Friday, November 30, 2007

Steve Peifer of AIM in Grapevine, TX

December 9 at the First United Methodist Church. His new website.

UPDATE: See Mary's post on Steve.

Say, Can You See?

Yesterday I met with a delightful octogenarian lady, and she told me that in the late thirties she had sung with a band. "After one performance," she told me, " a man came up to me and said, 'You must be a lot older than you look.' I asked him why he would say that, and he said 'You know so many of the old songs, you must be older than you look.' I told him, 'Mister, I know the Star Spangled Banner, but I wasn't born in 1812!'"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ron Brummitt and the Miami Rescue Mission

The Herald prints something positive. Ron has preached in our pulpit at MSPC many times. The Miami Rescue Mission was doing its good work when I was growing up at Central Baptist. No references in the article to Jesus, a few to "God" if you keep reading. That's the best we can expect from the Herald. But Ron knows where his power comes from, and the people there too.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill has arguably become the country's most successful fast-food chain in recent years by rejecting almost every major technique on which the industry was built.

-WSJ 11/23/07

Cool website too.

Belief in Medicine

Faith does not necessarily make physicians more likely to help the poor, according to a survey by University of Chicago researchers Farr Curlin, John Lantos, Marshall Chin, and the Yale New Haven Hospital’s Lydia Dugdale, MD’06. They discovered that 35 percent of nonreligious physicians they surveyed worked in underserved communities, while 31 percent of self-identified religious ones did. Researchers published their findings in the July/August Annals of Family Medicine. The survey also asked physicians whether they viewed medicine as a calling; religious doctors who said yes were no more likely to practice in poor areas than those who answered no.

-From the Sept/October 2007 University of Chicago Magazine.

(I'm sure Christian lawyers do much, much better.)

What Good's a Liberal Education?

The current issue of UChi Magazine has an article on Leslie Key, who has a PhD in biophysics, and is an assistant professor in the UChi psychology department, a member of the committees on neurobiology and computational neuroscience, and an olfaction researcher. Her research team just "reported in the August Journal of Neuroscience the first direct measurement of how, as the subtlety of an olfactory decision increases, the brain's olfactory bulb intensifies coordinated neural activity." I know that this research is intensely interesting to everyone, but what I wanted to mention was how Leslie Key got to where she is, according to the article.

She earned a liberal-arts degree in 1983 from St. John's College in New Mexico, then spent three years in Los Alamos with GenBank, a forerunner of the Human Genome Project. "In 1985 she began a biophysics PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, that she interrupted after a year, traveling and working as a programmer for five years before finishing the degree in 1995."

Obviously a liberal arts degree is a sure way to get lost in the woods. I hope that by now this poor woman has settled down and been able to focus on something long term. And is she married?

Immigration and Unemployed Blacks

In September 2006, after multiple raids by federal immigration agents, Crider Inc., a Chicken-processing factory in Stillmore, Georgia, lost three-fourths of its 900-member workforce, most of whom were Hispanic illegal immigrants. To find new workers, plant owners raised wages by more than a dollar per hour and offered free transportation from nearby towns. Within weeks, Crider had hired roughly 200 local African Americans from the area's state-funded employment office to fill some of the vacancies. It was the first time since the late 1990s, when Hispanics started moving to Stillmore in large numbers, that the plant's productions line were manned mainly by blacks.

Thus begins an article on the connection being explored by a UChi professor between immmigration - both legal and illegal - and African American employment.

Although the introduction sounds like the basis of a Tancredo like argument about controlling our borders, you will see that the Chicago professor, Jeffrey Grogger, uses this example as all the more reason "to think about skill acquisition as a means to improve the labor-market position of African Americans in light of the immigraton we see."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stem-cell Breakthrough

Simply huge. Another promise kept. See 1 Corintheans 10:13.


(ALERT! Some people may think I give away too much in this review. I don't think so, but proceed at your own risk.)

This is not an easy film to evaluate. We saw it at an IMAX in 3D. That's a completely overpowering experience in itself, something qualitatively different, at least as I experienced it, than viewing a movie in a conventional theater setting.

The animation is astonishing. At first, one simply reacts in a sort of back-peddling way to the the 3D experience, which the film makers particularly exploit at the beginning with dramatic and explosive scenes. In addition, one is somewhat detached at first because the people in their animated forms seem less than real, but very interesting nonetheless. In other words, as you work yourself into the movie, you are a curious and fascinated and critical spectator. But after a while, your brain somehow settles down and gets involved. You start to live in the movie. That's a familiar place to be with a good movie, but this one somehow occupies you (or you it) more intensely simply on account of how the film makers put the thing together visually and aurally. Again, to an extraordinary extent it is the medium that takes you over.

The story is a different matter, and the characters, but I do not mean that the movie fails here. At first, the characters are interesting, as I already indicated, not as people as such but in their verisimilitude. But after awhile, you "forget" about that and actually accept them as "people". Although Beowulf, the hero, is a sort of screamer (at least at first) like the commander in 300, which I find annoying, he certainly becomes more of a human as the story develops than a lot of heros I've seen lately, including those in 300.

The story is about great temptation, great betrayal as one yields to it, and, finally, redemption, at least for the individual if not for the world. (What will happen to the world as it deals with evil is left hanging at the end.) I found that plot especially interesting because I have just finished reading The Kite Runner, another story of betrayal, an excruciatingly painful betrayal (I almost put the book down at that point), and redemption. Neither of these stories is written by Christians. (In Beowulf there is, in fact, gratuitous Christian bashing, which won't sell the producers any tickets to the evangelical community, and the author of The Kite Runner is of Muslim background.)

In both Beowulf and The Kite Runner, redemption is achieved by the works (and suffering) of the protagonist. But in The Kite Runner the opportunity for those redemptive works appears to be providential (or is it a plot-device, who knows). In Beowulf, the opportunity for redemption is provided by self-knowledge ("conviction"), guilt, and a second chance that the forces of evil themselves provide. In Beowulf's universe, as in ours, evil cannot keep a promise because that is the nature of evil, and that provides the redemptive opportunity.

The nature of the good is far less developed, even stunted in this movie. We see the unaccountable loyalty of Beowulf's wife and that of his friend, who engages in self-deception all the way to the end. The "gods" are remote and uninterested. There is only Beowulf and whatever he can muster. As I also indicated, we are not sure that this will be enough for anyone but Beowulf.

I have no idea of the extent to which the movie hews to the classic tale of Beowulf. I imagine it roams far afield. So it needs to be viewed on its own merits.

One other thing about the film I must mention is the beauty of Angelina Jolie. The animation moves her beauty to a place that no human can possibly occupy, something like, I suppose, what the Greeks did in idealizing beauty with their sculpture. That beauty dominates the last scene of the movie (this is not the scene from the trailers) and she is simply breathtaking. How could any man withstand her? In such a universe, where overhwelming beauty is the tool of hell, what hope is there?

The show has comic books aspects, of course, and sometimes it is simply crude, especially at the beginning. This is not Shakespeare or Homer or Tolkien. You have to allow for that. But as a total experience I would say that it is well worth seeing.

UPDATE: Good review in CT.

Running into the Winklers at Cozy Corner

Only two of our Saturday men's breakfast regulars showed up at Cozy Corner this morning. It was rainy, and probably people didn't want much to think about food at this point in the Thanksgiving Week. But Richard Miller and I were there, and we will opt for quality any time.

Across from us I noticed a young couple with a baby girl, about Honor's age. The little girl and I made eye contact, and she kept turning around and looking at me during the entire breakfast. I thought her dad looked familiar, but I wasn't sure, until his wife spoke to me about how fascinated their daughter was in Richard and me. (Richard didn't have anything to do with it.) About that time, the father asked me if I was "Mr. Stokes" and I recognized him as Mike Winkler immediately, one of Walter's good friends. They were getting ready to drive back to Orlando, having visited his family in Miami Springs for Thanksgiving. They both work for a Christian Counseling firm in Orlando, New Beginnings. Here's a webpage with their bios and pictures (scroll down).

They attend an Anglican church in Orlando that is under the authority of the Bishop of Rwanda. Kelly told me the name, but it didn't stick in my mind. I told them Mary might be coming to Orlando this summer, and they were very interested in that.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Going to see "Beowulf" tonight


With Van, Joe, and Margaret Lahmeyer. Carol will be scrapping with Juliet.

I'll give you a full report tomorrow.

The Primaries

I'm still a Democrat. Should I change parties so I can vote in the Republican primary, or stay a blue-dog Democrat? Staying a Democrat, I would vote for Hillary, and there's no question about that. Moving over, I would be in a quandry. Just whom can I trust over there? I think I know what I have with Hillary. I thought I knew what we had with GW, and I was wrong in some very important respects. As to the Republicans, I like McCain (good comments from others to that post), Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, in that order. As to Huckabee, I just don't know. Is he a dark horse or a Trojan horse? I find him worrisome, more so than, for example, Giuliani.

I'm talking primaries here. Not the general election.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fortieth Thanksiving

Carol and I will have our fortieth Thanksgiving together tomorrow. The first two were before our marriage in 1970. They each took place in Greensboro at Carol's house. I was in law school, and I flew down from Chicago. Carol remembers that I didn't like mushrooms then, and that among the dishes her mother, sister, and she prepared for the first Thanksgiving were green peas mixed with pearl onions and mushrooms. She remembers that I picked out the mushrooms. In fact, she says that the only thing she remembers about that Thanksgiving is my picking out the mushrooms. How did I ever get this woman to marry me?

Tomorrow it will be just the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner here in Miami Springs. This will be only the second one we have spent alone together, just the two of us. The first one was my third year of law school. We had been married in September of that year, just a week or so before the school year began. We lived in an apartment in one of the law school dorms. We were "resident heads", and our job was to look after the other law students who lived there. It was a co-ed dorm, and our apartment, made from three adjoining dorm rooms, was on the floor where the women lived. The dorm was built in college Gothic style and was old and stately. The room that served as our living room had a fire place and was well furnished. It had a bay window that overlooked the reflecting pool in front of the dramatically modern law school building. The dorms adjacent to the law school (known as "Burton-Judson") had a dining hall. The ceiling was two stories high, wood beamed across the ceiling, with heavy rectangular tables and high back chairs. The dining hall crew had a Thanksgiving meal for those who stayed there over the holiday, and that's where we had our first Thanksgiving feast. So we weren't really alone, because there were students and dining people there too. Carol had to work that day at the UC Hospital, where she was employed as a "ward secretary", but she came back across the Midway for the dinner.

Carol remembers that we were alone together one other time, "when we had Macon". Then she thought that maybe Walter had been born by then too, so maybe not. I pointed out that we would not have been alone together even if Walter had not been born, if we had Macon. She thinks I misunderstood what she said, but, on behalf of Macon, I took umbrage. The fact is that one is never alone when Macon is in the same house. But she was talking about our being the only adults. So I calmed down and let the umbrage pass.

Anyway, we will truly be alone together tomorrow for the meal, although we will go down to the Lahmeyers for dessert.

By the way, I'm over the mushroom thing, but there still won't be that dish tomorrow.


To think that we could have avoided all that renovation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On "Going Home"

Great new post on Mary's blog. And a fascinating first comment to that post as well.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sean Posts!

Sean has interesting posts on Beowulf and on "Sibling Effect". Check 'em out.

"Therapeutic" Cloning: Right.

The idea is to create an embryonic clone of a patient, then transplant altered versions of that embryo's cells back into the patient. Because the DNA of the transplanted tissue would match the DNA of the patient, the immune system likely wouldn't reject it.

From the WSJ's Health section on Thursday, in an article reporting that monkey embryos were cloned by scientists in Oregan. (Originally reported in Nature.) The next step is to take a rhesus embryonic clone to full term "and thereby create the world's first cloned money." Next is to test "whether fresh tissue derived from rhesus clones can treat diabetes or other diseases in a monkey, a process known as therapeutic cloning."

And the next step after that? Oh, we already know that, there was a movie about that two years ago.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Primary Trouble in Kenya; RVA's First Term Nearly Over

Mary posts on primary election difficulties in Kenya this week. She links to an All Africa news post about ballot day on Friday. (The article refers to "rungu democracy". What's a rungu?)

I found it interesting how thick the news account was with stories of guns being drawn and fired. Kenya has very strict gun-control. Oh, well.

The account also reports that a particular polling place was invaded by two rogue elephants. Elephants. Hmmm. Probably Bush's fault.

Democracy is a messy enterprise, and I pray that Kenya gets through this election season in good shape. As I do for us here in the US and our own election season.

Mary reports that classes for the first term ended yesterday and that exams begin this Monday and finish on Tuesday, Then the kids are gone. On the evening of Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, commences the AIM-Kenya Missions Conference, and it goes until Monday, Nov. 26. Teacher work days are scheduled for November 27 thru November 29, with a special luncheon for the teachers in Nairobi on the 27th. Then the term is over for the faculty by November 30. (It was about that time last year that we journeyed to Kijabe. Wow, the time went by fast!) We look forward to hearing about Mary's plans for the break.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Preach the gospel to "panta ta ethne"

I am enjoying and being instructed by Fr. Donovan. He points out that when Jesus commands us to "preach the gospel to all the nations of the world, to disciple, make disciples of, to evangelize all the nations" the Greek words for "all the nations" is pantha ta enthne. Rather than to nation states, Donavan writes, the words "would refer more to ethnic, cultural groups, the natural building blocks of the human race."

It is surely here in the midst of the cultures of the world, and not in the church, that the ordinary way of salvation must lie, the ordinary means of salvation, the very possibility of salvation for most of the human race. Or else it is a very strange God we have.

The gospel must be brought to the nations in which already resides the possibility of salvaton. As I began to ponder the evangelization of the Masai, I had to realize the God enables people, any people, to reach salvation through their culture and tribal, racial customs and traditions. In this realization would have to rest my whole approach to the evangelization of the Masai.

Pretty radical, no? Sounds a little missional to me, by that I mean the idea that God is already working in peoples outside the church, and it is our job as missionaries somehow to get involved with his work. Do I have that idea of what missional means right? Anyway, I'm reading on.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Found: the Perfect Christmas Gift for You Know Who

I think I'll link it to

The Few. The Proud. The Wow.

Did you see that new commercial for the Marines? The one with the guys doing a 21st century manual of arms to a military drum beat with a whiff of hip-hop and cutting back and forth to action scenes? Where do I sign up?

(Here it is.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Melissa's Engagement Party

This afternoon we attended Melissa's engagement party at Jack and Lynn's house. Melissa is Mary's great friend. She is in the fashion industry in Manhattan, and will be taking her 6th trip to China shortly, where she goes to examine products intended to come stateside. She and Scott are to be married at our church in Miami Springs in March. She asked me whether I would sing, as Mary won't be able to be there as a bride's maid. I would be happy to stand in for Mary, as long as I don't have to wear a dress. (Of course, we would all like to have Mary there.)

The first photo is of Melissa and Scott. The second is of Melissa and Mary's parents.

She's Got all Kinds of skills

"I'm Confused by the Fact that I'm Happy"

WaPo articles the angst of young, beltway do-gooders who see themselves underpaid.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds, who picked this up and comments. Also see Glenn's follow-up post here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"The statistics are that 30,000 orphan children die a day."

The November 3 World Magazine has an article featuring Jim and Suzanne Faske, a couple in Brenham, TX, who have adopted to the point where they will soon have 15 children. They are in an adoption support group called Forever Families and work with a Campus Crusade group called Hope for Orphans. The title to this post is part of a statement Suzanne makes in connection with a struggle they had to adopt "Rachel, a little girl from China with arthrogryposis, a congenital disorder that gave her clubbed feet and a dislocated hip at birth". (The Faskes are on the Forever Families website here.)

The article states that China recently capped the size of adoptive families at four children and, at one point, even shut down its government adoption agency. China was embarrassed that it was pulling ahead of Russia in the number of children being adopted away.

Mary reports that Kenya discourages foreigners from adopting their orphans and taking them out of the country. See her comment.

When Carol and I were in Kenya, we spoke to a young couple who were missionaries working with one of Kenya's national prisons. They told us how a guard begged them to take newly born twins that he and his wife would not be able to support. The missionaries refused, because they said that if it became known that they would take in such children, they would be flooded with requests.

UPDATE: There is more about Rachel, mentioned in the World article, here. Warning: if you are attempting to suppress an interest in adopting a child, do NOT read about Rachel nor otherwise explore the Forever Families website.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pirating "American Gangster"

In a post earlier this week, I described overhearing on MetroRail two young men discussing a pirated version of American Gangster. The movie opens today, and there is a very favorable review of the film in the WSJ.

In a related article in the WSJ, the movie is also discussed, along with several others that, according to the writer, are part of "Hollywood's Quality Glut" this fall. In that article, the "inside track" on American Gangster is this:

Veteran produce Brian Glazer calls this film, in development since 2000, the "hardest movie I've ever made". Under director Antoine Fuqua, the budget started to spiral upward, and Univeral Pictures shut the picture down after sinking $30 million into the project. Then Ridley Scott took the helm. The latest misfortune: Copies were leaked onto the Web more than 10 days before the film opened.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Thursday, November 01, 2007