Saturday, June 30, 2007

Music to Fix Washers By

I'm on the floor repairing the washing machine and find my mood is captured pretty well by Karl Orff.

The MIDI sequence has a certain metallic percussion that reminds me of sheet metal.

UPDATE: Problem found -- change music to Handel.

UPDATE: Wow. The "large object filter" in front of the drain pump (three stores to find the tool) had a mass like a racquetball in it, something like an owl pellet with unknown objects inside. Further examination yielded a wire nut (my fault), an unidentified part of an Ertl toy, a 4-inch LEGO, and at the center of it all, a worn-out Scotchbrite pad ... all richly coated with blue-gray lint.

Well, that helped. No wonder it wouldn't drain.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

But this one is "Number One Son"

"Charlie Chan" is a homeschooling parent we know whose "Number One Son" is working in Asia this summer. The blog is called "Number One Son Report" and I've added a link on the right.

Psalms and politics

Yesterday Rush Limbaugh made a connection between the demand for immigrant workers, 20 million of whom are here illegally, and the dearth of people created by our liberalization of abortion law in 1972 -- 23.8 million who would have been 18 years or older this year, according to statistics for 1973-1989 from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (

Psalm 94 speaks to this situation, and I'd be worried if I were part of the movement to keep abortion "safe and legal".

LORD, how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph?

They slay the widow and the stranger,
And murder the fatherless.

[My question - what percentage of abortions are performed on unwed mothers?]

Yet they say, “The LORD does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob understand.”

Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law,
Have fellowship with You?
They gather together against the life of the righteous,
And condemn innocent blood. ...

The LORD our God shall cut them off.

(Psalm 94:3, 6, 20-21, 23)

Will candidates who think politics transcend morality please take note? Will voters?

I doubt he'll ever rank "Favorite Son"

Words fail me.

Our enemies wire Afghan children to be human bombs, but the man who wants to lead us in 2008 has a domestic problem: Ann Coulter uses "hurtful" language about him.

But for the grace of God, I'd start using some too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Vibration on the Web

You never know who will respond when your work goes online.

Recently I received two emails from a couple in Israel, responding to one of my articles in Carolina Journal. They were excited to read about a descendent of the Nigerian Ibo tribe, and said they were African Jews who were trying to connect up with distant cousins.

Okay, it wasn't about my scintillating writing or razor-keen analysis. They probably had their Google Alerts set for references to "Ibo", and ran across the pdf version of the story a few months after it was published. But it's still amazing to think that strangers in Israel read my article and found something worth follow-up. You truly never know what to expect.

The Mandarin Candidate

Election officials in districts with a high Chinese population are debating how to render candidates' names into Mandarin and Cantonese characters. The problem is that while Arab and Israeli names can be transliterated directly, to "spell" a Western name in Chinese requires someone to pick characters for words that sound like the Western syllables.

This page is an example of how it works. Barack Obama's name ends with the Mandarin word for "horse" -- ma. Easy, see?

But the characters retain their own meaning, too, which can result in the Asian equivalent of punning names in English -- like the rancher Bob Warr and the family counselor Marion Haste (HT: Car Talk).

According to this story, Mitt Romney may be known as "Sticky Rice", while Fred! becomes "Virtue Soup".

I like that. Thompson could have been like the local candidate whose name was rendered "Imbecile". Make mine "Virtue Soup", please.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Busing of a Different Sort

Coming in the July issue of Carolina Journal:

Were these were used improperly ?

UPDATE: The story breaks July 3 in the online edition.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Principle Over Pragmatism

I wonder how many people have died because someone else made a "pragmatic" decision. In this case, at least three people lived because someone chose principle instead.

Sunday marked a momentous Father's Day for Ryan Morrison of Minnesota and Bryan Masche of Arizona. Both men recently had become fathers — to six babies each.

Their wives conceived using fertility drugs that increase the risk of multiple births, and both delivered sextuplets prematurely last week. All six Masche children are alive. Three of the Morrison children have died.

The couples have more in common than their sextuplets. Both rejected medical advice that they selectively reduce — abort — at least three fetuses to improve the health prospects of the others. As Morrison explained on, "We understand that the risk is high, but we also understand that these little ones are much more than six fetuses. Each one of them is a miracle given to us by God. He knows each one of them by name, and we will trust Him absolutely for their lives and health."
The other father shared this viewpoint:

When asked by Newsweek why they kept their sextuplets, Masche said, "We'd been trying for three years, and my wife had had two miscarriages. And how do you choose which heartbeat you want to stop? … God doesn't make mistakes. … He creates all life for a particular reason."


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Midnight, Sunday Morning

Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands, for our offenses given;
But now at God's right hand he stands and brings us life from heaven;
Therefore let us joyful be
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of hallelujah.

It was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended;
The victory remained with life, the reign of death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That death is swallowed up by death,
His sting is lost for ever.

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see, Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—So strong his love!—to save us.
See, his blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, death passes o'er,
And Satan cannot harm us.

So let us keep the festival whereto the Lord invites us;
Christ is himself the Joy of all, the Sun that warms and lights us.
By his grace he doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended.

Then let us feast this joyful day on Christ, the Bread of heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away the old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed,
He is our meat and drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other.

-- The Trinity Hymnal, no. 207

New Links

The evolution of the sidebar continues. Recently I've added links for the day's reading from Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, as well as my friend Scott Brown's pastoral blog, Scott Brown Online. Both are worth careful consideration!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Poetry That Doesn't Rhyme

I remember reading that, unlike most publishers, Bennett Cerf at Random House made a practice of reviewing every unsolicited manuscript that came "over the transom". Asked if they weren't uniformly worthless, he admitted that most of them were not publishable, "but one of them was Cry, The Beloved Country."

Eldest son John Calvin has been reading world literature in school and so we picked up Alan Paton's novel about apartheid-era South Africa. I started and finished it in just a couple of days while on a working vacation to our family's lake house. The language is lyrical and poetic, like Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, but unlike the latter, this was actually God-honoring, with much nobility in the two main characters, a poor black Anglican priest and a wealthy white landowner, brought together by a shared family tragedy.

Although there are many sad situations in this book, Paton gives an expectation and hope for the future of Africa and the protagonists he portrays, and his beautiful language and characterizations make this truly literature. Good art, good message, and a surprisingly enjoyable reading experience.

Advice From the Man Who Lived It

William Manchester -- The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone, 1932-1940.

This is the second book of a three-volume biography of Churchill. I picked up the only part that was available at a library book sale some time ago, and this was my second reading of it.

Everyone knows about Churchill's terse speech on the value of perserverence -- "Never give in. Never, never, never, never give in." I wasn't fully aware of how much he had lived it, and not in the obvious sense of long hours in the years of World War II -- Churchill spent more than a decade as a political pariah, abandoned by his party for his stand against independence for India, then finding himself completely out of step with the Conservatives' ruling factions of Stanley Baldwin and then Neville Chamberlain.

It was chilling to read how Chamberlain and his group kept themselves willfully blind about the intentions, and then the actions, of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. These British leaders, and some on our side as well, seemed willing to believe that life dominated by Fascism was preferable to one ruled by Communists, and that Hitler was preferable to Stalin in the long run. Pacifism was rampant, even though nearly twenty years had passed since the Armistace ended the Great War. As I read, the names Pelosi, Reid, Edwards, and Kennedy kept coming to mind; in fact, Ted Kennedy's father Joseph Kennedy, as U.S. ambassador to Britain at that time, was firmly convinced that England was a lost cause and Germany was the nation to deal with.

Churchill, through it all, gave speech after speech warning of the German militarism building up right in front of them, pouring out a river of editorials and opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, and writing numerous volumes of history all the while. His private network of intelligence was more sensitive and accurate than even the government's, and he maintained what amounted to a private war room to stay abreast of the crumbling European situation.

It was only at the eleventh hour that Chamberlain was forced out of office, after the policies he promoted allowed the Nazis to take over first the Rhineland, then Sudetenland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and at last the Low Countries. Churchill then went from pariah to messiah for the Conservatives, because he alone of the Tories was unhindered by the ruined hulk of appeasement -- only because Churchill had never given in, even when only five or six members of Parliament would stand with him. "Nevah!" indeed.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Message for Conservatives

My first contribution for the Civitas Foundation's magazine Conservative Citizen appears in the Summer 2007 issue, available online here. I've exerpted it on my other blog, Five Points.

The basic message for conservatives still smarting over the 2006 elections?

Get over it and get to work.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Presidential Courage

I just sent in my review of Michael Beschloss's new book Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989.
This is scheduled for the July issue of Carolina Journal, which should be online about July 7th.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Edwards Not Responsible for Morality?

Sojourners sponsored a discussion of Democratic candidates' religious views on CNN last week. There are some very interesting comments made, as seen in the transcription in the New York Times.

Our own John Edwards was evasive as could be, and still managed to say more than he wanted to. For example, in this exchange he basically says that, as president, he is not responsible to follow the dictates of his conscience:

CNN's SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: "If you think something is morally wrong, though, you morally disagree with it, as president of the United States, don't you have a duty to go with your moral belief?"

JOHN EDWARDS: "No, I think that, first of all, my faith, my belief in Christ plays an enormous role in the way I view the world. But I think I also understand the distinction between my job as president of the United States, my responsibility to be respectful of and to embrace all faith beliefs in this country because we have many faith beliefs in America. And for that matter we have many faith beliefs in the world. And I think one of the problems that we've gotten into is some identification of the president of the United States with a particular faith belief as opposed to showing great respect for all faith beliefs."

Edwards changed the subject so quick it's a wonder he doesn't need a neck brace this week. Respect for other faiths does not mean denying the responsibility toward your own, even if you're president.

How about this comment that I summarize as

"Jesus: The poor you will always have with you. John Edwards: No, I can fix that."

JOHN EDWARDS: [E]verything I can do, everything in my power that I'm able to do, I will do to drive the issue of poverty in this presidential campaign so that everyone is required to talk about it. Because I think it is the great moral issue of our time. I've committed, actually, to an agenda of eliminating poverty over the next 30 years.

In context, Jesus was pointing out there were opportunities to do good in different ways at different times, and there was a fleeting opportunity to show honor to the Son of God. The unelaborated principle, I believe, is that poverty is a relative measure, and by implication, unless everyone is at the same level of affluence, there are going to be some with more and some with less. You only have to look at poverty in places like Panama, for example, to realize that the North American poor are better off than Central American poor; that doesn't make their situation good in either place, but it serves to illustrate the hubris of Edwards' assertion that he can make poverty go away, as if he could abolish "down" and leave only "up" as the permanent state of man.

Frankly, the only way Edwards can accomplish what he proposes is to institute the strictest of socialisms. No doubt he would echo communist apologists of an earlier era who said, "Of course it's not working -- it isn't worldwide yet."

Compare Edwards' statements with those from Barack Obama, which express his intention and sentiment for assisting the poor, but without the arrogance of the man from the UNC poverty center. The same solutions underlie Obama's plan, but there's no claim for Utopia rising.

Edwards is not doing himself favors with this line. But since when is that news?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Call of the Entrepreneur

This new film from The Acton Institute is getting excellent reviews within conservative circles. I haven't seen the full thing yet but the trailer is outstanding. The Jesse Helms Center recently aired an advance copy to students at the North Carolinians for Home Education conference in Winston-Salem (my son's reaction here) and will be sponsoring theatre showings in several North Carolina cities in the coming months.

Can't wait.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Deeper and Louder

The family is reading in Spurgeon's Morning and Evening for our devotions, and often we're twelve hours ahead of ourselves, reading the same passage our son and elder brother is for the day. This evening we were reading the section for tomorrow morning, June 9, and it just felt like balm tonight:
Some Christians are sadly prone to look on the dark side of everything, and to dwell more upon what they have gone through that upon what God has done for them. Ask for their impression of the Christian life, and they will describe their continual conflicts, their deep afflictions, their sad adversities, and the sinfulness of their hearts, yet with scarcely any allusion to the mercy and help which God has vouchsafed them. But a Christian whose soul is in a healthy state, will come forward joyously, and say, "I will speak, not about myself, but to the honour of my God. He hath brought me up out of an horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings; and He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. The Lord hath done great things for me, whereof I am glad." ...

It is true that we endure trials, but it is just as true that we are delivered out of them ... The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through all, and preserved us until now.

-- Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, June 9: "The Lord hath done great things for us, where of we are glad", Psalm 126:3 (Cf Psalm 40:2-3).

Incidentally, I noticed the counter on the site at Calvin College says that just this particular online version of the book has been accessed more than 6.5 million times in the past two years.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Not Wowed by Hugh's Woo

I'll grant he may be a man with sincere religious faith, but I'm not wild about Mitt Romney. It may come as a revelation to Hugh Hewitt, too, but I don't think many of Hugh's fellow evangelicals appreciate being called "bigots" who are "not only un-American, but un-Christian" for missing this bandwagon, either. Frankly, I'm surprised and disappointed that Hewitt seems to think his readers can be bullied and insulted into an informed opinion that way. Is that how the electorate should be wooed, Hugh?

My review of Hewitt's book A Mormon in the White House? appeared in the May issue of Carolina Journal. I summarized it over here.

Guilty Errands

The N.C. General Assembly is considering a bill that would make it a punishable offense if you leave your 13-year-old in the car to watch a sleeping baby while you go inside to pick up a prescription.

Well, not explicitly, but read the bill and see if that's not one result. Links and a longer comment are on my political blog, Five Points.

Spiritual Question of the Day

Is it still fasting if you drink coffee?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Flaps Down

We heard from our traveler about 9:30 this morning that he was safely on the ground and in the company of his uncle. He said a 45-minute delay on the first flight made a challenging change in Detroit, with only sixty minutes between flights, but the short layover at Tokyo's Narita airport (an hour and fifteen minutes) apparently went without a hitch.

I was thinking of the flaps on the aircraft, but I suppose this also refers to our young eagle alighting, as well. Godspeed to him.

Pigskin and Paper

When Theodore Roosevelt left office, he planned a lengthy African safari to get out of the way of his successor's fledgling administration. His sister Corinne records in her book My Brother Theodore Roosevelt that as TR prepared to leave the White House, she offered to buy him "a real present". His request was a specially-bound collection of books because, as he said,

"Of course, I must take a good many books; I couldn't go anywhere, not even into the jungles of Africa without a good many books. But also, of course, they are not very likely to last in ordinary bindings, and so I want to have them all bound in pigskin ..." (p. 251)

Hence the legendary "pigskin library" now in the collections of Harvard University. Roosevelt wrote back from Africa that it had been "the utmost possible comfort and pleasure" to him. "Fond though I am of hunting and of wilderness life, I could not thoroughly enjoy either if I were not able, from time to time, to turn to my books." (p. 256)

So when Roosevelt headed for the wilds, what books did he want close at hand? Corinne gave the list -- starting with the Bible and the Apocrypha (why, being Dutch Reformed, TR specifically included the latter, I can't say). From there TR's tastes ranged to Homer's Odyssey, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Bret Harte and Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe, Macaulay and Shakespeare, Die Niebelungenlied, Sir Walter Scott, and The Federalist Papers. They included books on naval history, collections of poetry, Pilgrim's Progress and a biography of Frederick the Great.

The fifty or sixty titles are not a complete "Great Books" collection by any means -- they were just what TR wanted to take on his hunting trip.

My son John will be in Asia for three months, and like TR, he is a voracious reader. The long journey is intimidating enough, but a recently-returned friend advised that he found nearly zero reading material in English while he was there. That was my own observation from our visit in 2005; the only English-language bookstore I visited was heavy on economic treatises and teach-yourself-English guides.

Lacking a burro to carry John's luggage, we traded permanance for portability. I suggested some titles from our collection of paperbacks, but the final selection was my son's -- and we discovered the morning of departure that he had decided to fill out the rest of his weight limit with books.

So what's in John's "pigskin library"? A list as eclectic as TR's:

The Bible, both in English and Mandarin; a new Langerscheidt's English-Mandarin dictionary; Larry Burkett's Business by the Book; mysteries by Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey; and though they don't add any weight, he had downloaded e-text versions of Matthew Henry's Commentary, several books by J.C. Ryle, a number of G.A. Henty's historical novels, and for devotional reading, Spurgeon's Morning and Evening.

He also has my copy of Robert Axtell's book on cross-cultural etiquette called Do's and Taboos, with the Asian portions marked; a book by the Puritan Thomas Brooks which he and I planned to read together (he got the unmarked copy, though); Allan Drury's Senate novel Advise and Consent; an economics book by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman; and John Murray's Principles of Conduct.

Maybe that will hold him.

John has a busy summer planned, and he may not have time to read more than his morning devotions and an occasional scan of the International Herald Tribune or something similar. Still, since he's had his last trip to the library until Labor Day, he had to make some provision. True bibliophiles will understand.


Corinne Roosevelt Robinson's My Brother Theodore Roosevelt (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1921) can be read online or downloaded in pdf from Google Books. So can a multitude of other titles; I have to remember to look there first for the out-of-print volumes.

The Great Circle

Son John is on his way to China (should be arriving any minute now after a thirty-hour journey). His route as drawn by the Great Circle Mapper shows what we miss looking at the familiar Mercator Projection world map -- if you distort the scale on the axes, the shortest distance between two points (here, between Detroit and Tokyo) is not a straight line at all. You can try it with a globe and a piece of string if you don't get it.