Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Extra! My Partner Juan Antunez named Best Lawyer for Miami in Trusts and Estates Litigation

Go here.  He's a Marine too.  Nice to have some muscle in the firm.  Gracious muscle, reasonable and intelligent muscle, but muscle never the less.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Marauder Ants and Stigmergy

Members of the [road] construction crews [of marauder ant colonies] expend their efforts foraging for building material rather than food.  It is likely that no communiques pass among them.  Rather, like compulsive bricklayers unable to go by an unfinished wall, passing ants respond to the ongoing building project, and the structures emerge without active collaboration.  The portions of the walls that are suitably positioned and shaped along along a trail attract the most attention from passersby bearing soil bits.  As a result, the arcades rise to completion where they are most needed, without a blueprint, and damage to them later is repaired without a fuss.

Accomplishing large projects without communication is called stigmergy.  The marauders' approach to building has been duplicated by robotics experts, who have discovered that its cheaper and easier to achieve a goal such as piling up small objects with a group of simple robots responding to the sort done thus far than with one large, more intelligent robot.  Stigmergy is at work in such websites as Wikipedia and Google as well, where many people add their insights to the statements and choices of others.

-from Moffett, Mark W., Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions p. 23-24 (U. Cal. Press 2010), a simply fantastic book.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rediscovering Dr. Johnson via Vernon Smith via Russ Roberts via EconTalk

Macon pointed me recently to Russ Roberts, of EconTalk, who on a weekly basis interviews fascinating people on an enormous range of topics that, one way or another, deals with  "economics."  These interviews go up on podcasts, and I have had the pleasure of listening to at least three dozen of them over the last couple of months, podcasts that I have plundered from the EconTalk archives.   This amazing resource is not to be missed.

You cannot listen to Mr. Roberts' very long before Adam Smith is introduced in one way or another.  Roberts has written a book on the 17th Century economist/sociologist. (I would like to take the opportunity to announce that the book is on my Amazon wish list.)  I've listened to two interviews in which Roberts interviews Vernon Smith, a Nobel Prize winning economist, during which they discuss Adam Smith and his two major works, The Wealth of Nations and A Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Adam Smith's use of words is very important in these discussions, because he  used words in a very precise and important way.  Vernon Smith states that he uses an 18th Century dictionary to understand what  a given word that Adam Smith uses actually meant to Adam Smith and, therefore, should mean to us, rather than what the 21st Century use of that word might convey.  What a marvelous idea!  And the dictionary Vernon Smith said he uses is Samuel Johnson's.

So I started reading around about Samuel Johnson and came upon another great website, A Dictionary of the English Language.  The site is an ongoing project to digitize Dr. Johnson's dictionary and make it accessible to all of us, although I'm putting a set of the first edition of the dictionary also on my wish list.  So I doubt that I will need to use the site after Christmas, but the rest of you can.  The home page of the website has, among other things, a BBC documentary on Dr. Johnson that is a good introduction to the man.  And to James Boswell, his biographer.

I already have Boswell's biography, but haven't read it until now.  I'm well into it already.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

David W. Bianchi, His Book, and USDebtClock.Org

I had the privilege of attending a luncheon sponsored by Fiduciary Trust Company last week where Miami lawyer David W. Bianchi spoke about the book he wrote for his subteen son, Josh, on "money, investing, and the stock market."  The book, Blue Chip Kids, is now a best seller, and David a celebrated author, all of which is really great stuff.

But what I want to note in this post especially is a web-site he cited, USDebtClock.Org.  This a fascinating and very disturbing website that presents a very large number of statistics in an accessible format.  (It will never happen, but I would like to see a debate among the Presidential candidates where the website is featured and the participants asked to comment.)

David had other things to say during his talk about national and, in particular, individual debt in the US.

As I left the luncheon, my thoughts were in the following order;

1.  Carol and I can do with one car. I'll sell mine and ride to work on MetroRail.  I'll take the cash and invest it.

2.  Then we will throw away our credit cards and go back to the envelope system that worked so well with our kids when they were growing up.

3.  And I will never retire.  I will drop dead at my desk.

And we are in a position, apparently very rare in the US, where we have no debt.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Folger Shakespeare Library and its Digital Texts

The texts are all here.  For example, Troilus and Cressida is there for the reading - and for the downloading.

You can also buy the play in "mass market paperback" with essays, etc., and etc (416 pages! where the play itself takes up 33 pages - two columns each- in my Oxford edition of the "complete works") or in ebook form from Simon & Schuster or, of course, from Amazon.

All sorts of resources are at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

As a Snail through Troilus

With the assembly of my Shakespeare "hard copy" library commenced, and the creation of my digital library also underway, I have begun with Troilus and Cressida.  That is where Professor Garber starts with the on-line lectures that I mentioned, and so that it is where I start.  As she directs, I am to first read the play, then read her discussion of that play in her Shakespeare After All, and finally listen to her lecture. This could take a while.  Really take a while.

I started Troilus Tuesday.  I am still in Act 1 and only in Scene 3.  It takes intellectual stamina and endurance and, of course, time.  The stamina and endurance should improve, but just the frequent reference to the glossary slows one down, and the cake-metaphor in Scene 1 has sent me on a side trip to internet resources to plumb its meaning.  Why would S. plant it so squarely in the play's very first scene of this story about young love (Troilus and Cressida) in Troy during the Trojan War?  (No recourse to Garber's discussion at this point.  I want to see what I can see myself, before entering her class.  If the rest of her is like her introductory lecture, she bowls you over with her views of the subject.  Let me get ready for that.)

So the cake metaphor.  And here's a resource!  "A Cake-Making Image in Troilus and Cressida," by Beryl Rowland in the Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring, 1970), pp. 191-194.  I can read this via JSTOR:

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources. JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico.

Whether JSTOR is the best for this sort of thing or not, that is where I found the Beryl Rowland reference, and JSTOR offers without charge to non-academic individuals access to three of its titles at a time for a month.

Of course, I knew something was up with the cake metaphor from the beginning.  Not only is its early prominence a signal, but its use by the older man in counseling the younger about patience in winning his true love, especially the use of the word "grinding," had to point away from the kitchen and into the bedroom.  Rowland sees that and offers much more.  Central to the metaphor is that the cake is a wedding cake, used in ancient Rome during the ceremony for a particular kind of marriage.  (Thus, anachronism.  Garber says to watch for those kinds of things, unless Rome got its cake from the Greeks.)

So, then, should I retire, what shall I do?  Read Shakespeare.  That will fill up the time.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hello, Bradycardia.

WebMD has an easy to read introduction to "bradycardia" and the article's links bring one quickly up to spead in a simple way about what can be a symptom of "an aging heart."  "Brady" comes from the Greek word bradys  for "slow" and "cardia" from the Gr. word kardia for "heart."  So an aging heart can be a slow heart, slow in the sense that it beats slower than the normal 60 beats per minute or 60 bpm.  Symptoms of a slow and aging heart include fatigue and "syncope," a word used by Greeks for a "fainting spell or swoon."

(I have these derivations of medical terms from a helpful little book at hand by William S. Haubrich, M.D., entitled Medical Meanings: A Glossary of Word Origins (Second Edition 1997)  I found it  in the bookstore at the UR medical school, when Mary moved there from Byrn Mawr.  We were first in that store because that is where the med school kept its sales inventory of new white coats for its first year students, and there Mary tried her's on for the first time.  But I digress.)

A slow heart can be a sign of a very fit heart.  But in my case, we surely have an aging heart.  It may be a relatively fit heart, but aging trumps fit sometimes, and it does in my case.  So, hello, aging heart bradycardia.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hoist on My Own Petard and William Shakespeare

A friend of mine and I have been exchanging emails about the Psalms.  The Sunday School class that I am privileged to teach embarked on a study of the Psalms at the beginning of the summer.  We consider a new Psalm each week and started with Psalm 1.  We are proceeding according to the Psalm number in the Psalter.  (This coming Sunday is Psalm 11.) The friend, who is from out of town and a Christian, came to one of our class meetings while visiting Miami, and we have been exchanging emails about the "Psalm of the week" since then.   (My friend and I often disagree on important ideas.  Sometimes I think the disagreement arises from the word choices I use, but sometimes not.)  The other day I cited some scripture during an email to my friend, and I realized that it supported an important point she had been trying to get me to see.  At the end of the email, I confessed, "Hoist on my own petard."

All of which is to say that the use of that saying has pointed me back to Shakespeare, and now I am heading back to his plays after nearly 50 years.  (That's how long since my sophomore year at Duke, when "I took the course," as if that completed anything.)  Not that I was aware that the source of "Hoist on my own petard" was Macbeth.  In responding to my email, my friend ended her response with thanks for my pointing her to Shakespeare.  I thought, "what?!"  Did I ever know that?

So, naturally, I am undertaking a Shakespeare journey.  Here is what I have equipped myself with: (a) The Oxford Shakespeare: the Complete Works 2nd Edition; (b) Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion; and (c)  Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All.  In addition, Professor Garber has lectures on YouTube, and I so far I have watched this introductory one.  She is simply wonderful.

(Despite my links to Amazon, I bought what I could in used books, when the economics make sense.  I use,, and, increasingly, Amazon's own used book offerings.)

"Tobacco giant defeats suit brought by family of Bay of Pigs veteran" but not Austin

My friend, Austin Carr, who is a "plaintiff's lawyer," recently tried a products liability case against a tobacco company in Circuit Court here in Miami-Dade County, representing the family of a husband and father who died of emphysema.  On August 18, the Miami Herald had an excellent article by Carol Rosenberg on the trial.  I have reproduced all of the article below, because I am afraid that the Herald at some point will kill the link, and I want to keep the article.  It is so well written: tight, deeply informative, and fair.  And Austin comes off as he is, a fine lawyer who keeps to the facts, and has the courage to take a case that many would decline because of its difficulty and uncertainty.

A Miami jury sided with R.J. Reynolds Tuesday against the family of a former Bay of Pigs prisoner who smoked for five decades then died of emphysema at age 87.

The jury of six ruled the tobacco giant was not responsible for the October 2005 death of Renato Santos, who had quit cigarettes when he was diagnosed with emphysema in 1990. The product liability case, first filed by the Santos family on Jan. 9, 2008, had sought $16 million.

Santos started smoking as a teen in Cuba and became a pack-and-a half a day Pall Mall smoker, said the family’s lawyer Austin Carr. “The jury found that he was not addicted, I believe, principally because he never attempted to quit until he was diagnosed,” the lawyer said.

The suit was the latest in a series seeking damages following a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision, Engle v. Liggett Group, which threw out a $145 billion class-action verdict against cigarette makers and set the stage for individuals to sue.

Carr described the smoker as a Bay of Pigs veteran who left Cuba months before the ill-fated April 1961 invasion, trained in Central America and then invaded his island. He was held prisoner until the United States exchanged food and medicine for the men in December 1962. In Miami, he had 10 children, Carr said, and worked as a carpenter on yacht interiors.

At the trial, which started last week, the family stipulated that Santos was partly at fault. In July, Circuit Court Judge Peter Lopez ruled for the tobacco company that Santos was to some degree responsible “less than 100 percent ... for causing his smoking-related injuries.” Carr said Tuesday that his side argued “it takes a smoker and a cigarette maker, and we believe that R.J. Reynolds should have had some percentage of fault in the case. They made the dangerous product that they asked their customers to smoke.”

Rebeca Santos, the dead smoker’s daughter, brought the case on behalf of her 84-year-old mother, whom Carr said does not speak English but attended the trial.

He argued that Santos became a smoker at a time when it was common. “Doctors smoked. Nurses smoked. Patients smoked in the hospital,” he told the jury. “It was a completely different culture back in those days.”

Austin has several more of these kinds of cases lined up for trial over the next six months.  Don't sleep so soundly, Big Tobacco.

Read more here:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How Do It Know?

On the Google search page this morning, the designs were birthday cakes and cupcakes.  Moving my cursor over them, I got the message "Happy Birthday, Paul."  And it is my birthday today.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Classical South Florida 89.7 throws in the towel; the slot returns to Christian Radio

Starting Friday, three South Florida radio stations will stop broadcasting classical music.

Instead, radios tuned in to WKCP 89.7 FM in Miami, WPBI 90.7 FM in West Palm Beach or WNPS 88.7 FM in Southwest Florida will find Christian music.

Minneapolis-based American Public Media Group sold the Classical South Florida stations to Educational Media Foundation for $21.7 million on Thursday, according Hadden & Associates Nationwide Media Brokers, which represented both the buyer and seller in the transaction.

The deal is expected to close in September, but EMF, headquartered in Rocklin, California, will implement its K-LOVE format this week. K-LOVE stations broadcast in 135 other markets.

[My bold.]

-from today's Miami Herald

It is hard to believe that the very upsetting sale of WMCU, 89.7 FM, by Trinity International University to Public Media Group took place nearly eight years ago.  But it has been that long.  Since then, we have listened to K-LOVE over the internet, supporting the internet channel from time to time, and then to Pandora.  There are some AM Christian radio stations here in Miami, but none of them have quite the pitch that WMCU captured - at least for us.

WMCU had been developed by Miami Christian College, a Bible college in Miami-Dade.  After many years of service to Miami-Dade Christian young people. MCC gave itself, including the radio station, to what became Trinity International University, based in Deerfield, Illinois. 

Several years later, after the president retired who was serving at the time of Trinity's acquisition of MCC and WMCU, Trinity sold WMCU to American Public Media Group for millions of dollars.  In additon, it moved "Trinity South Florida" from Downtown Miami to a modest space  in Broward, an environment probably more culturally-familiar to the Deerfield board than Miami-Dade.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ancient Greece and Donald Kagan; Disrupting Academia

Irving Kristol interviews Donald Kagan on the "origins of war and the preservation of peace," the title of Kagan's 1996 book on that subject

Kristol refers in that interview to a series of lectures on Ancient Greece that Kagan gave at Yale and that the university makes freely accessible on the internet as as an "Open Yale Course."  That's a series of lectures I want to attend.

Each lecture has an "assignment."  For example, the introductory lecture assigns: Pomeroy, Burstein, Donlan and Roberts. Ancient Greece. Oxford University Press: New York, 1999, pp. 1-40.  When I went to Amazon for that title, I saw a number of editions, the latest, the 3rd, a $50.48 text book.

Checking on, I found a 2007 paperback edition for $1.00.

Has there been so much new discovered in the last 8 years that an introductory text on Ancient Greece requires an expensive third edition?

See how the internet disrupts the publishing side of academia and how Yale itself, with its open access lectures, similarly disrupts the 20th Century model of the American University. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stay as long as you can.

If you are in a city or a community that is broken, where people are burned out or spiritually lost—stay as long as you can.
This is a quote twittered by Tim Keller, and it sounds like him.  It  has a lot of truth to it, and I get the point, but I am glad he included the qualifier "as long as you can."

Susan Thomas - Ogden Museum in New Orleans and its "Art of the Cup 2014"

Our friend, Susan Thomas, was among those artists invited to show their work at Art of the Cup 2014 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans recently.  We are fortunate to have several of her works at our home and here at the office.  The photo is one of her works that she showed.  Others are among the photos at the link.

She also paints, a gift she discovered and developed only in the last 5 years or so.  We have two of her wonderful paintings at our home.  We love them too.

Friday, May 15, 2015

"Mad Max: Fury Road" (Updated)

OK.  Who will go see it with me?


Uh. Never mind:

[I]ts not very good. Its title character is ill-defined. His mission is emotionally muddy. The non-stop car chase action becomes tiresome about 45 minutes in (though I did find myself wondering wistfully if there was a video game to go with it!). The finale is unbelievable even in context. The color palette, I admit, is beautiful but if you’re watching an enormous action sequence and thinking about the color palette…  well, you get the idea.

-from Klavan on Culture and its post "'Mad Max’ — The Critics Are Lying for Political Reasons:

We Send Our Warriors Overseas to Rescue Victims of Natural Disasters

Wreckage of missing US Marine helicopter found in Nepal mountains

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NASA's X-57 and LEAPTech

NASA’s latest experimental aircraft, the X-57, looks to break all the rules of how planes fly and may pave the way for entirely new aircraft designs.

Code-named LEAPTech (Leading Edge Asynchronous Propellers Technology) the plane will be about the size of a small general aviation aircraft, but instead of a single large propeller, LEAPTech will integrate 18 tiny electrically powered propellers into a narrow wing with a total area of about 5 square meters. A conventional plane of the same size would need three times as much wing area. 

-from World Magazine's May 16, 2015 issue and an article by Michael Cochrane.

The image above is 

only a rendering of the wing mounted to a small X-plane. NASA plans to fly the oddly shaped wing in a few years, but right now the wing is still undergoing testing. This could revolutionize aircraft, but NASA could also be grasping at straws with this model as NASA pushes for electric engines to be used in a significant part of the aircraft industry.

-from a post on by Lindsey Caldwell.

Flying Magazine reports that

NASA has selected Tecnam's P2006T, more commonly referred to as the Tecnam Twin, as the base platform for a new all-electric program named the Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology project, or LEAPTech for short. Within a few years, NASA hopes to fly a prototype of the airplane modified with a 31-foot wing equipped with 18 electric motors powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. The conceptual airplane project currently goes under the name X-plane.

I was puzzled how NASA would have the time and resources to develop this technology.  Lindsey Caldwell gives the answer: 

LEAPTech was created by a partnership between two private aviation firms, ESAero and Joby Aviation.

ESAero has a website here and Joby Aviation here.  (It is worth clicking the link to Joby to see its opening webpage.  In fact, the entire Joby website is very well done, with some great artwork, photos, and links to other articles on  LEAPTech developments. )

What say you, Sean?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Acts have consequences, large and small.

Yesterday at a funeral at church, I saw a friend I had not seen in several years.  Her sister is a Nurse Practitioner at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins, and a very good one.  As a result of the troubles in that city, the sister is very seriously considering leaving and coming to South Florida.

In yesterday's WSJ, there is an editorial about the Illinois Supreme Court's decision overturning a state law that would modestly cut back on the country's largest unfunded state-employee pension obligation.  The editorial closes with this sentence:

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has floated an alternative [to raising already high taxes and restructuring loans]: a state constitutional amendment allowing pension modifications, which would require a public referendum and two-thirds vote of the legislature. Barring that, Illinois taxpayers may want to start contemplating Indiana or Florida residency.

And so the market rules and will continue to rule.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Fate of the Tainos

I am reading Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus by Samuel Eliot Morison.  I first met Morison by way of our American History textbook at Duke, Morison and Commager's The Growth of the American Republic (probably the 1962 edition).  Morison was very large in the pantheon of American historians when I was in college.  Morison first published the Columbus biography in 1942, and I had not read it until now.  I am enjoying it, and would recommend it.

Morison admires Columbus, especially as a seaman, but he gives us both the good and the bad.  As to the bad, Morsion writes that "the policies and acts of Columbus for which he alone was responsible began the  the depopulation of the terrestrial paradise that was Hispaniola in 1492. "  Where there may have been as many as 300,000 of the aborigines in 1492, the Tainos, there may not have been as many as 500 remaining by 1548.

Morison wrote his biography as the storm clouds of WWII had gathered and were about to burst.  And so, after he discusses the fate of the Tainos, he immediately adds this little paragraph:

The fate of this gentle and almost defenseless people [the Tainos] offers a terrible example to Americans who fancy they will be allowed to live in peace by people overseas who covet what they have. 

Not so gentle and defenseless, even at this point.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Illinois Supreme Court Overturns State Pension Law Fix

Train wreck ahead.

Local Government at Work

Jose Valladares, 24, Charged with Grand Theft
The lead article on the front page of yesterday's home edition of the Miami Herald has the following headline: "5 employees suspended after inquiry."  The article's synopsis, just under the headline, states, "Investigators found cash and checks 'stashed in drawers' at Miami-Dade's parking operation where one employee faces criminal charges"

How did the investigators stumble onto this fraud?  Here is what the article, by Herald reporter Douglas Hanks, states in part:

A top county official said the misconduct came to light once Miami-Dade launched an automated system for county garages last year, ending the requirement that daily users of the parking garages pay cash in most garages. A week later, the county’s parking revenues had doubled. 

The county garages have been in operation for years and years. Why does Jose take the fall?  Why not the "top county officials" who set up this operation in the first place and allowed it to proceed, year after year?

Go get 'em, Doug.

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Marriage Humor (?)

Wife:  Honey, what would you think of our renewing our marriage vows?
Husband (excitedly):  Really?!! I didn't know the marriage had expired!

Wife:  When I met Mr. Right, I really didn't know his first name until much later.  It turned out to be "Always."

Friday, May 01, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is a Benedictine Oblate?

Our "blogroll," the one that is mainly in our heads, includes The Anchoress written by Elizabeth Scalia.  Her short bio on the home page of the blog states, among other things, she is a "Benedictine Oblate."   What is that? Here is the answer.

Wikipedia's article on oblates defines oblate as follows: 

Currently, oblate has two meanings:
  • Oblates are individuals, either laypersons or clergy, normally living in general society, who, while not professed monks or nuns, have individually affiliated themselves with a monastic community of their choice. They make a formal, private promise (annually renewable or for life, depending on the monastery with which they are affiliated) to follow the Rule of the Order in their private life as closely as their individual circumstances and prior commitments permit. Such oblates do not constitute a separate religious order as such, but are considered an extended part of the monastic community, and as such also often have the letters OblSB[1][2] after their names on documents. They are comparable to the tertiaries associated with the various Orders of friars.
  • "Oblate" is also used in the official name of some religious institutes as an indication of their sense of dedication.
 Are there oblates among Protestants?  The Wikipedia article says that there are Anglican and Methodist oblates.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Low-Cost Investing in Marketable Securities

This graphic is from the Sunday Business section of the March 15, 2015, issue of the NY Times, a column by Jeff Sommer entitled How Many Mutual Funds Routinely Rout the Market? Zero. The graphic shows the number of active investment managers who beat the market in 2010.  Then it follows that cohort for the next five years.  As a member of the cohort fails to beat the market in subsequent years, it drops of the graphic.  By 2014, only two are left.  By 2015, those two, however, are not looking like they will survive the cut.  So it looks like none will be left.

A client of mine brought a hard copy of the article to our office yesterday for separate conferences we had set up with advisers from Fidelity and Vanguard, respectively.  The client had been considering whether to move from an "active" manager of the very large portfolio for which the client is responsible to a low-cost index approach.  (The client had also brought in a hard copy of another NYT column by Mr. Sommer, this one entitled Measure for Measure, Index Funds Rule.)

The client decided to fire the active manager, a trust company, tentatively giving about half of it to Vanguard and half to Fidelity.

The Vanguard representative made some points that were new and striking to me.  One is that Vanguard has under management over three trillion dollars of assets.  The economy of scale that Vanguard introduces with such a staggering amount has to be matchless, at least with respect to help that can be accessed by retail investors.

Another point that that Vanguard rep made is the following, a point the Vanguard makes on its website:

At Vanguard, there is no third party. The company is owned by its funds, which in turn are owned by their shareholders—including you, if you're a Vanguard investor.  In other words, Vanguard is structured as a "mutual" mutual fund company. It's the only firm in the industry that works this way. This unique structure aligns our interests with those of our clients and provides benefits to investors worldwide. 

A third point he made is that, with respect to its actively managed funds, the management firms that Vanguard employs are third parties.  The client was not interested in "active" management, but I think it is remarkable that, although Vanguard offers actively managed funds, it does not share in the compensation of the subject investment managers.  In fact, it uses its scale to lower the cost of those managers, thus lowering the hurdle that such managers must clear in order to beat the pertinent benchmark or index.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Republican Florida as the Obamacare Capital

Today's Miami Herald, in an article worth reading in full,  reports that

[w]hen Florida racked up impressive enrollment numbers in 2014 for insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act, some healthcare analysts were surprised.

In 2015, the Sunshine State did it again, surpassing enrollment projections and beating out much-larger California and even Texas, a state more populous, more uninsured and with similar Republican opposition to the law.

Florida is one of those states, however, that did not establish its own insurance exchange, and so people have been purchasing their ACA insurance through a federal exchange.  That means that if the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell rules that federal subsidies are only to be paid to state-established exchanges and not to a federal exchange, then there will be a lot of unhappy people in this state.  

It would be too much to hope that the Republicans would have some legislation ready to fix Obamacare in this respect, some legislation that the President would sign (or clearly should sign, if the President refuses to cooperate - I'm thinking that the Republicans might hire that Iranian negotiator to help - not our negotiator, Iran's negotiator).  It would be good to have this effort well underway before the Supreme Court rules, taking the Court off the spot on this one. Then Congress can go to work on reforming the ACA in other respects.  (Forget about abolition.  Just forget about it.)  In 2016 the Republicans may pay the price for failure to "save" the ACA.

Read more here:

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Growth is a Miracle

The two professors who made Duke for me were I. B. ("Bill") Holley of the History Department and Barney Jones in the Religion Department.  Other fine teachers also made college a rich and valuable experience, both those two had, I think, the greatest impact on me.  Dr. Holley now and then expressed his amazement about being where he was in life, that is, as a school teacher.

He said he never expected to live such a comfortable life.  He taught students because that was what he liked to do.  But then, all of a sudden it seemed to him, here he was a tenured professor at Duke, teaching bright kids, living in a beautiful place, being paid far more than he would have ever expected.  All of this by simply doing what he liked to do.  (He did what he liked to do very well, but didn't say so.)

He likened it to what a farmer does.  He goes out, tills his fields, plants, fertilizes ("husbands") what he comes to be in charge of, does something every day, and he works hard and as smart as he can.  Yet he is amazed that the miracle happens, the crops begin to grow as the seed germinates, the rains come and the sunshine and soil do their work.  The crops grow to fruition and upon their harvest the market buys those crops, because other people need them.  They pay the farmer money, from which he can support his family, buy seed and supplies for the next growing season, and perhaps an additional field.  The farmer compares to what has  happened to what he did and then stands amazed.  How could Bill Holley do what he liked to do and then, after a time, find himself in that classroom, expressing his wonder to a class of college seniors and being so well off?  He was humbled by the whole thing.

There was an argument in Washington between the Democrats and the Republicans recently about who is responsible for the prosperity that many Americans enjoy.  (I would say "most" Americans, not just many, if we are going to speak relatively, that is, most Americans when compared to others in other places and at other times.)  The Democrats said to the Republicans, the self-appointed representatives of American individualism, that the national community is responsible for that prosperity.  (What they meant by that is mainly Washington is responsible, that is Washington when it is fortunate enough to be in control of the Democrats.)  With umbrage, Republicans said, "No, I built this," hoping to strike a chord in the heart of every hard-working American.  It was a false argument, one that played into the strategy of polarization that each party employs against the other, much to the detriment of the country.

The miracle of growth takes table-setting, to change the metaphor, by community and individuals both, of course.  But, even then, when the feast comes in from the kitchen, it is God who prepares it and brings it to us for the celebration, all in at his good time.

I'm on the back end of the curve of my career as a lawyer, and it amazes me that writing wills has brought me here, to this place and to this point, with such family, partners, and other friends.  Yes, I have gotten up every day and gone  to school or work, with times off each week for rest.  But as I look at this, I know that my efforts were hardly enough to get me to this place.  It took a lot of people to get me here, one of them Bill Holley, each one of them individually and in community helping to set my table.  But like Dr. Holley, I'm amazed and grateful at this miracle of growth.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day by Day

Carol and I saw the musical Godspell during late 1971 or early 1972 during our year living in New York City.  We loved it.  That is where we first heard the song "Day by Day," one of those songs, like "It's a Small, Small World," that never quite gets out of your head. The off-Broadway version that we had seen of the musical had a record album, and we nearly wore out the disk playing it over the next 20 years or so.  During the 1980s, my friends Nancy Jones and Ralph Wakefield, produced and directed Godspell at our church.  Walter played the fig tree and I played John the Baptist.  Day by Day further embedded itself in our psyche.

I was reminded of it when Carol and I attended the worship service at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin with Walter and his family during our recent visit.  The lyric is based on a  prayer of Richard of Chichester, the 13th Century Bishop of Sussex, and that prayer was part of the printed the order of service.  (Why do the Episcopalians get to recite those ancient, beautiful prayers, and those passages from the Book of Common Prayer, but we other Protestants do not?  Not fair.)

Here is the prayer of Richard and then the lyric from Godspell's Day by Day:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

Day by day,
Oh, Dear Lord, three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bosch: Gifted People Breaking the Rules. Please.

Amazon recently posted to Prime a TV video series called Bosch, based on the "police procedural" series written by Michael Connolly, some of whose novesl I have read.  I have viewed the first two episodes.  They are about a brilliant detective who (wait for it, wait for it) breaks the rules.

Really, I'm so tired of gifted people who break the rules, whether in the movies or TV or whom the media exults - especially sports media and in politics.  In real life, these sorts of people finally crash and burn, creating a lot of damage - unless they are protected by an exceptional institution.

By exceptional institution, I mean a political party or political institution or a sports franchise, a college or high school athletic department, or some other institution that thinks it can manage such people and profit by them.  I mean, especially, institutions that have accumulated enough power to defy the market place.

I don't include institutions in my indictment in which there are adults in charge, adults who have made a careful calculus of cost and benefit and, in a way that is transparent and makes sense, have shaped the rules so that the gifted - but otherwise undisciplined person - can perform effectively.   But usually, in "real life," these gifted people, after a certain near-point, will be expelled onto the streets.

Bosch had fine "production values," and is fairly well acted.  But like the nasty lieutenant who gives Bosch a lot of trouble, I wouldn't tolerate the guy on my team.  Bosch simply makes too many bad decisions, whatever happy outcome that the producers contrive.

Good-bye, Bosch.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Wait for It!

Our Sunday School class is well into its current study of the Sermon on the Mount.  At our last class, we considered Matthew 5: 43-48, the passage where Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, not for any purpose or no purpose, but so that they "may be sons of their father in heaven."  This passage follows directly on Jesus' admonition against retaliation in verses 38 - 42.  Indeed, John Stott, in his book on the SOM, pairs the two sections together in the same chapter, suggesting that they are of one piece.  He writes of them as two aspects of love, one passive and the other active.

What occurs to to me as I think about these two sides of the same coin, passive love and active, is the call we have to wait on the Lord.  Our enemy strikes us on the right cheek.  Well, then, we are to turn the other cheek and then just wait.  He sues us.  In that case, we settle with the plaintiff to avoid going to court for its brand of justice.  It seems to me, then, that Jesus calls us not simply to be passive in our non-retaliation, he calls us to wait on (or for) the Lord. 

We think of waiting for the Lord as an Advent activity, and I posted a beautiful hymn just below with these lyrics:

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.
Prepare the way for the Lord,
Make a straight path for God
Prepare the way for the Lord!
Rejoice in the Lord always, God is at hand!
Joy and gladness for all who seek the Lord.
The glory of our Lord shall be revealed
All the Earth will see the Lord.
I waited for the Lord
God at my guard.
Seek first the kingdom of God,
Seek, and you shall find.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 27:14 (KJV):

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
The idea of vengeance being the Lord's (and not ours) is the same idea.  Paul expressly writes in Romans 12:19, in between an admonition of non-retaliation (vvs 17 and 18) and its counter-part, the admonition of active love (vss 20 and 21), the following:

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

Putting off the urge to retaliate is such good, every-day advice.  In our indignation, do we forget that God is in control of the situation?  Do we forget what God brings to fraught confrontations?  Can our wrath match his in its perspective, in its power (and our empowerment through his Spirit), in its wisdom, and, finally, in its grace?

So I think we are not to retaliate in order to give room for the working out of God's will in the challenging situation which is upon us.  During that waiting our hearts are strengthened, getting us ready for the next step to which Jesus calls us.  That is,  we join in God's redemptive working-out of his will by feeding our hungry enemy, quenching his thirst, and so on.  In doing so, we give ourselves a time to calm down, a time to gain perspective, a time to examine ourselves and our enemy, often only to find how alike we are.  Waiting for for the Lord is not like waiting for Godot, without hope, waiting for the Lord is like waiting for Christmas, waiting for Easter, waiting for Christ's return and having it all, in a marvelous way, at the very same time.

Taizé - Wait for the Lord

Friday, March 06, 2015

Acts Have Consequences OR the Market Will Not Be Denied

In today's WSJ, an article entitled "Ports Gridlock Reshapes the Supply Chain" reports that the

labor dispute that caused months of gridlock at West Coast ports may be over, but the disruption is expected to redraw the trade routes that goods take to reach U.S. factories and store shelves.  

The article has a great graphic that shows the three major routes of shipping from Shanghai to the US, the shortest (12 days) east across the Pacific to Long Beach, CA;  another east across the Pacific, but this one through the Panama Canal and up to New York (25 days); and the third west from Shanghai, by way of the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Med, and the Atlantic to NY (32 days).

The disruption by that awful West Coast strike will take 6 months to resolve from the end of the strike, according to the article.  Furthermore, 1/3 of the shipping to the West Coast is "discretionary" anyway, that is, it can move on the alternate routes to the East Coast about as cheaply, when US ground transportation is taken into account.  Finally, the disruption tends to get the market to rethink how the other 2/3s of the goods should be moved more efficiently.  In a way, the strike may be a good thing for the economy as a whole, but not all that great for CA.

Oh, well.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Sedentary Twins Had "Lower Endurance Capacities, Higher Body Fat Percentages, and Signs of Insulin Resistance, Signaling the Onset of Metabolic Problems."

Identical twins in Finland who shared the same sports and other physical activities as youngsters but different exercise habits as adults soon developed quite different bodies and brains, according to a fascinating new study that highlights the extent to which exercise shapes our health, even in people who have identical genes and nurturing.

*   *   *  

It turned out that these genetically identical twins looked surprisingly different beneath the skin and skull. The sedentary twins had lower endurance capacities, higher body fat percentages, and signs of insulin resistance, signaling the onset of metabolic problems. (Interestingly, the twins tended to have very similar diets, whatever their workout routines, so food choices were unlikely to have contributed to health differences.)

The twins’ brains also were unalike. The active twins had significantly more grey matter than the sedentary twins, especially in areas of the brain involved in motor control and coordination.

-from "One Twin Exercises, the Other Doesn't" in the March 4, 2014 digital edition of the NYT.

The study is published in the March 2015 Medical & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal.  The abstract is here.

I like the reference to more  "grey matter."  I need all of that I can get.  And I'm hoping this also applies to people who exercise but don't have a sedentary twin.

Friday, February 27, 2015

From Riley's "Race Relations and Law Enforcment"

Blacks ultimately must help themselves. They must develop the same attitudes and behaviors and habits that other groups had to develop to rise in America. And to the extent that a social policy, however well-intentioned, interferes with this self-development, it does more harm than good.

This concept of self-help and self-development is something that black leaders once understood quite well, and at a time when blacks faced infinitely more obstacles than they face today. Asked by whites in 1865 what to do for freed blacks, Frederick Douglass responded: “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! . . . If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength . . . let them fall! . . . And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs!” Douglass was essentially saying, give blacks equal opportunity and then leave them alone.

Booker T. Washington, another late 19th century black leader who had been born a slave, once said that it is important and right that all privileges of the law be granted to blacks, but it is vastly more important that they be prepared for the exercise of these privileges.

Douglass and Washington didn’t play down the need for the government to secure equal rights for blacks, and both were optimistic that blacks would get equal rights eventually, although neither man lived to see that day. But both men also understood the limits of government benevolence. Blacks would have to ready themselves to meet the challenge of being in a position to take advantage of opportunities once equal rights had been secured. The history of 1960s liberal social policies is largely a history of ignoring this wisdom.

-Jason L. Riley in "Race Relations and Law Enforcement,"  published in the January 2015 issue of Hillsdale College's Imprimis.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Give Me Ten Push-Ups"

After work yesterday, Carol and I drove to North Broward to meet my niece Audrey and her husband, Bob, at a restaurant that friends  had recommended and that would have some vegan entrees, Thai Spice.   (Bob and Audrey were down from Tallahassee and were staying in West Palm Beach for a day or two on business, and Thai Spice was halfway between us.)

We had been told that Thai Spice was a very popular place and it was.  Even on a Tuesday night its parking lot was packed; there were no open parking spaces.  I dropped Carol off and drove down Commercial Boulevard and found a nearby parking lot in front of small gym ("Intense Fitness") that was also busy (I could see through the big glass windows). It had a single open space.  I parked, but went into the gym to ask permission to park there.

It was a pretty hard-core gym, only young guys, very big young guys.  One of the young men came over and greeted me, and I asked him if I could park in the open space.  He said, "Sure, but you'll have to give me ten push ups" and smiled.  (I was dressed in my office attire, without the suit jacket.)

I said, "OK" and dropped down.  They all started counting, because by this time several of the guys had come over to us.  "One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Eight, Eight!" they shouted.  I got up on the third "Eight" because 10 is about how many I can do without straining.  They all cheered and gave me  high-fives.  What a great place!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Telemedicine at JMH

Before the earthquake, emergency medicine in Haiti was unreliable at best. Sometimes unattainable.

“There were many skilled physicians in Haiti,” says Dr. Toni Eyssallenne, a Haitian-American who’s an internal medicine and pediatrics specialist at the University of Miami and Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince. “But they were in a very frustrating, resource-poor setting.”

The disaster gave rise to improved trauma care in the western hemisphere’s poorest country. Today, if you suffer a heart attack or a bad road collision in Haiti, you have a better chance of getting proper treatment.

And a big reason for that change can be found not in Haiti but 700 miles away in Miami – inside a conference room at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.

On a recent morning, Dr. Shailesh Garg, a trauma medicine fellow with Jackson and the University of Miami, sat in his scrubs surrounded by enough video screens on the wall to fill a sports bar.

 Through a webcam connection he was advising Dr. Kathleen Charles, a Haitian physician at Bernard Mevs.

-Read (and hear) the whole thing on the WLRN website.

(And where's my bumper sticker that says, "My kid's a resident at JMH-UM!"?)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

"The Professors' Bookshelf" from the UC College Magazine, the Core

I love articles where readers name their favorite books.  Here's a good one from University of Chicago professors. Among the books they named are:

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian Wars.

The Bible, "especially the New Testament."

Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, a title given by a senior lecturer in Economics who"had the honor of studying under [Friedman] and [who] became lifelong friends with [him], for his argumentation, logic, take-no-prisoners attitude, and willingness to tackle tough issues and take unpopular stands." The senior lecturer also likes Stephen King, whom he views "as the contemporary equivalent to Mary Shelley or Edgar Allen Poe."

Lolita - " the novel [that] taught me how to read anew  And it does so every time I read it."  This teacher also names Bohumil Hrabal's novel I Served the King of England, which he describes as "irredeemably beautiful."  Odd description:  Why would you want to redeem something beautiful, anyway?  Is that a sort of oxymoron?

Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, from another professor.  He also names Giorgia Agamben's Homo Sacer.  He said the book he "most enjoys teaching" is Dante's Inferno.  I much enjoyed being taught it at Duke.

Alex Kotlowitz' There Are No Children Here.

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. 

Who Is Our Neighbor, the One We Are to Love?

Though there are almost no Samaritans left in the world today, there are many people we may be tempted to despise and reject.  I am thinking of people of another race, color, or culture; homosexual persons who are victims of homophobia; or people of another faith, such as Muslims.  Jesus's parable challenges us to overcome all such racial, social, sexual, and religious prejudices.  I am not suggesting that we compromise our Christian beliefs and morals, but rather that we do not allow these to impede our active love for our neighbor.  That is what "go and do likewise'" (v. 37) will mean for us.

-Stott, "The Parable of the Good Samaritan," which Jesus tells in Luke 10: 30 through 37, and is today's reading in Through the Bible Through the Year.

All of this catches my attention, together with the whole of Stott's little essay and, of course, the Parable itself.  But what snags me most deeply during this reading is the phrase "active love."

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Crossfit for Old People

Carol and I are just into our fourth year of Crossfit ("XF") training.  Our goal is to go to the Crossfit gym ("the box" in the XF argot) three times a week, and we usually achieve that goal.  Now and then we will do four.  My conservative approach to XF training, however, includes the practice of allowing at least a day's rest between each session.  I take a conservative approach because Carol and I are two and a half to three times the age of most of the other people at the box, including the coaches, and workout routines are designed by and for those younger people, many of whom go to the box almost every day that it is open.  (I will be 69 this year.  Carol, my child bride, is much younger.) We simply don't have the time to attend so often and I don't believe we should push ourselves that far.  In many ways, we are on our own in this journey, but it is great fun - especially with Carol and me on that journey together - and the results thus far have been remarkable.

For one thing, we have had no respiratory problems of any significance during the XF period.  It is true that we are six years into a whole food/plant based diet and that has surely helped.  But we simply do not get colds anymore.  I can remember that for many years and at least once a year - usually during the winter months - I would get some sort of respiratory illness that would linger for weeks, even to the fourth week, when I would finally break down and beg the doctor for antibiotics.  I have nothing like that anymore.  Perhaps our respiratory health is related to how "out of breath" we get during the XF workouts.  We will work so hard that we will have to stop what we are doing for a few seconds to "catch our breath," that is to recover a bit, before going back to the routine.  During a given exercise component, I will get to a point where I must breathe very, very deeply; I am consciously and deliberately breathing in and breathing out at a pace that I measure but that I must purposefully increase until I just have to stop what I am doing and rest for a few seconds.  My theory is that if there is anything lurking down there in my lungs, it is being expelled or neutralized by the way that I am challenging my respiratory system.

Our strength has increased very significantly.  I regret that I have not kept a journal since we started XF, but the fact is that, even with our conservative approach we have gradually increased what we can pick up off the floor and how often during a set we can do so.  I dead-lifted 145 pounds on a 2 - rep basis the other day, which is not much for a 25 year old - male or female -  who has been doing it for as long as we have, but is still a lot of weight for an old guy I think.  I did a clean at 125 pounds two days ago.  I think that's pretty good.

I couldn't do a single push up when we started.  I now can do 20 at a time, and with a few seconds of rest, can do another ten, then a few seconds, then five.  Then I drop from a full push up to one where I leave my knees on the ground and do several more sets.

I couldn't do a sit up.  Now I can do 50 or more - even 100 if I can catch a few seconds of rest at 50 and spot another few seconds of rest every so often as I go up to 100.

I couldn't jump rope.  Then I learned, but had to stop after ten reps.  Now I can go to 50, even 60, before I have to stop for a few seconds and catch my breath.  If my life depended on it, I could go to 100 without stopping.  However, I can't do more than one "double-under" at a time.  I need to work on that.

I still can't do a pull up.  I don't know if a pull up is in my future, but I would like to do one.  (In the meanwhile I do "ring-rows.")  I can't do a hand stand push up either, but I can do a wall walk up to a hand stand and hold it for several seconds.  I don't know if a hand-stand push up is in my future. I hope it is.  I would also like to be able to walk a couple of paces on my hands, just to show other old people like me what they can do - as an encouragement.  But I'm not there yet.

Box jumps scare me.  I have fallen twice from the 18 inch boxes, and so I put a couple of plates down and jump up on them.  Maybe I'll improve, but I am definitely not pushing it with those boxes.

I never have been very flexible.  My mother could touch her toes.  I still can't.  But I'm working on it, but not at all sure I will get there.

I have a waist now, as one of younger women at our office noticed a year or two ago and remarked upon it.  That made me feel good.  When people see me after not seeing me for a couple of years, they often remark, "How good you look. What are you doing?"  I wear slim cut dress-shirts.  On the other hand, I still have a paunch.  It is not big, but it is there.  Now and then I think about having the surgery that removes that layer of fat - but its just a fantasy and of course I won't do it.  But getting rid of it would be nice.

When I was doing Weight Watchers 10 years ago, my goal weight was 155, and I actually achieved it.  People who saw me were alarmed.  They thought I was sick, and one lady at church told me to stop what I was doing.  Now I am between 165 and 170, and a good bit of that, I think, is muscle and not fat.  I feel good.  I stand up straight.  The slump that I had developed over the years is nearly gone.  This is great stuff.

I could not have done all this without the encouragement of others.  The XF box is full of encouragement.  Encouragement is a very high XF value.  The young people there are so good to Carol and me, once they get over their concern that we are going to drop dead during one of the XF sessions (called "WODs").  Then there is my family: all of my children and children-in-law do XF and they think its neat that we are doing it.  Finally there is Carol.  Every XF session is a date, and it is so much fun.

(Here's a link to the testimony of a 91-year old to the advantages of strength training.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Vicous Cycle of Tidying.

When we tidy each place separately, we fail to see that we're repeating the same work in many locations and become locked into a vicious cycle of tidying. To avoid this, I recommend tidying by category.  [My bold]

Thus says Ms. Kondo in her The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which Amazon describes as the "#1 Best Seller in Zen Philosophy." 

Please tell this lady that no one in our house is caught in that cycle, especially me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WSJ's Best Online Tools for Navigating Retirement: Here's Life Planning for You, Kid.

In the Encore section of today's WSJ, the front page article is entitled "The Best Online Tools for Navigating Retirement" and its complete with a photo of a couple contemplating retirement, a photo right out of the 50s.  So I guess that we baby-boomers have become our parents.  I mean I love(d) my parents, but that's pretty depressing, even though I look in the mirror each morning shaving and I see my dad.  Thanks a lot.

Anyway, since this article is behind the pay-wall, I'll just list the "best on-line tools" in a series of posts and give you a short description.  This is my first post in that series.  Here is this site's welcome:

Welcome to your path to freedom. That is what financial Life Planning is all about—the freedom to find your dreams, and to bring them alive. Life Planning helps you reorganize your relationship to money so that your financial resources are dedicated to supporting your life of greatest value, meaning and purpose. 

This sounds vaguely religious.  Yet this is the WSJ's "favorite." It "offers a free series of introspective exercises," probably because us boomers are pretty flabby with that sort of thing, introspection I mean.  We are notoriously outwardly directed when we are not smoking pot. We've got to get in touch with our inner selves or risk defaulting to the Villages. The site also provides links to "financial planners trained in 'life planning.'"  Life Planning "focuses on helping clients clarify their goals, values and priorities before planning their finances." 

Actually, the couple in the photo appear to be happy.  (Although it disturbs me that they are not holding hands - its sort of a knuckle-bumping walk into retirement, I guess.)  Maybe they have their future pretty much squared away.  Probably because they saved a lot of money over the years buying their clothes at Goodwill.