Monday, March 30, 2009

Yellow Tababouia Tree and Orchid

On the left is the Yellow Tababouia tree to the west of our house. It is about a week after the blooms burst forth; just a few days after it's prime, and you can see the blooms on the ground. It's spectacular, though, even past its peak.

I took a close-up shot of a bunch of blooms still on the tree.

To the right of the Tababouia Tree, you can see the Sea Grape Tree that is outside our dining room window. Last year I put a little orchid in the the crook of its trunk, after it had bloomed in the reception room of our office, and it was blooming again last weekend. It's really hard to grow these things here. It takes a lot of effort to wedge the plastic pot in the tree and tape it there with clear masking tape until the roots grow out of the pot and grasp the trunk. But someone has to do it, and that, of course, would be me.

But, John, How Do You Really Feel About What Floats Our Boats?

Our end in leaving our native country [for Georgia] was not to avoid want (God having given us plenty of temporal blessings) nor to gain the dung or dross of riches or honor; but singly this - to save our souls, to live wholly to the glory of God. [Boldface added]

-John Wesley, from his Journal, Oct. 14, 1735.

Cutie Clippies

Did you see that Kellsey started her own business? Cutie Clippies!

You'd think starting an online business was in her blood, or something.

Also: I think that some of her clippies are so cool that I wish I could get away with wearing them.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Send down the grandchidren!

Say It Ain't So!

Duke is dominated by Villanova.

Yahoo Sports’s Dan Wetzel wonders what’s happened to Duke. “The Blue Devils are no longer the Blue Devils,” Wetzel writes. “They’re just another good program. Good, not great. They don’t have what Duke is accustomed to having. They haven’t for years. When they get into the grown-men rounds of the NCAA tournament, they don’t stand a chance.”

Cry, and you cry alone.

Or something.


Yesterday evening I was caught in rush hour traffic, going south on US 1 and heading for the board meeting of the local Youth for Christ organization. The south part of the county is the more prosperous half, and the automobiles are mostly late model and many are expensive. I saw a number of Obama stickers on these cars.

I pulled up at a traffic light behind a car with an Obama sticker, and I saw, hanging from the rear view mirror, a Rosary. What in the world did that mean? Is the professional looking driver a Christian? A Roman Catholic? Or are those beads some sort of superstitious trinket, hanging there to ward off accidents and traffic tickets? Maybe the driver really struggled with Obama's views on abortion, on the one hand, and the less lethal and more promising aspects of his candidacy, on the other, but gave in.

With regard to human life itself, "change" with our new Administration meant, within hours after the inauguration, reversing the previous administration's pro-life policies. Putting aside the disastrous budget decisions that the new President and Congress have made so far, shall we focus for a moment on how many unborn babies have been killed since he began?

The Herald Celebrates "Diversity"

The Herald this week gave a lot of ink to a play by a local playright, Michael McKeever' Melt. A one-time performance at Guzman Center for the Performing Arts was attended by students and their parents. The play purports to be about the melting-pot of cultures in Miami-Dade:

McKeever's Miamians span South Florida's myriad cultures: a Cuban-American seamstress who was a Pedro Pan child and her son, a slick operator who works in real estate; an older Jewish man, whose wife left him, and his son, a gay high school teacher who wants to adopt a child; the teacher's partner, a black nurse who is unsure about fatherhood; and the nurse's sister, a lawyer and activist who wants to stop real estate developers from displacing lower-income Miamians.

That's it? That's Miami? I've only lived here 63 years, less a few years away at college and law school, and this is not what I see. But beyond that, it amazes me to read that the Miami Chamber of Commerce helped sponsor this event, where, if the description I have quoted is accurate, business people are described as "slick" or predatory; the only marriage featured is a broken one, the only family a single mom, the only professionals, community "activists," the only intact adult relationship, homosexual, and the only reference to fatherhood, a tentative and exceedingly doubtful one.

Beyond the C of C, what were the parents thinking who took their children to see this thing?

Teaching Toys

The current generation featured here. There were a couple of good ones we used, although none of them so automated as these. We kept looking for the "clean-up-your room" teaching toy, but never found one.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dear Family:

I've been right about sleep along.

(I'm going to bed now.)

Is Sen. Nelson Coming to his Senses?

Oh, I hope so!

Finishing Strong!

A Gator friend of mine, not a Christian, sent me the following email:

Finishing Strong!

A true story shared by Tim Tebow at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes annual dinner on Thursday, February 12, 2009. And, a follow up story shared by Urban Meyer!

During the 2008 NCAA Football Season the National Championship University of Florida football team faced many challenges. Everyone remembers the passionate speech quarterback Tim Tebow delivered after the mid-season 1 point loss to Mississippi. The team morphed into a better, more cohesive and stronger unit. The theme for the team became FINISH STRONG!

During the 4th Quarter of the SEC Championship game, facing the #1 Ranked Alabama Crimson Tide without star running back/receiver Percy Harvin and behind on the scoreboard, Tim Tebow and the Florida offensive team rallied on the sidelines and passionately committed to FINISH STRONG as they went out and scored the winning touchdown in dominating fashion. They FINISHED STRONG!

During the 4th Quarter of the National Championship game, facing the #1 Ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the most dominant high powered offense in the history of college football, the defensive team…special team…and the Tebow led offensive team rallied on the sideline and passionately committed to FINISH STRONG as they went out and shut down the Oklahoma offense and then s cored the winning touchdown to secure the win.

Once again…they FINISHED STRONG!

Tim Tebow spoke about those games and compared them to the game of life. We face many opportunities to make good decisions and to passionately pursue many different goals in life. Most of us pursue them passionately and many of us successfully achieve those goals. But when we don’t achieve those goals…are you able to say that you FINISHED STRONG? In life, as we move toward our destination, are you going to feel good about your answers to the following questions that ultimately are waiting for you: Did you do enough? Did you do too little? Did you finish strong?

The guy who wears number 15 and accessorizes with a ‘red cape’ finished his testimonial after dinner with the following story:

A day or so before the national championship game God touched his heart with a message…Tim needed to change the message on his black eye liner that he wears when he is playing. All year he had a reference to Phillipians 4:13 on the eye liner which represented the following: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. He talked to four or five others about switching the message and everyone except his parents told him not to do it because they had been so successful all year with the Phillipians 4:13. His parents, Pam and Bob Tebow, supported the change and Tim knew it was the right thing to do. He played the=2 0championship game with John 3:16 on the eye liner which represents the following: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
We all know the outcome of the game, but the phone call that Tim received a couple of days later when he was back in Gainesville was nothing short of unbelievable. Tim answered his cell phone and it was the P.R. guy for the UF Football game. He said, “You set a record.” Tim wondered what kind of record was he talking about. “In the 24 hour period from the start of the championship game, JOHN 3:16 was Googled…93 MILLION times! No other topic had ever been Googled that many times in a 24 hour period of time.”

Follow up story from Urban Meyer, Coach of the 2008 National Champion University Florida football team:

As Coach Meyer was introduced next, he looked out at the 400 attendees and said, “How do you follow that?” as he referred to Tim’s testimonial.

Coach Meyer then shared a few stories and then introduced his last story with the following introduction:

We all hear about the incredible family Tim is a part of. With ever ything going on in the world, you just know there is no way Pam and Bob Tebow can be as perfect as they are made out to be.

I am here to tell you I witnessed the most amazing conversation which is the truest testimonial to how incredibly good the Tebows truly are.

A few days after the championship game I sat at a table in the back of the Ballyhoo restaurant with Tim, Pam and Bob Tebow. It was just the four of us and I listened in amazement as Tim’s future about moving to the next level of football was decided. Unbelievably, the NFL was never once mentioned. Tim’s dad started the conversation by saying that Brett Farve spoke about his faith and no one ever listened. Here was a future Hall of Fame quarterback and no one heard his message. Tim then said…”I can think of 93 million reasons why I would want to stay in school and play my senior year at the University of Florida.”

That’s how the decision was made.

Which platform would provide Tim with the best opportunity to share the word of God? As you now know, playing his senior year for the University of Florida would be that choice.

And, is there any doubt about Tim’s passionate commitment to FINISH STRONG?

Hoping that People Come to Geithner's Party

On the McLaughlin Group Friday night, one of the commentators closed the circle for me on the sub-prime issue. He said that the developing nations, particularly the Chinese, had nowhere to put the huge stash of US dollars that they had made from global trade and the US consumer. The answers to their dilemma were the sub-prime loan packages, investments enabled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and guaranteed either by the US government implicitly or by "insurance" from AIG explicitly. These packages fed the hunger overseas for a "safe" US investment that paid a good return. (Thus, much of the money the government has paid to AIG has gone overseas to pay-off insurance claims made in respect of these "toxic" investments, for we really would like the world to continue to invest in the US.)

Treasury Secretary Geithner describes his "Public-Private Investment Program" on the Op-Ed page of the WSJ this morning, and it's worth reading. It strikes at the heart of the sub-prime loan problem. The heart of the problem is this: What in the world are the sub-prime loan packages worth?

The government has been afraid to get out of the way and let the market place determine that question, because it believes that the process of allowing the market to make that determination will devastate the economies of the world. Furthermore, powerful people in government are afraid that blame for the devastation will be traced back to them. If, then, they can simply "manage" the problem, maybe they can avoid being held accountable. But this is obviously not working. The economies of the world are under great stress, and I believe that citizens are beginning to figure out how unclean are the hands of the people in Washington who purport to be telling us how they are going to solve the problem.

The Geithner proposal allows for the market place to get back into the valuation process. And maybe we will see whether these loans are worth anything. My guess is that there is value there. The question is whether investors in the private sector will be able to develop useful notions of value and, then, will come to the Secretary's party. Congress is not helping by threatening to abrogate the laws of contract, nor the President by proposing economic policies that will lead to massive inflation and tax policies that will take away rewards for risk-taking. But I suppose the market can even discount for those problems. So we'll see if anyone bites on the Secretary's proposal.

UPDATE: The Market likes the plan. So far. The front-page headline in the WSJ today (3/24) is "Toxic-Asset Plan Sends Stocks Soaring."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Consumer-Driven Health Care

The Swiss consumer-driven health-care system spends 40 percent less than the U.S., as a percentage of GDP, and achieves universal coverage and world-class quality results.

-Regina Herzlinger, author of Who Killed Health Care?, in an interview in the January 17 issue of World Magazine.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Civics 101

The Miami-Dade School District proposed to take 20 percent of the proceeds of all bake-sales, car washes and the like undertaken by school groups such as the marching band and math club. "But facing heat from outraged parents," the Herald reports, "Superintendent Alberto Carvalho backed off the plan . . . , which would have put about $5 million into the district account." Wow, that's a lot of Krispy Kreme Donuts. Wow, that's a lot of chutzpah.

Working on the Income Tax Return Today

TurboTax is simply amazing.

But as I am working through it, I am wondering whether people who are also doing their taxes are thinking about those other people. That is, thinking about those greater people now in Washington (or there recently, but quickly thrown under a bus) who consider themselves above such ordinary things as completing one's tax return as carefully and honestly as one can.

As my father was wont to say in such situations, "Boy, that burns me up!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Guess Who's Sleeping Here Tonight!

Well, she is NOT actually sleeping, not yet, but I have high hopes that she will sleep here tonight. We would, of course, appreciate any and all prayers that she sleep well, that she STAY in the bed until we go to get her, and that she not roll out while sleeping.

Life never stops, always always going, and my kids always always growing...

UPDATE: She fell asleep around 8:00pm. She woke around 10:30pm, and then at 11:30pm (at which time she said, "Mommy! I deed to blow by dose!" I went upstairs, gave her a kleenex and helped her get settled under the covers again. She slept until 6:25am. Oh, and she did not fall out at all, although she was on top of the covers at the bottom of the bed with her head facing the wrong end when I went in to get her. But, at least she was still in the bed and not on the floor. Woo-hoo!!!!!

The Sprinkler System Project: Repairing PVC Pipe

These photos show three of the types of repairs I made on the pvc pipe in our sprinkler system. In the system that Jack Dewhurst had installed about five years ago and which had been damaged by the workmen who did our renovation, I had to locate and repair a total of eight breaks or simply missing sections in the underground piping.

I located the breaks by starting at the well head. At the well head, there is a valve that divides the water into three zones. I would select a zone, turn on the pump, and then walk along what I knew to be generally the underground path of the pipe until I came to the first break. I knew when I found one, because the ground would be wet at the break or, sometimes, there would be water simply gushing up from the ground into the air, like Old Faithful. I would turn off the pump, and start digging. When I finished that repair, I turned on the pump again and walked the zone further to see where the next break would be, if any, or whether, instead, the sprinklers would all spring into action.

As you can see in the photos, when I found a break I would dig a trench that exposed the pipe section in question. Then I would take a hack saw and cut the damaged portion out or round off the ends of the pipe in place if a section were simply missing.

PVC pipe is easy to work with, as long as it is in an unconfined place. Our system uses 1 1/4 inch pipe, which is no problem at all to handle. Lowe's and Home Depot have the pvc pipe in all sizes and all the common fittings. The pieces glue together easily and quickly with a liquid primer and an adhesive made especially for this work. I have a Black and Decker WorkMate and it provides the portable workbench/holding platform to cut the pipe. (I probably have the first version on the WorkMate, a marvelous invention that Carol gave me 25+ years ago.)

The problem with making these repairs is that the pipe is definitely not in an unconfined place. The first photo indicates the problem.

The basic repair involves cutting out the damaged piece of pipe; cutting the appropriate length of new pipe from replacement stock; priming/gluing a new coupling to each end of the sound pieces; and then fitting the repair piece into place at the exposed ends of the system pipe, one end at a time, after priming/gluing each end of the exposed pipe under repair.

The problem is that the pipe under repair is set in the ground and, like the replacement piece, has very limited flex. There is also very little lateral movement of the pipe in the ground.

The first photo shows the solution in a particular case. I dug the trench up to a nearby elbow and then dug a second trench that followed the 90 degree turn. At the 90 degree turn, I widened the trench so that I could push the pipe section under repair in the direction of the elbow, giving me enough room between each of the pipe ends under repair to slip in my new piece.

The second photo illustrates two problems. Here I did not have a nearby elbow to help me make room for a replacement section. In addition, one section under repair was a break in a 30 long section of pipe that Jack, upon initial installation, had gently flexed to follow the boarder of the front driveway. The plumber who installed the drain line from the new bathroom simply had to remove about a two foot section of that pipe. There was not nearly enough room for the sort of flex one could safely coax from a repair section of pvc. Furthermore, the angle between the exposed ends of the pipe under repair was less than 22 degrees. I could not find an elbow that would help me fit in the replacement section, and the pipe, as usual, had very little horizontal (longitudinal) play, if any at all.

Enter Flexible PVC. I learned about this miracle solution on the internet. I went back to Home Depot and Lowe's which carried flexible pvc, but neither of them had it in the 1 1/4" variety. But a supply house in Nevada had it, and within a week of my order I had a five foot piece in hand. It made an easy fit, as the photo indicates.

At the bottom of the photo you can also see a "T" junction which was completely broken when I dug out this section. Here I had very little room to maneuver, but a fitting called an expansion repair coupling came to the rescue. This coupling has a telescoping feature that will shorten and lengthen the coupling over about 5 inches of play. To install it, you remove about a foot or so of the pipe with the break; then separate the coupling into its two pieces, gluing one piece to each of the ends under repair; and then slide the coupling closed and tighten it. The coupling has a rubber bushing that seals it in water-tight fashion. Amazing. I used several of these.

There are some other repair approaches. For example, if there is simply a small hole, there is a sort of pvc patch that one can paint with the glue and snap around the section of pipe that has the hole. None of the breaks I had were that small. And there is also a compression fitting available, but I couldn't figure out how that was to be used.

As much as the Lowe's and Home Depot people advertise about having experts at hand to help you, I found myself to be pretty much on my own at those places. One bit of irony is that on my very last visit to Lowe's, I came across an instructional CD entitled Sprinkler System Design and Installation. It was very inexpensive and I bought it, but I'm not sure I want to see it. (I shouldn't say I was on my own. Carol often went with me on my shopping expeditions. She became quite knowledgeable after several visits, and she had the patience to sort through the various boxes at Lowe's and Home Depot that often were either wrongly labled or had the wrong parts mixed up in them.) (Rain Bird has an instructional video on sale at its website.)

The other renovation job I asked our contractor to come back and fix is the driveway itself. We have an old fashioned asphalt, circular drive. What we would like to have are "pavers," that is, a driveway of bricks that are laid cobblestone fashion and can look very nice. The contractor is nowhere in sight.

Let me see, what should I do . . . ? Now that would be a project!

Orchids Bloom in Haiti


Saturday, March 14, 2009


Today, after patching one more section of the South Zone, the last of the three zones to be repaired, and replacing several more sprinkler heads, we flipped the switch and everything worked.

Business Idea for the Entrepreneurs in the Family

Some sort of export import/business to Africa, maybe in the med technology field. (I'm telling you, if Mary goes back to Africa, I'm going too, if God gives me the health and the means, which I pray he will. By that time, I hope there is a Miami-Nairobi direct air link. Carol says she's coming along, and I'm counting on it.) I'm thinking that with the Davidson College doctor connection, this is a no-brainer.

Fabulous Friday

Yesterday, Carol and I took a "vacation day" and spent it with Mary, who has been here for a few days of her Spring break. We toured South Dade (sometimes referred to as "Redland" or "the Redlands"), starting with our first visit to RF Orchids, then to lunch at the "Tea Room" at Cauley Scquare, on to the Plant Creations nursery, and finally to that famous, glorified fruit stand known as Robert is Here, probably the only fruit stand in Florida with its own micro-zoo out back.

RF Orchids is an orchid nursery that Carol and I learned about at the Miami International Orchid Show that we attended a few weeks ago. It teems with gorgeous orchids, and the nursery rooms are replete with growing, blooming plants, rooms that are open and welcoming to the visitor. (We knew the owners were happy to have us, when one of the staff brought us out glasses of home-made lemonade within five minutes of our arrival.)

Cauley Square is an eccentric collection of shops and small restaurants grouped just off US 1 near Goulds. Mary Ann Ballard, a member of a pioneer S. Dade family, developed this unusal place, round an ancient (for Florida) building just off the track bed for Flagler's railroad that once took people to Key West. (Mary Ann is now deceased, but I had the privilege of knowing her many years ago.) Just to demonstrate that I have no male identity problems, I am not embarrassed to report that not only did I have lunch with Carol and Mary in the "Tea Room" at Cauley Square, I had spinach quiche, which was simply fabulous. (More on Cauley Square, Mary Ann, and the Team Room here.)

After lunch we visited a nursery that has an outstanding web site, Plant Creations. It has an impressive inventory of plants and trees, but it is plainly for the landscape professional. Amateurs like us would best stay on the website and, when we make our in-person visits, have our list of acquisition needs already in hand.

We ended our South Dade tour with a visit to Robert is Here, which enjoys legendary status among people who live in Miami-Dade and is a required stop anytime we are otherwise within 15 miles of the place. We had the obligatory strawberry-key lime milk shake (just one of the many flavors available), sampled some Guayava fruit that Robert himself cut up and offered us (one of the photos shows Robert serving Mary), bought a Mamey for Mary to take back to a friend at Bryn Mawr, and just had a great time looking around at the fruit and other offerings, and, especially interesting for me, at the other visitors, not only tourists from up North but ones from Europe as well, particularly the Germans. (The Germans are the ones who look like us, only they are bigger).

Two of the places we visited, RF Orchids and Cauley Square, are part of a self-guided tour called the "Redland Tropical Trail," which has its own website.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mary Admitted to Med School!


Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him all creatures here below!
Praise Him above heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!


Monday, March 09, 2009


I'm starting a new project for myself. At this point, it's going to have two connection points on the web: a short form and a long form.

The short form is up and running: Unrelated:

It's mostly a list of things that are ideas themselves, or shards of ideas, or nascent ideas that I'm not going to work at all into trying to relate to each other. (Hence the name.)

The Long Form, if it happens, will be a place to link them all up in an essay form.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

More Renovation

Our last report on the renovation was May of last year. Although at that time about a year had gone by since the contractor had officially signed off, there were matters left for us to do. Carol worked on the windows, and I worked on repairing the damage to our yard. Despite being good with a shovel, I didn't feel quite up to repairing the lawn sprinkler system that the workers had damaged nor the driveway that had been sliced through at a couple of places. I asked the contractor to come back and give an estimate on putting that in order. He took at look at it about six months ago and brought by a sprinkler subcontractor, but I haven't heard anything from him since then. (No recession in that business, apparently.)

So, several weeks ago I got the shovel back out and resolved to put the sprinkler system back in working order. Since then, I have become well known in the plumbing department of the new Lowe's in Hialeah, have bought work lights that allow me to toil after the sun goes down, and learned, among other things, that there is something called "flexible pvc" and 22 degree elbows and other semi-exotic sprinkler system parts. The internet has been a great help in figuring out how to patch broken pipe and, of course, there's Jack Dewhurst to consult: Jack, who, between jobs during 2003, originally put in the system.

Finally, there is Carol, the brain trust. She would have been a great engineer or surgeon, because she can really figure things out. So out she comes when I run into a problem.

The sprinkler system for our vast estate has three zones, one for the back yard (South Zone), one for the west yard and the west parkway or "swale" as some people call it (West Zone) and one for the front yard and north parkway (North Zone). (No need for an East Zone because Octavio, our neighbor to the east, has a very serious sprinkler system that takes care of about a six feet strip on our side of our common lot line. Octavio has just finished building one of the new terminals at MIA. Before that he went around the country building new Home Depots. He is a serious DIY guy. He tries not to smile when he sees me with a shovel.)

The West Zone is now up and sprinkling. The North Zone is up and sprinkling except for a portion I have temporarily capped off while I wait for the delivery of some 1 1/4 flexible, white pvc to repair a break. The South Zone was the most damaged, and today I repaired one of the pipe breaks and located what I believe is the only other one in that zone. So I have the back broken on this project.

Let Octavio smile.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Matters not to Confess at the Med School Interview

Mary soon goes to her med school interview. She's been researching what to expect, and one question often asked is "What are your weaknesses." So I am now proposing that we list weaknesses that are best kept to yourself at these things. Of course, Mary has none of these weaknesses, so this proposal is for the public interest.

Things not to confess at the med school interview:

1. I hate to wash my hands.
2. The sight of blood makes me faint
3. I'm in this for the money
4. I go to bed early and turn my phone offf
5. I never learned to cover my face when I sneeze
6. I think people get sick because they've sinned.

From Some Other Planet, Senator Kerry Again Speaks to the Financial Crisis

Bankers as Animal House partiers.

Bankers? You have to be kidding me. I have been dealing with these types for 30+ years. These are not (repeat not) party animals. Compare, say, the Masters with Woodstock.

We are in such good hands with Washington now running the banking system, not to mention the auto industry, the insurance industry, the education system, the District of Columbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, the War on Drugs, and soon to be, apparently, health care and about everything else.

My theory has been that Washington supports the UN because the UN bureaucrats in NY make Washington look good. But I don't know. I'm not saying that the UN should start packing its bags, but . . .

When is Father's Day this Year?

Oh, yeah.

And lookuh heah.

(And isn't that Macon next to the shelf?)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Funny conversations at the dinner table...

So, the other night, Aidan started knocking on the under side of the dinner table while we were all eating. After doing it a few times, I said, "who's there?" Aidan said, "it's Webb!" (the name of his best little buddy). Honor quickly interjected, "NO! It's Jesus!"
The remaining conversation went something like this:


until they both dissolved in laughter. This continues to remain a heated debate at our dinner table whenever someone "knocks" on the table.

It makes me smile every time.