Sunday, April 30, 2006

Honest Lawyer
Would you give this character a job straight out of the University of Chicago Law School? Apparently someone did.

Thank goodness! Otherwise, we wouldn't have this awesome blog!

Update for context: Dad's got a Law School class reunion coming up & I'm helping him put together a little slideshow for it. So this weekend, I spent some time scanning in photos from the Law School Yearbook. A dangerous thing: giving your son your yearbook, knowing he has a blog. As Kellsey can attest, I laughed for a good ten minutes just because I was thinking about all the things I could photoshop into the "bio" below the picture.

Then I sobered up when I realized that my Middle School Yearbooks are still at my parent's home. And they have a scanner. And they have a blog, too. Ahem.

But I knew that K&Kers would like to see A Portrait Of The Lawyer As A Young Man. And, fyi, the contact information is no longer up to date. The martial marital status, though, is quite up to date.

Updated again for spelling: Because, while his marital status hasn't changed (picky picky!), his martial status surely has changed! As can be seen by the Gun Defense Blog link in the sidebar.
Saturday Night Not at the Movies. Carol and I tried to go to the movies last evening. We thought we would go to the 4:45PM show at Dolphin Mall and see Akeeba and the Bee. (We are not quite ready for United 93). The Dolphin Mall is a huge, pretentiously post-modern mall about 15 minutes west of us, that purportedly specializes in outlets for with-it national retailers. It has a big, multiscreen cinema with stadium seating, etc. Cobb Theaters runs the Cinena with what appears to be a bunch of minimum wage teenagers who are poorly trained and mostly not interested.

I picked up that we were not in for a happy experience as we approached the ticket windows and saw serious line anarchy. Now that's not unusual in Miami, because line discipline bespeaks a certain level of civilization to which South Florida has not yet risen, nor really cares to rise. (If it cared, then the ruling elite, in this case the management, would assume the teaching function of managing its lines.) But what really gave me concern were the temporary signs posted everywhere that the theater was not taking credit cards. (I remember my astonishment the first time, years ago in Charlotte, when I learned that one could actually finance the purchase of a movie ticket.) The computer was "down".

As the ticket person completed her slow motion process of giving us our tickets and six dollars of change from a twenty-dollar bill, being careful never to look at us, but subjecting the bill to very close scrutunty (she probably had never seen one prior to the computer going down, given the take-over by plastic of the consumer exchange system), she finally wrote something on the ticket to indicate on which side of the huge lobby we would find the auditorium wing that housed our theater. When I walked into the lobby, I saw why: the electronic bill board, resembling nothing more than the sort of thing one sees at the airport indicating arriving and departing flights, was not working - part of the same computer that handled the credit cards, no doubt.

So the young man who took our tickets told us which of the 10 theaters was playing our movie. We went to the theater and sat for about 20 minutes watching commercials in Spanish and English, well beyond the starting time (which is never really the starting time, of course), before some of the other people in the theater, who had lost patience and then inquired, told us that the movie to be played at that particular place had been cancelled and that the next one was at 6.

We left the theater and in the hall way found an employee, who told us that the movie in the theater that had just cancelled was not our movie, but that our movie was playing at another theater in the wing we were in. We asked a second employee about this as we walked down the hallway, and he took us to a third theater in that wing where, after all, our movie was playing. In fact, it had been playing for about 15 minutes.

We decided to go to the "customer service" (hah!) desk. Line discipline was not good there either, but finally we talked to another young man (actually he looked like a pre-teen, but had a suit and tie on with a gold badge, which is how you know he was "management"). We learned that the computer had been out since Thursday. He had a handwritten list of which theaters were playing which movies, and told us where ours was playing. Yes, we knew that, we said, but none of his employees knew that, apparently, and he looked at us as if we had said something completely unintelligible. He offered to give us a ticket for the next movie, but we got our money back - after one of the other "managers" went to get change from the ticket booth.

It wasn't that the place did not have enough staff. It was that none of them had a clue about how to run the place without a computer directing the public here and there.

I read where cinema attendance is declining, and industry seems to blame it mostly on Hollywood, But this experience we had at the Dolphin Mall is not atypical in our wider experience. I would say that at least 15% of the time the "experience" of going to a movie in South Florida is unpleasant, and often it is bad cinema management, which is usually showing up in poorly trained staff.

So we went to Publix, got the makings of a home-made pizza (Boboli makes a whole wheat crust these days), went home and watched "The Barefoot Contessa" on Channel 2 (the Public TV station).

Friday, April 28, 2006

Pamela Anderson (yes, that Pamela Anderson) writes in today's WSJ (yes, the WSJ) (emphasis in original):

King Kong is my hero. He's big, muscular, sensitive, a terrific actor -- and he's not real. The use of computer-generated imagery has really taken off in Hollywood. So why has Madison Avenue suddenly gone bananas for real apes? Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, with at least 95% of the same DNA. We're closer to them than they are to gorillas, so when I see chimpanzees being used as on-screen comedians, dressed up in silly costumes to sell credit cards, I think, Is this any way to treat a relative?...

This issue has been on my mind a lot lately....

It's not like there's a shortage of struggling starlets willing to embarrass themselves....


Ms. Anderson, an actress, is honorary chair of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Hey, Steve!

Hey Steve Spurrier, Go Gamecock's!

Hey Steve Jobs, Need a new iPod spokeswoman?
I was thinking maybe a course in English lit and grammar. The chief executive officer of Intel, Paul Otellini, at a meeting of analysts in New York to discuss the declining profitability of the company, said, according to today's WSJ:

"Every part of Intel will be included in this [review]. No stone will be left unturned, or unlooked at."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Air Around Us

I am a third of the way through The City of God and The Augustine is still talking about how the demons that everyone besides Christians worship can't compare to The Almighty. He goes at great lengths to deconstruct Roman, Greek, Egyptian dieties, philosophies, mysteries etc. and basically finds the same culprits behind all of them. He doesn't deny that there is power in these religions, not at all. Rather, he says that the power is destructive and demonic. And that it can't stand against Christ.

I've been reading this while also attending the 15 weeks of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course, and I've heard 15 weeks of lectures from missionaries and workers from around the world testifying to the reality that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against powerful prinicpalities and tremendous strongholds. And that these can not stand against Christ.

One speaker, a worker with Native American tribes, described the standard American Christian worldview as being, spiritually-speaking, God and Man. She made it clear that such a worldview doesn't explain the testimony of scripture, the church around the world, or her experience. She countered that the Christian worldview must contain God - spiritworld - man.

Going through this class and reading this book really spur me on toward serious prayer and serious discipline. I mean, what do you do with The Augustine? Do you try to debate this guy?
Wondering where a philosphy major at Davidson can take you? Ask Tony Snow.
Oh, Cal, Its only Politics. A traitor?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stavesacre CD Release

Morgan and I attended Stavesacre's CD release show in Dallas last Friday for How To Live With A Curse.

I thought that my tastes had mellowed some in the last 6 years, but I'm realizing I was just going through a phase. The heaviness has settled back in with a weight that's not to be moved easily, and I'm better for it. Indeed, I listened to the Trustkill Records podcast followed by the Metal Blade Records podcast while I ran for 75 minutes on Saturday. I'd never run that long before at such a pace, but I had found the formula for success--and it had been there all along.

Here's some photos of the show. Please buy the album. You'll be better for it, and I want to make sure Stavesacre's around to make more music for me.

Old Russian Radios! (This one's for you, Dad.)

BYOBW (Bring Your Own Big Wheel) Race down Lombard Street in SanFran. What fun! Looks like something my buddies Hayes & Brian would think up.

Interactive Zipcode Map: Ever wonder how the zipcode numbers are distributed? Now you'll know.
You know those spray-painted stencils that one sees around urban areas? No? Perhaps you should spend more time in urban areas. At any rate, if you've got a can of spray paint, but no stencil-making abilities, you can buy (yes, buy!) the latest hipster stencils here.

Like folding paper? Here's the blog for you. You can even learn how to fold a paper ocarina. That's a wind instrument (a flute-type thing not a wind-chime thing) for you non-Zelda players. (Because, with a little anthropomorphization , couldn't you call an wind-chime a wind instrument? That is, an instrument that the wind plays?)

Monday, April 24, 2006

More on Kenya's National Day of Prayer--via
Interesting Links
Part of my work in looking for new clients means that I'm scanning the web for creators who might want to, or who already are, selling their creations. This means that I come across some way cool websites. I often think, "ooh, K&Kers would like this one," but I don't often act upon this hunch. I hereby repent and so begin to show you some of the links I come across. (Incidentally, if anyone knows anyone at these places, and wants to put in a good word for me, feel free to do so and let me know you did!)

Have fun with money, among other very cool things.

A stripemaker cause, you know, you can't get enough stripes these days.

A collage machine. Seriously.

If only I were still in junior high & wearing my jean jacket. I would have ruled if I had pins like these! Also, the flash based store is one of the coolest form/function designs I've ever seen.

Here's the guy who invented the Apple Logo. Scroll down to see the guy who invented the George Foreman Grill.

Finally, here is the website of a way cool design company.
Scott has been holding out on us...

Scott, I had no idea! Why didn't you tell us?

Also, did you know that Jessica McClintock has designed an entire line of prom dresses called the "Anna Scott Prom Dress"? Check it out here.

Some of these are quite charming, and some of them....well, let's just say that some of them are not deserving of Anna Scott's name.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Explicating Chris: Theologically, of course.

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning,
Some dark and cold

A variation on the theme of Pascal's God-shaped hole in every heart. The metaphor holds: we are created to know & love God. And some of us do know him, and so brightly burn; others do not, and so are cold, but still have the potential to know him, which is what the presence of the candle implies. This is a different notion than straight up Calvinism (which, I'll re-assert, Calvin was not party to), which would lean towards saying that there are those within whom there is no candle. That is, the point of the metaphor in this song is that these cold candles have the potential for light.
There is a Spirit who brings the fire
Nice Pneumatology here: it is the Spirit's Fire, and the bringing of His fire is His work, not ours. This is orthodox doctrine, also reformed doctrine. So if the first line leans against Calvinism, this verse leans against Arminianism. Dichotomies which miss the point entirely, imho, but Chris here shoots between them nicely. Let us all live here between them.

Ignites His candle and makes His home
A really great turn of the phrase here. This candle in all of us: it's God's candle. So, in terms of what we bring to the table in this Man/God relationship, it's not very much, according to this song. Not only is the Fire God's to bring and to light, it's God's candle that he's placed in us. And the lit candle indicates that God has now made his home in us. Aesthically speaking, I like the image there. It makes me think of seeing a cabin in the dark woods with light streaming out of the windows. Or, perhaps a bit more Biblical, a city on a hill with light streaming from it in the night.
Carry your candle,
Now it's our candle. Which is right. Because this is both God's candle and our candle. And our response in receiving the candle and it's light is to now carry it. This metaphor is still working: why have a lit candle? Why, to illuminate something/someone. So the right response to being given a candle & light (and so given illumination for self) is to carry said candle to the darkness, which is what Chris turns to in the next phrase. (And, incidentally, why shouldn't the metaphor hold? Christ used it himself!)

Run to the darkness
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle and go light your world
Again, a good thing about the song is that it First unequivocally states that this is God's candle, and his work in lighting it, AND that the response is that it's our candle for us to use well.

Frustrated brother,
see how he's tried to
Light his own candle some other way

Theologically sound: we are doomed to frustration by our own work of "self-actualization," "self-discovery," "self-empowerment" and anything else we do to solve this unlit candle problem we've got.
See now our sister,
She's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

And there are people in this world who will take advantage of others who are looking for a light for their candle. To be told anything other than that the Lord Jesus holds the flame to her candle is to lie & to steal. The worst damage of all is this leads to the belief that their is either no flame for the candle, &/or that there really is no such thing as her candle at all.

We are a family whose hearts are blazing
Beautiful imagery for the body of Christ. Blazing elicits strength, fierceness, power, warmth, and brilliance. Again, Chris has good company here with Christ's imagery of a city on a hill. I'd say this is as good an image for the Church as a "mighty fortress" is for our God.

We raise our candles and light up the sky
Praying to our Father, "In the name of Jesus
Make us a beacon in darkest times!"
We have a trinitarian song here, beginning with the Spirit and ending with an appeal to the Father in the name of Jesus. And while this certainly isn't the only prayer the Church prays, it certainly is an important one, and one that might not get prayed enough.
Late Afternoon Light
This is my favorite part of our dining room table. I enjoy the simplicity, elegance & effectiveness of this joinery. These three beautiful pieces of wood are held together by each other & friction. There's nothing else needed.

When I walked past it, the sunlight streaming in spotlighted it and I found it's beauty arresting.
Supplies!! My other self.
Too Trivial for Worship? A couple of years ago, I sang a Chris Rice song, "Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)", during the worship service. One of the choir members, who bemoaned the left turn of church music into the contemporary (and has since left our church over the music program) told me of her surprise that I would sing such a trivial song.

But I like Chris Rice (and maybe it does betray my low-brow tendencies), and the other day I heard another song of his that I would like to sing, "Go Light Your World". But I really wonder whether it is too light to sing in worship. Here are the lyrics, and I'd like to know what you think:

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning,
Some dark and cold
There is a Spirit who brings the fire
Ignites His candle and makes His home

Carry your candle,
Run to the darkness
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle and go light your world

Frustrated brother,
see how he's tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now our sister,
She's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

So carry your candle,
run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely,
the tired and worn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle and
go light your world

We are a family whose hearts are blazing
We raise our candles and light up the sky
Praying to our Father, "In the name of Jesus
Make us a beacon in darkest times!"

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle and go light your world.
A Favorite Poem from College Days. In the program Carol and I attended last night, presented by the Frost Chorale at the Universtiy of Miami, the chorale sang a setting by Gweneth Walker of this poem. (They also sang a setting of the Sara Teasdale poem that I posted below.) The poem is by ee cummings, so I do have the punctuation right.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"I Am Not Yours" by Sara Teasdale

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love - put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.
News from Africa. Africa is now very large in our minds, as we think of Mary's call to Kenya. She sent us this link to a news of Africa website. Among other stories, the site linked to a story from Kenya about "the nation uniting in prayer" yesterday, an effort led by the president of that country. Here's the lead sentence of the article from Niarobi's East African Standard:

As Kenyans united in prayer yesterday, the message for President Mwai Kibaki was clear: Bring God to the centre of what you do

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wow. Read this dispatch from a soldier in Iraq. (Thanks, Instapundit.)
Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards. Perhaps everyone but I knows this, but your liability exposure with regard to a lost or stolen credit card is less than that for a debit card. According to this article, the credit card exposure is $50 and the debit card exposure is $500.
Living Wills. A client sent me this story:

While watching the Daytona 500 a few weeks back, my wife and I were discussing life and death. I told her, "Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

She promptly got up, unplugged the TV and threw out all my beer. Some days I hate being married to a _____________.
Scott Crossfield, Hero, May He Rest in Peace. Quite a guy. And married 60 years to the same lady. Six children and two grandchildren.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Writing about Science" Mary (and other writers/readers) would be interested in this article from this month's University of Chicago Magazine.
"The Design of Evolution" There has been a lively debate over on Sean's blog about evolutionism vs. creationism. In a comment over there, I suggested that the Roman Catholics have a view that seems to bridge the two views, and Sean asked me to find it, if I could.

I located an article in First Things. Entitled "The Design of Evolution", it is a piece written by Stephen M. Barr. It appears in the October 2005 issue.

Stephen M. Barr is a theoretical particle physicist at the Bartol Research Institute of the University of Delaware. I recently purchased his Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, but I've only gotten through the introduction thus far.
A More Benign Consideration of Islam.

In the April 2006 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine, an article considers religion scholar Michael Sells' position that Islam's conflict with the West "is neither eternal nor inevitable."

In part, the article states:

Coined and popularized by scholar Bernard Lewis in the 1990 Atlantic Monthly essay “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” the clash-of-civilizations theory posits that Islam has been warring with the West since the religion’s 7th-century founding. History begs to differ: a more accurate analogy, Sells argues, would be two bodies of water separated by a continent but joined by the currents that flow between them. “Until the colonial period, the great political entities were Christendom, in which European states were ruled by Christians but built upon Christian-Jewish-Muslim thought and culture, and Islamdom, which was ruled by Muslims but based upon Muslim-Jewish-Christian thought. They’re interconnected.”

Read the whole article here. Especially interesting are his comments on the Saudi version of the Sura Fatiha, the "Islamic Lord's Prayer", which version converts "a prayer of self-examination" to "a trumphant affirmation of religious superiority".

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This Morning's Walk
This morning I took Aidan for a walk through Big Stacy Park. It is called Big Stacy because it is larger than Little Stacy Park. Big Stacy is mostly a walking/jogging trail underneath the canopy of beautiful old gnarly oak trees. It also has a large pool that is open for free all year round. It is spring fed by a warm spring so it is not cold even in the winter. It's not so warm that it feels like a hot tub, though. Little Stacy has a large playground with a couple of different sections. There is a wading pool for tots, a toddler playscape, baby swings, normal swings, a tennis court, and a playscape for 5 years old and older. I did not make it all the way to Little Stacy today, but I took some pictures of Big Stacy while we walked.

This is the entrance to Big Stacy.

The rest of the images are just from different points along the way.

So, for any of you considering moving to Austin, may I suggest living in the Travis Heights area so you, too, may indulge yourself in the Stacy parks?
Bear Country Carry. The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan. A lot of reviews on line. Here's one.

What I carry is an S&W M642. It weighs 15 oz. empty. The Ruger weighs 42 oz. empty. Mine is a .38 caliber. The Ruger has a choice of much larger calibers, .454 Casull, .45 Colt, and .480 Ruger.

But my recollection is that guns are banned in most state and national parks. It would upset the wildlife. Oh, well.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

TurboTax Update
For the first installment of my working with TurboTax2005, please see this post.

So I heard back from TT fairly quickly. The first response was the typical, "We have received your support request," email. That pinged back fairly quickly from the web-form I filled out.

The second response was:
Thank you for contacting the Sales & Service Department. . . . I have forwarded your original message to our Technical Support department for assistance. You will receive a response from one of our agents within 8 hours. . . .

Rajkumar Raju
Intuit Tax Products Customer Service & Support
"Revolutionizing how people manage their financial lives"
Again, boilerplate email, but no problem. I understand that they've got make sure that their incoming emails get appropriately screened. And I did hear from them within 8 hours.

The third email I received was the first one which actually attempted to solve my issue:
Dear Macon Stokes,

Thank you for contacting Intuit Tax Products Customer Service & Support.

I have researched this issue for you and have found some links that shoulsd be useful in resolving this problem. We must also apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused you .Should yo ahve [sic] other questins or concerns please call tech support at 1-877-266-8909, or use the live chat or phone options of your program.

Title: The Refund or Tax Due Amount Changed After I E-Filed

Title: Amend a State Return

Title: TurboTax Accuracy Guarantee

Title: TurboTax Satisfaction Guarantee

If after using the information above you still need additional help, please use the link below.
I hope you agree that I have helped in resolving your issues today. You may receive a five question survey from us through email in approximately 24 hours asking you about my performance on today's contact, as well as comments you may have in regards to the TurboTax product. So we can continue with our promise to provide our customers with the best support available, please take a few minutes to complete the survey.


Marc Holdaway

Intuit Tax Products Customer Service & Support
"Revolutionizing how people manage their financial lives"
A nice email, which I even think might have been actually typed out by Marc, given the typo. It looks like these links will be helpful. I begin with hope.

As directed, I walk through the "Amended Return" steps, which have you essentially step through the entire State Return process. At the appropriate step, I indicate which W-2s are related to our time in NC and which W-2 is related to our time in TX. Up & until that step, all of the data that I'd previously entered in the original return has stayed the same. At the W-2 "Wages Allocation" step, all the W-2s are assigned to NC, which was the default the first time, and which I changed the first time. It looks to me like somewhere along the line in filing, TT reset to the W-2 default assignments. So I change the assignments and go on with the rest of the return. Again, except for the W-2 assignments, everything is the same as I'd entered it the first time. This is reassuring to me, as it seems to indicate that there's only one bug here. What's also reassuring is that with the W-2s correctly assigned, I'm back to getting a modest refund from NC

I continue to click through and get to a point where I'm given a chance to print the amended form. I take the opportunity to do so and am rewarded with a completed form D-400X "Amended North Carolina Individual Income Tax Return". The information on it is correct as far as I can see. I'm feeling good about this now.

I continue to click through, getting to the point at which I need to run the error check. TT identifies one error to correct, which is that I'm not eligible for electronic filing. No problem. Except that when I go down into the actual form, the "manual filing" box is checked. I can't figure out what to do to fix the perceived error. So I click "continue" and return to the page which says, "if you fixed errors or changed information, run State Review again." So I do. And get the same error. And I experience the same frustration with not being able to fix it. So I get back to the page where I'm given the "run review" option and skip the review option.

Now I'm congratulated for finishing my State Return. I "continue" and select the "file by mail" option. I am given the option to print my NC return so I may file it by mail. I do so. And . . .

Wait for it . . .

It's wrong.

It no longer reflects the changes I made to the W-2 "Wage Allocation" part of the program. Somewhere along the way TT reverted to it's W-2 default settings.

And I'm sure about this, as I did the above process three (!) times. This is a bit frustrating.

So I go back to my third email from TT to see what I should do next. I look for the link that Marc said I should click if his email didn't help. It turns out to be a "live chat" link for the TT helpdesk. I click on it. And, voila, I'm hooked into their live chat. Except that, like most people who work for a living, you know, the one's who have an income and so are paying income taxes, I work during normal business hours: 8ish to 6ish (Central). I get home, eat dinner help put Aidan to bed, then pull out the computer and TT to work through these issues. It's 8:30 when I start. It's 9:30 by the time I get to needing the helpdesk live chat.

The helpdesk closes at 5pm Pacific. And it's not open during the weekend. I'm unclear how they feel good about appending "help" to this "desk".

Marc has indicated in his email that I'm not to reply to his email. What, exactly, should I do? I'm pondering going back to the webform for another salvo.

But now I have some new questions: Should I send in my D-400X? I think it's correct, but you'll forgive me if I'm having doubts about TT's accuracy. Also, I still have to send in a form to NC to complete my original online submission. You know, the form to which I'm supposed to attach a check with the payment? I consider putting D-400X in with that first form (without a check), but then I notice that the first form has one address you're supposed to send it to if you're sending money, and one address to send it to if NC owes you money. Hmmmm. That's tricky. I think I might just call NC to see what I should do.

Regardless, so far I'm not impressed with TT this year.
New Subtitle Alert. I just noticed. Its funny. But I thought to myself, "Older people who post on this blog may do the same."
More on the Billy Graham Documentaries. (Are you getting tired of this?) There is a most remarkable clip in the video, Billy Graham: God's Ambassador. The scene is in the Soviet Union, still during the time of the Communist regime, in Moscow, perhaps the Red Square, at an event that Graham is addressing. A set of low stands is set in a semi-circle and on it is a men's chorus, before them a small orchestra. They sing Wilhousky's arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, they sing wonderfully, as only a chorus of grown up men can sing. They are the Red Army Choir!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter pics: I (must) once again subject you to pictures of my kiddos.
18 month check up

Friday was Aidan's 18 month check-up. He weighed 22 lbs 5 ozs and is 31 1/2 inches tall. This puts him in the 10th percentile for weight and the 25th for height. He is a little guy, but I am not concerned. (apparently, at 18 months I weighed all of 20 lbs 3 ozs and was also 31 1/2 inches my guess is that Aidan is just taking after me). Anyway, the doctor wants me to return in 2 to 3 months to see if he is still losing weight. We will, but I don't expect him to (keep losing weight, that is). Anyways, at this point he has 4 molars that are all breaking through at once, which seems to be causing him some pain and may be affecting his appetite. The poor guy had to get two shots and it seemed to really "fuss him out" for the rest of the day.

He is beginning to pick up lots of new words and continues to learn new signs for words he can't articulate yet. So, even though he can't say "elephant", he can stick his arm out like an elephant's truck and go "wooo-oooohh!" (his attempt to make an elephant's trumpeting sound). My particular new favorite thing is when you ask him what a bear says. He clenches his fists and raises them (with bent elbows) to either side and really clenches all the muscles in his body as he goes "grrrrrrrrrrr!" VERY CUTE.

He is not in the least interested in stacking his blocks, but he is obsessed with cars, trucks, tractors, airplanes, and really anything with wheels. He likes to make his cars and trucks go all over the couches, the floor, the stools, the armchairs, the get the idea. He also loves to unlatch and relatch buckles, and unplug and re-plug small little things like his monitor or his sound machine (don't worry, we don't let him play with real outlets). He also seems to read books in "jags". He will get stuck on a favorite book for a week and every time you put him to bed, you have to read that book first, and sometimes last as well. Currently, he is stuck on Sandra Boynton's Christmas book called "Bob the Reindeer and other Christmas Stories". When you sit down to read he immediately goes, "Bob? Bob? Bob?" and points until you get it and read it. Before that, he was stuck on a book with about 100 little flaps you can lift about life in Bethlehem around the time Jesus was born.

Anyways, he is really beginning to be a little boy. When I ask him if he wants something, he will think about it and either say ", na, no" and shake his head, or else he'll laugh and point to what he wants, impatient for you to give it to him.

Here's some cuter pics of the little guy. The top one is of him in his little fuzzi bunz--some cloth pocket diapers that are so fantastic! I LOVE THEM. I love them more than gdiapers (for those of you who got to read that post).

In fact, just as a follow-up: while I love gdiapers, it appears that Aidan does not. Something in the back of them itches his back and causes him to scratch so hard he gets little scratch scabs on his back. I think it's the tag or something, but I haven't figured it out because he is mainly in his fuzzi bunz. I have also discovered that he wets too much overnight to use either fuzzi bunz (even with a doubler) or the gdiapers. So, we're still using Huggies for those overnights. (that little tid-bit is for the readers who I know are out there who are actually interested in Aidan's diapers....if you're not interested, then thanks for reading anyways!) ;-)

hope you enjoyed the update!

Movies. Carol, who really is a much better net-surfer than I, found this gem. We really need to get Carol to become a regular post-person.

Some Mighty Changes Going On At Dove Avenue.
Billy Graham

In an earlier post, I mentioned viewing two programs this weekend on one of our local PBS stations about Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth Bell Graham. They were both simply fascinating productions, each attempting to cover the same territory, but each coming at the Grahams at different angles. He was an icon to my generation and that of my parents.

Senator Smathers, who founded the firm in which I began the practice of law, is a good friend of his. I will never forget the Christmas party at the Key Biscayne Hotel which the Senator and his wife hosted for our firm. Rev. Graham "dropped by" to say hello, and gave some seemingly off the cuff remarks about Christmas. He did so in a way that was unoffensive to my Jewish colleagues but, gently and effectively, offered no compromise on who Jesus was. It was simply a magic moment for me.

As a pre-teen, I saw Billy Graham twice, once at the Southern Baptist Convention, when it met on Miami Beach. (The Herald reported that the Baptists came with the Ten Commandments in one hand and a twenty-dollar bill in the other, and didn't break either one.) The second time I attended a Crusade that he led on Miami Beach.

As an adult, I saw him another time, this time at MIA. He was coming in from a trip. He is a tall man and he wore a fedora, a trenchcoat, and sun glasses. He did not look around and mainly looked at the way before him. But it was he. He was like a movie star. I just stopped and stared.

Although we have been to Montreat each summer for the past many years and often have attended the church that the Grahams attend, we have never seen him. But I do remember seeing Ruth Bell Graham at that church. (The church where she and Rev. Graham were married, I learned from one of the videos.) She was sitting with Jim Bakker who, the previous afternoon, had been released from prison - she had brought him to church! What a great example of love and grace!

Amazon has one of the videos: Billy Graham: God's Ambassador

The other can be purchased through a North Carolina firm. It had been produced, I think, by NC Public Television: Ruth and Billy Graham: What Grace Provides
Right to Bear Arms Update. Close to home.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Let us give thanks for the Second Amendment and Vigilant Local Officials.

"Government officials in St. Paul, Minn., took the precaution of removing an Easter Bunny display inside the lobby of city hall, saying it wasn't the city's place to promote religion."

From the April 8 issue of World Magazine.
Tax Issues
I worked through my taxes yesterday using TurboTax (Deluxe for Mac). But I hit a problem along the way. Below is my Customer Service inquiry at TT's website (submitted via a web-form).
After completing my federal return without trouble, I completed my state (NC) return.

I lived in NC from 1.05 through 6.05, and in TX from 7.05 through 12.05. Less than half of my gross income was made while I lived in NC.

Going through the NC return, the initial calculation on my taxes due was $[BigNumber]. I figured that this was because TT thought all my income accrued in NC. Sure enough, when it asked for the time frames for my income, and I entered the appropriate times for each W-2, my tax liability changed from $[BigNumber] to -$[SmallNumber]. (of course, this made me happy!)

At the time to efile, TT ran its error check and returned an error in my NC return.

The error: Line 7 on form D-422 was blank. To fix the error, TT asked me to enter a value.

Opening up "forms," it seemed to me that Line 7 of D-422 referenced lines 14 & 15 on D-400. So I made the calculations requested by Line7 (D-422) of Lines14&15 (D-400), and entered the difference in Line7 (D-422).

After completing this fix of the error, TT re-ran the error check function and declared an error free NC return. There was no indication that anything else had changed in my NC return, nor was there TT's normal, "you ought to recalculate your tax now" warning.

I clicked through the next steps to efile and waited for TT to transmit my Federal & NC returns.

As they were transmitted, the "Federal Tax Due" & "NC Tax Due" boxes refreshed. The Federal Tax Due stayed the same. (As it turns out, the Federal Government owes me money.) But when the NC Tax Due flashed up, it had reverted to a tax liability of $[BigNumber]. This was the same number that TT calculated before I'd indiated that less than half of my income was made in NC.

As this was revealed to me while the return was being submitted, there wasn't anything for me to do but cringe.

Once the returns were away, I re-printed my tax returns (I'd printed them before the error was found) and looking through the NC return, I see that on line48 of D-400, the "Income while a resident of NC" is absolutely wrong, and doesn't take into account that we only lived there half a year.

I looked through your FAQ and couldn't find instructions on what to do when one has efiled an incorrect state (NC) return. Is this an amended return situation?

Also, since I went through your step-by-step NC return process and couldn't fix this mis-calculation, I need some help to know what to do here. Despite my best efforts, is this a user error? Or is this a known issue that you're working on a patch for, and should I wait for such a thing? Or do I need to calculate my NC return by hand?

This is my 7th year using TT to file my taxes. I have never had any problems with TT and up to this point have been very pleased with your product. I almost did my taxes by hand, though, this year because needing to file NC income tax while only living there for 6 months seemed like a more complicated algorithm with more potential for TT failure. But then I figured that if you guys can figure out the Federal tax code, you can probably figure out anything, so I gave it a shot again this year.

I look forward to your suggestion for a resolution of this issue, and eagerly await your response.

If you'd like to follow my progress in resolving this issue, you may track it at my blog:
The website says I should hear back from them in 24 hours. I suspect that the first pingback will be a "We got your inquiry" automatic response. I thought I'd follow this interaction online since many Stokes Kith&Kin use TT & would be interested.

And while we're on the subject of taxes, what is up with the AMT (Alternate Minimum Tax)? When TT said that since my return was larger than the AMT, I wouldn't have to pay the AMT. I didn't quite know what to think of this, since the "M" stood for "minimum". If the AMT was smaller, shouldn't I be paying that, instead?

Then I saw the Journal's Saturday Editorial on the AMT. Their comment is that it should be called the Mandatory Maximum Tax, as it's not an option about whether you pay it, and the question isn't about you paying something less, it's about you paying whatever is higher. Wha? The older I get, and the more folks depend upon the income that I can generate (Kellsey, Aidan, for now), the more angry I get about income tax, and the less excited I am about my government giving money to folks who for whatever reason have not worked to earn said money. I know, some folks really do need it. I also know that there's neither an easy nor straightforward way to solve the problem. But it still really bugs me.
"Be Smarter at Work, Slack Off." Carol found this article from Fortune Magazine. It challenges the idea of multi-tasking being the mark of creativity and genius. This quote from Peter Drucker describes the problem that I have faced since entering the legal profession:

"To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive . . . needs to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours."

I keep a daily time record so that I know at the end of the day how much time I spend on each matter. Sometimes there are over 25 entries! And most of them are occasioned by interruptions of one sort of another. By the end of the day, when I ask myself what really have I accomplished, other than keeping a good time record, I don't like my answer. You would think that after 35+ years of trying to deal with this problem, I would have solved it. But it is a daily struggle.

My observaton is that many lawyers spend long hours in the office because they have to look busy and account for a certain number of billable hours during the regular work day. After the work day is over, they simply extend the stay at the office so that they can have some uninterrupted time to think. The clients get billed on the basis of those work-day "dribs and drabs" that the lawyer records on the file, but the real value being added occurs when the staff goes home, the phone stops ringing, and the office gets quiet. The difficulty is that when the lawyer has a family waiting for him at home, he must limit the amount of time at the office he would otherwise extend into the evening.

Last night we watched two documentaries on the the life of Billy Graham. They were both complimentary. One had David Frost as the narrator, and was largely focused on Graham's international work. The other had Walter Cronkite as the narrator, and it focused on Graham's relationship to his wife and to his family. What struck me was the huge chunks of time that Graham spent away from his family, literally months and months. When his children were very small, they didn't even remember who he was when he would come home. But those times away that Graham had, surrounded by a competent team, with the mission clearly defined, provided the basis of Graham's great success. I don't mean to suggest that the success was not enabled by the Holy Spirit, but that enabling probably occurred in ways that are consistent with the managment principle that Drucker refers to. (And clearly God poured his grace out on the family back home, and Ruth Bell Graham was a giant in her own right.) I also don't mean that family should be forsaken, and that fathers do not have a responsibility to attend to the daily needs of their wives and chldren. Graham, after all, is a figure who arises once every generation or two. But his life is instructive.

Some of us will, in fact, "go home" and leave the office. But the home itself, as it has been transformed into an entertainment center, is a place where wholesome "chunks of time" get diced into "dribs and drabs" as we hop around the internet, pop in the latest DVD from NetFlx, pick up and put down magazines and catalogs, and keep the house constantly full of music of one sort or another.

Even the contemporary worship service has become busy and "entertaining". We want to have good pace during the service; we don't want to linger too long with any one module; we don't want the line to go dead with spaces of quiet - someone may get bored; and, besides that, why aren't you up there in the choir with that voice with which God has gifted you? Why aren't you "serving"? The service is, after all, for the "seeker", as if I, having "accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord", have found all the God I really need.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Now this is interesting, I'm sure. Went to WW yesterday, as I have been doing since October, trying to get back to "maintenance", which is 155 pounds. Attending WW, I went from about 182 to 155 during the period from late 2004 to early 2005 and became a "lifetime member". Then I fell off the wagon and gained 10 back. I had spent over $350 in altering my business suits when I initially lost the weight, and then I reached the point where I could only wear two or three of those suits. I didn't want to spend the money with more alterations. And I hated to think that I had lost control of a part of my life that I could control (There aren't a lot of others you can control, you know.)

So last fall it was back to every week of WW, usually the only guy there (which is not all bad). Yesterday I weighed in at 158.5! Only 1.5 pounds to go and I'm into the "maintenance range", which is 2 pounds above and 2 pounds below "maintenance". When one is in the range, one does not have to pay to attend WW.

Loosing and keeping off weight, once you have passed a certain age, is very, very difficult. Every where I turn, there is food. At every social function and in the place in my house where I spend most of my waking time, the kitchen. And if its hard for me, a male type, my observations of the women at WW is that it is doubly hard for them.

This may be hypothetical right now for the generation of K&K below Carol and me, for whom their metabolism is a friend and not an enemy, but I assure you, the time will come when your body just won't burn up as many calories every day. It would not be a bad idea to work on good dietary habits now, so you will not have to make a radical change later.

One really sad thing that I observe these days is that not only are adults of all ages overweight in ever increasing numbers, but children are overweight in large numbers as well, as they never were when I was growing up and when our children were growing up.

WW has my hearty endorsement. It has a simple formula, less calories consumed, less weight added. More calories, more weight. You learn easy ways to evaluate the calory worth of foods you might consider eating and to keep track of those calories. Its about "portion control", mostly, and not swearing off altogether things you like to eat.
Bear Story. As someone who cannot think of a better place to be than in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park with his family, this post on Instapundit got my attention.
Sorry, Carol and Mary! From the lead article in today's WSJ concerning Mills Corp., the owner/developer of Sawgrass Mills:

[Mills Corp.'s] recent developments have largely been flops. One in five employees has left or been laid off, including its development director, raising doubts about whether it can finish the projects it hasn't already abandoned. Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into its accounting practices. Its stock has plummeted 55% the past eight months. On Wednesday, its lenders forced it to slash dividend payouts and to submit to biweekly financial reports while it readies itself for a likely sale.

However, Sawgrass Mills itself is a very healthy piece of the Mills Corp. empire, reasuringly reports the WSJ.
Bye-Bye, OPEC? Here's an optimistic view of our energy future. Subtract Middle East Oil from the energy equation and ask whether we would be in Iraq. I am not saying we should not be in Iraq, but clearly its about what we perceive to be our economic best interests. Last week, the WSJ has a front page article on the Canadian oil sands, equally optimistic, it seems to me. Buy ExxonMobil and buy Total, the French oil company.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Justification of the Genre
So I haven't been that big of a fan of mashups. (The practice of putting two songs together, essentially playing them together at the same time to create a unique third song.) Not that I don't think the theory's cool, or that the folks who do it are talented. I think it's a fun concept and takes skill to make the pitches & meteres match. They just didn't do anything for me. You like chocolate, I like vanilla: that's cool.

But then, Sean points out a mashup of "Video Killed the Radio Star" and "Chariots of Fire." And now I believe. At least for this one song, I am a fan!

1000 Spoons is the mashup genius behind it. You can listen here.
Clash of Civilizations. The WSJ reports today that "Miss Iraq went into hiding shortly after being crowned, fearing she'll be targeted by insurgents. Her predecessor quit following death threats."
Con Game. In a previous post, I linked to a British newspaper's account of new police regulations which give a policeman the discretion to allow a burglar to go free without a court hearing, much less a trial and sentencing. It appears from the article that a major reason for the policy is the expense to the government of incarcerating criminals.

In the United States, incarcerating criminals is similarly expensive. (The statistics on what we spend on prisoners per year, as compared to what we spend on educating our children, are simply shocking). But we seem to have the means and the will to undertake that expense. As a result, we have one of the highest prison populations in the world, if not the highest. There is a good bit of criticism, usually from the left, about that distinction, but one must admit that having fewer criminals on the street makes life much easier for the rest of us.

On the other hand, this article from the current issue of Forbes has a sensible criticism, it seems to me, of our prison system, and some good ideas to reform it. The author proceeds on the assumption that rehabilitative efforts, reasonably made, can have a positive effect on prison populations. (My sense is that many conservative commentators have decided that "rehabilitation" is an absurd and unreachable objective.) Greater Miami Youth for Christ has a very active prison ministry among teenagers, and from what I have been able to learn of the ministry, it has had some significant success in helping young people turn away from their paths of self-destruction.

It seems to me that Christians who seek to leaven a culture like ours, a culture full of so many corrosive ideas being promoted by a relentless media, ideas that enable and encourage people to make bad decisions, should not support a policy of simply building more prisons, but demand that something intelligent be done with the people in the prisons while we have them there.

As I have thought about that article from Britain, I had a couple of other thoughts.

One of them is that civilized countries have always had a problem with dealing with its criminals and with the expense of building prisons and maintaining prisoners in them. One way to deal with the problem was simply to execute convicts for all sorts of crimes. Another, if you were English, was to put the prisoners in obsolete ships sitting in the Thames, or to send the prisoners to the American Colonies and to Australia. It is interesting that somehow those convicts in America and Australia managed to be socialized suffiently to build new societies.

Another thought is that, finally, we may see the English rearm themselves. Right now, they have some exceedingly strict gun control laws. For example, if you shoot or otherwise harm a burglar in the act of pillaging your home, you will be prosecuted. This has to change, it seems to me. And we may see it in our lifetimes.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Constructive Weekend

UPDATED: 4.11.06 - pictures of the finished product!

This past weekend Aidan, Doug, Sue, Kells, Walter & I put together a super-de-dooper playground in the back of Doug & Sue's house. Perhaps the news of an upcoming 5th grandson (Justin & Kristen's 3rd boy) prompted it. Perhaps the first lovely Spring day in Austin prompted it. Regardless of the reason, we spent the better part of the weekend assembling the 1000 piece puzzle.

Aidan, of course, was a big help every step of the way.

Below, you can see him inspecting one of the boxes.

It's very important to give your slides a dry-run before actually installing them.

He's not afraid to get his hands dirty in actual assembly work.

But he mostly focused on supervision.

"Bob Vila, you've got nothin' on me!"

Putting up the "Swing Set" part of this "Playscape".

Enjoying the view!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

On the latest "Gospel"
The best/most enlightening commentary I've found so far:
Suppose that sometime around the year 3,800 A.D., someone wrote a newspaper that began: "According to a recently-discovered document, which appears to have been written sometime before 1926, Benedict Arnold did not attempt to betray George Washington and the American cause, as is commonly believed. Rather, Benedict Arnold was acting at the request of George Washington, because Washington wanted Arnold to help him create a dictatorship of the proletariat and the abolition of private property."

A reader who knew her ancient history would recognize that the newly-discovered "Arnold document" was almost certainly not a historically accurate account of the relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. The reader would know that the terms "dictatorship of the proletariat" and "abolition of private property" come from a political philosophy, Marxism, which was created long after Washington and Arnold were dead. The reader would also know that the most reliable records from the 18th century provided no support for the theory that Washington or Arnold favored a dictatorship of the proletariat or the abolition of private property.

This Friday's coverage of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid. The Judas gospel is interesting in its own right, but the notion that it disproves, or casts into doubt, the traditional orthodox understanding of the betrayal of Jesus is preposterous.
Do enjoy the whole thing.
For self-defense, women take up firearms. Article in today's Charlotte Observer.

More women, gun advocates say, are buying, shooting and carrying firearms -- in briefcases, purses or even on their hips.

For some, it's sport. But with violent crime up from five years ago and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police actively searching for a serial rapist, many women say it's about self-protection.

"Things out there are tough, for men and for women," Christy Barnes, a 22-year-old chiropractic assistant, said while practicing at a shooting range earlier this month. "I'd like to know I can handle myself."....

Dan Starks, who has taught firearms safety courses for 17 years said a firearm can give women the power to control almost any situation. And with crimes like carjackings and home invasions increasingly common, Starks says they need the protection.

"When you have a firearm in your hand, and the knowledge, skill and chutzpah to use it, nine times out of 10 you won't have to use it," he said. "Criminals don't like armed citizens."
Slow Thinking, Slow Loving. This week, Juan and I commiserated on a couple of matters. He is the responsible attorney on one of the cases, and I on the other of them. We are one another's consultant on these matters.

We commiserated on how "hard" these two matters are. That is, we complained because they took so much time to penetrate, to sort out the facts and the issues, and then to compose the appropriate plan. And time, the legal culture tells us, having surrendered to the bean-counters of the world, is money. For the modern lawyer, being fast is being good.

So Juan and I worry that being slow to grasp a matter either indicates callowness (the word Satan whispers into Juan's ear) or declining mental ability (the word he whispers into mine). But Juan is not callow, I can assure him. And Juan still thinks I have the horses. So part of what we do for each other is to say, "Yeah, that's hard! Here are some suggestions, and, by the way, you are a good lawyer."

The other part of that worry (and I fear its a larger portion than we care to admit) is that we may be "losing money" on the case. That is, we made a deal with the client under the assumption that the matter would take x amount of time, but it is turning out, as the case goes on, that the matter is taking x plus y. Even if our billing arrangement is a "straight hourly rate", we know that ethically speaking the case can only bear a fee of just so much. Even if the client doesn't complain, then our consciences will.

But we also know that, once a case is in the door, we really must give it all we have got. And I think we do, finally, do that. What a blessing it is to be out from under the pressure of the "big firm" where quality assessments really are on the basis of how many beans one puts into his jar. What we try to do, then, is to qualify the case carefully before we are engaged. We are getting better at that, I think. But the matter of how best to go about qualifyng a proposed engagement is another post. What I am talking about here is "slow thinking".

Actually, "slow thinking" is often the best sort of thinking there is. As one of Carol's marvelous dinners is to Subway's 6-inch turkey on wheat, the one often taking several hours in the preparation, not to mention the shopping, mental energy, and life-long experience, and the other about five minutes, so the fact finding, deliberation, discussion with peers, and many drafts of the complaint, the brief, or the opinion letter is to the "sidewalk opinion" that some laymen are able to trick from us, for which nothing is paid and for which we often give the exact value of that fee.

"Loving" is another area where our inferior nature often tells us simply to "go for it". But "slow loving" is so exquisite that in Ode to a Grecian Urn, Keats slows its progress to the point where it is frozen in time.

It is so difficult to be slow because we have allowed so many claims to bind us. The clutter I encounter is often so colorful and attractive. It only asks for a moment of my time. And like Gulliver, I am tied down by thousands of little moments as the weeks go by, none of them really going anywhere, none of them in any respect consistent with seeking God's Kingdom, seeking it first, and his righteousness.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Is Mexican Immigration Different? Should it be treated differently?
"The End of Iraq"

"The moment when Iraq could be held together as a truly unified state has probably passed. But a weak Iraq suits many inside and outside the country and it will still remain a name on the map. American power is steadily ebbing and the British forces are largely confined to their camps around Basra. A 'national unity government' may be established but it will not be national, will certainly be disunited and may govern very little. 'The government could end up being a few buildings in the Green Zone,' one minister said. The army and police are already split along sectarian and ethnic lines. The Iranians have been the main winners in the struggle for the country. The US has turned out to be militarily and politically weaker than anybody expected. The real question now is whether Iraq will break up with or without an all-out civil war."

From Peter Cockburn's article in the April 6, 2006 issue of the London Review of Books online.

Friday, April 07, 2006

SXSW Update - late breaking news

A few weeks ago South by Southwest music festival just finished, and here's what I saw: (All of these shows were great; I didn't list it if I was embarassed to have been there. The starred shows, though, were tremendous.)

Guero's Party
Milton Mapes

Paste Magazine Party
Jamie Collum
Josh Ritter*****
Over the Rhine*****

Red's Scoot Inn Eastside Party
John Vanderslice*****
Friends of Dean Martinez***** (my ears bled, though, I think)
Fiery Furnaces*****

Continental Club
Jon Dee Graham*****

Austin Java

End of an Ear Records
Band of Horses*****

Austin Java
Christina Roberts
Good Home Trainin'
means, among other things, you know how to write a thank you note.

And now I need to getting around to thanking folks for my birthday presents. My Jan 27th birthday presents.

If one gets a year to write the Wedding Gift Thank You Notes, what's the statute of limitations on Birthday Gifts? 6 months?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wal-Mart and the Inner City. See a recent feature on NPR about Wal-Mart's intention to open 50+ stores in inner-cities around America. And this article in the Chicago Tribune about what Wal-Mart is doing in a depressed neighborhood in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Thankfully, there's no bias
Michael Barone on Mainstream Media:
somewhere around 90 percent of the writers, editors and other personnel in the news media are Democrats and only about 10 percent are Republicans. We depend on the news media for information about government and politics, foreign affairs and war, public policy and demographic trends -- for a picture of the world around us. But the news comes from people 90 percent of whom are on one side of the political divide. Doesn't sound like an ideal situation.
Of course, a lot of people in the news business say it doesn't make any difference. I remember a conversation I had with a broadcast news executive many years ago.
"Doesn't the fact that 90 percent of your people are Democrats affect your work product?" I asked.
"Oh, no, no," he said. "Our people are professional. They have standards of objectivity and professionalism, so that their own views don't affect the news."
"So what you're saying," I said, "is that your work product would be identical if 90 percent of your people were Republicans."
He quickly replied, "No, then it would be biased."
I liked the whole thing. I've come around to the position that while standard media outlets aren't terribly, horribly biased towards the left, they are generally biased towards the left. Seriously, I don't know how anybody learned anything about anything before it could be fact checked via the internet.
The Singularity Is Near
Micro$oft on a Mac! Big news today in the tech-blogosphere:
This is Boot Camp, an official Apple beta product, that allows you to dual-boot XP. . . . no hassle. You literally just install it, run it, and rock and roll. The best part? The absolute best part? Read some of the page copy:
Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it’ll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes.

Macs use an ultra-modern industry standard technology called EFI to handle booting. Sadly, Windows XP, and even the upcoming Vista, are stuck in the 1980s with old-fashioned BIOS. But with Boot Camp, the Mac can operate smoothly in both centuries.
It’s like some OS X interns got drunk, wrote this, and then put up a “UJ SUXORZ!MIXCRO$OFTLOLOL” page.
Splitting Hairs
Yesterday, in writing an email, I wrote "a whole nother thing. . ." and thought, "man, that doesn't look right at all." So I erased it and re-wrote the sentence. But I continued to think about "a whole nother," because I've used those words in casual conversation plenty of times before. Why did it look so bad in print?

And then I realized what I meant to communicate was, "another whole thing".

For many years now I've known that it's bad form to split an infinitive. How bad is it to split an adjective?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

StarWars Wiki
Everything you ever wanted to know about StarWars is at the Wookieepedia. I killed a good three hours there over the weekend. I would have killed more, but, you know, life got in the way.
A fine breakfast
Ladies & gentlemen, I give you, the breakfast burrito. Bacon/Sausage/Bean/Potato, Egg & Cheese, wrapped in a four tortilla. Pure breakfast goodness. I'd take it over a BE&C Croissant, or a BE&C Biscuit. Thoughts?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"Holy Mackeral!" Indeed! Good news at the McClintock's house.
Some Really Bad Theology, Just in Time for Easter.

Fr. Neuhaus, where are you when we need you?!
Post 999 The next post will be the 1,000th post on K&K. Who will it be? What will we discuss? Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Different Folks. I heard a piece on NPR this morning about a play entitled "Well", by someone named Lisa Kron. Ms. Kron makes a point about other people that is arresting. She said something like "Other people aren't you with different life experiences." The statement may be a little hyperbolic, but the idea instructs me profoundly.

The most immediate point where I am instructed is in the area of judging other people. "Well", I think as I raise my eyebrow at the conduct or statement of another, "I certainly wouldn't [say that] [do that] [handle the situation that way]." This is a common topic of conversations that I have with myself about other people. It makes me feel immensely better about myself, even though it is at the expense of how I feel about the other person. Certainly it keeps me focused on myself. And, after all, isn't this what I am all about? That is, all about myself?

Thinking of the other person as "you with different life experiences" is the riskiest when one is dealing with family members. One is apt to think that, of all the people in the world who are most likely to be "you with different life experiences", those people are your kin, especially your children. Now we really can crank up the judgmental apparatus when we deal with them.

This doesn't mean that one's advice and counsel to friends and loved ones are not important and should not be freely given. (The children certainly know, as now you do, dear reader, that I'm certainly free with mine!) (Indeed, we sometimes have a duty to give such advice and counsel and, sometimes, give it quite forcefully.) It simply means that we need to remain at all times conscious of the other's otherness and to remember that the other has a "father in heaven", a counselor, who has special plans for that other one and to whom that other one must ultimately account (as each of us must for himself, ultimately).
Further on the Immigration Mess.

What would the controversy look like now if Roe vs. Wade had gone the other way 30 years ago?

What would it look like if Roe vs. Wade had gone the other way, and we had, all along, been good Catholics?
"A Disrespectable Morass."

In response to Sean's comment a couple of posts below about the immigration situation, please see Daniel Henniger's column in the WSJ yesterday. Henninger states in part:

"Respect for the law" is part of the American bedrock. As Alexis de Tocqueville rightly said, each voter indirectly contributes to the making of our laws, and "however irksome an enactment may be, the citizen of the United States complies with it . . . because it originates in his own authority." That is the high-road argument against the illegal Mexicans.

Another 19th-century Frenchman close to the hearts of American conservatives is Frederic Bastiat, who had a further thought: "The surest way to have the laws respected is to make them respectable." Is our immigration law "respectable"? Need you ask?

America is a nation of laws by now so numerous that it provides jobs for more lawyers per capita than any nation on earth. They serve as legal lifeguards, saving mostly honest citizens from the legal system's capricious undertow. Medical malpractice and asbestos are two areas of law for which "respect" is about zero. A law's existence requires compliance, but not respect.

Some of the anti-Mexican sentiment likely reflects an embarrassed awareness of our degraded laws, and so it has chosen to draw a line in the legal sand over immigration. That won't change the fact that U.S. immigration law is a disrespectable morass.
Today's Nita-isms. Boomiedocks for "boondocks". Tarsus, a successful Ford model in the 1990s, driven around Asia Minor by the Apostle Paul during his fourth missionary journey.
Two Views on Immigration, reasonably expressed.

The Wall Street Journal's.

Tony Blankley's.

The pro-business, pro-immigration side gives lip service to enforcing the immigration laws, but believes a "guest worker" program will bring the rule of law to what is now an essentially unenforceable system.

The anti-immigration side, which insists that it is anti-illegal immigration and not anti-legal immigration, says "Show me some enforcement of present laws first, and then we will talk about liberalizing legal entry".