Friday, December 29, 2006

Rothbard's Law

Murray Rothbard said: "everyone specializes in what he is worst at".

What do you think?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Sociology of the Skating Rink

Once Olivia is old enough to don a pair of Nancy Kerrigans, my wife and I are going to take her ice skating. We went today. I, having been skating a total of 3 times over 24 years, hobbled my way around building confidence. During that time the multitude of youngins chaotically bobbed and weaved around me. I realized that this simple skating rink was the best example of anarcho-capitalism that I could think of--Hayek's "spontaneous social order". Without coercion or even thought, all the individuals on the rink were skating in a sort of order without running into each other (except intentionally) and even helping each other out when a spill occurred. Fascinating.

How is it, though, that preschoolers and younger children can exemplify a social order that adults need a large, bureaucratic State to achieve?

Monday, December 25, 2006

How Bout That!

Interesting stuff you can find on the internet.

Like my Master's Paper.

This is truly scary.

On Manhood

Brett has a nice piece on the man he is and the man he wants to be. I have often thought similar things. One of the perennial struggles in my mind happens to be what exactly a "man" is. What sort of normative things (other than the obvious one) define manhood? How much is "eternally" normative and how much is cultural/social? One of the difficulties of our American society is that we lack good definitions of being a man. Why does the man who is concerned with his appearance and enjoys the company of men (in a non-sexual way) get termed "effeminite" or "metrosexual" or even homosexual? What should men be concerned with in this post-industrial, post-modern, and dying culture? Without any offence to Jason I don't think that the model of John Wayne will get us very far in the 21 century of our Lord.

One thing that I am beginning to be convinced of, at least for myself, is that manhood requires some thought and participation in "citizenship", however exactly that is defined. There is some sort of responsibility for the larger good involved in being a man that exceeds the limits of business and family (but falls short, in my mind, of coercive action). Just some burgeoning thoughts...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Tonight I made a customer (whom, thankfully, I knew) a frosted white mint mocha. The espresso shot was 17 seconds, close to the desired range (one second off, which doesn't make a whole lot of difference). I mixed in the steamed milk and whalla! a great drink.

One problem.

I forget to tamp the espresso.

For those who don't know (and may not even care), tamping is the process whereby the barista compacts the coffee grounds into the filter basket. 30 psi is the recommended pressure, which actually takes forearms the ginormous size of Jason Panella's. Not tamping equals around 0 psi.

The thing is, usually if you undertamp, the coffee comes out bitter, watery, and full of taste-death. Sometimes, even with the perfect tamp, it still happens, depending on the grind level. However, strangely, Italians don't tamp their espresso shots at all. Only (from what I hear) do the Americans and French. (Both also, by the way, usually refer to the drink as expresso, instead of the Italian espresso).

I decided to experiment. I pulled two shots of untamped espresso for myself and for Bethany. She wasn't thrilled about the taste (too watery, too bitter, not smooth enough). I, on the other hand, while still finding the shot a bit watered-down, found the shot both smoother and less bitter. We will stick with the 30psi 18-25 second shots for customer drinks (unless they specify otherwise), but I'll be making mine Italian-style. They did invent espresso after all.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Humanities 103

I just finished reading the papers for my HUM 103 course that I taught this semester. The questions that were posed to them were: what, at this point, is your sense of your narrative AND what are your fundamental assumptions about life. I was given the opportunity to share a piece of my narrative in large group before they wrote their papers--having read their papers now, I would have told a different story.

I don't know who said it, but "your calling is where your greatest joy meets the world's deepest hurt." I wrote that as a comment on many of my students' papers. There were many great joys and many deep hurts expressed. Most of all, it makes me question my own wisdom as I comment on the papers and try and lead them in the way of God's Wisdom. Have (or will) I led them down the wrong path? Were my words comforting and encouraging, or mean and disheartening? Will my students take my heartfelt writing to their own hearts, as I've taken each of their stories into mine?

Most of all, these papers force me to pray. My greatest joy is seeing them becoming independent thinkers and leaders in God's world. I can see that to some of them, I have given them reason to trust me with their deep hurts. My calling is to be there for them. In other cultures and other times, teachers stayed with their students (and vice versa) for many years. They grew together and the close intimate relationship that they fostered was able to blossom (or close up tight, as the case may be). With just a semester, that chance seems so fleeting. Can my teaching even be effective if I cannot be with them longer, helping them grow and learn and love and teach others? Hence I pray. It is a bittersweet thing.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Libertarians against Wal-Mart?

I have a love-hate relationship with the megalith grocery/all-stuff store Wal-Mart. I do not like the quality of the product, nor the way that it is presented, but it is the only store in the area that I can afford. Some folks that I have talked to, and I'm sure everyone at, look at my askance when I say that I am a) libertarian (with a little 'l') and b) anti-Wal-Mart. How do these two things go together? Very well, I think.

I certainly do not offer the traditional critique of Wal-Mart on offer: low wages for workers, sex discrimination, and whatever. Many of the usual suspects have (to my mind) not yet been proved. Plus, with wages, that is a matter of contract between employee and employer, subject to determination of skill, competence, and actual need of an employer. So those things, until I hear more conclusive evidence, do not really concern me.

Wal-Mart itself is not the problem. Instead, Wal-Mart is a wonderful symptom of something that should worry libertarians of all stripes a great deal: the loss of self-sufficiency and local self-government. For all its benefits, the modern industrial-global capitalist economy is based four-square on debt. Debt, as R.J. Rushdoony made stunningly (and incredibly presciently) clear in Politics of Guilty and Pity, paves the way for the volume discounter. If you are in debt, your desire for quality over quantity, lastingness over transientness, and local over monetarily cheap declines rapidly. In a debt economy, you have no time or resources for such things. Add to this the fact that new products/ideas on the market tend to be initially more expensive (until demand drives the prices down), does not help local markets or "fair" trade markets. What Wal-Mart represents is the overall societal urge to have more instead of have better. It is the symptom, not the disease.

Libertarians, unfortunately, sometimes seem enamoured with whatever the "market" (which, they rightly contend, is controlled by human action) does, whether or not it actually fits in with their theories. Wal-Mart does provide the valuable service of many consumer goods at decent prices to the largest amount of people possible. But, this is not the only economic factor to count in. Efficiency, which libertarians, especially the Chicago School, are known for touting, is a slippery term. Efficient in regards to what? If the reduction of waste is concerned, then places such as Wal-Mart cannot really be considered efficient. How much product is thrown out? How many man-hours are wasted due to the industrial work environment that saps the strength out of workers and causes them to be unproductive (anyone spending any amount of time in Wal-Mart knows the look that many of the employees have). What about the inefficiency of mass transportation of goods or the genetic altering of goods to "make" them in season all year round?

Self-sufficiency--personal, familial, and neighborhood-local--would seem to be important values to libertarians. Many, alas, are more concerned with national economics and how to change them. This is an important concern, but nothing will change nationally until the local places alleviate the "need" for big government/corporations to provide the basics of human life: food, shelter, health-care, elderly/young care, "jobs", defense, and all the other things that the socialist welfare-warfare "provides".

Maybe if we took the advice of others, traditionally outside of libertarian circles, such as Wendell Berry, we would see the economic and social (two big emphases of libertarians) costs of guiding our principles solely (and reductively) on efficiency.

The future of libertarianism? A see a Dooyeweerdian-Van Tillian libertarianism that emphasizes the equal creation of the one (individualism) and the many (community), that sees that liberty and shalom go together and do not necessarily equal technological progress (although it is a part of the picture), and that combines the virtues of Christ and his people with good economic sense (which, in theory, they possess already).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Reflections a week in

I now understand Keith's absence.

Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea has been open a week today. We have been immeasurably blessed with a large turnout each day as Geneva's finals have been going on. Each day has been hard but good. I understand now, better than before, what exactly goes on in running a business. For starters, working 15 hours with the possibility of not getting any pay at all, is an interesting and disconcerting idea. However, we have been able to connect with many students and even some community members. The hope is that we will be able to connect with more community members as the last of the students leave for Christmas break tomorrow. I also found out that it does not help ones business to drop a dresser drawer on one's toe. Bad...very bad...

At any rate, we are very happy with the way things are going. Stop on in for a cup of coffee, tea, or any of the other drinks we offer (and we offer many!).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Opening Day

We just opened for business officially. Our grand opening is tomorrow, but our so-so opening is today. I've been up since 9 yesterday morning, but the place looks great.


Stop on in for a cup if you are in the area, we'd love to serve you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


BiFC&T opens on Friday. I am so grateful for all the friends (especially this week) who have worked long hours with and for us for literally beans and done so with great joy. I am thankful that the construction worker who hurt himself here is doing better. I am thankful for wonderful employees and a wonderful co-owner. I am thankful that we are almost done with all the little nit-picky things. I am just thankful to God for all the grace He has shown us as we've tried very hard to get this business off the ground.

Soli Deo Gloria