Friday, November 30, 2012

Open Culture

More Online Learning.  Looks like a good website.  Look at this, for example.

Pell Grant Program Cut by One-Third?

The email, sent out by the Dallas County Community College District, informed students of the changes to the Pell Grant program. It revealed that the number of semesters a student could receive a Pell Grant had been cut from 18 semesters down to 12. It is a detail likely unknown to most students; in fact, the cut in grants has gone largely unreported by the media.

-from an article at entitled "College Students Learn of Obama's Secret Pell Grant Cuts."  (h/t Instapundit)

The slant of the article is that Obama is such a terrible person, because he "hid" this during his campaign.  (Obama is not an idiot.  Call him what you want, he is not an idiot.  Romney-Ryan were hardly forthcoming about what deductions they were going to eliminate in their proposed income tax program.)  But hasn't the right-wing been critical of the government for subsidizing higher education all along?  The problem with making the cuts in the Pell Grant program is that it is an outright grant program for financially needy students, not a loan program that weighs the down the young person with debt.  Cut back the loan program and higher education will have to cut back its high prices.  At least in that respect - forcing down prices - the Pell Grant program cuts might do some good.  I would start with the loan program, however, not with Pell Grants.

What this is really telling us, however, is that the slow motion bursting of the "higher-education" bubble continues, whoever we have in the White House.  The market, finally, will have its way.  And the market tells us that higher-education is terribly over-priced for what it is giving us back.  We will still get what is valuable from higher-education.  It is simply that it will be delivered differently and its substance will be transformed because subsidies of the entrenched educational establishment will be reduced.  At least that is my hope.  Thanks, Glenn Reynolds, for taking us to school on this issue.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Funny ATC Quotes

A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll out after touching down. San Jose Tower noted: “American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are able. If you are not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport.”

-More here at the website.

No Cost 10 Seminary-level Course Program Online

From Gordon-Conwell.

Whale Shark Off the Broward Shore

From today's Herald.

On-Line Teaching and Its Infinite Possibilities

In this month's MIT Technology Review.  The report has several articles worth reading.  Instapundit links to one of them, "The New Internet Teaching Stars."

Among the most time-consuming - and worst compensated - tasks in my estate planning practice is teaching the clients about the decisions they need to make and what they have to know to make them.  I have often thought that the internet - particularly on-line videos in the nature of You-Tube productions - provides an answer.  I would like to take 6 months off and work on that project.  Next year.  Provided I survive the "Fiscal Cliff looming!!" phenomenon this year.

As one thinks about it, isn't learning how we use the Internet most of the time?  As a tool for learning?  Yes, we use it for transactions too, increasingly so, and entertainment and as our post-office.  None of that diminishes the growing importance of the internet for education, for micro-education at its most informal ("Let's Google that") to formal, macro-education (free on-line courses at MIT), and every level in-between.

A tweener is my partner Juan's Florida Probate and Trust Litigation Blog. Trust and Estate lawyers from all over Florida increasingly rely on it to keep up to date.  Lay people read it all the time and call us.  I cannot go to a gathering of lawyers without someone bringing up "Juan's blog."  We will probably soon change the name of the firm to "Juan's Blog, P.A."  And that will be OK.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Oh, Great. South Florida now has Nile Crocodiles.

The four-foot one in the photo was caught in the Fruit and Spice Park in South Dade, for heaven's sake.  Read the Herald article in this morning's edition.  Here's the Wiki article on the Nile Crocodile.

How much nastier is this African cousin of our American croc?

The two species with the most well-known and documented reputation for preying on humans are the Nile crocodile and saltwater crocodile. Each year, hundreds of deadly attacks are attributed to the Nile crocodile in sub-Saharan Africa. On New Guinea, Borneo and the Solomon Islands attacks by saltwater crocodiles often occur. The mugger crocodile is also very dangerous to humans, killing many people in India every year. The American crocodile, while generally considered to be less aggressive, does occasionally kill humans and a handful of fatalities are reported and confirmed every year in Central America and southern Mexico. The black caiman is also responsible for several recorded human fatalities every year within the Amazon basin and the surrounding regions. The American alligator is responsible for human fatalities, with most occurring in Florida.

-from the Wiki article on Crocodile Attacks.

Miami and the Panama Canal Make-Over (Bumped Again: All 4 Parts)

Huge implications for South Florida.

The Herald published several articles over the last two weeks, the last one today.  For Part 1 of 4 parts, look here, part 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here.

Morsi's Mentor

Daniel Pipes on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister of Turkey.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Attention, Austin Gawkers

 I want to go here next visit:

Grow Your Own Potatos

I have the bag.  If I only had the time!

Build Your Own PC?

Because it sounds like fun.

Grandparents, Carlos M. and Audrey J. Hemperley

Kenneth Whitehead, the Curator of the East Point [GA] Historical Society, very kindly sent me this photo of the parents of Juanita, my mother, apparently taken on June 30, 1919.  My grandfather, Carlos Mason Hemperley, born July 14, 1901, would have been just shy of 18 years of age, when he married Audrey Atrue Jordan, (March 13, 1902 - February 1, 1949).  I am not sure right now of their exact wedding date, but they married very young, as was the custom in that family.  (Audrey's mother, Nancy R. Della Lanford Jordan, my "Gramma Jordan," married at age 16.)  My mother was born November 17, 1920.  Her brother, Carlos M. Hemperley, Jr. was born in 1919.

Here is what Kenneth Whitehead wrote me in an email about this photo:

Lillie Ruth Hemperley Stewart, the sister of your grandfather Carlos Mason Hemperley Sr., [to whom my mother referred as "Aunt Lill"] donated over 600 photos to the East Point Historical Society a number of years ago. They apparently were taken from 1918 until the early 1920s. They were put away in a scrapbook and I recently found them and started scanning them. That way, we have permanent copies in our records and CD's, with these photos, will be available for family and friends. Attached is one of these photos.

I am not related to the Hemperley family but my wife is distantly related by marriage. Her cousin, Henry Lipes, married one of Asa Hemperley's granddaughters.

I'm retired and enjoy history and genealogy. I noticed your blog entry December 25, 2007, and figured you might be interested in this part of your family history.

Ken Whitehead

Mr. Whitehead also added this to his email:

You may find these web site locations of interest:

East Point Historical Society web site:

East Point Historical Society facebook site:

I Grew Up in East Point facebook site:

Thank you, Mr. Whitehead!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pennsylvania College Slashes Employees Hours to Avoid ObamaCare

"The move will save an estimated $6 million."

Thanks, Instapundit.

This is going to happen a lot and it won't be limited to institutions of higher learning and to part-timers.  See Tate, ObamaCare Survival Guide, pp. 111-113.

Seeing and Believing

Our Sunday School class is in Chapter 11 of John.  This is the chapter where we read of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

In the following verse, John describes the response of some of the onlookers:

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 

The Greek word for "had seen" that John chooses is theaomai.  This is one of the "forms from five verbs used in John to express sight," according to Fr. Brown in Appendix I, pages 501 through 503, The Gospel According to John I-XII (Anchor Bible Series, Volume 29).

Here are those five verbs, with the fifth one below showing the verb John uses in verse 45:

1. Blepein. βλέπειν. Material sight or ocular vision.

2. Theoreo. θεωρέω. To look on with concentration. To behold.

3 and 4. Horen, ὁράω, together with idein, οἶδα. Sight accompanied by real understanding. To perceive – where intuitive intelligence is involved.

5. Theaomai, θεάομαι. "The root meaning of this verb suggests connection with the theater  .  .  .  Phillips [G.L., "Faith and Vision in the Fourth Gospel" in Studies in the Fourth Gospel] thinks that it means to look at some dramatic spectacle and in a measure to become a part of it."  REB at p. 502.

The sight of a believer, therefore, is such that he or she becomes part of Jesus' story.  I think that is perfect. 

Oops! Sorry, Boomers, about Medicare.

Having had it so good growing up in the post-war boom times (Viet-Nam for some, but certainly not all of us, being the exception), we've been looking forward to our pensions (if we've had government jobs for governments still able to pay them), Social Security, and, finally, Medicare.  Medicare is a biggie, and whatever gaps there might be in it would be filled up by our buying supplemental insurance, something called "Medicare Advantage."  None of that is going to happen, however, as we may have counted upon it happening.

According to the recently published, ObamaCare Survival Guide: the Affordable Care Act and What it Means for You and Your Healthcare, by Nick J. Tate:
  • "[H]undreds of billions of dollars in funding for ObamaCare will be generated by cuts in Medicare's budget over the next decade."  (What?! Ryan was right??!!)
  • A  "reduced number of plans [will be] available and reduced benefits [will be provided] in the Medicare Advantage program."
  • "[R]educed payment rates [will be paid] to doctors who care for Medicare patients."  Tate notes that "If doctors, hospitals, and other providers react negatively when they are paid less, some may refuse to see Medicare patients, making it more difficult for some to find a doctor or see the one they're accustomed to using."  Ya think?
  • Cost controls will be imposed on what Medicare will pay for, controls to be imposed in January 2018 by "a new presidential commission called the Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB.  .  .  This board will be given significant power to cut Medicare spending in the future because its decisions will automatically take effect unless counteracted by Congress.  That will be hard to do as it will require a three-fifths 'super-majority' vote in the U.S. Senate."
On page 48 of Tate's book, he writes this:

The biggest losers under ObamaCare are Medicare recipients.  Senior citizens are thrown a bone with the closure of the "donut hole" in the program's prescription drug plan, but that will not offset the hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts over the next decade.  And once the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) beings to operate, additional cuts seem likely.

A healthy diet, exercise, and other good health habits, then, are really not optional.  If one has been thinking that several visits a month to this health provider or that will help one pass the time during one's golden retirement years, then it is high time to change that thinking.   We have a Brave New World here.  Acts have consequences after all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mahler's Third and the Cleveland Orchestra.

As guests of a vendor to our law firm, Carol and I sat in the middle of the sixth row in the orchestra section Friday night at the Arsht Center for the Cleveland Orchestra and the world's longest symphony.  It was fantastic!

We came from work on the People Mover, had dinner at the Prelude in the west building, and walked the footbridge over the Boulevard to the concert in the east building.

Let's Go to Milwaukee!

The Sound of Music has opened.  (Thanks, Ann Althouse)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanks, Glenn

Links from Instapundit:

Combat reads.

Strength to Strength.  Introducing (to me at least), Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength website.  The first link is to a speech in which statements are made along these lines by an expert not (yet) familiar to me, John Sullivan:

  • Aerobic exercise builds conditioning, quickly established once one begins, and quickly diminishing, once one leaves a program built on it.  Strength exercise, on the other hand, builds "architecture," an enduring result.
  • Doing strength exercise is like a deposit in one's health 401(k) plan.
  • It is important not only for the individual, but also the community for one to build his strength: less morbidity in the future (that part of the future near to Carol and me), less demand on the community for medical and other support services related to bad health. (As to the community, I not only think of demands for government services, but certainly I think of demands on the healthier people in one's family.) I want my death to be a good one, far distant but, when the time comes with very short ramp up, very cheap, and then quickly out of here.  
We know this, we vegan/Crossfitters.  We know what we are up to.  Sullivan however, while not exactly Winston Churchill (but who is?), says it well.

The Ambassador Died. The President Lied?

The American people made their choice in November on the president, but it now appears they were duped regarding the real facts concerning Benghazi. What are we going to do about that?

-from "The President Knew the Truth About Benghazi," by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post.

Friday, November 16, 2012

World's Best Camera?

According to Ken Rockwell, it may be the iPhone 5:

World's best camera? I'm still working with it, but for over a week, all I've been shooting with is an iPhone 5. It's brilliant: sharp, colorful shots in any light, and it handles faster and better than any DSLR or compact (sample iPhone 5 image file - 4 MB).

Delta Air Lines Different Approach to the Business (which has nothing on Walter)

The WSJ has a fascinating article on Delta's different approach to running an airline.

1.  Instead of outsourcing its maintenance business, Delta has a huge facility in Atlanta, with a corps of mechanics whose average experience is 19 years.  That facility makes money for the airline because it also does maintenance work for outside air fleet owners.  See item 3 below.

2.  Delta owns its own oil refinery, cutting out an expensive middle-man in the ongoing challenge of fuel costs.  Again, see item 3 below.

3.  It flies older airplanes.  Although used airplanes are less fuel efficient than the new ones, Delta buys them cheap.  It has the maintenance capability to keep them up.  See item 1 above.

4.  When it buys new airplanes it buys last year's model.

5.  It has been able to maintain the unusual, decades-old tradition of keeping it pilots non-unionized.

6.  It got rid of its pension albatross several years ago when it went through bankruptcy.

Item 1 reminds me of Walter creating a captive fulfillment firm for his company, created it in a matter of months, when he figured out how expensive and poorly run the traditional outside sources of that service were.  Now that captive firm, like Delta's Atlanta maintenance facility, not only does the work for his related Austin group of companies, but also for third parties.   Item 3 reminds me of Walter's propensity to hop on an airplane and go to a bankruptcy auction to buy cheap an expensive piece of equipment for the Austin group.  Item 2 reminds me of plans being kicked around in Austin to buy a textile mill to supply the Austin-group's Tiffany-quality, in-house silk-screening division.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,”

This is what the President said about the criticism made by the Senators of UN Ambassador Rice and her mistaken (to be generous) statements on Sunday television news programs about the Benghazi killings.

I rather doubt that Senator McCain is much intimidated.  I don't know why one in the President's position would make a veiled threat like that unless he were dealing with someone who could be intimidated.  Otherwise he is wasting his breath.  Perhaps Senator McCain's less than subservient approach to his North Vietnamese captors many years ago slipped the President's mind.  On the other hand, I recall that supporters of the President when he ran for that office in 2008 made fun of the Senator's use of his arms and hands, which his brutal captors' torture of him disabled.

I might be able to deal with Senator Graham.  Maybe.  I can say most definitely, however, that I would not want Senator McCain to come after me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Desperate for a Dad

Neighbors said [the 29-year old mother, Gladys] Machado was living with a boyfriend who was recently released from jail.

Records show that a 29-year-old man with an extensive criminal record lived at the home. Police were unable to confirm those details late Tuesday. 

-from "Woman, 2 Children Found Dead in Flagami-area Home," in this morning's Miami Herald.

Read more here:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

22-year Old Smoker Drops Health Coverage at Wal-Mart

"I really can't even afford it [the employee part of Wal-Mart's health coverage] now, so for it to go up even a dollar for me is a stretch," said Colby Harris, who said he makes $8.90 per hour and takes home less than $20,000 per year working in the Walmart store's produce department in Lancaster, Texas. 

Harris, a 22-year-old smoker, was set to see his cost per paycheck rise to $29.60 from $25.40. He says he has decided not to sign up for coverage. Given his low income, as Harris foregoes coverage any major medical bills could potentially fall to taxpayers through the government's Medicaid program. 

-from a CNBC report entitled "Wal-Mart Employee to Pay More for Health-Care Plans."

According to this link, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Texas was $6.00 in 2011.  Other internet links indicate that it could be as high as $7 per pack.  The amount of the increase in Mr. Harris' "cost per paycheck" is, according to the article, $4.20.  If he cuts back one pack per pay-period, he covers the insurance increase and has change left in his pocket.

As the story indicates, Harris will get medical services of some sort, if he needs them.  The government will pay for it, although, if he doesn't buy insurance, he will be "fined" or, as Justice Roberts would put it, "taxed" an amount for not having his own coverage.  I don't know just how the government will levy that fine - the IRS is assigned that task in Obamacare.  (I don't think government is all that good about taxing people with low incomes, however.)   I do know we will have more bureaucrats and more regulations to catch the Colby Harrises of the country, if we have the political will to collect that tax.  How that will really work out for Mr. Harris economically is too complicated for me to figure out on the fly.  If he keeps healthy, he will win for awhile.

Another point is obvious: his future health costs will likely be far higher than those of non-smokers, so the risk he assumes by dropping his insurance and smoking the cigarettes increases as he gets older, disproportionately in comparison to his non-smoking peers. Yet he is young right now and healthy.  As I said, he will win for awhile.  Our culture is all about the short term.

We subsidize bad choices, one way or the other.  Meanwhile, many people will fault Wal-Mart for increasing the employee cost of its health-care.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"A child's sad death in a nursing home."

Marie Freyre died in the care of a $506-per-day nursing home — sobbing, shaking and screaming for her real home.

She never saw her Minnie Mouse plush toy, her Winnie the Pooh or her Cabbage Patch Kids again. She never again saw her Mami or her Abuela

Marie had been taken to the Florida Club Care Center against her mother’s wishes. Social workers insisted the Miami Gardens nursing home was the safest place for the 14-year-old, who suffered from, among other things, cerebral palsy and seizures. But the evening Marie arrived, records show, nurses did not give her life-sustaining medications and she may have had no food except applesauce.

When Marie struggled to breathe in the two hours before she died, no one at the nursing home called a doctor.

-from today's Miami Herald.

It's not a "sad death," as the headline states.  It is an outrageous death.

This was on the front page, above the crease of this morning's print edition.  This sort of story is why I continue to subscribe to the Herald despite its enormously annoying editorial policy in so many other respects.  Now and then their reporters turn over a rock with some really awful stuff living underneath.

The Florida Bar News is already onto this problem.

Read more here:

Friday, November 09, 2012

Lego Church

Go to the website for the Abston Church of Christ for more photos of this church and construction plans.  (Thanks, Jane, for the reference.)

Don't miss reading the FAQ on the website.  The builder has a sense of humor.  Between that and the obvious skill in building with Lego's, I can almost overlook the cat aspect.  (I'm not high on cats.   It is obvious to me that there would be more people in the church if cat allergies did not drive so many potential parishoners away.)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Reading Longman and Dillard on the Train

Today when I rode in on MetroRail, the train was crowded and I had to stand up the entire way, about 15 minutes. I always have a book in my briefcase to read, and the one I am reading now is Longman and Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (2d Ed. 2006). The book is used as a seminary textbook and is fascinating. It is a large hardback with a colorful cover and the title writ large. I had my nose in the book for the entire ride.

At the stop just before my last stop, however, as people were getting off the train (I was near the door), someone put her hand on my arm. I looked up into the brown eyes of a middle aged Latin woman looking straight me. She said, “God bless you.” It surprised me. I did not know her. However, I recovered quickly to smile, say thank you, and “the same to you,” and she exited. She had obviously noticed what I was reading, and how lost I was in my reading. (I have sometimes missed my stop because of my MetroRail reading.)

Unwittingly I was an encouragement. It made my day. Maybe it made her day too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The GOP Messed Up on Immigration

On immigration, Mr. Romney erred badly. Immigration, legal or otherwise, just wasn’t an issue over which Reagan lost a lot of sleep (his grandfather snuck into America from Ireland via Canada). Reagan grasped that immigration restrictions are protectionist. Our country is desperate for human capital. We need policies that liberate it and incentivize it. We need every immigrant we can get. Let other countries worry about losing their people. Mr. Romney’s self-deportation scheme seemed a bow to the xenophobic element.

-from an editorial today in the New York Sun.

George W. Bush had it right, but not the political will (or, to be more generous with him, the power) to keep pushing his reform program.  Too bad.  If he had been able to move the GOP tentpegs outward toward those who would do anything to live in our country, we might not have had the result we had on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Yas Island - Abu Dabi: Your gasoline dollars at work

Really, it's quite impressive.

Consider, however, what we might do with those dollars if we diverted a significant part of them back to us.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Biblical Imagery not Exactly Featured in My Experience with Bible Studies

Song of Songs 1:9: 

I liken you, my darling, to a mare
    among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.

In this verse the speaker draws a comparison between two things: his beloved and a mare harnessed to a chariot of Pharoah.  The difference between the two objects in the comparison draws our attention and set us thinking.  The next step is to identify the comparison.  In this particular case, some historical background is necessary to understand the impact of the compliment.  Research makes it clear that the chariots of Egypt used stallions, not mares.  The presence of a mare would sexually excite the stallions.  Pope points out in his commentary (1977, 336-41) that Israel knew of a battle tactic that called for the release of a mare among the enemy’s chariot horses to divert their attention.

-from Longman and Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan 2d Ed. 2006), at page 28, where the authors discuss biblical imagery.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Wealth to Flood Protection Ratios (UPDATED); Cost-benefit of Underground, Suburban Electricity Distribution Systems

[New York] has the worst “wealth to flood protection” ratio in the world. Studies by the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] analyzed 136 coastal cities around the world with at least 1 million inhabitants.  .  .  . Greater New York was #2 in terms of assets exposed to coastal flooding, only behind Miami. And more ominously, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are protected to a flood standard of the most severe storm every 10,000 years; Tokyo, Shanghai and London are protected to a 1,000 year standard; Osaka to a 300 year standard; and New York only to a standard of 100 years. If the UK is any example, it takes time to change: the Thames Barrier was 30 years in the making.

While electricity outages in metropolitan areas are mostly a function of coastal flooding, millions of suburban and rural customers are without power due to downed electrical wires. This has always struck me as a 19th-century kind of problem. These instances would be dramatically reduced if power lines and transformers were buried underground. However, the costs of underground electricity distribution systems can be 4-6 times higher than overhead wires. Can these costs be justified by the associated benefits: reduced repair costs after storms, fewer car accidents involving utility poles, reduced tree trimming costs and lower electricity line losses? Not really; in 2005, Virginia estimated the benefits of burying power lines and transformers as being only 40% of the $10 billion cost. Only if you are willing to assume large increases in property values can the numbers be made to work. Most US states that have looked at this have come to similar conclusions.

-from the October 31, 2012 issue of Eye on the Market, published by JP Morgan and written by Michael Cembalest.

UPDATE:  Barrier Plan under discussion for NY Harbor.  Russia's St. Petersburg has a flood protection barrier.