Thursday, June 30, 2005


(n.) The attainment of perfect synchronization with the office coffee brewing cycle. This may be in phase at any point; for example, on Monday I personally made six pots of coffee during the day.

Given three pots of coffee of two varieties (but one pot marked and reserved for decaf), I wonder what the numeric representation of the system would be. I spoke with my colleague who manages that part of the break room yesterday and was told we are one of our coffee service's biggest clients. When I asked if that was we our company or we our floor, he said it was the 18th floor by itself. Altogether we go through about nine pounds a week, 2:1 regular to decaf, plus all the creamers, tea bags, and other associated flotsam.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Definition of The State

Today is the 204th birthday of French economist Frédéric Bastiat, author of The Law and other works. The Foundation for Economic Education has Bastiat's 1849 essay "The State" online; he has nice things to say about the American Constitution in comparison with his own country's, but the rest of the essay sounds ominously current.

I wish someone would offer a prize—not of a hundred francs but of a million, with crowns, medals, and ribbons—for a good, simple, intelligible definition of the term, The State.

What an immense service such a definition would render to society!

The State! What is it? Where is it? What does it do? What should it do? We only know that it is a mysterious being; and, it is certainly the most petitioned, the most harassed, the most bustling, the most advised, the most reproached, the most invoked, and the most challenged of any being in the world. ...

Man recoils from effort, from suffering. Yet, he is condemned by nature to the suffering of privation if he does not make the effort to work. He has only a choice then, between these two: privation, and work. How can he manage to avoid both? He always has and always will find, only one means: to enjoy the labor of others; to arrange it so that the effort and the satisfaction do not fall upon each in their natural proportion, but that some would bear all the effort while all the satisfaction would go to others. ...

"I am dissatisfied with the ratio between my labor and my pleasures. In order to establish the desired balance, I should like to take part of the possessions of others. But that is a dangerous thing. Couldn’t you facilitate it for me? Couldn’t you give me a good post? Or restrain my competitors’ business? Or perhaps lend me some interest-free capital, which you will have taken from its rightful owners? Or bring up my children at the taxpayers’ expense? Or grant me a subsidy? Or assure me a pension when I reach my fiftieth year? By this means I shall achieve my goal with an easy conscience, for the law will have acted for me. Thus I shall have all the advantages of plunder, without the risk or the disgrace!" All of us are petitioning The State in this manner, yet it has been proven that The State has no means of granting privileges to some without adding to the labor of others.

The State is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


My wife and I encountered R.C. Sproul Jr.'s blog yesterday, and cruising the Internet with a sleepless baby tonight, I discovered he was writing an excellent essay on the thirteenth-floor phenomenon the same day I was. Neat.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Template change

Testing a different template today but still not 100% happy with it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

First articles in Carolina Journal

My first articles for Carolina Journal appeared in the May 2005 issue -- two of them:

"State abandons plan to move DNPE" (p.10) concerning the history of the separation between public and private education agencies in North Carolina. A near re-union was narrowly headed off this spring. Why interfere with an arrangement which has promoted this voluntary choice that collectively saves taxpayers over $980 million annually?

The story was picked up by the
Johnston County Republican Party and posted on their website with permission

I also have the book review "The Essential Ronald Reagan: Lean yet true to his simple style" (p. 21) which I mentioned in an earlier post.

Puritan support for classical education

Here Richard Baxter (1615-1691) addresses the usefulness of liberal education:

Question 158. Should not christians [sic] take up with Scripture wisdom only, without studying philosophy and other heathens' human learning?

Answer. I have already proved the usefulness of common knowledge in my book called The Unreasonableness of Infidelity, part 2, section 23, page 163, to which I refer the reader; and only say now,

1. Grace presupposeth nature; we are men in order of nature at least before we are saints, and reason is before supernatural revelation.

2. Common knowledge therefore is subservient unto faith: we must know the Creator and his works; and the Redeemer restoreth us to the due knowledge of the Creator: human learning in the sense in question is also divine, God is the author of the light of nature, as well as of grace. We have more than heathens, but must not therefore have less, and cast away the good that is common to them and us; else we much not have souls, bodies, reason, health, time, meat, drink, clothes, etc., because heathens have them. God's works are honourable, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein; and physical philosophy is nothing but the knowledge of God's works.

3. And the knowledge of languages is necessary both for human converse, and for understanding the Scriptures themselves. The Scriptures contain not a Greek and Hebrew grammar to understand the languages in which they are written, but suppose us otherwise taught those tongues that we may interpret them.

4. The use of the gospel is not to teach us all things needful to be known; but to teach us, on supposition of our common knowledge, how to advance higher to supernatural saving knowledge, faith, love, and practice. Scripture telleth us not how to build a house, to plough, sow, weave, or make our works of art. Every one that learneth his country tongue of his parents hath human learning of the same sort with the learning of Greek and Hebrew; he that learneth not to read, cannot read the Bible. And he that understandeth it not in the original tongues, must trust other men's words that have human learning, or else remain a stranger to it.

(f.n. Pr 2-6; Ps 92:5-6; Ps 104:24-25; Ps 113:5-6; Ps 107:8, 15, 21; Ps 66:3-4; Ps 111:2-6; Ps 145:7-11, 17-19; Acts 2:6-9; Acts 21:40; Acts 24:2; 1 Cor 14:2, 4, 9, 13, 14, 19, 26, 27; Rev 9:11; Rev 14:16; Rev 5:9; Ps 19:1-3; Ps 94:10; Ps 139:6; Pr 2:1-4, 8-10,12; 1 Cor 15:34; Pr 19:2; Job 32:8; Job 38:36. Yet I refer the reader to my "Treatise of Knowledge", which showeth the vanity of pretended learning.)

But though none but proud fools will deny the need of that human learning which improveth nature, and is subservient to our knowledge of supernatural revelations, yet well doth Paul admonish us, to take heed that none deceive us by vain philosophy; and saith that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and that the knowledge of Christ crucified is the true christian philosophy of wisdom. For indeed the dark philosophers groping after the knowledge of God, did frequently stumble, and did introduce abundance of logical and physical vanities, uncertainties, and falsities, under the name of philosophy, by mere niceties and high pretendings, seeking for the glory of wisdom to themselves; whenas it is one thing to know God's works and God in them, and another thing to compose a system of physics and metaphysics containing abundance of errors and confusion, and jumbling a few certainties with a great many uncertainties and untruths, and every sect pulling down what others asserted, and all of them disproving the methods and assertions of others, and one proving their own. And the truth is, after all latter discoveries, there is yet so much error, darkness, uncertainty, and confusion in the philosophy of every pretending sect, (the Peripatetics, the Stoics, the Pythagoreans and Platonists, much more the Epicureans, the Lullianists, and Cartesians, Telesius, Campanella, Patricius, Gassendus, etc.) that it is a wonder that any that ever thoroughly tried them, can be so weak as to glory much of the certainties and methods of any, which hitherto are so palpably uncertain, and full of certain errors.

We may therefore make use of all true human learning, real and organical, (and he is the happy scholar who fasteneth upon the certain and the useful parts well distinguished from the rest, and truly useth them to their great and proper ends): but niceties and fooleries which some spend their lives in for mere ostentation, and also uncertain presumptions, should be much neglected; and the great, certain, necessary, saving verities of morality and the gospel must be dearly loved, and thankfully embraced, and studiously learned, and faithfully practised, by all that would prove wise men at last.

(f.n. Col 2:8,9,23; 1 Cor 2:1,4-6,13; 1 Cor 3:19; 2 Cor 1:12; Job 28:28; Prov 1:7; Prov 9:10; John 18:3; Gal 4:9; Eph 3:10; 1 John 2:13,14; Col 1:9,27,28; Eph 6:19; 1 Cor 2:11; Col 3:16; Acts 17:18,19; Eph 4:18,19; Hos 4:8; Hos 6:6; Ps 119:99; 2 Pet 3:18; 2 Pet 1:3,5,8; Col 2:3; Col 3:10; Phil 3:8; Eph 3:19; Eph 1:17; Rom 1:20-22; Eccl 1:16-18; 1 Cor 8:1, 11; 1 Cor 13:2,3,8,9; Rom 2:20; James 3:13,14,17; Jer 4:22; 1 Cor 8:2)

Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory, "Christian Ecclesiastics", pp721-722 (Soli Deo Gloria reprint of the 1846 edition; some formatting changed for readability here)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Choose one and stick with it

Due to project deadline issues, this morning I find myself in the cubicle instead of the pew*. On the way in, I heard a pastor on the radio explaining the significance of infant baptism, which he had just performed.

"That's what baptism is about ... It's an outward sign of an inward conviction."

Granted; I just don't see how he can administer an outward sign to signify the Christian faith held inwardly by a baby who at the very least is not able to communicate a convincing testimony to this well-meaning pastor.

The "New Testament fulfillment of circumcision" is more convincing than this argument; if he's going to uphold paedobaptist practice, he ought not to borrow credobaptist explanations.

*So to speak. Our church has chairs, actually.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A few words on classical education

The reporter asked me about classical education and homeschooling; it's growing in popularity here in the Triangle, both at home and in the private schools.

Schools go back for future
'Classical' education pushed by new school, headmaster

By Kinea White - North Raleigh News - 6/10/05

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Sic transit gloria mundi

This item fits into so many categories it's hard to specify.

Recently Human Events published its list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries, as suggested by their panel of scholars. Number three on the list (being edged out by his guru Marx and Ueberteufel Hitler) was Mao Zedong's infamous "Little Red Book", The Quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong.

Item: President Reagan said that communism would be relegated to the ash heap of history. Mao's public image hasn't reached that stage yet, but in the rapidly-westernizing Shanghai, it's made it to the side streets. Mao only appears on kitschy wrist-watches and other souvenirs in the street markets, with the single noticeable exception of his portait in Tiananmen Square -- and Beijing is not Shanghai.

Likewise his book -- there's no shortage of original copies, in stacks alongside the fake ancient coins, made-yesterday antique knives, and other trinkets. I was quoted 100 RMB, about $12.50, for one, and snorted at it -- I offered 10 RMB, we settled on 25 RMB, and I still overpaid. IOW the first edition of this monstrosity -- you can't call it a "best seller" if it's given away, can you? -- can be had for about $3 if you don't haggle too hard.

Item: Over here, apparently, there's more demand. Amazon this morning had several used copies for sale, starting at $45 and on up to $75.

Gimme a break. I wouldn't give you $20 for the entirety of Chairman Mao Thought, let alone the Reader's Digest edition.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Interview with a veteran home educator

The June issue of Carolina Journal includes my interview with Gray Sullivan, a long-term homeschooling mom in Goldsboro, whose oldest son Micah graduated with honors from N.C. State this May ... just in time for Gray to begin homeschooling her youngest child, her six-year-old daughter. And she's totally committed to the whole exercise -- the article is "The Pursuit of Happiness, At Home", on pages 8-9 here.

I've known the Sullivans for a number of years and they are truly terrific people. I'm glad I got to shine a spotlight on them for a bit -- they have been an example and encouragement to so many people.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Fear of death and the conservation of numbers

I mentioned that the word "four" in Mandarin, sì, is very close in pronunciation to the word "death", . This is deeply rooted in their culture -- to the point that it is bad form to give a someone a gift with four of something; sets of things like tea cups more often had six rather than four items. I've heard that phone companies offer discounts to subscribers who accept numbers with a 4 in them.

(FWIW you don't give a clock to somebody either, because "give a clock" - gĕi jĭ shí zhōng - is close in pronunciation to "attend a burial" - chū xí zàng lĭ. Watches, however, are okay. But that's another story.)

The apartments where we stayed in Shanghai were a vivid illustration of four-phobia. I couldn't figure out why the elevator buttons didn't line up properly -- they didn't seem to be multiples of anything, and I always had to search to find the right button. I suddenly recognized why -- not only did they omit the 13th floor, like many older American buildings do, but also the 4th, 14th, and 24th floors.

So when you stood on the nominal 26th floor of this building, you were actually only twenty-two stories above the street. And inside, there was no apartment "4" on any floor -- 1-2-3-5-6-7.

It reminded me of the passage in Hebrews, which says that He [Christ] also Himself likewise partook of the same [flesh and blood nature]; that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death … and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15) It was palpable over there.

Until I was free of that same fear, I didn't realize how great a burden it was to carry.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)