Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"The Healing Pen"

Tim Stafford writes about Philip Yancey. (Thanks, Carol.)

A Trusting Generation

The WSJ includes a "Personal Journal" section. (It would be where the sports section of an old fashioned newspaper would be - think about that a little.) "Personal Finance" is the topic of this section each Wednesday.

There is often a techie column in the Personal Journal and one appears today. The techie column is generally entitled "The Mossberg Solution", although it's often written by an apostle of Mr. Mossberg, not the great man himself. This particular column is entitled Tracking Your Money Without Paying a Mint, by Katherine Boehret. Ms. Boehret writes about a new website,, that will help a person track his or her wealth, and it sounds very clever and maybe even useful.

But what strikes me about this site is the amount of personal information - maybe all of one's financial information - that must be linked to it in order for the thing to "work". I am simply amazed at Ms. Boehret's trust in the integrity (and competence in terms of security matters) that she expresses in the site. Somehow the image of sheep being led to the slaughter comes to mind. On the other hand, maybe I'm just over the hill as far as our culture is concerned.

When the internet age was in its relative youth and the matter of putting information "out there" in cyberspace was under discussion, I was surprised when one of my partners, a Harvard grad about 15 years my senior, expressed a great reluctance to join the cyberspace community. It was the matter of security that worried him. He said "I don't want to put another hole in my boat" by going on line with identifying information. I thought that was an interesting metaphor, and instructive.

But by now there is so much information already "out there" about me that the Mint will probably make little difference, unless it is one hole in my boat too many.

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Good Calories Bad Calories" Redux

I had the opportunity today to view Walter's post entitled Carbs not Calories. It's unusual to have a post from Walter, so I regard them with great interest. He usually refers to something important, if often in a very brief way.

While Walter's Carbs not Calories post looks brief, it is actually a Google Video that has a lecture that lasts over an hour. I had been wanting to find time to view it, and I had the chance this afternoon. In the video, Gary Taubes, a science journalist of apparently great renown, author of Good Calories Bad Calories, challenges the basic hypothesis of weight control (weight is a direct function of calorie intake less energy expenditure) and would replace it with "Dietary carbohydrates = insulin = storage of fat."

While we have heard this before in the popular "fad diet" press (the Atkin's diet being the most famous), Taubes does a very good job of showing that the old hypothesis has not been able to explain obesity in vast numbers of people in cultural settings other than white, middle class America, but the "new" paradigm does give that explanation in all cultures and is, in fact, based on nutritional science that was pretty much settled by 1949.

As I listened to the lecture I thought about Weight Watchers, which, when I began attending, was founded on the old paradigm and, to a very important extent, continues to be so today. But over the years I have attended, I have seen a subtle shift towards the idea of "good" calories vs. "bad" calories. And within the last two or three years WW has added an alternative approach called "Core". What "Core" does is allow one to eat as many "Core" foods as he wishes, but keep a "Point" diary with regard to "non-Core" foods, that is, limit non-Core foods. The "non-Core" foods tend to be carbohydrates.

If Gary Taubes is correct, then the weight loss I have been able to achieve arises not merely because I have eaten less, but because I have also shifted my eating to "healthy foods" (a big part of WW now) and, in lowering the amount of food I eat in the first place, lowering the amount of carbohydrates. So far WW has yet to come out and expressly disavow the old paradigm, but it may get there at some point. Meanwhile, I think I know what to do.

The Lawyers of Atocha

Our "hostal" in Madrid was on Calle Atocha, just a few blocks up from el Museo del Prado. Up Atocha further is small square in the middle of which is a monument to "Los Abogados de Atocha."

These brave lawyers were murdered in connection with labor demonstrations in 1977. I love the statue: professionals dressed for work, but with overcoats because they are outside their offices, in a circle, arms over one-another's shoulders, the way team-mates on a soccer field embrace. But it is not a game they are playing. I love the joy and solidarity that the statue shows, and I was not even able to see their faces from where I stood below. But I really didn't need to.

It made me so proud to be a lawyer.

But the statue is not necessarily of the lawyers embracing each other. The statue is known as "El Abrazo" by Juan Genoves. He did a painting on the same subject, prior to the murders, and the painting became an icon of the anti-Franco forces in Spain. When a movement arose to remember the lawyers with a monument and Genoves was asked to cast a statue, it was the painting that supplied the image. More here about El Abrazo.

"Two Income" Tax Trap

A Glenn Reynolds post links to a discussion of the "two income trap", and the link is worth reading. The point of the writer is that income tax increases over time have made a huge difference in a family's discretionary income, and he notes that two earner families suffer a very significant tax burden, a sort of vicious cycle: the second income brings in additional taxes and expenses related to the second income, so that the marginal increase in discretionary income is far less than one would have thought without a careful analysis.

One interesting point made in the link is that housing costs increased because parents moved into school districts that had better schools, driving up prices for homes in those neighborhoods. A second income appeared to be necessary in order to afford that housing, thus raising demand and, then, raising prices further.

As we were raising our children, we saw that happening in a neighborhood called "Pinecrest" in an area south of us about 8 miles. There was an elementary school there, called Pinecrest Elementary, that had a great reputation. It drew young families to the neighborhood who did not want to send their children to private schools. The elementary school got even better, because the families who sent their children there were involved in the school: here was sort of a benign cycle at work.

We decided to stay in Miami Springs. The schools were OK, but not great, although the Middle School had a below average reputation. Carol stayed home and did not get a second job outside, and she watched what was going on in the schools our children attended like a hawk. She was also very involved in the elementary school they attended, pulling of an effective coup against the entrenched leadership of the PTA that was at war with the very gifted principal (some anti-Semitism on the part of the deposed clique I think), and was otherwise involved as a "listener" in a program that did not involve our children (She was already a careful listener at home.)

I do not know whether Miami Springs is any longer affordable for young families with one income. It may not be. I have, however, been more and more impressed with home-schooling families, and maybe that's an answer for those who must live in a less affluent neighborhood at the cost of a poor public school nearby. I am not talking about home-schooling to avoid the "godless humanism" attributed to "government schools". I am simply talking about getting a decent education for one's children.

In any event, if one of the parents is disposed to stay at home with the children, it seems to me that, before reaching for that second income, it would be worth doing a very careful analysis of the costs of the second income as compared to the alternative of intense involvement by the stay-at-home parent in the local public school or, if that seems to be impractical, actually home-schooling the children.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Despair Article

Here's a new article on Despair.

Moyers Interview of Wright

Here is a quote from a recent New York Magazine article by John Hellemann that reflects what I am reading in a number of other places as well:

And Obama isn’t merely losing godly ground among white Catholics. Whereas in Maryland and Wisconsin he outpaced Clinton by as much as 30 points among regular churchgoers of all stripes, in Pennsylvania she whipped him by double-digits among the observant, while he did best among those who never attend religious services. At the same time, whereas Obama used to routinely thump Clinton among voters describing themselves as conservative, moderate, and somewhat liberal, in Pennsylvania the only ideological cohort he carried was the self-described “very liberal.” In a flash, a candidate who once was hailed as post-partisan, post-ideological, and post-racial was looking like a typical secular lefty, with a base comprising college students, African-Americans, and upscale “progressives.” No wonder, then, that [the political writer John] Judis—but not just Judis—has started to wonder whether Obama might just be “the next McGovern.”

Helleman points, of course, to the Jeremiah Wright problem as being one of the difficulties that moved Barack into this situation. Carol and I watched the Bill Moyers interview of the Rev. Mr. Wright on PBS Friday night. It was worth watching, despite the uncritical way (to be generous to Mr. Moyers) that Moyers conducted the interview. (For example, he didn't bring up Wright's charge that AIDS is a US government conspiracy against black people.)

About the most we can say in Wright's behalf is that he seemed much more human to us during the interview than we thought of him before. However, it is patently obvious that he is profoundly outside of the mainstream of US political and religious culture and he preaches a "Black liberation theology" that appears to me to be plainly racist. He tried to explain the "sound-bites" on the basis of his theology, but that made matters worse for us. Furthermore, when Moyers asked him about Obama's remarks that sound like a repudiation of Wright's point of view (at least to me), Wright smiled gently and said something like "Barack is a politician and he has to say what he needs to say. I am a minister, and I have to say what I need to say". This sounds like we are dealing with two different worlds here, the political world, on the one hand, and the religious/cultural world, on the other, where there are two truths or, at least, there is license to say whatever is expedient to say at the time.

On the other hand, it is important to become acquainted with Wright's perspective, not simply to be able to make a decision regarding Presidential politics, but to understand what a significant part of the Black community is saying to each other, to see that there is a view of history shared by a significant group of our fellow citizens, abetted by left-wing academia and American Christianity, that holds that the US is no better than any other "empire" in history, no better, for example, than slave holding Rome or the Soviet Union. Their reading of history concedes nothing, for example, to the progress our country has made in racial justice over its history. It visits the sins of the slave-holding fathers (without qualifying that group by observing that slave holding was not universal nor universally approved) to the succeeding generations, that is, to those generations that were able to be born because their fathers were not slaughtered during the Civil War, among other American wars we could call just.

I have mentioned Clarence Thomas' memoir, My Grandfather's Son, before. He dealt with a racism that was as harsh as anything with which Wright might have dealt. He was terribly angry about it and was involved in radical groups while he was at Holy Cross. But he made his way out of that trap, as the memoir indicates, and it is a fascinating part of his story. Rev. Wright's way is not inevitable. But it may be inevitable that Obama's association with him and his church will lead to Obama's loss of the Presidency.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse has a much more thorough review of the Moyers' interview.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A 'Cane

I'm not only a 'Canes fan, I am connected to that academic community. Each year I go through the trauma of preparing for and the pleasure of teaching a one week course in the Graduate Program of Estate Planning at the University of Miami Law School. I just finished this year's class.

This link takes you to a web page at the law school's website that describes the program. At the top of the page is a photo of this year's class taken at a luncheon we had on Tuesday at Viscaya, a beautiful park in Miami with an Italian Villa that was many years ago disassembled in Italy and reconstructed on the present Biscayne Bay site about four miles south of downtwon. I went to the luncheon and am on the top row, on the extreme left. Our associate, Kim Martinez-Lejaraza, who is in the program, is on the front row, fifth from the left. (If the picture that comes up does not have me up there on the last row, then refresh the site and another photo will appear. That should have Kim and me in it.)

Buyer Beware: "Freehold Licensing"

Both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate have unanimously voted in favor of Senate Bill 464, which would, with certain limited exceptions, void "transfer fee" covenants purporting to encumber Florida real estate. Lawyers in Florida are writing Governor Crist, asking him not to veto the legislation.

According to an email I recieved from the Executive Council of the Florida Bar's Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, the transfer fee scheme originated in Texas. Pursuant to this scheme, a property owner reserves the right to receive a percentage of the sales price for future sales of their property for many years after they sell property, including sales to remote purchasers many years in the future. The scheme is promoted on the internet by a company named "Freehold Licensing," which is seeking to patent the arrangement and charge prospective property sellers a licensing fee for use of its form documents.

The Executive Council unanimously voted in favor of the proposed legislation, and the Section leadership firmly believes that this scheme has no place in Florida for a number of reasons, including the following:

(1) Long-standing public policy favors the marketability of property, free of title defects and unreasonable restraints on alienation.

(2) The proponent of the "transfer fee" covenants scheme, Freehold Licensing, has a strong profit motivation for seeking the veto of the bill since it hopes to secure significant licensing fees from the scheme.

(3) The imposition of covenants which would require the payment of fees each time property is sold will adversely impact the marketability of property.

(4) Property subject to transfer fee covenants will be worth less, but prospective purchasers may be unaware of the negative impact of such covenants on the value of the property until they attempt to sell the property.

(5) The imposition of transfer fees upon the sale of property will further erode property values in an existing depressed real estate market.

(6) Other, more appropriate, approaches are available to fund infrastructure improvements, including homeowners' associations and community development districts, which are accountable for the manner in which the funds are spent.

(7) The purported imposition of "transfer fee" covenants is likely voidable as an unreasonable restraint on the alienation of property or because they fail to "touch and concern" the affected property, but, since the amount of the fee in any individual case, may not be sufficient to justify litigation to overturn the covenant, it is appropriate to address this issue via a legislative enactment.

(8) This scheme has been criticized by legal commentators.

You might want to keep an eye out for this scheme appearing in your locale, especially if you are getting ready to buy real estate. I do not know whether it is presently legal in Texas.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Carbs not Calories

San Juan de los Reyes

San Juan de los Reyes is a church in Toledo that Ferdinand and Isabella built with the intention of it being the place where they would be interred. (The architect was Juan Guas., according to But when they conquered Granada and expelled the Moors completely from Spain, it was in Granada where they finally chose to be interred, not Toledo. The church in Toledo remains, however, and is located toward the top of the large hill on which Toledo is built. There is a is a little plaza in front of the church, and it overlooks the surrounding area. I stood there and took this video.

As I thought about these monarchs, their great victories but also their expulsions from Spain of the Jews and Moors and the installation of the Inquisition, I began to think of them not so generously. (After all, I am a Democrat.) Then we visited this church. I noticed an odd decorative feature on the outside walls, chains arranged on them hanging down. Carol read about the church from the guidebook, and we were informed that the chains were those of Christians whom Ferdinand and Isabella freed from the Moors when they took Toledo. Ideologically I moved a bit to the right at that point. Reality has a way of moving people in that direction, I think.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Intelligent Graffiti/Posters

One thing I noticed on our trip to Spain was that a good bit of the graffiti was political. Mary posted one graffiti example among the photos she put up on this post on her blog. My photo here shows a bill that I saw stuck up in several of the cities we visited. Mary's photo shows an unambiguous anti-abortion statement.

The organization that printed the bill is izquierda-unida, which means "united left". This is some sort of political party or movement that describes itself of the left. I think it curious that the post seems to include an anti-abortion statement. On the other hand, if you look at who is doing the hand holding in the second two pairs of figures, we can see that the the bill is also promoting equal rights for same sex couples. Maybe it's simply promoting the right of a same sex couple to have a baby if they want and is not anti-abortion per se.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Albayzin Entertainers

In Granada there is the "old Muslim quarter", known as the Albayzin, north of the Alhambra, up the side of a hill and across the gorge from the fortress. Mary, Carol, and I took a bus from Plaza Nueva, in the center of the small city, that wound its way up to the district. At the Plaza St. Nicolas in the Albayzin there is a mirador, a sort of overlook. Two gypsies were entertaining the tourists and behind the gypsies was the Alhambra. I put my Canon A630 into video mode and, to my amazement, it turned out!

Self-defense Upgrade?

"The Judge".

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Barack, Gun Control, and Personal Happiness

Somehow I was getting the impression that, compared to Hillary, Barack was likely to be a better truth teller. Wrong.

And, generally speaking, I'm a happy person, not really bitter at all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hello, Miami!

We arrived to simply beautiful weather in Miami this afternoon, about 3 PM, after a smooth, 9 hour flight from Madrid. (Saw two movies, "August Rush" and "Freedom Writers", finished reading "The Shadow of the Sun", having read the Clarence Thomas memoir on the way over, "My Grandfather's Son", which was simply outstanding.)

Mary, Carol and I were up at 6 AM Madrid time this morning, ate a breakfast in our room and were at the airport via taxi before 8AM. At the airport, we had a last round of cafe con leche (with Carol having her tea and zuma), having sauntered up to the bar just like the Spanish do, ignoring the tables.

Mary's flight was to Casablanca, retracing her steps. There she would meet her friend Jill and fly to Dubai, a flight of 9 hours alone; then a long, long layover for a flight down to Nairobi, which will also be be 9 or so hours. She and Jill will essentially spend the night at the airport in Dubai. Grueling.)

But in Madrid's airport, Mary's gate was near ours, and we saw her off. We remarked how the travelers to Morocco were mostly men. The women seemed to be mainly a few tourists and Mary. It was hard to see her go. It will be so good to have her back in the States in just three months.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back in Madrid. Whew!

This afternoon we arrived back in Madrid after two nights in Toledo (Spain, not Ohio, although I took a photo of "Calle de Toledo de Ohio." Weird.) Before that we were in Cordoba for two nights, and then two in Granada, where I last found an internet-connected computer. We have slept well, ate mostly fine, and saw a lot of sights: so many that we are ´way overloaded and may never process it all. One regret is that I didn´t take a little notebook to jot down observations and comments. On the other hand, there is the seemingly limitless opportunity to take pictures with the digital comera, although it is no substitute for the profound insights that may be lost to humanity (or at least to this blog).

Carol and I have enjoyed Mary so much. She is, of course, a superlative guide, and she never stops thinking about the issues presented by a given situation, whether it be which church it would be all right to skip and which tavernia will not clip us too badly. And it is so nice simply to be with her - we just wish the rest of the family could be with us too. (And you too, Sean.)

Beyond saying that little bit, I will just say farewell until tomorrow, God willing, when Carol and I depart Madrid for Miami and Mary for Kijabe, via Casablanca, Dubai, and Nairobi.

Friday, April 11, 2008


This first photo captured one of Aidan's first experiences with "Brain Freeze."

And these other photos. . . well, they're just cute. Props to Macon for such fabulous photographic skills.

Should you ever get the chance to visit Austin, may we recommend stopping at one of our local "Sno Beach" snow cone stands? They are truly an amazing experience. They probably have around 50 flavors and you can add cream or ice cream should you so desire. Aidan orders by color (e.g., "I want green and white please"...{lime with cream}). I almost always get the pina colada with cream, and Macon varies his order almost every visit. Honor has only had two snow cones, both of them plain ice. She didn't seem to mind that there was no flavor, but shamelessly enjoyed shoving handfulls of shaved ice into her mouth in between bouts of trying very very hard to get some or any snow cone to stay on her spoon.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Signs Honor knows at almost 15 months:
1. milk
2. more
3. all done
4. bath
5. book
6. cat
7. bear
8. light
9. fan
10. butterfly
11. sleep
12. dog
13. duck
14. hot
15. baby
16. fish
17. sun
18. big
19. hat
20. phone
21. diaper
22. squirrel
23. eat
24. bird
25. bunny
26. elephant

(and she can sort of sign "I love you")

Words she can say (or enough for mommy and daddy to understand):
1. ma-ma
2. da-da
3. bubba
4. ball
5. hi
6. bye bye
7. out
8. up

1. Bye Bye, Da-da

Lately, she has been learning at least a few signs a week. She seems to really enjoy using her signs and not just to point something out. sometimes, I think she signs with me just to communicate and connect. I will walk in her room and she will point out the fan, the light, and her elephant. She will make signs for them all and as I sign them back to her and say the words out loud, she will get a huge grin on her face and then laugh. She's not pointing out anything new, she's just talking with Mommy. She seems to get great satisfaction from this connecting and I am LOVING both the connection and her evident joy from being able to do so. What precious times these are.

Saw the Alhambra

The Alhambra is why tourists come to Granada, although there are other places to see, including but not limited to a hospital that has been in existence since the Middle Ages, the Arab quarter (to which was connected a Jewish quarter - they weren´t always at war with each other, especially with fierce Christians bearing down on them) with shops in narrow alleys that reminded Mary of Morocco, a simply magnificent cathedral, adjacent to which is a chapel where Queen Isabella, her husband Fernando, her daughter "Juana la Loca", and Juana´s husband, Felipe are interred, and a university with a law school.

The Alhambra sits upon a boat shaped mountain that dominates the small city of Granada(pop. about 260,000), the prow of which is the Alcazara ("alcazar" means "fortress" in Arabic), the midsection of which are stunning palaces built by Moorish kings and a Renaissance palace built by the grandson of the Isabella and Ferdinand, the power couple who conquered Granada in 1492, and, finally, the stern of which made up of gardens and the remains of the "medina", the medieval town that developed safely within Alhambra´s protection. (The boat metaphor is not mine, but may have been first coined by Washington Irving, whose Tales from the Alhambra lead to a rediscovery of what was a nearly forgotten and neglected colossal relic.)

Connected to the Alhambra by a bridge which spans a deep gully is the Generalife, a sort of "country palace" built on a nearby ridge by one of the later Moorish kings. I found most striking about the Generalife its carefully tended gardens that even in the rain were beautiful and fragrant.

To get to the Alhambra, we got up early, had breakfast at our pension, and took a short bus ride up the mountain. We were inside the gates before 9:00 AM. We walked back down the mountain (in the rain) about 1:30 PM, having seen far more than we could digest, and had lunch in a plaza far below Alhambra's bow in a Pan & Company" shop, Spain´s version of a fast-food restaurant. (We were too tired to explore the side streets for an interesting cafe or tavern.)

Now, having taken about 90 minutes to nap and to refresh in the snug sala of our pension, we are ready to roam again.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

If it´s Tuesday, then . . .

We must be in Granada. Yes, we are in Granada. We awakened this morning at about 6 AM at our ¨hostal¨ in Madrid, just a ten minute walk from the Atocha railway station, and arrived at the station in plenty of time to catch the train to Granada. It was fine just to sit in a comfortable coach for four hours, after spending three plus solid days of mainly walking.

Carol and I left Miami a little after 6 PM on Friday, and arrived in Madrid about 9:30 AM Madrid time, getting only fitful sleep on the way over. The Madrid airport terminal is less than two years old, and simply striking in its beauty and function. We took a cab to the Central District and, even though it was early, our room was ready for us, with a very gracious hostess. Mary arrived safely from N.Africa that night.

¨Hostal¨ is a term of art, I think, and means a small hotel with limited services. but a few more than a ¨pension¨. (Ours was actually a hostal residencia, because it had no restaurant.) For us it means ¨cheaper¨ and also, because Carol and Mary carefully checked the particular place out on the internet before making the reservations weeks ago, clean and very convenient to the sights - about 5 minutes to El Prado por ejemplo.

We went Reina Sofia, the national museum of modern art, on Sunday morning, and it was free that day. There we saw Picasso´s Guernica. And then that evening we went to El Prado, also free, because it was Sunday after 5 PM. El Prado had opened a new section since we were there 6 years ago, a section featuring 19th century works, and I saw a huge painting of Queen Isabella having her Last Will prepared, apparently from her death bed. My heart went out not to the Queen, but to the poor lawyer transcribing it all at her bedside, with the rest of the family apparently gathered around. Naturally, we went by the museum store on the way out and I bought a print.

As we were waiting in line for El Prado, we discovered that the middle aged lady in front of us lives in Deerfield Beach, FL, although she is a Spaniard from the Basque country and, in her retirement from Proctor and Gamble, she lives in Madrid several months a year. Her grown daughter was there in line too, but had gone off for a Starbucks (I saw three Starbucks in Madrid!) She told us that Spain´s economy is struggling with the Euro (actually, we have been struggling with the Euro) and has other economic problems, but, as to the US, I was shocked that she equated President Bush with Venezuela´s Chavez. It made me understand even more thoroughly how unsuccessful the President has been in presenting a simpatico spirit to Europe and other parts of the world. But what a grotesque comparison.

And as I looked around Madrid, and even here in Granada, I saw a lot of construction and rehabilitation under way, including the ubiquitous tall cranes of the sort that have dominated Miami´s skyline for several years. So I am not so sure that Spain is doing all that poorly, even with its present socialist government. Spain had a very long way to come from Franco´s days, and it is by now a thoroughly modern place. Downtown Madrid reminded me of nothing so much as New York.

There is so much to write about, but I need to let Mary look at her emails, so I will sign off. (We are using a computer at the bed and breakfast, actually a sort of pension, where we are staying in Granada.) Adios, familia y amigos y amigas.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Reading My Way to Spain and Back

Taking to read for the long, roundtrip flight to Spain (leaving tomorrow):

My Grandfather's Son: a Memoir, by Clarence Thomas. I read the preface and first two pages of the first chapter today and had to force myself to stop so I would have it to read on the trip; it is that well written and interesting. He wrote it himself.

Shadow of the Sun, by Ryszard Kapuscincki. This is non-fiction too, about Africa, and a recommendation from Mary. I'm about 1/4 of the way through it. It's good too.

A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle. A friend at church asked me to read this and talk to her about it. This is an Oprah Book Club selection, and the author is some sort of spiritual sensation. So, Oprah is covering the waterfront here: politics with Obama, religion or "spirituality" with Tolle. I never heard of Tolle until last Sunday, but then I read about how popular he is. I'll give you a complete report.

NIV Bible: So I can keep up with the chronological readings our men's group started on January 1.

Latest issue of World Magazine. Came in the mail today.

Tomorrow's WSJ.

iPod with the last several Mars Hill Audio programs on it.

I have some of those noise cancelling earphones too. Totally prepared.

Notice Anything?

Now, some of these photos are fabulous (in focus and great shots) while others are not, but that is not the point. Did you take note of the red scarf? We have taken note of the red scarf. She puts it around her neck almost every day, yes, that's right, folks: almost every single day! The girl just loves to accessorize!!!

How on earth did I ever birth such a girly girl?

"Deliveries to My Office"

Recent general email that I sent to my fellow travelers here at the firm, after I discovered several things on my desk that had been there since Bill Clinton's first term and that I had never noticed before among the rest of the clutter:

Please do not put things on my desk. Always put them in the in-box, unless I am in my office. In that case, you may give them to me personally, provided that you wave your hand before my eyes to be sure that I am aware that you are in the office. (I get a little pre-occupied sometimes.)

If the pile in my in-box falls over when you place your delivery in it, then please come find either Susana or me.


Yes, it's that bad.

Just Another Day in Paradise

Mall shopping (or, as we say it here, "chopping") in Miami-Dade.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Body/Spirit Heresy

Our friend Marlene and her grown daughter Annelies visited us this past week. Marlene is, in addition to being a fine mother, a pastor's wife, a former adjunct professor at Montreat College (and soon to rejoin that faculty), a board member of important agencies and organizations in and out of the PCUSA, a Christian feminist, and a great, great friend, especially to Carol. We have known Marlene, husband Gary, and Annelies for many years. In fact, knowing them has been a signal blessing on us and our family. We have had many conversations with them, and often topics will come up again, and we will resume our discussion after an intervening time of many months or even many years.

The topic of body/mind came up again. I think I brought it up, because I have been thinking about the Incarnate Christ a good bit. It is a theme that Ken Meyer revisits often at Mars Hill Audio ("MHA"), and now that Carol has helped me figure out how to download MHA's MP3s (the secret is to hand the device to Carol and ask her to download them), I am now a regular listener again. What I have been thinking about is the question of "Where is Jesus?" For example, people say that "Jesus is in my heart", and when they do I am not sure what exactly they mean. Jesus, it seems to me, is "gone". He left. We receive him during communion, in some way, but I don't think that Presbyterian's are quite where the Roman's are. (Of course, I know we are not.) God's presence now is his Holy Spirit, at least on a daily, ongoing basis. If we have some sort of authentic sensation of the Deity, I think the Holy Spirit would be it, wouldn't it? Anyway, that's the sort of thing I have been thinking about.

So we started down that path, and somehow managed to get over to the problem of women who, once they marry a man, become the Blessed Virgin to themselves and their husbands. It wrecks God's plan for the marriage bed. Those marriages, especially when they are supported by a religious culture that forbids divorce (the same religious culture that supports this erroneous view of Mary, the mother of Jesus), is pretty horrible for all concerned. Our thesis is that "sex" and "love" have been wrongfully bifurcated in our fallen culture, and that they are intended to be a unity in the marriage relationship. From that perspective we can, for example, have a pretty good idea about how insidious is pornography.

Of course, there is nothing new about any of this.

But there is something new about this splitting of the idea of mind (or spirit or soul, I use those terms interchangably, and maybe that's not correct) and body and it is an exhibit going around the country called "Body Worlds". Wikipedia has a good article on this exhibit. It has been to Miami and I have seen advertisements for it on billboards, but I didn't really know what it was about until I heard an interview of art historian Michael J. Lewis on MHA this morning. Lewis has written an article about the exhibit in Commentary here. It's worth reading. Body Worlds is an exhibit of human corpses that have been preserved by a technique developed by a German physician and anatomist, G√ľnther von Hagens, in which a plastic substance is injected into bodily tissue after all of the bodily fluids have been removed. As a result, decay is forever arrested and the body or body part can been studied and, now, exhibited in a commercial and colorful way.

What does that say about where we are in the mind/body (or soul/body) conversation our culture is having? Not much good, I would say.

AND ANOTHER THING: I can't let this thing die (?) without mentioning Old Man's War, by John Scalzi, a terric SciFi novel that Macon gave me. It deals with every middle aged man's fantasy of being a warrior, and deals with it very well. But there is also a sort of reanimation theme developed. Scalzi's view, as I discern it, is thoroughly materialist, and that is that the soul (or self-consciousness at least) is simply the sum of the material parts of one's body.

We are So Cute!