Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Atlanta: Big Pigeon is watching you

I'm back from a four-day trip to Atlanta for a class in relay design. The instructors, all three of them, were Greek -- apropos of nothing, but an unusual occurrence here in the south, I'd think. For some reason I missed, the owner of the laptop used for the presentations had a favorite bird picture for his wallpaper, creating the interesting effect seen here.

I made my obligatory trip to The Varsity on Monday; this is one of those places that achieves the coveted Michelin "Pilgrimage" status. Somebody has to have their chili recipe online somewhere. An unexpected discovery was Ray's N.Y. Pizza, just up the street from the Georgia Tech Conference Center -- two thumbs up for the "Manhattan" stromboli. No interesting dinners other than carry-in Chinese -- I had some writing and research to do back at the room and didn't go into any restaurants after class.

The hotel was an oddity. There is apparently a slow-motion remodeling job going on, so the lobby looked like a Frank Lloyd Wright tribute -- Johnson Wax "lily pad" columns, for example -- but upstairs you were likely to find the room number scribbled directly on the door with a Uniball pen, or a Marks-A-Lot if you're lucky. Most perplexing was the overall layout; did Holiday Inn go through an architectural "with-it" phase in the early seventies? I've seen more round Holiday Inns than any other hotel, for example, but this one took the cake -- a tri-lobed design which somehow put you two hallways away from anywhere, at any time. Really, really peculiar; triangles are good for bridges and roof trusses, not for floor plans.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

He fixed the major thing, anyway

We'll be celebrating our favorite German next week but here's an observation on the language.  Besides his major accomplishment, Martin Luther inadvertently provided the basis for Hochdeutsche and the standardization of the language in his translation of the Scriptures.  It did nothing to change this, though:

"I was gradually coming to have a mysterious and shuddery reverence for this girl; for nowadays whenever she pulled out from the station and got her train fairly started on one of those horizonless transcontinental sentences of hers, it was borne in upon me that I was standing in the awful presence of the Mother of the German Language.  I was so impressed with this, that sometimes when she began to empty one of these sentences on me I unconsciously took the very attitude of reverence, and stood uncovered; and if words had been water, I had been drowned, sure.  She had exactly the German way: whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence, or die.  Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him until he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Dover edition p. 122-123

Monday, October 17, 2005

Seen at the N.C. State Fair

Just like last year, the Republican booth at the state fair seemed to be getting more traffic than the Democrats nearby; if nothing else, we saw lots of Republican stickers on passersby.  Our favorite, connected with a "Pledge of Allegiance" petition, was red (of course) with white lettering, reading:

My God

My Country

My Republican Party

You know it's Monday when

… you hear someone say, "We're having problems with the network" and it's referring to a situation at home.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Unintended humor

Not surprisingly, the current debate on public policy in the electric sector is increasingly polarized.

"Beyond the Crossroads: The Future Direction of Power Industry Restructuring"
Cambridge Energy Research Associates,,170,00.html#top

"The descent into ideology"

Interestingly enough, the willingness of conservatives, of all people, to debate and question their own assumptions has meant that conservative thought adapted quickly and fixed its errors rapidly.  So writes J. R. Dunn in The American Thinker this week -- he's concerned that we're throwing away the key to our success:
With the Harriet Miers controversy, conservatism has begun its descent into ideology. Unlike the Left, conservatism has never been an ideological movement, in the sense of possessing an overarching system of thought demanding acceptance in toto. American conservatism is based on principle, firmly-grounded, straightforward concepts: that men are lower than angels, that governs best which governs least, and that innovations must be examined under the presumption of error. Apart from these axioms, everything else was open to debate. Until today, there has never been an orthodox party line in conservatism.

(HT:  John Locke Foundation's Jon Ham)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

And now, a personal opinion:

HP MFD bǔ hǎo!

UPDATE: I had a run-in with our new multi-function devices at work; whether it was an integration problem with our locally-developed application, a feeding problem with the large paper it insisted on using, or operator error on my own part, I can't say. All I know is it is an 18-step process to extract a "jam" (often a mirage) from this printer, and I was forced to recall our $40 Lexmark printer at home is beating the performance socks off the HP it replaced.

NC hsers are semi-finalists at San Antonio film fest

I am pleased as can be that the short documentary film A Flame Undaunted, about the North Carolina delegate, patriot, and governor William Richardson Davie, has been named a semi-finalist in the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival. The final competition is October 27-29.

The film is a production of the Homeschoolers Unfolding History chapter of Tar Heel Junior Historians, sponsored by the Public Library of Smithfield and Johnston County. Our son John Calvin wrote and directed the film, which is our stake in the matter. This is the second year HUH and the Youngs have placed in the semi-finals; last year there were two films, Independence Bound and Christ in the Camp (the latter written and directed by our son Caleb), in that category.

A Flame Undaunted also placed second in the state competition at the secondary level, and the elementary level team took second in their division with After the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Great job, everybody -- this group just gets better every year.

A Francis Schaeffer moment

I recently read Schaeffer's The God Who Is There, where he deals with the issue of despair in modern liberal thought. Basically, either you accept that God is real and communicates in a meaningful fashion with His creation, or you cast off that idea in favor of some substitute which ultimately leads to atheistic nihilism, or an illogical leap necessary to bridge the rejection of revealed religion with the reality of the soul and spirit.

It came back to me with force at a recent motivational meeting featuring a film about football coach Lou Holtz. It was encouraging and all, but on reflection it rang very, very hollow. The editing on the film did a downright expurgation of anything which looked like religion in submission to a holy God -- even when showing Holtz at Notre Dame. Honestly -- there was one tightly edited clip of Holtz sending the team off from a pep talk (supposedly), but if you were alert, you might just barely catch the delayed ending of one player making the sign of the cross. Aha -- this wasn't rah-rah, it was team prayer ... but we can't show that, can we.

It's like the speakers who smile and talk about the value of Faith but never its subject. Faith in what? Or whom? Does it matter, in your world view? It had better, because there are serious consequences to choosing the wrong answer.

As Calvin Thomas wrote about secularized Thanksgiving, some people seem to be praying "To Whom It May Concern." Or trying to harvest fruit without planting a tree. All is vanity and a striving after wind, says the preacher.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Columbus Day

Recently I asked my wife, who is of native American descent, what she thought of the genocidal invasion of North America by hegemonic 17th century Europeans.

"I think it is the unmitigated blessing of God," she said, "sending the Gospel to His Indian people." *

I think this is instructive; on this Columbus Day, not everyone who may have an ancestral grievance against immigration actually carries that today.

In fact, on this day I'd like to recognize some immigrants who are very important to me:

James Brookshaw arrived in Baltimore in 1674 to serve as an indentured servant with his wife Mary O'Harigan; one of their grandsons became the first child of European descent born in Haywood County, North Carolina.

About 1690, a British ship landed a group of French Huguenots in the new proprietary colony of South Carolina; in that group, I have reason to believe, was my ancestor Pierre Dutarte, formerly of Picardy, France. He and his countrymen came here seeking religious freedom, after the Edict of Nantes was long cancelled at home.

In 1692, one-time privateer and successful merchant Thomas Pinckney of Durham, England, arrived in Charles Town, S.C., aboard the Loyal Jamaica. He is one of the few of my ancestors who arrived with any personal wealth to speak of; Thomas Parris, moving from Barbados to Pembroke, Massachusetts, sometime around 1655, may have been the other.

In 1751, Johann Schlueter arrived in Philadelphia from Hamburg on the Koenigin von Daenemark, bringing his wife and twenty-year-old son to the colonies. Johann died among the Pennsylvania Dutch, but his son Heinrich settled in Rowan County, North Carolina, on a square mile of land not far from where I was born two hundred twelve years later.

Beat Rebsamen and Hans Kuntzler of Thurbenthal, Switzerland, settled in central South Carolina in the mid-1700's as part of the Hanoverian-English crown's plan to populate that region with European Protestants. Both were mixed in the Regulator Movement and were pardoned by King George III shortly before the Revolution.

In 1792, Daniel MacLeod was born aboard the ship that brought his parents from the Isle of Skye to Charleston. The former Prussian cavalryman Anthony Pullig arrived in Charleston about that time.

Most recently, James Mack of Dublin landed in Charleston in 1825 and became a cartwright in that city.

My wife's history is just as broad, from her Cherokee ancestors in upstate South Carolina to the Rev. Thomas Smyth, D.D., the young Scotch-Irish Presbyterian who preached against slavery in a downtown Charleston congregation as early as the 1830s -- and continued in service at that church into the 1880's. Her connections with the Plantagenets mean I truly did marry above my ancestral station.

It's commonplace to say it, but we are most definitely a nation of immigrants, and the more I learn about my own forebears the more I appreciate the opportunity they had and gained in this country.

And to all our recent neighbors Chilean, Korean, Iranian, and Syrian, a cordial welcome from me to you.

* It may be worth noting that our youngest son is named after David Brainerd, the 18th century American missionary to the Indians of Massachusetts.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Sir, please step away from the PDA."

Professor Steve Andriole of Villanova University has had it with personal information systems users. I've met a few, though it sounds like he's stumbled across a nest of them:

How can anyone focus meaningfully on anything? Is this a plot by the makers
of adult ADD drugs?

The best example of this came at a meeting I recently attended. I watched all of the middle-aged guys pull out their weapons of choice: cell phones, crackberries, laptops, pagers and what are now considered old-fashioned PDAs. Each one of them laid their devices in front of them like they were trying to create some kind of cockpit.

''Mine is smaller than yours,'' I heard one of them say, as another challenged everyone to a digital race. ''I bet I can download more and faster than anyone here.''

These people are idiots.

If you can believe it, this item came across in a PDA newsletter, Palm Blvd.

Progress ... I guess

ADELAIDE, Australia -- "In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth."

That's according to a new version of the Bible translated into the text message language of cell phone users.

The Bible Society in Australia on Thursday launched its translation of all 31,173 verses of the Bible in the modern, abbreviated language of text messages.

The verses can be accessed over the Internet for free so that they can be spread by cell phone to family and friends, said society spokesman Michael Chant. ...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Interesting headline of the day

Seen on this morning:

"Supreme Court to revisit assisted suicide"

Chief Justice Roberts got under their skin in a hurry, hmm?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Sometimes there isn't a shaft of light

"For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day.  It shall be the time of the nations."

(Ezekiel 30:3)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Some counties do it better

I have the honor of the lead article, State's School Construction Costs Soaring, in the October issue of Carolina Journal. Quoted in the final version are interviews with architect Steve Taynton of the Department of Public Instruction's School Planning section and Johnston County school board member Larry Strickland:

North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the union, and especially in its school-aged population. The growth, coupled with demand for more and better facilities, smaller classes, and specialized programs as well, has pushed local governments into a school construction boom.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, North Carolina is one of only 14 states where the number of elementary schoolchildren has grown despite a nationwide decline between 2000 and 2003. The state also ranks fourth in the number of students added in the high school ages.

As this occurs, though, demand for critical materials and skilled labor is driving the cost of the construction sharply higher. Major projects as far away as China have pushed the price of structural steel and concrete to new levels. Recovery work after Hurricane Katrina, where more than 200,000 homes
were reported destroyed, is not only affecting material availability but competing for contractors’ attention. ...

Ask the locals

We're just back from a conference trip to Philadelphia, and I wanted to mention that based on the recommendation of a co-op student from there, we chose to bypass Pat's ["Tourists" he said] and get our official cheese steak from Jim's Steaks instead.

Byron was right, of course, they were good. And actually we didn't bypass Pat's entirely. Couldn't get cheese fries at Jim's, you know.