure out what happens to her. Something definitely does happen to her, however. About six months ago we were checking this out with assorted specialists, and Mother, while being examined by one of these high-powered people, had a "spell". He was impressed but had no idea. I think its some sort of mini-stroke, but what do I know. The physicians have no idea at this point and are not treating what they don't know, which is honest at least. Anyway, I hope to bail her out tomorrow.

All of that is by way of introduction, because while speaking to her on the phone this morning she talked about her great-grandfather, Malmuth Lanford, whom she dearly loved. We got into "Greatgrandpa Lanford" (herein "GGPL") because we were talking about how old she and I are, which amazes the two of us. She is 85 and I am 60 this year. She brought up GGPL because "he lived until he was 90", describing it in a manner that implied living this long was an achievement as I think it was.

GGPL was a farmer who lived outside of Stone Mountain Georgia, and Juanita spent a few weeks each summer on the farm when she was a little girl. His family farmed there during the Civil War, but Juanita is careful to say that "they had no slaves". GGPL was a little boy when Sherman's army came through, Sherman having beat Atlanta to a pulp and heading for "the Sea". There was a great crop of corn standing in the fields, and the Yankees burned it. It created an indelible family memory, and I never hear about GGPL without being told that story. It made living through the winter without starving a matter of some doubt, but obviously GGP got through it.

GGPL was a Christian, and Juanita went to Corinth Church in Stone Mountain with him and her great-grandmother when she visited. It was a "Missionary Baptist" church, a precursor, I think, to the Southern Baptists. They were "Missionary" so as to distinguish themselves from "Hardshell" or "Primitive" Baptists who did not believe in missions and felt that salvation or not was predestined, so why bother. Juanita said that when GGPL prayed, he got down on his knees.

I told Juanita that despite her admiration for GGPL living to 90, I am holding out for 100 for her.

Aidan at 17 months. What a guy!
Will Williams. In the current issue, FT publishes a letter from this DC graduate ("a proud alumnus") who lives in Waco. In response to Terry Eastland's "God and Man at Davidson" in the January issue, Will writes in part:

To drop the requirement that all trustees be active members of a Presbyterian, or indeed any, church and then to represent that act as truer fidelity to Davidson's Reformed tradition is redolent of subterfuge and far from the instruction of John Calvin or the Scriptures he prized.

Right on, Will!
"The Two-Hundred-Year War". The April 2006 issue of First Things arrived yesterday. They seem to come so quickly, and its very difficult to keep up with them. On the other hand, I have discovered what the annual vacation is for: catching up on all the unread articles in the First Things issues of the prior year.

In the meanwhile, then (who was it who said that we "live in the meanwhile"; probably Fr. Neuhaus), I cherry pick. I look at the front cover, which really has a useful design and lays out all the innards of that issue, and see what interests me immediately. Often its what Fr. Neuhaus is writing about in his column "The Public Square".

On the train this morning, I read his post on the issue of whether the West is at war with Islam. For one thing, the post has a short bibliography of titles that treat this issue, a biblio that would be a useful way to move into this subject. But the post is mainly a review of a new book by Mary Halbeck of Johns Hopkins, entitled Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror.

I would like to read all of those books! But I can't even get through the FT articles. Maybe that's part of what you do in heaven. Like my vacation, you spend part of eternity catching up on your reading. Heaven will be a happy place.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Right on, McCain! The senator does Streisand.
(Transcript here.)
This morning, Aidan and I ran into Doc Searls at our Starbucks. Clearly a man of good taste, he discovered the seat with the best view of the sunrise. I hope the Sbux staff cleaned it from yesterday morning, otherwise I'm afraid the "lens flare" error he got on his camera might have been caused by "Aidan Drool" left over from Aidan smearing his face across that window as per usual.

I saw Doc yesterday in this panel at SXSWi. As I told him this morning, I really enjoyed that panel. It's just so fun to hear the continued conversation around the idea that "markets are conversations." (I like to think that what we're doing with The Company is a small part of that.) It seems to me that what they were talking about in the above panel is part of the 21st century continuation of the Great Conversation. Which, as Kith&Kinners know, makes it intrinsically interesting.

On a side note, I haven't posted about Aidan & I at Sbux lately, but I have been thinking about it. Seeing Doc there triggered it again. Sbux is definitely not Keep Austin Weird (tm). When we first moved here, that was almost enough to keep us from going. But wanting to stroller to coffee won out over wanting to be cool, so Sbux it was. And we have found that the staff there are delightful and the other regulars are just as interesting as most everyone else we meet in Austin. Some mornings I think, "Maybe we should go to Jo's Coffee today." But that would mean missing out on seeing our friends at Sbux!

So we come back every morning and drool on the window. Sorry Doc!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

K2 Update. UPS delivered to the office on Friday the box with the kit in it, a box packed within a box, and I opened it yesterday. I was amazed at how small the box that held the kit was. But, then, the unit when built will be only 3 inches high, 7.9 inches wide, and 8.3 inches deep, not including the plugs and things that stick out some from the back.

The kit box contained a very nice, plastic spiral bound "owners manual" that, mainly, lists the inventory and then tells you how to put the thing together. It leads the builder step by step through what appears to be a well considered process.

The parts are in various plastic bags that correspond to various phases of construction. There are also small envelopes with parts in them. Finally, there are the case materials, five pieces that will, somehow, fit together to make a enclosure.

But the first thing to do is to inventory the parts, and that's what I've been doing this weekend. (If anything is missing, then one emails the company and it sends the missing part or parts.) During the inventory process I sort out the various components, and group similar components in small zip lock bags in which I put a little note showing the part number and the value of the part. For example, a particular resistor with a value of, say, 100 ohms, would have a note in the zip lock bag that would say "R1 [if that's the part number] and 100".

The parts are very small, and their identifying information usually consists of tiny letters and numbers or color codes printed on the part. To see this information, I use a lamp that has a fluorescent bulb wrapped around a big magnifying glass. The lamp/magnifier is affixed to the end of an articulated arm clamped to my work table.

The resistors are among the tiny parts that are color coded. This is a problem because I am color blind. So I make a guess on the colors and then check my guess with a digital volt-ohm multitester ("DVM"), another Christmas gift.

There are 869 pieces to the kit, most of which need to be soldered in at least two places. Over the last several years, I have been making do with a cheap, 20 watt soldering iron from Radio Shack. But the Elecraft people urge the builder to use a "soldering station". This is a soldering device that allows the user to control the temperature and to change soldering tips as necessary. So I have ordered one of the soldering stations that Elecraft recommends.

Great care is to be taken in the choice of solder. There are many kinds and they come in numerous diameters. But only certain "rosin-core" solder types will do, and the diameter must be within certain limits. (I have to use the magnifier to do the soldering.)

On Elecraft's website there is some good help for builders, including photographs and a "reflector" where builders can exchange information on their projects and get help from engineers at the company.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Joy! The K2 kit arrived today.
Why the Aging Baby Boomers will not Bankrupt the Next Generation. Today I had a client conference with a fellow, early baby boomer (like me, born in 1946). His daughter was with him and she is a medical student. At a point toward the end of the conference, he brought up the subject of the huge cohort of baby boomers who are soon retiring and would put a terrible demand on medical services, etc. His daughter laughed and said that her professors at medical school say "not to worry". The boomers, they said, are all so overweight that they will die off much sooner than anybody anticipates. (Here, have a Coke.)
Donum Vitae. One of our readers, who commented on our post on Pregnancy and Moral Labor and whose nom de net is "Daughter of St. John", has pointed me to this publication of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. The following is from the introduction to that document, which is entitled "Donum Vitae" and well worth reading:

The exposition [of Donum Vitae]is arranged as follows: an introduction will recall the fundamental principles, of an anthropological and moral character, which are necessary for a proper evaluation of the problems [to which artificial procreation and related matters give rise] and for working out replies to those questions; the first part will have as its subject respect for the human being from the first moment of his or her existence; the second part will deal with the moral questions raised by technical interventions on human procreation; the third part will offer some orientations on the relationships between moral law and civil law in terms of the respect due to human embryos and fetuses and as regards the legitimacy of techniques of artificial procreation.

But what is the "Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith"? I emailed my friend and former law partner, John Immer, who is heavy, heavy, into Catholic matters and my local authority on the Catholic Church, "John, is this the Magisterium?" His reply:

"You betcha! Actually, it interprets the tenets of the Catholic
Faith, i.e. the Magisterium. Incidentially, the head of the Congregation
is an American Archbishop from San Francisco who was just made a
cardinal (Leveda). Theoretically, he is second in command to the Pope."

Now it would certainly be nice to have a "Congregation" of well educated, experienced Christians, carefully chosen and full of wisdom, thinking, studying, and praying these questions through and, finally, making a decision. (Provided, of course, that they agreed with you.) Among the things that was so attractive about Jesus was that he "spoke with authority". E.g. Matthew 7:29.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Work Fun
I'm going to SXSWinteractive this Saturday - Tuesday! Very, very fun. I'll get to be in the same room as the folks who started Technorati, Threadless, Adaptive Path and other very interesting webfolks, like Jason Kottke. The goal is to get new business for The Company. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It's the student, after all. Or, more precisely, the student's family. Carol pointed out this article from USA Today on student culpability in the falling performance of the American middle class student. Dalrymple makes a similar point in Life at the Bottom, where he notes the marked difference in the success of Indian students in the "underclass" section of London, where he served as a physician, from that of the children from "native" London families (if we can describe the shifting aggregations among those "native" people he describes as "families".) Dalrymple observes that the Indian children, raised in coherant families where the parents worked hard and were loyal to each other, were quite often able to study and work their way out of those neighborhoods, although some would be caught by the corrosive values of the larger culture that was doing great damage to the other young people Dalrymple saw. Dalrymple also observes that the testing standards that the government schools in England uses are very watered down versions of what went before, designed to make the English students, and therefore the educational bureaucrats, look more successful than they really are. At least in the US, we have a movement afoot, however awkward and annoying, to test government school students using national standards that are more than simply enabling window-dressing. (At least I hope they are. What do you think, Mary?)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Mission Begins.

At last, I have reached the point of ordering a K2, the fabled transceiver kit manufactured by an actual US company, Elecraft. Elecraft is one of only two US electronics manufacturers still in the amateur radio transceiver business. (Thanks to all of you who have contributed to the "Radio Fund" over the last several Christmases and birthdays. Your generosity has helped make this momentous event possible.)

Here is what I will build, d.v.:

As I progess with this project, I will give you updates, because I am sure you share my excitement.

UPDATE: Scheduled delivery date 03/06/2006!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sola Scriptura II.

The infallible rule of intepretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

From Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession.

Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures. Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disgree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.

And in the same order also we place the decrees and canons of councils.

Wherefore we do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number of those who share the same opinion or by the prescription of a long time. Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided.

From Chapter II of the Second Helvetic Confession
Be your own Beacon. I have previously posted about beacons, those radio stations around the world that transmit from various places at various frequencies and let you know how the propagation is working. I have learned that one can be his own beacon. You need to have an Amateur Radio Service license, but that's a small thing. Here's a link to a site by an Ogden Utah ham, Jim Southwick, N7JS, who describes his 10 meter beacon transceiver, which he put together himself. I am inspired. This goes on my project list immediately.

I read about Jim's project in the February 2006 issue of CQ magazine. A copy of the article is available at Jim's website, to which I link above, in PDF format.

Jim's article mentions a website by a British amateur that has "a very good list of beacons worldwide".

You don't need to be a ham to listen to these beacons. You need some sort of Short Wave radio. They are pretty inexpensive at Radio Shack. If you listen to a beacon and send the beacon guy an email telling him where and when you heard his signal, you will get a card from him, called a QSL card, and you will make him very happy.
No Girly-Men! From Harvard, of all places, a call for manliness. Also see here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sola Scriptura? Into chapter 3 of Catholic Matters: "The Authority in Question" Of course, Neuhaus and I are arguing, but he makes some telling points.

[Regarding the matter of authority, t]he dispute [between Protestants and Catholics] is usually framed as the authority of the Bible vs. the authority of the Church, or the authority of the Bible vs. the authority of "tradition". But that way of framing the question is, I believe, deeply incoherent. . . . The promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide his disciples into all truth is a promise made to the Church [as opposed to individuals? I think that would be his position]. That promise is fulfilled, in part in the Spirit-inspired writing of the New Testament. But the guidance of the Spirit did not end there. The promise is that the Spirit would guide the Church to the end of time. The Spirit aided the Church in the writing of the inspired texts [we must agree]; guided the Church in recognizing which texts, of the many claiming inspiration at the time, were truly inspired [we must agree]; guided the Church in determining what would be the canon of the New Testament [yes, yes]; and guided the Church in declaring the unique authority of the canonical texts for all time [yes]. In sum, it is the Spirit guiding the Church from beginning to end, and the end is not yet [gee, you mean it didn't end with the Westminster Confession?].

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Alex and I are having a discussion about Group-Think as it relates to Faith over at Piebald Life. (This is the first post on the matter.) As usual, I have a stone-cold lock on the facts of the matter. That's what the voices in my head keep telling me, at any rate.
Yo Soy Catolico?

Fr. Neuhaus writes in the first chapter of Catholic Matters, the chapter entitled "The Church We Mean When We Say 'The Church':"

"The [Second Vatican] Council's document on Christian unity, Unitatis Redintegratio, says that all Christians who are baptized and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour are 'in a certain but imperfect communion' with the Catholic Church. . . . Other Christians [that is, non-Catholic Christians] may bridle at this. They don't take kindly to the Catholic Church's assumption that they really are Catholics, although imperfectly so."

I don't take unkindly to this proposition.

Fr. Neuhaus dedicates his new book to Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. "friend and mentor". It turns out that Cardinal Dulles was a Presbyterian before he moved away from imperfection and toward perfection. (Fr. Neuhaus doesn't like the word "convert" to describe a Catholic like himself, like Carinal Dulles, who was formally a non-Catholic Christian.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What I Have Learned In 15 Years

Another really good article linked on Instapundit.

(Also posted by Carol)
Greatest Show on Earth.
The Return of Patriarchy

This is the title of an article by Philip Longman in Foreign Policy. This was linked today in Instapundit. Here is the introduction to the article:
Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.

One of the observations he makes is that fertility rates are 12% higher in the states that voted for Bush in 2004 than in the states that voted for Kerry. His thesis has some interesting implications for the world and for the U.S. James Taranto has written often of a somewhat related phenomenon he calls The Roe Effect. I think this article is worth reading.

(This post is by Carol. I think it will say it's by Paul.)
Awaited with some eagerness, it arrives. Catholic Matters. I'll let you know.