Phelps Photos

Here is an incredible look at Michael Phelps' magic last night. That may have been the most pumped I've ever gotten watching a sporting event. It was just filthy.


Subprime Posts Debt

In these entitled times, I realize there's quite a growing list of posts that I owe you:

--Our wonderful new daughter
--A detailed account of my recent trip to India and Pakistan
--A bunch of other rad stuff

Thanks for your patience.


A Most Precious Sweetheart

Afton has her mother's everything, and she's the beautifulest little girl I've ever heard of.


An Object Lesson in Universal Health Care

[T]hose who favor national health care schemes should take a good, hard look at our veterans' hospitals. There is your national health care. These institutions are a national disgrace. If this is the care the government dispenses to those it honors as its most heroic and admirable citizens, why should anyone else expect to be treated any better?
Ron Paul, The Revolution: A Manifesto (p.90)

That point is so good, I need to quote it again.

[T]hose who favor national health care schemes should take a good, hard look at our veterans' hospitals. There is your national health care. These institutions are a national disgrace. If this is the care the government dispenses to those it honors as its most heroic and admirable citizens, why should anyone else expect to be treated any better?
Ron Paul, The Revolution: A Manifesto (p.90)


Good People Carrying Dangerous Things

There was a pro self-defense talk at Virginia Tech the other day, where a student protester had this gem of an insight into what just might happen if guns were allowed on campus:

I still think a lot of it was slanted and very rights-oriented, and did not fully address the idea of what having guns on campus is going to mean for safety in classrooms and the environment in general of Virginia Tech.

Yeah, like 33 people might get murdered next time instead of only 32. Incredible.

Indeed, as John Lott never tires of pointing out, would-be mass murderers aren't unaware of the fact that bureaucrat-inspired "Gun-Free Zones" are perfectly suited to their evil ways since the gathered public have been conveniently dis-armed on their way in.

And add to that the reality that even courageous and lightning-fast police response times are simply too slow to do much good in actually stopping the murderer in his act; considering how quickly these multiple-victim shootings come to their grotesque end, all they can do is count the bodies.

"Dial 911 and die," as they say.

So the future of public massacre defense is precisely this: Lots of good people carrying very dangerous things.


This Is Where the Tape Goes, and That Button Plays Rush Records

In preperation for our second kid we went ahead and got four doors... four awesome doors of a 1995 Honda Odyssey. I found this image in the online owner's manual, and needless to say, it rules.


Drop It Like It's Hot

I'm going to India and Pakistan this summer.. remind me not to take Afton along.



Why didn't A&F pay that dude to wear their shirt in my face too? Because he isn't hip?

But neither are those other three tools, so I'm confused..


Federal Distortion

Since my letter apparently didn't make the Editor's cut in the new New Horizons, I figured I could always give it a comfy home here for you, my four readers.

My letter was prompted by this section from Dr. Alan Strange's article Baptism in our Confessional Standards:

In recent years, there has been a growing sense of the place and the efficacy of the means of grace, including the sacraments. In the OPC and other Reformed and Presbyterian churches, at least in some measure, there has been a revived commitment to "the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation" (WLC 154). While we acknowledge that only the sovereign Spirit can empower these means, either in ordinary or extraordinary ways (as we see at different points throughout church history), it is surely our duty diligently to attend upon them and wait upon our gracious God for his blessing. [...]

We have also, in the last few years, experienced some conflicts in the broader Reformed and Presbyterian world. There have been those who, seeing something of the poverty of our understanding and use of the means of grace, have placed an undue emphasis on their outward aspect. Some have spoken of baptismal regeneration and even embraced a view of the sacraments that sees them as virtually ex opere operato (conveying grace to all who do not positively refuse it). This lamentable externalism can lead to a deadly formalism that downplays the work of the Spirit, and it has been recognized as such by the OPC, the PCA, and others in NAPARC. Theological movements like Federal Vision (FV), whatever good they may have sought to do, have harmed the Reformed faith by an overly objectified sacramentalism that necessarily underplays the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in making effectual the means of grace.

To which yours lowly responded:

Whatever one's view of the Federal Vision movement, it at least deserves to be characterized fairly. In Dr. Strange's otherwise helpful article on baptism he disserved New Horizons's readers by playing the "baptismal regeneration" and "ex opere operato" cards when attempting to define the FV understanding of baptismal efficacy. Whoever these unnamed "some" might be who have embraced this "lamentable externalism," they are at formal odds with the Joint Federal Vision Statement which clearly and explicitly rejects these formulations as commonly understood and scarily implied by Dr. Strange.

To be sure, the author is entitled to the opinion that those associated with the FV are either self-deceived as to the trajectory of their beliefs or are lying outright about their real positions on this matter, but that opinion should be kept clearly distinct from any attempt to objectively define their stated views.

I'm not here to carry the FV's baptismal water, but simply to correct the record. This on-going Reformed conversation can only proceed charitably and equitably when the disputants' views have been properly defined.


How Do They Still Exist If They're "Banned"?

"Every right, including freedom of speech, is subject to some limitations. The legal and public policy arguments for allowing broad government regulation of firearms are compelling. District law bans private ownership of handguns and requires long guns to be kept in the home disassembled or stored with a trigger lock. This approach reflects the grim realities of an urban setting where handguns account for a disproportionate number of homicides and are used in a great majority of robberies and rapes. "
--Washington Post Editorial

Please forgive me for being obtuse, but how is it possible that DC's reality is "grim" with murders, rapes, and robberies if they've "banned" the private ownership of handguns? Surely you aren't suggesting that the people willing to break the laws against those heinous crimes also have the nerve to possess handguns illegally?!? Unthinkable!

So gosh, if only the people who play be the rules could have some powerful way of protecting themselves from this "grim reality."

I dunno, that's probably just crazy talk..


Life Imitates The Office (UK)

"I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me," [New York Governor Eliot Spitzer] said in a brief news conference announcing his intention to resign, effective Monday. "I will try once again outside of politics to serve the common good."

With his wife, Silda, at his side, he added, "Our greatest glory consists not in never falling but in rising every time we fall."


I'm Curious

Is this still going to be true when a Democrat wins in November?

Just wondering.


Medieval Rhymes

I've decided to start a KJV-only rap band called Sir Loin.
Divers rhymes hitch ya joints and marrow
goadin' thine ass down the straight 'n narrow
That's all I've got so far..


Paul's Poll Performance Perplexes Pundits (Plus Pic!)

I only caught the post-debate spin session for a minute last night, but in that time I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Sean Hannity's verbal disgust at seeing that their "Who Won?" poll had been jammed yet again by Ron Paul supporters.

The first iteration of the poll results came in while H&C were interviewing Fred Thompson, and when Paul pulled down 35% with second place being at like 18%, you could actually hear Hannity utter a "phlgrhaargh" of pissed incredulousness under his breath. (You'll recall that Sean got pretty riled about these hijinx after the last GOP debate, when he hotly denounced the Paul supporters for allegedly spamming their poll with multiplte votes.)

I don't know who Hannity's endorsed-- probly McRomniani-- but he's obviously not a fan of the revolution.

And while we're here, I should point out that Father Burly is right there in the shot at the end of Sean's fingers(!). This was actually at the last GOP debate, and it was right after this scene that my dad somehow managed to actually get me on the phone with Ron Paul. Yep, we exchanged pleasantries and thanked each other for being awesome for about 30 seconds, and it ruled.


"Change" is Bad if it Votes Like This

[From James Taranto's BOTW]

Obama Voted to Let Infants Die

"The Associated Press has a shocking report on Barack Obama's state legislative record, though the AP's Nedra Pickler does her best to play it down:
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton criticizes rival Barack Obama's record on
abortion rights in a mailing sent to New Hampshire voters.
The mailer says
that seven times during his time in the Illinois state Senate, Obama declined to
take a position on abortion bills, while Clinton has been a defender of abortion
During his eight years in the legislature, Obama cast a number of
votes on abortion and received a 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned
Parenthood Council for his support of abortion rights, family planning services
and health insurance coverage for female contraceptives. He voted against
requiring medical care for aborted fetuses who survive, a vote that especially
riled abortion opponents.

There is a word in English for "aborted fetuses who survive." They are called infants."


Here's a good link from the Chigaco Sun-Times about that 2001 bill:

"Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago), who voted against O'Malley's abortion bills, predicted they would be struck down by a federal court if they became state law.

'Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by
the equal protection clause or other elements of the Constitution, we're saying
they are persons entitled to the kinds of protections provided to a child, a
9-month-old child delivered to term," he said. "That determination then
essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take

It's a magical thing of his, that "pre-viable fetus" ontologic wand-- wave it over the head of a (living) baby who's undesirable and you can follow closely thereafter with a vacuum to its brains.


Utterly Random Thoughts

--Am I the only person who couldn't care less whether or not those dudes "taunted" that tiger in San Fran? I mean, sure, there should be a FAQ somewhere deep in their heads that says "Should I taunt a wild beast? No.", but that's not the point at all. No matter what you do in a zoo, the animals shouldn't be able to get out of their cages to kill you. Is that too much to ask?

--There's been a rash of good songs on commercials lately, and it's kinda weirding me out-- Stephen Merritt for Volvo, The Shins on McDonalds, The Books with Hummer.. what's going on? Has Madison Avenue been paved into the last of the sacred places?

--Forgive me for not believing that Hillary's near-tears were the least bit real yesterday. I know, I know, that's just the cynicism that's the metathreat in Barrack Obama's America, but it's just a bit too convenient that she'd well up today after, what, 60 years?

--I can't believe what I just heard. I was at a training workshop for our new web-based evaluation process at work when after showing us where the "spell check" was, the lady doing the demo said, "And this is the 'PC button'; language which may not be PC might've been used in your review, and this button will make you aware of that." I didn't realize that my company's a wholly-owned subsidiary of Russia..

--Given the tragic turn in the case of the missing female hiker in Georgia and the story's proximity to the Appalachian Trail, I wonder if any people planning solo thru-hike attempts will be scared out of attempting the same this year (especially females). That would perfectly understandable on an emotional level, but on the statistical one they'd actually be safer on the AT than in whatever average-sized city they live in now. It's true.

--Does anybody actually give a single hoot whether Bloomberg is going to join the presidential race? And what need does he even think exists which is presently going unmet-- a Giuliani with more hair and less wives?


Does anybody have Josh Locy's email address.. probably at gmail? I have his old hotmail address but I doubt he checks that cus hotmail accounts are sooo 2001.

Anyway, I want to express my deepest condolences for his band name being violently taken from him and wantonly used, per this pitchfork review. Unless of course this is his band, in which case, cool!


More Like, No Deal

I guess I'm in the minority when it comes to Huckabee's putative "charm"-- to me it just comes across as raw condescension. Sure he's witty and self-deprecating, but whenever he's laying it on me didactically he gets those wrinkles in his forehead and that look in his eyes as if he'd just given me a Werther's Original.

But more bothersome than that is the fact that, ideologically speaking, he's just another John Edwards, only without the hypocritical stack of millions. Ok, that's not entirely fair-- Mike is firmly against killing babies while Pretty John probably couldn't get enough of it, but still, you know what I mean-- "economically speaking" they're hard to distinguish at a distance.

This is a good piece from today's WSJ:

Mike Huckabee's New Deal
More God, more government.

BY DAVID J. SANDERS Friday, January 4, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST

As Iowa Republicans prepared to caucus yesterday, polls showed Mike Huckabee, the Southern Baptist minister-turned-politician, leading in some polls and placing a close second to Mitt Romney in others. The core of Mr. Huckabee's support, of course, comes from evangelical voters. Couching his policy positions in the language of faith and morality, Mr. Huckabee portrays himself as the dream candidate of the religious right. In October, he boasted to a gathering of conservative Christian activists: "I don't come to you, I come from you." The "language of Zion," he said, was "his mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language." Echoing the Gospels, he told the Des Moines Register editorial board that the essence of what made him tick was: "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." He admitted that his faith shapes his policy, but "if [voters] understand in what way, I think that they will say 'good, that's the kind of policy we would like.' "
But one wonders whether his newfound supporters would really say that if they took a close look at his policies. With increasing frequency, Mr. Huckabee invokes his faith when advocating greater government involvement in just about every aspect of American life. In doing so, Mr. Huckabee has actually answered the prayers of the religious left.

Since John Kerry's defeat in 2004 at the hands of at least a few "values voters," the Democratic Party has been trying to take back God, even launching a Faith in Action initiative at the Democratic National Committee. Meanwhile, a small but organized group of liberal religious leaders and faith-based political activists has been trying to convey the message that, as one recent book had it, "Jesus rode a donkey." They argue that increasing the government's role in the fight against global warming, poverty and economic inequality is a biblical imperative. They usually de-emphasize the importance of abortion and gay marriage in their agendas, lest they offend the secularist wing of the party.
Democrats have made some inroads with evangelical voters. A recent Pew poll showed that the percentage of Americans who see the party as friendly to religion has increased to 30% from 26% since 2006. But no one has articulated the message of the religious left more effectively than Mr. Huckabee.
In August, he told a group of Washington reporters that the application of his faith to politics must include concerns for the environment, poverty and hunger. "It can't just be about abortions and same-sex marriage," he said. "We can't ignore that there are kids every day in this country that literally don't have enough food and adequate drinking water in America."
As governor, he championed the ARKids First, which extended free health insurance not only to children of the working poor but to some lower middle-class families. He pleased teachers unions with his consistent opposition to school choice and voucher programs. He satisfied labor by signing into law a minimum-wage hike of 21%. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me"--Mr. Huckabee's oft-cited scriptural justification for growing government--proved costly for Arkansans, who saw government spending double and their taxes rise about a half-billion dollars during his tenure.
It's unlikely that Mr. Huckabee, as president, would be able to shepherd a federal marriage amendment through the House, the Senate and the state legislatures, but signing into law a cap-and-trade system ostensibly aimed at limiting global warming (something he has called a "moral issue") would be much easier. If he wanted to push protectionist "fair trade" policies and a greater federal government role in health care, a Democratic Congress would be more than willing to let him live out his faith on the taxpayers' dime.

Looking at the past 30 years of American politics, many on the religious right reasonably assume that candidates who speak openly about their faith are conservatives, but that hasn't always been the case. Jimmy Carter is the most prominent recent example of left-leaning piety. The author Gary Scott Smith, in "Faith and the Presidency," reminds us that President Franklin D. Roosevelt even offered scriptural justification for the New Deal.
Speaking to the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, in 1933, FDR explained that the "object of all our striving . . . should be to help citizens realize the abundant life Christ said he came to bring." According to Mr. Smith, "Roosevelt wanted to ensure that 'all elements of the community' had an equitable share of the nation's resources. The federal government's social planning, he contended, was 'wholly in accord with the social teachings of Christianity.' " It is not hard to imagine Mr. Huckabee--standing at a podium in the Rose Garden to announce a raft of government programs--talking in exactly this way.

Mr. Sanders is a columnist for Stephens Media in Little Rock, Ark.

Sad, but Unfortunately Necessary

To all my Liberal friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.

To everyone else:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

[Adapted from an email forward from my mom.]

Ishmael? I Thought it was Isaac!

Learned something new today. My co-worker friend in Islamabad sent me a wikipedia link explaining why they will be out of the office near Christmastime-- Eid ul-Adha. So being the fair-minded and respectful citizen of the world that I am I clicked open the url to see what it is they'd be celebrating, and right there, first sentence in, I learned that Islam believes Ishmael was actually the son that Abraham was called on to sacrifice.


[And here's some further discussion I had with that friend:]
"Thanks for the link... I never knew that Islam believes Ishmael to be the son that Abraham was called on to sacrifice. Very interesting!"
"Yes, Abraham was a Messenger of God & since he was so pious & close to God that He decided to test Abraham of his greatness. Abraham got indications in dream that God has ordered him to sacrifice his most loving son. He told his son the whole story & his son accepted his fathers order being the order of God ultimately.

When Abraham was closed his eyes & was done with having a sharp knife over his son & then opened his eyes, he saw that it was just a sheep that was sacrificed & his son was sitting aside safely. God just wanted to test Abraham's nerves & he totally fit to that.



Criminals: Putting the "Gun" in "Gun-Free Zones"

As tragic as this latest outrage is, there definitely appears to be a pattern emerging-- namely, that somehow all of these mass, public killings are happening in "Gun-Free Zones." I guess if someone has already committed himself to breaking our laws against murder, he's probably not going to be deterred by these feel-good little signs.

The invaluable John Lott has some excellent thoughts here and here, and Glenn Reynolds there.

And perhaps this would be a good time to link to the recent discussion of the SCOTUS taking on the DC gun ban case. I know this particular news is bit stale and that talking about things that are older than 6 minutes is sooo "print," but this stuff deserves some airtime:

"Guns and the Constitution," -- WSJ; "Second Amendment Showdown," -- WSJ; USA Today poll.


E = MC Hammer

Just checking in for a minute to let you know that I'm thinking of you. Hope all is well.

Also wanted to say that I've got a handful of mediocre posts coming up, so don't bail on me just yet: Ron Paul (my brief conversation with and a video of), Hirsi Ali's scandalous (but true?) comments on Islam, Chick-Fil-A's response, my $25 to iTunes, etc..



Intemperate Thoughts on Global Warming

-- I keep seeing "green" issues of this and that outdoor magazine. But if they really wanted to save the environment, they should do a "green nonissue" and go a month without printing millions of magazine pages (which are mostly ads anyway).

-- People creep me out by how emotional they get about Priuses. Promise you bro, those extra couple MPGs really aren't the meaning of life.

-- Forgive me if I don't trust a single word Newsweek has to say on the subject considering their not-too-distant cool-mongering. And anyway, if they really were so hot and bothered about global cooling thirty years ago, wouldn't the advent of warming be an answer to prayer? In other words, shouldn't the effects of this warming trend be welcomed with grateful relief as being the noncatastrophic solution to our parents' worst fears?

-- Read the Copenhagen Consensus 2004, do the cost/benefit, and then try and tell me with a straight face that spending trillions (with a "t") to gain a couple degrees over the next 100 years is not absurd.

-- The hypocrisy of the mansion-owning, motorcade-driving, private-jet-flying Reverends of Climatology really pisses me off. I'll listen to their breathless warnings when they start to live like they really believe it. (And anyway, there's not much more I could personally be doing as it is- I recycle, use those fancy light bulbs, share 800 square feet and a 40mpg car with my wife and baby, and walk to work. And funnily enough, I somehow do all of that without taxing you to death or regulating the hell out of your business.)

-- Carbon offsetting is a joke. But Tetzel would be proud.

-- Read Scrappleface.

-- And Steyn:

"A COUPLE of days before Al Gore was awarded his Nobel Peace prize, Michael Burton, an English High Court judge and apparently a fine film critic, ruled that Al's Oscar-winner An Inconvenient Truth was prone to "alarmism and exaggeration" and identified nine major factual errors.
For example, the former vice-president predicts a rise in sea levels of 6m "in the near future". "The Armageddon scenario he predicts," declared Burton, "is not in line with the scientific consensus."
I'll say. The so-called scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests rising sea levels across the next century of somewhere between 15cm and 60cm, with about 30cm being most likely. An Inconvenient Truth insouciantly adds a zero to the worst-case scenario.
And nobody minds. His Honour was examining the vice-president's acclaimed crockumentary because the British Government, in its wisdom, has decided to force-feed it to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. It would be nice to think it would have to be preceded by a warning that any resemblance between this film and any actual planet living or dead is entirely coincidental, but it seems more likely that the Nobel Peace imprimatur will completely insulate the picture from even the most modest quibbles.

[...] That's where Gore comes in. No matter how you raise the stakes ("It might take another 30 Kyotos", says Jerry Mahlman of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research), Saint Al of the Ecopalypse can raise them higher. Climate change, he says, is the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced. Ever. And not just humankind, but alienkind, too. "We are," warns Gore, "altering the balance of energy between our planet and the rest of the universe".
Wow. It's not just the Maldive Islands, but the balance of energy between Earth and the rest of the universe. You wouldn't happen to have the stats on that, would you? Universal "balance of energy" graphs for 1940 and 1873? Gore is the logical reductio of what the popular Australian blogger Tim Blair calls global warm-mongering: Worst-case scenario, with all the zeroes you want on the end, and then a few more for holes in the ozone layer as yet undreamt of. Anyone can, as the environmentalists advise, think globally and act locally, but only Gore thinks cosmically and acts not at all.
[...] Well, the average US household consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In 2006, the Gores wolfed down nearly 221,000kWh.
221,000kWh? What's he doing in there? As his spokesperson explained it, his high energy usage derives from his brave calls for low energy usage. He's burning up all that electricity by sending out faxes every couple of minutes urging you wastrels to use less electricity. Insofar as he's made any contribution to global peace, it's in persuading large swaths of a narcissistic Western world to busy itself with non-solutions to pseudo-crises to such a distracting degree that al-Qa'ida may wind up imposing the global caliphate without having to fire a shot."


Clint Hurdle, Then and Now

That's Clint Hurdle, circa 1992, giving yours burly the "Best All-Around Player" award at a week-long baseball camp. I was amped for years after that, no lie. Still am, kinda. Now he's coaching the NLCS champ contender Colorado Rockies, and there's a special place in my heart that's rooting for him and his team.


Our Father Francis

Today is the 781st anniversary of the death of St. Francis. (The Saint you may remember from such films as, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.)

"Born in 1182 the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, Francis was a restless and searching young adult in the year 1205. He had tried his father's business but found the shop too confining and the profits too closed to the poor. He was the leader of Assisi's youth and their most attractive suitor, but he yearned for a different love. He sought the glories of war, but a dream in the night told him to return home and await what God would reveal to him.
For several years Francis searched the Scriptures, talked with friends and spiritual advisors, and prayed long hours in churches, woods and caves listening to God's call and purpose for his life. Then one day in the church of San Damiano, a chapel right outside of Assisi, he heard the invitation of Jesus: "Francis, go rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruins." "Yes!" said Francis. "This is what I want, this is what I long for with all my heart."
With that he gathered a group of brothers, gave them a few Gospel texts for their rule of life, and sent them out like the disciples of Jesus to live and announce the Good News of God's love.
In the year 1209, after several years of preaching, Francis and eleven companions went to Rome to obtain permission for their new way of life in the Church. While Pope Innocent III worried that their poverty was too radical, the brothers prevailed upon the Holy Father simply to allow them to live the Gospel, taking "nothing for their journey" and trusting in God's love and care for them. Thus Francis and the new community began to "poor follow the poor Christ."
Francis named the new community the Order of Friars Minor, because he wanted them to be "lesser brothers" in their relationship to God, to one another, to the Church. They were not to be as the "majores," the wealthy and influential ones in society, but "minores," the servants of the rest. Thus brotherhood and minority became unique and key elements of Franciscan religious life throughout history.
From the beginning, the membership of the Order included both brothers and priests, and the works of the community were multiple and varied. Friars preached and taught, begged and did manual labor, cared for the sick brothers as well as lepers. Francis said that the brothers should do whatever work God gave them the grace to do, as long as they maintained a spirit of prayer and humility in all their activities.
During his life Francis also assisted St. Clare of Assisi in establishing the Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano, or Poor Clares. These followers of St. Clare are cloistered sisters who live in community, poverty and contemplative prayer, fulfilling their mission of seeking prayerful union with God and interceding for the needs of the church and world. In addition, Francis began in the year 1213 a community of Secular Franciscans, formerly called the "Third Order of St. Francis." The Secular Franciscan Order is an order of lay people, married and single, who follow the Gospel spirituality of St. Francis and support one another in faith and prayer for their everyday work and family lives in the world.
Between 1223 and his death on October 3, 1226, Francis' body was sick and frail but his spirit soared to the heights of mystical love and union with Christ. At Christmas 1223 he celebrated the birth of Jesus in an outdoor pageant and Mass in the village of Greccio, thus giving to the Christian world ever since the Christmas crib or crĂȘche. The following year, in September 1224, Francis while absorbed in contemplation on Mt. LaVerna received the Stigmata, the wounds of Christ in his hands and feet and side. It is from these years of deep union with God and the Crucified Christ that come Francis' most beautiful prayers, including the Praises of God and the Canticle of Brother Sun and his testament."

Women Drivers of the Year



I'm on a 10 minute break from "Management and Leadership Training," so I thought what better way to spend it than to post one of the more classic scenes from The Office (UK version, obviously. Are you serious?).


The Daily Bread of Love

"Another secret of happiness in married life is courtesy. By what law of nature or life is it that after the peals of the wedding bells have died away, and they have established themselves in their own home, so many husbands and wives drop the charming little amenities and refinements or manner toward each other that so invariably and delightfully characterized their intercourse before marriage? Is there no necessity for these civilities any longer? Are they so sure now of each other’s love that they do not need to give expression to it, either in affectionate word or act? Is wedded love such a strong, vigorous, and self-sufficing entity that it never needs sunshine, rain, or dew? Is politeness merely a manner that is necessary in intercourse with the outside world, and not required when we are alone with those we love best? Are hearts so peculiarly constituted that they are not pained or offended by things that would never be pardoned in us if done in ordinary society? Are we under no obligations to be respectful and to pay homage to our dearest friends, while even to the rudest or the veriest stranger we meet outside our own doors we feel ourselves bound to show the most perfect civility?

On the contrary, there is no place in the world where the amenities of courtesy should be so carefully maintained as in the home. There are no hearts that hunger so for expressions of affection as the hearts of which we are most sure. There is no love that so needs its daily bread as the love that is strongest and holiest. There is no place where rudeness and incivility is so unpardonable as inside our own doors and toward our best beloved. The tenderer the love and the truer, the more it craves the thousand little attentions and kindnesses which so satisfy the heart. It is not costly presents at Christmas and on birthdays and anniversaries that are wanted; these are only mockeries if the days between are empty of affectionate expressions. Jewelry and silks and richly bound volumes will never atone for the want of warmth and tenderness. Between husband and wife there should be maintained without break or pause, the most perfect courtesy, the gentleness attention, the most unselfish amiability, the utmost affectionateness. Coleridge says: ‘The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions, the little soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals of pleasurable thought and genial feeling.’ These may seem trifles, and the omission of them may be deemed unworthy of thought; but they are the daily bread of love, and hearts go hungry when they are omitted. It may be only carelessness at first in a busy husband or a weary wife that fails in these small, sweet courtesies, and it may seem a little matter, but in the end the result may be a growing far apart of two lives which might have been for ever very happy in each other had their early love but been cherished and nourished."

--J.R. Miller, Home-Making


Sacrifice: It Just Looks Better on Others

White House hopeful John Edwards has apparently decided that you need to start carrying your weight:

"Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told a labor group he would ask Americans to make a big sacrifice: their sport utility vehicles. The former North Carolina senator told a forum by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, yesterday he thinks Americans are willing to sacrifice. Edwards says Americans should be asked to drive more fuel efficient vehicles. He says he would ask them to give up SUVs."

No word yet on what he wants you do with your 28,000 square foot mansion and all the energy that it takes to power it. Oh wait, nevermind,.. that's his. So it's cool.

What Happens in Nashville...

... Gets turned into a country song and told to millions of hicks worldwide.

I'm sorry, that wasn't very nice-- the rest of the world doesn't listen to that stuff. So yeah, this humble-og has been decidely unburled lately, and for that I do apologize. As you can see we went to Nashville for a little while to help a friend move, so it's in that spirit that I'll drop a couple of my favorite Nash-related things:

--Dave Ramsey
--Varsity Internship Program
--George Grant
--David Dark

As for David Dark, he recently wrote a piece on Arcade Fire for Books & Culture that I thought was a good read. And he's a fan of Tom Waits, so you can trust his opinion.


He Who Endures to the End Shall Be Saved

Kind friends, I hope you will celebrate with me today as it is the 4 year anniversary of the completion of my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. It probably goes without saying that it was an amazing experience, and half a decade on I still don't know how to adequately summarize it. (Indeed, in pure "joy is in the journey" fashion, I never journaled about my Katahdin summiting or attempted to pen meta-thoughts on the walk, because I knew I could do justice to neither.) So, though I won't wax philosophical about it all, I will bust out some dirty stats:

(10) Bear sightings

(26) Snakes, (1) face-to-face after tripping over a rock

(2,175.5) Miles hiked, from Springer Mountain Georgia to Mount Katahdin Maine

(1) Bout with Giardia

(6) Days off because of it

(0) Linear inches of official white-blazed trail skipped

(28) Days of rain in May

(dozens) Shin splints, cuts, scrapes, bruises, etc.

(40) Miles on Mothers Day, to get to the next town to call Mom

(10:15) The time at night I arrived there
(9) Days of hiking with my dad

(1) Psycho threatening to bash people with tent poles in the Maine woods

(100,000+) White-blaze route markers passed. Kissing the very last one in the photo above

(4) Pairs of shoes

(10lbs) Weight of backpack-- including everything except food and water

(6,000) Calories consumed per day
(1) Magical, life changing moment in Front Royal, Va (although unbeknownst to me at the time)

(14) State lines crossed

(many) Homesick nights

(100s) Of friends made

(1) Textbook anti-lightning positions assumed

(5,000,000) Steps

($2,500) Dollars spent on food, occasional hostels, more food, etc.

(3) Weak moments of truly hoping to break my leg so I could go home without being a quitter

(10) Days spent just chillaxin' somewhere

(1) Large peperonni pizza, easily consumed, whenever I could find a Pizza Hut

(loads) Of instances of Trail Magic-- displays of charity towards hikers by townspeople

(1) Times serendipitously receiving Trail Magic from a former hiker who'd received it from me years before

(1) Online photojournal in the works

(100s) More stories

(1) Heck of a time.

To borrow from St. John, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit-- "There are also many other things that [happened on that Blessed Path]. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

They Put the UN in Funeral

"Four years, 200,000 dead and two million displaced people later, the United Nations has finally authorized a peacekeeping contingent for Sudan's Darfur region. Good intentions and eternal hope aside, this latest mission looks ready-made to continue the U.N.'s sorry record on stopping Genocide.
The 26,000 troops-- a combination of the current 7,000-strong African Union force and a new U.N. brigade-- will be stretched to cover an area the size of France. But the bigger handicap of the "hybrid" force is its mandate, watered down by China and Russia, which blocked tougher action. This is what happens when "consensus" is given higher priority than achieving actual security on the ground.
The resolution approved Tuesday by a unanimous vote of the Security Council goes out of its way to respect Sudanese sovereignty. Fine as that goes, except that Khartoum has consistently invoked "sovereignty" to prevent peacekeepers from interfering in the mass murder of Darfur's black Africans. The composition of the force itself will be done "in consultation" with Sudan, which has insisted that it stay strictly African-- a limitation that, if accepted, would ensure that troops will be difficult to mobilize. African countries have hesitated to fill out the ranks of other African Union missions, and the first troop offers yesterday came from France, Denmark and Indonesia.
In any case, the troops' ability to use force will be severely limited by another concession to Sudan. The soldiers will not be allowed to seize weapons from the government-supported Janjaweed killers, the Darfur rebels fighting against Khartoum, or other wandering thugs toting guns. Instead, they will "monitor whether any arms or related material are present in Darfur." If they find any? Oh well.
The resolution also removes sticks to get Sudan to cease hostilities and let the U.N. troops and humanitarian groups do their work. As originally worded, backsliding would have triggered the threat of sanctions. No more. China's ambassador to the U.N., Wang Guangya, said the resolution was intended to "authorize the launch of a hybrid operation, rather than exert pressure or impose sanctions," according to a U.N.'s summary of delegations' statements. More accurately, the resolution is intended to suggest the U.N. is finally doing something about Darfur and thus shield China from growing criticism that it is protecting Khartoum. In the 1990s slaughterhouses of Rwanda and Bosnia, the road to genocide was paved by U.N. peacekeepers. Blue helmets armed with weak mandates stood by powerless or were even exploited by the ethnic cleansers to enable their killing sprees. After watching nearly a million Rwandans murdered in 1994, the West realized that the U.N. mission in Bosnia was also doomed to failure. NATO countries finally stepped in to stop Bosnia's war with the credible use of force and diplomatic pressure.
Now the same U.N. mistakes may be repeated in Sudan. Khartoum won't tolerate a potent force in the absence of outside pressure-- and China and Russia won't permit the U.N. to apply that pressure. Liberal moralists calling on the world to "do something" in Sudan while also putting faith in the U.N. above all else need to face up to this contradiction. Otherwise, there will be more Rwandas, and Darfurs."
--Wall Street Journal Editorial, August 2, 2007


Burly and Banks

He Is the Good Shepherd

1The word of the LORD came to me: 2"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds
of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord
GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not
shepherds feed the sheep? 3You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool,
you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4The weak you have
not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound
up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and
with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5So they were scattered, because
there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6My sheep
were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My
sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek
for them.

--Ezekiel 34:1-6
1"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the
sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a
robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the
gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name
and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them,
and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not
follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of
strangers." 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not
understand what he was saying to them.
7So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to
them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in
and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and
not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the
sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees
because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good
shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and
I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
--St. John 10:1-15

Rawls, Rawls, Rawls Your Boat

From James Taranto's Best of the Web:

"Another letter to the editor in Saturday's Journal struck us as relevant to this debate. It came from Bruce Paulsen of New York (first letter; links for subscribers):

David Lewis Schaefer's opinion piece on John Rawls ("Justice and
," July 23) reminded me of an epiphany I had in college in the
late '70s. Then, as now, social justice and inequality were big topics on
campus. The conventional wisdom was that Rawls was right, that his nemesis
Robert Nozick was wrong and that "justice as fairness" was the goal to be
pursued. I proudly carried my thick, dog-eared copy of Rawls's "A Theory of
Justice" under my arm.

Then, in an ethics class taught by a well-known professor, I was asked
to write a paper on the lifeboat scenario--a thought experiment involving an
overcrowded lifeboat entering a storm, where it is clear that not all will
survive. A dedicated Rawlsian at the time, I decided to apply his theories to
the assigned situation. But no matter how I construed them, his theories kept
leading me to the conclusion that the only "fair" result was that everyone in
the lifeboat had to die. Even as a young, liberal college student, this struck
me as an unacceptable result.

Thereafter, I spent less time lugging around Rawls's volume, and looked
for a more practical philosophy.

What prompted our July 26 op-ed was Barack Obama's statement that he favored an American retreat from Iraq even if the result would be genocide:

'Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the
deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops
in the Congo right now--where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of
ethnic strife--which we haven't done," Mr. Obama told the AP. "We would be
deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of
us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea.'
This sounds an awful lot like Paulsen's collegiate application of Rawls to the lifeboat scenario. Obama finished college nearly a quarter century ago. Shouldn't he have started looking for a more practical philosophy by now?"


Free Tibet! But Not Really!

"Every so often, I find myself, for the umpteenth time, driving behind a Vermont granolamobile whose bumper not only proclaims the driver’s enduring post-2004 support for Kerry/Edwards but also bears the slogan 'FREE TIBET.'
It must be great to be the guy with the printing contract for the 'FREE TIBET' stickers. Not so good to be the guy back in Tibet wondering when the freeing thereof will actually get under way. Are you in favor of a Free Tibet? It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t. […]"

"Everyone’s for a free Tibet, but no one’s for freeing Tibet. So Tibet will stay unfree—as unfree now as it was when the first Free Tibet campaigner slapped the very first 'FREE TIBET' sticker onto the back of his Edsel. Idealism as inertia is the hallmark of the movement. Well, not entirely inertia: it must be a pain in the neck when you trade in the Volvo for a Subaru and have to bend down and paste on a new 'FREE TIBET' sticker. For a while, my otherwise not terribly political wife got extremely irritated by the Free Tibet schtick, demanding to know at a pancake breakfast at the local church what precisely some harmless hippy-dippy old neighbor of ours meant by the sticker he’d been proudly displaying decade in, decade out: 'But what exactly are you doing to free Tibet?' she insisted. 'You’re not doing anything, are you?'"

"'Give the guy a break,' I said when we got back home. 'He’s advertising his moral superiority, not calling for action. If Rumsfeld were to say, ‘Free Tibet? Jiminy, what a swell idea! The Third Infantry Division goes in on Thursday,’ the bumper-sticker crowd would be aghast. They’d have to bend down and peel off the ‘FREE TIBET’ stickers and replace them with ‘WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER.’”

"But there’ll never be a Free Tibet—because, through all the decades Americans were riding around with the bumper stickers, the Chinese were moving populations, torturing Tibetans, imposing inter-marriage until Tibet was altered beyond recognition. By the time the guys with the Free Tibet stickers get around to freeing Tibet there’ll be no Tibet left to free."

--Mark Steyn, America Alone, pp.131-132.


I'm Your Huckleberry

"He also said you shaved your beard and now have a curled up HANDLEBAR moustache!!!! Now, I am going to weigh in.....I'm your mom and I like to see my son looking his best................not a freak from Tombstone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
My humble look so handsome with short stubble on the head and a days stubble on the face or shaved face.................seriously, I'm telling you the complete truth and nothing but the help me God."


Spot the Nut

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government"
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good"
-- George Washington

[W]hat country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that his people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Col. William S. Smith, 1787

“I’ll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help. I think he just made an admission against self-interest. I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun. I’m being serious."
--Senator Joe Biden, in response to a question on gun control at the CNN/YouTube debate

False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.
-- Cesare Beccaria, as quoted by Thomas Jefferson's Commonplace book

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
-- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

"As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives [only] moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion to your walks."
-- Thomas Jefferson, writing to his teenaged nephew.


Save Darfur! But Not Yet!

Watching the Democratic CNN/YouTube Presidential debate tonight, I can't help but get the distinct impression that these candidates get all hot and bothered by talking about thinking about starting to draft plans to begin conversations to solve the pressing issues of our day, but God forbid something actually gets done for a change.

Take Darfur as a case in point. One of them-- I think it was Senator Dodd-- went so far as to actually classify the atrocities correctly as genocide, but then he immediately followed this grotesque reality with lightweight niceties like "sanctions" being the solution. Yep, nothing coaxes murderous gangs out of their evil like a little economic hardship. This and all the other high and brave rhetoric about getting the U.N. and China involved and restoring America's "moral superiority" in the world such that Africa "wants us" to come help sounds so perfectly like the ineffectual rubbish that's being presently pitched as pop-solutions by the American Idol set.

Indeed, Green Day saw it as a grand display of activism to play some absurd John Lennon song on Idol that would rouse the masses to stand in solidarity against the carnage; well, not to actually stand, but to at least sign a statement at that says "My Name is ___, and as a citizen of the world I demand an end to the killing and mass atrocities in Darfur, Sudan," but in all caps to communicate just how strongly this online petition disapproves of such unenlightened behavior. But like Mark Steyn said somewhere regarding the U.N.'s "grave concern" about Darfur-- "That and $4.95 will get you a decaf latte. Ask the folks in Darfur what they've got to show for years of the U.N.'s "grave concerns" -- heavy on the graves, less so on the concern."

Michael Ledeen gets all of this exactly right:

On a hot sabbath, I am prompted to say that Darfur is a catastrophe that could and should be solved in an hour or so. The killers largely operate from helicopters and small fixed wing aircraft. We could destroy them all in an hour or so. But that would be "wrong," because it would violate the current hymnal.
Go tell the victims. Explain why sanctions are better, because it makes the Western politicians feel pious. Even though black Africans are being slaughtered. And while you're at it, tell the starving people of Zimbabwe why their killer and oppressor, Robert Mugabe, is left untouched by the entire outside world. Explain why St Nelson Mandela doesn't give a damn, while you're at it.
The Middle East is tough. These African horrors are relatively easy to fix. But nobody does a damn thing except talk about sanctions...and then largely fail to enact and/or enforce them.
When did Western leaders become vulgar Marxists? These evils do not have economic causes and are unlikely to be defeated by economic means (remember the Iraqi sanctions?). They have political causes and can be defeated by superior fire power.
Somebody? Anybody?

And Steyn, in response to this observation, also bemoans the impotent-yet-culturally-aware inanities being proffered:

Michael Ledeen's Darfur post from yesterday has stuck in my mind all day. It's one of the saddest things I've read on this site, and it's entirely correct: the killers largely operate from helicopters and small fixed wing aircraft. We could destroy them all in an hour or so. But that would be "wrong," because it would violate the current hymnal.
Go tell the victims. Explain why sanctions are better, because it makes the Western politicians feel pious. Recently I interviewed Don Cheadle, who starred in that marvelous film Hotel Rwanda a year or two back. He's now written a book about Darfur. Very nice fellow. But he doesn't seem to appreciate that the big lesson of Rwanda is that the thugs understand very clearly that whenever the west starts working through the UN it sends the message: We're not serious.
Indeed, we're so unserious we're going to "solve" this problem through a process which gives mass murderers the one thing you need if you want to kill hundreds of thousands of people - time.
So Cheadle's book proposes all kinds of things you the citizen can do for Darfur - write your Congressman, send a letter to the local paper, etc. There's a lot of it about. A week or two back, the following caught my eye:
On Sunday, April 29, Salt Lake Saves Darfur invites the greater Salt Lake community of compassion to join with us as we honor the fallen and suffering Darfuris in a day of films, discussion and dance with a Sudanese dance troupe.
Very nice. But wouldn't it make more sense to try the Ledeen solution and save the Sudanese dance troupe for the post-victory party? "Salt Lake Saves Darfur" looks like doing wonders for "the greater Salt Lake community of compassion" but rather less for the people of Darfur. There is a grotesque narcissism in the determination of the Save Darfur campaign to embrace every strategy except the one that would actually save Darfur while there's anyone still left to save. The reality seems to be that these groups prefer to go the ineffectual dance-troupe route because it makes them - the "community of compassion" - the focus of things.

In any event, I'm still curious as to how exactly it's so easily assumed to be an unequivocally good and self-evident moral imperative for the U.S. to "get involved" in Darfur when to do so elsewhere is breathlessly decried as "imperialism" and "blood for oil" and whatnot. Why, for example, is Christopher Hitchens shouted down as a neocon for making a moral argument for intervention in Iraq when to make the same argument in favor of the Darfuris is de rigeur?


The Deepest Offense

I was recently accused of being a hippie.

A couple weeks ago as we were driving back from my family reunion down South, we found ourselves in the thick of post-hippy-fest traffic. Pulling up to the drive-through window at a Starbucks on I-81 North, the attendant saw my beard and thought she could peg me- "Ya'll coming back from Bonaroo?"

"No," I said flatly, but with a gentle smile that admitted fault for giving such an appearance of evil.


I Am In Constant Pain

I am in constant pain; I am always hungry; I am never clean; I can never have whatever it is I want; the wind is always against me; I am in constant pain. Now you’re expecting me to do the X-treme Gen-X thing and end with “…and I love it!”, but I can’t. I don’t “love” this. There are very senses in which I am “enjoying” this, and virtually none in which I’m having “fun.” But it is a challenge and doubtless a life experience, so I will continue to drag myself uphill and North along this white-blazed straight and narrow until torn ligaments send me home.

I must not dishonor the family name.

Gosh,.. here I am getting all cute and quasi-positive when I really just wanted to complain. I felt like rubbish at the end of a girlie 20 miler, and mentally I was out of it even though it was a right pretty day. And it still feels like there’s no end to this thing. Well there is, but it’s all the way in Maine.

See What Living Like This Does To You?

… I had the Bo Jackson hip flexor thing going on with my left side today, which interests me. My right shin only hurt a little though. I guess at this point it’s not if you’re in pain but how much and where. So it was good to remember the words of [local legend skater] Craig Cassell-- “I don’t like the idea of my body telling me what I can or can’t do.”

I say that my stay in Kent [CT] was only “fair” because it was not without its disappointment. I did 30 [miles] yesterday and got there at 5pm, and I went to the hostel straightway to see what the deal was but I could find noone. Seeing that my knocks on the various doors were finding no purchase, a man looking not unlike G. Gordon Liddy came to help. It turns out that he goes there [it’s a church], though he says things like “I was thanking the Lord that I got the damn thing started.” It is an Episcopal church. So he wants to hike the trail when he retires in a couple years, and since he liked talking to us he invited Ranger Rick and me to shower and launder at his place and then go out to eat. This is all well and good, but you have to understand that heretofore it had been a crappy day and all I wanted in town was to get Oreos and milk and to sit down and read. That and that alone was my reason to keep moving, keep taking that next step.

You’ve already figured out what happened.

By the time we got done with all those things everything was closed and I couldn’t get my Oreos and milk. It put me in such a bad mood that I didn’t even call home. See what living like this does to you? It makes you want and crave the simplest things, and it makes you inordinately upset if you don’t get them-- so upset that you don’t even want to call home.

Seeking the Angelic Loaf

...These states coming up-- NJ and NY-- are all about urban sprawl and domesticity. This is of course a double-edged sword, so I shall wield it with due caution.

… This is certainly a first on this hike, and I don’t think I like it one bit; the contrast is quickly becoming too much for my thinning frame to handle. I’m talking about the fact that “trail towns” now consist of car audio stores and shopping malls filled with “Fashizzles,” and are populated by dudes who park their decaled and foreign cars at angles across four spaces and chicks who wear jerseys and gel their bangs. No good.

… [While staying at the famed Graymoor Spiritual Life Center] I would love to be able to say “Graymoor… Monastery,” but I guess even that taxanomic anti-climax is fitting. See, I’ve been anxiously awaiting this day for years (which is plenty of time to form grandiose expectations), and yet here I am walking away without even an AYCE* dinner, much less a frock or the stigmata. I did get to converse with Fr. Fred, but it bummed me out that he was in street clothes instead of a totally sweet brown habit. But he did say that this place was but a “twig” on the Franciscan tree, so I suppose I’ll have to journey towards the trunk for the real experience. (And the tuniced friar minor will open the door thinking that I’m in need of bread, but I will say, “Truly, I come seeking that angelic loaf which does not spoil,” and he’ll let me in, and I’ll get stigmata.)
So after spending two hours in the bookstore reading and drinking coffee (which was great), I’m out here camping on the ballfield. Today was pretty fascinating in that I got to cross the Hudson river and walk through a zoo—the animal and people kind. The trail weaves along-side the Hessian lake, which is apparently where all the very “New York” people go on sunny weekends to grill out and braid each other’s hair. Then, as if to legislate a rudimentary knowledge of “nature” and “the outdoors,” the park path and trail runs directly through an actual zoo.
It was neat, but I felt so guilty walking through there because I knew those caged animals could see and smell in me that wilds-borne freedom for which they so deeply longed. One mom was amazed as she watched a coyote track me along the length of the sidewalk, and when she pointed it out I looked and could see that burning desire in his eyes—the kind that cries, “take me with you.” But I couldn’t, because most hostels don’t allow coyotes.


… I’m daily experiencing as stark reality the inexorable march of time; every day is the same, and the unchanging background of trees serves to dimensionalize this fact. If I get bummed about walking so much—meaning, the fact that I’m out here instead of sitting somewhere with friends, being dry—all I have to do is remember that if I just keep walking eventually I’ll get somewhere and it’ll get dark and I’ll sleep, and then I’ll wake up one day and that many miles closer to sitting at home with friends, being dry.


Not Exactly Helping the Homeschool Cause

Spec'ing Out A Morality In Their Moleskins

I had the recent pleasure of a hearty exchange with the fearless pursuers of truth, in the name of Science and Reason, and all for the sake of the children at renown militant atheist Richard Dawkins's blog. The fun can be had here, with yours burly arriving at the top of page 5.

And heck, while you're at it you might as well go straight to the big leagues and check out Alvin Plantinga's review of Dawkins's recent book, The God Delusion, and also Doug Wilson's razing of the same (start at the bottom).

Oh yeah, and you really should read this online debate between Wilson and Christopher Hitchens, if only to appreciate the prettiness of the pdf (and the ickiness of Hitchens playing dumb). (HT: Phil Gons for the pdf'd version.)


Mud and Bears

[From the journal of my 2003 Appalachian Trail hike, Went, Told It on the Mountain. More to follow.]

Past Mountain Shelter

Q: How many A.D.D kids does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Hey, let's go ride bikes!

With two black eyes Nature's now told me twice. I woke up pissed cus I did it again-- I camped on dirt and it rained and the splatter [into my tarp] got all my stuff muddy. When am I gonna learn? But I guess since I'm here to foster a dependence on skills and knowledge instead of gear that these kinds of experiences are valuable. So I was in a not-so-capital mood to start my rainy 27 mi. day, but as it's happened a few times already I kind of instantaneously snapped out of it-- the wind blew and just carried it away.

But throughout the day I tended towards negative thoughts and more "A-->B" planning, like my actual hiking was just a necessary evil. I wouldn't say I've got the "Virginia Blues" [scroll down slightly], but I am ready to be out of here. The next two months will be cool if only for the fact that I'll be going through a new state every week. Maybe that'll break my mental/spiritual dry-spell that's come of late. It's nothing that's not normal for a thru-hiker-- especially one that's been in nothing but rain-- but still, I feel like I'm falling short in terms of my reason for being here. I don't know.

I saw two bears today at different times. One of 'em was real close to the trail, and when I got close-- about 20 feet-- he tried to run away but he kept slipping on the wet rocks and grunting. Scared, he stopped, turned, looked at me, and then finally managed to run off.

I laughed out loud.

Too Precious

With a baby this precious, I doubt you can blame me for not having been around these parts in a little while. But now that she's napping safely 'neath her Bach-playing mobile animals, I'd just like to thank you kindly for your patience and let you know that I'm back to stay, if you'll have me.

She Is Indeed Wonderfully Made

Please meet our most precious Afton Adele. She was ushered into this world by angels and the OB/GYN at 12:37am on Friday, March 9th, 2007. And as you can see, she is perfect.

This video is set to Nickel Creek's rendition of Robert Burns's Flow Gently Sweet Afton, which is actually about a river. But I'm sure you'll agree that Sweet is Sweet.

Wonderful are the Lord's works; we know it very well.

Forget the Cowbell, You Need More Hair!

Kind reader, I hope you'll allow me to tell you a story. It's kind of a sad story, and I think it's true. And just in case it is, the names involved have been changed to protect the (probably) guilty. It goes something like this...

Last winter, as I was minding mine and my wife's own business on a cold Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from an old friend. Years before, see, this old friend and I used to be in bands that played an awful lot of shows together up and down the East coast, and because of this time together we'd acquired a fair estimation of each other's musical talents and abilities (whatever they might've been at the time). The phone call was due precisely to this shared history, my friend said, because as it turns out they're still a band and they're doing better than ever with a future bright and shiny. "Thing is, well, Karl left the band to pursue other things, and we've always said that if Karl ever quit we would love to call you, so..."

The conversation thus deepened towards specifics and details, and as it turned out their band had gotten signed to a major label and they were about to record their debut album. So, what did I think, and would I be at all interested in coming to check out their new stuff at the 9:15 Club on Saturday? I said "sure" as my head spun at the dramatic implications of this possible and entirely unexpected career-- no life-- change. What about babies? Rent? Would Mrs. Burly come on tour too? Will the music rock or be lame? etc. So Mrs. and I spent many subsequent hours talking about it all and trying to chart the best course through the approaching dawn of this new world. And see, that's just it-- from the very beginning we had simply assumed that, for all intents and purposes, it was our decision to make, because that's just usually the kind of assumption you make when you hear things like "we've always wanted you," "we love your stuff," "you're the best thing that's ever existed."

But nevertheless-- and for historical reasons beyond the skill of my fingers to trace-- I'd had an instinctive concern from the first four minutes of that fated phone call, which was Lead Singer Tad's singular obsession with his fragile mane, and more specifically, his probable horror at discovering my present lack thereof. See, back in our old days, I too was beginning to have challenges of that sort as well, so we used to spend no small amount of time talking about it all. Strategizing and commiserating our respective follicle fates, no option was off the table-- "I use Rogaine every day, you should try it too. It's gotten pretty cheap at Wal-mart." "Yeah. Have you looked into Bosley transplants? They seem legit. My folks will either get me that or a truck." The thing is, while that had most certainly been a shared concern during that time of our lives (what college boy takes baldness with ease?), I had since gone on to accept, nay, embrace my hairless future. But my concern right here and now on the phone was that the Tad I knew would never make such a peace with his.

So we small-talked our way through the rest of the conversation and ended with an expectant "see you Saturday at the 9:15!"

And being the type that doesn't like to spring stuff on people unawares-- and so I wouldn't walk backstage with a pre-emptively sweaty forehead-- I tried to not-so-subtly suggest via emailed photos that I'd long since given up the fight (my forehead always gets sweaty in awkward situations). (And since I know you're a visual learner, I'll give you an image: my appearance is one part Will Oldham, one part Stonewall Jackson, and two parts my parents. It was the trait that I'd acquired from the Good General-- that is, the secession of my hairline-- that, as mentioned, I just knew was gonna turn out to be the real problem.)

So Saturday night finally came and I entered their backstage room cautiously confident, but no sooner than the deep, warm hugs were over Tad was turning the conversation towards containment strategies-- hats and razors and new miracle pills-- and by such a maneuver immediately confirmed my suspicions that this indeed was a problem. Who goes straight to unfortunate-hairline-concealment tactics as the starter conversation when there's years' worth of catching up to be done???

My forehead was sweating.

So shortly later the show ended and we said our goodbyes and said we'd be in touch. Now it is true that I was invited to come back up to town to "jam" on some of their new stuff a couple weeks later, but if my thesis is correct that was merely a goodwill gesture and a concealment tactic in its own right-- "stylistic differences" makes for a much better pretext than does "you're bald." I guess I've already tipped my hand (is it reflecting off my forehead again?); this burgeoning new world went South fast. Feeling the winds blowing that way, I called Tad on my way home from the practice and told him that I didn't want him to feel pressured into giving me special treatment in their replacement search on account of our past, and that I wanted him to make whatever decision that was best for the band. No worries either way.

A long while of unreplied-to emails goes by, and eventually I get the "thanks so much! but no" response that I'd been expecting all along. They just haven't found the perfect fit yet, but they really do appreciate my time. Now, if you've read this far and you still think that I was rebuffed because of a few flubbed notes in practice, well, I don't know what to say. Don't you see? Hair has always been the over-arching concern for Tad, and, contrary to my hopes, they hadn't turned into the kind of band that rejoices in or flaunts its beautiful naturalness (read: indie as heck).

So, at the end of this whole affair all I could do was paraphrase Marx (Groucho, not Richard): I don't ever wanna be in a band that's "too cool" to be bald. They can have their gels and their carefully-messed swoops and their TRL teenage fanclub, and they can all go straight to the hot place.

All the best, guys!

Who's More Grizzled?

You, sir, are extremely grizzled!


The Great Attempt

[Note: If Mark Steyn can shamelessly recycle old material, then I can too. Mrs. The Burly Gates and I just celebrated our second year of marriage, so it is with joy that I submit the courtship/engagement story that I sent around to my friends that were thoroughly in the dark-- which was all of them.]

Well fortunately for all of us the day has finally come that I get to be in one place for more than a few hours and that I get sustained internet connectivity. I think I wrote a sentence or two last week saying that I was on the road playing [__] shows throughout the Northeast and the upper Midwest. Well that all ended Saturday night in Charlotte, NC, and we drove straight back up to VA where I picked up JLB and drove to Baltimore, MD to hop on a 10:30 Sunday morning flight to her hometown of Tulsa, OK. You think you know what 'culture' and 'hip' are, but you don't. Tulsa does. But you are exactly right in deducing that since I'm in her hometown I must be 'meeting the family.' The 2 days here have been really great and I don't think anyone hates me. But all of this is putting the cart before the horse, as it were, since yall are still wondering how we got here to begin with. Oh yeah, when the [___] was in NYC I got to skate through Times Square traffic and I saw Jeff Daniels in a music store and I thanked him for being awesome.


about the Advent of Us. It all started on April 26th, 2002, on a deaf and mute date (not blind, because we'd seen each other before) that our friend KT set us up on. The event was our school's 'Jr/Sr banquet,' and neither of us wanted to go. But we did, and we ended up having a really good time. No big deal. So after that we were nominal friends, hanging out here and there in general friend settings with others like X, Y, Z, etc. After a year of this we had become better friends, naturally. That's when I left to hike the AT. We kept in good touch while I was gone, and I was always really psyched to get postcards and such from her even though we were always 'just friends' (by default- it's not that we'd talked about anything of that nature).

Well she was spending the summer at her stepmom's in N. VA, and she came to hang out with me one night when when I was going through there on the trail. Possibly detecting affections for me that Jenny herself didn't know she had, her stepmom asked her what we were gonna do together, "just sit around giggling and blushing?", which was a prospect that Jenny flatly denied. But then it turned out that night as we were eating at Pizza Hut that in a specific instance Jenny became aware of some form of 'like' or 'love' or desire to be with me, though she very wisely and maturely said or made nothing of this for the 8 months that followed. So we kept keeping in touch throughout the trail and my 2 months at home, mostly through (awesome and cherished) emails and postcards and whatnot. Then when I moved back up I made a weekly habit of hanging out with her and Kristen on Sunday afternoons, since I was commuting back to Lynchburg from Charlottesville for church. Well this whole time- especially through the fall and winter of '03- I knew rationally that she was an amazingly beautiful saint of a woman that I thought would have no reason to be with me. I thought that if somehow she did ever want to be with me, that she would in fact be a perfect wife, mother, and best friend. Then as time went on, I thought that maybe she did want to be with me but a handful of my irrationalities, cynicisms, and hangups were making it impossible for me to act or even to want to act on starting something with her. Sounds kinda fruity, I know. But it's true.

So this is the state we were in from roughly September '03 to February '04- one of a solidly growing and deepening friendship, honestly come by and built on the realities of who and what each of us was as opposed to some false self that was propped up in the name of putting one's 'best foot forward' in that whole silliness called the Dating Game; a state where she liked and wanted to be with me but couldn't tell if I was nice and sweet to her because I liked her too or because I was like that with everybody; a state where I knew she was perfect but yet could not want to be with her; and apparently this was all a state where everyone around us knew we were really into each other and that we would end up together despite the fact that we made no pretenses or airs of being together. I suppose that there was some Spirit among and between Us.

And so Ricardo, knowing all these things, was constantly asking me whether or not Jenny and I had "talked" yet, and I was always saying no but that I wanted to at sometime. I wanted us to talk about whatever it was that was going on because it got to a point where I was definitely sensing this positive vibe between us, and I knew that just going on forever in this state of friends-maybe-hoping-for-more would be unwise and destructive. But I was stalling the conversation because the only outcome I could possibly imagine was one where I affirmed my desire to want to want her, but this self-erected Wall of separation around me was effectively cutting me off from everyone around me- including her. I was at a point where I could not even fathom actually and fully loving someone and pursuing depth and connection and intimacy with anyone. I thought the whole game of Love and Relationships was absurd, and a crutch for weak persons who couldn't 'man up' and go it alone. So given all this, it just didn't make any sense to me to initiate the Talk because that would've just messed up the good, no-nonsense friendship that we had. Plus, we weren't acting or talking like we were anything more anyway, so what's the point and where's the good in making an issue out of a non-issue?

Then came Sunday, February 8th. I was sitting in her living room and listening to her talk to her friend/sister-in-law Ellen about some boy who'd been leading their friend Christen S. on and not telling her his "intentions," and just being generally lame and stuff. Well the whole time Jenny was telling this story I thought she was talking in code to me, trying to communicate to me "hey, you're kinda doing this too." "What are your intentions?" etc. And instantaneously- right then and there, and despite every single (known) dimension of myself which, given even a second to rebut, would've been in vehement opposition- two thoughts, rather Truths, permeated my being as I sat there on her couch: 1) was that I was not leaving that night without talking to her about Us, and 2) that we HAD to be together.

What?! how could those thoughts have possibly arisen from my cold and isolated self? The same self that even that very morning could not imagine the idea of being in a relationship? Given all that was given, Divine Inspiration and Providence is the only possible answer- even down to the fact that what I was interpreting as a pre-planned setting to tell a story "to Ellen" while really telling me in code to tighten up was actually just some innocuous story that Jenny had no idea I was listening to. So that very night at 1:53 am as we were sitting alone at her dining room table I initiated a 2+ hour long conversation in which we affirmed that we both really wanted to make a Great Attempt at togetherness; that W would be our goals and X would be our parameters and Y&Z would be the foundation upon which we would build Us- with Christ as our Cornerstone, to be sure; and that whatever it was exactly that we had and were building, that it was admittedly and desirably serious from the very beginning. We already knew each other in very real, true, and organic ways, so there was no reason be kids about this. Neither of us talked of marriage that night, but we were both thinking it.

"So what about all that rubbish going on inside you?", you ask. Well, that very night, as I left for Charlottesville at 4:30 am, I had an ineffable Peace coursing through my entire person. The whole wall that I'd so carefully built around myself one brick at a time had once and for all been breached by Christ Himself-- and He brought Jenny through with Him. All the hangups and strongholds were gone immediately. Completely. For good. And now in just the same way that I could not even fathom being with her or anyone else, I cannot fathom not being with her, nor can I imagine being with anyone else. The Old Paradox became reality: on that Sunday when Christ pushed me into all of this because He knew that I would not and could not venture in by my own will, when He said "you don't think you want this or can have this, but you do and you can. Deal with it.", when my life was finally laid down to myself, Christ Himself raised it to a glorious resurrection through and with Jenny-Lynn Bragg. I have been Redeemed, and I will say So.

The next two weeks were spent drinking coffee and taking wonderfully long and aimless drives through the countryside and mountains of central Virginia as Jenny and I set off to explore the new frontiers of each other's heart, mind, and soul. It was in this vast expanse of our newfound togetherness that each of us truly took shape and multi-dimension, for we had broken through into a whole new realm of co-existence and connection (metaphysically speaking, that is). So with all this as the context, it only makes sense that what happened next happened next; and so soon.

We were sitting on her couch one night after we'd effectively condensed ages of communication into two weeks (plus two years), and I was singing as true the lyrics to the Beach Boys song: "wouldn't it be nice if we were older / and we wouldn't have to wait so long," when Jenny reminded me that, "well, we are 24," and right then and there the talk became about, well, how long do we have to wait to be married? No hand-wringing or anguish. No years of breaking up and getting back together. No despairing or seasons of trying to "figure things out." No. Nothing but the long, easy road,-- the light burden-- to surefooted Fact. We both just knew. Knew as surely as either of us had ever known anything. And we still do, and we will always choose to. No matter what.

This is the story of our Great Attempt.