Archive for November, 2007

The doctrine of the atonement is quite the hot topic these days.  I just started reading The Great Exchange (a gift from my sister-in-law).  Keep your eyes open for a review.  That and a blogversation with Bert about an old manuscript of mine has me working on a manuscript.  It was on a floppy disk, and a series of files.  So, I’m currently converting it to one file and in a better version of Word (it was originally written on my old Macintosh shortly after seminary).  I’m making some corrections and changing the format some.  And I ran across this by Charles Spurgeon:

“Endeavor to know more and more of Christ Jesus.  Endeavor especially to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ.” 

The best books on my shelf on the topic are:

The Cross in the New Testament by Leon Morris (currently out of print)

The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles by George Smeaton (WTS has it under a different title, but The Great Exchange is patterned after it).

The Atonement by A.A. Hodge (where I first saw the illustration of the aspects of the atonement as a diamond, which my manuscript uses as does The Great Exchange)

The Cross of Christ by John Stott

The Cross by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (haven’t read it yet)

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Yesterday’s chapter in Running Scared is in a section on money.  In an earlier chapter he was building the connection between our greed and our wavering allegiences between the 2 kingdoms.  He ends up talking about the tithe, which was something I’d been thinking about for the last week or so.  First Ed, and then me.

“If you don’t tithe, your faith is more than likely small.  You hoard because you don’t believe the Father is generous.  You don’t share in the king’s heart of self-sacrifice.  As a result, worry and fear will be an uneasy undercurrent in your life. … Giving is merely one response to his ongoing generosity.”

I appreciate how he ties this into God’s character and the gospel so it is an issue of sanctification, not justification, which God is working in us.

Here is how a sinner’s heart (like mine) is prone to think: If I didn’t tithe…


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Eric Wilbur tries to weigh the risk vs. reward for the Red Sox and Yankees pursuing Johan Santana.  He mentions that the last time such a dominating pitcher was available (because his team couldn’t re-sign him) was when Pedro was traded to the Red Sox from the Expos.  He was traded for Carl Pavano (who ironically has been a complete washout after helping defeat them in the 2003 World Series) and Tony Armas Jr..  They were top prospects in the Red Sox system.  Pedro went on to dominate the American League until leaving after the Red Sox 2004 World Series.  Those 2 guys never really delivered on the potential, primarily due to injury (pitching prospects are riskier than position players).

Whichever team gets Santana will have to surrender some top prospects.  Those prospects may never pan out, like Armas- or they could be the next Jeff Bagwell or Hanley Ramirez.  Santana could be the left-handed Pedro or…


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Out of Ur sort of enters the Rob Bell discussion with a summary of Rob’s Raleigh, NC stop on his “the gods aren’t angry” tour.  The summary is interesting, the comments are puzzling.  A quick comment about Mark Driscoll’s statements about Rob at the Convergent Conference sparked numerous attacks on Mark Driscoll.  He and his comments were called “irresponsible”, “quick to throw out the heretic label”, “dangerous- a rouge teacher with a serious lack of Christlikeness demonstrated in his conduct”, “needs to mind his own business” and so forth.  I’d been meaning to listen to it, so this drove me to listen to see if I was really missing something.  But first the summary of Rob Bell’s evening in Raleigh.

From the summary, it sounds like Rob, who loves to study and is quite bright, gave a basic study of anthropology and religion.  He interjects Scripture into this rather than using Scripture as the starting point.  Here is the crux of the matter:

“Bell said that big revelation number three came in Jesus. The sacrificial system outlined in Leviticus became corrupt and only led to more anxiety than it relieved. So at just the right time, God revealed that he never really needed our sacrifices anyway. Using quite a bit of humor, irony and pure wit, Bell painted a caricature god who is not complete without what people can provide or perform. Using various sayings from Psalms, Micah, Jesus, Paul’s letters and Hebrews, he drew an alternate picture of the divine: a God who is not dependent on what we do, but who freely loves and pours blessing on us.

“The problem, according to Bell, is not that God is angry with us, but that we think God is angry with us. Thus, Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God: to notify us of God’s lack of anger and to free us from the prison of our misconceptions so that we can truly live well. The place of church and religious ritual is to remind us of our standing with God and freedom to live lives of sacrifice and service.”


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When Nations Die- America on the Brink: Ten Warning Signs of a Culture in Crisis by Jim Nelson Black was written published in 1994, near the beginning of the Clinton Presidency.  That is a bit important.  But I think the cover says it all.

Black uses the research of others to identify the common factors in the demise of the great empires in history.  This is something we should be aware of, and they are:

Increased Lawlessness

Loss of Economic Discipline (both personal and corporate)


Decline of Education

Weakening of Cultural Foundations

Disregarding of Tradition

Materialistic Mindset

Immorality run amuck

Destruction of (traditional) Religious Beliefs

Devaluing of Human Life


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I went to a seminar on church renewal a little over a week ago.  My Presbytery worked with our denominational board covering church planting and renewal to put this together.  Ken Priddy, a pastor and church consultant, has taken a part-time position with our denomination to assist in the revitalization of many of our congregations through United Front Ministries.  Ken graduated from RTS the year before I did.  Unlike Dr. Nicole, he recognized me.

Why did I go?  Statistics indicate that 80% of churches in America are either in recline or decline.  As a result, 80% of the churches I talk to about a new position will be in one of those positions.  So, I’ve got an 80% of leading a congregation in either recline or decline.  I thought it prudent at this juncture to add some more tools to my toolkit so I can be more effective.

Why Do Churches Go Into Recline & Decline?

– Recline is the bull’s eye that most pastors and congregations aim for.  This is an extension of the empty nest and retirement mentality.  We long for the time when we don’t have to work in the fields very much.  We forget that the rest awaits us (Hebrews 4:9ff).  Right now Jesus is building His church, through us.

– Our default mode is inward, not outreach.  We don’t have to spend much time advocating nurture (though we do need to instruct on what gospel-oriented nurture is).  But we must continually advocate outreach & evangelism.  We must fight to keep evangelism a focus.


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This is a collection of things serious, and silly.

I’m thankful…

– for pre-approval for our adoption of ‘Eli’.

– for the surgery that has repaired ‘Eli’s’ cleft-lip (we aren’t sure about the palate).

– CavDaughter seems willing to share her parents with ‘Eli’ since he doesn’t have any.

– we are all healthy and have comfortable shelter over our heads.

– the choosing of the Father, the work of redemption by the Son, and its application by the Spirit.

– we don’t live someplace where there is already snow on the ground.

– I was able to wear shorts the last few days while doing yard-work.

– I purchased an aerator, saving myself over $100 since the nameless lawn treatment company wanted $135 to do it.

– my lawnmower works better after my neighbor worked on it.


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Thomas Boston is one of my favorite Puritan preachers.  When I saw that his sermons on repentance had been published as Repentance: Turning from sin to God: What it means and why it’s necessary, I had great interest.

The sermons found here were delivered at both the beginning and end of his ministry in Ettrick, Scotland.  He was dismayed at the carelessness the people gave to their walk, or relationship, with God.  It sounds like it was a difficult situation to continually preach the gospel.  The introduction notes that it was also personally difficult.  He lost a son during his first year there.  This was not a man living in an ivory tower.

But like most Puritans, he was a man who spent time thinking about these texts and their consequences for us.  For those of us in a microwave society, suffering from cultural ADHD, it can easily seem laborious.  But he was carefully laying out the implications of these truths.  So, it is not easy reading for the unacquainted.  But it is fruitful reading.

The topics covered include:

The Necessity of Repentance.  He explains this as well with the observation of afflictions that call us to repentance.  He calls true repentance an abiding grace, not a flight of fancy, and a wound that bleeds till glory.  As  Puritan he believes this is a work of God’s Spirit accomplished through the Word of God.


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I’ve been reading Ed Welch’s Running Scared as designed- one chapter a day to provide time to think and process it.  So far I’ve gone through the Initial Observations and God Speaks, or 8 days worth of pondering worry, fear and why they are so destructive in my own life.

Ed breaks down fears into background fear and anxiety, and phobias.  Our fears show up in our dreams, stressors, busyness, depression, anger, overprotection and more.

We all have fears.  The other day when reading this chapter I loaded my daughter into the car so she and my wife could go to Bible Study.  The thought popped into my head, what if… suddenly I was imagining life without them.  I used to have the fear that the congregation I served would close.  It did, 7 years later.  Now I have the fear I’ll never find a new call, or won’t for a very long time (I’ve seen it happen to guys).  I’ve been afraid that if my father cheered for my teams, they would lose.  I used to have dreams where the beginning of the worship service couldn’t start, despite there being large crowds there, because of a technical difficulty I couldn’t solve.  This morning I was angry with my daughter who wouldn’t listen to me, placing the DVD at risk of fingerprints and scratches (I’ve seen many a DVD destroyed by other people’s kids).


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I’m concluding my summary of Guy Prentiss Waters’ book Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul with his critiques of the New Perspectives.

Critiquing the New Perspective 

Hermeneutical Issues

Sanders develops a synergistic religion in response to the largely Pelagian picture of Judaism put forth by earlier liberal scholars.  But he seemed to be quite selective in his reading.  Most importantly, it is impossible to know to what degree the Jewish literature of this period reflected the popular theological awareness and understanding.  As in our day, there was probably a huge gap between the academy and the general guy in the pew.

N.T. Wright bases his work on the premise that all Jews viewed themselves as being in exile.  They were waiting for deliverance from this exile.  Since they were in the Promised Land, though under occupation by Rome, it is difficult for me to buy this.  By and large, the literature of Second Temple Judaism does not support this premise.

More importantly, Paul never mentions this model.  Were he to accept and apply this premise, surely it would be mentioned. 

Just as telling, is that Messiah creates problems for Israel, rather than solving all of Israel’s problems (Romans 9-11).  And other NT writers (Peter & James) speak of Christians as being in exile.


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Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by John Frame lies somewhere between Packer’s Concise Theology or Sproul’s Essential Truths of the Christian Faith and the more thorough texts like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology or Charles Hodge’s 3 volume Systematic Theology

John Frame’s volume can be technical at times.  But it is fairly thorough.  He is usually fair concerning those views with which he disagrees.  This book is not about polemics, but is an expression of humble orthodoxy.  He does propose particular doctrinal views (Reformed, Presbyterian and Covenantal) but doesn’t attack brothers who hold differing views.

The strength of the book for me was the consistent outworking of triperspectivalism.  What is that, you may ask.  It is the consideration of 3 connected perspectives when we seek to understand well, anything.  These perspectives are related to the Lordship attributes that Frame laid out in The Doctrine of God, and summarizes here when discussing God and the Trinity.  Those Lordship attributes are authority (normative), control (situational) and presence (existential).  The normative perspective is objective, and focuses on what God says in His Word about all things.  The situational perspective regards our circumstances.  The existential perspective regards our person.  We cannot truly understand either the situational or existential apart from the normative.  In other words, we see and understand our sinfulness or weakness and the falleness of our circumstances in light of God’s Word.  That Word reveals how we must change personally, or how we should act to change our world.  Truth is never to be understood in an abstract way, but addressing particular people and places.  I hope that makes sense.

But this is the theological method Frame is using.  He holds this loosely, thinking it a good pedogological tool.  He does not judge those who don’t utilize it.   His final chapter concerns ethics, and uses the triperspectival understanding to make sense of counseling and life change.  I find this approach most helpful for my ministry (when I remember to utilize it).  I’ve got numerous triangles written throughout the book to understand how things fit in the triperspectival model.

Some interesting or important things in the book:

“Theology is the application of Scripture to all areas of life.”  The focus is on application, not abstract ideas.  Theology matters to how we live, and we need to remember that it is supposed to.

He considers the Order of Decrees (infralapsarianism vs. supralapsarianism) as unbiblical speculation.  I have seen that discussion to be fruitless and harmful to people. 

“Adoption, belonging to God’s family, is the height of our privilege as God’s people and the beginning of our heavenly reward.”  Couldn’t have said it better.  I think I may have preached a sermon on adoption as the heights of the gospel :-). 

Although he believes the “Presbyterian system offers the best balance of authority and freedom”, “the well-being of the church has more to do with the work of the Spirit than with the form of government.” 

In his discussion of baptism he rightfully de-emphasizes mode.  The word baptism does not always mean immerse.  He does make a mistake in referring to Luke 11:38 as proof of this.  The Greek text does refer to their hands.  In washing their hands, they could have immersed them in a bowl.  Or they could have poured water on them like we do.  That text is not clear.

Salvation Belongs to the Lord is a good book to use if there is some variety of belief in a group of leaders or disciples.  It can help them work through some theological issues together, exhibiting for them charity in the process.  The reader is left to answer those thoughts that are contrary to their own position.  I would recommend it highly as an intermediate introduction to systematic theology.

His discussion of eschatalogical options is charitable.  He aligns most closely with postmillenialism, but is not dogmatic because he thinks this issue is not as clear cut as we tend to make it.  BTW: amillenialism is technically a form of postmillenialism.  Frame makes much use of the already-not yet framework popularized by G.E. Ladd.

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Sounds like free agency may not have been what Mike Lowell was expecting.  But it can be that way when you are a baseball player past the age of 30.

A-Rod and Boras miscalculated, and essentially blew a rather good extension.  The market for someone able to pay him that much for that long was, well, non-existent.

Mike Lowell wanted to stay in Boston, but he wanted 4 years.  When A-Rod went back to the Yankees, that pretty much sealed the deal.  The other teams that might have been interested were pursuing the Marlins’ Miguel Cabrera.  If he waited for all that to pan out, the Red Sox offer may have been off the table.

The Red Sox didn’t want to give Lowell 4 years for the same reason they wouldn’t want A-Rod.  They don’t do long contracts to older players.  They do not want to owe a guy $10-15 million to watch him sit on the bench for the last year or two.  Evidence in point- Johnny Damon and Pedro Martinez.  The Sox gambled, and seem to have guessed right.  Johnny Damon still has some baseball in him, but not $14 million worth.

Remember, no one made Lowell take this deal.  He weighed his preferences (just like Johnny Damon did).  He preferred to stay with a team he knew, and knew they could compete for a championship for the next 3 years.  He might have gotten an extra year somewhere, for more money, but you can never be sure about their commitment to winning (he’d lived that while with the Marlins).  With the Red Sox he knows the foundation is there for quite some time.  He did what made sense.  So did Theo (though I might have added in an option year triggered by performance benchmarks, the opposite of what they did with J.D. Drew).

Welcome back, Mike.  We are glad you didn’t stay away long.

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Considering The Prestige

Pride and ambition can quickly lead to obsession.  And that is when things get dicey.

Christopher Nolan is the king of the “mess with your mind” movie.  He is the director of Memento and Insomnia.  Memento built his reputation.  Batman Begins (and its sequel The Dark Knight) made him a top rank director.  The Prestige is based on the parts of a magic trick- it means to distract and deceive you.  Michael Caine plays the man behind the scenes, Cutter, who comes up with the props for tricks.  A trick has three parts, he says, the pledge (the magician shows you something ordinary), the turn (where he does something extraordinary with it) and the prestige (where you deliver something unexpectedly)  The ball is the pledge, disappearing is the turn, and the prestige is when it emerges from your ear.  This movie unfolds to a great prestige.  “Are you watching closely?”

It follows the careers of 2 mysterious men seeking to become the best magician of their generation.  They begin under the tutelage of Cutter.  Christian Bale plays Alfred, the master magician who lacks ‘stage presence’.  Hugh Jackman is Robert Angier who lacks some of Alfred’s skill, but is a much better showman.  A show ends badly with Angier’s wife drowning in a tank after Alfred ties her hands.  This begins the chain of events where they try to destroy each other personally and professionally.

Nolan messes with our minds by telling the story in a series of flashbacks as the two men read on another’s diaries.  Robert reads Alfred’s after stealing it and seeking the secret to his greatest trick.  Alfred reads Robert’s after he has been wrongly convicted of killing him.  What unfolds is the tragic price both men pay for their pride and ambition.  Nolan tells this using a series of mirrors, so to speak.  The parallels and repetition he uses are powerful and keep you guessing at times.  Their most famous trick becomes the metaphor of the movie.

The movie starts slowly and you really aren’t sure what is going on.  As he tells the tale, you begin to think you know what is going on.  But he is misdirecting you repeatedly.  Finally you see his prestige- and he delivers an unexpected surprise that makes sense of all the facts you didn’t know were connected.  In other words, it was all in plain sight, and yet missed by all but the most observant/creative.  Another excellent movie by Christopher Nolan.  I wonder how much more I’ll catch the second time I see it.

Update: It is even better on the second viewing.  The sign of a great work of art.  Christopher Nolan does it again.

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Considering Wonderland

About half way through the movie, CavWife said “I’m confused.”  “Me too.”

We were confused, I think, because we were supposed to be put in the shoes of the detectives trying to solve this crime.  They know John Holmes is involved, but they don’t know if he is someone caught up in something he didn’t expect, or the man behind it all.

Wonderland is based on a true story of a brutal murder in Hollywood.  The man at the center of it all was former porn star John Holmes.  The movie refers to his past, and references his claim to fame, but it has nothing directly to do with the porn industry.

At this point in his life, Holmes was a drug addict who moved in very questionable company.  As the story unfolds you discover he knows both a drug dealer who was robbed, and the robbers (and their significant others) who end up dead.  As the police investigate they come across one of the robbers, who was out of town the night of the murders, who swears John Holmes was behind it all.

So the story is told through the robber’s eyes, John Holmes eyes, the eyes of his girlfriend and finally through the eyes of his wife.  This is why it was so confusing.  You are left to sort out the truth.  The story and director will lead you there, but at times you just aren’t sure who to believe.

This movie has an outstanding cast.  Val Kilmer plays a convincing John Holmes.  Kilmer is one of my favorite actors, and the reason I wanted to see this movie.  It also features Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), Dylan McDermott (The Practice) and Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as part of the gang of drug users who rob “The Arab”.  Eric Bogosian (CSI: Criminal Intent) plays “The Arab”, a gangster who runs drugs among other things.  Lisa Kudrow plays John Holmes’ wife.  Ted Levine (Monk, Silence of the Lambs) plays the lead detective on the case.  So, you see it has some great actors.

The story itself has little to no redemption- it is about the earthly wages of sin.  These people are self-destructive, and destroy others in the process.  John Holmes’ life is testimony to how the “adult movie industry” contributes to the destruction of people’s lives (he eventually died of AIDS in 1988).  Holmes’ life is probably the inspiration for much of what P.T. Anderson put in Boogie Nights (a movie about the price desperate people pay for being involved in that industry… it is a horrible spiral into ever increasing depravity).

There is a pivotal scene in Wonderland (the home where the murders took place was on Wonderland) where you see Holmes deceiving himself.   This is the point, the power of self-deception.  If you tell yourself a lie long enough, it becomes true for you.  It seemed as those this was the perspective of the screenwriters- Holmes did it, but deceived himself into thinking he didn’t.  If he believed it, the police couldn’t break him.

There is one sex scene early on- depicting how desperate and reckless he and his girlfriend were.  There is tons of bad language, and lots of violence as the 2 crimes are told from different perspectives.  Sin is never easy to watch.  The story does not try to glamorize these people.  I was reminded of the last half of Judges where there was no king and the people did what was right in their own eyes.  They have thrown off every restraint and descended into a pit from which no one could pluck them.  Without hope, they did what they wanted and it ended up destroying them.  Seeing this is not pretty.  But sometimes we need to see the mask ripped off the pleasant face of sin.  Pornography and drugs bring out the worst in people.  But this movie will not be for everyone, or many people actually.

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Big Papi’s Big Value

With the AL MVP all but Stay-Rod’s, Boston.com’s Jason Tuohey develops why the numbers can be deceiving.

“True, A-Rod’s eye-popping power numbers (54 homers, 156 RBI) make Ortiz’s 35 round-trippers and 117 ribbies look downright pedestrian. On top of that, A-Rod led the league with a gaudy .645 slugging percentage — the best measure of a hitter’s power.

“But Ortiz had a better batting average than A-Rod (.332 to .314), and the burly DH added a league-best 111 walks to compile a sterling .445 on base percentage, easily the best in the AL and 23 points higher than A-Rod’s. Put simply, pitchers had a much more difficult time getting Ortiz out. In fact, only seven Red Sox players have ever recorded on base percentages higher than Ortiz’s in a season. Six have plaques in Cooperstown, and the other is Manny Ramirez.

“Ortiz’s prolific on base percentage even made his teammates look better. Mike Lowell had the lowest home run total of any Sox player with 120 RBIs since the dead ball era, a direct result of hitting behind Big Papi.

“However, Ortiz was much more than an on base machine this season. While A-Rod paced the league in slugging percentage, Ortiz finished third with a respectable .621, the second best total of his career. Papi made up for hitting “only” 35 homers by crushing 52 doubles and leading the league in extra base hits. Contrary to popular opinion, Ortiz didn’t hit for less power in 2007, he merely diversified his portfolio. As a result, Ortiz ended in a virtual tie with Boston’s favorite glove-slapper for the league OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) crown, 1.066 to A-Rod’s 1.067.”

David Ortiz did it when it mattered- September with Manny mostly on the bench as the Yankees gave the Sox a run for their money- putting up numbers reminiscent of Yaz’s 1967 pennent run.

“Ultimately, flashy numbers are just vanity without a pennant race to add context. In September nobody brought his game to a higher level than Ortiz. With Manny Ramirez on the sidelines and the bullpen imploding, Ortiz was at his best, balky knee and all. His .396 average, .517 on base percentage, .824 slugging percentage, and 1.341 OPS kept the team from losing its hold on the division.

“In the last week of the season, when every win became life or death, Papi somehow found a higher gear. Despite limping around on one good knee, Ortiz hit a mind-boggling .647 with a 2.139 OPS. He hit three homers and only struck out twice. And in case you missed it, the Red Sox, not the Yankees, won the division, tied for the best record in baseball, and earned home field advantage that proved crucial to their championship playoff run.

“A-Rod, to be fair, hit well in September too, putting up a .362 average and a 1.193 OPS. But he was just good enough to finish second. Papi was on another plane.”

He builds the case that A-Fraud’s defense was bad enough to not be an advantage, and his locker room presence, well…. Papi was a clubhouse leader while Stray-Rod was the center of numerous controversies.  I guess you could argue that it took pressure off the rest of the team except that I’m sure many of the players were fed up answering (or refusing to answer) questions about his various antics.

I really doubt Big Papi, or Mike Lowell, will win the AL MVP.  But I’m still glad Papi, not A-Rod, is on my team.  Papi is STILL the MVP of the Red Sox.

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The Orlando Utilities Commission stopped construction on a coal-burning power plant.  They already spent over $22 million on the project slated to be about $500 million.  Although this new plant would be far less polluting than older coal-burning plants, it would still produce carbon dioxide increasing the dreaded carbon footprint.  This would lead to fees and taxes for releasing the cardon into the air.  This is about politics- environmental politics.

Governor Crist had this to say:  “I’m very happy for the people of Florida that’s occurring,” Crist said. “Coal is what it is and I know it’s been an important source of energy in the past. But you know we have solar, we have nuclear, we have wind and other alternative opportunities for energy in the Sunshine State.”

Does Governor Crist have any idea how much land would be required to have enough solar panels or windmills to provide power to 70,000 homes?  I’m guessing far more land than the coal plant would require.  That land would probably have to be stripped of trees and plants- the most efficient converters of carbon dioxide.  Actually, many biologists say we don’t have cardon dioxide in the air- plants and trees need a higher concentration to really thrive (this would really help those vegitarians out).  So this carbon-fear makes no sense.  It is part of the ecological system, a necessary part considering we are all carbon-based lifeforms.  Climates change, people.  But these facts are irrelevant.

Another question for Crist:  when was the last time that a permit was issued for a nuclear power plant in the States?  You can thank the environmentalists for that one too (despite the fact that their beloved France runs numerous nuclear power plants).

This continues the maddening cycle of stupidity begun by environmental politicians and now embraced by much of the DNC (and even waffling Republican governors).  They say we must end our dependence on both greenhouse gas emitting fuel and foreign oil.  We can’t drill our own environment because we want to ruin someone else’s land/water.  But we can’t stop using oil because they won’t let us burn coal (carbon gasses are released), or build nuclear power plants (I grew up watching the endless demonstations at Seabrook, NH).  Those same politicians who want us to use windpower won’t let us do it in their backyard (yes, Sen. Kennedy for one).  So they strangle us.

Economies need energy to grow.  Limiting energy production drives up prices.

Refusing to slow or end illegal/undocumented immigration increases the demand for energy.  Drives up prices.

The people supposedly concerned with the poor are driving up energy prices making people poorer because they will not allow us to utilize the energy resources we do have until we develop newer sources of energy.  Gov. Crist initiated this OUC decision with executive orders he signed in July to reduce gas emissions.  OUC considered it a deal-breaker.  Florida’s options for energy are decreasing.  This is madness pure and simple.  Environmental and political madness.

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Considering a Birthday

Today was the day my daughter was anticipating all month- my birthday.  That’s because we are closer to her birthday.

We’ve been building up to this throughout the week.  Monday we had steak with a curry rub on it for dinner.  The requested mashed potatoes (CavDaughter calls them smashed tomatoes) didn’t happen due to CavWife time constraints.  But she did come through with pumpkin pie (a Cavman favorite) which CavDaughter helped me consume over the next few days.  CavWife claims CavDaughter helped her make it.  It was lacking the whipped cream, but tasty nonetheless.  For the first time in about 5 years, I was able to use new towels.  CavWife practices the “even wear” principle when it comes to furniture, requiring me to move it a few times a year.  But for towels and sheets, you use them until they fall apart.  Don’t ask- I don’t understand.  But the towels were becoming threadbare, and my whining more frequent so she moved them into our closet and finally put new towels on the rack in our master bath (there was much thanksgiving).  On to THE day.

I had a relaxing morning, getting to lay in bed and do some reading before a good shower and a few errands before picking up my daughter at Bible Study.  I had a birthday coupon at NY Pizza Baby for 2 free slices and a drink, so I decided to take her on a ‘date’ with Dad.

After CavWife came home and CavDaughter went down for a nap I went to a friend’s.  He had a Lagunitas Maximus to share.  It is 7.5% alcohol by volume, comes in a 22 ounce bottle and “may take the enamel from teeth.”  I partook of an H. Upman while we talked over the IPA.  He gave me a Rogue Shakespeare Stout to take home.  It received the highest score in the 1994 World Beer Championships.  It also comes in the 22 ounce bottle (oh, yeah!).

I couldn’t decide what I wanted for my birthday dinner so we had a slight change of plans.  A friend watched our daughter, and we went on a date to a local Japanese steakhouse.  A nice change o’ pace.

After picking up the little girl, I called my dad so the little girl could sing her rendition of Happy Birthday to him.  Yeah, born on the same day.  Her rendition is just “Happy Birthday to you” ad infinitum.  But amazingly cute.  Dad was out for poker night, so my mom was his substitute.

All in all a good day… even as I wait for the postman to deliver the gifts my lovely wife bought.  Still waiting…..  a few days left in birthday week.  Well I did get the cache of Red Sox and Patriots shirts from my parents.

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I was not a believer.  I was not convinced the Celtics would be a great team.  It is only 7 games into the season, but unless Doc Rivers kills one of them by playing KG, Pierce and Allen 35+ per night they will be a great team.  Seriously, only one of the games was close.  And they have now beaten the Nets twice.  So? you say.  The Nets have essentially owned them for the last 3-4 years.

Tonight, while pummeling the Nets, KG figured out how to keep his minutes down- foul trouble.  I wonder if the PGA Tour will rotate turns at foul trouble to play about 30 minutes.  “Dudes, I’m tired tonight.  If you 2 got it, I’m gonna commit a few cheapies to get some rest.”  Tonight Allen shot a miserable 4-14 from the floor, KG played 30 minutes and they still won 91-69.

Pierce was shooting 48% going into tonight, and shot 6-10.

Garnett was shooting 55%, and hit 8 of 15. 

As a team they are shooting 50%.  And the big difference from other years… they are playing solid defense, holding their opponents to 38% shooting.

Here’s the Sports Guy’s take (I can’t seem to link it all):

“There’s no comparable situation in sports history to Pierce, Allen and KG finding each other at the same exact, “I don’t care about stats, I don’t care about credit, I just want to win” point of their careers. These guys aren’t just hungry, they’re Fat Dickie’s Hungry. (I’ll explain in a second.) They’ve played six straight games like they were playoff games, and even when they were winning by 35 against Denver last week, none of those three guys wanted to let up. It’s like they were avenging every blowout loss that happened to every crappy team they played on these last three years. Can they maintain that passion for nine straight months? Frankly, I don’t know.

“But here’s what we do know: Defensively, they have a chance to become as good as San Antonio. Offensively, they have a big man who draws double-teams and two perimeter guys who can create quality shots whenever they want. And they’re nearly impossible to beat at home because of the reborn crowd and KG’s ongoing William Wallace impression. The first half of the Denver game was the single greatest display of basketball by a Celtics team since January 4, 1991, and that team could have won the title if Larry Bird’s back never went out. For all the die-hard Celtics fans who spent the next 16 years wondering if their team would ever matter again, watching the Nuggets get eviscerated was like watching a beloved relative emerge from a coma or something. It’s one thing to have a good team; it’s another thing to have a great team. These guys didn’t want to just beat Denver, they wanted to break the Nuggets’ will. And they did. This team will win 60 games if it stays healthy. At least.

“(As for the Fat Dickie’s reference … when I was in college, every once in a while, my buddy House and I would get tired of campus food and drive to a barbecue place called Fat Dickie’s. Then we’d order an obscene amount of food and chow down — we wouldn’t even talk; we’d just be intensely plowing through the barbecue and occasionally nodding at one another. That’s what Pierce, Allen and KG have been like all season. They’re Fat Dickie’s Hungry. It’s a whole other level.)

“Reason No. 12,366 why I love the NBA: You can’t even imagine KG’s crazed demeanor during these home games in Boston with a great crowd pumping him up. He looks like Jonathan Papelbon coming out of the bullpen with a one-run lead, only he stays like that for two and a half solid hours. It’s incredible. His teammates are alternately enthralled and terrified by him, and honestly, so are the fans. He’s a man on a mission. He’s possessed. He’s a borderline lunatic. Remember when Ronnie Lott had half of a broken pinky amputated so he wouldn’t miss the ’85 playoffs? You get the feeling that KG would do the same so he wouldn’t miss a mid-January home game against the Hornets. And after admiring him in person for five games, my delighted father (a 34-year season ticket holder) revised his “Favorite Celtics Ever” list, bumped Dave Cowens down a spot and named Kevin Garnett “1B” behind Larry Bird’s “1A.” Five games! That’s all it took. I’m going out on a limb and saying this was a good trade.”

On a mostly unrelated note- the Knicks saga just keeps coming up with entertaining new story lines to compensate for the lack of victories.  This is even better than the Kobe-Lakers drama, and the Shaq’s immanent demise.  A player trying to blackmail a coach for playing time… some striking Hollywood writer must have found a side job working for the Knicks.

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The Indians’ Eric Wedge, who did a very good job won.  But see if this voting makes sense.

Player Club 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Eric Wedge Indians 19 6 3 116
Mike Scioscia Angels 4 11 9 62
Joe Torre Yankees 5 8 12 61
Terry Francona Red Sox 3 4 13

The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs last year, like the Indians.  They had some injury problems with Manny, Curt, Wake and Beckett missing significant chunks of time, like the Yankees.  They are in a tough division, unlike the Angels.  The Red Sox, under Francona, led their division since like May.  I guess I’m living in an alternate universe.  Sorry Terry, you deserved more than 13 points.

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Considering The Departed

“Where was the redemption in that?”

I’d taught CavWife well.  There is usually redemption, of some sort, in a story.  Here there was none.  “This was about justice.”  And an ugly form of justice it was in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.

The Departed refers to those the main characters lost whose lives haunt them and drive them.  Collin Sullivan (Damon) has no father (we aren’t sure what happened to him), but he’s ‘adopted’ by gangster Frank Costello (Nicholson).  Billy Costigan (DeCaprio) had South Shore roots, but spent of the week in the North Shore.  He lived reacting against his extended family that had gang connections.  Both Sullivan and Costigan join the MA State Police, but for different reasons.  Sullivan serves his ‘father’ Costello, tipping him off to police plans.  Costigan wants to destroy those who may have destroyed his father.

What you get is mirror reflections of betrayals.  The police are trying to find the mole in their office, while that mole is trying to find the mole in Costello’s gang.  Sullivan and Costigan’s lives keep intersecting, but neither knows.  In the process you get a fanscinating, ugly story.  There is more than enough violence and profanity (much of it sexual, and repeated use of my least favorite word) to make anyone squirm.  This movie is not for the faint of heart or sensitive of ear.  Sin is UGLY, and this is an intense look at some seriously ugly sin.

I noted an irony to CavWife during the movie that the city with a reputation for the best academic institutions in the nation (all on the north side of town, not to be confused with the rather monied North Shore) also has a reputation for some of the worst language among the working poor of the area, including Southie.  At times the language was humorous- sounding much like many a conversation I heard in my youth.  At times, it was overkill and just plain painful to hear.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear Baby Blue during one scene.  Written by Peter Hamm (I think), Phil Keaggy played it on his Blue album.  I heard it during a scene, though I’m not sure if it was his version of the song.  Odd choice of music in the midst of the Dropkick Murphys and the Stones’ Gimme Shelter (one of the few Stones songs I like).

Despite that, this movie has great performances by DiCaprio and Nicholson.  Damon and Wahlberg are from Boston, so they had no problems with the accents.  Their performances seemed less nuanced, but good.  Wahlberg and Martin Sheen play the cops who run Costigan, whose identity is only known to them.  Wahlberg keeps riding Costigan, like a big brother.  Alec Baldwin plays Sullivan’s clueless superior (did he even look at his file to realize his father was dead).  Where Sheen is crafty, Baldwin is just a blowhard who can’t see the forest for all trees.  Sheen primarily the reflection of Costello, and their characters move in parallel in a cat and mouse game.

Lest people get caught up in the violence and crime, we need to remember this is about justice.  People’s sins are seeking them out- people are revealed and meet untimely deaths.  When the criminals think they get away with it- recompense sneaks up on them.

The Departed is good story-telling.  I’m just not sure how often I can watch this story. 

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