Monday, June 30, 2008

Informed Decision

It is a Reasonable Thing to Ask What a Leader Believes

"The Left has decided that the best way to counter reasonable inquiries into Barack Obama’s philosophy, theology or worldview is to attack anyone who raises questions. This is classic political hardball -- the opposite of what Obama claims to stand for!" - Focus on the Family Action

Barak Obama has compared James Dobson to Al Sharpton in a widely circulated speech and here is where we must begin. Dobson has pointed out some reasonable questions one might ask of the man who would become the next president of the American people. Rather than consider the questions, publications such as Time are simply attacking the messenger.

But if I were the media right now I wouldn't be worried about James Dobson right now and I'd be really curious about James Cone. James Hal Cone is the author of works on Black Liberation Theology and is an inspiration to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama's recently disowned mentor of twenty years. This particular theology has its roots in the movement that made Che Guevera a messianic figure and creates an oppressed/oppressor split in its view of society. Thus a person who subscribes to this theology would naturally identify with the 'oppressed' element of a society. If the split is drawn along racial lines, it is quite fair to ask if one steeped in this tradition could legitimately aspire to be president of all the American people. Consider this quote from James Cone:

"The black theologian must reject any conception of God which stifles black self-determination by picturing God as a God of all peoples. Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God's experience, or God is a God of racism.... The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God's own condition. This is the essence of the Biblical revelation. By electing Israelite slaves as the people of God and by becoming the Oppressed One in Jesus Christ, the human race is made to understand that God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering...Liberation is not an afterthought, but the very essence of divine activity." (A Black Theology of Liberation, pp. 63-64)

When a person steps up to the plate to make hard decisions, it is reasonable to ask what will be the basis of those decisions. Let us respectfully hear all the voices we need to hear to make our decision in November.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Informed Decision

Is Our Media Sleeping on the Job?

In just a few months the mightiest nation on earth will vote for a new leader. Mike McHugh sent me This Video which makes you wonder if we are given enough hard information to make the choice.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hand Crafted Hammock

My Favorite Piece of Lawn Furniture and TLC

Seven or eight years ago, the kids gave me a really neat rope hammock for Fathers Day. It has always been my favorite 'thinking spot' up under the oaks behind our house. Recently an oak branch dropped into the old hammock and ripped it [I thought] beyond repair.

They'd bought it in some big store in North Carolina, but the label on the stretcher said that it was made by Twin Oak Hammocks in Louisa, Virginia. Now I knew that Twin Oaks was a community not far from us. I'd seen them making hammocks once at the Crozet Arts and Crafts Festival. When I learned that they actually repaired hammocks as well as made them I decided to see if my old hammock was really beyond hope.

Turns out a friendly hammock expert at Twin Oaks looked it over and said it could be fixed. Later another friendly voice called to let me know that the oak stretchers were structurally sound but 'she'd reccommend replacing them.' Since the cost was minimal, I said go for it. Today they called to say my hammock was ready to ship. This has been a matter of days!

Twin Oaks is obviously a group of people who value the relationship as well as the workmanship in what they do. It is a pleasure to deal with them.

Sadly, the big store no longer sells the rope hammocks but it gives me great pleasure to tell you where to get one: Here is Their On-line Store.

Update: Three days after Twin Oaks' repair department received my hammock it was delivered in beautiful condition. It's back on the hill behind my house.

A Visit to DG Group in Richmond

Their Conference Room is a Gallery

DG Conference Room
They have more of my work hanging on their walls than I do.

DG Architects in Richmond Virginia have been our client for a long time. The walls speak for themselves.

Comfort Zone Camp
Comfort Zone Camp, Richmond, Virginia

Comfort Zone Camp
Arnold Palmer Signed the Rendering!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 6

It's a Lot More Than Diego Velázquez' Birthday!

Diego Velázquez Google Logo

Someone pointed out to me that the worls's largest search engine seems to have a memory lapse every Memorial Day. Finally in 2007 they figured out that they could celebrate Veteran's Day. So when June 6 had me waxing eloquent about young Ted Roosevelt, what was Google celebrating? Diego Velázquez' birthday! Now I really enjoy art history, but there is something I enjoy more -- more like TREASURE, and that's my freedom as a US citizen. It did not come cheap! So I would really appreciate some acknowlegement from those who have siezed opportunity in this great land and made their corporation into a household word. Sergy, could you have had the freedom to do as much in your native land?

So here is another opportunity to say 'thank you' to all who serve to protect our way of life! May G-d richly bless each one of you, may he keep you safe and focused as you keep us safe.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Longest Day III

Remembering Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

It is worth noting that Roosevelt, while a very effective officer, was not liked by everyone he met. Serving in the North Africa Campaign in 1942 under Major General Terry Allen he drew the ire of George S. Patton. Both Allen and Roosevelt went against Patton's spit-and-polish mentality and were seldom seen in dress uniform. Roosevelt was too much of a "hands on" type of guy to strut around avoiding the hard stuff. Patton relieved both Allen and Roosevelt of their commands. Roosevelt went on to fight in Sicily and Italy. He became chief liaison officer to the French Army in Italy for General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Great men have often struggled in the process of becoming the heroes we remember and that is worth remembering along with their mighty deeds.

The Longest Day II

"Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach"

Those were the words of Omar Bradley when asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat. Major General "Tubby" Barton had reluctantly assented to this plea from Roosevelt:

"The force and skill with which the first elements hit the beach and proceed may determine the ultimate success of the operation... With troops engaged for the first time, the behavior pattern of all is apt to be set by those first engaments. [It is] considered that accurate information of the existing situation should be available for each succeeding element as it lands. You should have when you get to shore an overall picture in which you can place confidence. I believe I can contribute materially on all of the above by going in with the assault companies. Furthermore I personally know both officers and men of these advance units and believe that it will steady them to know that I am with them."

Barton thought he would never see Roosevelt in this life again when he cut those fateful orders. When Barton later came ashore and met up with Roosevelt, he had this to say: "while I was mentally framing [orders], Ted Roosevelt came up. He had landed with the first wave, had put my troops across the beach, and had a perfect picture (just as Roosevelt had earlier promised if allowed to go ashore with the first wave) of the entire situation. I loved Ted. When I finally agreed to his landing with the first wave, I felt sure he would be killed. When I had bade him goodbye, I never expected to see him alive. You can imagine then the emotion with which I greeted him when he came out to meet me [near La Grande Dune]. He was bursting with information."

A month after the invasion, Ted Roosevelt died of a heart condition which would have disqualified him from leading in the first wave. He was buried in France alongside his brother Quenton who had died in World War I. His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

"For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt's written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Its not Either/Or...

Smart Solutions are Never so Simple

Banner 1

The banner appeared as advertising in one of my searches. You have a choice, do nothing or join the 'global warming' frenzy. I wish the whole 'climate change' debate would grow up. Right now, as we're sweltering in the Atlantic states, the Cascades are getting a pretty good snowfall. I would propose a third box -- and I've photoshopped it [see below]:

Banner 2

Responsible Stewardship. That's not as good as movie fodder perhaps, but it's what we need. One need not sign on to the frenzy to be a responsible person on Planet Earth. In fact, I'm a little tired of the gloom and doom so I'm going to talk about...

My Next Car

Here's what's happening in the research and development division. A new generation of hybrid vehicles and hydrogen. Look at this neat little Mazda!

Mazda 5 Hybrid runs on Hydrogen or gasoline.

Take a look at Hydrogen Now. A whole new fleet of clean vehicles awaits us in the near future. The emission from a hydrogen car is water.

Monday, June 9, 2008

People-friendly Urban Environments

Léon Krier's City Designs on a Human Scale

In the wake of the late Twentieth Cenury when so many of our urban cores were ripped out and replaced, Léon Krier is intent on discovering the joy of the city center again. Where Le Corbusier gave us vast blocks of housing and larger-than-life plazas, Krier has rediscovered the romance of the street. This Article in City Journal explores the possibilities!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Longest Day

Remembering June 6, 1944

One of my favorite movies is "The Longest Day." My favorite scene in the movie is where General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Son of the 'Rough Rider' President, pleads to be allowed to accompany his men in the invasion. If you love heroes, the scene will bring you to tears. Finally Roosevelt hears his commander say "permission reluctantly granted. Oh, by the way, how's your arthritis?" "Hasn't Bothered me in months," replies Roosevelt. As he leaves, you see him retrieve the cane he has hidden in some pipes as he heads off down the ship's passageway.

The true story of General Roosevelt is one all of us should know. He repeatedly led groups of men off the beach and achieved an impressively low casualty rate in the beginning of the invasion. He had trained these men and wanted to be with them when they faced the hard test.

General Roosevelt in France

He was the only general to come ashore in the first wave of the invasion, leading the men out of his landing craft. No doubt his leadership under fire saved many lives.

After battling their way ashore, the troops discover that they have drifted a mile from where they should have landed. It was then that General Roosevelt personally scouted their situation and uttered these famous words: "We'll start the war from right here!"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Meeting Creativity with Creativity

Winning the Culture Requires Thoughtful Engagement

This Piece by Andrew Klavan in City Journal was a lot to think about. Somehow it is easier to condemn things in the culture than creatively speak into it. Klavan says: "Many conservatives often seem to have given up on culture or not to care. There’s a strong strain of philistinism on the right. When we talk about “culture wars,” we usually mean preventing the courts from redefining marriage or promoting abstinence instead of birth control: culture, in other words, as the behavioral branch of politics."

He goes on to point out that culture should be seen as "the whole engulfing narrative of our values." We cannot "fix" things with well-meaning legislation. We need to remember that those who speak effectively into our culture seek not so much to rail, but to relate. Conservative culture is too quick to slay the messenger.

We have good and important stories to tell our young people. We need to dust them off and enter the realm of the arts that is where the young live. That is why a film like Bella is so important. It takes art to the issues that really engage us. Indeed it would seem that many honest artists WANT to gravitate toward such honest cinema. No matter how much art flirts with denial of reality it always returns to themes of heroism and redemption because WE require them. We love strong heroic characters and owe it to our children to give them voice.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Goodsearch is Great!

Support Your Favorite Charity as You Search

Here's one of those really good ideas that you just love to see come into being. Your internet searches help support your favorite cause and it can be your school, your Synagogue or Church, a religious ministry or a secular service group. I love it! YOU decide who gets the advertising revenue as you use the service. It's powered by Yahoo and is well organized and easy to use!

There is also a shopping service that supports YOUR choice of charities. You can get your local organization enrolled and give locally while you search globally. Check it out!

GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

A Work in Progress

We Tend to Forget the Process of Building Something

When my daughter was very young it was one of my great joys to read Laura Ingalls Wilder books with her. One thing I never forgot was her vivid description of the building of frontier towns and farms. Her father built several houses, a store and helped build many other buildings and was the paymaster for the railroad crews. Read about the building of the Dakota towns and you will see a wild and frenzied push that often was driven by the need to get something up and running. Ms. Wilder tells of the woman who ran the hotel while the crews were still building it!

Go back to the same communities today and you will see tree-lined streets and fine buildings and public squares -- the perfect little Nineteenth Century towns that are often pointed to as examples of the 'right' way to build. We forget that the buildings we see are the ones that gradually and thoughtfully replaced the frenzied framing of the first incarnation of these towns. We also forget what an improvement the first town was over the railroad camp.

Today it is fashionable to look down on suburbia in the design community, but one needs to take a look at how the dream of ownership and the maturing of our outlying communities is progressing. I've just finished a rendering of a new pedestrian friendly mixed use project that will replace a 1950's strip mall and create a village center in one such community. Look at the older suburbs with their mature vegetation [and impressive deer herds] objectively and you will find plenty of good. That is not to say we don't need to improve the commercial centers and infrastructure, but that there is good reason to love and improve these places.

We need to remember that in the 1960's we thought it would be a wonderful thing to build those big blocks of subsidized housing that, in plan anyway, were very similar to apartment buildings on the Upper West Side. Dismal failure! A less dense revival with a sense of "this is my house, this is my community" is working. In New Orleans a program is in place that allows returning homeowners to buy the abandoned property next door for expanded yards or gardens.

This Commentary by Joel Kotkin is a thought ful examination of where we are going.

Here I'm working on the look for a new mixed use rehabilitation of a strip mall.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mobility is Good

Our Freedom Seeking Forefathers Would Agree

Centuries ago our ancestors risked everything to journey to a new land. The promise of freedom was strong and the cost was great but the ability to chart one's destiny led to the founding of our unique nation. Railroads followed canals to provide the ability to move about and unify our nation at the same time. The automobile added new flexibility to the lives of millions. A free people will both create and demand a society with a high level of mobility. This allows competitive markets and healthy free association.

Now we face unique challenges in maintaining our mobility. We've outsourced our energy provision for many years and now the bills are coming in! Oil is high for a number of reasons. The weak dollar puts us at a disadvantage as demand rises in places such as India and China. OPEC seems to know it needs to squeeze what it can out of the market now. Why are oil prices so high? Depending on who you listen to it may be a combination of all of the above, or any one factor in particular.

So it was refreshing to read Kathryn Lopez' Article on Solving the Energy Crisis. She points out the need to pursue domestic resources, such as the Bakken and Colorado, while planning new technology to serve us in the 21st Century. We need to make our own energy again and the answer is in a diverse offering of new and already existing technology. Go to a large European or Japanese city and the electricity you use is likely from a nuclear power plant. We have enough experience with this technology to use it safely -- look at our Navy's sub fleet and you'll see a long track record with managing this type of power plant. Add wind, solar and better efficiency in utilization and I'll bet you are already feeling more optomistic.

There is a new engine for large trucks that runs more efficiently and uses natural gas. Of course that is a medium-range solution but that is better than short-sighted 'solutions' like 'tax holiday' and 'even-odd days' [remember gas rationing in the seventies]? A new generation of plug-in hybrids will come into being. E85 will likely be a force, but hopefully quota requirements will be replaced by market driven demand. Simple efficiency with existing technology will be a player as well. I have a little Mazda that can be driven smoothly and get close to 40mpg. No need to rush to replace that! Looking at today's oil-heavy transportation system it makes a lot of sense to diversify our technologies.

In the Nineteenth Century it was actually suggested in all seriousness that the Patent Office be closed since "everything that can be invented already has." That sentiment is less true today than it was when uttered then. Perhaps we will look back on the gas crisis of the beginning of this Century as the beginning of a new era of clean dependable mobility!