Thursday, December 30, 2010

Love our red-haired priest!

The U plays Notre Dame at the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso tomorrow afternoon at 2PM EST on CBS.

This from the Herald:

A reporter (from outside Florida) asked [UM's interim head coach Jeff] Stoutland if he had been hearing all week about how El Paso is such a Catholic city, and if Notre Dame draws any advantage from playing in El Paso.

``No,'' Stoutland replied. ``Do you know Father Murphy? He's our priest. He's a good Irish priest. With red hair. That's our priest and I love him to death.''

He is, after all, a name partner in a major downtown law firm. UPDATE

Juan makes the AP wire yesterday. Here and here. (Keep reading.)

UPDATE, Thursday, December 30: This morning's Miami Herald reports that the matter is resolved, mentioning Juan prominently.


One is compelled to ask . . .

Why isn't the price of rice and beans also soaring for the same reason? And that of broccoli?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Million Deaths a Month?! A Minute??!!

The conclusion was getting hard to avoid even before the advent of nuclear weapons: the game of war is up, and we are going to have to change the rules if we are to survive. The brief, one-sided campaigns of well armed Western countries against dysfunctional Third World autocracies killing the tens of thousands, and the genocidal ethnic conflicts of fragile post-colonial states are local tragedies, but during the last two years of World War II, over one million people were being killed each month. If the great powers were to go to war with one another just once more, using all the weapons they now have, a million people could die each minute. They have no current intention of doing that, but so long as the old structures survive, Big War is not dead. It just on holiday.

-From War: the Lethal Custom by Gwynne Dyer.

Gwynne Dyer is cited by Dan Carlin in Carlin's Punic Nightmare podcasts on Hardcore History. Carlin interviews Dyer here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Magic Girls in the Magic Kingdom

We had breakfast with the Mouse last Sunday

The Cleanse

And you think I'm bad. Read this.

Staying the Course II

Investing. I discussed this in October here.

Because our stock market portfolio is more widely diversified than the S&P, it recovered earlier. The S&P is widely considered in the media as a proxy for the US stock market or even for the world of stocks.

It's not that I "play the market." It's simply that I don't know where else to save our money. I don't have time to study alternate investments - or even the stock and bond markets themselves. The way law firms are capitalized, there is not a serious opportunity to reinvest in the business so that, at the end of the day, there is good will, etc., to sell to a third party.

So, as I mentioned before, we have an investment management service that allocates our savings among index funds, about 60% stock funds and 40% bond funds, with bonds that have an average maturity of not more seven years (now, I think, around 5 years). The investment service "rebalances" among the sectors from time to time and does some tax-loss "harvesting" at the end of the year. I trust them.

One alternative is for Carol and me to sell all we have, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus. I do think about that sometimes, but doubt that we are being called to precisely that right now.

Another alternative would be to sell all we have, blow the proceeds on riotous living while we still have our health, and then move to Austin to be supported by Macon and Walter.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jesus, Keep your Holy Hands off My Idols!

May we who have consumed the mystery of Jesus now consume his whole meal, and may it free us from needing to consume so much of everything else. If you really have the One, you should not need more and more of the other. Maybe our humble Jesus is stealing our idols from us, and inviting us back into his Bethlehem stable.

-From Richard Rohr's essay "Is Christmas Christian?".

"It's Tebow Time!"


Monday, December 20, 2010

Behind the Scenes at Epcot

Walter's friend Charlene is a veterinary tech at Epcot in Walt Disney World ("WDW") and works at the exhibit known as "the Land." During our trip this past weekend, she gave the thirteen of us (more on that later!) a marvelous tour behind the scenes. Charlene's expertise is treating marine mammals, particulary dolphin and manatee. We learned a great deal and I won't cover it here, but I did want to mention the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership of which WDW is a partner. What particularly interested me was the tagging program. I'm looking forward to learning more about it.

(The photo is of a Manatee named Brooks, who hangs around Biscayne Bay. You can't help but notice the beacon looped around her fin.)

Charlene also talked to us about taking care of the sea turtles. The following is from one of Disney's Public Affairs webpages:

Animal experts at Walt Disney World Resort have extensive experience rehabilitating sea turtles. Since 1986, Disney animal care teams have nursed more than 250 endangered sea turtles back to health. Most recently, Disney animal experts cared for 15 green sea turtles injured from the cold weather snap that affected Florida earlier this year.

As a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, Disney’s Animal Programs supports the rescue and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year. The team participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other zoological facilities and conservation groups in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees and sea turtles until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Inflation

Grocery prices grew by more than 1 1/2 times the overall rate of inflation this year, outpaced only by costs of transportation and medical care, according to numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More here.

Glenn Reynolds comments here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reading my second Commissario Brunetti Mystery

They got off at Giardini and started down Via Garibaldi; as they walked, Brunetti recounted his conversation with Cuzzoni, though he said nothing more about the man than that he seemed undisturbed to learn that the police were interested in his tenants and indeed seemed almost proud to have them living in his apartments.

'A do-gooder?' Vianello asked.

Hearing the term used that way, Brunetti was struck by the paradox that it had become a pejorative. However had that come about, that it was now wrong to want to do good? 'Not at all,' he answered, 'but I think he might be a good man.'

-From Donna Leon's Blood from a Stone.

Careful: a New NIV

As I prepare to teach our Sunday School class, I copy three or four translations of the subject scripture and, for the sake of ready reference, paste them in my notes. Usually I go to and for this purpose.

The scripture last Sunday was Romans 8:5-11. In that passage, the translation of the Greek word sarka is a central issue. Wright comments on how difficult a word this is to translate. He writes that the word "is so problematic that it would be nice . . . to avoid it altogether, but I have found that doing so produces even worse tangles." The KJV translation of sarka is "flesh."

My NIV Study Bible (Zondervan 10th Anniversary Edition 1995) translates sarka as "sinful nature" (which, after reading both Stott and Wright's discussion of the passage, I didn't think was all that helpful either.) I went to BibleGateway to pull over that passage in the NIV for my notes. Lo and behold, "flesh" is back in the NIV again. What happened?

We now have a 2010 edition of the NIV, so be careful. (BibleGateway actually calls it the "2011 update.") Here's a general discussion of the NIV and its update philosophy at BibleGateway. But I must say there was not much warning when I looked up the passage on that site. I did, finally, notice that at the top of the BibleGateway page with my scripture there was the legend "New International Version Copyright 2010." That was the giveaway. Except I didn't immediately get it.

It's Not the Holy Spirit, It's Marketing

Their approach [T.D. Jakes, Brian McLaren, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Paula White] challenges the "strict church thesis" of earlier sociologists of religion, which argued that conservative, hard-line suppliers of religion (fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals) thrive, while lenient ones (liberals, progressives) decline. On the contrary, these five profiles suggest that the key to success is not theological or political strictness but effective marketing. Indeed, part of what allows these evangelical innovators to be so successful is that they find ways to "overtly avoid (yet subtly address)" potentially controversial issues among their constituents, Lee and Sinitiere write. One of the big take-aways from their research is that the evangelical movement is, they say, "far more elastic, far more complex, and far more contradictory than what popular accounts reveal."

-From Among the Evangelicals, a Fractured Movement.

I tend to agree with both the "strict church thesis" and the "take-away." As to the "effective marketing" thesis? This is more of the "medium is the message" over-simplification. (Ooops, sorry Walter.) And, of course, it misses the centrality of the Spirit, but that's certainly understandable in an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Thanks to Ann Althouse for this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How's that Socialism thing workin' for ya, Hugo?

Corn is a staple food in Venezuela, and the country has traditionally been self-sufficient. But this year the government was forced to import 350,000 tons of corn from Mexico. Farmers say the country imports more than two-thirds of the food it consumes.

-from the Miami Herald this morning.

The Herald article reports that part of the problem is that the fertilizer supply, needed to grow the corn, is being diverted to cocoa fields, from which cocaine is produced.

One day someone will write the definitive economic/social/political history of Venezuela over the last 50 years, and trace what happened to that beautiful country. What an object lesson that will be - not only in showing what happens in a socialist economy, but what led to the overthrow of the more or less (mostly less) capitalist society that preceded it. One of my clients, a US expatriate who lived in Venezuela during the pre-Chavez 70s and 80s, attributes much of the problem to the petroleum riches in that country, where the selfish, ruling elites before Chavez believed that, essentially, such wealth gave them a blank check. Now the demagogue Chavez, crazy like a fox, also worships at the altar of oil. He will be similarly unsuccessful at great cost to his country.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dad, You ARE a Crusader!

This is what Mary interrupted to say to me on the phone the other day, when I brought up a discussion of food, prefacing it with the words, "I know I sound like a crusader, but . . . "

I crossed over the line, I guess, quite awhile back. Thanks, everyone, for putting up with this.

"I saw children picking up discarded chicken and immediately putting it in their mouth. "

Michael Funderburk writing on Korah and the adjacent dump at Adiss. (More on Korah here.)

Gov-Elect Scott Shakes up the Teachers' Union

When Gov.-elect Rick Scott stood in a church this week and dropped a policy bomb on the education establishment -- a plan to essentially give vouchers to any family that wants one -- 900 voucher kids in the audience cheered. But from South Florida to Tallahassee, apocalyptic thoughts began raining on traditional public education advocates.

Vouchers for everybody?

Not even former Gov. Jeb Bush went there.

``Awful idea,'' said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the state teachers union,

From this morning's Herald.

Go for it, Rick!

On Being a Little Guy

I never thought of myself as being a little guy. Never thought of myself being a big guy either. But the matter of my being a little guy came up last week.

A new friend of mine, Don, needed some help with his boat and called me up. The boat is on a trailer in his yard. It's a nice little "cabin cruiser" with a very large outboard motor, and very nicely outfitted in other respects (even has a marine toilet).

There was a problem with some wiring, and to get to where the wires were, one had to lay down on the deck, more or less on one's left side, then, arms first, snake his head and shoulders through a small compartment door, bending at the waist as one did so, before getting to the point where one could reach down along the side of the hull to grab the subject wires. Don had been trying to accomplish this during his spare time all the week before without success. He was too big for the job and needed a little guy.

As I was inside (well, half inside - my lower half was out on the deck), he was very solicitous. "Are you beginning to sweat yet?" "Are you getting tired?" "Are your shoulders hurting?" I was fine, but I must say that I was trying to figure out how my hourly rate was doing on this project. Don was trying to avoid a trip to the boat repair facility, and I was calculating that it would be cheaper for me to have him do so with my agreement to pay for the trip. But friendship doesn't come down to economics (does it?), and, besides, I was really fine physically.

So within 10 minutes, with Don working from the outside and me from the inside, we fixed the problem. I felt proud of myself, but Don kept talking about how he knew that the job called for a "little guy."

As I wormed my way back out of the hole and stood up, I confirmed again that Don is at least two inches shorter than I. On the other hand, he probably weighs more than I about 60 to 80 pounds, and so he's quite a bit broader at the shoulders and, well, at the waist.

Then it hit me: In the Southern culture in which Don was raised, "big" describes what one person looks like in comparison to another in respect to overall size, that is, in respect to weight. The use of this descriptive graciously says nothing about whether that extra weight is muscle or that other substance that covers one's muscle, sinews, and bones (f*t). To my mind, Don is smaller than I am. To his mind, he is bigger than I am. To my mind, Don is fat. To Don, whatever it is he carries (fat, muscle, whatever), he carries it well. And he does. Isn't the Southern culture nice to say that he is simply "big."

My dad was a big man. But he developed heart disease, had open-heart surgery that gave him 5 more fairly good years, then had about three more years of dying when his arteries clogged up again. I saw him shed the pounds during the dying process, and he began to look like a wizened version of the slim young man I saw in old photos with my mom, when he was a CPO in the Navy during WWII. Under all that bigness, there was Dad, a little guy.

I wish he were here to see my grandchildren, and, even at 98 years old, I'm beginning to think he could have been.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Desperate for Extra-Terrestrial Life

Recently some NASA people got publicity for their thesis that a certain microbe found in a California lake supplies evidence for life not on this earth. Now they have a controversy.

(Of course it would be a California lake.[ Sorry, Marcus.])

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

El Al Scanners

This is a special scanner where the airline passenger steps into the device by himself or herself, a device with especially solid, opaque sides and doors. The doors close and there is complete privacy during the scan. No one ever looks at the x-rays. If, during the scan, the device detects a bomb on the subject, the device causes the bomb to explode.

The device requires only one TSA-like person. He stands outside the device, of course. This person is equipped with a dust pan and broom, in case the bomb goes off and the inside of the device needs to be swept out in order to prepare it for the next passenger.

Called to Adopt

The Rosenows.

More on the Rosenows. and The Shepherd's Crook Ministries.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

No Place for Tebow to Go? Not a Bit Concerned.

Josh McDaniels, Denver's head coach, has been fired. McDaniels made the controversial decision to use a first-round draft pick to get Tebow. McDaniel's departure from Denver puts Tebow's future in the NFL in jeopardy, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports.

Whomever Bowlen [Denver's owner] turns to next as coach is likely to look at Tebow and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” McDaniels’ unwillingness to turn to Tebow as this season unraveled will probably be viewed as an indictment on the first-round draft pick.

The bottom line is that Tebow is an acquired taste who needs a coach who believes in him and is willing to work on his throwing motion until it has completely changed. Even then, there are significant questions about Tebow’s accuracy.

Outside of University of Florida coach Urban Meyer, who looks lost these days without Tebow (and Percy Harvin, for that matter), few coaches are invested in Tebow. Of course, some of Tebow’s devout followers will take this as a personal and spiritual affront. Save it, please. This is not about religion, this is about football.

As an athlete, few come close to Tebow’s dedication. He’s the kind of player anyone should appreciate. His work ethic is off the charts. His size and speed are certainly good enough to give him a fighting chance. But Tebow also needed a coach who was willing to work through the flaws, to design an offense around him, not just with any quarterback.

Uh, in the first place, football is religion to a huge bunch of people. (Methinks Mr. Cole protesteth too much.) In the second place, Tebow will be fine, inside or outside the NFL.

Here's another view:

If by some miracle John Gruden takes over this team [Denver] and wins a Superbowl in 2-3 years it will be because of Tebow under center . . .

(I like the religious imagery there. These sports writers have religion on the brain, apparently.)

Tebow knows how to run the Wildcat. Who else uses the Wildcat, besides Denver?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christian, I Dare You to Watch This Without, by the End, Tears in Your Eyes

This Video.

Thanks, Drudge

"There is nothing damnable . . . "

There is nothing damnable in those who are of Christ Jesus.

-The literal English translation of Romans 8:1 from the German lyric in Bach's Cantata BWV 74, Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten II.

I like that translation. Compared to "there is now no condemnation," which is probably too familiar to me, this translation has a lot of punch.

There is nothing damnable in [your name here] for you are of Christ Jesus.

I like the sound of that.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Got Cow's Milk? Got Parkinson's Disease?

Men who consume more than two glasses of milk have twice the incidence of PD as men who do not drink cow’s milk. The American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort study has found almost twice the incidence of PD in the highest consumers of milk.

-from this month's issue of Dr. McDougall's newsletter (what a trouble-maker he is!). Read the entire article. His discussion about just why this is the case is well worth reading. His comments on pesticide accumulation as you go up the food chain are disturbing, and his description of the nursing mother passing on that accumulation to her infant is hair-raising.

Sugar Alcohols

The new WW materials have introduced me to "sugar alcohols." It is worth getting to know about this food additive. Here's a post on them.

Posner on the Naked Public Square; Christians and the Crime Rate

Since so many Americans . . . are religious, and religious belief is a showstopper so far as public debate in our society is concerned, it is doubtful that deliberation over fundamental political goals and values is feasible outside our leading universities, the ethos of which is secular.

-From Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy, by UChi Law School Lecturer and Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner, as quoted by Professor Bainbridge here.

Here's another Posner quote from the Bainbridge post:

And then there's his claim that “[t]he combination in the United States of an extraordinarily high crime rate with an extraordinary degree of allegiance to Christian beliefs must make one question the pacifying effects of Christian zeal." (Sex and Reason at 235-36)


Thursday, December 02, 2010

"A small increased risk of death . . . " (UPDATED)

Lugging around a few extra pounds? One of the largest studies to look at health and weight finds that you don't have to be obese to raise your risk of premature death. Merely being overweight carries some risk, too.

Obesity increases the risk of death from heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. But whether being merely overweight contributes to an early death as well has been uncertain and controversial. Some research has suggested being a little pudgy has little effect or can even be a good thing.

The latest research involving about 1.5 million people concluded that healthy white adults who were overweight were 13 percent more likely to die during the time they were followed in the study than those whose weight is in an ideal range.

-From an AP article published today on Yahoo News. The study in question was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The article quotes the "lead author" of the study, Amy Barrington of the National Cancer Institute as follows:

"Now there's really a very large body of evidence which supports the finding that being overweight is associated with a small increased risk of death."

UPDATE: Under what circumstances is "small increased risk" acceptable or tolerable? Humanitarian work in Port-au-Prince, orphan rescue in the Sudan, quarterbacking student lunch programs in the Kenyan highlands, treating AIDS patients, carrying the Gospel to the Muslim world all come to mind. But eating a hamburger?

Like Charlie Crist, Only She Won

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska votes for earmarks. She's the sort of Republican who makes Independents out of disaffected Democrats. Too bad she won.

Here are the other seven Republican senators who voted against suspending earmarks for a couple of years:

Jim Inhofe and Dick Lugar along with appropriators Bob Bennett, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Dick Shelby and George Voinovich.

You Want Change? I'll Show You Change!

Weight Watchers has revamped its program: Lots of early positive comments on the Web, such as this one. But we'll see.

We had the roll-out at our meeting on Tuesday. The points-calculation approach is completely new, and appears to be best handled using a special electronic calculator (an introductory price of just $6, but the thing looks like a woman's compact. At least its not pink.).

No points for fruit, which is eyebrow raising. One of the new WW booklets states "No one ever got fat eating bananas," which went far in selling me on the new program, except that I don't believe it.

The new system increases significantly the emphasis on "eating healthy" that I've seen as a growing, positive element in WW over the last decade. It is no longer just "portion control."

What is not new is "tracking," the bane of my personal use of the program. One simply has to track to succeed, and now there is a new points system to master. But I credit WW with teaching me a lot about dealing with food, and I hope the new system will help a lot more people. (I lost nearly 30 pounds when I first got on it, although I have gained up to 10 pounds back. I'm now at about 6 pounds above my 155 lb goal weight and hope to get back to goal. But it is an ongoing battle, and thus my continuing, active involvement with WW.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The "Great American Funk"

Carol and I got to know of Tony Blankley when he was on The McLaughlin Group. Here is a good column he wrote recently, entitled "The Great American Funk." (I was saddened to read that he has stomach cancer, but confident in what the Lord has in store for him.)