Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday Morning at the Office, Coffee at Hand

Mmmm. It can get better than this. But this is very good.

Overcast outside. Big day ahead - a long to do list.

1. Catch up with my timeslips for October, because the end of the month is here. I really, really hate those things. As if one can value a life by the tenth of an hour. Thank you bean-counters of America and what you did to our profession; may hell consist of mountains of beans for you and a calculator whose batteries run out every 10 seconds.

2. Do the David Alan office sweep. Sometimes this is encouraging and other times it is discouraging, as in, I don't have enough life left to get this stuff done. Who knows what today will bring. I pray for the former, of course.

3. Finish the veggie garden. We have been nursing our "starts" since last Saturday. They are still in their little pots. I started last weekend on clearing the grass away from a patch in the back yard to which to transplant them; got some soil stuff at Lowe's; but I have quite a ways to go. The best thing would be to build a box around the patch; cover the ground with cardboard; and then fill the box with 20 or so bags of store-bought soil, mulch, compost; and then plant. This helps avoid the bugs, etc. But I don't have time for that, so I'll loosen the soil that's there (a lot of sand left over from the renovation), mix in what I got from Lowe's, put in the starts, give them tender loving care (mainly water and weed removal), and hope for the best this year. (There's always next year with the box, etc., if we crash.)

4. Prepare for the Sunday School class tomorrow. Chapters 3 and 4 of Ortberg's, If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to . . . That's fun. The only problem with this study is that I would sort of like to walk on water, but stay in my nice comfortable boat. Can't we work that, Lord? All things are possible, right?

5. Flag the sprinkler system. The last step of the renovation will begin on Monday, when the old asphalt driveway will come out and pavers go in. I have little flags to put out at the sprinkler heads, so the workers know to avoid them, or at least might devote some effort to doing so. I am not optimistic, but at least I've learned how to fix the system.

6. Do paper work at desk at home. I can't keep up with all of this. It's nearly as bad as the office.

7. Go to the Halo-Ween party at church tonight. This is an outreach effort to get the parents in the community to bring their little kids, so we can meet them. Carol is on the committee getting ready for it, and will spend all afternoon decorating. I am to show up to help at the party itself. We are not suppose to have scary masks, and frighten the little kids. What fun is that?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nita and Hettie

My fraternal grandmother was Hettie Johnson, and I remember her very well. She moved to Miami from Atlanta during the mid-fifties. She was a widow by then, my grandfather Walter L. Stokes, having died in 1949. Not only was our family here, but my Aunt Frances [Stokes Harris] and her family were here. The Harris clan had moved here from Greensboro, first to Miami Springs, and then to a bigger home in what is now Pinecrest, about 12 or so miles south of us. Grandmother lived with them.

Then, when I was about 11 or 12, my Uncle Harold [Harris] had a heart attack (right out of the blue) and died, leaving behind my Aunt Frances and two young cousins Ken and Tim. My aunt, Ken and Tim moved back to Miami Springs, less than a mile from our house, and Grandmother Stokes came with them. Aunt Frances moved there so that my dad and mom could help her with her two sons and our grandmother, and also because my dad had helped her get a job in the weather department at Eastern Air Lines at the airport, which is adjacent to Miami Springs. Our families were close but we got even very closer after they moved back to Miami Springs. For example, we all attended the same church downtown and my cousins and I went to the same junior high school, Ken and I were in the band, etc.

Grandmother Stokes developed breast cancer. I don’t think they could do a lot for women with that disease back in the late fifties and early sixties, and she finally died at home, at Aunt Frances’ house. I believe my dad was there. I remember that she had very little money; Aunt Frances had little; and we had little. Dad and Aunt Frances would take her to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was treated as a charity patient. I think I was in the 9th grade when she died. (I have pictures of her.)

Sometimes when I look at Mary, I see her, because Mary is slim and tallish, as Grandmother Stokes was, and Mary walks as I remember Grandmother doing. (It was startling the first time I saw this.) She was a very calm and dignified lady, soft spoken, very gentle, very conscientious about doing the right thing and being aware of the needs of others.

My mother was my father’s second wife. He had been married for a short time to a woman who would simply not move out of her mother’s house, he said, and they divorced within a year of their marriage. That woman never remarried. In my dad’s religious culture, he was not to marry again himself. But then he met my mother, and that took care of that. But Grandmother Stokes didn’t think he should marry again and somehow let my mother know about it. But over the years, my mother said, my grandmother began to soften and finally admitted that she had been wrong, that God must have meant for my dad and my mother to marry. That’s a story that has always been interesting to me, and one that does great credit to my mother, I think, who helped my aunt and my dad care for Grandmother both emotionally and physically.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Benadryl and Public Schools

Casa de los Trucos October Political Index

From a front page article in today's Miami Herald on sales of Halloween costumes this year:

Perhaps the biggest difference from Halloween 2008 is that political masks were gathering dust this year, retailers said.

Last year Casa de los Trucos [a costume shop] sold all 84 of its Barack Obama masks. By Tuesday afternoon, it had only sold two this season.

"That gives you an idea of how popular he is now," [Jorge] Torres [the manager of los Trucos] said. "Maybe we'll have to wait another four years."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Radical Roots. What Happened?

As I was growing up in the Reformed Tradition, I saw very little of that world-formative impulse so prominent in its origins. For me the tradition represented a certain theology and a certain piety. The piety came through most clearly in the prayers. As I remember them, they were of the structure “We thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you have granted us, and we ask you to remember those less fortunate than we are.” The attitude communicated was that it was God’s business to care of the oppressed and deprived of the world, our role was simply to pray that he not neglect to do so. If presented to me then, the thesis of Michael Walzer in his book The Revolution of the Saints, that “the Calvinist saint [is] the first of those self-disciplined agents of social and political reconstruction who have appeared so frequently in modern history,” would have seemed comically perverse as a description of my own tradition.

Since then I have learned of the radical origins of the tradition in which I was reared. Learning of those origins has given me a deepened appreciation of my own identity. It has also produced in me a profound discontent over my tradition’s loss of its radicalism. Why has it become so quiescently – sometimes oppressively – conservative?

-Nicholas Wolterstorff
in Until Justice & Peace Embrace.

Sister Mary Jones

This is Nancy and Sharon's mom at the Epworth Village Halloween Party. I've known Mary for over 35 years. She is a great lady and was/is a pillar of our church! Nancy tells me that three of Mary's aunts were nuns and that Mary gave that blessed vocation serious consideration. I'm glad we Presbies got her.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's an Heirloom Tomato?

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of the followers of this blog have been asking, as a result of my post on the Fairchild Veggie Festival. Note the "update."

Here's Wikipedia's definition. And from what I understood from the festival, Wiki's got it about right.

(We heard at the festival a number of not-nice things said about the tomatoes one buys in grocery stores. These are definitely not heirlooms.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Get-up! Get-down! The Movie

The oatmeal actually cooks. It doesn't roast. But it does take 5.5 minutes. (Thanks, Walter and Jack.)

Dove Avenue [Banana] Plantation October Update

Fairchild Gardens Veggie Day

The official name of the event at Fairchild Gardens this weekend is "The Edible Garden Festival," and Carol and I were there yesterday when the Gardens opened. Fairchild Gardens is such a beautiful place, it should not take a festival for us to get there. But we did go to the festival, and it was not a disappointment.

There were some lectures, and we went to three of them. The first was by Ginny Stibolt, who has recently published The Sustainable Garden for Florida. She was very, very articulate and thoughtful, a good writer who gets her hands dirty in a very productive way. We bought her book and she autographed it.

Then Carolyn Coppolo spoke on Creative Container Gardening. This lady, who owns the Redland Herb Farm (scroll down) in South Dade, is a very funny and learned lady. She had a booth at the Festival and there Carol bought rosemary and basil plants.

Next Margie Pilarski told us about Growing Organic Heirloom Tomatoes. She owns Bee Heaven Farms in South Dade, and was just full of information on these kinds of tomatoes, over 160 varieties of which she has dealt with in just the last four years or so. At Margie's booth, we bought three tiny heirloom tomato plants, one a Black Zebra, another a Black Plum, and another a Lime Green Salad. I've posted a photo of Carol at Margie's booth. UPDATE: Bee Heaven Farms has a blog, too, which is as interesting as the website. Margie also started Redland Organics, and here is that organization's site.

From these booths and others, we also bought an egg-plant, cabbage, yellow squash, zucchini, red bell peppers and collards, bringing them all home with the intention of planting them in our backyard, west of the banana patch, and eating big this winter. I've posted a photo of our haul.

Fairchild is simply a stunning place. I can't close this post without a photo of its baobob tree, which Aidan refers to as a "billybob" tree, reflecting his Texas roots (so to speak). (That's Carol at the base of the tree. Click on the photo to get a better perspective on its immensity.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Heresy: Should a Christian Abandon Football?

Maybe so.

If I would not want my grandson playing the game at any level, as it is now played, should I watch (thereby encourage) the play of the grandsons of others?

Or perhaps the better way is to engage the game faithfully, as these people are doing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Health Care Debate: Personal Responsibility vs. Patronizing the Insured

The health care insurance debate seems often to pose the question of whether we should have government intervention or rely on the "free" market. More specifically, which of the two, the question is framed, is more "efficient" and more likely to provide wider coverage effectively?

Hidden beneath that debate is where I think the real issue lies. That issue is whether we will trust people to make their own health care decisions, requiring them to live with the consequences, or whether we will not trust them to do so and therefore devise a system where others make the decisions for them (but again requiring the citizen to live with the consequences, not the bureaucrat who makes the decision).

An article in the Herald business section today exposes that hidden issue. According to the article, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, which offers a variety of plans to its customers, requires its own employees to accept a plan that calls for high deductibles and an "HSA" or "health savings account." The article states, in part:

Critics of HSAs say that their problem is that they assume consumers can make intelligent decisions about their health care when it's often difficult for most people to judge the costs and benefits of complex medial alternatives.

Think about other decisions that citizens are called upon to make that are complex. For example, what about the decision to get married, to have children, to buy a car, to change jobs, to go to this church or that, and even to vote. Shall the government (or some giant corporate institution entrenched in Washington to which we are forced to pay tax-like premiums) make those decisions too? I am amazed at the patronizing tenor of at least part of the debate we are hearing on whether to adopt a national health care system.

Great Management Advice from the Coach

In the sports section today's Herald, Coach Shula is asked about the Wildcat/Single-wing offense. He does not condemn it as a gimmick in any respect. Instead he says:

It’s about utilizing your personnel to the best of their abilities. You’ve got to analyze the personnel you’ve got, put them in a position where you can get the most out of their abilities and don’t ask people to do what they’re not capable of doing.

This is absolutely true for all management situations.

BoingBoing, Greenberg Traurig, and Ralph Lauren

I love this. (Thanks, Glenn.) Greenberg is HQd down the street. Shame on them.

How's Your Bank?

Bauer Financial gives ratings.

Vegetable Farming in Overtown

Great story this morning in the Herald. The project is sponsored in part by The Collins Center for Public Policy. The center is named after Leroy Collins, who was governor of Florida when I was growing up, and one of the few Southern Governors who facilitated the transition to the integrated public school system mandated by Brown vs. Board of Education.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Windows 7

I'm reading that an upgrade from XP to 7 is difficult and that, if you want to go to 7, you should buy a new machine with it already installed. That's a bummer, if true.

I read that here (which Instapundit linked, approvingly) and also in a review in today's Miami Herald.

UPDATE: The NY Times tech person likss 7, but confirms that it is preferable to buy it pre-installed on a new computer.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Report from Brazil

This morning a missionary couple to Brazil whom our church supports paid the congregation a visit. At the luncheon after the service, someone asked them about the street children in the big cities of that country. They said several things.

Two laws create part of the street-children problem, they said. One is a child-welfare law that prohibits employment of persons under the age of 14. What this means is that children are either unable to help their families or they are often employed by criminal enterprises, especially illegal drug gangs. The children are attractive to the drug lords because of the other law: children cannot be prosecuted criminally under age 14. They said that when a child reaches age 14, the child is often murdered by the drug gang, because he is no longer immune from prosecution and knows too much.

Another problem, they said, is that the Roman Catholic Church prohibits birth control and is still a very great influence. Thus there are poor families with 10 or more children, and the parents are unable to support them. Often these children are better off on the street than in the family, because there they can stand at street corners and beg enough to feed themselves, or sell small items.

They think that the money that Brazil is spending on the Olympics would be better spent on the street children problem. They are disappointed that Brazil won. They also commented on how dangerous Rio de Janeiro is, where the Olympics will be held. The live in Anapolis, and said they never go to Rio nor ever would, because of the danger there. (See here, for example.)

The husband was a year behind me at Hialeah High, and an FSU grad. Hehas been a missionary in Brazil since 1970. Early in his ministry he met his wife, a native Brazilian, and they have been missionaries together continuously since then. Despite their description of the street children problem and the Olympics concerns, their overall remarks indicated that they are quite proud of their county,

They conduct a camp and conference center ministry. It sounds like their work is very effective. Their mission field is populated with nominally Roman Catholic people who will not enter a Protestant church. But these people will attend a Christian camp or conference, because it is held on "neutral ground." There, the missionaries said, the Gospel has plenty of room to do its good work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Get-up! Get-down!

I asked Walter about a basic exercise I could adopt without buying a lot of equipment. He suggested the "get-up." This is where you get down on the floor and then get back up again. It helps, he said, to have knee pads.

I remember reading about this exercise many years ago, when I was deep into weight training (at least deep for me). This was a favorite of Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru who had a tv show in the 50s. (Jack, age 95, just keeps on ticking: Exhibit A for his methods. And he is a vegetarian. I want to be like him when I grow up.) Here is a description of Lalanne's get-up.

There is something called a Turkish Get-up, that looks like a modification of the idea. It involves a kettle-bell or dumbbell. I like LaLanne's approach much better. And besides, there is less chance of knocking your teeth out when the kettle bell slips.

No Free Lunch (So to Speak)

The health care bill requires compliance with healthy living guidelines and penalizes bad eating habits:

According to a Washington Post article that Drudge links to:

President Obama and members of Congress have declared that they are trying to create a system in which no one can be denied coverage or charged higher premiums based on their health status. The health insurance lobby has said it shares that goal. However, so-called wellness incentives could introduce a colossal loophole. In effect, they would permit insurers and employers to make coverage less affordable for people exhibiting risk factors for problems like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The article states that the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association are against this approach. My guess is that they are against this approach because a large part of their support base comes from people who make money off the Typical American Diet. (How cynical of me. Sorry.) And what would these organizations do if the diseases they supposedly address were reduced 30% or more. (Oh, I'm just awful!)

If my taxes and insurance premiums have to pay for someone else's heathcare, then I'm fine with putting pressure on these other people to adopt a healthy diet. In terms of liberty, on the other hand, both sides lose: I am required to pay for that person's health care and that other person may not do harm to himself without paying a penalty.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Harry Reid Gets a Special Deal for Nevada

In the Health Care Bill just reported out of the Senate Finance Committee, the Majority Leader procured for Nevada special treatment regarding Medicare cutbacks otherwise applicable to all states, except for Michigan, Oregon, and Rhode Island, who also get the special deal. Senators from other states are ticked. They want special treatment for their states, too.

How about this: No special treatment for any particular state. I thought this was National Health Care, as in the United States of America.

If the bill isn't good for all of us, maybe it just isn't a good bill.

Gaming Obamacare

Will a young, healthy, childless individual or couple buy health insurance costing 7.5 percent of their income, as required by Obama’s health legislation? Not until they get sick. Then they can always buy the insurance, and the Obama bill requires the insurance companies to give it to them. And if the premiums come to more than 7.5 percent of their income because they are now sick, no problem. Obama will subsidize it.

-Dick Morris, here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Albert Lea, Minn., and the "Vitality Project"

Organizers said the first-of-its kind experiment added an average 3.1 years to the expected longevity of participating residents . . .

* * *

"I always thought being meatless would be a horrible way to live," Aeikens said. "But there are oodles of things that are tasty and good, vegetables and fruits that really make up a good diet. I wouldn't go back."

-Read the whole story.

UPDATE: More on the Vitality Project here and here.

The Narrow Path

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.

-Attributed to Frank A. Clark.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"But I'm Still Growing!"

"Sir Edmund Hillary made several unsuccessful attempts at scaling Mount Everest before he finally succeeded. After one attempt he stood at the base of the giant mountain and shook his fist at it. "I'll defeat you yet," he said in defiance. "Because you're as big as you're going to get - but I'm still growing."

From Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"I Never Failed Anything in my Life!"

Carol and I are reading John Ortberg's If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. It's built around Matthew 14:25-32. In the first chapter, he poses the question of whether Peter "failed" when he got out of the boat, walked a ways toward Jesus, and then began to sink.

Part of his answer to the question includes this illustration:

Somebody once asked Winston Churchill what most prepared him to risk political suicide by speaking out against Hitler during the years of appeasement in the mid-1930s, then to lead Great Britain against Nazi Germany. Churchill said it was the time he had to repeat a grade in elementary school.

"You mean you failed a year in grade school?" he was asked.

"I never failed anything in my life. I was given a second opportunity to get it right."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Prizes, Sweden, Norway, Reading Wills

The Swedes award the Nobel Prizes, except one; the Norwegians award the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Bobby Muller, who won the Nobel [Peace] Prize as co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, told The Times: "I don't have the highest regard for the thinking or process of the Nobel committee. Maybe Norway should give it to Sweden so they can more properly handle the Peace Prize along with all the other Nobel prizes."

- the TimesOnline

The Last Will of Alfred Nobel, in pertinent part, states:

The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiology or medical works by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm, and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.

Note that the excerpt states that the Peace Prize portion (which I have put in bold-face) goes to the person "who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, etc." It is difficult to see how the President could have done the "most . . . work" (during what time period? The past year? During one's lifetime?) or (not "and"?) the "best . . . work." The use of the word "work," in any case, makes a strong case for having actually done something to advance the interests described in the excerpt rather than having eloquently expressed certain aspirations along those lines but not yet accomplished anything. On the other hand, an alternate reading (of this English translation) could be that the prize winner should be one who either "did the most [unspecified something] for fraternity between nations," whether or not he did any actual work, or "did the best work" for that purpose. The alternate is a little strained, I would say.

Anyway, Obama, short of turning the honor down (which would have been a work) made a humble and eloquent statement, citing his international aspirations, which many would say is the "most" and/or "best" he could have or at least should have done, under the circumstances.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Metric Screws and Pitch

As I was putting together my new bike for its commuter function, I found various useful things left over from my former days as a bicycle commuter, and one of them was a headlight for the handlebars. I needed a headlight, and this one, manufactured by Cat-Eye at one time (but no more) had been a good one. Would it still function?

When I picked it up out of the drawer to which it had found its way over the years, I noticed it was heavy with the batteries that I had negligently left in its case. I anticipated that the batteries would have leaked all over the inside and ruined the headlight. But when I opened the case, the batteries were clean with no leakage. When I tested the batteries, they were dead, of course. But no leakage. Duracells, they were. They must have been in the case for nearly 8 years, sitting in the drawer of a chest in the garage. Yet no leakage. Score a ten for Duracell.

The headlight slides on a mount, and the mount grasps the handle bars. The engineering is ingenious, because you can slide out the headlight and use it as a flashlight, leaving the mount behind on the handlebar. But the mount was missing the screw that fastens it down. The nut was there, sort of embedded on one side of the mount, but there was no screw. It would have been a screw of very small diameter, and about an inch or more long.

I got out the shoebox where I collect all the extra machine screws and nuts that have ever shown up in my life. Actually, a good part of the mass of metal in that box consists of screws and nuts that I inherited from my dad, so there are at least two generations of that hardware. The origins of the box, then, were in my dad's house as he was growing up during the Great Depression. I don't think anyone ever threw away anything during that era that would have even a remote chance of being useful, if not in one's life then in the lives of succeeding generations. Those habits persisted. As I grew up, naturally and with little thought I just knew that it was written that men put extra screws in shoeboxes and Mason jars. So I had this box with machine screws, probably 75 years or more in the making.

None of them seemed to work. The nut that was embedded in the mount would take none of the screws that seemed to be the right size. I looked at the nut in a magnifying glass to see if there was a damaged thread. I couldn't tell, but figured that was it. So I took the screw that seemed right and the nut-that-wouldn't-take to the neighborhood hardware store ("Village Hardware"). I got the old guy there to wait on me and not the kid.

We walked to the back of the store where there is an impressive set of cabinets with all sorts of screws and nuts in little, labeled drawers, wonderfully sorted. (What a great place!) But as we went through the drawers, we could not find a screw to fit. I just knew the nut-that-wouldn't-take was defective, so we looked for a nut like it. But none of the nuts were of the small size of the nut in question, even though the diameter of the hole of the new nuts seemed right. So the new nuts we found wouldn't fit where the "defective" nut had been embedded. But suddenly a light went on in the mind of the old guy (the other old guy), and he said "metric."

Immediately the whole enterprise became political. Here was multi-nationalism, multi-culturalism, One World, free-trade, the UN, probably France, all of that, getting in the way of lighting the street before me as I pedaled up Hammond Drive in the early morning. Metric! The-nut-that-wouldn't-take was metric. I may be a Democrat, but there are limits. This could be one of them.

The reason that the subject nut would not fit on my screw is that metric screws and nuts have pitches that will vary. The US screws in my box seemed just to have one pitch (but maybe not), none of them probably square with any available metric pitch (but I really don't know.) But in metric-land there are different pitches for, I assume, different uses. In addition, the nuts will have a smaller outside diameter, so they will fit in smaller places.

So we walk even further back in the store, and the older (even older) gentleman helping me found a small, flat wooden box, opened the lid, and there were metric screws and nuts. Among the screws was one that fit the subject nut. It had a pitch that fit. The problem was that it was a bolt headed screw, and I needed either a slot or Phillips head, because the screw fits down into a recess that surrounds the head so closely that one cannot get anything around it to tighten. But that problem was solved when I departed Village Hardware and went to the Lowe's in Hialeah, discovering that there is an entire section devoted to metric screws and nuts. I found the slot head screw that I needed.

But at a Hialeah Lowe's you would figure that I would find my metric solution - no one speaks English in Hialeah.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New Bike

Giant Innova (a hybrid). It was marked-down at Cycle World, the bike shop owned by the ethnically Chinese, Jamaican couple from whom we have bought bikes for years. (The mark-down was more than 75% off list!)

I began riding my bike Monday to the Metro-Rail station, as I used to do years ago. I have rented one of the bike lockers at the station there, which keeps the bike safe and dry.

The bike pictured above (and the one at this link) is the same model as I bought, but I had mine outfitted with fenders and a rack. I ordered from REI a new set of panniers, a rear light, and a bell.

Sunday I took my set of lawyer's uniforms down to the office, and I change when I get there. I commuted this way during the time that Macon, Walter and Mary were in high school and needed a car. So I left mine at home for them and took the bike and train, saving the expense of a third car. I appreciated the kids being OK with that.

We've always enjoyed bikes in our family, taking them with us on camping trips to North Carolina (Cade's Cove in the Smokies was a wonderful place to cycle), trekking down to Matheson Hammock along Old Cutler Road below Coral Gables, riding around the Springs (I especially remember the trips we took with visiting missionaries when we had the missions conferences at church, led by Ed Roberts, an Elder, Walter's Sunday School teacher, and a seasoned biker), taking the Highlands Hammock State Park circle through the swamp at midnight with Jack and Bob in the pitch, pitch black, and making round trips on the bike trail from the Shark Valley entrance at Everglades National Park, seeing dozens of alligators disturbingly close and even more waterfowl.

It's been fun to see Doug and Sue's bike photos on FB, taking fabulous trips in the Rockies. I recall the bike photos of them, Kellsey, and Macon on their grand trip to Hawaii years ago, pedeling up and down the volcano road.

Last Saturday when I picked up the new bike at Cycle World and as we walked it out to the car, I asked Carol whether it was Christmas. It felt like that.

Law School vs. Med School: the First Year

Talking, texting, and emailing with Mary about her first year of med school leads me to reflect on my first year of law school. It comes down to this:

During the first year of law school, one is terrified and bored. In med school, one is terrified and profoundly fascinated.

Monday, October 05, 2009

McChrystal Should Resign

Shame on the President for putting McChrystal in the apparently untenable position in which the general finds himself, but the general should have resigned before he went public with his criticism of the President. Now the issue is about McChrysal and not about the President and his neglect (at best) or his reneging on yet another campaign representation (at worst), i.e.that Afghanistan is a war of necessity.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Inducing Radiance (and Smoothing a Few Wrinkles)

Our Friday morning men's breakfast group looked at Ephesians 5:22 - 33, a familiar passage to most of us, married (most of us) as we are, many of us having attended more than one Bible study focused on marriage, and some of us even "Marriage Encounter" or similar weekends. What could be new?

The passage first talks to wives (vss 22 - 24) and then speaks to men. Our first impression was that the wives passage seems more concrete than the second passage. And of course we are partial to it. We recalled that the passage addressed to women is the more generally familiar passage, more often quoted. And, of course, we are much more comfortable with the first passage, with the idea of submitting wives or, depending on your version, obeying wives. Comfortable? We like it!

But one problem we noticed right off is that there are three verses aimed at wives (plus verse 33b) and 7.5 verses aimed at husbands. That was a little disturbing. Then the idea of one spouse loving the other is described in respect of the relationship of the husband to the wife. Nothing is said to the wives about their needing to love their husbands. With them, it is "submission" and respect. Husbands are to love their wives. That's a little against type, don't you think? Or at least against the culture.

The idea that only wives are to submit and not men needs to be qualified. In verse 21, right before the passage we considered, Christians (without regard to gender and status) are admonished to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Men do not get a pass in the matter of submitting to their wives. But wives are singled out for submission, because (maybe) they have a problem with submission to the person in respect to whom the wives most often are healthier, stronger, live longer, and smarter. Maybe a little cleaner and a bit more couth.

As to men being the only ones called to love their spouse, we need to remember that Christians (without regard to gender or status) are to "love one another." Women aren't really off the hook with love. Yet "love" is singled out for men. As women may have a problem with submission, maybe men tend to have a problem with loving. The culture calls men to study the practice of romancing women into bed. But love . . . ? That's not manly, is it? We're about work, about career, and about collecting points in the game of life. Our families benefit by the way, and are mainly there to provide applause and validation, to be grateful, and to make us look good.

The theology is huge in the husband passage. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Obviously, that's meant to be a pattern for the husband. At our breakfast, we see that right off, and we begin to focus on that pattern. What struck us was the purpose for which Christ gave himself up for the Church (the pronoun for which is "her.") He gave himself up for her "to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." And then the scripture says, "In the same way husbands ought to love their wives . . ."

We considered the matter of radiance. We are to love our wives so that they will radiate. That word has something very important to do with beauty, but it is more. It is the sort of beauty that impacts the person who beholds that beauty, it is heat and light (not something cold and remote), we feel it on our skin as well as in our hearts. It is wonderful when our wives are that way with us. And Paul writes that we husbands have everything to do with having a wife like that.

And then there are the wrinkles. What a concrete condition for Paul to identify. My NIV speaks of Christ's love as something that removes the church's wrinkles, and so a husband's love is to remove the wrinkles of his wife. (We tend to increase them at times, I think.) Women hate wrinkles, and we husbands have the solution. I think of the women I have seen who have had face-lifts to deal with wrinkles, subjecting themselves to risk and pain for a few years of faux-beauty. But wives whose husbands honor them tend to grow more beautiful as the years wear on. They need nothing of what the culture offers in that respect.

Husbands want beautiful wives. Fair enough. The scripture provides that husbands who want wives who grow more beautiful are to love them, as Christ loved the church. It is a profound mystery, as it says in verse 32. But the scripture says that it works. And I know it works.

Althouse on Roman Polanski (or is it on Marriage?)

Ann Althouse wants to hear from Mia Farrow on Polanski, but at the base of the inquiry is a consideration of marriage. She posts photos of Polanski and Sharon Tait as a married couple, and of John Cassavetes and Gina Rowlands, also married. It's worth taking a minute and considering what those photos tell you about the subjects and the subject of marriage.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Dr. MacDougall's Jaundiced View of Studies

From his August 2007 Newsletter:

Drug Companies Rig Research—I Don’t Know How to Prescribe

Factors associated with findings of published trials of drug-drug comparisons: why some statins appear more efficacious than others by Lisa Bero, reported in the June 2007 issue of PLOS Medicine found, “RCTs of head-to-head comparisons of statins with other drugs are more likely to report results and conclusions favoring the sponsor's product compared to the comparator drug. This bias in drug-drug comparison trials should be considered when making decisions regarding drug choice.” The authors looked at 192 randomized controlled trials published between 1999 and 2005 of one brand of statin drug compared to another statin or a non-statin drug. There was a 20 times greater chance of positive results and a 35 times greater chance of positive conclusions when the trial was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company of the cholesterol-lowering statin drug being tested.

Methods to accomplish bias include:
Selecting nonequivalent doses of drugs for testing.
Selective publication of favorable outcomes.
Multiple reports of studies with favorable findings.
Lack of patient-related clinical outcome measures.
Poor study design, implementation, and analysis.

Comment: Doctors, like me, rely on the medical journal research articles to guide us to properly prescribe medications for our patients. Unfortunately, most of this research is, pure and simple, advertisements for the pharmaceutical companies—the patient be damned. In my younger years I was confused by looking over medical publications, like the Journal of the American Medical Association, and finding pages of colorful expensive advertisements clustered in the beginning and at the end of the magazine, with the scientific papers in the middle section. I thought, “How stupid, who would waste their time looking at these beginning and end advertisements.” I was the dim-witted one. I failed to realize that the real advertisements were in the middle—the research papers paid for by the pharmaceutical companies were the real advertisements.

Pharmaceutical influence includes establishing official sounding educational programs and guidelines for doctors to follow. In this PLOS Medicine article the authors discussed the National Cholesterol Education Program, which published the Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines. “To achieve the goals in the guideline, millions of Americans would need to be placed on cholesterol-lowering medication in higher doses and for a longer period, thereby increasing the number of prescriptions for statin drugs. Eight of the nine members of the National Cholesterol Education Program panel had financial ties with pharmaceutical companies that manufactured statin drugs.”

Because the research is so tainted, I do not feel confident that what I am prescribing for my patients is based on the truth—in fact, I am certain most is distorted sufficiently to cause my patients harm. So I take my best guess based on what I know—and I always reserve the right to change my mind about the drug prescriptions I write. This kind of disclosure should encourage you to make all strides to stay off of or discontinue medications whenever possible. Sick people take medications—change your diet and lifestyle to become healthy and avoid the drug controversies.

Bero L, Oostvogel F, Bacchetti P, Lee K.
Factors associated with findings of published trials of drug-drug comparisons: why some statins appear more efficacious than others.
PLoS Med. 2007 Jun;4(6):e184.

Five Stars: "A Walk to Beautiful"

A Nova Documentary that Mary set us on.

Netflix. Or view it online.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Presidential Succession and Sarah's Worst Nightmare

If Obama, Biden, Pelosi, and Byrd each resign, Hillary becomes President. I like that. What do you think?

The Tide is Turning

Jim Morin is the Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist for the Miami Herald. He is so well respected that he is on the Herald's left-leaning editorial board. He has a savage pen, usually directed at right-wing foibles. I would have thought that the Herald editorial board generally and Mr. Morin specifically would be a firm part of the President's base. But here is that pen directed at President Obama, and I must say I am quite surprised, even astonished. (Obama is holding up a sign that that says "My Health Plan is Deficit Neutral!")

I puzzled a little over the hippo, but Carol thinks it refers to a hippo in the Nile River. So a pun is intended, as the President is "in (denial)." Get it? Hippos are in the Nile River. Obama is sitting on a Hippo that is in the Nile River. He is in denial.

But that's a risky pun, because "de" could be taken as a dialect for the word "the," as in "de Nile" for "the Nile." That has racial overtones, arguably. Furthermore, hippos are in Africa, and Obama's father is an African. Yet we all know that most criticism of the President is racially grounded. Not.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Worthwhile Interview of Paskistani Journalist on NPR re Afghanistan

He doesn't exactly say what I think the interviewer was hoping to hear. Good for him. But won't the President please send those troops?!

"As the Presbyterians cut overseas missionaries from their rolls, how scandalous they still had funds for ACORN.”

Said Mark Tooley, President, Institute of Religion & Democracy. The article on the IRD website quotes an article on the Presbyterian Layman website, entitled ACORN Received PCUSA Grants. I found my way to the Layman article via Instapundit. (Thanks, Glenn.)

Just awful.

Unpresidential, Unseemly, and Risky

It doesn't seem appropriate for the President to be lobbying on behalf of the City of Chicago for the Olympics.

Chicago may very well be chosen by Olympic Committee. But what if the committee does not choose Chicago? Won't that appear to be a personal rejection of the Obamas? Do they really want to risk such a snub?