Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"And on top of that, their team went 6-6 this year and they fired their coach". This must be bash-Miami month.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Charitable Explanantion. Letter to the Editior (may require subscription) in today's WSJ from Arthur Brooks regarding giving differences and preferences. The charity gap between Giving America and Non-Giving America, he asserts, is driven not by economics (i.e. those with more $$ give more), but by values. Hence, Giving America are generally folks who are religious, married, or who do not believe in income redistribution vis a vie government programs and spending. Folks with these values tend to be politically right-of-center. Brooks goes on to ask, "What does [the fact that conservatives outgive liberals] mean in the wake of the Democratic takeover of Congress?" That is, will private giving be protected and expanded?

My bigger question is this: If the Church had done a better job at caring and providing for the poor and down-trodden, would we even need the plethora of government programs to fill that gap? Or have we have conceded our personal responsiblity and have thus allowed a secular institution to do that which we ought?
We Have No Horse in this Race? See this article on intra-Muslim warfare.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

'Cane bashing at the WSJ. This column by Daniel Henninger appeared in the WSJ on Friday. Look at the metaphor he uses in the tenth paragraph. He gets this decade's Brent Musberger award for 'Cane hating. What a disappointment is Henninger, who otherwise writes a good column. Carol is afraid that Spurrier will come to Miami. I seriously, seriously doubt that one. I'm thinking Barry Alvarez, former coach and now AD at Wisconsin.

And speaking of getting knocked around, the Bowdens sure had a rough week this week. I think it's time, Bobby. But contrast the way FSU treats Bobby with the way the U has treated Larry Coker.
"Deja Vu". Carol and I saw this movie last night. The WSJ liked it, and Christianity Today gave it 3 out of 4 stars. I would say that CT has it about right. What I found most disturbing about the movie is how much weight Val Kilmer has put on. He wasn't bad in this movie, but he was terrific in this one now 13 (!) years ago.

We saw the movie at the Shoppes of South Miami. The center was crowded and festive. In fact, the area of "downtown" South Miami along Sunset in front of the Shoppes was lively. There were a lot of teens and subteens ("tweens"?), and I saw a very young "couple" belly to belly together in a pose that made me think, "Give me a break".

We also saw lots of security. Shoppes of South Miami is not the usual sort of closed in Mall, but is uniquely open to the streets and accessible. Maybe that accounts for the extra police. I suppose they just need one bad incident and the season is killed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Gee, I hope he has a merrier Christmas this year. Edward Liddy is the president of Allstate, the "good hands" people. The WSJ reports, in part, the following in a front page article today:

[Allstate] lost $1.55 billion in the third quarter of last year, largely due to the storms. Mr. Liddy's annual cash bonus, which is tied to Allstate's results, fell to $538,351 last year from nearly $3.7 million in 2004.
More on Freeport-McMoRan.

From the Morningstar Investment Report:

"Freeport-McMoRan's management describes its sole mine, Grasberg, as a blessing and a curse. We agree. The fantastic economics of the Indonesian mine help Freeport generate substantial cash flow throughout the entire commodity cycle. However, the geopolitical risks and insufficient operational diversification make this investment an all-or-nothing proposition. We'd recommend these shares only to risk-tolerant investors.

"Not only does Freeport's Grasberg mine boast the largest single gold reserve and the second-largest copper reserve in the world, but also the geology of the mine is noteworthy. First, copper grades at Grasberg are among the best in the world--above 1% compared with less than 0.8% in most other mines. Second, significant quantities of gold and silver are mixed with copper in the mine, and the byproduct revenue helps boost margins. This competitive advantage is hard to beat and is the primary reason we think Freeport has a narrow economic moat. The company's returns on invested capital further testify to the existence of a moat. These returns have averaged 20.9% over the past six years, clearing the company's cost of capital hurdle, which we reckon to be 10.6%.

"We are impressed by management's approach to acquisitions during the current commodities boom. The mining sector has seen its share of merger and acquisition activity recently; Freeport has remained one of the few watching from the sidelines. We applaud management's disciplined strategy of evaluating potential targets strictly on return metrics. This approach gives us confidence that management will not dilute Grasberg's profitability for the sake of top-line growth.

"Still, we have several concerns. First, Freeport essentially operates one mine--and a mature one at that. This limits the company's flexibility to respond to dynamic market conditions. Second, any operational hiccup, like the slippage in late 2003, could have a significant impact on revenue and profits. We're also concerned about the mine's significant geopolitical risk. Freeport's Contract of Work, the Indonesian doctrine that allows the company to exploit Grasberg's resources, has been under attack by activist groups and the media. Even if these allegations of environmental damage and political interference carry little clout, the company might not be able to fend off similar attacks in the future. We therefore think an investment in this firm should be made only by investors who can tolerate significant event risk."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Freeport McMoran in FL

from this report

"In Florida, the impact of phosphate mining by companies including IMC-Agrico (a joint venture between Freeport-McMoRan Resource Partners and IMC Global which has recently been spun off into a separate company) have been devastating....One of the worst mining disasters in the state ocurred in June 1994 when a 15-story sinkhole opened at the IMC-Agrico New Wales plant which was estimated to dump between four to six million cubic feet of toxic waste into the Florida aquifer which supplies 90 percent of the state's drinking water. This waste included 17 heavy metals and toxic substances including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury....Studies by [PBS&J] for the FL institute for Phosphate Research indicate that radioactivity concentrations measured in foods grown on mined phosphate lands were found to be statistically higher than foods grown on other lands. Other studies in 27 FL counties have shown that cancer rates in phosphate mining areas are three times higher than those in unmined areas...."

Jef's been telling me about these guys for a couple of years. They have a storied history in Austin.

Here's a picture of that sinkhole:

Happy Thanksgiving, All! We have some cool weather this week in Miami - the mid forties in the mornings - so the holiday season seems a bit more real. This morning I have a 730 AM golf game with Rocky Thompson, a man from my church. Sometime in the early afternoon, we will pick my mom up and come back over to the Springs to have Thanksgiving dinner with the Lahmeyers. Carol has prepared her cranberry salad and a sweet potato dish for the occasion. We trust everyone among the Kith and Kin will have a wonderful day. How thankful I am to God for all of you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Bit of the Wild, Wild West? You've Got to Be Kidding.

Yesterday, the WSJ ran an article about the acquisition by a mining firm known as Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. of another such firm, Phelps Dodge. Freeport-McMoRan has extensive experience in carrying on a successful mining business in Indonesia, "churning out metals amid insurrections and political turmoil." Phelps Dodge has been struggling with its mining operations in the Congo. The question is whether Freeport-McMoRan will be able to transfer its management skills "halfway around the world to the Congo". The question "will help determine whether its $25.55 billion bid for Phelps Dodge Corp. is a long-term success."

But what I found arresting about the article is not the acquisition news, but what it said about the Congo:

Nearly five million people have died in the Congo, home to the largest current U.N. peacekeeping force, in the past six years from war and war-related famine and disease, says Philippe de Pontet, a country-risk analyst for the Eurasia Group. On top of security issues, fear of corruption has kept Western countries away from Congo, he says. "It's a bit of the wild, wild West," he says.

Nearly five million people have died? That's incredible. Western Civ is still dealing with the loss of "six million Jews" 65 years ago (as it should, along with the other, forgotten millions slaughtered by the Nazis). Did you know about this? And we attend to it by having the UN there?

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Kamara. Glen Reynolds has a post on Instapundit about digital cameras, and links with approval to someone's idea of the right one. It turns out that this is the camera we puchased after our research, including advice from K&K people, a Canon A630. I spent some time yesterday getting acquainted with it, and the Endless Renovation photos resulted. Those shots were all on the Auto mode, both outside and inside. There are things to do with the camera beyond the Auto mode, of course, and I hope to start learning them. But I feel comfortable about taking the camera on the trip with just what I have learned so far. What a clever consumer product!

PS: We bought the camera on Amazon, notwithstanding sellers on eBay and other places. We looked at those other places, even made a couple of bids on eBay, but came back to Amazon.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More Endless Renovation.

I am standing in our "den" taking a shot of the kitchen. The pantry that made part of the wall between the den and the kitchen is gone. (We will put a floor to ceiling cabinet there that will not be as wide.) In the kitchen, you see that the cabinet that hung down from the ceiling is gone, and you can see the new window.

The second photo is also into the kitchen area. It shows the old passthrough and the opening to the dining room, which is covered with thick plastic. What you see in the middle of the floor, in part, is the covering for the vent pipe, the one that runs outside the house and the I may paint bright yellow.

The third photo is a shot back into the den from the kitchen. It is bare, the old wood parquet tiles have been lifted. We hope this week that the tile subcontractor will lay the tiles for all the floor surfaces, the den, the kitchen, the new bedroom, and the porch.

I took the fourth photo from the NW corner of the kitchen, back toward the SE corner. You can see the new window and the passageway into the new bedroom. (There is a pocket door there.) The passageway is where our fridge used to be.

The fifth photo is from the new bedroom, looking back at the passage into the kitchen and the door to the porch.

The last photo shows the bedroom. I took the photo through the door from the porch. You can see the closet on the left and the bathroom on the right. It is a very small bedroom and we expect to entertain a lot of Hobbitts.

Endless Renovation.

The first photo shows what the house looks like at the rear. I am standing at about the SW corner of our lot, looking NNE. Those of you familiar with our house will notice that I have taken the chain link fence down that ran along the south side of our lot.

I snapped the second photo from near the SW corner of our lot, looking NW.

The third photo is a shot due west. It shows the porch, and the west wall of the new bedroom. The window and door are into the bedroom. The small window to the right of the door is into the kitchen. The new kitchen has two windows, this is one of them. (All the windows and doors are hurricane impact resistant.)

The fourth photo is on the west side of the house. It shows two new windows, the larger into the kitchen - which had no window before - and the smaller into the bathroom in the new bedroom. The exhaust at the bottom will connect with an "island" in the kitchen that will have the burners on it. I will need to plant some shrubbery in front of it as a screen. Or I may paint it bright yellow.

The last photo shows a squirrel that was fussing at me. I annoyed it walking around taking pictures. Notice the high-tech cable/electric/phone installation on the modern pole. At the top of the pole you can see a hole, one of several. Small birds have lived inside of the pole for years.

Crossing Over. I need some help here. Carol and I are about to spend a very significant portion of the rest of our lives on an airpolane going to Nairobi and back. Walter suggests that I get an MP3 player and fill it with data to make the journey a little shorter. Carol said that Walter said not to buy any podcasts, because there were podcasts on the internet I can download for free.

Any suggestions about where I should go to harvest some podcasts to download?

Which iPod would you purchase for this journey?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Euless, TX, Trinity Trojan High School Football Team, the Tonga people, and the Haka. Today's WSJ on its front page has an article about the Trinity Trojans that will bring a lump to your throat and make you thankful (again) to be an American. If you go to the Trinity Football Website, you will find not only the WSJ article but also a video of the players performing the Haka. Otherwise, get yourself a copy of today's WSJ and read it.

UPDATE: I have to post this photo from the WSJ of the team leader:

But be sure to view the video from the high school's football site that I link above.
Jim Webb, Populist. Omigosh! Look at this piece by the new Senator from Virginia in yesterday's WSJ. Shades of Huey Long!
"Last of the Whigs: Churchill as Historian". This essay appeared in a recent edition of The New Criterion, and Churchill fans will enjoy it. (You may have to register with The New Criterion to access the article, but I don't think it costs anything for the registration.)
"Five Best" books for understanding Islam. Karen Elliot House, former WSJ publisher who, according to the WSJ, won a Pulitzer Price for reporting on the Middle East, lists her "five best" books that are "essential to understanding Islam".

The "Readers' Responses" that are linked at the foot of the post to which I link are interesting reading too. You might want to peruse them all, but here is the first one:

This selection seems to be from the "religion of peace" collection. You might also want to look at the "religion of war" collection, including, among outers "The Truth about Mohammed" by Robert Spencer, "The Legacy of Jihad" by Andrew Bostom, "Islamic Imperialism" by Efraim Karsh, "Future Jihad" by Walid Phares; or, easier, just go to Amazon and search for jihad. These might be a bit more relevant for current times.

I can't get away from the thought that every time I gas up my car, I am putting money in the pocket of Islam. To darken the gloom, I would say that is arguable that our consuming society is financing its own downfall.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pepenadores in our Back Yard. Here is a good article in this morning's Miami Herald about children in Honduras who live in the garbage dumps. The Herald interviewed a YFC missionary there; imagine that! In addition, the Herald also suggests How to Help, (scroll down the page) again mentioning YFC. Amazing. Praise God!
"Meeting a friend again after thirty years."

Take off that mask. I know it's you.
Those wrinkles, sunken chin,
And goggled eyes can't quite disguise
Your wry familiar grin.

This is our mutual Halloween.
As though we mean to scare,
We face each other through a screen
Of fake teeth, whitened hair.

-X.J. Kennedy in the September 2006 issue of The New Criterion.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Scots-Irish Victor. Instapundit points to this piece about James Webb. Didn't they read his book? The left in Virginia gets this election season's "Well-Duh!" award. Runner up, the left in Connecticut.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Jury Scam. Watch out for this. Not an urban legend.
Thursday Morning. I like Sean's comments on the election. I hope Sean doesn't mind (and Scott too), but I find Lindsey Graham insufferable.

At our Luke study last night, still in Chapter 1, we discussed how much gentler Gabriel was with Mary than he was with Zacharia, when both expressed a degree of uncertainty about how God was going to do what Gabriel said he would do. Mary was young and innocent, and Zacharia old and cranky. Mary was concerned about method and Zacharia may have had some doubt as to God's faithfulness, and should have known better. But I liked the answer that one of the men gave: Gabriel was not going to mess around with Jesus' mom!

We are back on line at Dove Avenue. What a difference it was to be disconnected at home from cyberspace, and not an altogether bad one.

One of my clients died this week. I had helped her for many years, and knew her family well. We will be helping them with her estate. I try to be professional about these things, but lately I have been seriously saddened when I lose such fine people. I have some really wonderful clients.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Upside-down courtship. This week's scripture in our Luke study is Chapter 1, verses 26-38. This is the section that contains the "Annuciation", Gabriel's visit to Mary to fortell Jesus' birth. It contains Mary's subsequent visit to Elizabeth, where "the baby [John the Baptist] leaped in her [Elizabeth's] womb" when Mary enters her home. And it also contains "the Magnificat", Mary's song about what God has for her. Lots of good stuff here.

What struck me on my first (this time) reading was the "upside-down" courtship practices of the Jews during this period of time. I had cross-references to Matthew handy as I read this section. In Matthew we hear about Joseph's reaction to Mary becoming pregnant. My NIV notes at Matthew 1:18 describe the betrothal customs:

There were no sexual relations during a Jewish betrothal period, but it was a much more binding relationship than a modern engagement and could be broken only by divorce (see v. 19). In Dt 22:24 a betrothed woman is called a "wife," though the preceding verse speaks of her [Mary] as being "pledged to be married." Matthew uses the terms "husband" (v.19) and "wife" v. 24) of Joseph and Mary before they were married.

At least generally in our culture, engagement or even something less "binding" seems to license sexual relations. (Or maybe not much at all.) In Jesus' time, young men and women made a social, religious/legal commitment first, one that extended for some time, before the wedding authorized consummation. It is interesting to think about the implications for the relationship between the two young persons with each other individually and for the relationship between the two of them as a couple with their families and larger community that arose from such an upside-down approach.

With there apparently being so "few good men" out there, what pressure there must be for a young woman, once she thinks she has found one, to give herself up early, before much more than a whispered committment is in place. Is that pressure first cousin to the pressure Sarah felt when she finally gives up Abraham to her maid as she despaired for a child of her own? Here is faith really put to the test, I think.

Yes, I know; it's easy for me to say. But it's worth saying.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Keepin' an Eye on the Border. Leave it to Texas. (By the way, I signed up.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The "But I didn't inhale" Defense. Or, maybe, the "I didn't have sexual relations with that woman" defense. I don't completely know what to think about the Haggard scandal, but I find his explanations pretty lame.

Apart from that matter, the scandal raises several questions for me, which include the following:

1. Assuming that this is a set-back for the Kingdom, as surely it is at least on a short-term basis, does this suggest that Christian celebrities should stay out of politics? Is the Focus-on-the-Family sort of push into the political arena, now well over a two decades old, really worth all the risks to the propagation of the Gospel that are involved in such activities as leading the charge in Colorado against same-sex "marriage".

2. How long did people on the Gay rights side know about this? Was this a sort of October surprise tactic?

3. Is it "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household"? Or is it "Clean up your life and, in particular, get out of that immoral relationship, oppose abortion, support the war, change your party affiliation, embrace the free market, unpierce yourself, and believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."? By that question I mean this: Exactly what Gospel has Haggard betrayed? Is it the Gospel that Paul preaches to the Galatians or is it a Gospel that has more affinity with that of the Judaizers in that letter?

UPDATE: Here's the post to which Sweetpea refers in the comments.
The Lebrons

This commercial is awesome.

Friday, November 03, 2006

More of our continuing "Women and Bears" series. Here. (See previous post here.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Departed

I've seen The Departed twice, and I'm ready to go again.

I'm no movie critic, but I vote the green ticket, and I punch $16 to $24 dollars for that bad boy.
Honor's Arrival
I thought I would let you all know that Honor is scheduled to be delivered via c-section at 8am central standard time on January 16, 2007. There is always the chance that she could decide to come before then, but if not, then she won't be any later than the 16th.

I had my routine check-up today and most everything looks good. Honor's heart rate continues to be in the 150's and my blood pressure continues to be somewhere between 50/100 and 60/110. These are good things. The only possible concern is my platelets. They are still within the "normal" range, but apparently they are on the low side of normal and so my doctor is ordering me to get blood tests more often to keep an eye on this. To be honest, I am not entirely sure that there is anything they can do to get my platelet levels to go higher. Does anybody know anything about this?

So, Aidan decided to dress up like a pirate this year. After some play as a pirate, though, he clearly decided that what he really wanted to be was a pirate who fights fires.

When we went around the street to go trick or treating, one of our neighbors dressed up as one of my Star Wars Favorites!

Unfortunately, this scared the little ones a bit, and it took a lot of prompting to get them to knock on any more doors!
Still Outside of Cyberspace, at Least at Home. Having apparently broken our DSL modem in the emptying of our den, we continue to be outcasts from cyberspace at home. Furthermore, the tv is very difficult to reach, turn on, and watch, not that watching it is a big item (no cable). But these setbacks, of course, are not all bad. In fact, they may be mostly good. We have conversation in its place.

In the July/Aug 2006 edition of Mars Hill Audio, there is a conversation with Stephen Miller, "on the factors that sustain the art of conversation, and why it's a dying art". Miller is the author of Conversation: A History of a Declining Art.

Did I report that I now have a subscription to The New Criterion? I am working my way through the September 2006 issue, and I am thoroughly enjoying the essays. I know I am in a honeymoon period with this magazine, but it seems to be every bit as interesting as First Things, without the Roman Catholic evangelism (not that the latter is all bad).

Carol's Wednesday Women's Bible Study is going very well. She is teaching a Beth Moore study entitled "Patriarchs". The format consists of weekly sessions that alternate between the Beth Moore video segments and discussions. A number of women who are not part of the regular church attenders are coming. All the prayer you can spare for Carol in this venture would be well offered.

My Wednesday night men's group started on a study of Luke last night, having finished Galatians. I think Galatians will turn out to be a good pre-Luke exercise, because Luke himself is believed to have been a Gentile, was a close friend of and fellow-traveler with Paul, and the Gospel he writes is for Gentiles. So Galatians, which is a sort of Declaration of Independence from Judaism (or, as the Baptists among whom I was raised referred to it, "The Magna Carta of the Christian Church"), is a great platform from which to leap to a consideration of Jesus' life through the eyes of such an author as Luke.

We considered verses 1 through 25 of the first chapter of Luke. So much there! But I must mention two points. The first is what Gabriel says to Zacharia about what John will be to Zacharia and his wife. "He will be a joy and delight to you . . . " When moderns talk of children, the burden of them often characterizes the conversation. But here a child will be "a joy and delight". I consider that idea, "joy and delight", to be a much greater idea than what Zachararia and Elizabeth will experience with John; I consider "joy and delight" to be the ultimate gift that God in his grace will give us. Zacharia and Elizabeth get to experience "joy and delight" in a significant respect during their lifetimes, but it is simply a down payment on what we will share in eternity. (The joy and delight we share in our children is both a gift all its on and a down payment as well.)

The second point is how God rewards the faithfulness of Zacharia and Elizabeth. Elizabeth, being "barren" at middle-age, suffered "disgrace among the people" for it. Yet she and Zacharia "were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly". By the time Jesus is born, the culture links good works with good fortune (Never mind the book of Job). People would ask of the situation they observed in Elizabeth and Zacharia, "Who sinned here? They cannot really be as righteous as they seem!" There is a "disconnect". What a temptation faced Zachariah and Elizabeth to become bitter with God. But they "kept on keeping on", as it were. God is, after all, faithful.

Which takes me back to the Beth Moore series that Carol is teaching. I watched one of the videos with Carol the other night, the one that dealt with Abraham taking Isaac to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him. What faithfulness Abraham exhibits. (And what an effective presentation by Beth Moore.) How we honor God when we, as parents, "give up" our children to his plans for them.