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March 30, 2015

The Third Bit

A Base Case for Empirical Software Engineering Research

I've been saying for years that programmers ought to pay more attention to empirical studies of software engineering and base their practices on evidence rather than strong opinion. I was challenged on this yesterday when someone asked me to cite studies showing that a bug tracker is a better way to manage backlog than a shared spreadsheet. I couldn't, and still can't.

I also can't find any studies showing that version control is a better way to manage software projects than mailing files around or dumping them in a shared folder. I "know" it's true—I wouldn't work on a project that didn't use version control—but then again, my aunt "knew" that putting colored crystals on her chi points would relieve her arthritis. As far as I can tell from outside the Great Paywall of Academia, nobody's ever actually done the study.

That's kind of embarrassing, but it's also an opportunity. The biggest open problem in empirical software engineering research is measuring productivity: lines of code per hour and story points per sprint are easy but meaningless, and we haven't agreed on anything more sophisticated.

So here's my proposal: let's use version control as a filter for measures of programmer productivity. If metric X doesn't show that groups using version control outperform groups that don't, I think we can safely discard it. More usefully, how different metrics measure those groups' productivity differences would allow us to compare those metrics more directly. It would also be a good starter exercise for the better software engineering course I've been musing about.

Just a thought...

by Greg Wilson (gvwilson@third-bit.com) at March 30, 2015 10:00 PM

March 29, 2015

(think)

Projectile 0.12 released

Projectile 0.12 is finally out!

A lot of time has passed since the previous stable release, for which I’m truly sorry. I kept delaying and delaying the release for various reasons, but it’s finally here and it’s pretty big. Please, consult the CHANGELOG for some of the more interesting changes. Note that some changes and new features are totally undocumented, as I haven’t been as demanding to contributors as I’m usually on my other projects (meaning I didn’t ask everyone to update the changelog or the readme).

It’s funny how open-source works – I never expected that Projectile would have any users except me, but today it’s one of the most popular 3rd party Emacs extensions. Unfortunately I’m involved with many other projects and have a pretty demanding day job, so issues and feature requests have been piling up lately. 80 open issues – that’s depressing! I guess I’m a pretty lame maintainer! :–)

If you like the project, I’d appreciate your assistance to bring their number down. Many of the requests are relatively easy to implement, some don’t make sense and should be simply closed (or might have been fixed accidentally). Same goes for the open PRs.

Alternatively, you can support Projectile’s continued development via gratipay or PayPal.

Support via Gratipay

Paypal

That’s all for me now, folks! I’ll try to deliver stable releases faster in the future, but I won’t make any promises. Thanks for all your help and support! I really appreciate them!

P.S. I’d love for Projectile to have a cool logo. Maybe someone can help out with that as well?

March 29, 2015 07:11 AM

March 28, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

Open Gym, Final Week of the OPEN!

Sunday’s Workout:

NapTown Rowing Club 10:00-11:00am

Open Gym 11:00am-12:00pm and 12:00-1:00pm:
Make up a wod from earlier in the week, work on a skill, or mobilize with us!

Open WOD 15.5:
27-21-15-9
Rowing for Calories
Thrusters (95/65)

 

April Events through NapTown Fitness

Olympic Weightlifting Meet:

We will be hosting our second Olympic Weightlifting meet on April 4th. Sign up by the white board over the lazy boy chair in the back of the old side near the platforms in front of the glass doors (that should be enough landmarks right?). First 30 athletes will be in so do not miss out by dragging your feet folks!

CrossFit Kids:

We will be hosting our next CrossFit Kids session on April 11th from 12:00-1:00pm! Mark the day on your calendar and clear your kiddo(s)’ schedule!

Yoga in the Sky:

Practice Indie will be teaching the yoga portion of Yoga in the Sky event on April 16th from 5:00-7:00pmin the Skyline Young Professional Club. Click here to check out more information on the event at the official event FaceBook page. The event will center around networking as well as how to balance work and life and how yoga can help make that happen!

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by Anna at March 28, 2015 08:12 PM

512 Pixels

Tim Cook to give away his wealth →

Adam Lashinsky’s piece on Tim Cook is worth reading, even if there’s not a ton of new information about Apple’s CEO shared in it.[1]

There, is however, a good bit about how Cook is handling his wealth that, as far as I know, is new:

He plans to give away all his wealth, after providing for the college education of his 10-year-old nephew. There should be plenty left over to fund philanthropic projects. Cook’s net worth, based on his holdings of Apple stock, is currently about $120 million. He also holds restricted stock worth $665 million if it were to be fully vested. Cook says that he has already begun donating money quietly, but that he plans to take time to develop a systematic approach to philanthropy rather than simply writing checks.

It’s unclear from this article if Cook’s move is part of the well-known Giving Project, but either way, it’s a clear extension of what Cook’s been talking about from taking the reigns of Apple: using technology (and the wealth created by it) to impact the world for good.

I love it.


  1. Calling the company “the iBehemoth” in the dek is cringe-worthy, though.  ↩

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at March 28, 2015 07:27 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

6 Discoveries from Near and Far: Volume XXXIV

Busking

I. Around the World

Things I found on long walks in foreign cities, or perhaps when someone posted them on Twitter.


II. On the Blog

A few posts you may have missed on the blog this week.


III. A Blast from the Past

Something from the AONC archives.

###

Image: Mark Sandusky

by Chris Guillebeau at March 28, 2015 07:00 PM

Reformedish

Pride Goes Before the Fall, But Unbelief Goes Before Pride

apple sinOne of the classic debates medievals and later theological types liked to kick around was, “What as the first sin of Adam?” Not what the particulars of it were, mind you–they all read Genesis 3 closely–but the essence, so to speak. What drew Adam and Eve toward violating God’s command? Was it primarily lust and desire? Or sloth?

In his question devoted to the subject (Institutes, Vol 1. Top. 9, Q. 6),  Turretin notes that among the various options forwarded, two stand out as the most popular. The first is pride, an opinion favored mostly by Roman Catholics; second is unbelief, which is the typically Protestant option. Being archetypically Protestant, Turretin opts for the latter. For Turretin, the general apostasy and turning away from God that led to Adam violating God’s covenant command about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was an “incredulity” and contempt towards God’s word.

Of course, Turretin knows that the act of sin, and particularly the first sin, is quite complicated. Parsing out the various moments, acts, components, and so forth reveals various dimensions which definitely joined pride to unbelief. Nonetheless, Turretin thinks that when we sink down to the roots of the act, it’s caught up tightly in the faculties that judge falsity and truth, error and unbelief.

He then gives a number of, well, numbered reasons for thinking we ought to give priority of the root of unbelief.

  1. First, looking at the first attack point of temptation shows us where the origin of sin lies. What did the serpent first challenge? The integrity, reliability, and goodness of God’s word (“Did God really say?”, “You will not surely die”). This precedes his temptation to pride (“you shall be as gods.”)
  2. Second, “pride could not have place in man except on the positing of unbelief.” In other words, you can’t think too highly of yourself unless you’ve already stopped believing in God’s word of threat against disobedience.
  3. Third, the Bible points to sin as seduction and its roots in Satan’s cunning and deceptions (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14; Gen. 3:1).
  4. Fourth, only unbelief would have made him think that it is virtuous or a good thing to not be dependent on God for your good in all things. The desire for independence and autonomy from our good Creator is folly.
  5. Fifth, Turretin points out, if Satan first tempted Adam to sin, well, either he believed him or he didn’t. If he did, then unbelief follows. If he didn’t, well,  explain how he ended choosing sin in the first place?

Okay, but where does that unbelief come from?

But unbelief could not have place in man, unless first by thoughtlessness he had ceased from a consideration of God’s prohibition and of his truth and goodness. If he had always seriously directed his mind to it…he could never have been moved from his faith and listened to the tempter. Hence, therefore, unbelief or distrust flowed first. By this man did not have the faith in the word of God which he was bound to have, but shook it off at first by doubting and presently by denying; not seriously believing that the fruit was forbidden him or that he should die. Again, note the credulity by which he began to listen to the words of the Devil…believing that God envied him the fruit and that he would be like God and omniscient. Thus he made an erroneous judgment by which he determined that the object presented by the Devil was good for him. Hence presently his appetite and his inclination of concupiscence and its motions influenced the will to the eating of the fruit. At length, the external action followed. This inconsideration may well be called the beginning or first stage of sin.

There’s a few brief points worth making here.

First, I think the logical priority of unbelief makes sense according to Turretin’s schema. That said, we need to be careful here and remember that he’s speaking of Adam according a prefall state. The relation between the will and the intellect is a bit more complicated now that things have been disordered through sin.

This bit of theology is worth reflecting on for its practical value. Turretin says that Adam could have only fallen into sin through thoughtlessness. By not constantly meditating on the reality of God’s word, his command and his promises, he was tempted to doubt, then unbelief. No wonder the Scriptures constantly remind us to keep God’s word on our minds at all times, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).  Distance creates distrust.

And that’s at the heart of most temptation to sin, right? Distrust in the goodness of God? Distrust that his commands and prohibitions flow from his good character? Disbelief that whatever sin we’re actually drawn towards is actually bad for us and that God wants to keep us from those things that would hurt us?

Finally, unsurprising, then, that salvation is caught up with the restoration of faith by the Holy Spirit. Faith is the opposite of unbelief. By faith we trust God’s promises, are restored to proper relationship to God through union with Christ, and receive the Holy Spirit who even reconciles us to trust, not only God’s promises, but God’s law as well (Rom. 8:7).

So, to sum up: pride goes before the fall, but unbelief goes before pride. Be constantly meditating on his word day and night, praying that God would increase your faith.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at March 28, 2015 06:07 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Ending Soon: Last Chance for 70,000 IHG Hotel Points

IHG_Reception_Building

InterContinental Ruijin hotel in Shanghai, China.

Link: 70,000 IHG Hotel Points

A while back I mentioned a limited-time offer for 70,000 IHG hotel points (normally 60,000 or fewer). The deadline for the big bonus is coming up, and this is one that’s definitely worth looking at if you’re eligible.

70,000 points in the IHG network can be used for at least two nights at nicer properties, or up to a week or longer at budget properties. Personally, I’m in the “life is short” department—I have plenty of points these days and would use this bonus at the nicer places. But I used to be a very low-budget traveler, and the idea of essentially getting a week’s worth of free hotel nights in exchange for a single credit card application will be appealing to a lot of folks.

There’s a low minimum spend requirement of $1,000 (charge $1,000 to the card and you’ll get the points). There’s also no annual fee for the first year (afterwards, it’s $49). Lastly, just by having the card you’ll be comped into IHG’s elite status program at the Platinum level.

CrownePlazaNairobi

Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

To be fair, Platinum status with IHG isn’t as good as Platinum with Starwood or Diamond with Hyatt—but hey, it’s free status and counts for something.

IHG brands include Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Even, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, Hualuxe, InterContinental, and Staybridge Suites. The best of these, by far, is InterContinental.

As I said, this is an especially strong offer. I already have a lot of Chase cards, but I’m planning to apply for this one as well. We’ve heard that the offer will disappear on March 30 or shortly thereafter, so if you want the extra points, don’t wait.

Link: 70,000 IHG Hotel Points

###

by Chris Guillebeau at March 28, 2015 03:24 PM

Speeds and Feeds

Life in a Digital Ghetto

 …In Which I Bitch and Moan about Living on the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide in an Isolated Pocket of Digital Poverty

 
When I purchased my current residence in 1987, the Internet had not yet exploded into a dominating presence in social discourse and commerce. I used an analog modem for E-mail and such web content as was available at the time. What little television our family watched was over-the-air broadcast content. We didn’t have any cell phones.

Fast forward nearly thirty years and the situation is quite different. Polite society assumes every respectable person has a cell phone and some sort of broadband access. My inability to reliably receive text messages at this address has been a bit of a hassle1. Digital TV signals are marginal even with dual high gain antennas 70 feet (21m) up on a rotating antenna tower mast.

My family and I live in a relatively rural location (for being only 45 miles/74km from the “capitol of the free world”) that lies in the radio shadow of a nearby mountain2. Standing out in the front yard we can sometimes get a one bar 2G cell signal, but inside the house a cell phone is useless3. Cable service is not available and probably never will be, as the cable lines would need to be run over a mile (1.6km) to reach only a small handful of houses and the local cable monopoly has made clear its lack of interest in doing so. Ditto DSL telephone service, which would require upgrading the “SLIC” (Subscriber Line Interface Concentrator) cabinet a little over a mile away4.

Thirty years ago the absence of cell, cable, DSL, or comparable communication services didn’t matter; analog dial-up modems were sufficient. But, as the Internet grew in size and importance and the typical web site or data download ballooned in size, analog dialup was no longer adequate. I tried ISDN, which was roughly twice as fast (128kbps) as the 56K modem on a good day. That sufficed for several years, but even basic web surfing and data transfers (such as routine Linux updates) became increasingly painful. I would burn routine software updates to a CD or USB drive at a higher bandwidth location (which is to say anywhere else) and bring them home for updating the SOHO (Small Office Home Office) computers.

Next we tried a local WISP (Wireless ISP) which creatively bounced wifi signals through a hodgepodge of nodes to a wired PoP (Point of Presence) many miles away. Nominal bandwidth was good, a couple of MBps, but even with our access point on the top of a sixty foot (18m) antenna tower, performance and reliability were still marginal. Also, congestion was a recurring issue: even when the signal was strong and clear performance would nosedive in the evenings as other subscribers returned home from work and started surfing porn or watching cat videos or whatever.

Since I work full time in a home office this erratic Internet access was beginning to severely impact my bottom line, so at that point I took the only remaining option available: I signed up for a dedicated T-1 line which provides 1.544mbps (182KBps) for $600 a month. That’s one megabyte in about five seconds, or one gigabyte in 100 minutes … all for the bargain price of only $7,200 a year. Ouch. At least that bandwidth is dedicated, up and down, and is relatively reliable (it’s often several months between major outages). I use QoS routing for the VoIP traffic which allows voice calls even when the bandwidth is completely saturated. I try to extract the maximum utility from that narrow little pipe by loading it for hours or days at a time with bulk data uploads or downloads.

Needless to say streaming media isn’t an option, and I have to ask clients to FedEx really large files like virtual images.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to see the same bandwidth bloat issues now that drove me from dialup modem to ISDN to guerrilla wifi to the T-1 line. Routine data downloads are getting larger and slower. Websites I need to view for my professional activities, never mind recreation, are getting ever more bloated and slower. I have no bandwidth upgrade options, at any price5.

Periodically I check with WISPs that specialize in commercial broadband services. A technician for one of them climbed my tower just a few months ago and spent a long time with binoculars looking for any water towers or other structures they could use for point-to-point service; no joy6.

I’m of retirement age (sixty) and fortunate enough to have enough savings to be able to retire, in theory at least. This bandwidth problem may well drive me to retire sooner rather than later, as neither moving nor renting an office are viable options. Selling this property and moving to another just to extend my working career by a few years makes no sense considering the size of the current property that my family and I have spent years improving (a largish house and multiple outbuildings, including heavy machinery7). Renting a commercial business office doesn’t work for a number of reasons: a) my workday can be sunup to sundown on weekdays and weekends, which is tolerable when a kitchen and amenities are only a short stroll away but which would be far less tolerable in a tiny isolated office; b) I need more than just a desk as I often work with client equipment using two 19″ freestanding racks, two workbenches, and several hundred square feet of storage space for all the boxes and gear.

So, we’ll see. As I slowly suffocate on this 1.544Mbps bandwidth the decision may be made for me. If and when I do retire from revenue generating activities I’ll no longer be able to justify the current $7,200 annual cost of the leased line, and will drop back to the local WISP service. That will do for casual E-mail but will rather abruptly cut me off from dabbling in part time work as the T-1 service requires a three year contractual commitment8, so I can’t buy short term bandwidth increases.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself because I really like the current property and its location. The lack of broadband options will surely impact the resale price, but I’m in good health and plan to remain here for many years to come so that is a future worry. I’m a redneck at heart and there aren’t a lot of places where I could park a forklift in the front yard and be surrounded by greenery and wildlife. I do find it a bit ironic though that I have worse communications options here, a few miles from an interstate highway and a mere one hour drive from the White House and Capitol, than those in many so called third world countries.

_________

[1] I’ve kludged together a SMS-emulation of sorts using a Google Gtalk number. It works for receiving SMS messages from some sources (which I receive as E-mails), but not for others. So for instance, we can’t get the fraud alerts from our bank telling us that our credit card has been suspended due to suspected fraudulent activity. We find that out the hard way, when trying to make a purchase.

I also know about repeaters (“microcells”) and have done a fair amount of research on the options. For less than a thousand dollars I could put a cellular repeater on the antenna tower and possibly get a decent 3G signal. But, such repeaters aren’t “supported” by either of the main cellular providers, meaning any issues would receive even less sympathy than the usual level of apathy those providers are famous for. In addition, even with a perfect signal the cost at my current level of data traffic would be prohibitive. I will try a microcell when I eventually drop the T-1 line and thus lose the current SOHO VoIP services, but usage will be largely limited to voice (and SMS!) only.

[2] Sugarloaf Mountain, which is actually just a large hill or monadnock.

[3] Ironically we have some neighbors only about 1000 yards (900m) away, at roughly the same elevation, who get a decent 3G signal. The cost of such service for the data volumes I currently manage to stuff through a narrowband pipe would be ruinous, but at least those neighbors have that option.

[4] Our POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, aka “landlines” have been rather unreliable so we’ve had multiple opportunities over the years to talk with the telco linemen. They note that the local telco (Verizon) has no intention of doing any enhancement of the UTP (copper) infrastructure and associated regulated services, preferring instead to concentrate on unregulated wireless and FIOS services (neither of which are available to us, though). The time-to-repair for POTS problems is as long as two weeks; at one point I was paying for four POTS lines so that at least one would hopefully be working at any point in time. At present I’ve put all my eggs in the T-1 basket; that still fails periodically (typically squirrels chewing the overhead lines), but with a commercial SLA repairs have a higher priority and I can file for and get rebates for the extended outages.

The SLIC upgrade to support DSL would supposedly cost something like $60,000. I’ve even inquired of the local telco if they would consider allowing me to pay for that upgrade; the idea was rejected out of hand. I’m not sure I would have been willing to absorb that entire cost myself (if no neighbors wanted to chip in), but when you consider what I’m paying for the narrowband T-1 line it could be cost effective over the long haul.

[5] I’ve even considered getting a second T-1 line, at the staggering cost of $1,200 monthly for 364KBps, and bonding that with the existing T-1 for double the bandwidth, but the 25 pair line leading to my house can accommodate only one T-1 signal.

[6] Erecting a taller tower is an option, but local zoning rules would limit the maximum height to about 120′(36m) and it would easily cost $10,000 or more. I would first hire a crane service to come out with a manlift basket to put a technician high enough to see if that additional 40′(12m) or so of height would make a difference. A $10-20K tower investment would be paid back in only a few years given the exorbitant cost of the T-1 line, so I will consider installing a higher tower if I’m still working at the point where the T-1 service contract comes up for renewal.

[7] I have a fairly well equipped machine shop (manual machines only, no pesky computers), see Metal Illness

[8] The cost for month-by-month service, after the original multi-year commitment has expired, is obscenely expensive. The current three-year commitment expires in December of 2016, at which point I’ll have to make a ~$22,000 decision about another renewal.

by stevem at March 28, 2015 03:11 PM

Inconsolation

pyro and pacman-for-python: Piggybacking python

I’m going to piggyback one program onto another today, because it doesn’t really have enough oomph to stand on its own. And in this case, the two titles have their core language in common. Here’s pyro, to start us off.

2015-03-28-6m47421-pyro

pyro’s home page says it hopes to be “the first major roguelike game” written entirely in python. Of course, that claim may go back to 2006, and I’m not sure if it made it in under the wire. Nowadays there are quite a few roguelikes that use python2.x and some at python3; I don’t know which ones would deserve the “major” appellation.

pyro does not strike me as particularly innovative in terms of roguelikes, and in some senses seems to be lacking a few important points. If the home page is correct and the game isn’t quite finished then I’m willing to forgive that.

Color use is good, but you must have a terminal of at least 80×25 (not x24) or you’ll get python errors. Character creation is very rudimentary, where selecting a class pins you to a race (or perhaps vice-versa), and classes seem tied to your choice of “god.” There is no chance to tweak ability scores or other statistics, even though the readme files suggest a lot of the game’s mechanics rely on those.

Occasionally there are incomplete screens or placeholders for certain features. pyro’s closing screens mention that there would be a save feature there, at some point. The command key rundown is visible with the question mark key, but there seem to be some points (most glaring is spellcasting) that are missing.

My biggest complaint would just be movement keys, which by default are number pad directions. That means laptop users like me are going to be fiddling with the Fn and NumLk keys a lot. No doubt an enterprising player-stroke-programmer could knuckle down and edit the source files to change those, but I’m not very enterprising, and besides, for what I’ve seen of pyro, it doesn’t really grab me.

Taken as a whole, pyro has the groundwork for a decent python roguelike all in place, and just needs to be updated and embellished. Like so many other programs I see though, it’s fast approaching that 10-year mark where the likelihood of getting that attention is very, very slim.

Now for the second title, as promised: pacman-for-python.

2015-03-28-6m47421-pacman-for-python-01

Eugene Antimirov’s Pac-Man derivative is simple and straightforward, and incorporates enough AI to make it a workable clone, even if it does miss big chunks of the original game.

Arrow keys move your atpersand around the screen and clearing the maze of dots (periods) ends the game with a congratulatory message. Touch a ghost and the game ends with a sad announcement.

No power pills though. No multiple lives either. No attract screen or welcome message. And aside from simple direction finding, the ghosts don’t patrol or circle. The maze is determined by the contents of map.dat, which you can edit as a plain text file. So if you want something with more symmetry, you can build it. Or just open the entire field to dots. :|

2015-03-28-6m47421-pacman-for-python

I noticed one other thing that pacman-for-python needs to overcome: There’s a blatant discrepancy between the speed of the ghosts and the speed of the player.

Probably just by virtue of mechanics, it’s possible to zip around the maze at a high speed because the key repeat and refresh rates are so much faster for the player than for the ghosts. Ghosts seem to move about once a second; by holding down a direction key your glyph can move three or four times as fast.

Which means even the best AI isn’t going to have much luck in catching you, since you’re five steps away before it gets the chance to make one move. It’s probably a point that can be resolved easily, with a small delay in the player’s movement code.

That’s all for now. I should tie up these games by the end of the month, and we can move back to boring old utilities and system monitors, file catalogs and music clients. Yawn. … :???:


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at March 28, 2015 01:30 PM

512 Pixels

Gary Allen, on the end of ifo Apple Store →

In a post titled "My Work Here is Done:"

So, I’m doing to focus on my family and friends, drop the demands of writing and get back to what it was before—just fun. I won’t be writing new stories, but will attempt to keep up with some of the list-type material on this Web site for reference.

I'll miss Gary's insight into Apple, as well as his obsessive love of detail. Over the years, we have traded emails several times, and he's always been very kind and very helpful. Best of luck, friend.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at March 28, 2015 12:54 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Extracurricular Activities 3.28.15 — Marcion, Christian Stoicism, & Transhumanism

Nancy Pearcey on Apologetics, Cultural Liturgies, and Our Postmodern Age

Yesterday, I began a conversation with Nancy Pearcey about her new book, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God SubstitutesToday, we continue this discussion and focus on the benefits and limits of worldview training.

Trevin Wax: James K. A. Smith makes the case that worldview analysis isn’t enough when it comes to discipleship, since we are formed by cultural liturgies, not just philosophical beliefs. What are the limits of worldview training?

Dieter Roth on Reading the Sources for Marcion

In my two previous guest blog posts (here and here) considering Marcion’s Gospel, I focused predominantly on issues of reconstructing this text, highlighting, first, problematic issues in Markus Vinzent’s new monograph[1] and, second, the most important methodological considerations when attempting a reconstruction of Marcion’s Gospel. In this third and final posting, I would like to return to Vinzent’s book and consider “the other side of the coin” of his argument involving Marcion, namely examples of his reading of the sources.

Fred Sanders on Christian Stoicism and Clement of Alexandria

People who worry about the hellenization, or greekifying, of Christianity tend to worry about Platonism. But the interaction with Stoicism has been equally complex and interesting.

Clement of Alexandria (ca 150-215)’s fascinating book Paedagogus is a great early example.

Roger Olson on the Image of God and Transhumanism

In my most recent post here I raised ethical questions about the idea of “transhumanity” or “posthumanity”—technology being used to transcend normal humanity into “humanity plus.” So far as I can tell there are no examples of this yet; only ideas that seem possible to some people given the tremendous technological enhancements created and offered to persons with physical disabilities and disadvantages. An example is cochlear implants. Another example is prosthetic limbs manipulable by mind power. These are not examples of transhumanity; they are technological creations that some people take as encouragement to believe in further technological advancements that would essentially take persons from being “merely human” to “human plus.”

I am a Christian ethicists, so my first concern in such questions is to advise Christians and churches how to think about them.

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.

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Extracurricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don’t necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.

If you have any comments on these stories, we welcome you to share them here. We hope you enjoy!

–The Editors of Zondervan Academic Blog

by Jeremy Bouma at March 28, 2015 12:49 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Roads from Emmaus

Synaxarion for the Saturday of the Akathist

I’m off to Philadelphia for much of the day today to give a couple of talks at one of the churches there, so I thought I would leave you with this today, the synaxarion for the Saturday of the Akathist, the Fifth Saturday of Lent, which is today: On the fifth Saturday of the Great […]

The post Synaxarion for the Saturday of the Akathist appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 28, 2015 11:30 AM

J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

The Best of the Week for March 28, 2015

The Best of the Week is a weekly collection of my favorite writers and articles from around the web that reflect tradition, beauty, culture, and the Permanent Things. This week we take a look at whether moving is always the better option; how mainstream culture has been infected by pornography; and some good news on the sexual morality of Millennials.

"Seek a Better Life", or Stay Put?

by Gracy Olmstead

Gracy Olmstead responds to Sarah Skwire’s criticism of her article, Why Staying Put Matters and Why It’s So Hard. Skwire wrongly equates migration with "seeking a better life" or improving oneself. Olmstead argues that isn’t always the case.

The "Pornification" of Society

by Fight the New Drug

A brief overview of how quickly and thoroughly overtly sexual imagery and attitudes have overtaken mainstream culture. This article looks at the harmful side effects of a society that not merely tolerates or accepts pornography, but embraces it in all its extreme forms as some kind of natural and good expression.

The Sexually Conservative Millennial

by Emma Green

A bit of encouraging news to counter the Pornification article. In this post for The Atlantic, Emma Green reviews some recent polls on Millennial "hookup culture" (or the lack thereof). 71 percent of Millennials feel that marriage is still a relevant institution. A majority believe that random sex is morally wrong at least in some circumstances, and many believe it is morally wrong in all circumstances. This is some hopeful information in a sea of bad press for my generation.

Have a recommendation?

If you find an interesting article (or, even better, if you’ve written one yourself), post it in the comments below or send me an email at jd@jdbentley.com. If it’s good, I’ll include it in next week’s post.

March 28, 2015 04:00 AM

Roads from Emmaus

Sweet Partings: The Final Akathist

We now come to the part of Lent where we begin to say farewell to various services that have accompanied us on the journey. Today is the Fifth Friday of Lent. In the practice of my archdiocese, we celebrate the Small Compline service with the Akathist Hymn on the first five Fridays of Lent. On […]

The post Sweet Partings: The Final Akathist appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 28, 2015 12:43 AM

Front Porch Republic

The Low Standards of Norman Rockwell’s Critics

All too many people are entirely settled in their opinion that Norman Rockwell’s art presents a “falsification” of reality: in short, he is charged with utopianism. This opinion is false, but nearly universal. Now, as it happens, the most common complaint about distributism too is its supposed utopianism. Also, I think, false. Rockwell’s art is supposed to be utopian because it depicts events that are free from suffering, death or evil — a whitewashed world that never was and never could be. Distributism is supposed to be utopian because it requires people to be free from avarice, or else it requires the oversight of a powerful centralized state, the existence of which it rejects. Or something like that. Anyway, it’s not possible, and its advocates, especially Chesterton, are completely ignorant of the Science of Economics.

I’m on something of a mission to rescue Rockwell from the critics. As always, you can find many critics who simply hate his “falsifications.” Nowadays, you can also find quite a few critics who admit to liking Rockwell. These critics find his “falsifications” praiseworthy in one way or another. But they fully accept the “falsification” business. I loathe the charge — I loathe it when it’s made against Rockwell, and I loathe it when it’s made against Chesterton. I think it is cheap and facile and unreflective. And I am hoping to find something of a sympathetic ear here, among those who see the falseness of the charge when leveled against distributism. In this little article, however, I will not attack the falsification charge directly. Rather, I will take an instructive recent sample of Rockwell criticism and show how thoughtless it really is, all the way down.    

You might think art criticism is a funny place to start a crusade. Art critics are famous for making wild interpretive moves that strike the average reader as, to say the least, disconnected from reality. In many cases, these flights of critical fancy are, just in virtue of their wildness, more or less set free from refutation. It’s not like you can prove they’re wrong. For example, in his the Rape of the Masters, Roger Kimball savages some art critics: he might succeed in making their claims look silly and unwarranted, but I wouldn’t say he proves them false. (This is not a criticism of Kimball: he wasn’t trying to prove that the claims are false.)

Occasionally, however, critical claims are easy to falsify. Norman Rockwell’s critics, for example, have always said simply unsupportable things about him. (I address some of that in various places, such as herehere and here.) Unsurprisingly, they are still at it. The bizarre, indefensible claims about Rockwell’s work continue unabated. The most recent offender is the Tampa Bay Times‘s Lennie Bennett. In a review of the traveling Rockwell exhibition on display in Tampa, Bennett writes about Rockwell’s 1960′s civil rights pictures, such as “The Problem We All Live With,” and contrasts them with his earlier, happier, Saturday Evening Post pictures.

The problem critics allege in his newly expressed social conscience is that his works aren’t as good as those about the good old days. We know as we look at his earlier works that we’re looking at a world that was mostly fiction. But how much truth is there in a 17th century Rococo painting by Fragonard of always young and gorgeous aristocrats either? We know that Rockwell was a commercial artist who painted for paid commissions. Do we think that Renaissance artists painted for free or always chose their subject matter?

The difference is that Rockwell never seems to stretch himself the way a great artist does. He avoids nuance and the complexities of relationships. The inner life holds no interest for him.

Some of this is simply opinion, and I have no particular objection to it. In fact, I agree that most of Rockwell’s civil rights pictures aren’t all that great. (Although I recently stumbled upon a very nice blog post about “The Problem” that does a beautiful job of trying to explain the picture from a technical standpoint. It made me like the picture a little bit more.) It’s the last sentence that is completely, wildly, indefensible. The inner life holds no interest for Rockwell? Where could that possibly come from? More on that in a moment.  

The second-to-last sentence is also indefensible, despite the fact that (I would guess) it probably strikes most readers as true — even as obviously true. It probably strikes most readers as obviously true because it’s the kind of thing that is said so often about Rockwell. But the fact that it’s often said doesn’t make it true. To know whether it’s true, you’d have to do something — you’d have to look at a whole bunch of Rockwells, carefully. You might also need to say a bit about what ‘nuance’ and ‘complexity’ actually mean. When you say he avoids nuance, do you really mean he avoids ugliness? If so, you may be mostly correct. But if you mean the pictures are hamhanded or just simpleminded, then you’re completely off base. 

image00

This picture, “Breaking Home Ties,” doesn’t depict nuance or complexity in the sense of ugliness — this relationship isn’t “complex” in the sense that the pair obviously loathe each other and can’t wait to part. If that’s the kind of nuance you want, you’re largely going to have to look outside of Rockwell. But the picture is, for all that, tremendously insightful. The father, holding his son’s hat, has been working and praying for years that his children will have a better life than he’s had.  And now the son is off to college — success! But of course, it means his son will be leaving him behind. And the son is eager to go. It’s such a bittersweet picture, stunningly executed. The fact that it’s a common scene — one that many of us have lived through on at least one side, if not both — takes nothing away from its depth. Indeed, it’s Rockwell’s genius that he sees the depth in these ordinary scenes, and helps us to see it, too. So I think we can safely dismiss the tired, silly idea that there’s no nuance or complexity in Rockwell.  

But let’s go back to the final sentence in that quotation from Bennett.  She wrote that “the inner life holds no interest for him.” This is so plainly false that it’s hard to see where it could even come from. Look again at “Breaking Home Ties”: what is that picture about, if not the inner lives of its characters? Or consider an image that is, possibly, even better known, “Girl at Mirror.”

image01

This is a picture about the inner life of this child, just as “Breaking Home Ties” is a picture about the inner lives of its characters. So we know it’s false that Rockwell isn’t interested in the inner life. Indeed, it is obviously false that Rockwell isn’t interested in the inner life. So we face a puzzle. If Rockwell is obviously interested in the inner life, why would a critic say the opposite? One possibility is that the critic hasn’t bothered to look at Rockwell’s work with any real interest. Another possibility is that the critic has looked at it, but has spectacularly failed to grasp it. Another possibility is that the critic isn’t interested in the inner lives of children, or of blue collar fathers and their upwardly mobile sons. Perhaps the critic thinks these inner lives aren’t worth troubling with. Just not quite complicated and idiosyncratic enough to capture the exalted attentions of the mighty. Rockwell takes a rather different line, following the cue of someone who said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

Bennett is far from alone in taking the snidely superior attitude towards Rockwell that her piece displays. He’s a fine painter, many critics will grant, just as long as you remember to keep him in his proper place. Like, you know, he’s not up there with Fragonard. (What a person to pick as a comparison! But I will resist the urge to psychologize.) Here is how Bennett begins her piece:

I weighed in on the trajectory of his career after seeing an exhibition of his work at the Orlando Museum of Art in 2008. I realized two things then that I still believe: An appreciation of Rockwell’s native talent is only possible after viewing his original paintings, which were not seen by the public for years, and that appreciation has its limits.

The bits I quoted earlier, about the lack of interest in the inner life and so on, those are the parts where Bennett lays out her case for his limits. So the argument of Bennett’s review is straightforward: Rockwell’s pretty good, but he’s not a Real Artist like Fragonard, because he had no interest in complexity, nuance, or the inner life. But that’s just false. Bennett’s put-down of Rockwell is typical: it is based on her own fantasies about the work, rather than the work itself.  

You might think I’m being a bit harsh. But this is not Bennett’s first attempt to write about Rockwell. Just above, you see that she mentions a 2008 piece. But more recently, she wrote a generally fawning review of Deborah Solomon’s ridiculous biography of Rockwell, which began with the claim that Solomon’s is the first “comprehensive” biography of Rockwell. False. Laura Claridge had it beat by more than a decade. Bennett also spoke of a “new connection” that Solomon had made — linking one of Rockwell’s apparently playful Post covers to Mary Rockwell’s alleged abortion. Solomon did indeed speak of this. So did Claridge, from whom Solomon swiped the idea and the story without attribution.

Now, I don’t expect a small city’s arts beat writer like Bennett to know anything much about Rockwell. She wrote a review of Solomon’s book, and mainly took the book at face value. No problem there: initially, the mistakes in Bennett’s review were attributable to her trust in Solomon, rather than to any bad will on Bennett’s own part. But I wrote to Bennett and, when I got no response from her, to Bennett’s editor to point out the errors. No corrections were made. (I later wrote about this in a little piece at the Huffington Post.) Even the changing of a few demonstrably false words in a book review is apparently a bit too much to ask in the world of our art critics. (The review hasn’t been changed, but it has been reprinted. Journalistic integrity at its best!)

That is the standard to which our Rockwell critics hold themselves.  And apparently, employers like the Tampa Bay Times are satisfied with it.

But the larger point here is the point with which I began — the falsification charge. If you were looking carefully, you saw it in a snippet I quoted before: she said “We know as we look at his earlier works that we’re looking at a world that was mostly fiction.” As I said, this charge is made by virtually every critic of Rockwell I have ever encountered, and in fact Rockwell himself sometimes comes dangerously close to expressing it. If the standards of our art critics are as low as I’ve hinted in this piece, that ought to suggest to you that perhaps even the falsification charge is … false. (Hint: it is.) Rockwell is not a falsifier — he’s an optimist in Chesterton’s sense, and as such there’s a lot more to him than our critics have ever bothered to see.

The post The Low Standards of Norman Rockwell’s Critics appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Patrick Toner at March 28, 2015 12:36 AM

March 27, 2015

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: March 29, 2015

Ryan during 15.4. Great job!

Ryan during 15.4. Great job!

Strict press 8-8-8-8

5 rounds of:

10 strict pull-ups

10 strict ring dips

10 kettlebell swings (70/55 lb.)

35 double double-unders

Time cap: 20 minutes

Skills Session

Run for 20 minutes at an easy pace to wake up the legs after a winter of rowing indoors.

by Mike at March 27, 2015 10:55 PM

Workout: March 28, 2015

Congrats to Karissa on the amazing progress in the last months!

Congrats to Karissa on the amazing progress in the last months!

Deadlift: build to a heavy set of 5

Front-rack lunges 8-8-8-8

by Mike at March 27, 2015 10:52 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Movement Clinic 12:00-1:30 and Pup Love

Saturday’s Workout:

Teams of 3 or 4:
22:00 As Many Rounds As Possible:
10 Toes-2-Bar *straight leg sit up*
10 Box Jumps *step up* 20in for all
15 Shoulder to Over head (75/55)
15 Lunge Steps
*cannot move on to the next movement until partner has completed that work. Partner 1 starts 10 T2B, when s/he finishes, partner 1 begins box jumps while partner 2 begins T2B, moving in a conga line for 22:00

 

 

Movement Clinic Time Again

Who: anyone and everyone, new and old to CFNT! (FREE)

What: 90 minutes of focused skill work on cleans and kipping (including BAR MUSCLE UPS)!

When: Saturday March 28th, 12:00-1:30pm

Where: at good ole CrossFit NapTown (#darkplaces)

Why: to slow some of the more complex skills and movements down to make every single human at this gym a total baller at life

How: just show up on Saturday in your regular workout clothes with a smile!

The FUNdamentals makeover is here to stay and Rachel and Anna are back at it for this month’s movement clinic Saturday from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over basic clean progressions and skills, drills, and progressions for ALL THINGS KIPPING. These clinics are perfect for members of all skill levels and it is totally FREE. This time will be incredibly focused on skills and technique with progressions galore to break things down. Let us know if you ave any questions by emailing anna@crossfitnaptown.com or rachel@crossfitnaptown.com and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!

Help Save this Pup

 3884937_1427314176-1.1927
Last week, one of our members found this pup after he was hit by a car and stopped to help him when no one else would. He survived the accident but has had to have his leg amputated and we are now working to help raise money to pay for the life-saving surgery. We will be offering a few added donation yoga classes this weekend to help, keep an eye out for more details on those and visit the page today to help his recovery!

by Anna at March 27, 2015 09:40 PM

Reformedish

The Peace That God Himself IS

peaceJohn Webster is relentless in his refrain that all of our theology, even our theology about the role of theology, needs to take its orientation in the nature and activity of the Triune God in himself and his works. Unsurprising, then, is his decision to discuss the peace of God as the necessary foundation and precursor to discussing theology’s role in establishing the peace of the church. “Theology must first speak of the God of peace, who is the principle and pattern of created tranquility” (The Domain of the Word, p. 150).

That God is both the “principle” as well as the “pattern” of creaturely peace is important to remember. Webster says that contemporary theology often remembers the “pattern” bit, focused as it is on the God’s outward works to create and secure peace, but forgets the principle. This can lead to an unfortunate “moralitistic” ecclesiology, deprived of the indicative grounding for the imperatives it wants to encourage. Instead, he argues we must first consider God himself as the principle of peace as the foundation and ground of the rest of our reflections.

Of course, as soon as we begin to think about God’s inner, or immanent, peace, we “encounter an inhibition: ‘God is great, and we know him not’ (Job 36.26). We know that God is great, but we scarcely know what we know” (p. 153). This stands as a warning, yes, but also as a “summons” to understand that whatever understanding of God we come to based on his Word, we need to know that God “infinitely exceeds” the operations of our reason.

So what can we say about the peace that God himself is? This:

The peace of God — the peace which God himself is– passes all understanding; ‘neither we nor the angels can understand as God, the peace which God himself enjoys’ (Augustine, City of God, XXII.29). This peace of God’s own self may be considered under the aspects of harmony and repose. First, with respect to harmony; the outer acts of the Holy Trinity are indivisible, the work of the undivided divine essence in its threefold personal modification. By appropriation, specific works may be particularly or eminently assigned to one divine person (as redemption to the Son or sanctification to the Spirit). But each person participates in all, for each shares in the undivided dvine essence, and each work is to be attributed absolutely to that one divine essence. The outer works of the Trinity are, then, harmonious — not mere conjoint or cooperative or composite action, but action which is inseparable and coinherent, and so, in a deep sense, peaceful. This harmony in the missions of the three-in-one is grounded in and gives expression to to the infinite peace which God is. There is no disorder, disruption or contradiction in the works of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the making and perfecting of the world. And so, there is in God’s inner life nothing of divergence or discord, but infinite unity and therefore peace beyond measure.

Second, to this harmony is to be added the element of repose. The outer works of God are effortlessly accomplished, without strain or agitation, without interval between willing and effecting. God rests in his work. This rest corresponds to the inner repose of God in filiation and spiriation, there is no malign diversity, no coming together out of a condition of separation, no overcoming of division or conflict, but always an already-achieved perfection of peaceful life. God’s inner peace is the peace of his triune simplicity.

This inner divine peace is the principle of creaturely peace, that upon which all other peace is founded and by which it is preserved. This is so, however, only because divine peace is in itself complete and fully satisfied. In the repleteness of his life as Father, Son, and Spirit, God is beyond need or desire. His peace is neither enhanced by created peace nor diminished by its absence…it is the harmony and repose which, because it needs nothing, is capable of pure charity, giving life and righteous order in the works of creation and providence.

The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason, pp. 133-135

Webster continues on from here to show how this original peace leads to his work of peace in salvation, the peace of the church, and theology’s role within God’s working of peace. For now, though, I think it enough to stop, sit, meditate, and wonder at the peace which God is.

Father, Son, and Spirit dwell in blessed, holy peace, wanting and needing nothing, fully at rest, enjoying the delight of their harmonious existence as the Three-in-One from all eternity. This peace is light, life, and love.

Now one more thought: this God invites us to share–in our own created, derivative, limited way–that peace through the Son who made peace through the blood of his Cross (Col. 1:20), who himself is our Peace (Eph. 2:14).

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at March 27, 2015 07:06 PM

512 Pixels

On the MessagePad 2000 →

My buddy Thomas Brand has put together a nice set of links to celebrate the 18th birthday of the Newton MessagePad 2000.

I owned a 2000 for several years in college, complete with Wi-Fi card, keyboard and carrying case. It synced contacts, calendars and more with my PowerBook G4 via an ADB/USB adaptor. I could send and receive email, take class notes and more all on the little green machine.

While some of my classmates would use laptops, no one was using anything like the Newton. This was around 2005 — two years before the iPhone would be announced. Needless to say, I got some looks, but I didn't care. The Newton was fast, easy to use and offered a lot of things that just weren't possible at the time without a laptop.

I ended up selling my MessagePad to pay off my wife's engagement ring, but every once in a while, I cruise eBay looking for a replacement. One of these days, I'll pull the trigger.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at March 27, 2015 06:59 PM

The Urbanophile

The Metropolitan Century

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an organization of developed world countries, recently released a report called “The Metropolitan Century.” I read it while researching an article, but it’s full of interesting information. In fact, I think it even makes a good introductory primer to trends in urbanism. Unfortunately, the OECD charges for their publications, but I wanted to share a few points from it.

First, they noted that productivity increases 2-5% when you double the size of a city. This is basically Geoffrey West’s finding, or something close to it. But what they also say is that if the population (weighted by distance) within 300km of a city (~185mi) doubles, productivity grows by 1-2%. So the population of the extended hinterland also plays a role in urban productivity. A city surrounded by a hinterland that is shriveling up might thus have some modest drag on its economy.

In the US, the OECD says that San Francisco and Washington, DC outperform economically relative to their size. Los Angeles and Chicago underperform. Among the top global cities, London outperformed relative to its size whereas New York was right at its expected value.

They also put some meat on the bones of real estate prices. They estimate that building regulations increase prices by two to eight times in central London and New York. Even in smaller city centers they estimate a 50% increase in prices. (This wasn’t specifically housing cost related, but overall real estate prices it would appear). They say:

Land-use regulation that limits new construction benefits home owners at the expense of renters and prospective residents. Home owners tend to benefit in several ways. First, they can enjoy the amenity value of attractive protected neighbourhoods. Second, they benefit from the house price increases that regulation causes. Land-use regulation can also be used to prevent people with lower social status from moving into a neighbourhood (for example by prohibiting multiple dwelling units). In contrast, renters will suffer because they have to pay higher prices. Similarly, prospective residents lose out because they have to pay more to move to the city. It also limits labour force mobility and can have detrimental effects on the entire economy of a country.

As home owners are often the most vocal group of the three, local governments might be tempted to pay particular attention to their wishes and restrict construction strongly. This might have positive effects on the current residents of a city, but will have negative effects on the rest of the country. If every local government pursues such a policy, it leads to a situation in which the negative effects outweigh the positive effects and most residents will be worse off.

There’s also some interesting info on whether it’s better to have one big city that dominates, or a collection of smaller cities. Here’s what they say on that:

It is not only the size of cities, but their spatial distribution as well that matters. Countries with more polycentric systems, i.e. systems of large cities instead of a small number of megacities, are found to have higher per capita GDP. The reason for this could be that, with a larger number of metropolitan areas, a bigger part of the territory benefits from being close to at least one of these metropolitan areas compared to, for example, a situation where one megacity combines the population of all those metropolitan areas.

In contrast, within a region of a given country, a more dispersed structure of cities appears to be associated with lower per capita GDP than if one larger city were to combine the population of those cities. In this case, with spillovers from small cities being fairly minor – both geographically and in size – having one large city in a region rather than a network of small cities may be economically more beneficial. This may also apply to small countries.

These are just a couple small samples. The full report is very readable, full of interesting insights. I believe it would even make a good introductory textbook on urbanism. Grab a copy if you can.

by Aaron M. Renn at March 27, 2015 05:50 PM

Feed: » stratechery by Ben Thompson

Podcast: Exponent 039 – Lando Calrissian Publishers

On the newest episode of Exponent, the podcast I co-host with James Allworth:

In this week’s episode Ben and James follow up on last week’s episode, introduce the Toilet Bowl philosophy of career development, and then dive into the future of publishers in the world of Facebook.

Links

Listen to the episode here

Podcast Information: Feed | iTunes | SoundCloud | Twitter | Feedback

The post Podcast: Exponent 039 – Lando Calrissian Publishers appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at March 27, 2015 05:24 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Thomas Merton, Rachel Held Evans, Peter Enns – March 27, 2015

 
 

Support the ERB:
3 Easy Ways You Can Help!

 

Rare Thomas Merton Book on Spiritual Direction and Meditation on sale now for Kindle: [ Get it now! ]

 

Peter Enns’s newest book THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO on sale now for Kindle! Only $1.99! [ Get it now! ]

 

[ Don't Miss Our Interview with Rachel Held Evans ]

 


 

Reviews, etc. posted this week on The Englewood Review of Books website:

 

  • Alan Cross – When Heaven and Earth Collide [Feature Review]
    More Devoted to Order Than To Justice? A Feature Review of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus Alan Cross Paperback: New South Books, 2014 Buy now:  [ ] [ ]   Reviewed by Rafael Rodriguez   How could racism exist in a region where evangelical Christians were […]
  •  

  • 5 Kindle Ebook Deals – 27 March 2015 (via Thrifty Christian Reader)
    You may or may not know that we have recently launched a sister website that features the best deals on the best Kindle ebooks… (No drowning in seas of self-published drivel or Christian fiction. No dubious theology. Only the best books, just as you expect here at The Englewood Review!) Be sure to connect with […]
  •  

  • Jesus Without Borders – Green/Pardue/Yeo, Eds [Review]
    Global Revealer, Global Messiah A Review of Jesus without Borders: Christology in the Majority World (Majority World Theology Series) Gene Green, Stephen Pardue, K.K. Yeo, Eds. Paperback: Eerdmans, 2014 Buy now:  [  ]  [  ]   Reviewed by James Stambaugh   The church of the global south, where the vast majority of Christians are, is […]
  •  

  • New Book Releases – Week of 23 March 2015
    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…) See a book here that you’d like to review for us? Contact us, and we’ll talk about the possibility of a review. By Jeff Goins Watch […]
  •  

  • Scot F. Martin – Greening God’s Earth [Brief Review]
    The Entirety of the Created Order. A review of Greening God’s Earth: A Handbook for Stewarding Church Land Scot F. Martin PDF Ebook:  [ FREE Download ], 2014 39 pages (including bibliography and references)   Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox   I occasionally hear environmentally sensitive messages from the pulpit, targeted against the “it’s all gonna […]
  •  

  • Rachel Held Evans – Searching for Sunday [Interview]
    Church Matters: An Interview with Rachel Held Evans   I was excited to have the opportunity to talk recently with Rachel Held Evans about her excellent forthcoming book Searching for Sunday (which just received a starred review from Publishers Weekly). [ Pre-order now: | ]   ERB: One of the things that I really […]
  •  

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by csmith at March 27, 2015 04:40 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Eulogy

Mrs Wright shares her thoughts about the passing of Leonard Nimoy:

http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2015/03/27/i-heart-spock-my-meandering-reminiscence-of-my-life-long-love-affair-with-a-certain-superversive-vulcan/

star-trek-spock1

History has overlooked one of my favorite Star Trek characters. You never hear her name any more, even though you hear Uhura all the time. But no one ever mentions Nurse Chapel, but I loved Nurse Chapel as a girl.

Because she loved Spock.

Spock 7

The thought of the unrequited love that this fine young woman (played by Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett, who was also the voice of the ship’s computer) held for the calm, logical Mr. Spock delighted my teenage heart. Especially in the Amok Time episode, where she looked so hopeful when he suddenly got emotional.

I felt so sorry for her.

See the rest here: http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2015/03/27/i-heart-spock-my-meandering-reminiscence-of-my-life-long-love-affair-with-a-certain-superversive-vulcan/

by John C Wright at March 27, 2015 04:25 PM

Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »

On taking personalized ads personally

Inpersonalization the pile of comments under the post on Facebook I wrote about here yesterday, Christopher Brock writes a long and thoughtful response that pretty much represents the thinking of the adtech business today. Since it’s hard to respond point-by-point in Facebook’s commenting UI, I’ll do it here:

It is not really fair to say Facebook identifies you as x,y and z.

Yes it is, because Facebook is in the business of delivering personalized ads. True, they also deliver non-personalized ads (ones targeted, say, to a demographic). But since there is no flag on an ad that says it’s one or the other, and because Facebook can get more personal, with more people, than any other advertising platform in the world, it is legit to at least suspect that their ad-placing machine thinks you are x, y or z.

What the ads reflect are the audience demographics approved by businesses willing to purchase impressions against a profile to which you fit in hopes of turning a ROI.

Or because you’re being targeted personally. For example…

Retargeting ads are based on your browsing habits, which can be telling of your historical intent based searches.

Yes, that and a lot of other data, some gleaned by surveillance, some bought from Acxiom and other brokers, all crunched in a thing that IBM calls The Big Datastillery. Here’s the graphic:

Datastillery_1500x3002bSee those beakers at the bottom? (Click on the graphic to see it in detail.) That’s you and me.

How is it possible for a company as smart as IBM to insult human beings so obviously? The short and simple answer is, because consumers aren’t human. The term “consumer” presumes that’s all we do: consume. (Jerry Michalski calls consumers “gullets with wallets and eyeballs.”) In the same way that “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” “when all you have is plumbing, every consumer looks like a beaker.”

As for all the plumbing above the beakers, does anybody outside the adtech world know the difference between programmatic (including direct and forwards), predictive, real time bidding (RTB), AB and MV testing, supply side platforms, demand side platforms, marketing and interaction optimization, and all the other valves in the piping that blurps placements of ads through Facebook, other commercial websites and mobile apps? I suppose from the plumbing side it doesn’t matter. But it does to the humans being treated like empty vessels on a conveyor belt. We don’t know what the hell is going on, but we do know that it’s big, creepy and trying to be personal in a robotic way.

By contrast, the provenance of ads in the old advertising world was obvious to everybody. (And if they needed reminding, they got it with Mad Men.) Every ad you read in a newspaper or magazine, heard on the radio, saw on TV or a billboard was placed there either directly by the advertiser or through an agency. And here the key thing: it was never personal. It was aimed at a population. Everybody knew that.

Direct marketing, better known as junk mail, was a very different animal. It was addressed to you personally, and wanted a direct response. Adtech is what we got after direct marketing body-snatched advertising. An ad you see on Facebook might be addressed to populations the old fashioned way, or it might be personal. You can’t tell the difference — unless an ad is obviously personal, in which case it risks falling into the uncanny valley where might creeped out. (Or not.) At the extreme, perfectly personalized advertising (based on knowing everything about you) is perfectly creepy.

Eith a new market we are served non-relevant ad content, however over time more businesses will move to paid digital ad marketing and the ads we see will become more contextually and intentionally relevant.

And creepy.

I know the best adtech people go out of their way to avoid the uncanny valley. There are also special cases, which also happen to be the two biggest: Facebook and Google.

Facebook is in a position to know people to a high degree of detail. The company is careful not to show that fact (and fall into the uncanny valley), but knowing how personal Facebook can get does make a difference. That’s why I said “If I were actually the person Facebook advertised to…”

Google is less privileged in that respect, but the nature of the help it provides (in search results, in guessing at locations we search for in Maps, and so on) makes their search results and ad placements less of a valley when they get uncanny.

But in general the body-snatched nature of digital advertising leaves us in the dark, nearly all the time, about what’s personal and what’s not.

There is a lot of profit potential for marketers who can accurately design marketing funnels for products/services based on demographic profiling and intentional modeling using a demand side platform like Facebook.

Is that what it is? Man, that is so damn confusing to us beakers. I was in the advertising business (the old Mad Men kind) one way or another, for much of my adult life, and for me — as well as for the rest of the world — the demand side of the marketplace is the whole human population. The supply side is the one selling goods and services to that population.

A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon with an RTB company talking about all this stuff, and my spinal cord kinked as my brain spun around, trying to grok how demand in that business is on the side that produces the ads, rather than the side that consumes them. (Which we mostly don’t, by the way. We ignore 99.x% of them. But we’re still consumers to the ad producers.) As Wikipedia currently puts it,

A demand-side platform (DSP) is a system that allows buyers of digital advertising inventory to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface. Real-time bidding for displaying online ads takes place within the ad exchanges, and by utilizing a DSP, marketers can manage their bids for the banners and the pricing for the data that they are layering on to target their audiences. Much like Paid Search, using DSPs allows users to optimize based on set Key Performance Indicators such as effective Cost per Click (eCPC), and effective Cost per Action (eCPA).

Whatever. (And saying that I speak for all people not laboring in the adtech bubble.)

Since marketing data science is relatively new as is social, local and mobile tech, not all businesses buy digital ads.

True. In fact the Internet we know today is only about 20 years old. It showed up when commercial activity could operate there (technically, when NSFnet shut down), in 1995. The cookie was invented around that time as well. (But not for tracking. It was meant originally just to help websites recall and assist prior visitors.)

The Net we made then, and still have, is Eden. We arrived naked there, and we still are. The adtech business loves that, but the rest of us don’t. That’s why privacy is a huge issue online (sources: TRUSTe, Pew, Customer Commons) and a non-issue offline.

In the physical world we’ve had clothing, shelter and other privacy technologies for many thousands of years — and manners for how we treat each others’ private spaces. In the online world, rudeness rules. A merchant who would be appalled at the thought of placing a tracking beacon on a visiting customer, just so that customer can later be “delivered” a better “advertising experience,” doesn’t think twice about doing the same online.

This will change. It’s already happening through regulation, and through ad and tracking blocking rates that steadily increase. But those are stone tools. Eventually we’ll get real clothing and shelter. When that happens, the adtech business will be in trouble, unless it changes, which I’m sure it will.

@docsearle maybe you should be a web marketer

No thanks.

you obviously have identified an area of opportunity.

The area I’ve identified is the one where customers will signal their intentions far better than any marketer can guess at the same.

If you want more and better thinking about all this, I highly recommend what Don Marti has been writing. He, Bob Hoffman and I are voices in the wilderness today. But that will change. The wilderness is already burning.

Image from Personalizing with Purpose, by Paul Dunay in imedia connection.

by Doc Searls at March 27, 2015 04:17 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Need Bible Study Tools? 3 Tips For Choosing the Right Resources

When you visit a bookstore or website with a wide selection of Bible reference tools, the sheer number and variety can be overwhelming—especially when you’re unsure which ones you really need.

We understand you want to “go deep” and get beneath the surface of Scripture, but might need a little direction. You’re not alone.

Here are three tips to help you find and select the right reference books to support your study and exploration of the Bible:

1) Determine Your Needs

What are your reasons for seeking Bible study tools? It’s important to ask yourself how you plan to use these tools:

  • Do you plan to join a group study?
  • Will you begin a systematic personal study?
  • Are you just looking for answers to your occasional questions about the Bible?

After determining why you need Bible reference tools, you need to determine what you need. Here are three things to keep in mind when choosing tools to meet your Bible study needs:

  1. Begin with the basics. If you’re fairly new to using Bible reference tools, you may want to start with the basics: a Study Bible (here’s an example) and books from the Core Reference Library mentioned below. From there, you can expand your library as your needs change.
  2. Consider physical appearance. While it might seem odd, how a book looks and “feels” may also be a factor in your choice. Pleasant page designs, rather than cluttered and confusing ones, matter when it comes to aiding your study. A nice binding and jacket will ensure your references last through years of wear.
  3. Select for your translation preference. This is an important factor, because often reference books are based on a particular translation of the Bible. So if you use an NIV Bible, you need NIV-based reference books. Choose reference books that are designed for use with the Bible translation you use.

 

2) Understand Your Options

There are many options of Bible reference book, and for some this can be overwhelming. Making a decision becomes much simpler when you realize that most of the options fall into just a few categories that will make up your Core Reference Library:

  1. Bible Handbook—An overview of the Bible arranged in the order of the books, providing background, commentary, illustrations, and topical and historical notes. Bible handbook example
  2. Topical Bible—A guide to relevant subjects addressed in the Bible, listing the most important verses where the topic is found. Topical Bible example
  3. Concordance—A dictionary of sorts that lists common words found in the Bible and shows where they occur, enabling you to do word studies and locate verses. Concordance example
  4. Bible Dictionary—A resource that expands your understanding, giving you more detailed information about people, places, words, and events in the Bible. Bible dictionary example
  5. Commentary—A single-volume work or series that explains the meaning of Bible passages with clarity and depth. Examples: single volume, series

Understanding your options takes the intimidation out of selecting the right reference book. Realize that you’re not making a lifetime reference decision. All you need to do is find which reference tools meet your needs for now.

 

3) Get Recommendations

Finally, ask a few people you respect for recommendations. Your pastor, student director, and even professors from a local seminary can recommend the right resources to fit you needs.

But remember, not everyone thinks or studies in the same way. Explaining how you plan to use the resources and your familiarity with the Bible will help them recommend books that meet your needs.

Bookstores are another great source of recommendations. Often bookstore staff or online categories will be able to point you to the most helpful and popular references. Whether online or at brick-and-mortar stores, look for tools that answer the kinds of questions you are likely to ask, and for books that are organized in a way that makes sense to you.

Browse a few different options within each category before you decide. Read the back of the book and the inside flaps; also make sure the inside lives up to the claims on the cover. Skim the table of contents and spend some time browsing in the book.  Using the “Look Inside” feature at online retailers is an invaluable way to find the right reference book for your Bible study needs.

We hope these tips will help take the stress and confusion out of finding and choosing the right reference book to match your Bible study needs. If you need a place to start filling out your Core Reference Library, here are a handful of resources to get you started:

 

by Jeremy Bouma at March 27, 2015 04:00 PM

512 Pixels

Connected tshirts →

We've got some limited-run tshirts for the podcast up on Teespring. If you want to help support Connected directly, now's the chance.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at March 27, 2015 03:08 PM

Front Porch Republic

Too Busy to Eat?

Think food is just calories?

Then eat “Soylent.”

A maniacal engineer has solved the “problem” of producing and preparing food–and the inconvenience of having to leave the computer screen long enough to eat it. (I mean the food, not the screen, though the difference in taste may be negligible.)

Initial recommendation: one of the benefits of Soylent is that you “can take it to space.” *

Apparently without irony the new food expert assures us that “the future is going to be closer to a utopia”: “if we can produce food without agriculture and labor … we have a broader and more equal access to health in a more sustainable fashion [and then] the world is going to look a lot more like a utopia.”

By which I expect he means eutopia, though rest assured it will be a no-place of the most horrifying kind. Not even Charleton Heston would agree to live in it. There would be nothing for NRAers to shoot at.

Listen to the tired platitudes: “advances in technology and in agriculture,” “orders of magnitude,” “efficiency gains,” “no one is going to want to do that work.”

And so the screen jockey with nary a trace of humus or cowshit on his shoes assures us that traditional agriculture is not in our future.

This product isn’t Soylent Green, but it’s still people. It is made of people who are being eaten by cannibalistic futurologists too important, too busy, and too educated to know that the only way to take care of the future is to take care of the present–and that the only way to do that is to heed the past.

(Click the first link and listen to the ten-minute radio piece. It’s good Lenten discipline. Just be sure there are no sharp objects or deadly poisons nearby.)

__________

* “I know that there are some people, perhaps many, to whom you cannot appeal on behalf of the body. To them, disembodiment is a goal, and they long for the realm of pure mind—or pure machine; the difference is negligible. Their departure from their bodies, obviously, is much to be desired, but the rest of us had better be warned: they are going to cause a lot of dangerous commotion on their way out.” –Guess Who

The post Too Busy to Eat? appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jason Peters at March 27, 2015 02:42 PM

512 Pixels

Field Notes: Two Rivers →

The current batch of Field Notes is one of my favorites in a long time. I can't wait to finish out the Pitch Black that is in my pocket and crack one of these open.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at March 27, 2015 02:37 PM

The Ontological Geek | The Ontological Geek

An Old School Gamer’s Take on Real-World Maps and Fantasy Campaigns

The thing is, having been staring at maps of both fantasy worlds and the world we actually live in I’ve noticed something. That something is, unfortunately, a ding that can cause a loss of immersion. So what is that thing I’ve noticed? Fantasy world maps always feel like they were created by dreamers rather than cartographers.

by James Hinton at March 27, 2015 02:14 PM

Crossway Blog

Cultivating Friendships as a Pastor's Wife

In this video, pastor's wife and blogger Jen Thorn talks about navigating the sometimes difficult process of making friends in the church as a pastor's wife.

Cultivating Friendships as a Pastor's Wife from Crossway on Vimeo.

This video is part of Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month. Learn more and get involved at crossway.org/PastorsWifeAppreciation.

by Matt Tully at March 27, 2015 01:14 PM

Inconsolation

z-day: A slightly different perspective on slaughtering zombies

I have a couple more roguelikes on my list, which will probably carry us right up to the end of the month. This is z-day, which I include mostly because it’s written in python, and because suggests a few changes to the tired old roguelike interface.

2015-03-24-6m47421-zday

By any yardstick, z-day is a bit primitive. It lacks a lot of the features you might expect — or want — from a roguelike, but I’m willing to overlook most of those because the home page hints that the game was never really finished. That’s fair.

Most of the reason to include it (aside from the copious amounts of color ;) ) is the inventory-only approach. Almost every key corresponds to some sort of item in your inventory, and pressing the appropriate key triggers its use.

That’s the case with almost everything except ranged items, which will require you to use the “z” key to fire. Other than that, arrow keys will move you and “a” and “u” are dedicated to equipping or using.

So there don’t seem to be any provisions for character abilities or background, no proficiencies to master or improve.

z-day breaks down your physical state into two categories, wounds and stamina. Wounds, as you might imagine, reflect how much damage you’ve taken, but stamina suggests how much more you can take. You might suffer a blow from a zombie while your stamina is high and shrug it off, but the same impact while your stamina is low might kill you.

That too is a different approach to the classical 1978-bound “hit point” model, and therefore worth mention. z-day also is stretchable to almost any terminal size. And it has a few other nifty tricks, but nothing huge that you won’t overlook on your own, if you try it.

In the category of downsides, z-day has some mapping issues that cause the screen to map and remap as you get close to the edges, which can be irritating. And there’s the question of whether the “a” key is somehow dedicated to inventory, or if an item in the “a” slot will be activated when you press it. Same for a few other letters.

I’m also a little distressed that throwing away an item destroys it irrevocably, supposedly because it’s “lost” in the mess. I’ve seen this in big-name top-tier games too, and in this day and age it strikes me as a huge cop-out. Much smaller, much less resource-hungry games are capable of managing loose scattered items on a map, so I see that as a considerable disappointment.

Other than that z-day strikes me as functional, and possibly the beginnings of a decent game. I don’t see it in either Debian or AUR, but the source file ran fine for me with just python2 zday.py.


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at March 27, 2015 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Quantified Self: How can you measure freedom?

At a recent Quantified Self Toronto meetup, one of the participants shared his key values (freedom, health, happiness, purpose) and asked for ideas on how to measure freedom. I gave him some quick tips on how I measured:

  • Money:
    • Long-term freedom through a theoretical withdrawal rate: expenses vs net worth and investment returns
    • Short-term freedom for discretionary expenses: opportunity fund for tools and ideas, connection fund for treating people
  • Time, particularly discretionary time (my own interests and projects)

In addition to those two easy metrics, there are a few other things that contribute to a feeling of freedom for me.

2015-03-06b What makes me feel free - What can I measure -- index card #quantified #freedom #independence #feeling

2015-03-06b What makes me feel free – What can I measure – index card #quantified #freedom #independence #feeling

  • How often do I have to wake up to an alarm clock, or can I sleep until I feel well-rested?
  • Am I starting to be stressed because of commitments? Do I have to juggle or cut back?
  • Can I follow the butterflies of my interest/energy, or have I promised to do a specific thing at a specific time?
  • Can I share what I’m learning for free, or am I restricted by agreements or by need?
  • Am I getting influenced by ads to want or buy things that I don’t really need? Do I experience buyer’s remorse, or do things contribute to clutter? Is it easy to remember my decisions or my values in the din?
  • Do I have the space to enjoy a great relationship with W-?
  • Can I make the things I want? Do I have the skills to create or modify things?
  • Am I reacting or responding? How reflexive is my ability to see things in the light that I would like to see them in, and to respond the way I would like to respond?
  • Can I learn about what I’m curious about? Do I use it in real life?
  • Can I make small bets and learn from them?

I think it’s because I tend to think of freedom as freedom from stress and freedom to do things – maybe more precisely, to live according to my choices without having to choose between deeply flawed options. I’m in a safe, rather privileged situation, so I’m not as worried about freedom to live or move or speak or learn; those are more important freedoms, for sure! So with the definition of freedom I have, I feel pretty free. Based on my impressions from conversations with other people, I think I’m probably in the top 10% of freedom in terms of people I know. Or at least a different sort of freedom; I’m more risk-averse than some of my friends are, for example, so they’re freer in that sense.

2015-03-06a How can you measure freedom -- index card #freedom #independence #quantified

2015-03-06a How can you measure freedom – index card #freedom #independence #quantified

If you break down the abstract concept of freedom into different types of freedom, you can figure out which types resonate with you and which ones don’t. You might then be able to think of ways to measure the specific types of freedom you’re curious about, and that will help you get a sense of areas in your life that you may want to tweak.

Philosophy has a lot to say about freedom, so that’s another way to pick up ideas. The biggest freedom, for me – the one I most want to cultivate and keep – is the freedom that comes from choosing how I perceive the world and what I do in response. I like the freedom described in Epictetus’ Discourses. How could I measure this or remind myself about this? Since it’s entirely self-willed, I can keep track of whether I remember to take responsibility for my perceptions and responses and how easy it is to do so. I imagine that as I get better at it, I’ll be more consistent at taking responsibility (even if I realize uncomfortable things about myself) and that I’ll do it with more habit. I can also track the magnitude of things I respond to. I know that I can maintain my tranquility with small events, and I’ll just have to wait and observe my behaviour with larger ones.

What does freedom mean to you? How do you observe or reflect on it?

The post Quantified Self: How can you measure freedom? appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at March 27, 2015 12:00 PM

Market Urbanism

I’m Traveling Cross-Country to Write a Book on Market Urbanism

batman-hitchhiker-gotham-city
Ever since Adam founded this blog, it has become a great forum for describing how free-market economics intersect with urban issues. But the term Market Urbanism itself has remained under the radar, especially compared to ones that encourage more government intervention for cities, like “Smart Growth.” I’ve always thought that Adam’s term deserved more mainstream cache. So I’m traveling cross-country to write a book about it.

My name is Scott Beyer, and I’m a 29-year-old urban affairs journalist from Charlottesville, VA. This week, I began a 3-year trip that will include month-long stays in 26 major cities, and visits to hundreds of smaller ones. Part of this is to continue work as a columnist for Forbes and Governing Magazine. But mainly it is to write a book that I’ve tentatively titled The Sparks From Within—How Market Urbanism Can Revive U.S. Cities.

My inspiration for this trip dates to my late teens, when I moved to New York City. I quickly become so enthralled with the fast-paced culture and diversity of urban life that I saved up some money to backpack the nation’s other cities. This continued on and off through my twenties, as I visited the nation’s 100 largest, burning through several Greyhound “Discovery Passes,” hitchhiking dozens of rides, and even once hopping a freight train from Jacksonville to New Orleans.

I had first expected that these cities would be as dynamic as New York, but was surprised to find otherwise. On one hand, numerous ones had declined despite decades of U.S. population growth, and now had neighborhoods that would embarrass a Third World country. And even many successful ones lacked a certain gravitas, with downtowns that hollowed out after 5pm.

Why were so many cities like this? That question inspired a research period after I returned home that extended for several years. My main conclusion was that U.S. urban failure did not result only from global forces like deindustrialization, but because of counterproductive government policies. This began with post-WWII federal policies that encouraged suburban flight, such as slum clearance, highway subsidies, and loan programs favoring single-family homes. When this caused industry to leave, many cities, feeling desperate, adopted their own aggressive policies, and have maintained this heavily-centralized model ever since. In most large cities today, powerful bureaucracies—bolstered by regulatory authority and gobs of federal money—dictate where and how growth happens. Rather than enlightened decision-making, this administrative model has produced a comedy of errors, as America’s cities are dominated by high taxes and regulations, political machines, rent-seeking, cronyism, property confiscation, and sometimes plain corruption.

What I also learned through research, though, was that this model had inspired numerous pro-market, small-government reforms for cities. These have included charter schools, defined contribution pensions, one-stop shops for business permits, zoning deregulation, and whatever else liberalizes economies and reduces the dead weight of government. These reforms have been explained in depth by various commentators—mostly on the right—but have always floated around separately. I would like to combine them into a single policy blueprint that would make U.S. cities more competitive in the 21st century. I thought the term “Market Urbanism” was catchy, and because Adam’s blog advocates for these policies, I asked him about expanding the concept into a book.  He told me to go for it.

During the trip, I plan to write about 26 different reforms, using each as a chapter for a given city. These chapters will be divided into 5 sections, dealing with housing, transportation, business climate, public services, and finance. This localized, case-study format will help me explore the details of how each reform would help a specific city—and who now opposes it.

What do I hope to accomplish from this project? I would like to bring the term Market Urbanism into public consciousness, and into direct competition with the moldy prevailing wisdom of America’s cities. For decades, this wisdom—moving from academia on through city hall—is that urban problems must be solved through more government. The point of my book is to explain why market alternatives would solve them better—while making cities denser, faster-growing, more affordable, and more livable.

I would encourage the readers of this blog to follow my project, either through my website, BigCitySparkplug.com, or my Forbes profile. I should also note that every Friday, I’ll be providing updates on MarketUrbanism.com from the road, including links to articles I’ve written that week, research I’ve encountered, or whatever else may be on my mind. I hope over these three years that I can connect with my fellow Market Urbanists, and if I happen to be in your city, please don’t be shy about reaching out, as I prefer learning about places through the locals. But at very least, I hope to bring America’s cities alive for you via the web, as I report on them directly from the streets.

Reach out to Scott about his travels:

[contact-form]

by Scott Beyer at March 27, 2015 11:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Of Forks and Gryphons

News

You know those times when tiny character quirks end up benefiting you greatly? Or when an insignificant detail changes the course of the entire campaign?

I have a fond memory of such a time to share.

I was playing my beloved green half-drake Elf Druid who could turn into a full drake at…

Read more

March 27, 2015 07:07 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

What You Should Know About Religious Freedom Restoration Acts

Yesterday Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The action has drawn sharp criticism by people and politicians who directly oppose religious freedoms and by those who are simply unaware of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal model for Indiana’s new law.

Here is what you should know about these types of religious freedom legislation:

What is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is a federal law passed in 1993 which is intended to prevent other federal laws from substantially burdening a person's free exercise of religion. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993 and passed by a unanimous U.S. House and a near unanimous U.S. Senate with three dissenting votes. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

According to the text of the law, the purposes of the RFRA are:

 (1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and

(2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.

Here are the remarks Al Gore and Bill Clinton made on signing the legislation (a transcript can be found here):

 

Why was the RFRA needed?

As the text of the RFRA notes, the purpose of the legislation was to restore a prior standard of religious exemptions. Legal scholar Eugene Volokh identifies four periods in modern American history that relate to religious freedom exemptions:

Pre 1960s — Statute-by-statute exemptions: Prior to the early 1960s, exemption for religious objections were only allowed if the statute provided an explicit exemption.

1963 to 1990 — Sherbert/Yoder era of Free Exercise Clause law: In the 1963 case Sherbert v. Verner the Court expressly adopted the constitutional exemption model, under which sincere religious objectors had a presumptive constitutional right to an exemption because of the Free Exercise clause. This decision was reaffirmed in the 1972 case, Wisconsin v. Yoder. During this period that Court used what it called “strict scrutiny” when the law imposed a “substantial burden” on people’s religious beliefs. Under this strict scrutiny, religious objectors were to be given an exemption, unless denying the exemption was the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. But during this period, as Volokh notes, “The government usually won, and religious objectors won only rarely.”

1990-1993 — Return to statute-by-statute exemptions: In Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court returned to the statute-by-statute exemption regime, and rejected the constitutional exemption regime.

1993-Present — Religious Freedom Restoration Act era: In 1993, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave religious objectors a statutory presumptive entitlement to exemption from generally applicable laws (subject to strict scrutiny).

 

If we have the RFRA, why do we need religious freedom legislation at the state level?

RFRA was intended to apply to all branches of government, and both to federal and state law. But in 1997 in the case of City of Boerne v. Flores, the Supreme Court ruled the RFRA exceeded federal power when applied to state laws. In response to this ruling, some individual states passed state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.

 

Which states have state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts?

Currently, 19 states have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (AL, CT, FL, ID, IN, IL, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NM, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, and VA). Ten other states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar (strict scrutiny) level of protection (AK, MA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, OH, WA, and WI). With some exceptions (such as Mississippi), the state versions are almost exactly the same as the federal version.

 

What exactly is “strict scrutiny”?

Strict scrutiny is a form of judicial review that courts use to determine the constitutionality of certain laws. To pass strict scrutiny, the legislature must have passed the law to further a “compelling governmental interest,” and must have narrowly tailored the law to achieve that interest. For a court to apply strict scrutiny, the legislature must either have significantly abridged a fundamental right with the law's enactment or have passed a law that involves a suspect classification. Suspect classifications have come to include race, national origin, religion, alienage, and poverty.

 

Aren’t state RFRA’s about discrimination against homosexuals?

None of the RFRA’s even mention homosexuals, nor are they about discrimination. As University of Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett explains, regarding the Indiana law:

[T]he act is a moderate measure that tracks a well-established federal law and the laws of several dozen other states. Contrary to what some critics have suggested, it does not give anyone a “license to discriminate,” it would not undermine our important civil-rights commitments, and it would not impose excessive burdens on Indiana’s courts. . . .

The act’s standard is applied in many jurisdictions across the land and it has long enjoyed support from across the political spectrum. This standard is not new; we have plenty of evidence about how it works. We know that courts have not applied it to require excessive accommodations or exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and civil-rights protections. Fighting invidious public discrimination is, American courts agree, a public interest of the highest order. Contrary to the concern quoted in the recent Tribune piece, a business owner or medical professional who invoked the act as a “license” to engage in such discrimination would and should lose. The act creates a balancing test, not a blank check. . . .

 

Why then do so many people claim it is about discrimination of homosexuals?

Mostly because of biased and incompetent reporting by the media. Last year Mollie Hemingway wrote a blistering critique of reporting on the issue in which she said, “we have a press that loathes and works actively to suppress this religious liberty, as confident in being on the ‘right side of history’ as they are ignorant of natural rights, history, religion and basic civility.”

Not much has changed since last year. Many media outlets identified the Indiana bill as being “anti-gay.” Unfortunately, rather than being outraged at finding they were lied to by politicians and journalists, most Americans will not bother to learn the truth and will remain ignorant about these important laws that protect our “first freedom.”   

Addendum: Since many readers are unaware, it is worth noting that while the RFR does not protect businesses from discriminating against homosexuals, that is already allowed except in states or local municipalities that expressly forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation

by Joe Carter at March 27, 2015 05:02 AM

Tyndale

David Teems. Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012. 301 pp. $15.99.

David Teems is a professional musician and writer. Although his primary livelihood has been music, he majored in psychology in college and has long been drawn to spiritual counseling as an avocation. None of this explains how Teems became a historian and biographer, but that is his story. The backdrop to Teems’s biography of William Tyndale is his earlier book, Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible, occasioned by the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in 2011. 

I experienced Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice as three separate books. The first is named in the subtitle and occupies the first hundred pages. It is the biography of the first major translator of the Bible into English. To call it a biography actually conceals the brilliance of what Teems has achieved. He tells an adventure story that revolves around Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament and part of the Old Testament. Tyndale (1494–1536) is the protagonist of the story, which is set in many places and is a continuous narrow escape.

There are two dimensions to what Teems has achieved in Book 1 (my designation). The first is the copiousness of his scholarship. The historical documentation is kept out of sight (tiny footnote numbers with actual notes placed unobtrusively at the back of the book). But as one who has himself taken excursions into Tyndale’s career as a Bible translator, I not only enjoyed reconnecting with familiar data but continually found my knowledge base expanded by what Teems has collected. I am powerless to explain how a non-academician found the time to do all that research, but readers of Teems’s book will be grateful.

The second achievement springs from Teems’s way with words. He has a true aphoristic flair. The book is as enjoyable for how Teems expresses the content as for the content itself. In addition to his own stylistic sparkle, Teems admires the aphorisms of others. This yields fruit in numerous epigraphs (catchy quotations) scattered throughout the book in the form of sidebars. Teems’s titles and chapter headings are so evocative and aphoristic that the book can be relished just for them.

Man Without a Country

Teems doesn’t set out to impose an interpretive angle on the life of William Tyndale; he simply collects as much data as exists. Nonetheless, one of two things that emerged most vividly for me was the exile motif in the English scholar’s life. Tyndale became a man without a country and, in view of how he was constantly on the move to keep ahead of his hunters, he was a man without a home. We know that Tyndale left England and never returned, but that generalization can become a lifeless abstraction. As Teems builds up a cumulative picture of Tyndale’s life as a sojourner, the reality of the situation comes alive in our imagination. I was particularly struck by the connection Teems draws between the exilic life of Tyndale and the exilic theme of Scripture—and by the suggestion that Tyndale translated Paul’s epistles so powerfully because of the parallels between their lives.

Book 2 (my label), the middle hundred pages, is the story of Tyndale's career as a polemicist, especially his long printed debate with the Roman Catholic propagandist Thomas More (1478–1535). I do not intend to disparage Teems when I say that I found this part of his book eminently forgettable. I’m inclined to think that the number of people interested in the details of Tyndale’s printed debate with More are statistically insignificant. Nonetheless, Teems deserves credit for bringing the same meticulous research to this part of the book that he brought to the other parts.

I carry away one important discovery from Teems's account of Tyndale’s career as a controversialist. One of the aphorisms most famously associated with him is the statement of a contemporary that Tyndale was “always singing one note.” That note was the translation of the Bible into English. Teems’s account of Tyndale’s career as a polemical writer shows that the “single note” interpretation of Tyndale’s life isn’t completely accurate. Tyndale had more irons in the fire than Bible translation. We all know from experience that in the heat of the moment current debates can seem like the most important thing imaginable, whereas in long-term effect they’re often ephemeral. I left Teems’s account feeling that Tyndale might have better spent more of his time translating the Old Testament and less of it arguing with Thomas More.

In Book 3 (the final hundred pages) Teems returns to Tyndale’s career as a Bible translator. These pages cover the events surrounding his martyrdom. The details are even more heart-rending than I had known. Tyndale did, indeed, become a latter-day apostle Paul in his imprisonment and suffering. The martyrdom motif is the second dominant impression that I carried away from the biography, and this emphasis in the last third of the book cast a retrospective light on Tyndale’s earlier life of exile. Early in his life of a little more than 40 years Tyndale deliberately chose to live as a martyr. He truly denied himself for the sake of the gospel, and Teems’s book does a wonderful job of showing that sacrifice.

by Leland Ryken at March 27, 2015 05:01 AM

Preaching for Brand New and Tired Old Preachers

Editors’ note: A brand-new film on the life and ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones will debut at The Gospel Coalition 2015 National ConferenceLogic on Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. TGC continues to feature a series of articles on Lloyd-Jones leading up to the film’s world premiere at 9:15 p.m. on Monday, April 13. The following article is an excerpt from a chapter that was originally published in Preaching and Preachers: 40th Anniversary Edition (Zondervan, 2011). Reprinted by permission from the publisher. 


Besides the Bible, there are few books I deliberately reread. There are many books in my library that I pull off the shelf frequently to check on some fact, interpretation, or point of theology. There are a number of other books that I like so much I can’t help but take them down from time to time and read through my favorite portions. (Books are, after all, like old friends.)

But for better or worse (probably worse), there aren’t many books I make a point to reread from cover to cover. I can only think of three: Calvin’s Institutes, Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, and Lloyd-Jones’s Preaching and Preachers.

Mesmerizing Book

I remember vividly my first experience with Preaching and Preachers. I was in college and had gotten turned on to Reformed theology, Calvin, and the Puritans. Along the way I stumbled on Martyn Lloyd-Jones. From my first encounter with the Doctor, I was hooked. I read everything I could find. I even chugged through Iain Murray’s massive biography one semester (my bedtime reading!). Of all the books I read in my “Lloyd-Jones on steroids” phase, Preaching and Preachers is the one that sticks out most. I remember sitting at the unkempt kitchen table I shared with the seven other guys in our college housing and pouring over Lloyd-Jones’s homiletics classic (though he would hate me using the word homiletics just now). As I saw his passion, his wisdom, his utter commitment to preaching, and his strong opinions (on everything!), I knew for certain I wanted to be a preacher. I was absolutely mesmerized by this grand vision of the noblest, most important task on earth.

It would be years and hundreds of sermons before I learned how wise his remarks were, and I also learned it was acceptable (and part of my maturation) to disagree with a few of his convictions. The man was of the school of thought that said most opinions are worth sharing are worth sharing forcefully. So I can’t fully agree that announcing your text ahead of time restricts the Holy Spirit or that most of what you learn in a preaching class is bound to be harlotry in some way. But even with the idiosyncrasies, I can’t think of a book I’d rather read on preaching.

Still the Most Urgent Need

Why do I come back to this book every few years? What makes an old book by a dead man on an antiquated form of communication so powerful? The book is powerful because Lloyd-Jones so powerfully believes in the power of preaching. And what he believes is true.

The most-quoted line of Preaching and Preachers may be this one from the first page of the first chapter: “I would say without hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.” Whenever I read this first page I find myself crying, “Yes, yes, tell me more!” There are several specific points about application or preparation or humor or preaching method that sharpen my skills as a preacher. But what I love most about the book is that every time I read it, I walk away more in love with what I do. Not always how I do it, but that I get to do it. Preaching and Preachers is one of those rare books that for me—and I know this will sound “aw shucks”—not only instructs but inspires.

For Lloyd-Jones the goal of preaching is to give men and women a sense of the presence of God. That’s what I get from this book. I get the undeniable sense that preaching is a glorious thing, that churches desperately need good preaching, and that the world (though it doesn’t know it) is starving for good preaching. I read this book and believe again that it is a privilege unlike any other to slog through commentaries each week, type up outlines, and preach to several hundred people for one more Sunday. I finish the book and feel like fire can come down from heaven this week. I remember that the seed of God’s Word is never sown in vain. I get a new thrill to do the same thing I’ve already done a thousand times.

Two Audiences 

There are two audiences that most need to read this book: those who are considering the preaching ministry and those who are tired of it. I can’t lay this down as an absolute rule, but in general I would say that if you are not gripped by Lloyd-Jones’s passion for preaching, then you should really think whether you are called to preach. Again, I admit some may not take to this opinionated Welshman like I have, but I still think it’s a good rule of thumb: if Preaching and Preachers does not ignite a fire in your heart for the romance and glory of preaching, then preaching is probably not for you. There’s no shame in that, but it’s better to see that sooner rather than later.

If a young man is considering the ministry and he loves theology and Greek and Hebrew but says “meh” to this book, I wonder if he has the requisite enthusiasm for the chief task of pastoral ministry (I’m thinking here of those pastors whose main responsibility is to preach). If, however, your heart soars with each chapter and anecdote, make an effort to see if the church confirms what you sense in yourself. Likewise, if you’ve been at this preaching gig for two decades now, and you’re feeling worn out by the grind, the criticism, and the sameness of it all, I believe this book can be a tonic for your weary soul. It won’t solve everything. You’ll still have to work hard. You’ll still preach some lame sermons (I just did, and it hurts). But probably you’ll feel renewed. You’ll feel a little like you did 20 years ago when you first started out. You’ll get some of the zeal back, some of the faith that makes preaching sing, and the lack of which makes preaching clunk.

What the world needs now is preaching, sweet gospel preaching. Don’t give up on God’s appointed means of saving and sanctifying his people. Read Lloyd-Jones again, or for the first time, and you may just discover there’s Spirit-given life left in your dry bones. 

by Kevin DeYoung at March 27, 2015 05:01 AM

Every Hair on Your Head Is Numbered

Editors' note: This series explores key doctrines of the Christian faith and their practical ramifications for everyday life. Earlier in this series:


Few points of theology have generated more speculation and debate than the notion that God providentially rules over all things. But in the Bible, the doctrine of divine providence is not first a matter for our minds, but for our hearts and lives. One thinks, for instance, of the comfort David finds in God’s penetrating knowledge in Psalm 139; or Jesus’s words “fear not” after his declaration that “the hairs of your head are all numbered“ (Luke 12:7). 

To learn more about divine providence and its purpose in our lives, I corresponded with John Frame, J. D. Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and author of many books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief


What is the doctrine of divine providence? Where might one first turn in the Bible to learn about it?

Question 11 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism offers a helpful definition of divine providence: “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.”

I’ve discussed the biblical basis for the doctrine of providence at length in chapter 14 of my book The Doctrine of God. Some of the most important biblical texts include Romans 8:18-25, 8:28-30; and Ephesians 1:9-11.

Historically, is providence something all Christians have believed in, or is it an exclusively Reformed doctrine?

All Christians believe that God provides for his people, and exhibits a more general kingly rule over his creation. But I think only the Reformed tradition is fully consistent with the implications of this affirmation. The Reformed tradition affirms that in his sovereignty God ordains every event that takes place on in the world, including the actions of morally responsible creatures such as human beings and angels. In many other Christian traditions, God’s sovereignty is perceived in more limited ways, often not applying to the actions that result from “free will.”

How might the doctrine of providence encourage a Christian struggling with joblessness, or a physical ailment, or an enemy?

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism provides a wonderfully comforting explication of the doctrine of divine providence:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Christians struggling because of difficult circumstances can take great comfort in the fact that, no matter what befalls them in this life, nothing happens outside of their heavenly Father’s loving plan for their ultimate salvation.

How will our prayer language and habits be different if God's providence is real to our minds and hearts?

When the doctrine of divine providence is real to us, we will not question whether God has our best interests in heart in the midst of suffering. Rather, we will ask him to show us how his love will work out our suffering for good. The doctrine of divine providence helps us to trust that God’s good purposes cannot be thwarted in our lives, and motivates us to cling to him in obedience even when we are walking in the darkness and cannot see how he is working. “Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” (Micah 7:8, NIV).

A sound understanding of divine providence will also compel us to ask God to direct our decisions in such a way that we will best appropriate his blessings.

If your non-Christian friend objects to the notion of God's providence as a controlling or threatening idea, how would you respond?

It’s not threatening, because for those who trust in Christ, divine providence is for our good—in every way. It is controlling in a sense, because God does control us and everything else. However, there are several things to consider here:

  • We really can never escape God’s control, because God is God.
  • God’s control is a good thing, because it proves that he is always greater than the things that challenge us; so “what can separate us from the love of Christ?”
  • God’s control doesn’t negate our freedom, because God typically accomplishes his work in our lives by means of our decisions.
  • The alternative is far more threatening: If God is not in control, then how do we know that some unnamed evil might not frustrate the intentions of God’s love?

What aspects of God's character does divine providence reveal? How does it connect to the larger gospel narrative of the whole Bible?

Divine providence especially reveals God’s power, goodness, love, and kindness. Meditating on God’s providential rule over his creation will motivate us to say both “what a powerful, huge God we worship” as well as “what a loving, tender Savior we have.”

Genesis 22:8 shows the tight connection between divine providence and the gospel narrative. In this passage, God directs Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. But when Isaac asks, “Where is the lamb?” Abraham says, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” God then provides a ram caught in the thicket, which Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac. Hence the divine name Jehovah Jireh, which means “the Lord will provide.”

The ultimate expression of God’s providential provision for his people came 2,000 years later with the sacrifice of his own Son for our sins. When we put our faith in Christ’s substitutionary death on our behalf, we are trusting, as Abraham did, that “the Lord will provide.” And as the apostle Paul reasoned, “if he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). 

by Gavin Ortlund at March 27, 2015 05:01 AM

Nicholas Nethercote

On vacation for a month

I’m taking a month of vacation. Today is my last working day for March, and I will be back on April 30th. While I won’t be totally incommunicado, for the most part I won’t be reading email. While I’m gone, any management-type inquiries can be passed on to Naveed Ihsannullah.

by Nicholas Nethercote at March 27, 2015 03:14 AM

Cal Newport » Blog

Isaac Asimov’s Advice for Being Creative (Hint: Don’t Brainstorm)

asimov-640px

Asimov’s Lost Essay

In the late 1950’s, Arthur Obermayer worked for Allied Research Associates, a cold war-era science lab. During this period, his employer received a grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency to “elicit the most creative approaches possible for a ballistic missile defense system.”

Obermayer was a longtime friend of the famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. Figuring that Asimov might know a thing or two about creativity, he brought him into the project.

The result was an essay, penned by Asimov, on the topic of creative breakthroughs. Oberymayer recently brought this essay to the attention of the MIT Technology Review magazine, which reprinted it in full.

The piece contains several original notions, but what caught my attention was its take on where creative ideas come from.

The Creativity of One

Every since ad man Alex Osborn introduced the brainstorming technique in the early 1940’s, creativity has been sold as a collaborative process. This is a big part of the reason, for example, why Facebook is creating the world’s largest open office in its new headquarters — people need to serendipitously bounce ideas off of each other to stumble onto breakthroughs.

Asimov disagrees:

My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it.

To have people sit in a room and jot ideas on butcher paper, or to chat idly at their open office work tables, in other words, is not likely to generate deep insight.

Indeed, such collaboration can even hurt this goal:

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

This doesn’t mean, however, that bringing creative people together is worthless. As Asimov elaborates, group meetings, if kept small (he estimates five people as an ideal size), do have a use.

Just not the one we’re used to hearing.

The goal for creative meetings is not to come up with new ideas, he argues, but instead to transfer the raw material for these ideas between participants. As Asimov explains: “No two people exactly duplicate each others’ mental stores of items.”

The goal of collaboration, in other words, is to quickly increase the store of material that the creative can then work with once returned to his or her isolated cogitation.

As someone who makes a living on creative insights (how else to describe proof solving), I’m sympathetic to Asimov’s take. While group activities like brainstorming might be useful for lightweight projects, like coming up with a new slogan for an advertisement, if you’re instead trying to solve an unsolved proof, or, more pressingly, improve ballistic missile defense, there’s no way to avoid learning hard things and then thinking hard about what you learned, hoping to tease out a new connection.

This is fundamentally a deep process — one that no amount of brainstorming sessions or distracting open office spaces can short circuit.

(Photo by Firas Wehbe)

by Study Hacks at March 27, 2015 01:01 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Open WOD 15.5

Friday’s Workout:

Open WOD 15.5:
27-21-15-9
Calorie Row
Thrusters (95/65)

 

 

 

 

WORKOUT 15.5

27-21-15-9 reps for time of:
Row (calories)
Thrusters

Men use 95 lb.
Women use 65 lb.

Notes
This workout begins seated on the rower with the monitor set to zero calories. At the call of “3-2-1 … go,” the athlete will grab the handle and begin rowing. Once you have rowed 27 calories you will move to the barbell for 27 thrusters, then back to the rower for the round of 21, and so forth. Each time you return to the rower you or your judge must reset the monitor to zero before rowing.

Every second counts in this workout. Your score will be the time it takes to complete all 144 repetitions. There is no time cap for this workout.

This workout ends when the final rep of the thruster is locked out overhead. Time will be recorded in full seconds. Do not round up. If you finish in 9:25.7, your score is 9:25.

Equipment
• An indoor rower with a monitor that measures calories
• Barbell
• Collars
• Plates to load to the appropriate weight for your division

For each workout, be sure the athlete has adequate space to safely complete the event. Clear the area of all extra equipment, people or other obstructions.

*The official weight is in pounds. For your convenience, the minimum acceptable weights in kilograms are 43 / 29 kg for Rx’d, 29 / 20 kg for Scaled, Masters 55+ and Teens, and 20 / 15 kg for Scaled Masters 55+ and Scaled Teens.

Video Submission Standards
Prior to starting, film the plates and barbell to be used so the loads can be seen clearly. All video submissions should be uncut and unedited in order to accurately display the performance. A second person with a stopwatch should be in the frame throughout the entire workout. Shoot the video from an angle so all exercises can be clearly seen meeting the movement standards.


Workout 15.5 Variations

Rx’d
(Rx’d Men, Masters Men 40-44, Masters Men 45-49, Masters Men 50-54, Rx’dWomen, Masters Women 40-44, Masters Women 45-49, Masters Women 50-54)

27-21-15-9 reps for time of:
Row (calories)
Thrusters

Men use 95 lb.
Women use 65 lb.


Scaled
(Scaled Men, Scaled Masters Men 40-44, Scaled Masters Men 45-49, Scaled Masters Men 50-54, Scaled Women, Scaled Masters Women 40-44, Scaled Masters Women 45-49, Scaled Masters Women 50-54)

27-21-15-9 reps for time of:
Row (calories)
Thrusters

Men use 65 lb.
Women use 45 lb.


 

 

Open Throwdown:

CrossFit Infiltrate, CrossFit NapTown, and Three Kings CrossFit will be working together to throw down on the final week of the CrossFit Open. We are going to send this year out with a bang by bringing big athletes from each gym together in an incredible environment to destroy the last workout of the Open. Artie’s On the Go will be making food for the event and we hope to have as many people come out to support CFNT and the whole community on Friday! This will be an awesome opportunity to celebrate with others that you have survived the Open by eating and drinking and doing whatever you want:)

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by Anna at March 27, 2015 12:43 AM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

204 Legends Program

Our Legends athletes!

Our Legends athletes!

If you’re looking for information on the 204 Legends program, we’ve collected it here. We’re thrilled that you’re interested, and we’ve laid everything out below to help you learn more about the program.

Location: 483 Berry St. between Silver and St. Matthews, two minutes from Polo Park. We’re right beside d.a. Niels Kitchenware, and its owner is one of our Legends clients. There’s one-hour street parking in front, and we have a lot in the back.

Phone: 204-880-1001 (If we can’t answer the phone because we’re coaching a class, please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as we can)

Email: Info@CrossFit204.com

Classes: Mondays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. (We will add more class times if needed)

Introductory cost: $105-$210 for two or four one-hour one-on-one intro sessions ($52.50 each) in which a qualified coach will learn about you and your goals while teaching you everything you need to know to get started. Some clients are ready to go after two sessions, but others really appreciate a few extra hours getting comfortable with the coach and the movements. We evaluate each client and recommend the path that will best help that client accomplish his or her goals, and we never rush people into group classes. We want you to feel totally confident and comfortable. Additional sessions are available if a client prefers personal training.

Legends monthly rate: $105 (GST included)

Credentials: All our coaches hold a wide variety of well-regarded fitness credentials. You can view the biography and credentials of each coach on our Staff Page.

Availability: We currently have space available, and we will add more coaches as needed to preserve a low coach-to-athlete ratio.

Introductory Sessions Description

To begin, an athlete spends two to four sessions one-on-one with a coach to learn movements and address any mobility issues or other concerns. A bit of stiffness or an old hockey injury are common at this age, and we can work around them as we learn about the athlete.

When necessary, we work with athletes’ health-care providers to ensure all activity is safe and reasonable. We’ve found doctors are ecstatic that their patients want to be more active, which helps them improve quality of live and positively affect health markers including blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. If your doctor has made recommendations about your activities, please let us know. We always defer to your care provider and work closely with doctors, physiotherapists and athletic trainers to ensure you’re getting all the attention you need.

Class Description

Make no mistake: the members of our Legends crew certainly care about improving and getting stronger and faster, but it’s all about fun, vitality, community, and long-term health and function. We are looking to add vigour to your life and help you do the things you want to do.

We use functional movements with our athletes, meaning we teach them how to move properly. You’ll learn how to stand up and sit down using the correct muscles. We’ll teach you how to brace your core when picking something up. We’ll safely elevate your heart rate to improve your cardiovascular system. And you’ll have a good time.

If a client has an old injury or a mobility concern, we simply modify movements and apply very moderate amounts of intensity. Intensity might be slowly squatting to a box with only body weight as resistance to start. That level of intensity might slowly increase to include a small dumbbell as resistance, and we might remove the box at some point. Then we might add a light barbell, and then a heavier one after that.

The idea is progressive overload with strength work, and we take the same approach with conditioning. Walking briskly might become running, which might become pushing a sled or using a rowing machine.

The overall goal is safely improving both strength and conditioning. And “intensity” just means “a little further than yesterday.” We are not taskmasters. We are fitness professionals who are 100 percent invested in your long-term health and fitness. Is the work challenging? Yes, but it’s tailored to your needs, and the results will make the work very worthwhile. We apply these same principles to the mobility and flexibility work that’s included in every class.

An example of an entire class is below. Don’t worry if you don’t know what the movements are. You will learn them in your introductory sessions. All classes are led by a qualified coach. You will receive constant instruction and supervision.

      • Rowing warm-up
      • Core work: 3 sets of 10 lying leg raises
      • 10 minutes of various hip-mobility work
      • Back squat: 4 sets of 6 (modified as needed)
      • Group shoulder prehab including work on the deltoids and external rotators
      • Conditioning circuit: 3 rounds of a 250-m row, 15 ball slams (12 lb.) and 15 Russian kettlebell swings (15 lb.)

Interestingly enough, this workout could easily be scaled up to provide a challenge to our top athletes. That’s the beauty of CrossFit: it can be tailored to any athlete.

The best part of all is that the body of a senior athlete responds like the body of a younger athlete, if slightly more slowly. We can improve levels of strength and conditioning, and we hope to help our older athletes retain muscle mass, increase bone density and improve their cardiovascular systems—all things that will help people live a healthy life and avoid injury.

Results

Results don’t come instantly, but they will come steadily in you attend regularly. You can speed up the process by addressing your diet. Very simply, reduce the amount of sugar and processed carbohydrates in your diet and eat more vegetables. A person’s diet is more complicated than that, but we’ve found that simple advice helps bring about dramatic changes. We advise you to track your sugar intake for a week, then identify places where you can easily reduce it.

You can expect a little initial muscular soreness as you start the program, but know that slightly sore muscles are normal and to be expected. You’re “waking them up.” Should any joint pain occur due to old injuries or a lack of flexibility, we will adjust the movements for you and work with your care provider. We never push through pain and will always make you comfortable with every movement.

As you train, you can expect strength levels to increase, and we’ll keep track of them so you can see for yourselves. These gains are steady, and in some cases they are dramatic. You’ll also improve your conditioning. Very quickly, a flight of stairs will be no problem, and you’ll notice the walk to the car with groceries is easier. Grandchildren will feel lighter. Posture will improve.

Your doctor may also notice other improvements. Our clients generally see improved blood work, and weight loss is common. Osteoporosis can also be prevented through regular strength training, and risks of heart disease and other ailments can be reduced through fitness.

But don’t take our word for it. Ask our current clients. They will tell you exactly why they train with us, and their words should carry more weight than ours. We base our reputation on the satisfaction of our clients.

See you in the gym!

If you have any questions, please call Crystal at 204-880-1001, or email Info@CrossFit204.com.

by Mike at March 27, 2015 12:20 AM

Workout: March 27, 2015

Turns out Jonathan's clean PR wasn't what we thought it was. Well done!

Turns out Jonathan’s clean PR wasn’t what we thought it was. Well done!

15.5

Row 27 calories

27 thrusters (95/65 lb.)

Row 21 calories

21 thrusters (95/65 lb.)

Row 15 calories

15 thrusters (95/65 lb.)

Row 9 calories

9 thrusters (95/54 lb.)

*Sunday Open competitors do half of each round (14, 11, 8, 5)

 

by Mike at March 27, 2015 12:20 AM

March 26, 2015

Practically Efficient

The market value of your data

The Verge:

Among the locations, trademarks, overpriced cables, and other assets that RadioShack is selling off as part of its bankruptcy filing are tens of millions of email addresses, home addresses, and customer names, all of which could end up in the hands of another company.

All privacy policies have an expiration date. Your data doesn't.

Related.

by Eddie Smith at March 26, 2015 09:59 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Worlds Next to Worlds: A Curious Ecumenism

Lunch today was with a good friend I have locally, who describes himself as “Post-Charismatic” and “Ortho-Curious.” He is seminary educated and works in the teaching staff at a mini-mega-church (basically the same style as a mega, but without the thousands of people). We eat lunch and drink coffee together regularly, watch movies together, and […]

The post Worlds Next to Worlds: A Curious Ecumenism appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 26, 2015 09:39 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

What do Larry Summers, Doug Elmendorf, and Greg Mankiw have in common?

Only one of us won a John Bates Clark Medal.
Only one of us became Director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Only one of us wrote a best-selling textbook.

But all three of us were ec 10 section leaders early in our careers.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year.  Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master's students in business and public policy.

If you think you might be interested, please come to one of the information sessions we are holding:

  1. Monday, March 30th at 6 p.m. in Aldrich 109 at the Harvard Business School
  2. Thursday, April 2nd at 6 p.m. in the 3rd floor Littauer lounge of the Harvard Economics Department
  3. Monday, April 6th at 6 p.m. in Taubman 401 at the the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at March 26, 2015 09:09 PM

confused of calcutta

Not fade away. And a House on Coco Road.

Some of you are probably asking yourselves “Why the Grateful Dead? Why not the Rolling Stones?” Every time you hear this song, a part of you goes Stones! Some of you may be asking yourselves “Why the Grateful Dead? Why not Buddy Holly?” After all, he co-wrote it and then was the first to perform it, with the … Continue reading Not fade away. And a House on Coco Road.

by JP at March 26, 2015 08:51 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Last Week of the Open!

Thursday’s Workout:

Pull Up Skills:
2 sets of 10 Pull Ups Normal Grip
2 sets of 10 Pull Ups Reverse Grip

4 Rounds:
Row 500
Run 200
*sub 100 singles or 50 double unders depending upon weather*

Post WOD:
:20 Work :40 Rest
Alternating Ring Support and Bottom of Dip

 

 

 

Open Throwdown:

CrossFit Infiltrate, CrossFit NapTown, and Three Kings CrossFit will be working together to throw down on the final week of the CrossFit Open. We are going to send this year out with a bang by bringing big athletes from each gym together in an incredible environment to destroy the last workout of the Open. Artie’s On the Go will be making food for the event and we hope to have as many people come out to support CFNT and the whole community on Friday! This will be an awesome opportunity to celebrate with others that you have survived the Open by eating and drinking and doing whatever you want:)

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by Anna at March 26, 2015 05:36 PM

The Finance Buff

2015 and 2016 HSA Contribution Limits

Health Care Costs

The contribution limits for various tax advantaged accounts for the following year are usually announced in the fall, except for HSA, which come out in the spring. The IRS will announce contribution limits for Health Savings Account (HSA) for 2016 soon. Due to mild inflation and rounding rules, the 2016 HSA contribution limit for individual coverage will stay unchanged. The 2016 HSA contribution limit for family coverage will go up by $100.

HSA Contribution Limits

2015 2016 Change
Individual Coverage $3,350 $3,350 none
Family Coverage $6,650 $6,750 +$100

Age 55 Catch Up Contribution

As in 401k and IRA contributions, you are allowed to contribute extra if you are above a certain age. If you are age 55 or older by the end of year, you can contribute additional $1,000 to your HSA. If you are married, and both of you are age 55, each of you can contribute additional $1,000.

However, because HSA is in an individual’s name — there is no joint HSA even when you have family coverage — only the person age 55 or older can contribute the additional $1,000 in his or her own name. If only the husband is 55 or older and the wife contributes $6,750 to her HSA for their family coverage, the husband has to open a separate account for the additional $1,000. If both husband and wife are age 55 or older, they must have two HSA accounts if they want to contribute the maximum $8,750. There’s no way to hit the maximum with only one account.

The $1,000 additional contribution limit is fixed by law. It’s not adjusted for inflation.

HDHP Qualification

You can only contribute to an HSA if you have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

The IRS also defines what qualifies as an HDHP. For 2016, an HDHP with individual coverage must have at least $1,300 in annual deductible and no more than $6,550 in annual out-of-pocket expenses. For family coverage, the numbers are minimum $2,600 in annual deductible and no more than $13,100 in annual out-of-pocket expenses.

2015 2015 Change
Individual Coverage
min. deductible $1,300 $1,300 none
max. out-of-pocket $6,450 $6,550 +$100
Family Coverage
min. deductible $2,600 $2,600 none
max. out-of-pocket $12,900 $13,100 +$200

Source: calculation by the author

See All Your Accounts In One Place

Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital.

2015 and 2016 HSA Contribution Limits is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at March 26, 2015 05:25 PM

2015 Federal Poverty Levels (FPL) For Affordable Care Act

Department of Health and Human Services Seal

People who don’t have health insurance from work can buy health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The premiums are made affordable by a premium subsidy in the form of a tax credit calculated off your income relative to the federal poverty levels (FPL), also known as HHS poverty guidelines.

You qualify for the premium subsidy only if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is at 400% FPL or below. Modified Adjusted Gross Income for Obamacare is basically your gross income minus above-the-line deductions, plus tax-exempt muni bond interest, plus untaxed Social Security benefits. In order to see if you qualify for the premium subsidy, you have to know where the FPL is.

Here are the numbers for 2014 and 2015. They increase with inflation every year in mid-January. These are applied with a one-year lag. Your eligibility for a premium subsidy for 2015 is based on the FPL number for 2014. The new 2015 number will be used for coverage in 2016.

There are three sets of numbers. FPLs are higher in Alaska and Hawaii than in 48 contiguous states and Washington DC.

48 Contiguous States and Washington DC

Number of persons in household 2014 2015 400% 2015
1 $11,670 $11,770 $47,080
2 $15,730 $15,930 $63,720
3 $19,790 $20,090 $80,360
4 $23,850 $24,250 $97,000
more add $4,060 each add $4,160 each add $16,640 each

Alaska

Number of persons in household 2014 2015 400% 2015
1 $14,580 $14,720 $58,880
2 $19,660 $19,920 $79,680
3 $24,740 $25,120 $100,480
4 $29,820 $30,320 $121,280
more add $5,080 each add $5,200 each add $20,800 each

Hawaii

Number of persons in household 2014 2015 400% 2015
1 $13,420 $13,550 $54,200
2 $18,090 $18,330 $73,320
3 $22,760 $23,110 $92,440
4 $27,430 $27,890 $111,560
more add $4,670 each add $4,780 each add $19,120 each

Source:

[Photo credit: Flickr user DonkeyHotey]

See All Your Accounts In One Place

Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital.

2015 Federal Poverty Levels (FPL) For Affordable Care Act is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at March 26, 2015 04:36 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

40 Years Later, I Set Out to Walk the Camino de Santiago: Nancy Liddle’s Quest

This is a quest case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Nancy wasn’t sure she could complete an 850-kilometer walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. But she did, and discovered something about age in the process. Here’s how it happened.

Introduce yourself and your quest.

My name is Nancy and last year I fulfilled my 40-year-old dream to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Being 56, relatively unfit, single, and never having walked more than 10 kilometers in my life was intimidating, but I did it.

NancyL1

Was there a reason you delayed your quest for so long?

A few reasons. For one, something always got in the way—going to university, getting married, needing to work—I did everything except realize my dream it seems.

But more than that, I put off the walk because I lacked confidence. I doubted myself. I felt too young, too much of a girl, too afraid to venture out on my own, too scared of the actual logistics. I lacked self-belief.

Despite all that, the urge to walk the Camino never left me. It nagged me until I finally did it.

What inspired you to want to walk the Camino?

It started by being interested in walking. When I was younger, I wanted to explore the immensely satisfying feeling of being consumed by an activity. Long walks absolutely do that.

Then at college, I read Robyn Davidson’s Tracks, and her story of trekking off by herself for a vast difference was inspiring. The engrossing use of body and mind and soul in walking was something I could do, too (and it was free!).

Finally, I read Shirley MacLaine’s book on her Camino (that’s lingo – walkers simply call the walk their Camino) and the spirituality of her travels impressed me.

Did anything surprise you on the Camino?

I was one of the youngest pilgrims out there! In fact, the oldest person I talked to was 94. And all of us – walkers, cyclists, bikers – were traveling 20 or so kilometers a day.

The people on the Camino really showed me that our obsession with youth culture is a hoax. As we age, we don’t need to consider ourselves weaker, fragile, or even invisible.

Nancy

How did walking the Camino change how you felt about your age? 

I think it’s safe to say that our societal focus on youth culture encourages anyone over 40 to think of getting older as a disease. In particular, there’s a paranoia generated in women that we should worry about our looks instead of fulfilling our ambitions and dreams.

Part of that anti-aging campaign implies that getting older is equated to becoming less physically able. For example, my mother never exercised. In fact, I doubt she would have conceived she could walk the Camino. She died at the age I am now.

Before I left last year at the age of 56, I thought my casual practice of walking 8 kilometers every other day was “heroic.” My lower back has severe arthritis and I worried about being able to carry the rucksack along each day.  I sincerely thought I may not be able to complete the Camino because I was “a bit old.”

But realizing I was one of the youngest pilgrims out there changed that.

What was impressed upon me the most was that as we age, like trees, we do not necessary get feebler – unless we let it happen. Our bodies are actually designed to be work-horses. We age like old wines, strong and smooth.

I don’t want to end up in a nursing home at the “tender age” of 70—I want to be out roaming the wilds, using my mind and body until I drop.

How much did your Camino cost? How did you pay for it?

The plane ticket from Australia to Spain was about $3,000. Since I snore, I chose to stay in hotels every night for the 70 day period costing between $30-$50 a night—about $2,100 in total. Many pilgrims (that’s what Camino walkers are called) save a lot of money by staying in free or low-cost dorms.

I paid for everything by dipping into some of my retirement savings. I’d already taken money out to renovate my house, and I figured I’d use what was left to renovate my mind.

Tell us about a memorable encounter while on the Camino.  

It seemed that no matter how often I got lost, a local would magically appear, decipher my attempt at Spanish, and help me find my way. One such angel appeared in Ourense. I couldn’t find the yellow flechas that point pilgrims out of modern cities and keep them on the ancient Camino pathways. Everywhere was traffic, concrete, and cars, and I was getting frustrated.

A local man I asked for help actually walked me to the Roman bridge. On the way, he gave me the historical background of the surrounding architecture (all in Spanish, and I didn’t understand most of it). Then, he kissed my hand like a chivalrous knight and sent me on my way.

You can’t imagine the uplift I got from that, given that I am a grey haired senior woman walking on her own!  It was a special moment.

NancyL5

How did you overcome a low point on your quest?

On day 27 of my walk, an overly well-meaning Frenchman offered to wait for me every few kilometers thinking I was in desperate need of assistance, which may or may not have been due to our language barrier. I hadn’t asked for help, nor thought I seemed in dire need of it, and politely refused multiple times.

Lo and behold, he kept waiting for me, even though I was at least half an hour slower than he and his walking partner work.

“I’ll see you at the somethingsomething,” he said to me in broken English. Was it the top of the hill or the bottom? I couldn’t tell. Which became an issue when I hadn’t seen him in two hours.

A cyclist came riding by, asking if I was “the Australian?” He had just spoken to the Frenchman, who had been waiting for me for an hour—at a spot I’d already passed! You could have knocked me down with a feather—how had I missed him? To make matters weirder, it wasn’t just him waiting. He’d gotten a few more pilgrims plus a set of cyclists to wait with him.

It was then my turn to be the wait-er. As soon as I saw the Frenchman come up the path, I waved my sticks at him, smiling. But his face was very dark, and he immediately began berating me for not seeing him. He told me he’d even made extra flechas for me on the path in case I got lost. This ended with him saying he wasn’t happy and would never wait for anyone again.

I was gobsmacked.  Surely it was clear that if I’d seen him up there I would have greeted him and thanked him as I’d already done so before? It reminded me of a really bad day during marriage, full of unspoken gripes and misunderstandings.

I let him be on his way, then called for a taxi and went to the next city over, making sure to put enough distance between us that I wouldn’t see him on the Camino again.

Had this series of events happened back in Australia, I’d have probably been in tears by the end of it. But time on the Camino had changed me. Instead I recognized I hadn’t done anything wrong, and frankly, I felt grand. His problem was not my problem.

NancyL4

Do you have any advice for someone like you who is thinking about taking a quest?

My actionable advice really comes down to “just do it” – as nervous as you feel about it, commit to it. And if you feel like retching after you make the choice, you certainly can.

What’s next?

I have a series of varied walks I do around my town – from 8ks to 15ks. I’d love to return to Spain and do another Camino at some point.

Keep up to date on Nancy’s quest at her site, Walk Sit or on Twitter at @walkingsitting

###

    by Chris Guillebeau at March 26, 2015 03:45 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    Was 1964 the Most Important Year — Ever?

    4626691010_0b04c0f9b2_o

    Ask an American of even above-average intelligence what happened in 1964, and the predictable answer would be “Beatlemania” (although the politically sensitive conservative might cite the stirring defeat of Barry Goldwater in that year’s presidential race). But what if it…

    Read Full Article...

    The post Was 1964 the Most Important Year — Ever? appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Allan Carlson at March 26, 2015 03:05 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Win A Free Copy of the New ESV Following Jesus Bible

    A New Resource Just for Kids

    The ESV Following Jesus Bible is full of outstanding content to help children understand and enjoy God's Word. Designed for children ages 8–12 as they transition from a beginner's Bible, the Following Jesus Bible will strengthen children in their faith and teach them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

    ESV Following Jesus Bible from Crossway on Vimeo.

    Cover Options

    Enter the Drawing

    Complete this brief survey and automatically be entered to win one of three hardcover copies of the ESV Following Jesus Bible! The drawing closes at midnight on Sunday, March 29th.

    by Lizzy Jeffers at March 26, 2015 02:42 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    How Can We Share the Gospel with Catholics and Not Sound Irritating? — An Excerpt from “Talking with Catholics About the Gospel”

    9780310518143Many of us have been there.

    We have the best of intentions when sharing the good news of Jesus with someone, yet the result is a sour mixture of offense, anger, and hurt.

    In Talking with Catholics about the Gospel, author Chris Castaldo shares an evangelism experience he had where he realized “I still hadn’t learned that there is a quality of communication that goes deeper than mere information — a way of speaking that conveys gentleness, even in the face of disagreement.”

    Castaldo is deeply burdened to equip Evangelicals for more fruitful spiritual conversations with Catholics. His story below gets at one of the book’s central questions:

    How can we preach the realities of life and death with passion and urgency, and yet not sound irritating?

    Read Cataldo’s story below to discover the answer he himself discovered—and from a kind-hearted Monsignor, no less!

    It was a poor decision, probably the result of too much espresso. But then, I was in good company. It all started at a Seattle’s Best café in Chicago. In the warm glow of a fireplace, with the aroma of freshly ground beans wafting in the air, some college buddies and I were busy planning. The previous summer we had visited the Atlanta Olympics to perform street preaching at Centennial Park. Returning to our campus in the fall, we started “Student Outreach,” an evangelism ministry to the pedestrians along and about Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s busiest tourist thoroughfare.  The three of us sat there wondering, Where can we find a captive audience?

    Gathering our coats, we exited to the abnormally frigid November air. Immediately, we discovered a large crowd standing on the sidewalk, four or five people deep and stretching eastward toward Michigan Avenue. The sound of a thousand blended voices testified to its immensity. I turned to a woman with a scarf wrapped around her face and inquired, “Where’s the party?”

    “It’s a funeral,” she responded.

    “For whom?”

    Her look of incredulity said that I must be the most uninformed person in all of Chicago. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the city’s archbishop, had died of cancer the previous Thursday. People the world over had come to whisper a final prayer and bid him farewell. And indeed, it seemed as if the entire city of Chicago, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, was on the street that night.

    Astonishment gave way to a certain realization. I turned to my classmates. “What a large crowd.”

    “You might call them a captive audience,” Jimmy responded. Our eyes grew large with excitement. “You guys are nuts,” said Steve. “Surely, you don’t mean to preach outside the funeral.”

    “Steve, do you believe that God is all powerful?” Jimmy countered.

    “Yes, but it’s a funeral!” No one spoke.

    Low clouds from the west were bringing darkness early. I looked down at a dead leaf poking up through the snow; and then, with more drama than the moment required, I broke the silence. “People are headed toward eternal separation from God,” I said, “and we have the message to save them. Shame on us if we don’t preach the gospel.”

    In the growing winter darkness, we marched off to Holy Name Cathedral. I tried to imagine the various directions the evening could take. The optimist in me envisioned massive conversions; the realist in me, however, was fearful…The expectation of heaven or fear of hell couldn’t adequately explain the audacity of our decision: the corner of State Street and Chicago Avenue was directly adjacent to the cathedral where Cardinal Bernardin’s funeral was taking place. Literally a stone’s throw from the church entrance, we were as close to the ceremony as was possible without getting arrested for disrupting the peace. There’s a Yiddish word for such boldness: chutzpah.

    While fastening the easel to a pole, the sound of cold engines idling on the street behind us filled my ears. The cars’ exhaust was so thick you could taste it. People looked on curiously as we fastened the paint tray to the easel. The evening moon, pale through the clouds, hung above us as I stepped forward to preach the first sermon.…I painted a crude picture of a tombstone, stepped beside the easel, and launched into my message…

    A Tough Crowd

    War is ugly, especially when you get in the trenches. On the field of battle, you look into people’s eyes and see their intensity, their gnashing teeth, their angry hearts. The scenario before us was beginning to look like a war zone. Farthest away, in the outer circle of the crowd, was a man with a large mustache and a leather jacket. “Go home, fanatic!” he yelled. Behind him was a cleric wearing an enamel lapel badge displaying a diocesan emblem. His mournful eyes — moist and sleepless — grabbed my attention. A woman wearing a large crucifix raised her hand and shouted, “May the Mother of God have pity on you!”

    Closer to me, I spotted a nun wearing a traditional habit. When our eyes met, I could not easily dismiss the kindness in her face. I felt conflicted and puzzled over the strange mixture of responses. A few other comments rang out, and then, for a moment, there was silence. It was as if we had all run out of breath or forgotten how to speak. I was aware that something needed to be said to defuse the situation, but I was at a loss for words. I still hadn’t learned that there is a quality of communication that goes deeper than mere information — a way of speaking that conveys gentleness, even in the face of disagreement.

    Frozen and disillusioned, I turned to Steve. “It’s your turn.” His face held an expression of dread as he swallowed hard and stepped forward. With the unpleasant fallout of my message in plain view, Steve decided to take a different approach. He replaced my tombstone art with a fresh piece of paper and proceeded to write two questions on it:

    “How do you spell divine love?”

    “What is the greatest gift?”

    Wiser and more winsome than I, Steve sought to emphasize the gracious character of God. Pacing to and fro with his lanky arms extended, gesturing according to his characteristic rhythm, Steve punctuated each segment of his sermon with the same phrase, “What kind of love is this?”

    ..I started to reflect more deeply on the responses to my sermon. With the friendly nun’s face in my mind and Steve’s refrain concerning love in my ears, I had a new thought: How can we preach the realities of life and death with passion and urgency — and a life-giving spirit — and yet not sound irritating?

    Then another thought crossed my mind. It had been the subject of the previous Wednesday’s biblical theology lecture — the concept that God is love. Professor Laansma had emphasized that hesed, the Hebrew word used most frequently in the Old Testament to describe God’s love, often translated as “loving- kindness” or “steadfast love,” is a selfless love, one that looks out for others regardless of the circumstances. It then dawned on me — the realization that my preaching had expressed grace in a graceless voice, a message of divine love conspicuously devoid of affection.

    I looked into the faces of Steve and Jimmy, who read my mind and responded, “Yeah, I think it’s time to go.” As I was packing up the easel, a man wearing a fedora and black scarf, whose wrinkled face revealed his age, approached me with outstretched hand and introduced himself as Monsignor Morris.

    “Please understand,” he said, “the suggestion that we Catholics are outside of Christ and that your particular denomination has the corner on truth is difficult to swallow. Let me encourage you to remain excited for Jesus, and, at the same time, equally committed to loving people, for these are the two great commandments — to love God and love your neighbor.”

    With that, the monsignor smiled and walked off.

    Talking with Catholics About the Gospel

    By Chris Castaldo

    Order it Today:
    Amazon
    Barnes & Noble
    ChristianBook.com
    Buy Direct from Zondervan

    by Jeremy Bouma at March 26, 2015 01:45 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Video: Justin Holcomb on the Book of Acts

    In the video below, Justin Holcomb, author of Acts: A 12-Week Study, explains how the book of Acts chronicles the spread of the gospel in the early church and offers transformative grace for us today.

    Knowing the Bible Series: Acts from Crossway on Vimeo.

    Learn more and download a free excerpt.

    by Nick Rynerson at March 26, 2015 01:44 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    “I’ve been called a Marxist and a conservative. I guess both are kind of true.”

    Matthew Crawford, about whom we have talked a good deal before here at Front Porch Republic, is back with a new book. Like so many other wise observers of our late modern capitalist culture, Crawford has turned his attention to just how distracting, and socially debilitating–and perhaps even inhuman is the most literal sense–the technology-enabled colonization of our every solitary moment (iTunes on the commute, advertisements before movie trailers, smartphones buzzing in the park, etc.) has become. No doubt his perspective will be much debated here. But for the moment, just look at the above quotation in full:

    Asked about his politics, he said: “I’ve been called a Marxist and a conservative. I guess both are kind of true.” He added: “Marx had a whole anthropology of what a human being is, which is connected to activity.”

    As has been often pointed out here at FPR over the years, Marx’s anthropology is by no means irrelevant to understand best how to defend the integrity of places, and thus to defend tradition and community. In fact, I would argue that Crawford’s side comment actually touches on something vitally important. The best kind of Marxism ought to be, I think, conservative, recognizing that tradition forms an essential bulwark against the alienating social power of the market. But at the same time, the best kind of conservatism ought to be, I think, Marxist, recognizing that without the empowerment of the working class, creative destruction will end with the 1% selling off every cultural good worth having. Putting them together is the most important ideological project of our era. Anyway, I’m looking forward to Crawford’s book, and the chance to get into these discussions a little deeper.

    The post “I’ve been called a Marxist and a conservative. I guess both are kind of true.” appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Russell Arben Fox at March 26, 2015 01:19 PM

    Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »

    Because freedom matters

    After one of myaxiom reluctant visits to Facebook yesterday, I posted this there:

    If I were actually the person Facebook advertised to, I would be an impotent, elderly, diabetic, hairy (or hairless) philandering cancer patient, heart attack risk, snoring victim, wannabe business person, gambling and cruise boat addict, and possible IBM Cloud customer in need of business and credit cards I already have.

    Sixty-eight likes and dozens of comments followed. Most were from people I know, most of whom were well-known bloggers a decade ago, when blogging was still hot shit. Some were funny (“You’re not?”). Some offered advice (“You should like more interesting stuff”). Some explained how to get along with it (“I’ve always figured the purpose of Internet ads was to remind me what I just bought from Amazon”). One stung: “So much for The Intention Economy.”

    So I replied with this:

    Great to see ya’ll here. Glad you took the bait. Now for something less fun.

    I was told last week by an advertising dude about a company that has increased its revenues by 49% using surveillance-based personalized advertising.The ratio of respondents was 1 in a 1000. The number of times that 1 was exposed to the same personalized ad before clicking on it was 70.

    He had read, appreciated and agreed with The Intention Economy, and he told me I would hate to hear that advertising success story. He was correct. I did.

    I also hate that nearly all the readers all of us ever had on our own blogs are now here. Howdy.

    Relatively speaking, writing on my own blog, which averages zero comments from dozens of readers (there used to be many thousands), seems a waste. Wanna write short? Do it in Facebook or Twitter. Wanna write long? Do it in Medium. Wanna write on your own DIY publication? Knock yourself out.

    And, because the bloggers among us have already done that, we’re here.

    So let’s face it: the leverage of DIY is going down. Want readers, listeners or viewers? Hey, it’s a free market. Choose your captor.

    I’ve been working all my adult life toward making people independent, and proving that personal independence is good for business as well as for hacking and other sources of pleasure and productivity. But I wonder whether or not most people, including all of us here, would rather operate in captivity. Hey, it’s where everybody else is. Why not?

    Here’s why. It’s the good ship Axiom: http://pixar.wikia.com/Axiom . Think about it.

    Earth is the Net. It’s still ours: http://cluetrain.com/newclues. See you back home.

    That’s where we are now.

     

     

    by Doc Searls at March 26, 2015 01:12 PM

    Practically Efficient

    Fantastically useful

    There are lots of reviews of the new Fantastical 2 for Mac, but Federico Viticci's and David Sparks's cover pretty much anything you need to know. The original Fantastical for Mac was "just" a menu bar app. Even so, it has easily been my most-used calendar interface the last two-plus years because it makes entering events and reminders so effortless. (Quick tip: Use ⌘K to toggle between events and reminders while in the event entry field.)

    At first I was meh to the new full-window version of Fantastical 2. I mean, I already have that in Calendar.app, right? But in the short time I've had Fantastical 2 installed, I can say I really like the agenda/month combo in a single view. It's nice being able to visualize a full month or week for time-blocking purposes while still seeing a linear agenda on the left side. Having Fantastical's legendary natural language field right at hand in the same window is great, too.

    I can see how any third-party calendar would be a tough sell for most people since the built in Mac Calendar is pretty good and familiar. But I really think calendars are the most important productivity tools there are. In fact, I would say knowing how to really use a calendar is more important than any task management system. I'm totally willing to buy anything that helps me understand and manage my time.

    Right now I just can't think of a better way to make a desktop calendar app than Fantastical 2.

    by Eddie Smith at March 26, 2015 12:50 PM

    Inconsolation

    gnupong and yapong: One bad, one … better

    I’m dreading talking about gnupong and yapong, mostly because I’m in that “weak sauce” area again.

    Pong itself is no masterpiece of programming, and in this case we’re reaching so far back into game history that even the finest, freshest, most faithful rendition of the original game is going to be a bit … sparse.

    These two are on my list though, so I feel obligated to include them. The first is gnupong, which has dates in its source files that reach back to 1998.

    2015-03-22-6m47421-gnupong

    If that looks pretty weak to you, it is. This is more a one-person variation on the original Pong than a clever imitation at the console. And given that it has an upright orientation over a horizontal one, it has more of a feel of Arkanoid than Pong proper.

    No score display, until the game is over. No help on controls, until you read through the source files (hint: “a” and “l” for left and right). No help on speed controls or quitting the game, and when you miss a ball, it all comes crashing down.

    I’m almost embarrassed to include it.

    yapong, on the other hand, is a better attempt.

    2015-03-22-6m47421-yapong

    Here we have the original side-by-side arrangement, the vertical controls (up and down for the right player, “a” and “z” for the left) and proper rebounding action for the ball. Score is on-screen and visible, and the game doesn’t smash-to-black every time one side makes a mistake.

    Space drops the ball and continues play after a point, with “q” as a dropout key. Check the help flags for difficulty and animation controls; in my case yapong -l 1 was a good shortcut for a playable game at 2.6Ghz.

    No AI players though. And still no color, although I expect the argument could be made that the arcade version had no color either, so it’s an issue of fidelity.

    Regardless, I will set these aside for now, as two titles that are done and done. One bad, but one better. :|

    P.S.: yapong is in AUR only; gnupong will compile if you add using namespace std; after #include <iostream> in pong.cpp … according to my notes. ;)


    Tagged: game

    by K.Mandla at March 26, 2015 12:00 PM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    The balance between doing and improving – evaluating yak-shaving

    A reader wrote:

    … I came to realize that many Emacs users seem to spend a great deal of time learning about Emacs, tweaking it, and writing new extensions, rather than getting non-Emacs-related work done. Sometimes it feels as though heavy Emacs users actually get less done overall, if you consider only non-Emacs-related tasks. My question is, is it possible to get work done in Emacs, without most of that work being Emacs-related?

    It got me thinking about skills or tools that can be used to improve themselves, and the balance between using and improving tools.

    2015-03-15c Skills or tools that can be used to improve themselves -- index card #learning #bootstrapping

    2015-03-15c Skills or tools that can be used to improve themselves – index card #learning #bootstrapping

    Not all skills or tools can be used to improve themselves. I’m learning how to sew, but that doesn’t lead to making my sewing machine better (aside from fiddling with the dials).

    Here are some skills that can be used reflexively:

    • Philosophy asks questions about good questions to ask
    • Learning about learning helps you learn more effectively
    • Woodworkers and machinists have a tradition of making their own tools
    • 3D printers can print parts for their own models
    • You can program tools to help you program better: testing, version control, project management, etc.

    Although making your own tools takes time, here are some advantages of doing so instead of buying them off the shelf:

    • You understand the internals better, and you can appreciate the subtleties
    • You can customize it to fit the way you work
    • You can create different variants for greater flexibility. Mass customization can’t anticipate or cost-effectively provide all the different types of things people may want.
    • As your skills and needs increase, you can create better and better tools for yourself.

    Many programmers spend time deliberately improving their toolkits; if they don’t, they stagnate. At the basic level, people try programs or frameworks that other people have created. The next level might be scripting things to work together. A third level might be writing customizations or extensions, and a fourth level might be creating entirely new tools or frameworks. Beginner programmers might start at the first level of reusing other people’s code, but wizardly performance often involves a mix of the other levels.

    So the question is: How can we balance doing things and improving things?

    No one can answer this for you.

    Me, I tend to avoid hard deadlines and I do things faster than people expect them to be done, so I have plenty of leeway to improve my tools – which helps me be even more effective, so it’s a virtuous cycle.

    You’ll need to find your own balance. You might get urgent stuff out of the way first, and then figure out how to balance smaller requests with investing in capabilities.

    Here’s something I put together to help you figure out where you might be in terms of balance. Alternatively, if you’re thinking about whether to pick up a skill or tool that can be used to improve itself, you can use this to evaluate what you read from people sharing their experiences with the tool. Can they find a good balance for themselves, or are they frustrated by the challenges of getting something to work?

    2015-03-16a The balance between using and improving tools -- index card #learning #bootstrapping

    2015-03-16a The balance between using and improving tools – index card #learning #bootstrapping

    • “I have what I need in order to work.” This is the basic scenario. People focus on doing things instead of improving things.
    • I can keep pushing, but performance is dropping, so I should invest time in maintenance.” It’s like the way a knife or a saw dulls over time. When you notice diminishing returns, it might be good to invest some time in maintenance. It’s not an urgent need, but it can pay off.
    • I’d better take care of this now before it becomes a problem.” This is like maintaining a car or taking care of your health. A little time now can avoid big problems later.
    • Grr, it’s broken. I have to fix it before I can work.” If you let things go for too long, or if you’re working with something finicky, you’ll be forced into maintenance mode. For example, some 3D printers require a lot of fiddling. Watch out for this scenario.
    • It’s fine the way it is, but I know I can make it better.” The way you’re currently doing things is okay, but you know (from your experience or from what you’ve read of other people) that you can invest a little time to work more effectively. You might even know the return on investment. It’s easy to decide whether you should just go ahead with the status quo or invest the time in improving.
    • It’s fine the way it is, but I think I can make it better.” The way you’re currently doing things is okay, but you have some ideas that might make it even better. If you think those ideas might be worth it, it might be good to give yourself a time limit for exploring those ideas so that you don’t get distracted. Alternatively, you can save it for a slower time.
    • I’m waiting or stuck, so I might as well work on tools.” Maybe you’re waiting for feedback from someone else. Maybe you’re waiting for programs to compile or tests to pass. Why not spend a little time exploring how to make your tools a little better?
    • I’m doing this for fun/learning.” Tool improvement can become more enjoyable than some of the other ways you used to like spending time. For example, you might find yourself wanting to watch a screencast or try out a tweak instead of watching TV or browsing random sites on the Internet. You don’t have to completely replace other activities, you just have to shift a little time from things that have less value to you.
    • I can’t write about my actual work, but I can write about this.” If you’re wondering about yak-shaving propensity based on the blog posts you’re reading, consider: do people write about their improvements instead of the work that they’re doing because their work is confidential or hard to explain? Maybe they think blog posts about improvements are more interesting. Maybe they’re writing about improvements in the process of figuring things out (which in an excellent process, by the way). All these things can skew your perception of how much time people spend doing things versus improving things, and how much they accomplish within that time.

    In terms of Emacs, these things mostly apply to me:

    • “I’m doing this for fun/learning” – Emacs tickles my brain, and the community is wonderful.
    • “I can’t write about my actual work, but I can write about this” – I suppose I could write more about the other stuff I’m interested in (sewing? cooking?), so there’s that. However, the consulting stuff is covered by agreements, and that’s a small fraction of my life anyway.

    I assume other geeks are rational, especially if they have a lot of experience with it and other tools. Therefore, if people spend time tweaking (while avoiding the consequences of low performance), I assume it’s because they see the value of doing so (whether the pay-off is certain or not). On the surface, an effective person’s behaviour might resemble an ineffective person’s behaviour – six hours sharpening the saw for two hours of work, or six hours procrastinating and two hours of cramming? But if you look at:

    • if they get stuff done
    • whether other people are happy with their performance, or if they generally appear successful in their endeavours
    • how happy they are about the process

    then you can get a better idea of whether it’s working for them.

    As you think about your own balance or read other people’s blogs, can you identify what scenarios you and other people might resonate with? Am I missing any that I should add to the list? Please comment below!

    The post The balance between doing and improving – evaluating yak-shaving appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at March 26, 2015 12:00 PM

    Table Titans

    Tales: Three Times Failing

    News

    This story is about a player who had the worst possible luck.

    When I was at university I joined the local D&D group. I was playing a sneaky Elven Ranger. We quickly got into a routine; I would sneak ahead to the next door, listen, check for traps, then motion for the rest of the party to move…

    Read more

    March 26, 2015 07:41 AM

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    The Gospel in Spain

    It’s never been easy to be an evangelical believer in Spain. From the Inquisition of the 16th century to the secularism of the 21st, to believe in Protestant truths has always put evangelicals in Spain at odds with their surrounding culture. Spanish philologist Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo (1856–1912), when writing of the Protestants of the 16th century, made this passing, but telling, remark about the Spanish language: “the language of Castilla was not forged to utter heresies.” For many centuries, to be a Spaniard was to be Roman Catholic. For many today in Spain, mirroring European trends, to be a Spaniard is to be secular.

    Today there is no fear of the Inquisition, and we can thank the Lord for open doors to preach the gospel and for the healthy churches that have been established. But even in the midst of these encouragements there are great challenges for the Spanish church. As we continue our series on how the gospel is at work in Latin America, I corresponded with Andrew (or Andrés) Birch, contributor to the Spanish TGC site and pastor of the Iglesia Bautista Reformada (Reformed Baptist Church) in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Andrew, from the U.K., has been a missionary in Spain since 1983. 

    Even though Spain is not a Latin American nation per se, it still shares many traits, not least the language and cultural dynamics, with the Western hemisphere. In this interview we learn about the history of Protestantism in Spain, the idols of the Spanish people, how to reach a secular culture, and more.


    How would you describe the state of the church in Spain?

    The religious history of Spain has been dominated by Islam and Roman Catholicism. The 16th-century Reformation did reach Spain, but it suffered at the hands of the Inquisition. Then there was a second reformation in the second half of the 19th century. And in the 20th century there were three significant dates for evangelicals in Spain: (1) 1967: a law of religious liberty was passed; (2) 1975: the death of the dictator Francisco Franco; and (3) 1992: a cooperation agreement between the Spanish state and the evangelical churches.

    The evangelical churches in Spain have grown numerically, but they are weaker spiritually. That weakness can be seen especially in three symptoms: (1) lack of doctrinal clarity; (2) low level of holiness; and: (3) fairly aggressive denominationalism. And if there are as many of us evangelicals as there are supposed to be now, why are we having so little effect on society?

    Furthermore, most of the numerical growth in recent years has not been due to conversions of Spaniards, but to the arrival of believers from all over the world. Now, as a result of the current economic recession, many of those people have returned to their home countries.

    What do you find most encouraging about the evangelical church in your country today?

    What I find most encouraging is a movement—across the different denominations—of reformation and the recovery of a vision for sound doctrine and real passion for the true gospel. At the moment it’s still a humble movement, but the signs of life are encouraging. Precisely the kind of vision represented by The Gospel Coalition is gradually spreading all over Spain, which is really hopeful as we face the future.

    What is the main challenge facing the Spanish church?

    Just as in other Spanish-speaking countries (and not only in Spanish-speaking countries), the influence of the false “prosperity gospel” has done—and is doing—a great deal of harm. I would say that most of the new churches springing up all over Spain, especially in the big cities, are characterized by some or other version of that “prosperity gospel.” There’s no doubt that the heresy of the prosperity gospel has become the new orthodoxy.

    The other big challenge is how to evangelize Spaniards in a context in which both Roman Catholicism and growing secularism have erected walls against the true gospel of Christ.

    What would you identify as Spaniards’ idols? Does that reality affect your preaching?

    I don’t think Spaniards’ idols are that different from those in any other country. I would divide them into two big blocks that reflect “the two Spains”: Catholic Spain and secular Spain. There is still a lot of idolatry associated with popular religiosity: “virgins,” “saints,” and so on. But I would say that, even among Catholics, the most prominent idols are money (and all that it can buy), hedonism, sex, football (soccer), and the cell-phone!

    Idolatry, in all its many forms, is the essence of sin. So it should inform how we reach the unconverted. The bad news prepares people for the good news of the gospel. Awareness of idolatry informs our preaching to believers with the specific implications of sanctification.

    In the United States, as also in Latin American countries (like Uruguay), the evangelical church is facing more and more opposition from an increasing secularization. This is nothing new for you in Spain. What would be your word of encouragement to believers in the United States?

    It’s quite a complex subject, one that would require not just a few lines, but a whole book! But I’ll just offer four thoughts:

    1. We need to make a real effort to understand “post-Christian” people. We need to know and understand the people we want to evangelize.
    2. We need to fight for our Christian values. If we believe that they are the best values for everybody, which we do, then we mustn’t withdraw from the world or accept the limitation of our faith to the private sphere.
    3. We need to preach the gospel and refuse to allow ourselves to be distracted from the church’s main mission. I don’t mean by that that we don’t do other things, but that we be careful to keep the main thing as the main thing.
    4. We need to trust in God’s sovereignty. God is in control of everything! Christ has already won the decisive battle! We know how this is all going to finish! We don’t see it, but we believe it!

    How can we pray for God’s work in Spain?

    1. Pray for a new generation of godly leaders who know God, who are committed to the cause of the gospel, and who are truly gospel-centred.
    2. Pray for more faithful workers; the door is still open, and we need to make the most of the day of opportunity.
    3. Pray for more conversions of Spaniards (as well as for more conversions of people from other countries).
    4. Pray for revival! Spain has never had a real revival.

    Other articles in the the Gospel in Latin America series:


    Editors’ noteThe Gospel Coalition National Conference returns this year to Orlando, Florida, from April 12 to 15. We're delighted to partner with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for a special pre-conference for Spanish speakers on April 12 and 13. TGC Council members Sugel Michelén, Miguel Núñez, Don Carson, and Albert Mohler will deliver keynote addresses, while Juan Sánchez and Felix Cabrera will join them on panels about gospel partnerships, church planting, and evangelism methods in the 21st century. Spanish speakers who stay for the full National Conference receive a 30 percent discount on the subsequent event, which features workshops and simultaneous Spanish translation.

    by Ivan Mesa at March 26, 2015 05:01 AM

    Looking for a Good Fight

    I had the great privilege of pastoring one church for more than four decades. I began to preach for them when they were a mission work and today sit in the same congregation as the pastor emeritus. Thankfully, my tenure was mostly peaceful, but I don’t know of any pastor who can remain long in one place and not face conflict. Some conflicts are well worth having, and some you cannot avoid. I have also learned that the way you fight is as important as whether you win or lose. 

    In fact, a pastor might win a fight and eventually lose his church, or his reputation, or even lose his own spiritual battle.

    Conflict Scale 

    There are certain issues for which a pastor should be willing to lose his job, if his conscience and integrity mean anything. Unfortunately, some pastors seem ready to fight over the most obscure and insignificant matters, “making mountains out of molehills.” All of us in the ministry need to be careful that we are not at either extreme of the “conflict scale,” from being contentious to being a flatterer. If by personality we have a “contentious spirit” we probably should not be in any kind of spiritual leadership. Paul makes this clear in 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NIV): 

    Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

    The other end of the scale is the “people pleaser,” the glad-hander, the pastor with the plastic smile who is always testing to see which way the wind is blowing and works to make sure the boat is never rocked. This is the pastor who avoids all conflict and inevitably backs into them, usually angering people because he simply won’t take a stand on anything. Some people might think you are holy for not fighting; others will think you a coward. Again the apostle Paul has something to say about this in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 (NIV):

    We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.  We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

    Fear God, Not Sheep 

    As a pastor you are an under-shepherd of Jesus Christ, but you must actively shepherd. We have to fear God more than sheep; if you live in fear of sheep, you don’t know your mission or calling. Some sheep have more “fleece” than others, as in wealthy tithers and donors. Some people have influence and they know it, and God help you if you make them angry. Loving sheep means you have to lead them through rough places to get them where they need to be, and they might not like it. For the sake of the flock, you have to be willing to lose some people, and you will lose some no matter what you do.

    Choose your fights carefully and look to your own soul and behavior. You should seek to honor Christ as you stand on issues; make sure you always fight according to biblical principles. We can be angry, and sometimes things are so bad and evil that we have a right to be angry. But we never have a right to sin.

    If you preach the Bible honestly and faithfully, it is going to cut to the heart of some of your listeners. If they have been comforted in their sin, then expect some reaction. The reaction we all want is repentance, but sometimes it seems they want to kill the messenger. If you have not read into the text, if you are not preaching out of grievance or being manipulative so as to attack individuals, then you can stand with integrity behind the Word of God. Your sincerity might not matter to the person who is angry with you, but it should matter to you.

    Gameplan for Conflict 

    Some people will be angry with you for no reason other than the fact you represent authority, and they will transfer their struggles against their parents to you. Some people in our congregations have mental problems, and there is almost nothing you can do to prevent them from bringing drama into your counseling office. They will want to make their problems personal with you and even create conflict to make you out as the problem. If you tend to be a co-dependent personality this will be difficult for you, but none of us can help everybody, and all of us need to remember there is only one Jesus who can save people. You aren’t him.

    Here are some suggestions for dealing with church conflict: 

    • Remember, we are always in a spiritual battle. Make sure you are wearing God’s armor and using spiritual weapons, not fleshly ones. 
    • Make sure you fight to love God’s people. 
    • Build your leaders and your relationships with them so they will have your back.
    • Be humble before them and admit when you blow it or fail. 
    • Confront gossip quickly. Don’t allow an atmosphere of backbiting and slander, and take no part in it. 
    • Keep your conflicts off email and social media. Deal personally and up front with individuals.
    • Try to protect your wife by not bringing every issue home with you. Don’t let her feel she has to defend or protect you. 

    Ultimately, we all need to dwell in the shelter of the Most High so we can rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91:1).

    by Randy Nabors at March 26, 2015 05:01 AM

    Living for the New Heaven and New Earth

    When evangelical Christians think about the arrival of the new heaven and new earth, many immediately turn to decoding Bible passages addressing the end times. Prophecies from Daniel, Revelation, and other books of the Bible are examined and obvious questions follow: “What do these prophecies mean? When are these prophecies fulfilled? Could they be happening now?” The answers to these questions often depend on whether you have been convinced by any of the standard postmillennial, amillennial, or premillennial positions.

    These questions and answers are not new. We can point to similar responses in nearly every era of the history of the church, and especially during the Reformation. During the 16th century, interest in prophecy and the end times was commonplace among the Protestant Reformers. Beginning with Martin Luther’s break with the Roman Catholic Church, Europe entered a period of great turmoil as the result of intense political rivalries, unprecedented social disruption, and many bloody wars. For Protestants, these events were framed in apocalyptic terms, especially once Luther boldly identified the papacy as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Antichrist. Consequently, the Reformation was understood as a cosmic struggle between good and evil, or, more precisely, between God and the Devil.

    In Zurich, Switzerland, the successor to the great Reformer Ulrich Zwingli was Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575). Well known during his time as “pastor to the Protestant refugees,” Bullinger ministered to many exiled Protestants, especially those arriving from England, fleeing the reign of “Bloody Mary.” Beginning in 1555, Bullinger preached a series of 101 sermons from the book of Revelation. The sermons were later published and dedicated to all the Protestant refugees in Europe.

    Peculiar Interpretation

    In his exposition of Revelation 20, the famous passage referring to the reign of Christ for 1,000 years (the millennium), Bullinger introduced a peculiar interpretation. Unlike Augustine and possibly Calvin, he did not interpret the millennium as a non-literal symbolic description of the entire church age. For Bullinger the millennium was not a future event, similar to a premillennial position. Instead, Bullinger believed the millennium was a literal period of 1,000 years that had already passed.

    Bullinger’s understanding of the millennium may seem to us like quite a novel interpretation. How could the reign of Christ be over by the 16th century? And if it was indeed over, when did it occur in history? Bullinger gave three possible options for the period of the millennium:

    1. Beginning in AD 34 with the ascension of Christ and ending in 1034 with the reign of Pope Benedict IX.
    2. Beginning in AD 60 with the preaching of the Apostle Paul and ending in 1060 with Pope Nicholas II.
    3. Beginning in AD 73 with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and ending in 1073 with Pope Gregory VII.

    In all three of these options, Bullinger was describing the period of the early church when the gospel advanced with phenomenal success. For him, this extraordinary expansion of the gospel fit with the description in Revelation 20:2, where Satan is bound for 1,000 years. The binding of Satan made possible the flourishing work of the gospel in the early church. The end of the 1,000 years was marked by the rise and corruption of the office of the pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Why is the office of the pope significant? Because Bullinger agreed with Luther that the papacy was the Antichrist, and the appearance of the Antichrist marked the end of the millennium.

    Satan Released 

    Revelation 20 describes at the end of the millennium: “Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth.” Bullinger believed that since the millennium had ended, Satan was released to deceive the nations. For Reformers like Luther and Bullinger, Satan’s greatest deception was to introduce a false gospel into the church through the one who is supposed to be the head of the church and Christ’s representative on earth—the pope. Hence the Reformation sought to recover the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and subsequently the true gospel.

    With the millennium over and Satan released, Bullinger believed the next event would be the great battle of Gog and Magog and the imminent return of Christ to defeat his enemies (Rev. 20:9-10) and usher in the great day of judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). For 16th-century Protestants, this was a great assurance filled with comfort and hope in a time of fear and uncertainty. This was the message of Bullinger’s sermons dedicated to the Protestant refugees: Jesus Christ is returning soon, and all his enemies finally will be defeated. Bullinger’s interpretation was so persuasive that it was included in the popular Geneva Bible, first published in 1560.

    How Then Must We Live?

    While I and most other evangelical theologians today do not follow Bullinger’s specific interpretation of the millennium, in many ways, Christians in our day are no different from Bullinger and other 16th-century believers. We diligently try to understand these difficult prophetic passages through careful study and prayer. Many Christians today attempt to make sense of these prophesies in light of current world events such as the onslaught of secularism in North America and Europe, the rise of violent persecution in the Middle East, and the oppression from totalitarian governments in Asia. At the same time, we long for the return of Christ to bring the new heaven and new earth.

    How then should Christians today live in light of the new heaven and new earth? Let me offer three simple suggestions.

    First, we should follow the example of the Reformers and turn to Scripture. Let us diligently study the whole Bible and not just the passages that contain prophecies. The Bible teaches us more about who we are in Christ and how we should live in Christ, than about what events precede his second coming. I am not suggesting that we ignore the prophecies, but we must understand these difficult and often challenging prophecies in the context of what is more clear. No matter what happens in this world, or when the return of Christ will be, we live as those who belong to Christ, walking by the Spirit in faith (Gal. 5:16-25).

    Second, many different interpretations persist about the end times both in the history of the church and today. At the same time, all Christians confess foundational doctrines about the end times. Whether you are a postmillennialist, amillennialist, or premillennialist, we all believe that Jesus Christ will return again, defeat his enemies, bring final judgment, and inaugurate the new heaven and new earth. This is the hope of all Christians in every era of church history, and it should be our hope as well.

    Finally, as the apostle John teaches us in Revelation 22:20, we should pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” We earnestly pray for the return of Christ. It is easy to get caught up in things of the world. But to see our Lord and Savior is the greatest longing of our hearts. The new heaven and new earth is our ultimate home, and what a joy it will be when we arrive there.


    Editors’ note: Jeffrey K. Jue, G. K. Beale, Lane Tipton, and Ligon Duncan will participate in a panel discussion on “The Gospel & Eschatology: Why Heaven Matters Now” at 3 p.m., Tuesday, April 14, at The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference in Orlando, Florida. 

    by Jeffrey K. Jue at March 26, 2015 05:01 AM

    4 Reasons Why God Wills Work

    Editors’ note: Paul exhorts the Thessalonians “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thess. 4:11). In 1983, John Piper preached on this passage (1 Thess. 4:9-12) and highlighted four reasons why God wills work. (To read the sermon in its entirety, see here.)


    1. To Glorify God and Increase Our Joy

    First, God wills work because when we work in reliance on his power and according to his pattern of excellence, his glory is made known and our joy is increased. Since our being created in God’s image leads directly to our privilege and duty to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:27-18), I take it that human vocation involves exercising a subordinate lordship over creation by which we shape and control it for good purposes.

    God takes man on as his deputy and endows him with God-like rights and capacities to subdue the world—to use it and shape it for good purposes. At the heart of the meaning of work is creativity. If you are God, your work is to create out of nothing. If you are human, your work is to take what God has made and shape it and use it for good purposes.

    So what is the difference between a human being at work and a beaver or a bee or a hummingbird? They work hard; they subdue their surroundings and shape them into beautiful structures that serve good purposes. The difference is that humans are morally self-conscious and make choices about their work on the basis of motives which may, or may not, honor God.

    2. To Provide for Our Needs

    The second reason God wills work is that by working we provide for our legitimate needs. Before the fall, man lived in a garden where God provided his food on trees. All Adam and Eve had to do was pick and eat. That's why the essence of work is not sustenance of life—God gave himself as the sustainer.

    But when they chose to be self-reliant and rejected God's fatherly guidance and provision, God subjected them to the very thing they chose: self-reliance. From now on, he says, if you eat, it will be because you toil and sweat (Gen. 3:17-19). They are driven from the garden of ease to the ground of sweat. The curse under which we live today is not that we must work. The curse is that in our work we struggle with weariness and frustration and calamities.

    But hasn't Christ come to lift the curse (Gal. 3:13)? Doesn't he restore us to our original pre-fallen condition with God? The answer is: Yes, but not all at once. Christ delivered a mortal blow to all evil when he died for sin and rose again. But not every enemy is yet put under his feet.

    By necessity we work to provide for our needs. Christ says, “Don't be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, or about your body, what you shall put on . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom” (Matt. 6:25, 32; see also Matt. 11:28; 1 Cor. 15:58). God doesn’t want his children to be burdened with the frustration and futility and depressing weariness of work. That much he aims to lift even in this age.

    But the provision of our needs depends on our gainful employment in this age. The coming of Christ does not mean that we can now return to paradise and pick fruit in someone else's garden. That's the mistake made at Thessalonica. So Paul wrote them and said, “Even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If anyone will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:10-12). God has not completely removed the curse in this age. He has softened it with a promise. The curse says: If you want to eat, you must sweat (Gen. 3:19). The promise says: If you sweat, you shall eat (Prov. 12:11).

    3. To Provide for the Needs of Others

    The third reason God wills work is that by working we provide for the needs of those who can't provide for their own. The promise that if you sweat, you shall eat is not absolute. The drought may strike your village in sub-Saharan Africa; thieves may steal what you've earned; disability may cut your earning power. All that is part of the curse that sin brought onto the world. But God in his mercy wills that the work of the able-bodied in prosperous times supplies the needs of the helpless, especially in hard times.

    Three passages of Scripture make this plain. Paul speaks to children and grandchildren regarding the aged widows: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). Paul refers to his own manual labor and then says, “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). He also doesn’t settle for saying, “Don’t steal; work!” but, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need” (Eph. 4:28).

    4. To Build Bridges for the Gospel

    Finally, God wills work as a way of building bridges for the gospel. In our work we are usually in the world. We rub shoulders with unbelievers. If we do our work in reliance on God's power, according to his pattern of excellence, and thus for his glory, we will build bridges for the gospel so that people can cross over and be saved. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul exhorts the believers “to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.”

    There is a close connection between the way we do our work and the attitude that unbelievers will have toward the gospel that makes us tick.


    Editors' note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a weekly column that publishes past writings on vocation.

    by John Piper at March 26, 2015 05:01 AM

    March 25, 2015

    Natural Running Center

    Form vs. Running Shoes –Why Minimalism Went Flat, Part Two

    by Jim Hixson, CSCS     Minimalism isn’t going aw [...]

    by BillK at March 25, 2015 11:56 PM

    Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »

    The most important event, ever

    IIW XX, IIW_XX_logothe 20th Internet Identity Workshop, comes at a critical inflection point in the history of VRM: Vendor Relationship Management, the only business movement working toward giving you both

    1. independence from the silos and walled gardens of the world; and
    2. better means for engaging with every business in the world — your way, rather than theirs.

    If you’re looking for a point of leverage on the future of customer liberation, independence and empowerment, IIW is it.

    Wall Street-sized companies around the world are beginning to grok what Main Street ones have always known: customers aren’t just “targets” to be “acquired,” “managed,” “controlled” and “locked in.” In other words, Cluetrain was right when it said this, in 1999:

    if you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get…

    Now it is finally becoming clear that free customers are more valuable than captive ones: to themselves, to the companies they deal with, and to the marketplace.

    But how, exactly? That’s what we’ll be working on at IIW, which runs from April 7 to 9 at the Computer History Museum, in the heart of Silicon Valley: the best venue ever created for a get-stuff-done unconference.

    Focusing our work is a VRM maturity framework that gives every company, analyst and journalist a list of VRM competencies, and every VRM developer a context in which to show which of those competencies they provide, and how far along they are along the maturity path. This will start paving the paths along which individuals, tool and service providers and corporate systems (e.g. CRM) can finally begin to fit their pieces together. It will also help legitimize VRM as a category. If you have a VRM or related company, now is the time to jump in and participate in the conversation. Literally. Here are some of the VRM topics and technology categories that we’ll be talking about, and placing in context in the VRM maturity framework:

    Note: Another version of this post appeared first on the ProjectVRM blog. I’m doing a rare cross-posting here because it that important.

    by Doc Searls at March 25, 2015 11:53 PM

    Mr. Money Mustache

    Chasing Electrical Demons to Cut your Power Bill by 80%

    samsung

    1994-kwhWorking in my yard the other day, I happened to notice that my power meter is just about to cross the ‘2000’ mark.

    That’s two thousand kilowatt hours, or roughly $200 of electricity. About the amount it takes to drive your Tesla Model S from Los Angeles to New York and back, or dry 570 loads of laundry in an electric clothes dryer, or run a modern laptop computer continuously for 11 years. It’s also about the amount of power the average American household burns in two months.

    Yet I installed the power meter you see in that picture in November 2013, and I’m writing this over 15 months later. Somehow, even accounting for all the power used to build this house and live in it since then, with all my welders and power saws, wife and boy, computers and audio systems, lights and appliances, we’ve averaged about 80% less than the average household.

    The performance looks even better when you compare against high-income households: one of my Canadian friends ruefully admitted that his power bill tops $900 per month every January as his electric heat pump fights to keep his large custom home warm in the face of Ottawa’s near-arctic winter weather. A Texan friend reports a $300 per month cooling bill for the hottest four months of the year, and even a fellow Coloradan uses over $200 per month with very little climate control at all.

    All of this supposed efficiency, even though I live in what I consider to be a bath of glorious electricity consumption.  I have a giant LG fridge that gets heavy use every day:

    fridge

    I also have this fancyass Samsung dishwasher from Craigslist that runs several times a week in order to protect my lazy hands from the dangers of too much manual dishwashing:

    samsung

    On any given night when viewed from the park, my house looks like this:

    house

    There is no shortage of electricity flying around in my residence.

    How can this be?

    The stakes are large: This electrical advantage saves me tens of of thousands of dollars per decade, and it takes very little effort to maintain it. If everybody ran their house and business like this, we could shut down most of our coal power plants (38% of the nation’s CO2 emissions) almost overnight*.  As with most Mustachian Life Hacks, the key lies in understanding what is actually going on.

    1: Measure Everything, then get Angry at Waste

    As a quick shortcut for understanding the impact of electricity waste, remember this rule: Every watt of constant drain costs you about $12.63 per decade in lost wealth.

    A tiny 2-watt seashell nightlight in your guest bathroom?  25 bucks. A forgotten incandescent porch light that never turns off? $758.00  A hot tub or pool pump that is on for an average of just two hours a day? $1578 burned. If you think a decade is a long time to make such a measurement, think again – ten years is the minimum amount to be thinking about when your goal is to become wealthy.

    In my house, devices don’t just get to slurp on power without supervision. I test everything at least once, so I can understand where my power goes and decide if that’s a worthwhile bit of spending. To accomplish this, I use a combination of measurement tools. But don’t be turned off if you’re not an electrical nerd like me – you don’t have to measure everything if you are not so inclined. There is a list of shortcuts coming up too.

    efergyThe Efergy Elite Combo system comes with a very small wireless clamp that sits permanently around the main input wires in my circuit panel and measures power consumption right down to the watt with 10 second resolution. You set it and forget it. This power consumption is then displayed on a wireless unit in my kitchen and also logged permanently online, where I can review graphs from my phone or computer:

    A day's electricity use: spikes are microwave/coffee machine. Small plateaus are the fridge. Evening buildup is lights and computers until we go to bed.

    A day of our electricity use: spikes are microwave/coffee machine. Small plateaus are the fridge. Evening buildup is lights and computers until we go to bed.

    By watching the display, I can see how much power it takes when the fridge kicks on, or when I run the dishwasher, or flip on a bank of lights in the kitchen. It also helps me find phantom loads: when you think everything is off, but your household consumption is still over 100 watts, something is wrong. I tracked down three faulty smoke detectors that were burning over 5 watts each and replaced them with units that use under 1 watt. Then I discovered that my Yamaha amplifiers burn 25 watts each if you leave them on, even when there is no music playing. This was bad, because I was often forgetting them overnight.

    The benefit of the Efergy is its ability to measure even direct-wired devices: alarms, dishwashers, your central a/c system, or the unwanted pipe heater that the previous owner installed in your crawlspace to prevent frozen pipes.. but then left on for 12 months of the year regardless of temperature (which would cost you $1902 per decade, in case you were curious).

    imgresThe lower-tech kill-a-watt meter is ideal for testing individual appliances over a longer period. For example, I was able to determine that my fridge uses 1.1 kwh per day, which translates to 401 kWh per year, or about 40 bucks.

     

     

    Another favorite on my lab bench is the clamp-on current meter. Among other uses, this $40 wonder allows instantaneous measurement of the current running through an individual circuit in your breaker panel. It also comes in handy when diagnosing things like a broken electric lawnmower or vacuum cleaner:

    This clamp-on current meter lets me measure an individual circuit (fridge 2.0 amps = 240 watts) or the whole house (4.92 amps).

    The clamp-on meter lets me measure an individual circuit (fridge 2.0 amps = 240 watts) or the whole house (4.92 amps).

     

    2. Put it all into Action

    Here are the biggest power consumers in the typical home, and how I have optimized some of their worst guzzling out of my own bill.

    Lights

    If your interior space is lit with lamps or a few fixtures, it’s an easy fix: make sure they are all running on good compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.  But more recently-built houses (including mine) are usually done with a larger number of recessed lights within the ceiling itself. These produce a nice light with the builder-standard incandescent reflector bulbs but will destroy your electricity budget. Compact fluorescents of this format (PAR30) tend to be poor in quality and slow to reach full brightness. So I bypassed the problems by outfitting my house with the now-affordable PAR30 LEDs – the best bulb I’ve found for the job is the GE 66052 because of its warm 2700k color and nice narrow 25 degree beam angle, (or the 65140 if you require a dimmable bulb).

    But if you look in detail at this picture of some of my interior lights, you’ll notice something odd…

    lights

    ..they’re off most of the time. This is because I built my windows into the side of the house that faces the sun, and keep those windows clean and free from curtains or other obstructions.  This is not always an easy thing to change in your current house, but is a great factor to consider when shopping for your next one. And there’s a much bigger benefit than lower electricity and heating bills: higher happiness. Having a bright, daylit living space will improve your mood, productivity, and entire outlook on life.

    Only once house buyers start demanding daylight-oriented design, will house builders wise up and start providing it.

    Exterior Lights:

    Fancy houses are often designed to look like a luxury resort at night, with landscape and path lighting, uplights highlighting the structure, pool lights, driveway lights, and so on. The quickest shortcut is to live in a smaller compound. But if you do have outdoor lighting, keep it to a minimum and use LEDs in all fixtures since they run for many hours per day. In my house, I leave no exterior lights on overnight at all – the glow from streetlights is more than enough to find your way around at night.

    The Clothes Dryer: 

    This is an emotional one, since some people consider this appliance to be humankind’s highest achievement. But consider this: even with seven figures in the bank, the MMM family has not even owned a clothes dryer since June 2014. I just prefer hanging clothes to dry outside (or inside if the weather requires it). It’s a meditative and pleasantly physical task, and your clothes smell better and last longer as a side benefit. And it burns very little time, because we only do a single load of laundry per week. You don’t have to go dryer-free to get most of this benefit – just use it more consciously and only wash stuff when it actually needs washing.

    Air Conditioning:

    We’ve already talked about this here, but the basic idea is to take the opposite approach of certain residents of the American South: use the A/C, but as little as possible rather than as much as possible. Always challenge your temperature threshold just as you should always challenge your physical threshold and seek to do the most difficult things you can handle, rather than minimizing the effort you put out with elevators and self-closing car trunks.

    Electric Heating of Anything: 

    If you’re stuck with an electric water heater, your electricity bill will exceed mine just in the process of taking showers and doing dishes. Don’t put up with it! These days you can replace an old-school electric tank with a heat pump water heater**. Electric baseboard heat can be replaced by a heat pump ductless system. If you’re stuck with an electric range and you would prefer to cook with natural gas (which is awesome), it is surprisingly easy to add a gas line to your kitchen – I ran my own using the newer flexible stainless steel gas line system available at the major home supply shops.

    If you live in an area with a cold climate and oil-based heat, look into a ground-sourced Geothermal heat system. Several years ago, our mutual friend Mr. Frugal Toque (just outside of Ottawa, Canada) ditched his oil furnace and hired a contractor to replace it with a ground-source heat pump. He forked over $25k (after rebates) for the upgrade, but it saves him at least $2000 per year in heating and cooling costs, and the capital value will easily be recouped at home resale time, as heating bills are high on the minds of people in that area.

    Gadgets: DVRs, Playstation-type game consoles and cable boxes have gained notoriety in recent years because they can use 50 or even 100 watts when you’re not even using them. This is unacceptable – any vampire over 1 watt deserves to be starved, so you’ll want to shut down computers that aren’t in use. The cable and playstation issue is easier to solve: return the box to the cable company and cancel your service, and sell the game system.. you have more valuable things to do with your free time!

    Your Sorry Old Fridge:

    Saving the best for last, you may have a chance to upgrade the luxury in your lifestyle while making a good investment at the same time. New fridges often greatly outperform old ones,  because EPA rules and consumer demand have pulled the technology forward.

    For example, my neighborhood friend The Garage Grocer replaced an old 1970s freezer with a 2007 model of identical size. Power consumption dropped from 155 kWh/month to 64.5, a savings that compounds to roughly $1582 per decade if invested conservatively. The new freezer cost him around $200 on craigslist. My giant fancy LG fridge uses well under 40 kWh per month and cost me $600 (also on Craigslist but much newer) – but only because I insisted on the  luxury stainless steel model, consistent with the rest of my ridiculous lifestyle.

    With the right adjustments, your electric bill can be a trivial affair that feels like a small monthly reward for your thoughtful use, rather than a painful but necessary draining of your bank account.  Happy demon hunting!

     

    *If America then went on to read the article about Car Clowns, we’d be down an additional 32%, meaning 70% of our carbon emissions would be wiped out just like that. Who says global warming is such a big deal?

    ** If you do buy something from GP conservation, try the coupon code MMM for a discount. I don’t get a commission, but the company considers Mustachians an ideal source of business because of our enthusiasm for energy efficiency.

    Further Inspiration: in response to this post, a reader named Mark sent me the annual power graph, for his 2200 SF house in Minneapolis. His electric company allows you to compare your consumption to that of your neighbors. Of course, the Mustachian line is the blue one way, way down below any of the other ones, quietly saving him loads of cash.

    by Mr. Money Mustache at March 25, 2015 11:51 PM

    CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

    Workout: March 26, 2015

    And then someone started The Wave...

    And then someone started The Wave…

    Gymnasty

    Gymnasty +

    4 rounds:

    4 L-sit pull-ups

    5 wall walks

    6 dumbbell split snatches (70/55 lb.)

    1.5 legless rope climb (your coach will explain)

    by Mike at March 25, 2015 10:15 PM

    512 Pixels

    Connected 32: I Misplaced That Civil War →

    This week's show is a fun one:

    Stephen, Myke and Federico talk about some Italian history, TeleText’s current state in Sweden and then answer listener questions.

    These awesome sponsors made it all possible:

    • Bushel: a cloud-based mobile device management solution for the Mac, iPhone and iPad.
    • PDFPen Scan+, from Smile: The app for mobile scanning and OCR.

    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at March 25, 2015 08:49 PM

    Table Titans

    Tales: We Destroyed Everything

    News

    Alright, so…

    This looked bad.

    My character, a Wizard with a drinking problem and slightly suicidal ideation due to getting caught in a time warp and waking up 1000 years in the future, and a Warrior named Chrede Redhands who had a skull as a friend, were stuck.

    Stuck at the top of a…

    Read more

    March 25, 2015 08:29 PM

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    Non-Conformity and Adventure in Europe: The “Alive in Berlin” Conference

    10991217_521014418039026_8792733889602557047_n

    Last year I spoke at a number of worldwide events, but only one was in Europe. The organizers are bringing it back for another round, and a limited number of tickets are now available.

    I like events of this size: not too small, and not too big. If you’re in the neighborhood, broadly speaking, or if you’re up for an overseas adventure, Alive in Berlin is a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people and learn more personal development.

    14392815693_9058b1cfd3_z

    Oh, also: Berlin is an awesome city! I don’t think I’d ever spent much time there before (I’d been to Germany dozens of times, but usually to Frankfurt or Munich), and it’s a wonderful base for an extended stay.

    Lodging and meals are cheaper than elsewhere in the region, and there’s a thriving community of artists, entrepreneurs, and other fun people.

    7785909088_9aaffd165b_z

    ###

    Images: Werner

    by Chris Guillebeau at March 25, 2015 07:54 PM

    Roads from Emmaus

    “Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb”: John Donne on the Annunciation

    Students of Renaissance English poetry all get to know John Donne, that 16th/17th century priest and poet who vacillated painfully between whether to remain with the Church of England or to be a Catholic. He also vacillated between a life of devotion and the passions which afflict us all since the Fall. And his poetry […]

    The post “Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb”: John Donne on the Annunciation appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

    by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 25, 2015 05:11 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    Localist Roundup: A New Localist Roundup

    You may have noticed that Localist Roundup—FPR’s bi-weekly short post collecting articles of interest from across the internet—has vanished in recent weeks. This post is a continuation of that series, only instead of providing a handful of links, the new Localist Roundup will focus on commending one especially interesting piece.

    So without further ado…

    The Week ran an opinion piece yesterday intriguingly entitled “Why it’s naive to expect corporations to be nice to their workers.” The author—Jeff Spross—argues that, when it comes to the behavior of  business owners and managers, “culture matters, but it’s largely at the mercy of economics.” Spross explains that the reason “the elite have embraced greed, selfishness, and profit maximization” is because of changes in the economic climate which has allowed for such vices.

    I don’t find Spross’ argument ultimately persuasive; we should, I think, be suspicious of attempts to reduce human behavior to economics. But that does not prevent the article from raising important questions. Here’s a sample:

    But perhaps the biggest weakness of the cultural explanation for why businesses are shortchanging their workers is that it leaves us at the mercy of the elite. We don’t need to take their wealth and power away from them, we just need to change their values! If we convince the elite to be nice to everyday working Americans, then we can trust them again.
    There’s an implicit, but really important, assumption about human nature here: that having outsized wealth compared to everyone else is itself neutral in its effect on the individual or social moral conscience. But that’s certainly not what the major religions have taught. Nor does it square with what social science is telling us, or with the fact that the political mobilization of the business community and the wealthy is arguably what gave us all the above changes.

    Read the whole article here.

    The post Localist Roundup: A New Localist Roundup appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Josiah Duran at March 25, 2015 04:52 PM

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    “If you have to ‘give back,’ maybe you took too much in the first place.”

    192970758_541db63385_z

    I heard someone say that recently. I don’t remember the context but I really liked the sentiment.

    This whole concept of “giving back”—it kind of implies a certain arrogance. It suggests that everything we’ve received comes from our own hard work, and that we are deserving of whatever wealth or status we hold.

    I don’t wish to overstate this critique or go on some sort of campaign against people who use those words. I’ve used them before too, and I think they’re in the biographical section for some of my books: “Chris Guillebeau blah blah blah also ‘gives back’ through charity work.”

    It reminds me of the word “locals” when referring to people who live in a country, particularly somewhere in the developing world. I don’t love that word, since it also sounds a little condescending, but I also don’t have a great alternative.

    So maybe it’s just the principle that bothers me, not the phrase itself. It’s just kind of … imprecise.

    The point: I don’t think we should “give back” because we are charitable and nice. We should give because it’s good for us.

    Genuine giving will improve our lives as much as anyone else’s. It’s not something we sacrifice to make happen.

    ###

    Image: Ari

    by Chris Guillebeau at March 25, 2015 04:15 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    Beauty and the Beer Holder in the Built Environnment

    Katedra2

    Rock Island, IL The combined Feb. 23 and March 2 issue of the New Yorker (2015) has some gems in it. I neglected a whole pint of beer reading Mary Norris’s “Holy Writ: Learning to Love the House Style.” It’s…

    Read Full Article...

    The post Beauty and the Beer Holder in the Built Environnment appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Jason Peters at March 25, 2015 03:41 PM

    Daniel Lemire's blog

    Accelerating intersections with SIMD instructions

    Most people have a mental model of computation based on the Turing machine. The computer does one operation at a time. For example, maybe it adds two numbers and outputs the result.

    In truth, most modern processor cores are superscalar. They execute several instructions per CPU cycle (e.g., 4 instructions). That is above and beyond the fact that many processors have several cores.

    Programmers should care about superscalarity because it impacts performance significantly. For example, consider an array of integers. You can compute the gaps between the integers, y[i+1]=x[i+1]-x[i], faster than you can recover the original values from the gaps, x[i+1]=y[i+1]+x[i]. That is because the processor can compute several gaps at once whereas it needs to recover the values in sequence (e.g., x[i] before x[i+1]).

    Superscalar execution is truly a wonderful piece of technology. It is amazing that our processors can reorder and regroup instructions without causing any bugs. And though you should be aware of it, it is mostly transparent: there is no need to rewrite your code to benefit from it.

    There is another great modern feature that programmers need to be aware of: most modern processors support SIMD instructions. Instead of, say, adding two numbers, they can add two vectors of integers together. Recent Intel processors can add eight 32-bit integers using one instruction (vpaddd).

    It is even better than it sounds: SIMD instructions are superscalar too… so that your processor could possibly add, say, sixteen 32-bit integers in one CPU cycle by executing two instructions at once. And it might yet squeeze a couple of other instructions, in the same CPU cycle!

    Vectorization is handy to process images, graphics, arrays of data, and so on. However, unlike superscalar execution, vectorization does not come for free. The processor will not vectorize the computation for you. Thankfully, compilers and interpreters do their best to leverage SIMD instructions.

    However, we are not yet at the point where compilers will rewrite your algorithms for you. If your algorithm does not takes into account vectorization, it may not be possible for the compiler to help you in this regard.

    An important problem when working with databases or search engines is the computation of the intersection between sorted arrays. For example, given {1, 2, 10, 32} and {2, 3, 32}, you want {2, 32}.

    If you assume that you are interested in arrays having about the same length, there are clever SIMD algorithms to compute the intersection. Ilya Katsov describes an elegant approach for 32-bit integers. If your integers fit in 16 bits, Schlegel et al. have similar algorithms using special string comparison functions available on Intel processors.

    These algorithms are efficient, as long as the two input arrays have similar length… But life is not so easy. In many typical applications, you frequently need to compute the intersection between arrays having vastly different lengths. Maybe one array contains a hundred integers and the other one thousand. In such cases, you should fall back on a standard intersection algorithm based on a binary search (a technique sometimes called “galloping”).

    Or should you fall back? In a recent paper, SIMD Compression and the Intersection of Sorted Integers, we demonstrate the power of a very simple idea to design better intersection algorithms. Suppose that you are given the number 5 and you want to know whether it appears in the list {1,2,4,6,7,8,15,16}. You can try to do it by binary search, or do a sequential scan… or better yet, you can do it with a simple vectorized algorithm:

    • First represent your single number as a vector made entirely of this value: 5 becomes {5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5}. Intel processors can do this operation very quickly with one instruction.
    • Compare the two vectors {5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5} and {1,2,4,6,7,8,15,16} using one instruction. That is, you can check eight equalities at once cheaply. In this instance, I would get {false,false,false,false,false,false,false,false}. It remains to check whether the resulting vector contains a true value which can be done using yet another instruction.

    With this simple idea, we can accelerate a range of intersection algorithms with SIMD instructions. In our paper, we show that, on practical and realistic problems, you can double the speed of the state-of-the-art.

    To learn more, you can grab our paper and check out our C++ code.

    Reference:

  • Daniel Lemire, Nathan Kurz, Leonid Boytsov, SIMD Compression and the Intersection of Sorted Integers, Software: Practice and Experience, 2015. (arXiv:1401.6399)
  • Further reading: Efficient Intersections of compressed posting lists thanks to SIMD instructions by Leonid Boytsov.

    by Daniel Lemire at March 25, 2015 03:33 PM

    Reformedish

    Mere Fidelity: The Spirituality of Work

    This week on Mere Fidelity, Alastair and I chatted with Nancy Nordensen about her new book Finding Livelihood. We talked about work, its purpose, questions of passion and calling, and walking with the Lord through the everyday realities most of us will face at our jobs. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and I pray you will as well.

     Soli Deo Gloria


    by Derek Rishmawy at March 25, 2015 02:38 PM

    Practically Efficient

    Neil deGrasse Tyson on 60 Minutes

    "If I'm tweeting about a hamburger it's because I'm counting the number of quarks in the atoms of the hamburger."

    Fantastic interview by Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes last Sunday. Tyson is perhaps the most passionate champion of science living among us today. If you want to see the full interview, I recommend the 60 Minutes iPad app, which is how I usually watch 60 Minutes content by topic.

    by Eddie Smith at March 25, 2015 02:38 PM

    eagereyes

    Link: Data Journalism in the 19th Century

    Scott Klein of ProPublica has written a great story about an early use of data in journalism, and Horace Greeley, the colorful journalist behind it. Greeley found an issue and then gathered the data to show the extent of the problem. This is not unlike today.

    In Greeley’s case, the issue was how much money members of Congress were paid for their travels to their home states, despite modern conveniences like railroads that made those journeys much faster than they had been in the past.

    The story is very well written and represents an important piece of history and context for today’s practice of data journalism.

    by Robert Kosara at March 25, 2015 02:17 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    Get Your Beard On: An eBook Sale of Bearded Christian Authors

    Yes, you read that right: A sale of spectacular reads by your favorite bearded Christian authors!

    We’re calling it the Get Your Beard On eBook Sale.

    How God Became Jesus eBookIt includes such informative titles as:

    • Tim Challies’s The Next Story
    • Dan Montgomery & Timothy Paul Jones’ PROOF
    • Justin Holcomb’s KNOW the Creeds and Councils and KNOW the Heretics
    • Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism
    • Christology: Ancient & Modern,  edited by Fred Sanders and Oliver Crisp
    • Con Campbell’s Outreach and the Artist
    • Larry Osborne’s Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret
    • and plenty more to satisfy the interested theology, biblical studies, and ministry reader.

    And for the very first time, How God Became Jesus is on sale — for just $4.99!

    Act fast, though. Like most of these beards, the sale won’t last forever! This ebook sale of great reads by bearded Christian authors ends April 5, 2015.

    Go here for details, and stock up on some fabulous ebooks. And say “Hi” to Oliver Crisp: scholar, gentleman & bearded man extraordinaire. (Is that redundant?) Note: Most of the authors in this sale currently have a beard. Some had a beard in the past, but it still lives on in our memory.

    olivercrisp

     

    by Jeremy Bouma at March 25, 2015 02:07 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Ask a Pastor's Wife: Community

    In this video Q&A, Gloria Furman responds to Annie who writes, "How do a pastor and his wife have transparent accountability in a small group setting?"

    Ask a Pastor's Wife: Community from Crossway on Vimeo.

    This Q&A is part of Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month. Learn more and get involved at crossway.org/PastorsWifeAppreciation.

    by Nick Rynerson at March 25, 2015 01:14 PM

    Inconsolation

    cursedmate: Right ingredients, but not yet perfect

    I’m not sure if I should call cursedmate a Snake game or a Dig-Dug clone.

    2015-03-13-6m47421-cursedmate

    After all, there seems to be an excavation theme at work here, and we’re collecting the pound symbols. But nothing ever collapses.

    And we’re technically staking out a path, but it doesn’t seem to matter if you cross over it or not.

    So it’s a middle ground of some sort, with the theme being a hacker evading fed(z). Pound symbols are zerodays (or maybe they’re xploitz, the game seems to use two different names) and red letter O’s are the bad guys.

    Finish a level by collecting all the xploitz, whereupon you’ll get a rank or wisecrack for your progress, an then pass through a tunnel to a new board. Later boards have faster fed(z) that snatch the zerodays if they touch them, or are decorated in different patterns or colors.

    cursedmate is python-driven, and isn’t a bad game on the whole. The animation and movement effects are smooth, and pop-up menus and displays don’t get in the way of the action.

    One small irritant: The transition screen takes a few seconds to pass through, but doesn’t have a way to escape it once it begins. Not that it’s a big deal, but skipping through the animation to the next level would be nice.

    Further, cursedmate is not terrifically difficult. I think I cleared the first 10 levels of the game the first time I played it, and without even thinking about the fed(z). AI movement is obviously random, which means you only need to worry if you’re within a cell or two of a fed(z), and even then the odds are they won’t randomly leap onto you.

    And once or twice the game crashed without warning, mostly at a point where the level was almost finished. But I’m not sure if that’s something I did, or something that was happening in the background.

    Oh, and in case it matters to you, there is some off-color language included here and there.

    cursedmate feels like it’s one step away from a very good game, but needs a little more polishing before it reaches that top tier. It has all the right ingredients — color, animation, a goal and some worthy adversaries — but it seems to lack that special oomph that makes it more of a game and less of a programming experiment. :|


    Tagged: game

    by K.Mandla at March 25, 2015 12:00 PM

    Feed: » stratechery by Ben Thompson

    The Facebook Reckoning

    Earlier this week the New York Times reported that Facebook was offering publishers a deal:

    With 1.4 billion users, the social media site has become a vital source of traffic for publishers looking to reach an increasingly fragmented audience glued to smartphones. In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

    Such a plan would represent a leap of faith for news organizations accustomed to keeping their readers within their own ecosystems, as well as accumulating valuable data on them. Facebook has been trying to allay their fears…To make the proposal more appealing to publishers, Facebook has discussed ways for publishers to make money from advertising that would run alongside the content.

    The prevailing wisdom seems to be that this is a bad idea. The late great David Carr, who first broke the news about Facebook’s initiative last fall, said, “Media companies would essentially be serfs in a kingdom that Facebook owns.” Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic recounted Facebook’s previous efforts in this space, particularly its Social Reader, and concluded:

    The company will work very hard to satisfy the altar of engagement—in fact, it’s a business imperative that it always work harder. But history shows just how fickle, and how unpredictable, that idol can be.

    Ryan Chittum at the Columbia Journalism Review declared flatly: “The news business should refuse Facebook’s deal,” adding:

    The point is not that news organizations and other publishers can ignore Facebook and Google and the like. The point is that it’s intolerably risky to build their business models around them.

    Perhaps my favorite warning, though, came from John Gruber:

    I can see why these news sites are tempted by the offer, but I think they’re going to regret it. It’s like Lando’s deal with Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.

    For those who don’t remember, or who (gasp!) have never seen Star Wars, Darth Vader, thanks to a tip from bounty hunter Boba Fett, arrives at Lando Calrissian’s Cloud City to set a trap for the Millennium Falcon and its crew. We find out later that this is when Vader and Lando made their deal: Vader will get Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett will get Han Solo, while Calrissian can keep the Millenium Falcon, Chewbacca, and Leia. Ultimately, though, Vader intends on keeping everyone, delivering his famous line: “I am altering the deal; pray I don’t alter it any further.”


    The problem with Gruber’s criticism is that Lando never really actually had a choice. Vader was far more powerful than he was; taking a chance on a deal was the best of a bunch of bad options. That, I think, is the case with most publishers when it comes to Facebook.

    Publications’ Mobile Problem

    I’ve written several times about the dramatic impact that the Internet has had on journalism, in particular Newspapers are Dead; Long Live Journalism and just a few weeks ago in Why BuzzFeed is the Most Important News Organization in the World. Succinctly, the Internet dramatically increased competition, not only for readers, but also for advertisers. Many newspapers with obsolete print-centric cost structures were ill-equipped to compete; however, many online-only publications, built from the ground-up for Internet economics, quickly appeared to take their place.

    This mixture of online newspapers and online-only publications primarily monetized with display ads that appeared alongside the content, and the results have been decidedly mixed. The problem is that online ads are inherently deflationary: just as content has zero marginal cost, so does ad inventory, which means it’s trivial to make more. A limited amount of total advertising dollars spread over more inventory, though, means any individual ad is worth less and less. This resulted in a bit of a prisoner’s dilemma: the optimal action for any individual publication, particularly in the absence of differentiated ad placements or targeting capability, is to maximize ad placement opportunity (more content) and page views (more eyeballs), even though this action taken collectively only hastens the decline in the value of those ads. Perversely, the resultant cheaper ads only intensify the push to create more content and capture more eyeballs; quality is very quickly a casualty.

    What is interesting is the particular impact that mobile has had on this dynamic:

    • First, mobile display ads stink. Unlike a PC browser, which has a lot of space to display ads alongside content, content on mobile necessarily takes up the whole screen (and if it doesn’t, the user experience degrades significantly, making quality a casualty once again). This results in mobile ad rates that are a fraction of desktop ad rates (and remember, desktop ad rates are already a fraction of print ad rates)
    • Second, on mobile, clicks are expensive from a user experience perspective. Not only do PCs typically have faster broadband connections to download assets and more powerful processors to render pages, they also have multiple windows and tabs. On a phone, on the other hand, clicking on a link means you can do nothing but wait for it to open, and open quite slowly at that. The cost of clicking a link, already quite high because of the deluge of crap content and particularly-annoying-on-mobile ads, is even higher because of the fundamental nature of the device

    Note that all of these issues with mobile affect new online-only publications just as much as they do old-school newspapers; the problem stems from the display ad business model.

    Enter Facebook.

    Facebook and Native Advertising

    There are three ways to combat the deflationary trend in online advertising:

    • Sell/display more ads (which is problematic for the reasons listed above)
    • Sell more effective ads that better engage the viewer
    • Sell better targeted ads that reach the advertiser’s target audience

    Facebook, in stark contrast to publishers, is dominant in all three areas:

    • Facebook’s fantastic targeting capabilities are well known, and the company is pushing to make tracking, particularly for brand advertising that results in offline purchase, even more effective
    • The company is actually selling fewer ads on the desktop – increasing the price per ad – even as it continues to grow its mobile inventory
    • Perhaps most importantly, Facebook has an incredibly effective ad on mobile: a native one

    Native advertising has a bit of a bad rap thanks to poor executions like The Atlantic’s Church of Scientology disaster, leading to accusations that native advertising only succeeds to the degree to which it “tricks” the reader. And, for the record, I completely agree that this sort of native advertising is a bad idea, particularly for the publications that employ it: not only does it ruin the publication’s credibility, it doesn’t even work that well.

    Instead, the sort of native advertising that is interesting is the type that lives in a stream like the Facebook news feed. I detailed a couple of years ago how Facebook had the best digital ad unit in the world:

    The Facebook app owns the entire screen, and can use all of that screen for what benefits Facebook…You can’t help but see the advertising, which makes it particularly attractive to advertisers. Brand advertising, especially, is all about visuals and video (launching soon!), but no one has been able to make brand advertising work as well on the web as it does on TV or print. There is simply too much to see on the screen at any given time.

    This is the exact opposite experience of a mobile app. Brand advertising on Facebook’s app shares the screen with no one. Thanks to the constraints of mobile, Facebook may be cracking the display and brand advertising nut that has frustrated online advertisers for years.

    There’s just one catch to this sort of advertising: it depends on people immersing themselves in the stream. Clearly, that’s not a problem for Facebook; incredibly, despite its dominance both in terms of users and engagement, the company continues to grow both! Twitter, too, although suffering from a small user base, is monetizing very well because of its immersive nature. Similar opportunities await Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Each of these services has hundreds of millions of users voluntarily opening their app daily.

    Destination Sites

    That bit about visiting directly is critical: native advertising only really works if customers go directly to your site or app; it’s much less effective if your site is only ever at the end of a link in another stream (which is the case for the majority of publications). It follows, then, that if native advertising is the only truly sustainable advertising on mobile, that the only sites or apps that can succeed with ads are “destinations” – sites or apps that users go to directly.

    Most people don’t have many destinations: a few social networks, and maybe a web page or two; I suspect my list is on the high side when it comes to quantity (and truthfully, the news sites are mostly visited via Twitter or Nuzzel):

    My destination apps and sites

    My destination apps and sites. The full list: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Nuzzel, Snapchat, Grantland, Techmeme, The Information, ESPN, Daring Fireball, Brew Hoop, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Financial Times

    The problem is that it’s really hard to become a destination: you need compelling content of consistently high quality. Notice, though, that that is precisely the opposite of what most online publications have focused on: in their race for ever more content and ever more clicks most publications have lowered their quality bar and made themselves uniquely unsuited to making money on mobile.

    Of course native advertising is not the only option: three of my “destination” sites (The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times) require a subscription. The quality and consistency bar for a subscription is even higher than for a destination site though, because it requires customers to actually pay money.

    The Facebook Future

    I believe the vast majority of publications, particular newspapers and older online-only outfits, are in serious trouble on mobile. Not only does their chosen business model (display ads) monetize incredibly poorly, but the incentives that model creates work against those sites becoming destinations capable of supporting effective native advertising.

    In this light the Facebook offer is a lifeline:

    • Facebook will enforce a quality user experience
    • Facebook will utilize its superior targeting and ad unit to generate revenue
    • Publishers will be incentivized to create content that is shared, not just clicked

    In fact, the incentives will look a lot like BuzzFeed’s – and that’s a good thing. As I noted a few weeks ago:

    By not making money from display ads, and by extension deprioritizing page views, BuzzFeed incentivizes its writers to fully embrace Internet assumptions, and just as importantly disincentivizes pure sensationalism. There is no self-editing or consideration of whether or not a particular post will make money, or if it will play well on the home page, or dishonestly writing a headline just to drive clicks. The only goal is to create – or find – something that resonates.

    As an aside, there should be zero surprise that BuzzFeed is a pilot member of Facebook’s initiative: their entire business is predicated on understanding how to get content shared. The fact that they make money by selling this ability to brands is what makes them independent (and is why they are important).

    Of course most publishers won’t replicate that part of the BuzzFeed model, which means by partnering with Facebook they are committing their future to a company that has very different priorities and could change course at any time, just as they did with the old Social Reader. The problem, though, is that while the Facebook path leads to an uncertain future, uncertainty is preferable to what is probably certain irrelevance (and death). After all, there’s little question in my mind that Facebook will over time favor content that is on site, slowly freezing out everyone else; I think this likely explains the New York Times’ involvement: I just noted the New York Times is unique in that it is a destination, and one that can charge a pretty steep subscription fee to boot. Absent Facebook, though, its growth is almost certainly limited.

    That said, even with Facebook’s offer, I think the next few years are going to be difficult ones for the journalism industry. Too many sites have bad business models with bad incentives, and there will be a shakeout. I think, though, this will on the whole be a positive transition for consumers especially. Creating a destination,1 giving customers content that resonates, or building up alternative revenue streams that benefit from a site’s journalism2 all argue against the sort of content-farming and click-bait writing that dominates the web today. If it takes Facebook to hasten that shift, so be it.

    1. I think Vox Media fits here; check out this excellent profile of The Verge on Nieman Lab, and note that one of my destinations – BrewHoop – is an SB Nation site; note also, though, that the company also has a very thoughtful Facebook strategy as well
    2. Recode is an excellent example here; the journalism drives the prestige and access of the Recode Conferences

    The post The Facebook Reckoning appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

    by Ben Thompson at March 25, 2015 11:19 AM

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    The Pastor’s Family

    Brian and Cara Croft. The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral MinistryGrand Rapids: MI. Zondervan, 2013. 171 pp. $16.99.

    Brian Croft has been the senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2003. He is also the founder of Practical Shepherding, a website dedicated to being “a gospel-driven resource center for pastors and church leaders to equip them in the practical matters of pastoral ministry,” and is the author of numerous books in the Ministering the Master’s Way series. Brian and Cara have four children. Cara serves alongside Brian by teaching and discipling the women of Auburndale.

    Their book is divided into three parts that encourage pastors and church leaders to faithfully serve the church while faithfully serving their families. Brian and Cara’s 20 years of ministry qualify them to address balancing the demands of the ministry with the demands of being a father and a husband, a wife and a mother (13).

    In part one, Brian offers practical solutions for the pressures of pastoral ministry that might lead to family neglect. Church and home are a constant swirl of expectations and scheduling demands, many of which expose fears (and weaknesses) that tempt a pastor to neglect shepherding his home. Brian accurately writes:

    A pastor’s heart is no different from any other heart (in desiring significance, or success). A pastor’s neglect of his family cannot simply be blamed on the pressures, demands, and unrealistic expectations that have been placed on him. In the end, the struggle he faces—and the neglect of the family—has one root cause: a sinful heart. (45) 

    In part two, Cara becomes the dominant voice as she explains the struggles of a pastor’s wife. With refreshing openness, Cara—who distinctly remembers not saying “I do” to becoming a pastor’s wife at their wedding—reveals the struggles she has faced, both personal and as “the pastor’s wife.” She describes how she’s maneuvered her way through the loneliness and invisibility of being a pastor’s wife, and she discusses the demanding schedules that often crowd out family time. Through all these challenges, however, Cara has discovered the “joys of being a pastor’s wife.”

    Refreshing Candor

    I am grateful to Cara for her helpful candor. For instance, she relieves pastors’ wives of the notion that they need to be theological giants. If someone were to ask, “How is your soteriology formed by your convictions about the doctrine of predestination?” Cara would reply, “No hablo seminary.” She likes Austen (Jane); Brian likes Carson (Don). Please don’t misunderstand her motives or attitude. She is not being cavalier; she’s just asking that pastors’ wives be received for their gifts rather than being expected to be clones of their husbands. “It’s important for women to be in the Bible,” she insists. “Learn the overall picture of the Bible. Know the gospel.” But a pastor’s wife should never be afraid to say, “I don’t know. Let’s go talk to my husband” (85).  

    In part three, Brian returns to address the needs of children. Here is a treasure trove of down-to-earth suggestions for fathers who serve as pastors to enrich how they pastor their families.    

    Each of the three parts concludes with a reflection from a close friend on the theme of that section. Pay close attention to these, especially the anonymous “Thoughts from a PK” who also became a pastor (149–50). My wife and I intend to ask our own to children to read that reflection and offer their feedback.           

    The Pastor’s Family is creatively laid out and deeply encouraging. Brian writes a section and Cara “graciously interrupts,” offering a complementary perspective to Brian’s. Cara writes a section and Brian interjects some thoughts for a pastor about his wife’s needs. The whole tone of the book is easy and conversational, as if you were at their kitchen table talking over how to respond to ministry and family demands.

    Two Great Strengths

    The book has two great strengths. First, it is honest and clear about the problems, pressures, and joys pastors and their families encounter in the work. As the Crofts write, “This book is meant to equip pastors to shepherd their family through the difficulties and sufferings they will encounter in ministry, not try to avoid them” (15).

    Second, Cara. Cara’s honest and sometimes blunt—but never harsh—explanations will do good for a pastor and especially his wife. I asked my wife, a pastor’s wife for 30-plus years, her thoughts on the book, and here’s what she said: “A breath of fresh air, and a must-read for every young woman called to be a pastor’s wife. This book will help you to embrace your role for God’s purposes and glory.” This comes from a woman who has faced the same challenges that Cara and every other pastor’s wife face. (Like the time a man working on the crew for our new building came over to our house to use the shower before he went home for the night. He brought his own towel! He thought the home we lived in belonged to the church, and someone told him to consider our shower his shower. My wife handled the situation skillfully.)

    Who Should Read It?

    If you are considering the pastorate, are already in seminary, just received a call to a church, or have been there a few years, read this book. If you have friends new to the pastorate, give them this book. (I’m giving a copy to my associate who is relatively new to the ministry.) They will thank you for your foresight. 

    If you aren’t married but hope to be, and you want a great gift for your wife long before your wedding day, wrap up this book and give it to her when she comes along. Re-read it every five years until your children are grown, out the door, and married with children of their own. Then read it again. 

    It occurs to me that there is one more audience who should read this book. I suggest giving this book as a gift to your church members. The pastor’s home shouldn’t be like a mystery novel riddle to our churches. I believe many of them would appreciate knowing these things, because they care for us.

    I have anecdotal evidence to support this statement. At a recent one-day conference on prayer in the local church, a few of our members accompanied the staff. One of the speakers urged the audience to pray for their pastors, since studies show they are the loneliest people in the church. (Imagine their wives!) Pastors, the speaker went on to say, have very few, if any, close friends. One of our church’s dearest praying saints was sitting next to me. She turned to ask if that was true for me. I took a while to answer, weighing my options. I didn’t want her to feel the sting of regret or remorse that didn’t belong to her. So I simply said, “Yes, that is often true.”

    She thought about it. She patted my hand with a knowing smile and returned her attention to the speaker. I suspect she has been praying for us more urgently than she was before.

    In case you missed it: read The Pastor’s Family.


    Editors’ note: This review originally appeared at 9Marks.

    by Bob Buchanan at March 25, 2015 05:01 AM

    Jesus Ensures the Great Commission Will Not Fail

    The better known a passage of Scripture is, the more likely it is that most Christians will fail to appreciate the larger context that informs it. We may all be familiar with Jesus’s teaching that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but we may not understand what it has to do with Nicodemus (John 3:1ff) or the snake being lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14–15). Believers teach their children the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3–17), but do those children know what those instructions have to do with God’s mighty deliverance of Israel (Ex. 20:2)?

    Perhaps no passage in Scripture suffers from this kind of contextual excision as does the so-called Great Commission in Matthew 28. If you ask most Christians what the Great Commission says, they’ll begin with Jesus’s commandment that believers should go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them. But look at what Jesus says immediately before and after the parts we typically trot out during “Missions Week” at church:

    And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18–20)

    The context here is one of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances to his disciples. At the risk of stating the obvious, everything Jesus says here depends on the fact he’s very much alive. A dead teacher cannot send his disciples, but these words coming from a living Lord. And so as he commissions them to disciple the nations, he tells them two important things.

    First, the risen Christ declares that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. Back in the book of Daniel, the prophet had seen a vision of the Son of Man coming before the Ancient of Days:

    And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:14)

    You can hardly imagine a more direct and striking claim for Jesus. He’s telling his disciples that what Daniel saw centuries ago has now come to pass. This is the reality that stands behind the familiar “therefore” at beginning of the charge; Jesus has all authority; therefore, the disciples should make new disciples as they go out into the world.

    Second, Jesus completes his commission with the promise of his presence. He assures his disciples that as they go, he will be with them in every place and every time and every circumstance. Imagine how the disciples were feeling at this moment: Jesus had returned from the dead, but he would soon leave them again. The thought of going out into the world without their teacher and friend would have been devastating. How sweet Jesus’s promise would have been in their ears: he would not be with them physically, but they would not be alone! He would go with them always, until the work is completed and they’re physically reunited at the end of the age.  

    The authority and presence of Jesus has tremendous implications for the way that we think about going through our world and making disciples:

    • The world we enter is a place where every person, location, and thing is under the authority of the risen Christ. We will never step on a speck of dust or speak to a human being over whom Jesus does not claim to have authority. As his disciples, our task is simply to call people to acknowledge the authority Jesus has been given by his Father.
    • It is Jesus’s idea that we go. We live in a world where polite people don’t impose their private beliefs on others. So few things seem more offensive than the idea of a systematic effort to convince others to conform to our religious convictions. But there is nothing private about Christianity. When Jesus declares he has all authority, he is saying everyone everywhere is accountable to him. This is why we teach others to obey all that Jesus commanded! We aren’t acting on our own authority or spreading personal opinions; we are acting as appointed mouthpieces for the ruler of the universe.
    • As we go, we have confidence that the mission will succeed. Jesus isn’t in heaven hoping we do a really good job so things might work out well in the end. No, Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth and therefore can and will ensure his salvation spreads over the entire world.

    You can see how this well-known Great Commission must be carried out in light of its immediate textual context. Jesus doesn’t just tell us to go and make disciples; he reminds us first of his power and his presence. How anemic and feeble our witness will be if we don’t understand that our King has all authority in heaven and on earth. And how tentative and timid our discipling will be if we fail to go in confidence that he will always be with us.


    Editors’ note: This article is based on Mike McKinley’s new book, The Resurrection in Your Life: How the Living Christ Changes Your World (The Good Book Company).

    by Mike McKinley at March 25, 2015 05:01 AM

    Escape the Zero-Sum Ministry Priorities Game

    “How can you justify supporting ballet when there are children dying every day from starvation, disease, and neglect?” J. T. asked, filling the car with tension. Since I was sitting in the back seat and he was driving, I couldn’t see his face, but I didn’t need to in order to know that this was not an idle inquiry. 

    After several agonizing years, and at great personal expense, he and his wife had recently adopted two boys from Ethiopia. He knew the global need and the gospel call to care for orphans, and he didn’t want to see our church reduce our contribution to that cause one bit. And that made our church’s decision to invest in a faith-and-work initiative seem problematic.

    It would be tempting to write off his dismissal of the arts as the result of clashing contexts. J. T. is a project manager for a mid-sized construction company in central Pennsylvania. He’s a former football player and still walks with a bit of an athletic swagger. Admittedly, ballet is not his thing.

    But to reject his question as merely a failure to appreciate art wouldn’t be fair to him or the issue he raised. He is driven by his aching burden for suffering children—kids who, he reminded us, are dying right now. “Out of all the good things our church could give our resources to, why are we starting a faith-and-work initiative?” is an eminently fair question.

    Ministry Priorities and Non-Negotiables

    Helping children in suffering is a non-negotiable priority. But what else makes the list? Some are burdened to care for orphans and widows (Jms 1:27). Others eagerly fight disease and sex trafficking. Peter tells Paul to remember the poor (Gal. 2:20). These are just a few of the most pressing humanitarian issues.

    But that’s not all. We must evangelize the lost and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Some plant churches, while others give their lives to theological education. Still others are moved by the plight of the persecuted church in countries where religious liberty is just a rumor. 

    These priorities are just the tip of the iceberg. No one person can do all of them. Clearly, we need the diversity of gifts and callings in the body of Christ to fulfill these mandates. So how do we, as leaders, choose what to do as a particular local church? What criteria do we use? Must we pit orphan care against church planting or human trafficking against evangelism? When we allocate resources—people, time, and money—are we doomed to a zero-sum game?

    Way Out

    When it comes to stewarding our resources, even visionary leaders can operate from a scarcity mindset. We look at our little pie of resources and divide it in to smaller and smaller pieces, trying to manage our priorities while (somehow) keeping our congregants happy. When resources are limited (and when aren’t they?), there are always winners and losers. Some things will get funded; others won’t. We may not like it, but that’s the realpolitik of church work. Or is it? 

    Scarcity is not a problem to God. He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10). In God’s economy, the only “scarcity” he faces, if we may frame it this way, is hearts not yet fully devoted to him. This is why discipling people at the integration of faith and work is important. By celebrating the wide array of work that can be done to glorify God and bear his image, we invite more people—and more time, energy, and resources—to engage actively in kingdom work. When we disciple people to connect their work and their faith, they live out that faith in deeper and wider dimensions than every before—business, teaching, engineering, the arts, and in so many other spheres. More, not less, kingdom work gets done.

    People often come to church leaders with a burden for a particular ministry, saying, “I really care about X. The church needs to focus on that.” The kingdom-expanding response is to say, “Great! You are the church. Go and do it—and how can we help you?” In their everyday work, Christians are the scattered church. They can go places and do things the institutional church never can. Discipling our congregants at the intersection of faith and work, then, is a way out of the zero-sum game.

    When Each Part Does Its Work

    This vision doesn’t exempt church leaders from making hard decisions and setting priorities. But we must affirm that all work matters: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17, emphasis added). This “whatever” may mean people living out their faith in surprising ways. But it’s the role of the pastor and leader to equip people to use their gifts in that multi-faceted, God-glorifying, wondrous way that only the body of Christ can do when “each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16).

    When we disciple the whole body, in all the work God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10), we unleash more of the fullness of Christ’s redemptive presence throughout “every square inch” of creation. Discipling people in faith and work is not a vanity project; it’s integral to the expansion of the kingdom of God.

    Grow the Pie

    J. T.’s question about starving children led to a passionate debate that occupied a good part of our road trip. Eventually, we landed on the “grow the pie” conclusion I’ve just described.

    He is still a passionate advocate for adoption and orphan care, and I’m glad he is. Our churches need more people like him, just like we need more people to advocate for church planting, to care for the homeless, to theologically train Christians in persecuted countries, and to lead dozens of other initiatives. To do all this, we’ll need more people passionately engaged in doing their work for the kingdom of God. We’ll need to help them connect their everyday work to God’s call on their lives. Together, we’ll grow up into the fullness of what God has called us to do in Christ.

    by Stephen Lutz at March 25, 2015 05:01 AM

    J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

    The Ruralist

    The buses jangle, rumble, thump, squeal. They whistle til they do not move then, wholly swallowing one gaggle of raucous riders and ejecting another, rattle back to life and begin careening down the hill. A rider’s mouth is never closed, ever projecting louder, broader, higher to overcome the noise without.

    That noise I know too well: the packs of impatient motorists bleating like fuckin’ fools; the motorcyclists incessantly announcing their arrival so that the burden of their safety is on others; the cheers and jeers for inconsequential soccer matches exploding out of small roadside bars; the looping, viral, vile, vapid rhythms of carioca funk, like a skipped record of a man who can’t sing shouting over the beating of pots, pans, and trash cans.

    And, of course, the encompassing clockwork blasts of jet engines, that all-too-welcome, all-too-brief crescendo white noise relieving us of cacophony.

    The noise without is not so detrimental as the noise within. The riders with their smart phones. Listening to music. Making calls. Taking photographs. Reading news. Watching television.

    The whole of existence is forgetting we exist.

    Reality TV to forget that we ourselves are also flawed. How-to books to forget that we are unskilled. News sites to forget that we are uninformed in all the ways that truly matter. Background noise to forget we are alone.

    Thoughts that are miles long and inches deep (if that.) Whatever keeps us from examining the root.

    It’s difficult enough to aim for virtue, but the big city makes it damn near impossible. The distractions. The noise.

    Mindless noise.

    Josef Pieper says in The Four Cardinal Virtues:

    "Silence…is the absolute prerequisite to all perception of reality."

    And elsewhere:

    "Only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear."

    I look forward to returning to Kentucky from Rio de Janeiro for many reasons, but these may be the greatest: the ability to think without distraction, the ease with which one can resist mainstream culture and all the noise without, the opportunity to be silent and to hear. It certainly takes a greater man than I to withstand and overcome the limitations of a big city and enter into the desert of the heart. I’d prefer an actual desert, I think.

    The most redeeming quality of big cities is that their people choose to congregate in small, dense areas, leaving the bulk of the earth to the rest of us.

    March 25, 2015 04:00 AM

    March 24, 2015

    CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

    Workout: March 25, 2015

    Any "Big Lebowski" fans in the room?

    Any “Big Lebowski” fans in the room?

    Power snatch + full snatch 1-1-1-1-1

    Evening Skills Session

    4 rounds of:

    5 burpees

    5 pull-ups

    5 thrusters (95/65 lb.)

    by Mike at March 24, 2015 11:29 PM

    512 Pixels

    More on Apple Retail Watch training →

    Mark Gurman:

    Apple is pushing for retail employees to initiate conversations that build trust, enabling the employee to serve as a valued fashion advisor during the purchase process, similarly to how traditional watches are sold. Apple Watch sales training programs will take place for Apple retail staff over the course of the next two weeks, teaching entirely new sales techniques to encourage iPhone upgrades, assist with gifting, and guide customers in watch and strap choices.

    Don't miss the leaked training image:

    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at March 24, 2015 10:34 PM

    CrossFit Naptown

    Upcoming Events

    Wednesday’s Workout:

    Accessory Work:
    On the Minute 10:00

    12 Russian Swings
    Heavy as Technique Allows

    WOD:
    800 Meter Run
    Then:
    9-6-3
    Clean and Jerk (225/155)
    Bar Muscle Ups
    Burpee over Bar
    *scale to hardest pull up scale and push ups (9 pull ups and 9 push ups, 6 and 6, 3 and 3)

     

     

    Upcoming Events:

     

    Open Throwdown:

    CrossFit Infiltrate, CrossFit NapTown, and Three Kings CrossFit will be working together to throw down on the final week of the CrossFit Open. We are going to send this year out with a bang by bringing big athletes from each gym together in an incredible environment to destroy the last workout of the Open. Artie’s On the Go will be making food for the event and we hope to have as many people come out to support CFNT and the whole community on Friday!

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    Movement Clinic:

    The FUNdamentals makeover is here to stay and Rachel and Anna are back at it for this month’s movement clinic Saturday March 28th from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over basic clean progressions and skills, drills, and progressions for ALL THINGS KIPPING. These clinics are perfect for members of all skill levels and it is totally FREE. This time will be incredibly focused on skills and technique with progressions galore to break things down. Let us know if you ave any questions by emailing anna@crossfitnaptown.com or rachel@crossfitnaptown.com and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!

    Olympic Weightlifting Meet:

    We will be hosting our second Olympic Weightlifting meet on April 4th. Sign up by the white board over the lazy boy chair in the back of the old side near the platforms in front of the glass doors (that should be enough landmarks right?). First 30 athletes will be in so do not miss out by dragging your feet folks!

    CrossFit Kids:

    We will be hosting our next CrossFit Kids session on April 11th from 12:00-1:00pm! Mark the day on your calendar and clear your kiddo(s)’ schedule!

    Yoga in the Sky:

    Practice Indie will be teaching the yoga portion of Yoga in the Sky event on April 16th from 5:00-7:00pmin the Skyline Young Professional Club. Click here to check out more information on the event at the official event FaceBook page. The event will center around networking as well as how to balance work and life and how yoga can help make that happen!

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    by Anna at March 24, 2015 10:07 PM

    Table Titans

    Tales: Breaking the Bat

    News

    It was my first time playing D&D. I'd made Ingloriel, an acrobatic dual wielding Elf Monk, determined to be the greatest assassin in the land. Alongside a charismatic Bard, a necromantic Sorcerer and his zombie minion, and a Rogue who tried to steal everything he could get his hands on, we were…

    Read more

    March 24, 2015 07:46 PM

    John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

    Superheroes and Antiheroes, Story and Antistory

    Upon a time, my son overheard me critiquing the movie WATCHMEN, and asked what I, supposing I had been hired as an author, would have done to revise the ending, or theme, or character arcs, to make the movie hale and sound?

    How would I have filmed WATCHMEN?

    It is a good question, worth pondering. My answer is: I would have filmed THE INCREDIBLES instead.

    The comparison of the two films highlights the differences instructively.

    Elsewhere I have described my admiration for WATCHMEN, as I watched it descent through the stages of reluctant admiration,  mixed feelings, indifference, and then into a distaste deepening into contempt. I do not propose to repeat those observations here, nor perform that autopsy again.

    Nor will I rob Alan Moore of the high praise of which his genius is due: he can be credited with inventing an entire genre  and inspiring generation of epigones and imitators. This alone makes his name immortal, and elevates it above the crowded pantheon of lesser writers. He shares the empyrean throne along with such names as Thomas More, Edgar Alan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, along with Robert E Howard and JRR Tolkien (who invented the utopian, horror, detective, sword-and-sorcery, high fantasy).

    But I will not doff my cap, but rather bite my thumb, at what Alan Moore here wrought. WATCHMAN is  act of wanton deconstruction, desecration, and mockery of an entire genre. You have heard of antiheroes. Not until Alan Moore have we heard of antisuperheroes.

    Let us compare. Both films have the same theme. In WATCHMAN, the supers are forced into retirement by the government; in INCREDIBLES, by out-of-control trial lawyers. Elastigirl becomes a housewife and raises three children, whereas Silk Specter becomes a paramour, fornicating with Doctor Manhattan, the human hydrogen bomb,  at the behest of the government in order to keep him happy and under control. Mr Incredible becomes an insurance agent, trying to help a helpless little old lady on a fixed income, whereas Rorschach becomes a vigilante, trying to harm and terrify a harmless little old man who used to be a supervillain, now dying of cancer. Mr Incredible sees the world in simple terms of right and wrong, and the movie presents this as a correct view. Rorschach sees the world in stark terms of black and white, with no grays nor fine distinctions, and the movie presents this as utter insanity.

    The plot is also parallel. A misunderstood and brilliant little boy, Buddy/Syndrome in INCREDIBLES and Adrian Veidt/Ozymandian in WATCHMAN, grows up wanting to be a superhero before the practice is outlawed. Both begin systematically killing supers (Gazerbeam, the Comedian) as part of a scheme to erect a pretend threat. Ozymandias’s motive is to terrify the Americans into making an alliance with the Soviets in order to prevent a thermonuclear war; Syndrome’s motive is to deconstruct and destroy the idea of superheroics, first by pretending to be one, then by giving his inventions to everyone, so that all men by being super are none of them super. Ironically, this is the motive of Alan Moore as well: to destroy the idea of all things superheroic by destroying the glamor.

    Other parallels or echoes can be found. Elastigirl frets that Mr Incredible is committing adultery with Mirage; a fear that is false. Doctor Manhattan does not frets that Silk Specter is committing adultery with Nite Owl  because, lacking free will, he really cannot fret about anything, and, technically, it is not adultery if one is cheating on one’s unwed paramour.  The wholesome and natural nature of the worry of Elastigirl is contrasted with the unnatural and greasy nature of Silk Specter’s love triangle.

    Mr Incredible, like Nite Owl, is overweight and out of shape and missing his glory days; and when an opportunity comes for a superhero mission, Mr Incredible lifts weights, gets in shape, buys a new car. Nite Owl is sexually impotent unless he is in his superhero costume.

    And, in the final scene, when The Incredibles successfully halt the attack on the city by the Omnidroid, two pleasant old geezers, voiced by Stan and Ollie of Disney fame, are grateful, and compliment the act as ‘Old School’. Everyone is saved.

    By contrast, when Nite Owl uses his Owl Ship to save tenants from a burning tenement, the old lady saved is cross and nasty, and Nite Owl swears at her. But not to worry: the old lady, and everyone else in New York, dies in the last reel.

    For the Watchmen halt nothing and save no one: Ozymandias successfully kills millions of innocent people, and walks away not only unpunished, but indeed the heroes are punished. Dr Manhattan explodes the head of Rorschach, the hero, not Ozymandias, the villain, in a particularly  sadistic and pointless act of Alan Moore sticking his thumb in the reader’s eye, just to emphasize the point that everything is pointless. Dr Manhattan then goes into outer space to create a new Earth and a new Adam and Eve. Whether this is meant to mock God for being indifferent to evil, or mock men who dare to play at being god, the event is greasy and unappealing either way. Since Rorschach already mailed his journal containing his suspicions to Rush Limbaugh of Fox News (or its equivalent) it is even odds that the plot of Ozymandias will be revealed anyway, and the end of the Cold War for which Ozymandias hoped be thwarted.

    In the final reel of THE INCREDIBLES, the supers are back, and have resumed their proper place and role defending humanity, and protecting the type of life which allows a family to go to a High School track meet on a weekend. Violet has overcome her shyness; Dash is allowed to try out for sports; and even Jack-Jack has powers and a domino mask.

    In WATCHMAN, the supers are either monsters (Ozymandias, Dr Manhattan) who have either symbolically or wholly lost their humanity, or murdered by the monsters The (Comedian, Rorschach), or living in hiding (Silk Specter, Nite Owl) and in any case, saving no one, and having no place and no role in society, which is slowly slouching into destruction anyway.

    In THE INCREDIBLES, the villain pays the price for his villainy. Syndrome, jealous of the normal family life of Mr Incredible, attempts to kidnap Jack-Jack. Mr Incredible without a thought sacrifices his new car, a symbol of the glamor of heroism, to save his child, where his true love and true duty rests; and Syndrome is snagged by the hem of his cape, a symbol of his false desire to have the glamor of heroism without the heart and spirit of a hero, and is drawn into and killed by the engines of his own super-jet. Their suburban house, which was in a way a false front where they pretended, because of the ingratitude of the surrounding society, to be non-super, is destroyed in a ball of fire. The family itself is protected under Violet’s forcefield (a symbol of her love and confidence), where they are gathered, hugging each other, and the reaction of the destruction of all their worldly goods is to laugh. Because a family is not worldly goods, and the falsehood of their old life is swept away.

    In WATCHMAN, the end theme and symbolism is the opposite. The Cold War is ended, and a new world order will emerge, based entirely on a lie concocted by Ozymandias, that is, the threat posed, in the movie, by Dr Manhattan (in the comic book it was alien invaders). But his dream of world peace is also a lie, because the halfwitted assistant in the rightwing tabloid paper where Rorschach sent his journal might arbitrarily decide to pick it up and publish it. Rorschach’s belief in simple right and wrong is a lie, since, like the mask he himself wears, there are no patterns in the universe, all is chaos, only the human mind tricks itself into seeing meaning there. The cynical poise of the Comedian, who regards life as a pointless joke and laughs at it, also is a lie, since he dies tormented by moral confusion — he had discovered the plan of Ozymandias and could not decide if it were right or wrong to use evil means to achieve good ends — and blubbering in tears.

    The iconic imagine, oft repeated in the graphic novel as in the film, was the Comedian’s happy face pin streaked with blood, as clear a symbol as anyone can wish that happiness is to be rejected as a shallow and grossly ironic falsehood, since reality is nothing but bloodshed.

    THE INCREDIBLES was a glorification of superiority, here shown to be not what the world applauds, but simple family life. Syndrome wants the glory of heroism without the heart of heroism; Mr Incredible starts with the glory, and regrets it loss for the first half of the film, and then realizes that the greatest adventure of all is the love of his wife and kids, and adventure his blindness almost caused him to miss.

    In sum, THE INCREDIBLES was about life, about hope and happiness, and about everything.

    In sum, WATCHMAN was a glorification of nihilism, failure, and meaninglessness. All acts of heroism are acts of self deception that end in death and despair.

    One story is about life, about totality; the other story is about death, about nothingness. One is a story, and one is an antistory.

    What is an antistory? For that matter, what is a story? Why tell them?

    WATCHMAN, in effect, asks the question why we tell stories about heroes at all? His take is fairly clear from the tone of the work, but Mr Moore has said as much in interviews: he says that hero worship is dangerous, the cult of personality is dangerous. He regards it as irresponsible to admire a superior and heroic figure. The power such admiration grants to others is akin to a self imposed slavery. He says no one is special.

    Moore, like most intellectuals of his generation, and all the halfwits of ours, think that superiority implies an innate right to rule and control the inferiors. This is the pagan view, the view of Marx and Nietzsche and every other half-baked philosopher the halfwits admire upholds. The civilized view, the chivalrous view, the Christian view, is precisely the opposite.

    In the chivalrous view, the strong protect the weak because the weak, no matter how lowly and humble, are still the image and likeness of the divine, mirrors of heaven; and strength is not to be used for oneself.

    In the chivalrous view, the superman receives no reward for his valor, for he does all his work anonymously, not even telling the girls he loves. The super strength of the comic superman means that the rules of morality hold him more strictly. In the Nietzsche view, being the superman means you are immune from normal morality: you must conquer, rape, and slay the weak. Here we can see that penniless men who penned a funnybook, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, are wiser and deeper than that celebrated European intellectual, Nietzsche.

    Moore, like most of the intellectuals of his generation, rejected the chivalrous and Christian ethos, and therefore rejected the solution to the problem of power. The idea of the strong using their strength for the benefit of the weak, or the wise using their wisdom for the benefit of the foolish, or the rich for the poor, we all dismissed as an excuse, a justification, an intellectual superstructure, a lie. The only way to prevent the abuse of strength and riches was not to use such things with good judgment. The only way to prevent the abuse of strength was to eliminate all strength, eliminate all judgment, make all handsome princes into cads, make all heroes into figures of contempt.

    The solution was to change all stories into jeering.

    THE INCREDIBLES, in effect, asks why we have heroes if the hero makes us, the normal civilians, feel like boobs? The scientific genius with no superpowers, Syndrome, attempts to equal the powers of the supers and fails; his plan is to make everyone super, so as to eliminate all superiority.

    Now, this should cause every viewer a slight twinge of anxiety, because, as a democratic society, we cherish equality, and we actually do tell ourselves that everyone is special. But, as Dash Parr so aptly says, when everyone is special, no one is.

    The point of telling stories, in ancient Greece as well as in the modern comic book, about demigods is not to propose that some men are superior to others, and that the superiors should rule.

    The pagans had a simple rule about tales of the demigods: they were tragic, and came to bad ends. Every son of a god, from Achilles to Agamemnon, has some flaw which slowly upends his life, and he dies, each being shot by a coward or axed by a woman. This was to eliminate the jealousy one might feel toward’s one’s superiors, and also to show that those superiors were in turn inferior to the gods, to whom to challenge was hubris.

    The Americas also has a simple rule: our tales are not tragic because our demigods come to good ends as long as they stay good. The tragedy in the life of Batman or Wonder Woman, or Superman comes at the beginning of life, not at the end, be it being orphaned, being exiled, or both. They do not rule the worlds they save, but serve them.

    We tell such tales to tell our children how to treat power, that is, as an opportunity to serve and love those who lack power.  It is meant to display the profound and profoundly beautiful mystical ideals of Western civilization, that wealth and pomp and power are false when sought for themselves, and that simpler things, love and family, are the path to paradise. Since we are raised in the West, we often cannot see how deeply odd and deeply radical this profession of faith is.

    The pagans tell tragic tales of super beings in order to harden the young against jealousy toward their superiors, and to teach them to be stoical and content with their lot in life.  Let no man misunderstand me: I admire the pagans. The short and tragic life of the noble and stoic hero is a thing to admire, to ogle with wonder, and to salute. But it is grim and sad and meant to be. If you have no taste for Greek tragedies, read Conan of Cimmeria stories: Robert E Howard captured the mood and theme well enough. Life is short and death is bitter, so do not waste tears weeping, but die like men.

    Alan Moore, and the intellectuals of his generation, and the halfwits of ours, follow neither the noble and grim path of the pagan hero, nor the noble and transcendental vision of the chivalrous knight. What they do instead is sneer.

    They sneer, they belittle, they berate, they roll their oh-so-sophisticated eyes, and shake their heads at normal and wholesome mysticism and call it impractical, unreal. They look at the mythology of the anonymous knight, let us say, of Nite Owl, but give him an erectile dysfunction, and make his acts of heroism a byproduct of a subconscious sublimation of erotic desire. See? All the heroism evaporates. He is the helpless victim of his buried neurotic impulses.

    The concept is meant to stain and betray the image of Blue Beetle, or Batman, or any other caped vigilante, so that you, the reader, will not be able to see Batman again without bursting into laughter. And when you look at Green Hornet and Kato, you are meant to see that as homosexual lust in disguise, or racism, or whatever is needed to ruin your enjoyment of the tale. Superman is now an image of the establishment, the atom bomb, the square. A more realistic vision of the Superman, by their lights, is a naked blue man slowly losing all sympathy with humanity and all interest in earth, because supermen are beyond good and evil, and they can kill the hero and spare the villain with the same arbitrary power as any act of blind nature. The superman lacks all free will, and it trapped like a fly in amber in the unchanging future he foretells. Dr Manhattan is as helpless as Nite Owl.

    Reality, for them, is defined a pointless failure. Their heroes have no tragic flaws because one needs an heroic character to mar with a tragic flaw in order for it to be a flaw.

    Stories about helpless inhuman and neurotic persons with superpowers do not teach the stoicism and dignity of the pagan heroes. They teach whining and whinging. They certain do not teach chivalry and love of the knightly heroes.

    All the do is detract from an ability to enjoy stories, either pagan or Christian, and rob the reader of any useful signposts and maps to guide him through life, and quench the northern star of high ideals.

    Stories that exist only to ruin other stories are not satires. Satires have the same purpose as the stick which moves the ass who is not lured by the carrot. Satires exist within a moral framework to mock insincere and false professions in the framework: mocking Tartuffe, or the bad popes Dante placed in hell, does not mock Christianity but Phariseeism, the most ancient enemy of Christianity.

    Stories that exist only to ruin other stories are anti-stories. They exist only in the modern age, where we live in a post-Christian hence post-rational, post-modern civilization, where the mental energy and intellectual activity of our lettered classes are preoccupied with uprooting all old growth of civilization, toppling its walls, and reducing us to a level below where the ancient pagans began. The antistory can only exist at the time of de-evolution.

     

    by John C Wright at March 24, 2015 06:07 PM

    Daniel Lemire's blog

    Good ideas are overrated

    As a college student, I was convinced that the most important part of science and engineering was to have good and original ideas. If you contemplate Einstein, it is not hard to come to this conclusion… The man had a never ending stream of great ideas. Notice however that we never read Einstein himself, or examine his workbooks… instead, we just hear about his ideas.

    The same might be said about Google. Brin and Page came up with the idea of using hyperlinks to rank web pages. And they went on to become billionaires, just like that. We rarely talk about how the then dominating player (AltaVista) failed to keep its index updated for months and tried hard to milk every penny out of visitors by plastering its web site with ads… while Google just offered a working search engine kept up-to-date.

    Matt Might, a computer science professor, recently wrote that “the limiting reagent for scientific progress is good ideas”.

    Matt presents the scientific model in a way that is familiar to many, but contrary to my own experience. One imagines scientists idle, waiting for good ideas to come to them. Maybe we can imagine Einstein who sits by his window receiving all these great ideas, as if they were telegraphed from an Oracle directly to his brain. And then, once the idea hits, it is all over in an instant. Einstein grabs his pen and writes the paper in a minute. Brin and Page imagine PageRank and then build their search engine in a week-end, taking the world by storm.

    When I supervise graduate students, I often see them struggling with this model. They have ideas, but they do not know which ones are good. Some of them choose to wait… maybe a great idea will come eventually? It never does.

    My model is different. Instead of imagining Einstein as someone receiving these deep insights magically, I imagine an obsessive thinker who keeps asking… “yes, but what does it mean?”… or “yes, but how does it work?”. Whereas others are satisfied with recopying the accepted answers, or accepting the unknowns, he redoes the work, more carefully. I imagine Brin and Page not as people who surfed on a brilliant idea… but rather as people who took a problem that might have been considered solved, or too technical, that is “how do you build a search engine”… and they revisited it, putting a lot more care into it.

    When I look around, I see a deeply flawed world with thousands of superior ideas waiting to be tried out. I am literally never running out of good ideas and I doubt others are. I am not exceptionally smart, but give me any interesting problem, in science or engineering, and I am sure I can come up with five approachable questions that have not been answered yet. In fact, I think that almost anybody can do this… Give me a few years to become really knowledgeable, and I can probably prototype a solution in a few weeks.

    I have two young boys. Almost every day they come up with a science question that I cannot answer. Once a week, they come up with a question that I cannot answer with Wikipedia. Many of these questions are genuinely interesting and could make a research project of its own.

    What is genuinely scarce is interest and motivation.

    Let me put it another way. Imagine that I can go back in time to 1996. I know that the next critical piece of infrastructure is going to be a search engine. I know this, but there are already well entrenched leaders. I am in Montreal, and nobody is going to fund me, or join me to work on this problem… So I have to move to Silicon Valley where I will live in my car for a time. Then I have to find the ressources to build the new Google. It is really hard work. It is also very frustrating work because I know that Brin and Page are around… and maybe they will still come up on top.

    Or maybe I could go back to 1900. I basically have a major in Physics from the 1990s. I know a lot of Physics that even Einstein cannot yet imagine. I could find a job to feed myself while I hack away at brilliant research papers. Or maybe I could try to rewrite one of Stephen King’s famous novels and get it published before he could… by going back in time.

    Would I succeed? Maybe I would, maybe I would get discouraged. What is clear is that, even with perfect hindsight, success would be far from easy. Even with a perfect knowledge of all the great ideas… success would be really hard work.

    Experienced software programmers know that, often, it is just as hard to understand someone’s code than to rewrite it from scratch. There are many ways to re-express this same idea. Some might say that execution is everything. But I think that the truth is even harsher: the concept of good idea is ill-defined. In hindsight, we try to explain success as “having a good idea”, but even if you had received this “good idea” on a silver platter, you might not have done anything with it in the end.

    If you imagine the world a being two-dimensional, then there are many dead-ends, and few correct paths. The truth is that there are far more than two dimensions. You are not stuck in a dead-end. You are not out of good ideas. You are just bored.

    by Daniel Lemire at March 24, 2015 06:06 PM

    Roads from Emmaus

    The Great Canon and St. Mary of Egypt: Impressions

    Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. – St. Ignatius of Antioch, “To the Ephesians” […]

    The post The Great Canon and St. Mary of Egypt: Impressions appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

    by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 24, 2015 05:28 PM

    The Urbanophile

    New York’s Next Public Safety Revolution by Nicole Gelinas

    [ As part of highlighting some of what you’ll find in City Journal, where I’m a contributing editor, I’m presenting this piece from last spring’s issue by Nicole Gelinas, in which she argues that De Blasio’s Vision Zero is nothing less than a new public safety revolution – Aaron. ]

    Belkys Rivera wept as her English translator conveyed her words to the New York City Council in February. “I remember my heart breaking when hearing the news. The last day I saw my son alive was December 25, 2011.” Josbel was 23, starting a new store-management job. Belkys worried when he didn’t come home. “Nunca,” she responded when asked if she had expected to see two detectives on her doorstep at dawn. “The police asked me to get my other children nearby, and that’s when I began to realize that something had happened. The detectives were heartbroken as well, and they were explaining through [my] younger children what happened.” Josbel was dead—killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the Bronx’s Mosholu Parkway. “The driver . . . left the scene and burned the car,” she said. “I did my job as a mother,” she added, but “because of an atrocity committed by a man who should not have been driving”—the driver’s license had been suspended—“the world will be denied Josbel’s contribution.”

    COURTESY OF NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (2)
    Public outrage over pedestrian fatalities led to a citywide ad campaign featuring victims’ loved ones . . .

    Amy Tam’s story was just as wrenching. She told the council about her three-year-old daughter, Allison Liao, who sang “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” as she rode the Q44 bus and who loved “using upside-down laundry baskets as drums”—and who died last fall, “holding Grandma’s hand,” after “a huge SUV” abruptly turned into a Main Street crosswalk in Flushing, Queens, and struck her. “We are never going to see her start kindergarten,” Tam lamented.

    Too many New Yorkers die every year because of reckless drivers. Thankfully, new New York mayor Bill de Blasio has shown leadership in this area, unveiling an ambitious and workable plan to make traffic safer. Backed strongly by New York Police Department chief William Bratton and the city council, the mayor’s multiagency initiative, called Vision Zero, will seek to reduce traffic deaths in the city to zero, just as the police try to cut murders to zero. The inspiration behind the plan, which reinforces and expands on efforts by Michael Bloomberg’s administration, comes from Sweden’s use of innovative road design and smart law enforcement, which has reduced overall traffic fatalities in Stockholm by 45 percent—and pedestrian fatalities by 31 percent—over the last 15 years. When a child runs after a bouncing ball into a residential street and a speeding car strikes and kills him, the Vision Zero philosophy maintains, the death shouldn’t be seen as an unavoidable tragedy but as the result of an error of road design or behavioral reinforcement, or both. We already think this way about mass transit and aviation. These days, a plane crash or a train derailment is never solely explained by human error (a train conductor falling asleep, say); it also is a failure of a system that allowed a mistake to culminate in disaster. Of course, engineers and regulators can’t eliminate all injuries and deaths; but by applying rigorous, data-based methods, they can cut down on them dramatically.

    Nobody favors road deaths, but Vision Zero won’t be an easy sell. Implementing it will require working out complex power issues between city hall and Albany, as well as transforming public attitudes. Even in New York, teeming with pedestrians and traffic, many still view speedy driving as an entitlement. Drivers will need to realize—and here, better engineering, law enforcement, and education will be crucial—that getting behind the wheel in a dense urban environment is very different from seizing liberty on the open road.

    New York City has already come a long way in reducing traffic fatalities, it’s important to recognize. Last year, New York suffered 288 crash deaths, including 170 pedestrians. That sounds bad, and it is, but in 1990, New York had 701 traffic deaths, with 366 pedestrians killed. And 20 years before that, the city saw nearly 1,000 traffic deaths in a single year; it wasn’t unusual to lose 500 pedestrians annually. New York’s current traffic-fatality numbers compare favorably with other American big cities. An Atlanta resident is more than three times more likely to die in a traffic crash (adjusted for population); a Los Angeleno faces twice the risk. But New York remains behind—in some cases, far behind—other global cities in this area of public safety: Paris, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo are all less dangerous. A citizen of Stockholm—the gold-standard metropolis for traffic safety—faces just a third of a New Yorker’s risk in dying by vehicle. Last year, the Swedish city, with a population of 900,000, suffered only six traffic deaths. The Gotham equivalent would be 60 such fatalities—not nearly five times that number.

    New York City’s improved numbers have resulted in part from state-level policy reforms. New York was the first state to get a seat-belt law, in 1984, a controversial measure at the time—the governor of Maine vetoed a similar bill, saying that it “crosse[d] the line between public interest and personal choice”—but a major lifesaver. New York was also a pioneer in fighting drunk driving. More than half a century ago, everyone, including most public officials, thought it was perfectly okay for people to drink and drive. The legal limit for blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent, nearly twice today’s limit, and enforcement was nonexistent. A handful of New York State leaders—above all, health chief William Haddon, Jr.—sought to change this blasé attitude. As Barron Lerner, author of One for the Road, a history of drunk driving, recounts, Haddon headed the first state health department driver-research center, in 1954, and it soon found that half the drivers involved in single-car crashes in New York’s Westchester County had blood-alcohol levels above the 0.15 limit, and another 20 percent had levels of at least 0.05 percent. By 1960, thanks in part to Haddon’s visionary work, New York lowered the legal limit to 0.10 percent (it’s now 0.08). During this same period, New York also became the first state to enact an “implied consent law,” which revoked the licenses of drivers who refused to submit to alcohol tests. And police stepped up enforcement while numerous public campaigns targeted drunk driving.

    Countless lives have been saved. In Mississippi or Louisiana, you’re two and a half to three and a half times more likely to die in a car crash than in New York State, in part because it’s still more culturally acceptable in those Southern states to get plastered and hit the road. Nationwide, 13 percent of drivers are drunk when they kill a pedestrian. In New York City, 8 percent of vehicular killers are inebriated.

    Haddon, it’s worth noting, was one of the first public-health researchers to think of auto crashes as predictable and preventable rather than as random tragedies. “Haddon had come to deplore the use of the word accident, which he believed made automobile crashes sound inevitable, and, by implication, not preventable,” writes Lerner. His approach was to figure out who—and what—was causing deaths on the road, and then work to prevent the fatalities.

    Over the past half-decade, New York City has pursued that vision aggressively, seeking to determine who and what continues to kill on the road. Despite media focus on taxi crashes, the city found, 79 percent of New York’s killer drivers are behind the wheel of their own private car or truck, not a commercial vehicle. Most of the drivers are male. In pedestrian deaths, vehicle speed and driver inattention are major culprits. As a recent analysis of five years’ worth of crashes by the city’s department of transportation concludes, “in 53 percent of pedestrian fatalities . . . dangerous driver choices—such as inattention, speeding, failure to yield—are the main causes of the crash. The pedestrians in these cases were following the law.” Three-year-old Allison Liao’s grandmother was following the law when the SUV killed the little girl. The MTA bus driver who hit and killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes on January 31 “was looking in the mirror to try to avoid a taxi at this complicated, pedestrian-unfriendly intersection,” her father, Kenneth Bandes, told the city council; his daughter wasn’t “texting or talking on her phone,” as some people often assume of crash victims. In another 17 percent of pedestrian deaths, a driver error—often excessive speed—made a pedestrian’s mistake a death sentence.

    Make no mistake: speed is lethal. Someone hit by a car going 20 mph will live, 90 percent of the time; someone hit at 40 mph has only a 30 percent chance of surviving. Speeding distorts the judgment of both driver and potential victim. “Drivers overestimate their own ability to stop” and “underestimate the impact” of a crash, says Rune Elvik, a civil-engineering professor at Denmark’s Aalborg University. Drivers wrongly think that they’ll save a lot of time by speeding on free stretches of otherwise clogged roads (lights or traffic eventually slow them down). And a child crossing the street has difficulty judging a fast-moving vehicle’s distance. A 2010 paper by the University of London’s John P. Wann and colleagues found that “children . . . could not reliably detect a vehicle approaching at speeds higher than approximately 25 mph.”

    Mayor Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, used her authority over street design to try to reduce speeds and sharpen driver attention. Times Square’s now famous pedestrian island, filled with tables and chairs, and similar islands and protected bike lanes that Sadik-Khan set up across the city give drivers something to notice, reminding them that people live and work where they’re zooming along. Streetscape changes like these often narrow traffic lanes, as well, which tends to make drivers more careful and makes it less likely that pedestrians will get stuck in oncoming traffic as they rush to cross a street—they can now can take refuge on the islands. Other Sadik-Khan changes included “countdown clocks,” which show crossing pedestrians how many seconds they have before a light turns green, and “split-phase” green lights, which let pedestrians cross before cars and trucks get to turn—a response to the fact that left-turning drivers disproportionately kill.

    The numbers show the effectiveness of the design changes. At modified intersections, fatalities have fallen by a third since 2005, twice the city rate. Redesigning Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens—a very dangerous road—by extending medians, painting new crosswalks, and delaying turns cut crashes with injuries by 63 percent. Building a pedestrian island and adding crosswalks on Macombs Road in the Bronx reduced deadly crashes by 41 percent. “Pedestrian-oriented designs save lives,” says Polly Trottenberg, de Blasio’s transportation commissioner.

    De Blasio’s Vision Zero project will keep up the Bloomberg-era engineering efforts to change driver behavior, focusing on 25 key “arterial” streets, wide avenues like Queens Boulevard (long called the “Boulevard of Death” for its many traffic fatalities) and the Bronx’s Mosholu Parkway, where Josbel Rivera died. These roadways make up just 15 percent of Gotham’s streets—but 60 percent of the city’s traffic-related fatalities occur on them. The arteries “were designed for the fast movement of cars and trucks,” says Trottenberg, and making them look less like highways will slow drivers. To get the job done, though, de Blasio must be willing to take the heat, as Bloomberg did, for imposing changes that a vocal minority will strongly resist. It’s not a good sign that the mayor, in his February press conference on Vision Zero, wouldn’t say whether he thought that redesigning Times Square had been a good idea.

    The smart use of data is a second crucial component of Vision Zero. De Blasio is directing his taxi regulators to explore outfitting taxis with “black boxes,” which can record data and sound warnings when drivers go too fast. The devices could not only deter drivers from breaking the law but could also give the city more data on who speeds, and where. The police could use the information to deploy manpower and the transportation department to redesign dangerous intersections. And Commissioner Bratton says that improved data collection and presentation in all areas of NYPD activity, including traffic enforcement, will be a major goal of his second term as the city’s top cop. That Bratton’s NYPD takes traffic safety seriously was evident in its recent flyers warning drivers that illegal double parking, by reducing visibility and forcing bicyclists into traffic lanes, put innocent people in harm’s way. In March, police officers were out in force ticketing drivers who had parked in bike lanes, pleasing street-safety advocates who had long complained of lax enforcement.

    In addition to road design and data crunching, the de Blasio administration will take a more traditional approach to combating speeding: reducing city speed limits. Lowering limits was “the most important” step that Sweden took two decades ago in its traffic-safety turnaround, says Stockholm mayor Sten Nordin, whose city helped pioneer Vision Zero. New York will ask Albany, which controls many of the city’s laws, to let it cut the city’s default speed limit—the maximum speed that drivers can move when they’re not on a highway—from 30 mph to 25 mph. And the city wants to set up more “slow zones,” where 20 mph is the top speed. “The standard in densely populated cities where Vision Zero has been implemented around the world” is 20 mph, Amy Cohen, whose son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, died on Prospect Park West last year, reminded the city council.

    The real challenge will be enforcement. “His memorial is still up,” says Cohen of the site where her son died, yet people still speed there. Deterring such lawbreaking will mean ticketing speeders more aggressively, as well as revoking recidivist speeders’ licenses. After a series of high-profile traffic deaths this winter, the NYPD has been nabbing more speeders and other reckless drivers. The police wrote 7,648 speeding tickets in January, up 20 percent from last year.

    An NYPD-led traffic-ticketing blitz runs into problems as a permanent strategy, though. As City Council Member James Vacca notes, “Since 2001, the highway division has been cut by 50 percent. Local resources are stretched.” De Blasio is adding some officers but not nearly enough to make up for past cuts. Moreover, enforcement is inconsistent and incomplete. Thus, Elvik argues, “there are advantages in using automated enforcement”: speed cameras. “There is a much higher risk of detection” with cameras, he adds, and they make for “a fairer system. Speed cameras treat all drivers equally”—even drivers with public-sector union stickers on their cars, for example, whom police tend to treat leniently. The unpredictability of “ticket blitzes” also angers the public. Over time, people appreciate consistency and predictability. If you know that you will always pay a price for driving 10 miles over the speed limit, you probably won’t speed.

    Speed cameras are common in cities with better safety records than New York’s. A decade ago, London was only 29 percent safer than New York for pedestrians, relative to population size; now, with lots of cameras in place, it’s twice as safe. “London has a pretty decent network of speed cameras,” says Bruce McVean of Movement for Liveable London. “It makes it a lot easier for local authorities.” London’s transport authority estimates that the cameras help save 500 people annually from death or severe injury. And after New York City started ticketing red-light runners two decades ago, serious injuries at the targeted intersections fell 25 percent; more red-light cameras would improve on those safety gains.

    New York politics have made speed-camera use tricky, though. Albany, not city hall, controls the number and placement of the city’s speed cameras, just as it controls the speed limit. Last year, the city won the right to install 20 speed cameras only after a protracted campaign, which benefited from then-mayor Bloomberg’s support, including his shaming of three state senators who had stalled legislation. “Maybe you want to give [their] phone numbers to the parents of the child when a child is killed . . . so that the parents can know exactly who’s to blame,” the mayor said. This year, Mayor de Blasio secured Albany approval for an additional 120 cameras. The power the mayors won is limited, though. The city can only use the cameras to enforce the law on roads that run past schools, and during school hours, though drivers have the most opportunity to speed at night, when there is less traffic congestion. The fine for exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 mph isn’t high: $50. And speed-camera tickets don’t result in penalty “points” on a lawbreaker’s driver’s license—a significant omission, since drivers with too many points for violations can temporarily lose their licenses. As part of Vision Zero, de Blasio wants Albany to relinquish its right to dictate the number, placement, and use of cameras.

    Albany will probably resist. First, police unions hate cameras, fearing that they will make human officers redundant. “Ridiculous,” says Paul Steely White of the Transportation Alternatives advocacy group. There would still be plenty for cops to do in traffic enforcement—stopping drivers and levying fines and points for failing to yield to a pedestrian, say, or for texting behind the wheel. Another, more reasonable, charge is that cameras will just become another way for the government to shake people down for revenue. The city and state must combat this perception. “The sole purpose of traffic law should be to prevent harm,” says Leonard Evans, a research veteran of the auto industry and author of the book Traffic Safety. As a way of easing concerns, the city and state could announce that they would split camera-ticket money equally among all New Yorkers via a rebate on their tax return. Expanded camera use should actually shrink revenue over time, as drivers learn to obey the rules. Privacy is a third concern. As Evans notes, though, driving is a public activity, monitored by police for a century now, and traffic cameras “record only people who are breaking the law.” Anyone who uses an E-ZPass already has his movements tracked. A fourth obstacle is the state’s dislike of “home rule.” New York governor Andrew Cuomo isn’t known for giving up power, and de Blasio is pushing for home rule on multiple fronts, from the minimum wage to rent regulation. De Blasio would be wise not to take an all-or-nothing approach, as he did for a time in his battle with Cuomo over a proposed city income-tax surcharge to fund a prekindergarten program.

    . . . urging New Yorkers to take caution behind the wheel.

    When a cabdriver runs over a little boy in a crosswalk, or an SUV driver mounts a sidewalk and plows into someone, the public reaction is: the driver should be behind bars. But he’s not. As Karen Friedman Agnifilo, chief assistant district attorney in Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s office, says: “It can be difficult for people to understand why a crash is not always a crime.” For one thing, in 1990, the state’s appeals court ruled that, as Agnifilo puts it, “an unexplained failure to perceive” on the part of a driver—absent some outrageous conduct—“is not a crime.” In other words, a driver really can say “I didn’t see him” and walk free under the law, even if he had been driving irresponsibly.

    New York law currently limits vehicular homicide or assault charges to drunk-driving cases. Several states, though, including Illinois and Florida, now make it possible to charge sober drivers with homicide if they kill. New York does let prosecutors charge for criminal recklessness. Vance is willing to use this law aggressively, as he did in charging Adam Tang, who allegedly videotaped himself trying to break the speed record for motoring around Manhattan. The question is whether juries will accept that driving dangerously is similar to driving drunk.

    New York unquestionably needs tougher penalties for deadly driving. “Look at these sentences,” says Agnifilo, pointing to two 2013 vehicular-homicide cases in the city. One defendant got a maximum of four years; the other, six. “Do these sentences seem long enough to you?” Without stiffer punishments for drunk offenders like these, it’s hard to justify longer sentences for other forms of careless driving; the maximum penalty for criminal recklessness is a year. State Senator Mike Gianaris and Assemblywoman Marge Markey of Queens have introduced a bill that makes it a felony if someone with a revoked or suspended license injures or kills someone with a vehicle. Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., a cosponsor, observes that, over the last five years, license-less drivers have killed 181 people in New York City crashes—and largely gotten away with it. Under the bill, they could face four years in prison. The measure not only targets a particularly lethal set of drivers; it also could help change public attitudes by making it clear that operating a potentially deadly machine on roadways is a privilege. A related proposal empowers police and prosecutors to seize the plates from a car or truck operated by a driver without a license before he crashes. City hall, backed by several local lawmakers, is asking Albany for several other legal changes, including increasing the punishment for fleeing a crash—one year in prison—so that it’s equivalent to the four-year penalty, practically speaking, for inflicting a drunk-driving injury or death. As Juan Martinez, general counsel at Transportation Alternatives, explains, the driver who hit Josbel Rivera faced a more serious charge (arson) for torching his car than he did for leaving Rivera to die.

    Agnifilo says that the NYPD’s “crash investigation squad” now responds to crashes that result in death or “critical” injury. That’s an improvement over two years ago, when the police investigated crashes only when victims were “likely to die.” She would like to see them respond to crashes that cause “serious” injury, the standard for criminal charges. In that case, “district attorneys would be called to more crash scenes, allowing prosecutors to make more appropriate charging decisions,” she says.

    To prepare cases, the DA relies on witness testimony as well as subpoenaed cell-phone and text records and, increasingly, thanks to a new federal law, on black-box evidence from cars. Agnifilo wants some straightforward changes from Albany to give prosecutors more resources to prepare their cases. Prosecutors need the right to draw blood at the scene of a serious crash without a warrant, which can take hours to secure—while the driver detoxes. The DA’s office would like more time, under “speedy trial” requirements, to prepare vehicular-homicide cases—as it gets for other homicide cases.

    Prosecution of smaller infractions can serve as another deterrent. Thanks to better police enforcement, the Manhattan DA received 2,556 drunk-driving cases last year, up 18 percent from 2009. Though the charge is only a misdemeanor, it can mean thousands of dollars in legal costs and a license suspension, as a current public-service advertisement reminds potential drunk drivers. Here, too, tighter laws could complement better police enforcement and prosecution. Currently, if you rack up two DUI convictions in five years, you lose your license for six months. Cuomo wants anyone convicted of drunk driving twice in three years to lose his license for five years. “Three strikes, and you’re out and you are off the road, period,” the governor said this winter.

    The most potent factor in making Gotham traffic safer is that citizens and lawmakers are starting to demand change. “We’re reaching a point of critical mass on the pedestrian safety issue,” says Gianaris. The senator says that after two Queens deaths—eight-year-old Noshat Nahian and Angela Hurtado, an older woman on her way to play bingo—caused by drivers with suspended licenses, he grew angry. “This should be a felony.”

    New York is a city made up of powerful special interests, and now a grim new lobby has organized itself: family members of crash victims. Parents, including Amy Cohen and Amy Tam, have helped create Families for Safe Streets, encouraging the public to push for speed cameras and other traffic-safety measures. Lerner, the historian of drunk driving, whose own nephew, Cooper Stock, died on the Upper West Side in January after a cabdriver struck him in a crosswalk, says that the movement is similar to the early movement against drunk driving. “Angry parents and relatives” highlighted “the absurdity of a society” that looked the other way as drunk drivers killed. Just as you now know that you shouldn’t drink and drive, texting and driving should be equally taboo. “As more and more potential distractions for drivers emerge, we should be less—not more—tolerant of a mind-set that excuses such behaviors because ‘everybody does them,’ ” says Lerner. The politically active New Yorkers who show up to community meetings to pressure city council members and Albany legislators on bread-and-butter issues are starting to view dangerous driving as one of those issues. Parents want their kids to get to school safely; elderly people perceive themselves as vulnerable.

    Those demanding safer streets expect local government to use better data and smarter engineering and enforcement to achieve that end. Many observers once contended that the murder rate would never fall, but thanks largely to smart policing, it is down 85 percent since 1990—nearly twice as big a drop as traffic deaths. New Yorkers are thus likely to hold de Blasio to his stated goal: a quick and marked reduction in traffic deaths. “We are thrilled that the mayor is so supportive,” says Amy Cohen. But she and her fellow grieving parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, and aunts will be “a public force” if “things aren’t moving along as expected.”

    This post originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of City Journal.

    by Aaron M. Renn at March 24, 2015 04:48 PM

    Practically Efficient

    Comparing my Fitbit One and iPhone 6

    I will be buying an Apple Watch, and I'm really optimistic about its health implications. I've totally bought into the idea of little computers that can passively track my movement.

    I've been wearing a Fitbit One every day for almost exactly one year. I've also had an iPhone 6, complete with its M8 motion coprocessor, since November 2014. I guess because I had the Fitbit first, I just kept using it for step counting. Even though the iPhone 6 has been persistently counting much of the same information in the background, I never paid much attention to it because the iOS 8 Health app is just not that great for visualizing data. However, I recently came across two apps that do a great job of showing walking data: Fitport and Pedometer++. I recommend both.

    But as the Apple Watch ship date nears, I'm really looking forward to seeing the Watch's health app UI and its other features in action. As much as I've loved using my Fitbit, I know that if an Apple Watch and iPhone 6 can do just as good of a job at counting steps and floors, I'll probably end up shelving the Fitbit.

    So. I figured now was as good a time as any to really try to understand how my Fitbit One and iPhone 6 count steps and floors differently, if at all.

    Overview of comparisons

    I know from casual checking that both the Fitbit and iPhone 6 show extremely similar results when compared over small time frames. For example, both show precisely the same floor counts and very similar step counts for typical daily movement within my home.

    But when comparing over a longer time frame, like the 90-day comparison you'll read about below, the results vary much more. To go even deeper, I analyzed the results of the Fitbit and iPhone 6 during two different walks in (very hilly) Greenville, South Carolina, where I live.

    I also compared my Fitbit and iPhone 6 in a more "industrial" setting and even looked at how they worked when they weren't supposed to be counting: elevators and car rides.

    The point of this exercise wasn't to be super scientific but rather to get a feel for how the numbers vary for my own personal use.

    But First: How the Fitbit and iPhone 6 work

    Both the Fitbit One and iPhone 6 have an accelerometer and barometer that they use to measure steps taken and floors climbed. Beyond knowing the general "hardware" used by Fitbit and the iPhone 6, however, they're really a black box on the software side. All we know is that they each use some sort of algorithm to identify motion patterns indicative of steps. One specific that we do know about Fitbit: one floor equates to a 10-foot rise in elevation. Apple does not publish anything specific about the elevation required for a floor.

    Results over a 90-day period

    I think it's worth comparing the Fitbit and iPhone 6 over a longer time scale. Fitport lets me look at my iPhone 6's HealthKit data over several different time frames. The longest time frame other than "all data" is 90 days, so I decided that would be long enough for the sake of comparing to Fitbit.

    I just want to say that from a fitness ego perspective, it's hard to pick a worse segment of time than the 90 days leading up to this March blog post because I really suck at walking in the winter time and rarely even sniff the usual 10,000 daily step goal. But anyway, here's how the iPhone 6 and Fitbit compare from December 23, 2014 through March 23, 2015:

    • Fitbit: 509,482 steps and 1009 floors
    • iPhone 6: 506,909 steps and 735 floors

    I would never expect an equal step count over such a long period because there are too many variables. For example, there are plenty of Saturday mornings when my iPhone 6 isn't in my pocket while I'm rolling around on the floor with my kids, but my Fitbit One is usually clipped on. And in the year that I've owned a Fitbit, there have been several multi-day stretches when the Fitbit battery died without me knowing it—meaning that it wasn't recording any data at all.

    All that considered, the step counts seem remarkably similar.

    The floor count difference is much more interesting. At first, I was really stumped considering how both devices always seem to register floors climbed in my home the same when observed over small time periods.

    Then it occurred to me that I live in a fairly hilly part of the country. Greenville, SC is in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, and it's hard to walk more than 20 feet in any direction without going up or down.

    Given that I regularly walk through the trails, parks, and sidewalks that weave in and around downtown Greenville, I thought it made sense to pay closer attention to what the Fitbit and iPhone 6 were counting there.

    Two walks into Greenville

    I have several walking routes that I take into the downtown area on a regular basis. I picked two different routes to "study" how my Fitbit and iPhone 6 counted steps and floors across a variety of elevations and walking surfaces.

    1. Walk 1: A 1-mile walk covering some fairly steep elevation changes
    2. Walk 2: A 1.5-mile walk with more subtle elevation changes

    I used MapMyWalk to measure the elevation profile and exact distance of each route. MapMyWalk uses my iPhone 6's GPS system to measure distance, and it uses USGS data to determine elevation. I thought these would both be interesting "checks" on the Fitbit and iPhone 6's step and floor algorithms.

    Walk 1: Steep Terrain (1 mile long)

    The first walk is probably my favorite of all. It's a truly spectacular walk, which starts at a relatively high elevation on the outskirts of downtown, then descends rapidly into the Reedy River basin in Falls Park, weaving through little gardens, water falls, and bridges. The lowest elevation occurs roughly midway through the walk, near the base of Reedy Falls. It then rises up sharply past the falls and into the heart of downtown along Main Street.

    I've made this walk countless times, but until I actually graphed the elevation profile, I never realized how U-shaped it was.

    Walk 1 Elevation Profile

    Walk 1 Elevation Profile

    As you can see, the iPhone 6 counted 70 more steps than my Fitbit and 4 fewer floors:

    Fitbit iPhone 6 Difference
    Steps Counted 1772 1842 70
    Floors Counted 6 2 –4

    Walk 1: Steps Counted

    The step count difference is somewhat surprising. iPhone 6 came in roughly 4% higher. 4% of one mile is a little over 200 feet. To me, this seems like a really big difference. Based on other data, I'm fairly sure my personal "steps per mile" metric is roughly 1755 steps per mile. I'm 6'4" and have a fairly long stride, so I'm well under the standard 2000 steps per mile that you often see quoted.

    It's likely, however, that I take a different number of steps when walking up or down steep terrain. So it's hard to know if the iPhone 6 is truly "wrong" here. It's also possible that steeper terrain changes my natural step motion, introducing opportunity for measurement error.

    Walk 1: Floors Counted

    I was paying close attention, and neither the Fitbit or iPhone 6 recorded any floors at all on the first half, which is what I would expect since it was entirely a descent. The entire 4-floor difference occurred in the second half.

    Roughly midway along the second half, I took a fairly tall staircase to get up to street level. I don't know the precise height of the staircase, but I would estimate that it's much closer to two standard stair flights than one. Indeed, this was the one and only point along the one-mile walk where my iPhone 6 counted any floors at all (i.e. the 2 floors that it counted total).

    It seems that the Fitbit is much more sensitive to elevation changes than the iPhone 6. So which one is "right?"

    I guess it depends on your semantic persuasion. In a strict sense, the iPhone 6 was more accurate in counting literal floors (the only true staircase). In a more "feel good" sense, however, the Fitbit's floor metric seems like a better measure of effort spent going "up." In terms of heart rate, ascending 81 feet over a roughly half-mile stretch is quite different than walking the same distance on flat terrain. It's nice to get some credit for that.

    It's entirely possible that the iPhone 6's floor counting algorithm is tuned to look for more of a stepping motion, as you would make going up real steps, while the Fitbit is satisfied as long as its barometer indicates upward movement while you're making any kind of step motion.

    Walk 2: Less Steep Terrain (1.45 miles)

    The second walk is longer than the first, but isn't nearly as scenic. It does, however, offer an interesting elevation contrast with the first walk in that it follows a more gradual decline along a road that leads to downtown Greenville.

    Walk 2 Elevation Profile

    Walk 2 Elevation Profile

    Fitbit iPhone 6 Difference
    Steps Counted 2550 2540 –10
    Floors Counted 8 2 –6

    Walk 2: Steps Counted

    I suppose it's not surprising that two different pedometers would yield closer results over flatter terrain, but I think it's pretty impressive that they are so close. Both devices also show a pace of about 1755 steps per mile, which as I mentioned earlier, is consistent with the typical number of steps I cover per mile while walking casually.

    Walk 2: Floors Counted

    Coincidentally, Walk 2 also featured exactly 2 real flights of stairs, which the iPhone 6 counted precisely. Once again, the iPhone 6 counted only true floors, while the Fitbit's floor count is more indicative of walking up hills in general.

    I have to say, I'm a bit surprised that the Fitbit counted so many more floors given my perception of the elevation changes that I encountered, but I think this just further underscores the Fitbit's sensitivity to elevation changes while your feet are moving.

    Counting real floors

    Since my two walks show just how differently the Fitbit and iPhone 6 count floors over varied walking surfaces, I thought it would be interesting to see how they performed in a more controlled, "industrial" setting. So I decided to walk up to the sixth floor of a parking deck in downtown.

    According to at least one source, the standard height of a parking deck story is 10 feet. The parking deck I chose, to me, looks like most any parking deck, but it's worth noting the first flight was slightly shorter (maybe 25% shorter) than the others because the first level of the deck is actually a little below street level.

    At the 6th floor, the Fitbit was dead-on at 6 floors, while the iPhone 6 recorded only 5. It's quite possible that the shorter first floor caused the iPhone 6 to fall just a little short, but that's impossible to know. Unfortunately this parking deck only had 6 floors, so I couldn't go a little higher to test that theory.

    It would be interesting, if tiring, to test this in a really tall high-rise to see just how much, if any, the two devices diverge in such a continuous, controlled setting. If you do this, let me know how it goes.

    But as I noted earlier, both the Fitbit and iPhone 6 consistently measure floors climbed in my home with equal and exact precision.

    Effect of non-walking motion

    First World humans have many ways of moving up, down, and sideways that don't require moving feet. Obviously, just being able to detect small changes in barometric pressure isn't enough to detect steps. Otherwise, we could really game step counts by taking elevators and escalators.

    Both the Fitbit and iPhone 6 performed equally well (zero activity) in an elevator in my testing. In other words, both devices are really smart about the motion pattern that defines a human step going up stairs.

    Driving in a car, however, is a tougher test than an elevator because of all the little bumps and undulations in a typical car ride. I was curious what effect, if any, driving had on the Fitbit and iPhone 6.

    I tested this by looking at my Fitbit and iPhone 6's step counts before and after driving across town. It was a roughly 15-minute drive that covered everything from residential roads to a 6-lane interstate.

    The Fitbit correctly recorded zero steps, but the iPhone 6 logged 18. This surprised me a lot.

    First, I was impressed that the Fitbit was good enough to know all the little ups and downs were not the result of taking steps.

    Second, it's funny that the iPhone 6 got beat considering it has the potential to gather so much more contextual information. Compared to the Fitbit, the iPhone 6 is a super computer. My iPhone 6 is totally aware of my current speed, which it could use as a check on the step count. For example, if my body is moving at 65 miles per hour across the earth's surface along a coordinate path that matches a known interstate route, I'm probably not walking.

    Conclusions

    As with any arbitrary measurement system, it's more meaningful to look at trends than fret over individual data points. Fitbit and iPhone 6 are both terrific at measuring steps, and both inform you about your movement over time. If you walk from A to B, both will credit you steps for that, even if it's a slightly different number of steps.

    When it comes to measuring floors, the Fitbit is clearly more sensitive to elevation changes than the iPhone 6. However, the iPhone 6 is a networked, location-aware computer. If elevation really matters, it's probably better to use something like MapMyWalk to more accurately measure vertical distances anyway. A "floor" is just an arbitrary unit of height after all. It really only makes sense for people who mostly walk indoors.

    Rather than get hung up on data accuracy, I think it makes sense to focus on the main goal: move more. I'm absolutely fascinated with the fact that small computers can constantly measure my motion and give me incentive to move more by constantly informing me about my movement patterns. I fully expect the Apple Watch and its future descendants to take this to an entirely new level.

    I'm no anthropologist, but I believe the version of the human body we inherited evolved to move around a lot—certainly way more than we move in modern environments. If the first generation of computers made us sit down, hopefully the next generation will put us back on our feet.

    * * *

    3/28/2015 Update: Elliptical Test

    I decided to see how the Fitbit and iPhone 6 differed on a NordicTrac elliptical. I was on the elliptical for 20 minutes straight, covering a (supposed) distance and elevation of 1.7 miles and 895 feet, respectively. There were a variety of resistances and inclines.

    Fitbit iPhone 6 Difference
    Steps Counted 2475 2148 –327
    Floors Counted 0 0 0

    As I expected, neither device counted any floors since there was no actual change in elevation. Interesting that the Fitbit counted so many more steps, though.

    by Eddie Smith at March 24, 2015 03:33 PM

    512 Pixels

    Our favorite OS X launcher →

    Joe Caiati, writing for The Sweet Setup:

    We wouldn’t consider the OS X app launcher space a crowded one, but there are enough options out there that could make oneself think twice about clicking the download button. After numerous keystrokes and much reflective deliberation, we think that Alfred is the favorite launcher for Mac OS X.

    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at March 24, 2015 03:04 PM

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    Taking a Travel Break Mid-Career: On the Road with John Fiddler and Kathleen Egan

    This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

    John and Kathleen opted to take a mid-career break and travel the world under three tenets: sightseeing, athletics (trail running, climbing, and long distance hiking), and volunteering.

    Introduce yourselves. 

    We’re two 40-somethings on a multi-year career break traveling the planet. Along with adventuring through the wild landscapes of the world to see the sights and cultures of the planet, we’re trying to give back to communities as we travel.

    From kayaking the length of the Baja peninsula, trail running around Europe, backpacking through Southeast Asia (and getting married there!), to being the first expedition to traverse the high route of the Great Himalaya Trail (87 days, unsupported), to now exploring and volunteering in Africa, it has been a crazy and incredible two years.

    JK9

    What inspired you to travel?

    Kathleen dreamed of this experience since she was 13 years old and had been saving for almost as long so she could make it happen. On our first date, she mentioned her plan to me, to which I replied, “I’d quit my job to do that!”

    As John saved money and paid off student loans over two years, there were further pushes that inspired us. A 40-year old friend died of a sudden heart attack. Another was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away within 6 months. We realized we should do the trip now—partly so we could still do some of the physical challenges we wanted to, and partly because we could never know what the future holds.

    JK5

    Tell us about one of those physical challenges.

    Most recently, we wanted to hike through the Drakensberg Mountain Range. We wanted to do the Grand Traverse, a 136-150 mile hike that starts and ends in South Africa but spends most of its route in the Kingdom of Lesotho. There are no trails, so it was up to us to find our way across the countryside and get to mountain peaks, which serve as checkpoints in the area.

    John had an idea to ride a hobbyhorse with a zebra head on our hike, determined to be the first person to cross the Drakensberg Mountains by hobbyhorse/zebra whom we named Marty (alcohol may have been involved in my decision making process). Over our nine-day hike, we learned that Marty wasn’t actually a bad idea—he was a great ice-breaker when communicating with Basotho tribesmen.

    We climbed peaks, avoided walking off cliffs due to thick fog, and tried not to slip on steep grass and rock slopes, all in alpine landscapes. It was definitely physically challenging. Unfortunately, due to severe thunderstorms, a run-in with a venomous snake, and the fog that just wouldn’t quit, we didn’t finish the hike… but we’ll be back.

    JK12

    How do you pay for your “career break”?  

    Our savings account, and income from rentals. Kathleen’s plan had always been to pay off the mortgages on her two homes, so we’ve had steady rental income on the trip (she really has been anticipating this trip for most of her life!).

    We also travel cheap, doing everything we can to keep costs down. We have full camping gear and camp frequently. In towns we choose hostels or budget hotels, and we always try to cook for ourselves.

    Finally, we’ve had some extra support. Kathleen is a sponsored ultra-distance trail runner for Ultraspire hydration packs. They have given us Fastpacks that we use as our day packs. GU Energy Labs provided several hundred dollars worth of energy gels to help power us on some of the hikes, climbs, and runs we have done. Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle has helped provide discounted shoes and apparel since we tend to wear out our shoes every few months.

    And as a Christmas present, Kathleen’s parents paid for our storage shed, removing one of our monthly bills.

    JK3

    Tell us about a memorable encounter from the past few years.

    We were deep into our 87 day, 1,200+ mile traverse across the Nepali Himalaya in a very poor region called Mugu, and we’d become separated from the people we were hiking with.

    As the day ended, we met a cute 6 year-old shepherd boy, fluent in English. He suggested we camp in a meadow just up the trail—a wonderful flat, grassy area with a view. We had just laid down to sleep when we heard voices outside the tent. “Uncle, you must come out right now. There is a big problem!” It was the young boy, now with a pack of eight young adults. They were all drunk including the 6-year-old.

    Like a miniature Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde, the little boy was angrily talking fast and loud, practically foaming at the mouth as he spoke. He told me we were in a “rough neighborhood” and that this was “village land.” Basically, the men with him wanted money. We offered the guys $5, hoping they’d go away. Our last camp spot had cost a dollar, so this seemed more than fair.

    The guys demanded $20, and began threatening us. We collapsed our tent and made a run for it, but there was no way with full pack we could out run the group. They quickly caught up with us and now all had big sticks. Kathleen was ahead but John was being hit with rocks, and the Nepali would run out of the dark with their sticks threatening to hit him. We were worried if one started hitting John, the rest would join.

    Luckily they were drunk enough that they became bored as we got further away from their village. We hiked through the dark woods for an hour before finding a hidden spot to set up our tent and try to get a few hours of sleep.

    What is a low point you’ve experienced while traveling, and how did you deal with it?

    Four months into our trip, we got a call while in Germany that Kathleen’s dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. We caught a flight home and spent the next four months living with her parents, providing hospice care for her dad.

    The universe has an interesting way of working itself out and we view the unexpected waylay as part of our journey.  Kathleen had always worked—during college, grad school, and right up until we took our career break. When we came home, it was the first time she’d ever had all the time in the day (and night) to share stories and laughter with him. It wound up being the most enriching, and difficult, time in her life.

    A month after her dad passed away, we departed for our trip, but brought our families with us. We were married on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand. Her father’s illness solidified for us how quickly life can turn a corner, and we felt even more strongly about nourishing relationships that are meaningful in our lives.

    JK4

    Do you have any advice for traveling with someone 24/7?

    We’re literally never apart, and often living out of the small confines of a tent. We had to learn how achieve alone time in a tiny, shared space. We do this by making our own separate worlds in the tent. Kathleen might be reading a book while John journals—it’s our time to do what we want without being interrupted. Once we learned that, it became a lot smoother.

    JK6

    Kathleen teaching the Malawian primary school children about rabies awareness and how to become animal welfare champions as part of an Animal Kindness Club offered by LSPCA

    You mentioned you like to volunteer on the road. What do you do?

    Kathleen has a background in Infectious Disease/Epidemiology and John is a veterinarian.

    We’ve volunteered at an animal shelter in Thailand helping with their spay/neuter program, and raised funds through Wide Open Vistas to help Sherpa children in Nepal be able to go to school.

    In Africa, we’re currently spending two months at the Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals in Malawi. We’re doing spay & neuter programs on dogs and cats, a large animal clinic once a week, and community outreach and education.

    John neutering a dog with LSPCA while children watch.

    Why is volunteering important to you?

    Knowing that the work we are doing is directly contributing to the people and animals lives in the area where we are is really rewarding. For us, volunteering opens doors to local relationships and offers cross-cultural learning in ways that are very different than being a typical traveler.

    Besides, what better way to truly meet people and get to know a culture then by working side by side with them?

    The great debate: aisle or window?

    John: window.

    Kathleen: just not the middle.

    Best travel tips. Go:

    1. Treat your body well.

    Long-term travel can really wear you down. Eating well, exercise, rest, time in nature and doing-absolutely-nothing days are crucial for sustainability and health.

    2. Cash is king!

    ATMs are not everywhere, and overseas they can have strange limitations (like a withdrawal limit of $80 a day). Many areas still operate on a cash only basis, so carry plenty of cash at all times.

    JK8

    Where are you headed next?

    After Africa, we’ll return to Seattle to see friends and family. Then, we’re off to South America. We are having a hard time imagining this lifestyle ending so if we can work out a system where we work for several months and then travel the rest of the year then we may continue this adventure for a long time.

    Follow John and Kathleen’s travels on their blog, Knucklehead Adventure Tours.

    ###

    by Chris Guillebeau at March 24, 2015 03:03 PM

    The Finance Buff

    Schwab Intelligent Portfolios: Primary and Alternate ETFs

    I went through the questionnaire for Schwab’s new robo-advisor product Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. There were 12 questions. The interface looked very good.

    Asset Classes Breakdown

    I answered the questions truthfully as myself. I was given this portfolio of 16 asset classes, 77% invested in stocks, 11% in fixed income, 4.7% in commodities, and 7.3% in cash. The 16 asset classes were exactly the same as the ones given in Schwab’s FAQs for Investor 1 and Investor 2.

    This is more aggressive than how I currently invest. So are the portfolios recommended to me by Wealthfront and Betterment, and Vanguard’s target retirement fund for my age. Both Wealthfront and Betterment gave me 90% in stocks when I answered their questionnaires. Vanguard’s target retirement fund for my age invests 83% in stocks.

    ETFs Used

    You don’t see the actual ETFs used in Schwab Intelligent Portfolios before you sign up. However, in the appendix of a whitepaper on the effect of rebalancing and tax loss harvesting, Schwab showed the primary and alternate ETFs used as assumptions in the whitepaper. Granted that those may very well be purely for the purpose of calculation in the whitepaper, chances are that they are the actual primary and alternate ETFs used in Schwab Intelligent Portfolios at this time. The portfolios shared on investment forums by customers who already signed up seem to confirm this.

    I list the primary and alternate ETFs for the asset classes included in the portfolio recommended to me and their expense ratios here. The ETFs used are of course subject to change.

    US Large Company Stocks

    • Primary: Schwab Large-Cap Core ETF (SCHX, 0.04%)
    • Alternate: Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO, 0.05%)

    US Large Fundamental

    • Primary: Schwab Fundamental U.S. Large Company Index ETF (FNDX, 0.32%)
    • Alternate: PowerShares FTSE RAFI US 1000 Portfolio (PRF, 0.39%)

    US Small Company Stocks

    • Primary: Schwab Small-Cap Core ETF (SCHA, 0.08%)
    • Alternate: Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB, 0.09%)

    US Small Fundamental

    • Primary: Schwab Fundamental U.S. Small Company Index ETF (FNDA, 0.32%)
    • Alternate: PowerShares FTSE RAFI US 1500 Small-Mid Portfolio (PRFZ, 0.39%)

    International Developed Large Company Stocks

    • Primary: Schwab International Multi-Cap Core ETF (SCHF, 0.08%)
    • Alternate: Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA, 0.09%)

    International Developed Large Fundamental

    • Primary: Schwab Fundamental International Large Company Index ETF (FNDF, 0.32%)
    • Alternate: PowerShares FTSE RAFI Developed Markets ex U.S. Portfolio (PXF, 0.47%)

    International Developed Small Company Stocks

    • Primary: Schwab International Small/Mid-Cap Core ETF (SCHC, 0.18%)
    • Alternate: Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Small-Cap ETF (VSS, 0.19%)

    International Developed Small Fundamental

    • Primary: Schwab Fundamental International Small Company Index ETF (FNDC, 0.48%)
    • Alternate: PowerShares FTSE RAFI Developed Markets ex-U.S. Small-Mid Portfolio (PDN, 0.50%)

    International Emerging Market Stocks

    • Primary: Schwab Emerging Markets ETF (SCHE, 0.14%)
    • Alternate: iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG, 0.18%)

    International Emerging Market Fundamental

    • Primary: Schwab Fundamental Emerging Markets Large Company Index ETF (FNDE, 0.47%)
    • Alternate: PowerShares FTSE RAFI Emerging Markets Portfolio (PXH, 0.49%)

    US Exchange Traded REITs

    • Primary: Schwab Real Estate ETF (SCHH, 0.07%)
    • Alternate: Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ, 0.10%)

    International Exchange Traded REITs

    • Primary: Vanguard Global ex-U.S. Real Estate ETF (VNQI, 0.24%)
    • Alternate: FlexShares Global Quality Real Estate Index Fund (GQRE, 0.45%)

    US Corporate High Yield Bonds

    • Primary: iShares 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (SHYG, 0.30%)
    • Alternate: SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (JNK, 0.40%)

    International Emerging Market Bonds

    • Primary: Market Vectors Emerging Markets Local Currency Bond ETF (EMLC, 0.47%)
    • Alternate: Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond ETF (VWOB, 0.34%)

    Gold & Other Precious Metals

    • Primary: iShares Gold Trust (IAU, 0.25%)
    • Alternate: ETFS Physical Precious Metals Basket Shares (GLTR, 0.60%)

    Cash

    • Money Market Account at Schwab Bank

    Portfolio Overall

    Using all primary ETFs the portfolio recommended to me by Schwab Intelligent Portfolios has a blended expense ratio of 0.26%.

    The blended expense ratio of the portfolio recommended to me by Betterment is about 0.10%. If I add Betterment’s 0.15% fee for a balance of $100k+, the all-in cost is about the same at 0.25%.

    The blended expense ratio of the portfolio recommended to me by Wealthfront is also about 0.10%. If I add Wealthfront’s 0.25% fee, the all-in cost is about 0.35%.

    The expense ratio on Vanguard’s target retirement fund is 0.18%.

    The Morningstar Portfolio X-Ray of the portfolio recommended to me by Schwab Intelligent Portfolios looks like this:

    Is this something I would put together myself? No. I would go simpler: total market funds plus a pinch of value and small caps for stocks, and then conventional US intermediate-term bonds plus CDs for fixed income.

    If the imaginary me tells me he’s investing in this portfolio, would I lose sleep over it? No. It’s reasonably diversified, low cost, and less risky than some of the other all-in-one portfolios the imaginary me also mentioned. I would feel much relieved he’s in this as opposed to something else somebody could’ve signed him up for.

    Should the imaginary me decide strictly based on the all-in cost: 0.18%, 0.25%, 0.26% or 0.35%? Not at all. The differences in asset allocation will drive a much larger difference in both risk and return.

    See All Your Accounts In One Place

    Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital.

    Schwab Intelligent Portfolios: Primary and Alternate ETFs is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

    by Harry Sit at March 24, 2015 02:45 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    The Letter to Iran and Bipartisan Hype

    Tom-Cotton

    Sioux Center, Iowa.   Most Republican members of the U.S. Senate have signed a public letter to the Iranian government warning that any agreement with President Obama that is not approved by the Senate is likely to be transitory and counterproductive…

    Read Full Article...

    The post The Letter to Iran and Bipartisan Hype appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Jeff Taylor at March 24, 2015 02:03 PM

    Reformedish

    Arguments Always Involve Relationships

    argumentAlastair Roberts has written very interesting post, well worth your time, in defence of the Christian practice of argument or polemical discourse about the truth. In the middle of it, partially in order to help overcome the silly split we often place between reason and emotion, he makes the claim that all of our conversations have various relational dimensions to them. And then he proves it:

    Discourse is always relational in character. When engaged in discourse, we are engaging in relationship with:

    1. Our selves
    2. Other persons on our ‘side’
    3. Our own positions
    4. The conversation itself
    5. Our interlocutors
    6. Our interlocutors’ positions
    7. The truth
    8. Spectators and other third parties

    In order to think and reason carefully, we must ensure that every one of these relationships is healthy. Where one or more of these relationships is unhealthy—and one of these relationships is seldom unhealthy without infecting the others—our entire discourse can be damaged. The following are a few examples of ways in which each one of these relationships can be unhealthy:

    1. Pride can give rise to an unhealthy relationship with our selves, making it difficult for us to acknowledge ourselves to have been wrong, especially in public.
    2. Fear of losing the friendship of other persons on our own ‘side’ can cause us to step back from making unpopular but necessary criticisms of unhealthy beliefs that have traction in our own camp.
    3. We can over-identify with our own positions, presuming that an attack upon them is an attack upon ourselves.
    4. We can react in fear, impatience, or hostility to the way that the testing and openness of the conversation can place our certainties in question.
    5. An instinctive reaction against our interlocutors can make it difficult to hear them out carefully and charitably.
    6. Negative associations that we have established with aspects of our interlocutors’ positions (dimensions of its rhetoric, terminology, labels, etc.) can cause us to react rather than thoughtfully respond.
    7. We can react in fear to the prospect of the truth as something that can unsettle the status quo, demand our loyalty, or undermine our claims upon reality.
    8. We can allow the tensions that we have with third parties to prevent us from giving people that they recommend a careful and charitable hearing. Alternatively, we could also allow ourselves to get caught up in the stampede of the crowd on social media and fail to think about the matter that they are reacting to clearly for ourselves.

    Anyone who’s been on facebook for more than about 20 minutes can recognize these dynamics. Roberts continues:

    This list is very far from comprehensive. However, it should give some sense of the many fronts upon which we need to manage our relational dynamics and the affective states associated with these. The thinking process is not just a matter of machine-like logic-crunching and brainpower: it is an interpersonal and relational process and a matter of various virtues, of patience, of charity, of love, of courage, of nerve, of self-control, of trust, of hope, etc. The sharpest minds can be worse than useless when their owners lack virtue or self-control in handling their affective states.

    The lack of self-control in handling affective states usually owes more to lack of training than to vice. I have commented on various occasions upon the ways in which much of our education fails to prepare us for the real world situations where the relational character of healthy and clear thinking proves most challenging. In consequence, many people—even those with advanced education—lack the capacity to think well under pressure or to manage the relational dynamics that shape their thinking (dynamics of which many are entirely unaware).

    In the rest of the post, he goes on to analyze more dimensions to the reality of argument and to defend it as a practice and our need to develop the emotional and intellectual resources to deal with it.

    Again, I cannot recommend it enough. Indeed, this whole post is designed simply to tempt you to read it. Right here. Or again, I’m going to link it here.  Or, if you missed that, you can go ahead and read the whole article here.

    Soli Deo Gloria


    by Derek Rishmawy at March 24, 2015 01:49 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    The Crucial, Overlooked Benefit of Bible Concordances: Access

    As I looked over the new NIV Exhaustive Concordance by John R. Kohlenberger III, I had a surprising thought: throughout my seminary training and in over a decade of pastoring, I’ve never added a concordance to my Bible study toolshed!

    Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized a concordance like this one is super beneficial! It hit me that a concordance’s benefits boil down to a crucially important, yet often overlooked one:

    Access.

    This was a lightbulb moment for me. Access seems to be the elixir to the problem many thoughtful Christians are trying to solve, mainly: How can I “go deeper” in my study of God’s Word—for me, for my students, for my small group?

    Bible concordances are the font from which that elixir pours forth. They give non-Bible scholars access to the original biblical languages, which gives them access to deeper Bible engagement.

    Here’s how.

    Access for Non-Bible Scholars

    Concordances and language dictionaries, Bible software and apps, journals and monographs. These are the resources Bible scholars use to mine the Holy Scriptures for insights.

    But what about the rest of thoughtful Christians? What about my dad or neighbor, my cousin’s student group leader or my small group coordinator? What gives them access to the same insights and depth of study? You guessed it: Bible concordances.

    A concordance is an index to the words found in the Bible. It lists the references of the verses where they occur, and a piece of each sentence where the word occurs. It’s meant to give non-Bible scholars access to a complete index to the Bible. It is arranged in alphabetical order and shows the location of each word in Scripture, supplying several words of the context in which each word is found.

    Because it transform_imgis arranged like a dictionary, it is intuitive to use and easy to navigate. It breaks down the barriers non-Bible scholars often face when they want to perform sound Bible study by providing access in another crucially important way: the original languages of the Bible.

    Access to the Original Biblical Languages

    An exhaustive concordance—like The NIV Exhaustive Concordance—indexes every word found in the Bible, and lists every reference where those words are found. It also shows which Hebrew or Greek word is translated for every occurrence of every English word—giving easy, instant access to the original biblical languages.

    Bible scholars and pastors know that word studies are the foundation to deep Bible engagement. Dictionaries like Moises Silva’s exhaustive work and software programs—and let’s not forget years of language studies!—give us access to the languages in order to give us insight into the biblical text.

    For everyone who isn’t a full-time biblical scholar, but who wants to do in-depth word studies based on the occurrences of Greek and Hebrew words, an exhaustive concordance is indispensable. It gives them access to the original biblical languages in a way they wouldn’t otherwise have—which gives them access to far deeper Bible engagement.

    Access to Deeper Bible Engagement

    Consider the mom leading a girls Bible study with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

    greekindex_imgWhile preparing for a study on Romans 12:1–2, she wonders if there are deeper insights into Paul’s use of “transformed” when he urges Christians to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Using her NIV Bible and The NIV Exhaustive Concordance she can look up the word transformed to find its corresponding Greek index number (G3565), and flip to the Greek Index to see how metamorphoo is translated: “to be transformed, transfigured, changed in form.” She can also see other verses where the word is used (e.g. Phil. 3:21, 2 Cor. 3:18) for greater insights.

    Because of her Bible concordance, this non-Bible scholar can help her girls go far deeper in engaging the Bible because of the access it provides to the words of God’s Word, and the original languages behind them.

     

    9780310262930Bible concordances give non-Bible scholars access to the tools they need to study the Bible harder, better, faster, and stronger. They give them access to the original languages of God’s Word in a way pastors and scholars take for granted. Concordances are the Christian’s gateway into deeper Bible engagement.

    Ultimately, it is the key that unlocks the depths of God’s heart—for them and the people they care for in countless volunteer roles throughout the Church.

    Which makes Bible concordances a worthy tool in the arsenal of Bible study resources.

    by Jeremy Bouma at March 24, 2015 01:40 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Pastors' Wives: 5 Misconceptions

    This is guest post by Lauren Chandler and is part of Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month. Lauren’s husband, Matt, is the author of The Explicit Gospel and serves as lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas.


    Misconception #1

    You have it all together. You’ve worked through all your issues. Sure, you may struggle, but not with anything major (whatever that may be).

    Oh, sister, may I encourage you? On this side of heaven, we will always have battle to do with our flesh. Will he give relief at times? Yes! But “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We are off the hook—not to sin so that grace may abound—but to freely live a life pleasing to God that was bought by the perfect blood of Christ, not our own blood, sweat, and tears to “get it right.”

    Three years into Matt’s position as pastor of The Village Church, I entered a twelve-step program. Let me quell the questions: it wasn’t because he became a pastor that I “worked the steps.” I needed to recover from the addiction of being a good girl, of performing my way into God’s good graces. I would have said with my lips that salvation is by grace through faith alone. I even thought I believed this at my core. But in my heart of hearts, I functioned as if it all depended on me. With my life I said, “God, thanks for saving me but I’ve got it from here.”

    On a Thursday night, in front of people who only knew me as their pastor’s wife, I stood up with others to say, “There’s something the Lord is asking me to surrender.” The weight of what people would think of me nearly glued me to my seat, preventing me from standing.

    But guess what I felt the moment I rose to my feet? Weightlessness. Relief. And tears. Lots and lots of tears. In all my worry about what the people of The Village would think of me—the gasps I imagined, the whispers—what I found instead was fellowship. I wasn’t the untouchable and unrelatable. I became real to them.

    Really in need of a real Savior.

    Misconception #2

    Your gifting should match your husband’s.

    Although you and your husband are one flesh, you are not the same person. The way God made you is different than how he made your husband. God knew what he was doing in putting the two of you together. he doesn’t make mistakes.

    By God’s grace, be the best “you” you can be. Do you enjoy hosting people in your home? Do you love to teach? Do you come alive when you just get to sit across from another woman pouring out her heart?

    Matt is an exceptional preacher and teacher. I have received and accepted multiple invitations to speak and teach but it is not a burning desire within me. I find myself saying “no” more often than “yes.” To lead worship, on the other hand, is something I eagerly desire to do. It excites me to lead five-hundred people in song. Matt loves to sing but, trust me, you don’t want him leading worship in song.

    I am not him and he is not me, praise Jesus.

    Misconception #3

    You can kiss having close friends goodbye.

    There is wisdom in carefully choosing to whom you disclose your hopes, desires, and struggles, especially when doing so sheds light on your husband’s flaws. Not everyone can handle such information with grace and maturity. Don’t buy the lie, though, that you can have no close friends. This will only isolate you and your husband from good fellowship with other believers. Everyone in your church should know that you and your husband are sinners, not because you blatantly participate in sinful acts but because of 1 John 1:8.

    My closest friends for the past twelve years have all either been married to staff, on staff, or covenant members of our church. I have dear friends who are also in ministry in other cities, states, and even countries, but there is something special to having day-in, day-out friends. They see the inconsistencies in my life and are able to speak into it.

    Have there been awkward seasons and disagreements? Yes! But God’s steadfast love has shone the most brilliantly when we addressed the awkward and generously forgave and loved one another in the middle of the mess.

    Misconception #4

    You must be friends with everyone.

    How is this working for you? Even if you’re not a pastor’s or minister’s wife, how deeply are you able to know everyone with whom you come into contact? It’s impossible to be the same kind of friend to everyone. You can try it but most—if not all—of your relationships will be an inch deep. We are limited! It’s a practice in humility to acknowledge that we can’t be everyone’s close friend and must trust the Lord to meet that need in us and them.

    That being said, if your friend circle is so tight that it hasn’t changed in years, do some examination. Is your group of friends hospitable or alienating? You can’t control what others think but you can be warm, amiable, and willing to be flexible, guarding against trading depth for width.

    Misconception #5

    Your kids are the most sanctified in your church.

    Our faith is not an inheritable trait. Although our homes should model what Scripture outlines for a family, our children are individuals with their own faiths. As my husband often says, we can gather all the kindling we can find around their hearts: family devotions, talking of Scripture as we go, modeling forgiveness by asking for it and giving it freely, expressing our own need for the Savior, and praying for their salvation. But, it takes a movement of the Holy Spirit to ignite the flame of faith.

    Our kids are like anyone else’s. They are going to fail. They will choose poorly. My kids are at church a lot. They know all the nooks and crannies, all the stashes of mints and crackers. The staff knows them and they know the staff. This comfort factor can often get them in trouble. Unlike most of the non-staff kids at church, they let their guards down. They don’t feel the need to be on their best behavior. Although we train them to be respectful, they have their moments—as we all do. They’re in need of Jesus as much as the next kid.


    Lauren Chandler is the wife of Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas and president of Acts 29, a global church-planting network. They have three lovely (and lively) children. Whether writing stories, singing songs, or making her home a place to linger, Lauren enjoys creating beautiful and meaningful spaces where people may encounter the Lord of steadfast love imaged perfectly through Jesus. When she's not singing, writing, or spending time with her family, she can be found on the back of a horse.

    by Matt Tully at March 24, 2015 01:16 PM

    Inconsolation

    Frozen Depths: Clear, cold perfection

    I promised I wouldn’t hold out too many roguelike games unless they could show off something unusual, either thematic or mechanic. The *angbands from a week ago were all viable games, but either didn’t bring anything new to the table, or just didn’t quite satisfy.

    Frozen Depths is definitely one to take home to mother though.

    2015-03-22-6m47421-frozen-depths-01 2015-03-22-6m47421-frozen-depths-02 2015-03-22-6m47421-frozen-depths-03

    2015-03-22-6m47421-frozen-depths-04 2015-03-22-6m47421-frozen-depths-05 2015-03-22-6m47421-frozen-depths-06

    Since I am the one making a big deal out of themes and mechanics, I’ll introduce it on those grounds.

    This is a strictly surface-down fantasy game, with a simplified set of races and professions. Everything is cold-themed, which is great because it avoids the vampire-quokka odd couple I talked about the other day. I see no problems with mud monsters and frost crabs wandering into the same room to deal me a tag-team smackdown.

    There’s no outside world to explore, no external quests to pursue, and the only goal (that I have found) is to explore the depths of the dungeon and find the source of the cold that threatens the surface world. Climb out of the dungeon and your life is forfeit as a coward, which means … a-hunting we will go. :\

    Your own body warmth comes into play though too, with a need for warmer clothes as you go deeper and deeper, and warm food as a way of keeping yourself from freezing. Clothing (not armor) and temperature seem like rare additions in a roguelike game, so this twist piques my interest.

    Frozen Depths picks up on some newer conventions in other games: There is a religion system which reminds me vaguely of Stone Soup, but seems more basic (which may actually be a blessing). There’s no magic in Frozen Depths, and the home page suggests it may be a deliberate omission for the sake of simplicity.

    There is also a skill (and/or feat) system, which lets you customize your adventurer as he or she becomes more and more powerful. And the game keeps track of some important features that you’ve met on your downward journey, sort of like a journaling system.

    From a mechanical standpoint, controls and keypresses are much like normal roguelikes, with the arrow keys controlling movement and melee, while a targeting system is controlled with the “f,” “t” and “s” keys. The question mark brings up an entire list, and the “u” key is dedicated to activating items in the environment (plundering corpses, for example).

    Inventory is split from equipment, which means there’s a distinct screen for listing usable items, and a screen dedicated to what you’re wearing and wielding. This is a huge improvement over the traditional rogue-ish keys that dedicate one keypress to armor, another one to weapons, another one to rings, another one to cloaks, etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad naseum.

    Dungeons seem to be limited to one screen of at least 80×25, with the lowest two lines as a character rundown (a full sheet is available with the “@” key). Two lines above that are status display and combat messages, and the remainder of the screen is your gameplay map. It does sometimes mean you have to page through narratives that are too long for the space they appear in, but in Frozen Depths I never felt like I had lost essential information to the display space.

    Frozen Depths throws in a few added effects that I really like. There’s a three-page tutorial for newbies. Killing a monster splatters the walls with blood, and they appear red. Some passages are blocked by ice, and you’ll have to bash your way through them, which sometimes leaves little ice shards around. And Frozen Depths makes a distinction between what you can see and what you’ve seen, with bolded colors representing your field of view.

    The game boasts of 35 levels, although I didn’t have time to see more than the first three or four. What’s at the bottom of the dungeon? I don’t know. You’ll have to explore and find out.

    Storywise I could ask for a little more from Frozen Depths, but there’s enough here to justify it as a game; it’s at least as structurally sound as angband, even if it doesn’t pull in an entire mythical world, like adom. And considering that triple-A titles like Dragon Age carve away huge chunks of conventional fantasy genres and are still magnificent role playing games, I’m comfortable with the lack of a magic-based profession. I’d like to see it happen, but I’m not complaining either.

    One last note before I hand out the gold star you know is coming: Frozen Depths is a free game, but it’s not open source. More’s the pity, but if you need to know licensing requirements or the reason for a closed-room approach, you can read the home page or take it up with the author. Either way, Frozen Depths is in AUR, but not Debian; the download is a precompiled executable with support files.

    It’s easy to see a great text-based game, and even easier to tell when one deserves a special honor. Here’s the best I’ve got: :star: Enjoy! ;)


    Tagged: game

    by K.Mandla at March 24, 2015 12:00 PM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    Learning to live slowly

    Sometimes I feel a little duller around the edges, not quite as alert. It’s a little harder to think, to reason. I feel slightly out of focus. I talk more slowly, move more slowly.

    And yet, living more slowly, I feel like I live more gracefully as well. None of the sharp jitters when my mind works at its fastest, none of the zigzags and interruptions, none of the words tumbling over themselves in their haste. More meditative.

    I know why this is so and I don’t seek to avoid it. The real question is: How can I embrace this state? How can I make the most of it? It is natural, and will only become more so over time.

    Coding currently feels better with a sharp mind, but there are still a myriad tasks to do and things to learn even when I don’t feel at my peak. Over time, I’ll learn to code in a reflective state instead of the intense one I carried over from competitions and quick prototyping. I think this will be good for my growth as a developer. After all, speed is not as useful as insight and care.

    Reflective writing feels better than rapid writing. I don’t feel brilliant, but I feel methodical: following threads slowly, watching my own thoughts.

    Cooking has become something that gives me pleasure. It’s one of those activities that I can indulge in, knowing that I can reliably create value where sometimes writing or coding does not. There are no blocks when it comes to cooking, only the steady slicing of ingredients and the textures and tastes of alchemy.

    This slowness is perfect for listening, for talking. When I was younger, I felt an almost physical itch to be elsewhere, to be away, to be within the world of a book or a computer instead of in conversation.

    Tidying benefits from deliberate thought. I organized my closet and my drawers by colour, and suddenly the patterns are visible. It takes just as much effort to maintain this order as it would to mess it up, and so I keep it.

    Most days, I get very little done. But somehow, looking back over the week, I find that I’ve covered more ground than I thought.

    I have the perfect foundation for learning how to live slowly. Few commitments, few expectations. I’ve lived this first part at a speed that other people have found remarkable but also, perhaps, uncomfortable: speaking, reading, coding, enthusiasm. It might be interesting to experiment with the flip side of that: the kind of stillness that the nuns in my grade school carried with them, the calm of late-night relaxed conversations, the serenity of quiet. I think I can translate the things I’ve loved about my faster life. Enthusiasm and delight don’t need to be breathless. The world is frantic enough. Let me learn how to be contagiously restful. =)

    The post Learning to live slowly appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at March 24, 2015 12:00 PM

    Table Titans

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    9 Things You Should Know About Church Architecture

    A recent newspaper profile of Elevation Church, a megachurch located in Charlotte, North Carolina, led some readers to ask why the church uses an orange inverted-V logo instead of the traditional cross (the church responded by saying, “Our logo represents the resurrection of Christ”).

    Elevation isn’t alone in making such radical changes. Many modern congregations have abandoned or modified design features that have historically been associated with churches. Here are nine things you should know about traditional (mostly Protestant) church architecture:

    1. Steeple — The addition of a steeple to a church often had three functions. First, vertical lines of the steeple helped to visually enhance the lines of the church, directing the viewers' eyes vertically to the heavens. Second, steeples gave church buildings—which were usually short and squat—an aesthetically pleasing feature that enhanced the harmony of the design. Third, steeples were often the highest architectural feature in an area, which provided a landmark for people to find the church from any part of town.

    2. Church bells — Located within the steeple, church bells of often served as a communication device for the local townspeople. The primary purpose of ringing church bells was to signify the time for worshippers to gather for a church service. However, the bells could also used for secular purposes, such as warning people of a fire or an approaching army.

    3. Nave – The nave is the central and principal part of a Christian church, extending from the entrance, sometimes called the narthex, to the pulpit area, sometimes called a chancel or presbytery.

    4. Chancel — In some church designs, the chancel is the front part of the church from which the service is conducted. The pastor(s) and choir are often located in this areas, usually on a raised dais. In some churches, however, the chancel and the nave area are not architecturally distinct.

    5. Baptistry — Until about the 6th century, baptisms were administered in a hall or chapel called a baptistery that was situated close to, or connected with, a church. By the 10th century baptism by affusion (pouring liquid over the head) became a common practice so baptismal fonts often replaced baptisteries. Many churches that practice immersion baptism, such as Baptist churches, have a special baptistry pool that is built into the floor or wall of the chancel area.

    6. Altar/Communion Table — The altar is the table in the chancel that the clergy use for Communion. During the Reformation, some people felt that the term “altar” was theologically misleading and began to refer to it as a Communion table. Anglicans decided that both terms were correct, because it is the altar from which we receive the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and because it is the table on which we celebrate Communion. Today, Anglicans and Lutherans generally call it the altar, while churches in other Protestant traditions tend to call it a Communion table.

    7. Stained glass windows - The term “stained glass” applies to colored glass made with metallic oxides as well as glass on which colors have been painted and then fused in a kiln. The use of stained glass windows in churches gained popularity during the mid-12th century. The two-fold purpose was to create a “heavenly light” that symbolized the presence of God in the church and to serve as a “Poor man’s Bible,” to teach Biblical stories to those who were illiterate. The use of stained glass fell out of favor during the Reformation, but was revived in the mid-19thcentury when the Gothic style once again became popular in Europe and in the United States.

    8. Pulpit – The pulpit is a raised platform or lectern in a church or chapel from which the preacher delivers a sermon. The first reference to a pulpit is found in a letter of Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, in the mid-3rd century. Until the Reformation, most pulpits were located on the left (as viewed by the congregation) and referred to as the gospel side. During and after the Reformation, the pulpit was repositioned to the center of the sanctuary to emphasize the centrality of God’s Word

    9. Cross/Crucifix — Catholic churches use a depiction of the cross (called a crucifix) with an image of the suffering Jesus. In contrast, most Protestant churches tend to use a bare cross to reflect the fact that Jesus overcame his suffering and death and is risen. (Lutheran chuches, which sometimes display a crucifix, are a historical exception to this general rule.)

     

    Recent posts in this series:

    Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps  Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • TGC • Prayer in the Bible • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Orphans • Halloween and Reformation Day • World Hunger • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues

    by Joe Carter at March 24, 2015 06:07 AM

    TULIP Transformed for Mission

    Over the past several years I’ve assessed potential church planting candidates in both Acts 29 and Sojourn Network. I’ve interacted with scores of young, passionate men ready to start churches that are gospel-centered, Reformed, and missional. While for the most part they could pass any confessional test, many of them don’t know how to do theology. They have a theological confession but not theological vision. They lack the vision and ability to connect what they know with how they plan to creatively and constructively advance the mission of God in the world.

    Theological confession is, by definition, defensive and classically expressed in series of affirmations and denials. This is good and necessary. But successful church planting, ministry, and even the Christian life needs more than confession; it needs theological vision. This concept of theological vision explains how so many churches have similar confessions and yet radically different and even competing expressions of ministry. Without the clarity of a comprehensive theological vision, we succumb to emphatic theology with no connection between all the different fragments of theology and the arenas of our lives.1 As Tim Keller argues, if theological confession is our hardware and methodological strategy our software, we desperately need the theological “middleware” of vision to bring our confession to life and inform our methodology. This is an extension of Richard Lints’s siren call in The Fabric of Theology. Reflecting on the necessity of having a coherent theological vision, Lints writes:

    The Christian gospel calls us not only to a well-formed theistic matrix but also to make conscious connections between that matrix and the other matrices of our lives. What I believe about God ought to influence how I view my own identity, my vocation, my family, my leisure pursuits, and so on. It is this matrix of matrices that I have been calling the theological vision. It is composed more narrowly of the theistic matrix (what I will be calling a theological framework) and more broadly of the interconnections between the theistic matrix and all other matrices in one’s noetic structures. Theology involves not just the study of God (theistic matrix) but also the influence of that study on the rest of one’s life (theological vision). It is possible to distinguish these two levels, but they are never separable in practice. (124) 

    Every Christian and church has theological vision—however much it may be distorted, malnourished, or neglected by certain vices (e.g., letting methodology rather than theology drive vision; poor understanding of biblical and systematic theology; unhealthy accommodation to culture over proper contextualization; lacking the maturity to embrace paradox or hold tensions together).2 We embody our theological vision. And too often our theology of grace is robust in our hearts and minds, but it never finds a way to our hands and lives.

    This is the heart of PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace (Zondervan, 2014) [interview | review]—the doctrines of grace as vision for life, ministry, and especially mission. In the wake of the waves sweeping American Christianity—including the gospel-centered, missional, network-church planting, and “Young, Restless, Reformed” movements (some of which overlap)—the Reformed crowd seems to assume they’ve now mastered mission and missional living. This reveals deep lack of self-awareness. If you were to seek out stereotypes about Calvinism, you’d discover some painfully honest feedback. Google relies on an algorithm to suggest the most popular queries, so when users type questions about churches or denominations, Google’s auto-complete feature fills in the rest. When someone typed, “Why are Calvinists . . .” this is what came up:

    Why are Calvinists so mean?

    Why are Calvinists so arrogant?

    Why are Calvinists so smug?

    Why are Calvinists so negative?

    The trouble is that these perceptions are often true. John Piper explains one reason why:

    There is an attractiveness about [the doctrines of grace] to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative. So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic. I’ll just confess that. It’s a sad and terrible thing that that’s the case. Some of this type aren’t even Christians, I think. You can embrace a system of theology and not even be born again.

    There are many exceptions, of course. But before we dismiss the “frozen chosen” charge as “some other Calvinist but not me,” we’d be wise to take a sober look at our life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). I fear too many pastors and churches aren’t seeing the beautiful connections between the doctrines of God’s grace we treasure and the adventure of God’s mission we’re called to pursue. As one pastor recently admitted to me, “I have my theology over here and my ministry over here—with only pixie dust in between.”

    TULIP –> MISSION

    I’m excited to lead a workshop for The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference titled “TULIP Transformed for Mission.” I’ll attempt to ensure there’s more than pixie dust between Calvin’s Institutes on our shelves and the lost on our streets. Theological vision returns us to a rallying cry from the 17th-century heirs of the Reformation: ecclesia semper reformans, semper reformanda. The church is always reforming, and always in need of reform.

    We have found, in our experience and practice at Sojourn Community Church, five pathways to ongoing reform. These “solas” were the rallying cries that summarized the Reformation project. We want to continue those rally cries today, while also contending for new ones: more mystery, beauty, paradox, community, and mission. Indeed, these new solas are essential for what we believe and for answering what many critics both inside and outside Calvinism rightly see as blind spots.

    May we do better theology and mission together as as passionate theologians and vibrant witnesses to the God of grace.


    1 Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Crossway, 2010), 16, 19.

    2 Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomena to Evangelical Theology (Eerdmans, 1993), 18–19.


    Editors’ note: Daniel Montgomery’s workshop at The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference next month will focus on taking TULIP out of a defensive framework and putting into a declaration framework, inviting our churches to explore, experience, and declare the doctrines of grace.

    by Daniel Montgomery at March 24, 2015 05:01 AM

    On My Shelf: Life and Books with Darrin Patrick

    On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers. I corresponded with Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey in St. Louis and a Council member for The Gospel Coalition, about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, and biographies that have shaped him.


    What’s on your nightstand right now?

    Lately I’ve been on a leadership kick: 

    ● Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed by Michael Eisner and Aaron Cohen

    ● Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter by Gautam Mukunda

    I’m also reading:

    ● Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown

    ● Collected Writings on Scripture by D. A. Carson

    ● Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls

    ● New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp

    If you’re trying to visualize that stack, know that I have most of these on Kindle.

    What books do you regularly re-read and why?

    Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller. It’s really easy for us to pit things against each other that God holds together, like evangelism and social justice. This book is a constant reminder that God shows his holiness by defending the cause of the orphans and widows. A church for the city is going to care for the vulnerable and marginalized.

    A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture by Mark Thompson. I re-read this book to remind myself about the importance of biblical authority in my life and the life of the church.

    The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. So many times I find myself in a depleted state in my life and ministry. This book reminds me that my problem is not external circumstances or even internal emotions, but that my affections for Christ need to be rekindled.

    Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper. At times, it feels like the size and complexity of our church requires me to function like a CEO. This book recalls my need for a shepherd’s heart.

    What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?

    George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas Kidd and Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden. I am so inspired by Whitefield’s passion for the lost. He met people where they were and spoke to the common man. I love Marsden’s focus on Edwards as a family man, a pastor, a writer, and a participant in a major move of God. I identify with all of these spheres (hoping for a major move of God) and so appreciate the way Marsden shows us how Edwards navigated through them.


    Editors’ noteRegister to see Darrin Patrick speak on various topics at our 2015 National Conference next month, April 13 to 15, in Orlando.

    Also in the On My Shelf series: Tony Reinke, Tim KellerBryan ChapellLauren ChandlerRussell MooreJared WilsonKathy KellerTullian TchividjianJ. D. GreearKevin DeYoungKathleen NielsonThabiti AnyabwileCollin HansenFred SandersRosaria ButterfieldNancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.

    by Matt Smethurst at March 24, 2015 05:01 AM

    God the Great Janitor?

    Many who reflect on issues related to faith and work have become accustomed to describing God as a worker. We say that he’s the Great Architect who designed the world, the Great Artist who carefully crafted each leaf, and the Great Physician who heals our wounds. How often, though, have you heard him described as the Great Janitor?

    Some of my friends tell me that comparing God to a janitor feels irreverent. But why? Could it be that our view of work is shaped more by our cultural idols than by the gospel of the Suffering Servant? Could it be that we lack respect for the work of janitors or the ability to see their good work as an act of image-bearing? Can a biblical vision of work reframe the way we view vocations that care for place, like janitors, maintenance staff, housekeepers, custodians, and others?

    When I was in my early 20s, I worked as a janitor a few times. One time was for a Christian nonprofit, and I took the job as a way to move up the ranks—hoping to land in “ministry” eventually. Although I now lament the dualistic, discontented, and dismissive way that I approached my work, I am grateful that I met Len.

    Len was also a janitor, and his life was a living sermon about a theology of work. He had a profound effect on my view of vocation long before I had the vocabulary to describe what I was seeing. Captured by the beauty of the gospel, he was a joyful steward of every inch of the facility. As I observed his life, I became convinced that janitorial work reflects the glory of God.

    Here are just four of the main ways that janitors, and people with similar occupations, display the actions and attributes of God through their work.

    1. Protecting Humanity Through Micro-Biological Warfare

    Scripture speaks of God as our great protector (Ps. 91), and God uses janitors to shield us from many things that would otherwise harm us. In each room, especially places like bathrooms, there are viruses and bacteria that could greatly harm us, even kill us. When janitors pull the trigger on a spray bottle of bleach, they are embarking on chemical warfare against the germs that would make us sick and take our lives. By keeping us from getting sick, janitors contribute to the work of every industry, and the flourishing of all aspects of life.

    A doctor cannot diagnose, a teacher cannot teach, and an architect cannot design when they curled up at home, under the attack of Salmonella or E.Coli.

    2. Maintaining, Sustaining, and Serving in Humble Obscurity

    Each day God sustains and maintains each aspect of the world (Heb. 1:3), and most of the time, we never even notice. He sweeps the streets through the wind and the rain, mops up our spills through the warmth of the sun, and fills the halls of the earth with air fresheners like Ponderosa Pines and Magnolias. As his janitorial staff, he employs plants, animals, chemicals, and image-bearing humans to each play a role in maintaining and sustaining the earth.

    In the midst of all of this grace, God rarely gets noticed. Our every breath can be a “thank you” to God because we, the creation, have been served by our Creator. Even though our hearts are often ungrateful, and we don’t notice the faithful service of God, he continues to be the true and great janitor each day, for each of us.

    When janitors pick up a mop and begin to serve the world in obscurity, they are imitating the Great Sustainer of all things. They are reflecting the image of God, and even if nobody notices, they are seen by their God as they reflect the true greatness of the kingdom of God (Matt. 20:25-28).

    3. Stewardship of God’s Property

    Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian, politician, and journalist, once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'” Janitors are stewards of places created and owned by God. Every fabric in a carpet, tile on a counter, and light bulb above our heads belongs to Christ. Regardless of who owns the deed to the property that janitors are called to steward, they should know that the property ultimately belongs to Christ (Ps. 24:1). And regardless of the name of the person who cuts their paycheck, they ultimately work for the sovereign Lord (Col. 3:23). Our God cares about places, and each janitor who reverently, thoughtfully, and intentionally tends to a particular part of God’s world is reflecting God’s image.

    4. Work of Restoration

    The trash cans are full, the water cooler has dwindled down to the last few sips, the carpet is stained, and somehow people have handled the paper towels like a raccoon rummages through a trashcan, leaving strips of paper all around the bathroom. It’s 4:59 p.m. and our workday is finished, but the janitors’ work has just begun. Working in the night, they restore and renew the office, so that by the next morning, it looks as good as new.

    This daily work of restoration is a sign, preview, and foretaste of the coming restoration when Christ will return and “makes all things new” (Rev. 21:5). The restored facility is a foreshadow of the coming restoration of all things, and janitors reflect the image of God when they engage in this work of restoration.

    Let Us Give Thanks

    All of us who benefit from the work of janitors should be intentional about expressing gratitude for their good work. Let our imaginations about this occupation be shaped by the gospel, rather than the pattern of this world, which values status over service.

    To those who work as janitors, or in a similar field, please be encouraged by these words from Martin Luther King Jr., who said,

    If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

    We see your good work, and we give thanks for it. And even when it’s overlooked, your work is seen by Christ, the Lord over every clean counter and mopped tile.


    Editors’ note: Join us for a panel discussion at The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference about faith and work. Bethany Jenkins, Director of Every Square Inch—TGC’s faith and work initiative—will join TGC Council Members Harry Reeder III and Dan Doriani to consider the question, “Do Executive Jobs Have More Kingdom Value than Dirty Jobs?”

    by Jim Mullins at March 24, 2015 05:01 AM

    Christ and the Conflagration of Canaan

    A New York Times article recently described the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria as “a slow-motion genocide.” Atrocities such as beheadings, burnings, crucifixions, and mass burials (sometime of live victims) defy human comprehension. Islamic mujahideen (holy warriors) smile at the camera, waving flags and holding up AK-47s, proud of their brutal accomplishments. One does not have to be a Christian to be sickened by such horrors.

    In this cultural moment, with daily reports of genocide throughout the world, the question of Canaan’s destruction under the ministry of Joshua occasionally enters the conversation: “How could the God of Scripture command the violent slaughter of an entire society?” In other words, doesn’t the Old Testament practice of ḥerem (Hebrew word meaning “to place under a ban” or “devote to destruction”) amount to genocide? How can we reconcile this history with our belief that “God is love”?

    Destruction of Canaan

    The Hebrew term ḥerem, Walter Brueggemann notes, “refers to the religious requirement that everything that Israel captures or gains in war—booty as well as people—is to be ‘utterly destroyed,’ offered up to YHWH in conflagration [destruction by fire] or some other mode of killing (thus acknowledging YHWH to be the real victory in a war).” In this way, the practice of ḥerem sought to ensure the Lord’s complete sovereignty (Deut. 20:16-18). For the current inhabitants of the Promised Land (i.e., Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites) the options of enslavement or treaty were not available. Men, women, children, and cattle—everything that breathed, was to be destroyed.

    Why did God give this command? As the text explains, it was so that “they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20:18).

    Do you find this command disturbing? If so, you’re not alone. While there are historical and theological differences between the Lord’s command for Israel to enact ḥerem and the Sharia-like violence of Islamic mujahideen, we recognize some similarity: an effort to exterminate other humans who think and behave differently from one’s own sacred tradition. How can believers in the God of Abraham—Christians and Jews alike—possibly explain, much less vindicate, what appears to be wanton violence motivated by religious xenophobia (fear and/or disdain for other ethnicities)? There are no simple explanations. However, features of the narrative and wider redemptive history must be considered before reaching a conclusion that questions the moral character of God.

    First, the Lord’s command to enact ḥerem was preceded by a long period of divine patience and longsuffering in the face of Canaanite wickedness (gross forms of idolatry, immorality, and injustice, including the sacrifice of children). Thus, the Lord said to Abraham in Genesis 15:16, “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” According to Leviticus 18:24ff. and 20:22, Canaanite iniquity had defiled the land to the extent that it “vomited out its inhabitants” and “punished it for its sin” (18:25). Therefore, “on account of the wickedness of the nations” (Deut. 9:4), the Lord would finally extend his hand of judgment.

    In addition to restraining his judgment over the course of many centuries (from the time of Abraham to Joshua), the Lord initiated Israel’s campaign of ḥerem with a striking example of his redemptive grace for the Canaanites: the story of Rahab. This woman, arguably furthest from the Lord (a Canaanite prostitute), is not only saved from judgment, but even drawn into the family of God to such a degree that she becomes a great-grandmother of King David, the Jewish monarch through whom Messiah Jesus would eventually come. Right up to the end, God displays his desire to lovingly embrace Canaanites who turn toward him in faith. 

    In view of the wider theological and historical context, we find that the conquest of Canaan was in fact not motivated by xenophobia. It was, rather, driven by the necessity of God’s holiness. Because the Promised Land was intended to showcase the beauty of this holiness—a place where the world would find purity, wholeness, and truth (“shalom”)—it was necessary to eliminate every form of paganism that would threaten such life. This, once again, is the reason given in Deuteronomy 20:18, that “[the Canaanites] may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.”

    Meaning of Israel’s Conquest

    These observations help us to see that ḥerem was fundamentally concerned with consecrating the land for God’s purposes. You might say that it constituted Israel’s worship. A cursory reading of Joshua’s early chapters makes this point, where, for instance, we see the Israelites setting themselves apart in religious purity (3:5), joining the priests in faithful procession behind the Ark of the Covenant (3:3-4), undergoing circumcision (5:2-9), celebrating the Passover (5:10-12), and following the “commander of the army of the LORD” (5:13-15). Such activity defines Israel as worshipers devoted to preparing the Promised Land for God’s glory.

    At this point of our explanation, readers will likely divide based on their theological convictions. Among Christians and Jews who accept the biblical portrait of a holy and sovereign God (with the prerogative to stand in judgment upon his rebellious creatures), there is the capacity to understand why the Lord eventually executed ḥerem (while no doubt still remaining uncomfortable with the thought). All sinful behavior provokes divine judgment (for God’s holiness requires him to address rebellion; see Nahum 1:3). Such judgment is often a long time coming (what theologians call “common grace”) but come it must (2 Cor. 5:10). If someone cannot accept the notion of judgment or hell, he will likely have a problem with God’s judgment of Canaan. 

    To understand why God commanded Joshua to destroy the Canaanites, you might think of it this way: the divine justice awaiting humanity on the last day effectively confronted the Canaanites in a particular moment of history, an extraordinary moment (not to be repeated) that foreshadows the final day of reckoning of all humanity (1 Cor. 10:11). This is where Jesus enters the picture.

    Role of Jesus

    So how do Christians—men and women whose lives are defined by the person of Jesus Christ—apply the biblical teaching of ḥerem? One option is to drive a wedge between the wrathful deity of the Old Testament and the Prince of Peace who walks through the pages of the New Testament. This option, however, will not suffice, since we understand God’s character to be the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Ironically, it is here, in what appears to be the point of disconnect (the love and peace of our Savior Jesus), that we find the reason why ḥerem is relevant for today.

    The final word of the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible (and the last word of the English Old Testament) is the word ḥerem: “lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Mal. 4:6). The Old Covenant record concludes by anticipating destruction, the so-called “Day of the LORD” (Mal. 4:5) when God enters human history to powerfully save and judge (Is. 13:6; Ezek. 13:5). Various images are used to describe this Day of the Lord, including shaking of the heavens and the earth (Is. 13:13; Ezek. 38:19; Hag. 2:21-22; Joel 3:16), darkening of the sky (Is. 5:30; Ezek. 32:7-8; Zeph. 1:15), and the day of the Lord’s sacrifice (Zeph. 1:8).

    This is where we find the good news. Jesus came in fulfillment of Israel’s end-time hope: “The kingdom of God has come near,” he proclaimed (Mark 1:15). And as his life took shape, Jesus—the ultimate Joshua—would destroy the ultimate enemy of God—Satan and his minions—in a new ḥerem. No longer limited to the soil of Palestine, however, King Jesus would reign over all the earth in true righteousness and justice.

    But how did Jesus win this victory? Unlike Joshua, not by putting wicked people to the sword. The one to feel the point of a sword was a Jewish woman named Mary, Jesus’s mother, whose soul was pierced at the sight of her son’s crucifixion (Luke 2:35). What exactly did she observe? She watched the sinless Savior die, perfect spotless righteousness, the great unchangeable I AM, the King of glory and of grace. Yes, amid a darkened sky (Matt. 27:45), and trembling earth (Matt. 27:51) the Lord’s sacrifice was completed (John 19:30).

    Through his death and resurrection, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15). Christ’s death secured our pardon, enabling us to face the final day of judgment with confidence. We realize that while we were enemies of God on account of sin, no better than the morally bankrupt Canaanites, we were reconciled by the death of his Son (Rom. 5:10). Yes, like Rahab of old, dead in our trespasses and sins, we became alive in Christ by grace. There is therefore no room for boasting. None of us can feel proud of ourselves. All we can do is acknowledge the One who has saved us, worshiping him and proclaiming God’s foreign policy to the world: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

    by Chris Castaldo at March 24, 2015 05:01 AM

    CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

    Workout: March 24, 2015

    Mike doesn't always PR his clean, but when he does, he pulls the bar all the way to his shoulders.

    Mike kept the bar very close to his hips on this pull, and the result was dramatic height. When the bar is in the right spot, everything falls into place. Well done!

    15 minutes on pistol progressions

    5 rounds:

    8 shoulders-to-overheads (95/65 lb.)

    8 front-rack lunges (95/65 lb.)

    8 toes-to-bars

    by Mike at March 24, 2015 01:16 AM

    CrossFit Naptown

    Throwback TUESDAY

    Tuesday’s Workout:

    WOD:
    Air Force (95/65) or Top Gun (135/95)
    20 Thrusters
    20 Sumo Deadlift High Pull
    20 Push Jerks
    20 Overhead Squat
    20 Front Squat

    Post Workout:
    CORE WORK!

     

    Throwback Tuesday:

    Click here to link back to the last time we did this workout (with subsequent links to when we did it the previous two years…)! Remember how we keep saying blog and save your scores?? This is totally why. See how your fitness has grown during your CrossFit journey. 

     

    Open Finale:

     

    CrossFit Infiltrate, CrossFit NapTown, and Three Kings CrossFit will be working together to throw down on the final week of the CrossFit Open. We are going to send this year out with a bang by bringing athletes together in an incredible environment to destroy the last workout of the Open. Artie’s On the Go will be making food for the event and we hope to have as many people come out to compete and support as possible from CFNT!

     

    11012739_10101569633124704_2487433824662016060_n

     Movement Clinic Time Again

    Who: anyone and everyone, new and old to CFNT! (FREE)

    What: 90 minutes of focused skill work on cleans and kipping!

    When: Saturday March 28th, 12:00-1:30pm

    Where: at good ole CrossFit NapTown (#darkplaces)

    Why: to slow some of the more complex skills and movements down to make every single human at this gym a total baller at life

    How: just show up on Saturday in your regular workout clothes with a smile!

    The FUNdamentals makeover is here to stay and Rachel and Anna are back at it for this month’s movement clinic Saturday from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over basic clean progressions and skills, drills, and progressions for ALL THINGS KIPPING. These clinics are perfect for members of all skill levels and it is totally FREE. This time will be incredibly focused on skills and technique with progressions galore to break things down. Let us know if you ave any questions by emailing anna@crossfitnaptown.com or rachel@crossfitnaptown.com and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!

    by Anna at March 24, 2015 12:05 AM

    March 23, 2015

    Practically Efficient

    Agile's open letter to banks

    From Agile, the maker of 1Password:

    With the conversation about online security and banking so fresh in everyone’s minds, I thought now would be a great time to send a message out to banks and financial institutions everywhere to encourage them to to take users’ security more seriously. I’m writing this not only as a member of the 1Password team who deals with security issues on a daily basis, but also as a concerned customer who just wants simple and secure access to her data.

    The TD Canada Trust tweet that precipitated this is just incredible.

    by Eddie Smith at March 23, 2015 10:41 PM

    The Frailest Thing

    Fit the Tool to the Person, Not the Person to the Tool

    I recently had a conversation with a student about the ethical quandaries raised by the advent of self-driving cars. Hypothetically, for instance, how would a self-driving car react to a pedestrian who stepped out in front of it? Whose safety would it be programmed to privilege?

    The relatively tech-savvy student was unfazed. Obviously this would only be a problem until pedestrians were forced out of the picture. He took it for granted that the recalcitrant human element would be eliminated as a matter of course in order to perfect the technological system. I don’t think he took this to be a “good” solution, but he intuited the sad truth that we are more likely to bend the person to fit the technological system than to design the system to fit the person.

    Not too long ago, I made a similar observation:

    … any system that encourages machine-like behavior from its human components, is a system poised to eventually eliminate the human element altogether. To give it another turn, we might frame it as a paradox of complexity. As human beings create powerful and complex technologies, they must design complex systemic environments to ensure their safe operation. These environments sustain further complexity by disciplining human actors to abide by the necessary parameters. Complexity is achieved by reducing human action to the patterns of the system; consequently, there comes a point when further complexity can only be achieved by discarding the human element altogether. When we design systems that work best the more machine-like we become, we shouldn’t be surprised when the machines ultimately render us superfluous.

    A few days ago, Elon Musk put it all very plainly:

    “Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk believes that cars you can control will eventually be outlawed in favor of ones that are controlled by robots. The simple explanation: Musk believes computers will do a much better job than us to the point where, statistically, humans would be a liability on roadways [….] Musk said that the obvious move is to outlaw driving cars. ‘It’s too dangerous,’ Musk said. ‘You can’t have a person driving a two-ton death machine.'”

    Mind you, such a development, were it to transpire, would be quite a boon for the owner of a company working on self-driving cars. And we should also bear in mind Dale Carrico’s admonition “to consider what these nonsense predictions symptomize in the way of present fears and desires and to consider what present constituencies stand to benefit from the threats and promises these predictions imply.”

    If autonomous cars become the norm and transportation systems are designed to accommodate their needs, it will not have happened because of some force inherent in the technology itself. It will happen because interested parties will make it happen, with varying degrees of acquiescence from the general public.

    This was precisely the case with the emergence of the modern highway system that we take for granted. Its development was not a foregone conclusion. It was heavily promoted by government and industry. As Walter Lippmann observed during the 1939 World’s Fair, “General motors has spent a small fortune to convince the american public that if it wishes to enjoy the full benefit of private enterprise in motor manufacturing, it will have to rebuild its cities and its highways by public enterprise.”

    Consider as well the film below produced by Dow Chemicals in support of the 1956 Federal Aid-Highway Act:

    Whatever you think about the virtues or vices of the highway system and a transportation system designed premised on the primacy the automobile, my point is that such a system did not emerge in a cultural or political vacuum. Choices were made; political will was exerted; money was spent. So it is now, and so it will be tomorrow.


    by Michael Sacasas at March 23, 2015 10:14 PM

    512 Pixels

    On a backlight Apple Bluetooth keyboard →

    Joe Rossignol at MacRumors:

    A new Apple wireless keyboard featuring backlight keys and a power button has been spotted on the Apple Online Store in Czech Republic and Hungary, with an identical Arabic version appearing on the U.S. storefront. The graphic render shows controls for adjusting the brightness of the backlight added to the F5 and F6 keys, as found on current MacBook models, while the eject key for CDs has been replaced with a power button.

    I use the Apple wireless keyboard both at home and work, and have long wanted a backlit version. My guess is that if this is coming, it's got some tech from the MacBook's new keyboard in it. If this thing is real, I'll be picking one up.

    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at March 23, 2015 04:30 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    The Interpretive Journey: Free Video Lecture from Scott Duvall and Danny Hays

    How does biblical interpretation work? How does the interpretive journey yield theological principles? How can we work to make our theology as biblical as possible?

    Find answers to these questions in this free lecture from the Grasping God’s Word Video Lectures. This lecture (plus others in the series) features J. Scott Duvall; the others feature J. Daniel Hays.

     

    Duvall and Hays share more about the video lectures in this video.

     

    Learn more about the Grasping God’s Word Video Lectures.

    Grasping God's Word Video Lectures

    by ZA Blog at March 23, 2015 04:01 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Reading the Bible with Dead Guys: John Calvin on John 1:1

    Reading the Bible With Dead Guys is a weekly blog series giving you the chance to read God’s Word alongside some great theologians from church history. With content adapted from the Crossway Classic Commentaries series, these posts feature reflections on Scripture by giants of the faith like John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, and more.

    Today we’ll hear from John Calvin (1509–1564) on John 1:1.


    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” - John 1:1

    In this introduction the evangelist asserts the eternal divinity of Christ, telling us that he is the eternal God who “appeared in a body” (1 Timothy 3:16). The intention is to show that mankind’s restoration had to be accomplished by the Son of God, since by his power all things were created, and he alone breathes life and energy into all creatures so that they remain as they are, and since in mankind he has uniquely shown both his power and his grace. Even after the fall of Adam he has not stopped being generous and kind to Adam’s descendants.

    This teaching is very necessary. Since we should only seek life and salvation in God, how can we put our trust in Christ if we are not sure of what is taught here?

    The evangelist therefore assures us that when we believe in Christ we are not moving away from the one eternal God, and also that life is now restored to the dead through the kindness of Christ, who was the source and cause of life when mankind was still sinless. The evangelist calls the Son of God the Word simply because, first, he is the eternal wisdom and will of God; and secondly, because he is the exact image of God’s purpose. Just as men’s speech is called the expression of their thoughts, so it is not inappropriate to say that God expresses himself to us by his speech or Word.

    The other meanings of the Word are not so appropriate. The Greek certainly means “definition” or “reason” or “calculation”; but I do not wish to enter into philosophical discussion beyond the limits of my faith. And we see that the Spirit of God is so far from approving such subtleties that in talking with us his very silence proclaims how sober we should be in our intellectual approach to such high mysteries.

    Now, since God in creating the world revealed himself by the Word, he had previously had Christ hidden in himself. Thus the Word has a double relationship, to God and to men. Servetus imagines that the eternal Word came into being only when Christ was active in the creation of the world. As if he had not been active before his power was made known by his visible work! The evangelist teaches something quite different here, for he does not ascribe a temporal beginning to the Word but says that he was from the beginning and thus transcends all times.

    Augustine is therefore right when he reminds us that the beginning mentioned here has no beginning. For although in a natural sequence the Father is before his Wisdom, yet those who imagine any point of time when he preceded his Wisdom deprive Christ of his glory. And this is the eternal Son who, extending back for an infinite time before the foundation of the world, lay hidden in God (if I may put it like that) and who, after being dimly outlined to the patriarchs under the law for a long succession of years, was at length shown more fully in a human body.

    This excerpt was adapted from John Calvin’s commentary on John, part of the Crossway Classic Commentaries series edited by Alister McGrath and J. I. Packer.


    John Calvin (1509–1564) was perhaps the preeminent theologian of the Reformation. Known best for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he also wrote landmark expositions on most of the books in the Bible.

    Interested in learning more about John Calvin? Check out Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever by Michael Horton.

    by Nick Rynerson at March 23, 2015 01:42 PM

    Clinging to Christ

    In this video, Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ, reflects on Philippians 3, encouraging us to cling to our identity in Christ. Rather than finding hope in our own righteousness, Fitzpatrick points us to the perfect work and righteousness of Jesus.

    Clinging to Christ from Crossway on Vimeo.

    This video is part of Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month. Learn more and get involved at crossway.org/PastorsWifeAppreciation.

    by Matt Tully at March 23, 2015 01:33 PM

    Reformedish

    Why Did God Give the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? 5 Reasons

    forbidden-treeAs the fountainhead of the story of the Bible, some of the most complicated questions in theology are densely clustered in the first few chapters of Genesis. After hearing the story as a kid in Sunday School, one of the first ones you end up asking is, “Why would God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the Garden? I mean, given that it could derail the whole project so quickly, why put it there at all? What’s the point? What reasons could God possibly have?”

    Leave it to Turretin to tackle the issue with his usual, rigorous clarity, to come up with, not one, but five reasons for planting the tree in the middle of the Garden. Before laying out his answer, though, it’s important to set a bit of background.

    Locating Adam

    First, you need to know that Turretin treats the question in his section dealing with human nature in its originally constituted state. That makes a big difference when it comes to a couple of his reasons. See, earlier on in this topic he points out that when you’re dealing with questions of anthropology in theology, you need to recognize there are four states you need to think about (Vol. 1, Top. 8, Qu. 1.I-II). There’s:

    (a) human nature as God originally made it

    (b) human nature after we made a mess of it through sin

    (c) human nature after God has regenerated it as it goes through the process of sanctification

    (d) human nature once God has ultimately perfected and glorified it in the future

    Much confusion results when theologians don’t distinguish these states in their discussions of human nature and they end up heatedly talking past each other.

    Second, you have to know that, along with all the other Reformed dogmaticians of his time, Turretin considered Adam to be entered into a covenant of nature or works, with God. Strictly speaking, it’s a covenant only by God’s condescension. God isn’t an equal party, being an infinite creator, and is only under obligation according to his own Word. All the same, Adam was given a law with curses attached for disobedience and blessings by way of reward for obedience. For more on this, see here.

    From there, we can move on to discuss the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In his section on the topic (Vol. 1, Top. 8, Qu. 4), he quickly dispenses with the idea that we can know what kind of fruit tree it was. Instead, we must discover why it got its name. Turretin’s suggestion is that the tree’s name revealed its nature as both a sacramental tree as well as pointing ahead to its experiential reality. In other words, by eating of it, Adam and Eve would know by experience what it means to know the good of obedience and the evil of disobedience.

    This command to not eat of the Tree was what we might call a “positive” law in that eating the fruit wasn’t inherently good or evil, but only became so by the command of God. It’s wrong “because God said so.” Still, it symbolically represented the whole of the natural law and became a test, a trial, where the obedience of Adam would be “explored.” Would he cling to God’s own word in love and obedience, or prefer his own will by heeding the voice of the tempter? (Incidentally, for those puzzled by the reference, yes, classic Reformed theology had a robust, creational doctrine of natural law).

    Making Things Explicit

    So then, now we are prepared to hear Turretin’s five reasons that God placed the Tree in the Garden as an explicitly, “exploratory” command, on top of Adam’s natural obligations:

    1. In order that God, who had granted the dominion of all things to man, might declare himself to be the Lord of man and man might understand himself to be a servant bound to obey and adhere to him. Although the natural law had already clearly declared that, yet because someone might think the natural law to be a property of nature and not a law, he wished therefore (by a peculiar law about a think absolutely indifferent) to declare this more clearly. Thus on the one hand, the dominion of God might appear…on the other, the duty of man.
    2. That sin might be made the more conspicuous by that external symbol and the evil of the concealed ulcer be dragged to the light (or the virtue of the obedience be far more clearly exhibited). For the virtue of obedience would have been the more illustrious as the evil was because forbidden of God…
    3. To declare that man was created by him with free will; for if he had been without it, he would not have imposed such a law upon him.
    4. That by interdicting the fruit of a beautiful tree, he might teach that his happiness does not consist in the enjoyment of earthly things; otherwise God would not have wished to prevent his using it.
    5. To teach that God alone and his service must be sought before all things as the highest good and that we should acquiesce in it alone.

    Now, many might seek to add further reasons to Turretin’s here. Indeed, one of the most interesting and compelling suggestions is that the Tree was ultimately to be a gift to Adam after passing his test (his probationary period, if you will) and entering into the blessings of obedience. All the same, at this stage in the narrative, Turretin’s answers are instructive for us.

    First, it’s helpful to realize Turretin doesn’t limit himself to one reason. Oftentimes we consider and discard answers in theology because we presume there must be only one correct answer to any situation and neglect the fact that multiple answers or multiple dimensions to a single answer might be true. We shouldn’t be hasty or reductionistic, especially when dealing with the purposes of God.

    Also, it’s worth mentioning how well this account comports with Paul’s illustrative retelling his/Adam’s/Israel’s situation in Romans 7 when it comes to the entrance of the Law:

    What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:7-13)

    I would be surprised if Turretin wasn’t explicitly engaged in some intertextual interpretation here.

    Finally, if we could sum up all these reasons into one basic thought, it’s that God wanted to make things explicit. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil clarified humanity’s relationship with God, set expectations, held out promises and threats, and instructed Adam in what his truest and deepest good was. God is not arbitrary, cruel, or unclear. He declares his law explicitly for the good of his creatures. Unfortunately, we very explicitly botched it.

    Thankfully, he declares his gospel by an even clearer word: Jesus.

    Soli Deo Gloria


    by Derek Rishmawy at March 23, 2015 01:16 PM

    512 Pixels

    RSS Sponsor: HipChat →

    For far too long, email has been the main medium for communication at work. While email isn’t going away, team communication platforms like HipChat are allowing for more collaborative and productive communication experiences between co-workers.

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    This post is sponsored via The Syndicate.

    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at March 23, 2015 01:00 PM

    Justin Taylor

    In Death, a Witness to Life: Kara Tippetts (1976-2015)

    Kara Tippetts went to be with her Lord on Sunday, March 22, 2015.

    You can read her obituary here.

    She recently wrote on her blog:

    My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping.

    But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus.

    He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live.

    I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives.

    I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves.

    I get to laugh and cry and wonder over Heaven.

    I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus—and He will provide.

    He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love, will cover us all.

    And it will carry us—carry us in ways we cannot comprehend.

    Kara was the author of the book The Hardest Peace, and also the author of an open letter to suicide advocate and victim Brittany Maynard.

    Psalm 145:17-19

    The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
    The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
    He fulfills the desire of those who fear him He also hears their cry and saves them

    Psalm 16:11

    You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 16, 18

    13 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
    14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
    18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

    Revelation 22:20

    He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

    by Justin Taylor at March 23, 2015 12:53 PM

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    Fuel Dumping: A Little-Understood Trick to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Airfare

    194798561_f024ab66d7_z

    There’s a fun trick that can help you save hundreds of dollars on your next long flight—but it’s a little complicated and requires a bit of work.

    Bloggers get hate mail over sharing this tip (I’m not kidding), presumably because some people feel entitled to keep secrets to themselves. In my opinion, the only reason this loophole hasn’t been closed has nothing to do with its public knowledge but rather that it takes effort and attention to benefit from it.

    Basically, “fuel dumping” is a ticketing strategy to help you strip the fuel surcharges from certain international airfares by adding on an extra, unused segment to the end of the trip.

    This post from Scott is helpful in explaining some details. Here’s an excerpt:

    What you should worry about is finding flights with low base fare and high fuel surcharge, generally designated as YQ (sometimes YR) in the fare construction that you can find through ITA or other fare search engines. Base fares between the U.S. and Europe may be $80 each way in winter and $120 in summer.

    The reason the price you see is so high is that the fuel surcharge can be $500 plus an extra $100 in taxes. Dump the fuel and fares as low as $200 between New York and Europe are not unheard of. These low base fares are called “candidate fares” and are not all that difficult to find. Just look for low total fares and check the fare construction to see how much of it is YQ. If it’s just low because the base fare is $200 each way and there’s no fuel surcharge, then this fuel dumping technique isn’t going to help you at all.

    For those of you interested in the black-hat side of travel hacking, fuel dumping may be worth your time. Everyone else, stick with basic strategy of earning miles and points. It’s much simpler and can help you travel for nearly-free.

    ###

    Image: Doug

    by Chris Guillebeau at March 23, 2015 12:45 PM

    Inconsolation

    dominoes and more: A pocket games collection

    When I was a kid, I was forced at interval to endure the common ritual of The Family Vacation, which usually involved traveling long distances in the back of a car across flat landscape with very little to do, other than annoy a sibling.

    Children suffering the same torture today have all manner of things to occupy them, not the least of which being smartphones, netbooks or other electronic gizmos. In my day, we had to make do with cards, pocket-sized games, travel versions of boardgames, or pen-and-paper puzzles. You do remember what a pen and paper are, right? :???:

    I’m sort of pleased to see that some of those rudimentary distractions have made the leap to digital text-based game format, so I’ll lump some of them together today as mini-games or exceptionally lightweight versions. What I have here is certainly nothing spectacular, but I do sometimes get messages saying a program was helpful in unexpected ways.

    chess.pl

    2015-03-22-6m47421-chess.pl

    By the author of okiworld, this is a very straightforward and simple text-based chess game that manages to outdo obtuse behemoths like gnuchess or crafty in terms of usability. It’s not a particularly good chess client, so if you’re ranked globally, you’ll probably wipe the floor with it in a few minutes. But for those of us who lack your godlike skills and demeanor, it’s a better option than either of the heavyweights. File size: 22K, plus the perl infrastructure.

    dominoes

    2015-03-22-6m47421-dominoes

    Also by the author of okiworld, a rudimentary attempt at a dominoes partner, again as a perl script. This is the only text-based dominoes client I’ve seen in two years of scraping the text-only crud off the bottom of the Internet, and sadly, it’s not very impressive to me. Commands are a little awkward, the board is hard to read and for what I can tell, it doesn’t really follow the rules of dominoes that I learned. It works, but just doesn’t grab me. File size: 6.3K, plus the need for perl again.

    mastermind-nc

    2015-03-22-6m47421-mastermind-nc

    A very primitive and not very visual rendition of the Mastermind game, but with ncurses support, color and mostly arrow key controls. Up and down arrows push you through the available colors, and enter submits your guess for comparison. The upside of this is its four-corner approach to the display, which means it should (emphasis on “should”) run in the most unforgiving of terminal dimensions. The make command will dump this into a dedicated folder in your $HOME directory. Executable size: 22K.

    othello

    2015-03-22-6m47421-othello

    Reaching back again into archive.org for this one, a simple coordinate-based Reversi game with good manners and an easy learning curve. Having said that, there’s only one difficulty level: something on par with Musashi’s Deadly Brain. While it’s perfectly believable that someone with a little more skill and a lot more patience might beat this thing, suffice to say I lack those qualities. Has onboard help and a polite demeanor. I like polite programs. Executable size: 23K.

    slider

    2015-03-22-6m47421-slider

    A one-shot, no-frills 15 puzzle written in C. It is terrifically small and works like a charm, but is a bit unintuitive, has no real interface and needs a lot more attention than it has gotten so far. A tip or two: Arrow keys move the gap, not the numbers, and so you’ll spend a lot of time thinking backwards as you play this. Pressing “q” will exit cleanly; compilation command is in the comments of the source file. Executable size: 6.3K.


    If you think this game parade is running short, you’re sadly mistaken. I managed to hack through a dozen or so by lumping them together into bulk posts, but I still have about a dozen more on The List. Before we go back to boring old network monitors and the text editor du jour. Aren’t games more fun? Don’t answer that. … :\


    Tagged: game

    by K.Mandla at March 23, 2015 12:00 PM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    Sketched Book – The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph – Ryan Holiday

    The book that got me into Stoic thinking was William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2009). Stoicism resonated with me: the reminder that my perception of things is separate from what those things are; the acceptance that I can control only how I respond to life, not what happens; the awareness of mortality that belies the insignificance of our drama and sharpens the appreciation of our short lives.

    When I went through popular translations of the source books like the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus’ Discourses and the Enchiridion, I found them easy to read, with a wealth of ideas to apply to my life. Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for more applications of Stoicism to everyday life. Naturally, Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (2014) crossed my radar.

    The book expands on the idea that you can view obstacles as opportunities, taking advantage of them in order to grow. Almost all of the thirty-two chapters (covering aspects of perception, action, and will) are illustrated with an anecdote or two, followed by some questions and advice.

    I’ve sketched the key points of the book below to make it easier to remember and share. Click on the image for a larger version that you can print if you want.

    2015-01-05 Sketched Book - The Obstacle Is The Way - The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph - Ryan Holiday

    Let me think about how I feel about this book so that I can get past the initial “Yay, another book about Stoicism!”

    I came across a number of anecdotes I hadn’t read before, and I liked reading stories of more modern figures instead of just the usual old chestnuts. I didn’t find any new ideas that made me stop and think; if you’re familiar with the key works in Stoic philosophy, you probably won’t get as much out of this book as someone who is completely new.

    It feels oddly like the book is about this relentless drive towards a goal, but that doesn’t quite fit with what I understand about Stoic philosophy or what makes sense to me. Maybe I’m misreading the book. To me, the freedom described by Stoicism isn’t about achieving great victories after much perseverance and resourcefulness. It’s about realizing that things are what they are, you can choose how to respond to them, and thus you always have opportunities to become a better person as you learn to work with nature instead of against it–even if the path you end up taking doesn’t look like what you imagined.

    It’s hard to explain the feeling I get from the drumbeat of anecdotes all throughout the book, but let me pick a passage that evokes this difference for me. The introduction (page xiv.) has this:

    To act with “a reverse clause,” so there is always a way out or another route to get to where you need to go.

    I could be wrong, but I think this refers to the reserve clause suggested by Seneca:

    The wise man never changes his plans while the conditions under which he formed them remain the same; therefore, he never feels regret, because at the time nothing better than what he did could have been done, nor could any better decision have been arrived at than that which was made; yet he begins everything with the saving clause, “If nothing shall occur to the contrary.” … Without committing himself, he awaits the doubtful and capricious issue of events, and weighs certainty of purpose against uncertainty of result.

    Seneca, On Benefits – translated by Aubrey Sewart

    I understand this to mean that Stoics make well-considered decisions that anticipate opposition, but also remember that achieving goals is beyond their control. It isn’t about getting to where you need to go. It’s about being a tranquil person throughout the journey, free from being too attached to the wrong things – including fortune or misfortune.

    Maybe this isn’t a book grounded in Stoic philosophy as much as it’s a motivational book that springboards from a few Stoic quotes and concepts. This is okay too. It helps me understand what I agree with and disagree with in the book, like the way I agree with and disagree with parts of Stoic philosophy.

    In terms of presentation, the book’s density of stories appeals to some people and not to others. I’ve become less fond of books packed with short anecdotes. An overdose of the modern approach of aesops every other page, the shallowness and patness of the tales? In a book about obstacles, it would have been nice to see deeper struggles, maybe even with normal folks instead of famous ones; stories of frustration and suspense and everyday things that people can relate to.

    I’ve long internalized the mental shift suggested by this book–of transforming obstacles and frustrations into things that can help you–but if I hadn’t, would this book help me flip that mindset? Would reading it help someone who’s struggling with perspective – would it add much more value compared to giving them a brief summary of the book? I’m not sure. If reading about other people who had it worse than you and who still achieved greater things is the sort of information you need to pick yourself up and get going, this might be a good book for you.

    But I doubt that’s the case for many people who feel stuck. We’ve heard the story that the Chinese word for crisis contains the characters for danger and for opportunity (wrong, apparently). Corporate language guidelines might suggest replacing “problem” with “challenge.” Coaches exhort people to reframe their difficulties positively, listing aspects to be grateful about.

    When I run into my own challenges, it’s not because I’m waiting for the perfect story or maxim to break me out. I get stuck when I don’t take a step back and really see what’s going on instead of what I think is going on. I get stuck when I don’t have a handle on the problem, when I can’t grasp it, when I can’t break it down. I get stuck when I accept the current framing instead of coming up with creative solutions. I get stuck when I’m stubborn and not listening to what the world tells me. These are all points somewhat addressed by the book, but it seemed to lack something. Perhaps I need to read it more slowly, dipping in and out of it for reflections. Although if I’m going to do that, maybe I should sit with the classics instead.

    Still, there are people for whom this book is a good fit, so don’t let this talk you out of liking it. If you’ve been curious about but intimidated by Stoicism, you might try picking this up. If you’re doing okay with challenges but you want to get even better at transforming them into stepping-stones, flip through this book and meditate on its points. (Although if you’re dealing with depression, it seems remarkably insensitive to tell you to just think of your problems as good things!)

    Anyway, if you’re curious about the book, you can buy it from Amazon (affiliate link) or get it from your favourite book sources.

    Like this sketch? Check out sketchedbooks.com for more. Feel free to share – it’s under the Creative Commons Attribution License, like the rest of my blog.

    The post Sketched Book – The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph – Ryan Holiday appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at March 23, 2015 12:00 PM

    Roads from Emmaus

    “Happily Ever After”? Yes, Really – Movie Review: Cinderella (2015)

    Yesterday afternoon, my two older children and I went to go see the new, live-action Disney film Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James as Cinderella and Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine (the Stepmother). And I wanted to say a few things about it. (I’m not a professional movie critic, so this will […]

    The post “Happily Ever After”? Yes, Really – Movie Review: Cinderella (2015) appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

    by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 23, 2015 11:30 AM

    Table Titans

    Tales: Retirement Fund

    News

    Our group had been playing for roughly four or five months on the same campaign, a thrown together slap-dash adventure that our DM basically created chaotically (usually with dice rolls as we entered a door).

    Because of this, we encountered a plethora of traps and treasure chests.

    Luckily…

    Read more

    March 23, 2015 07:19 AM

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    Toward a Graciously Historic Sexual Ethic

    The centuries-old, universal consensus among Christians, Jews, and Muslims—that God gave sex for marriage between one man and one woman—is being questioned not only by secular society, but within Christianity itself. Individuals, churches, and even whole denominations are shifting in their views and practices. Many contest the long-held belief that porneia—the New Testament Greek term for all sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman—is synonymous with “immorality.” Ours is a different age, the Western (and mostly white and well-educated) “progressive Christian” says. Biblical prohibitions against divorce, unmarried cohabitation, and same-sex relationships, they say, were written for situations unique to the first century but shouldn’t apply to our modern context. Indeed, those who are unpersuaded by the new interpretations are increasingly viewed as unenlightened at best and bigoted at worst.

    So what do we make of this new cultural landscape? How do we understand the Scriptures on this matter? And what should we do with that understanding?

    Have We Misunderstood Scripture?

    Expressions of sexuality that were once seen as taboo have now become mainstream. As friends and family “come out” with news of a pending divorce or a same-sex or cohabiting hetero relationship, Christians—especially when friendships and family ties hang in the balance—feel pressed to sympathize instead of condemn, to support instead of separate, to affirm instead of deny. To reinforce this instinct, sexual minorities are often compared to victims of slavery. Christians eventually shifted on slavery because they finally saw slavery was biblically wrong, the thinking goes. This is no different. Sexual minorities are the new oppressed minority.

    This is a difficult leap, however, since every reference in Scripture to sex outside of heterosexual marriage is negative. The pro-slavery mindset is repudiated by Paul’s letter to Philemon, a slaveowner commanded to stop treating Onesimus like a slave and instead as a brother. No such parallel pushes against the historic Christian view of sexuality.

    As Scripture unfolds from Old Testament to New, we see a progressive tone in the way it dignifies and empowers women, ethnic minorities, the enslaved, the infirm, and the oppressed. But when it comes to sex and marriage, we actually see a more conservative tone. Jesus reaffirms the male-female, one-flesh union in marriage. Qualified elders must either be single and chaste like Paul and Jesus or be the “husband of one wife” (that is, one-woman men). Jesus restores dignity to an adulteress and then tells her that if she’s going to identify as his follower she must stop committing adultery. Unlike Philemon and the slave issue, then, there is no hint in Scripture of “emancipation” for sexual relationships—including committed and monogamous ones—outside the male-female marital union.

    This teaching is admittedly unpopular in our late modern times. Yet Scripture shows no interest in being popular or relevant—that is, in being adapted, revised, or censored to align with ever-shifting times. We must remain countercultural wherever the culture and the truth are at odds. It is this posture that makes Christians truly relevant in the culture.

    Counterculture for the Healing of Culture

    What’s the way forward, then, for Christians? I believe the way of grace and truth avoids the polar extremes of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

    First, we must resist the inner Pharisee, whose instinct is to scornfully separate from a sexually damaged world. Compelled by the love of Christ, we must extend kindness and friendship to those who don’t embrace a biblical sex ethic, and we must never engage in negative posturing and caricature. This in itself is countercultural, as evidenced by Slate identifying 2014 as “the year of outrage.” Christians, then, have an opportunity to stand out as a gracious, life-giving minority in this regard. This entails staying true to the biblical text and also genuinely loving, listening to, and serving those who don’t share our beliefs. Jesus, who welcomed and ate with sinners, and who never once had a harsh word to say to a sexually damaged image-bearer, beckons us to follow in his footsteps.

    But we also need to resist the inner Sadducee, whose instinct is to follow—and even be discipled by—the world. We must honor, champion, and obey the Creator’s design, at all times in a spirit of gentleness and respect, even if we lose friends and influence fewer people. We must be okay with living in light of thoughts and ways higher than our own (Isa. 55:8–9). In the end, capitulation to culture is neither faithful nor fruitful as a missionary method.

    Pharisees scorn the world.

    Sadducees follow the world.

    Jesus, who both affirmed sex and kept it within its protective moral boundaries, was countercultural for the healing of the world.

    Affirming Sex (and Chastity)

    As a lifelong unmarried celibate man tempted in every way we are, Jesus affirmed sex within the male-female marital union. He created sex. Sex is not a “no-no.” It’s not taboo. It is a gift that welcomes husbands and wives to taste Eden together—naked and unashamed, known and embraced, exposed and not rejected. Proverbs invites a husband to enjoy his wife’s breasts. Song of Solomon pictures a husband and wife admiring and adventurously enjoying one another’s naked bodies. Paul, also unmarried and celibate, says that except for short seasons dedicated to prayer, able-bodied husbands and wives should have sex, and have it often.

    Scripture also warns against sex being distorted, abused, turned into a pseudo-savior, or made into an identity. As one church historian has observed, the early Christians were promiscuous with their money (financially generous) but guarded with their bodies (sexually chaste). The surrounding Greco-Roman culture was the reverse.

    Why is our Creator’s design so liberating for sex inside the male-female marital union, yet so limiting for every other setting? Tim Keller says it’s because sex is the most delightful—and also the most dangerous—of all human capacities. It is a transcendent, otherworldly experience. Sex works a lot like fire. Though it can warm and purify, if not properly contained and handled with care it can burn, scar, infect, and destroy. I’ve seen this play out in scores of pastoral situations over the years. “There is a way that seems right to a man,” the proverb puts it, “but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12).

    You Are the Light of the World

    The more I engage with these issues, the more I’m convinced that the church’s best opportunity to encourage a biblical ethic of sex and marriage is by living out a biblical ethic of sex and marriage. As Madeleine L’Engle reminds us, we draw people to Christ by showing them a light so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know its source.

    In other words, in the eyes of a watching world, showing the light makes the telling about the light palpable and credible. The Christian witness cannot be in word alone. It must also be in deed.

    Rather than condemning “sex and the city,” then, what if we made it our chief task to simply be the “city on a hill” Jesus intended?

    To start we must remove the planks in our own eyes, wherever they may exist. We must forsake hard-core and soft-core porn habits, take captive thoughts and fantasies that objectify God’s image, and reduce unbiblical divorces. We must also nurture fidelity and forgiveness, hand-holding and lingering conversation—living face to face (in intimacy) and side by side (on mission) within Christian marriages.

    Additionally, becoming L’Engle’s “light so lovely” amid a sexually damaged culture will require a renewed and robust vision for marriage and singleness. What if we reaffirmed that being unmarried and chaste (like Paul and Jesus) is a noble and fruitful calling, not a curse? What if we reaffirmed that the call to singleness is “far better,” since it frees people to devote themselves fully to God’s concerns? What if we embraced a renewed vision for the church as a surrogate family where everyone—single and married and divorced, hetero attracted and same-sex attracted—finds opportunity for spiritual friendships as deep as David and Jonathan, with long-term love and loyalty rivaling that of a man and a woman?

    Most significantly, what if we renewed our emphasis on The Marriage of which all others are a shadow—the mystical union between Jesus and his bride, the church? No matter your temporary marital status on earth, union with him through faith makes you as married and complete as you’ll ever be. From the moment we believe, Jesus is our bridegroom, and we are his bride.

    We are our beloved’s, and our beloved is ours.


    Editors’ note: This article is adapted from Scott Sauls’s new book, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides (Tyndale House, 2015).

    by Scott Sauls at March 23, 2015 05:01 AM

    The Gospel Near the Top of the World

    It’s Monday morning (a little more than a week ago) and 43 people are locked inside a gate that surrounds and protects SARA Church and New Missionary Bible School in Kathmandu, Nepal—just 100 miles from Mount Everest. Surrounded by towering mountain peaks, we are in the bowl of the Kathmandu Valley, only 4,600 feet above sea level. Heaven is coming near.

    Tej Rokka, a handsome Nepali pastor, is standing waist deep in a pool; his youthful face betrays his 42 years only in the deep wrinkles around his laughing eyes. Six young Nepalis—all in their teens and 20s—stand in line while the rest of us lift our voices in song. One by one, Rokka receives six new believers into the pool, prays, and baptizes each by immersion the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

    Just 50 short years ago, Prem Pradhan (1924–1998) did the exact same thing in Nepal—and was locked against his will inside a quite different gate.

    Legacy of Prem Pradhan

    Since 1970, Christianity in Nepal has been growing faster per capita than anywhere else—not only South Central Asia (see graph), but in the world. Pradhan is part of the reason why.

    Christianity is growing in Nepal at nearly 11 percent per year. From just 7,400 in 1970 to more than 1 million today, the projected number of Christians by 2020 is 1,324,000.

    Born into a Hindu family, Pradhan served as a Gurkha warrior in the British Air Force until a gun wound left him with a lifelong limp. In 1951, he encountered an Indian street evangelist and trusted Christ. At the evangelist’s recommendation he read the New Testament six times, eventually becoming a full-time evangelist himself.

    Pradhan was imprisoned 14 times in Nepal between 1960 and 1975 for openly baptizing Hindu converts. While in jail he preached Christ to his cellmates and jailors, and saw dozens come to faith. He never wavered in his call to evangelism.

    Prem Pradhan (center), along with Bir Bahadur Rai (left) and Dil Bahadur Thakuri (right) held in Tansen prison for their Christian faith (1961).

    Pradhan’s lasting legacy includes three Christian schools: the first, in Kathmandu, was brutally shut down by a police raid in 1972. The second, New Life School in southern Nepal, continues to serve many orphans in rural villages today. The third is Glenhill School in Darjeeling, India.

    Pradhan died on November 15, 1998, and is buried in Sarlai, Nepal. 

    Legacy of Faithfulness—Up Close and Personal

    Many graduates from Pradhan’s schools have entered Christian ministry in Nepal. Pastor Tej Rokka is one of them. Growing up in a poor Hindu family in a village near Everest, Rokka experienced tragedy early on. “When I was just 5 and my brother was 2,” he says, “our mother died.” Living in desperate conditions, a friend recommended to the boys’ father that he send them hundreds of miles away to Pradham’s New Life School. So they went.

    “It was a home for us, not just a school,” Rokka recalls. “That was where we both came to the Lord, and where God grew in us a heart for this ministry.” He speaks fondly of Pradhan, the schooling he received, and his conversion to Christ as a youth. Now Rokka has a son attending Glenhill in Darjeeling, India.

    SARA Ministries—Reaching South Central Asians for Christ

    In 1997, when pastor Rokka was just 24, he founded SARA Ministries. The name means “Savior Alone Reaches Asians.” Today, 250 Nepalis are part of SARA Church, including the 35 orphans in SARA Children’s Home and School. Moreover, the New Missionary Bible School (started in 2008) has 50 graduates and will soon have many more. It is filling a strategic leadership gap in the Nepali church. “There are probably 500 or more churches in Kathmandu alone,” Rokka explains, “but most are led by pastors who have not been to seminary.”

    SARA Ministries partners with organizations like Equipping Saints for Ministry (ES4M) and The Gospel Coalition to help address the growing need for solid biblical resources and theological training. “The gospel in Nepal will be spread through Nepalis, not Westerners,” ES4M president Michael Heitland explains. “Our work is equipping and resourcing Nepali saints doing ministry.” 

    Through TGC’s Packing Hope ministry, thousands of copies of gospel-centered books have been distributed throughout the country, including newly translated Nepali editions of John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, and The Dangerous Duty of Delight. Every student in the New Missionary Bible School receives copies of each book.

    Rokka mentions that 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die is a favorite evangelism tool with students and many pastors in Nepal. “These books, and ES4M’s biblical coursework, are so helpful for our students,” he tells us.

    A wonderful example of a next generation leader is Manoj. Just as Rokka was trained by Pradhan, Manoj is being trained by Rokka. He arrived at the orphanage at age 6 and now serves on staff and teaches at the SARA Children’s Home. He’s also a student in the New Missionary Bible School.

    “I love to learn and teach the Word of God,” Manoj says with a smile through a translater. He daily teaches his students using ES4M’s adaptation of Walk Through the Bible, and also helps lead worship in SARA Church. Manoj is a future leader of the church in Nepal.

    Carrying the Torch

    The gospel flame ignited at Pentecost is now burning bright near the top of the world. While Western Christians partner in the work, native Nepali leaders like Rokka, Gurush, and so many more are carrying the torch—a torch they received from trailblazers like Pradham. [Note: The charge of financial mismanagement has often been made against certain ministries in Nepal. See here for one such article.]

    Watch this three-minute video to see how TGC is partnering in the cause of Theological Famine Relief in places like Nepal:

    A Glimpse into Theological Famine Relief in Nepal from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

    And watch this five-minute video to meet Rokka, Manoj, and Michael Heitland with ES4M.

    Read more:


    Editors’ note: Thanks to Bill Walsh for capturing many of these excellent images.

    by Dan Olson at March 23, 2015 05:01 AM

    4 Questions About Heaven

    Editor’s note: During The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, Randy Alcorn will lead a workshop on Continuity & Discontinuity: How Similar or Different Might Life on the New Earth Be To Our Present Lives? To register for the conference click here


    People usually think of “Heaven” as the place Christians go when they die. A better definition explains that Heaven is God’s central dwelling place, the location of his throne from which he rules the universe.

    Many don’t realize that the present pre-resurrection Heaven and future post-resurrection Heaven are located in different places. The exact location of the present Heaven is unknown, but we’re told the future Heaven will be located on the New Earth. The present Heaven is a place of transition between believers’ past lives on Earth and future resurrection lives on the New Earth.

    Life in the present Heaven (which theologians call the “intermediate” Heaven) is “better by far” than living here on Earth under the curse (Phil. 1:23). But it’s not our final destination.

    Will We Live in Heaven Forever?

    The answer depends on our definition of Heaven. Will we be with the Lord forever? Absolutely. Will we always be with God in the same place Heaven is now? No. In the present Heaven, God’s people are in Christ’s presence, free of sin and suffering and enjoying great happiness: “in your presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). But they’re still looking forward to their bodily resurrection and permanent relocation to the New Earth. So, yes, after death we’ll always be in Heaven, but not in the same place or the same condition.

    To illustrate, imagine you lived in a homeless shelter in Miami. One day you inherit a beautiful house overlooking Santa Barbara, California, and are given a wonderful job doing something you’ve always wanted to do. Many friends and family will live nearby.

    As you fly toward Santa Barbara, you stop at the Dallas airport for a layover. Other family members you haven’t seen in years meet you. They will board the plane with you to Santa Barbara. Naturally you look forward to seeing them in Dallas, your first stop.

    But if someone asks where you’re going, would you say “Dallas”? No. You would say Santa Barbara, because that’s your final destination. Dallas is just a temporary stop. At most you might say “I’m going to Santa Barbara, with a brief stop in Dallas.”

    Similarly, the present Heaven is a temporary dwelling place, a stop along the way to our final destination: the New Earth. (Granted, the Dallas analogy isn’t perfect—being with Jesus and reunited with loved ones will be immeasurably better than a layover in Dallas!)

    In the Present Heaven Do People Have Physical Forms?

    Unlike angels, who are in essence spirits (John 4:24; Heb. 1:14), human beings are by nature both spiritual and physical. We don’t occupy our bodies as a hermit crab occupies a shell. We can’t be fully human without both a spirit and a body.

    Given the consistent physical descriptions of the intermediate heaven and its inhabitants, it seems possible—though debatable—that between our earthly lives and bodily resurrection, God may grant us temporary physical forms. If so, that would account for the repeated depictions of people now in Heaven occupying physical space, wearing clothes and crowns, talking, holding palm branches in their hands, and having body parts (e.g. Luke 16:24, Rev. 7:9).

    Certainly we do not receive resurrection bodies immediately after death. If we have intermediate forms in the intermediate heaven (and we may not), they will be temps, not our true bodies, which remain dead until the final resurrection.

    Will We Recognize Each Other in the Present Heaven?

    When asked if we would recognize friends in Heaven, George MacDonald responded, “Shall we be greater fools in Paradise than we are here?”

    Scripture gives no indication of a memory wipe causing us to forget family and friends. On the contrary, if we wouldn’t know our loved ones in Heaven, the “comfort” of an afterlife reunion, taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, would be no comfort at all.

    In Christ’s transfiguration, his disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they couldn’t have known what they looked like (Luke 9:29-33). This suggests that personality will emanate through whatever forms we take. If we can recognize those we’ve never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?

    After we die, we will give a detailed account of our lives on Earth (2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 12:36). This will require better memories, not worse. Those memories will surely include our families and friends!

    Are You Looking Forward to Your Forever Home?

    Though life in the intermediate Heaven will be wonderful, it’s not the place we’re made for, our true eternal home. The Bible promises that we’ll live with Christ and each other forever on the New Earth, where God—Father, Son (eternally incarnate), and Holy Spirit—will be at home with his people:

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . . I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev. 21:1-3)

    This passage clearly indicates that ultimately God’s central dwelling place—Heaven—is on Earth. Some, including N. T. Wright, argue that the New Earth shouldn’t be called Heaven. But if Heaven, by definition, is God’s special dwelling place, and “the dwelling of God” will be with humankind on Earth, then Heaven and the New Earth will essentially be the same place. Heaven is also where we see God’s throne, and we’re told that “the throne of God and of the Lamb” will be in the New Jerusalem, on the New Earth (Rev. 22:1).

    Instead of us going up to God’s place to live forever, God will come down to live with us in our place, literally bringing Heaven to Earth! God’s children are destined for life as resurrected beings on a resurrected Earth. We should daily keep in mind our true destination, our ultimate home. Let’s be like Peter and the early Christians: “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).

    by Randy Alcorn at March 23, 2015 05:01 AM

    eagereyes

    Complications

    In watches, a complication is anything that goes beyond the basic function of showing the current time: alarm time, moon phase, etc.  I think the term should be adopted in user interface design and visualization.

    With their upcoming Watch, Apple is clearly playing to horology and the long history behind the design of classic watches. They use many watch terms, even where they don’t really make sense – like movement for the watch core CPU (which has no moving parts and does way more than a typical movement that just moves the hands).

    One of the terms that they use is complications. They nicely illustrate the idea in an image on their website.

    Complications

    Among the Watch’s complications are tiny widgets that show the current temperature, a stock price, the wearer’s activity level, etc. They can be turned on and selected by the user.

    What does this have to do with visualization or user interfaces? I think there is a deep cleverness in calling these things complications beyond just the cutesy superficial one.

    Anything that does not serve the basic function of a watch, user interface, or visualization should be called a complication. That doesn’t mean it needs to be removed. After all, complications can make a watch unique and useful. But it needs to be questioned. It needs to be examined and weighed against the distraction and clutter it causes.

    In a watch, it’s clear what its central function is. That is often not nearly as clear in an application or a visualization. But thinking about it in terms of complications might help: if I remove this element/button/label/data series, does it still work? If it does, do I still want to keep the element?

    This is similar to the idea that design is about reducing things to their minimal functional and aesthetic core. Thinking of design elements as complications rather than in strict terms like the data-ink ratio turns the question from a supposed rule to one of figuring out the  trade-offs. And those can be quite different depending on the goals and the context. A useless item in one might be crucial to understanding a piece or engage an audience in another.

    Complications as a concept is nice because it opens up a conversation. It moves us beyond supposedly strict and straightforward rules that seem to be set in stone. Many things are more complicated than that.


    Teaser image from Wikimedia, used under creative commons.

    by Robert Kosara at March 23, 2015 02:55 AM

    CrossFit Naptown

    April Happenings

    Monday’s Workout:

    Strength:
    Back Squat Every 3:00
    5-5-5-5-5

    Workout:
    10-9-8…3-2-1
    Toes-2-Bar
    Front Rack Box Step Up (20″)

     

    April Events through NapTown Fitness

     

    Olympic Weightlifting Meet:

    We will be hosting our second Olympic Weightlifting meet on April 4th. Sign up by the white board over the lazy boy chair in the back of the old side near the platforms in front of the glass doors (that should be enough landmarks right?). First 30 athletes will be in so do not miss out by dragging your feet folks!

     

    CrossFit Kids:

    We will be hosting our next CrossFit Kids session on April 11th from 12:00-1:00pm! Mark the day on your calendar and clear your kiddo(s)’ schedule!

    Yoga in the Sky:

    Practice Indie will be teaching the yoga portion of Yoga in the Sky event on April 16th from 5:00-7:00pm in the Skyline Young Professional Club. Click here to check out more information on the event at the official event FaceBook page. The event will center around networking as well as how to balance work and life and how yoga can help make that happen!

    11016116_320646034812451_1676536021704598606_o

    by Anna at March 23, 2015 01:34 AM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    Weekly review: Week ending March 20, 2015

    This was a good week, rich in people: lots of family things, and wonderful conversations. I’m getting better at seeing and responding to things the way I choose to, and it makes life’s surprises better.

    Next week: I’d like to build a yoga habit, and I’d like to get even better at reaching out.

    2015-03-22f Week ending 2015-03-20 -- index card #journal #weekly

    output

    Blog posts

    Sketches

    Link round-up

    Focus areas and time review

    • Business (25.2h – 14%)
      • Earn (16.1h – 63% of Business)
        • Attend comm session
        • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • Build (2.5h – 9% of Business)
        • Drawing (2.5h)
      • Connect (6.6h – 26% of Business)
    • Relationships (19.3h – 11%)
      • Check on project F4
      • Hang out with Ewan and Eric on Friday
      • Drop gift off at Michael and Jen’s
    • Discretionary – Productive (20.4h – 12%)
      • Emacs (4.2h – 2% of all)
        • 2015-02-18 Emacs Hangout
        • Help Sean with Emacs
        • Hang out with Emacs geeks
      • Research yoga places
      • Writing (2.8h)
    • Discretionary – Play (5.4h – 3%)
    • Personal routines (22.0h – 13%)
    • Unpaid work (15.6h – 9%)
    • Sleep (60.2h – 35% – average of 8.6 per day)

    The post Weekly review: Week ending March 20, 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at March 23, 2015 01:05 AM

    March 22, 2015

    Reformedish

    Read a Chapter Between Chapters

    Insert stock Bible image here.

    Insert stock Bible image here.

    Obviously, I’m a fan of books. I always have been and I always will. Ever since I got the call to ministry, those books have tended to be about theology and the Scriptures, and that only intensified once I got to seminary. Systematic theology, biblical studies, commentaries, and works of Christian history litter the floors of my office, bursting off of the shelves I have for them (also, I need to clean up a bit). Those books have shaped me, grown, and deepened my knowledge of the Bible, the gospel, and God himself. One of the sad quirks of becoming a student of theology and the Bible, though, is that you can actually end up losing your drive to read the Bible itself.

    Somewhere in the rush to consume as many studies on Paul as you can afford, you begin to realize, “When was the last time I really just sat and read through Paul?”  I mean, I still read a couple chapters of my Bible for a daily devotional, but there’s a point where I realized the proportion of pages of Scripture compared to pages about Scripture, got wildly out of hand.  I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one this has happened to.

    Now, to be fair, when you become a student of the Scriptures, to some degree it makes sense to do a bunch of reading in commentaries, studies, and so forth. In order to really get at the depths of a particular text or settle the meaning of a particular difficult verse that takes about 15 words, you may have to read 30 or 40 pages. Still, lately I’ve been convicted that I need to start tipping the balance back, if not completely in the other direction, at least more than it currently is.

    So, I’ve come up with a very simple plan. I’m going to try to go on a “chapter between chapters” plan. In other words, on top of my daily, morning reading, after every chapter I read in work of theology or biblical studies, I’m going to pop open my Bible and read a chapter there too. Obviously, the chapters in my theology texts are going to be much longer than the biblical chapters, but this is a fairly straightforward way of ensuring that I’m engaged in the Biblical text throughout the whole of my day alongside my broader theological studies, not simply during sermon prep or those special little chunks of devotional time.

    Which books will I read in particular? Well, I suppose I’m going to start with the four gospels. Recently, Mark Labberton mentioned that for a great many years he’s made it a practice to, whatever else he was studying, make sure he was reading at least one of the Gospels. While all of Scripture testifies to Christ, looking clearly at his person, his way of speaking and engaging with his followers and outsiders in the Gospels ought to be formative in the lives of his disciples. That sounds like wisdom to me.

    Am I saying that everyone else needs to do this? Not really. But I figured if you’re like me and you want to find ways to dip into Scripture more, it might help to have a plan. A chapter between chapters just might be it.

    Soli Deo Gloria

     


    by Derek Rishmawy at March 22, 2015 10:44 PM

    Mike Ashley

    22mar2015

    Playtesting Mobile Games at the DMV
    Brilliant.
    Invisible Boyfriend
    Again, brilliant. My daughter was all over this.
    GPG and Me
    Legitimate perspective on the state of GPG, but he doesn't propose an alternative because there isn't one. Until then, it's what we've got.
    Flow Hive
    A new frame design that lets you harvest honey without opening the hive's boxes. Wax is not harvested. It is clever and a great idea if you are aiming to be efficient, but when do technology advances compromise the experience?
    The Unfinished
    New Yorker article on David Foster Wallace not long after his death. Helpful for putting Infinite Jest in context.

    March 22, 2015 10:02 PM

    Jon Udell

    Annotating the web: my new job

    I’m delighted to announce that I’ll start a new job tomorrow, as product manager for Hypothesis. We’re a small team chartered to build open annotation software for the web. We expect it will be useful in many domains, including education, science, journalism, and government.

    Some of you who know me in one or another of those contexts will be hearing from me in coming weeks. I’ll want to know how you annotate the web now, what you need annotation software to be, and how we can work together to meet that need.

    I’ve long imagined a standards-based annotation layer for the web. Now’s my chance to help make it real. Exciting! If you’d like to get involved, ping judell at hypothes.is.


    by Jon Udell at March 22, 2015 08:20 PM

    The Brooks Review

    MagSafe Has Never Been Great For Light Laptops

    Yours truly, in my review of the 2010 MacBook Air:

    The computer is so light that when sitting on the couch cushion and charging I am not at all confident that the MagSafe would release before the computer would get yanked to the floor. I thankfully have yet to test this in the “real world” but in giving it a few tugs it seems to be that 60% of the time the MagSafe pops loose. It really depends on the material the Air is sitting on as the lack of weight in the machine means that it needs some friction to help that MagSafe release without pulling the Air to the ground.

    Puts things in perspective a bit.

    (Apologies for the missing images, I’ll have to search for those.)

    by Ben Brooks at March 22, 2015 08:14 PM

    Roads from Emmaus

    Lenten Evangelism #8: Renunciation of the World and Evangelism

    Sunday of St. John of the Ladder, March 22, 2015 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. What does a sixth century monk living on Mount Sinai have to teach us about evangelism? That is the question I asked […]

    The post Lenten Evangelism #8: Renunciation of the World and Evangelism appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

    by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 22, 2015 05:00 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    Fasting and Almsgiving [Awakening Faith]

    Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

    Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done especially now with even greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast directed by the apostles may be fulfilled not simply by abstinence from food, but moreover by the renunciation of sin.

    There is no better companion practice to holy and spiritual fasting than almsgiving. This merciful virtue includes many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful

    may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love we ought to have for God and people is a love that frees us from idleness and overcomes any obstacles that get in the way of our good intentions. The angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth” (Luke 2:14). The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed not only with the virtue of good will, but also with the gift of peace.

    The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that with almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love and generosity within their hearts.

    Leo the Great

     

    Awakening Faith DevotionalAwakening Faith: Daily Devotionals from the Early Church

    by James Stuart Bell and Patrick J. Kelly

    Buy it Today:

    Amazon
    Barnes & Noble
    ChristianBook.com
    Find More Retailers

    by ZA Blog at March 22, 2015 01:10 PM

    Inconsolation

    net-o-grama: An ancient idea, done very well

    Even if a program doesn’t do anything terribly new, it’s still possible to win points with me just for doing it well.

    2015-03-21-6m47421-net-o-grama-01 2015-03-21-6m47421-net-o-grama-02

    And there’s a best-case scenario: net-o-grama.

    Because let’s face it: Anagram games are not new. They’ve been around for centuries. Ordinarily there’s a pen and paper involved, and you might sit down with a newspaper and work some of them out. I’ve even seen pocket-sized paperback books of anagram games in supermarket checkout lines, so it’s nothing innovative to come up with a computer program that does the same.

    But just because something isn’t new, doesn’t mean it can’t be done well. net-o-grama is a perfect example of that, and you can probably see why.

    Excellent color (for the most part avoiding that red-blue shift we talked about), giant-size letters, easy keystrokes, speedy scoring and dictionary checks, multiplayer and network support with a server interface managing the entire process, custom dictionaries and adjustable time settings, plenty of documentation and help getting started … I could keep going, but there’s already enough here to satisfy any anagramaniac.

    To be fair, I’ll give you a couple of negative points. First, I do get that same flicker effect whenever the screen is updated. I’m not sure why that happens, but this is not the only title I see it in. Luckily net-o-grama doesn’t rely heavily on animation, so the only times I see the flicker are when I type a letter or a character is redrawn. So just sitting and reading the board probably won’t trigger a seizure.

    net-o-grama can handle custom dictionaries, and I would strongly recommend using one or sculpting one of your own. Even just in the game you see above, the root word was “aloofly,” which is rather esoteric. But to complicate things, the default dictionary knew neither “oaf” nor “foal,” both of which should have been viable answers. That can be frustrating.

    I didn’t try full-blown network support beyond ssh from one machine into another, so if there are some networking intricacies, I leave them to you to solve.

    Games can be micro-managed through the server, which should be running in a separate terminal so you can see the game dynamics. From there you can boot players, restart games, add more time and even force the end of a game.

    As a client, your keys are primarily the letters, the Enter key and a few arrows for editing. Esc and CTRL+C both drop you out of the game without interfering with other players or disrupting the server. In any case, the bundled documentation had plenty of instructions and key lists for both server and client.

    net-o-grama never gave me an error message or refused a connection for mysterious reasons; the only issue I had was when I started two servers at once and somehow drove one of them into a zombie status, and it had to be forcibly killed. But I forgive that because I was using the product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. ;)

    It surprises me that this game is neither in AUR nor Debian, since it seems like a simple, straightforward slam-dunk for either distro. Perhaps licensing issues are in the way, or perhaps it’s just not well-known at this point.

    Regardless, I’m willing to give net-o-grama my heartiest stamp of approval: :star: YJNOE! ;)


    Tagged: game

    by K.Mandla at March 22, 2015 12:00 PM

    Roads from Emmaus

    Haphazard Reminiscence and Gratitude

    Forgive me a bit of rambling reminiscence and reflection, if you don’t mind. I guess this is one of the hazards of committing to blogging every day for forty days. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been remembering some things from more than twenty years ago lately, from shortly after my family moved to North […]

    The post Haphazard Reminiscence and Gratitude appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

    by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 22, 2015 01:22 AM

    March 21, 2015

    CrossFit Naptown

    Injury Survey Still Open

    Sunday’s Workout:

    NapTown Rowing Club 10:00-11:00am

    Open Gym 11:00am-12:00pm and 12:00-1:00pm:
    Make up a wod from earlier in the week, work on a skill, or mobilize with us!

    Open WOD 15.4:
    3 handstand push-ups
    3 cleans
    6 handstand push-ups
    3 cleans
    9 handstand push-ups
    3 cleans
    12 handstand push-ups
    6 cleans
    15 handstand push-ups
    6 cleans
    18 handstand push-ups
    6 cleans
    21 handstand push-ups
    9 cleans
    Etc., following same pattern

    M 185 lb. F 125 lb.

    Open repeats or first timers are welcome from 11:00am-1:00pm during Open Gym!

     

    Take this Survey Please!

     

    One of our friends, Ryan Summit, has asked us to pass this along to you and we hope that you will take the time to fill it out. Please read on to learn more and take the survey! Thanks kittens!

     

    Dear CrossFit Naptown,

    As a physical therapist and fellow coach and athlete in the CrossFit community, I have taken on the task of gathering information on the prevalence of shoulder injuries in CrossFit training. As a CrossFit L-1 trainer, I want to further understand how gyms are preventing shoulder injuries and improving health with their methods and programming. As a physical therapist, I want to learn about the types of injuries occurring and educate health professionals on the best way to use our knowledge of biomechanics and medical intervention to return CrossFit athletes to pre-injury levels of fitness.

    I invite you to help me in this task by taking the time to fill out this short survey. The goal is to use this data from the survey to help continuously improve programming and coaching with the aim of keeping CrossFit athletes in the gym and injury free. All feedback is appreciated, and it is necessary that both those who have and have not experienced injury complete the survey. Results will help calculate the percentage of athletes injured, injury rate (described as number of injuries per 1000 hours training), and details regarding the types of injuries experienced and how to prevent these injuries. All information that you provide in the survey will be anonymous to myself and anyone viewing survey feedback.

    Please follow this link to begin the survey (if the link does not take you directly to the survey you can copy and paste it into your browser):

    https://uindy.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_a4MuXNQ2LaqaDbL

     

    Thank you for taking the time to make your gym experience better,

    Ryan Summitt PT, DPT, CSCS
    Orthopedic Resident, University of Indianapolis
    Doctor of Physical Therapy, Emory University
    Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
    CrossFit L-1 Certified Trainer
    BS Sports Medicine, DePauw University

    Email: rysummitt@gmail.com

     

    by Anna at March 21, 2015 11:52 PM

    confused of calcutta

    Making selfie sticks obsolete

    This one’s going to be flying off the shelves. iWatch? shmiWatch! I’m going to be whistling Nixie. Here’s the concept video.

    by JP at March 21, 2015 09:37 PM

    skittering around the internets on a saturday evening

    Pattie Boyd. An amazing woman. One person. Two husbands. Three songs. The woman about whom three of the world’s greatest rock love songs were written. Something. Wonderful Tonight. Layla. She’s taken some great photographs over the years; I was lucky enough to pick up a fine framed set of large prints some years ago, … Continue reading skittering around the internets on a saturday evening

    by JP at March 21, 2015 09:17 PM

    John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

    Some details on the Sandbar Fight

    From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandbar_Fight#Brawl

    On September 19, 1827, both Bowie and Mr Wright attended a duel on a sandbar outside of Natchez, Mississippi. Bowie supported duelist Samuel Levi Wells III, while Wright favored Dr. Thomas Harris Maddox, both of Alexandria, Louisiana. About 16 men were present. Wells had also brought supporters, including Major George McWhorter and General Samuel Cuny. Maddox was supported by Colonel Robert Crain, Carey Blanchard, Alfred Blanchard, and several unnamed others.

    Wright was late, and had not yet arrived when the duel began.

    The duelists each fired two shots, and, as neither man was injured, resolved their duel with a handshake.

    As the duelists turned to leave, Bowie came forward to meet them. Seeing this, Maddox’s friends ran forward to join the group. Cuny, who had previously fought with Crain, is recorded as having called out to him, “Col. Crain, this is a good time to settle our difficulty.”

    Crain fired, missing Cuny but striking Bowie in the hip and knocking him to the ground. Cuny and Crain then exchanged fire, with Crain sustaining a flesh wound in the arm and Cuny dying from a shot to the chest.

    Bowie, rising to his feet, drew his knife and charged at Crain, who struck him so hard with his empty pistol upon the head that it broke and sent Bowie to his knees.

    Wright appeared, drew a pistol, and shot at the fallen Bowie, missing. Wright then drew his sword cane and stabbed Bowie in the chest, but the thin blade was deflected by his sternum.

    As Wright attempted to pull the blade free, Bowie reached up, grabbed his shirt, and pulled him down upon the point of his Bowie knife.

    Wright died quickly, and Bowie, with Wright’s sword still protruding from his chest, was shot again and stabbed by another member of the group. As Bowie stood, pulling the sword cane from his chest, both Blanchard brothers fired at him, and he was struck once in the arm. Bowie spun and cut off part of Alfred’s forearm. Carey fired a second shot at Bowie, but missed. As the brothers fled, Carey was shot and wounded by Major McWhorter.

    The Battle of the Sandbar lasted more than 10 minutes, leaving Samuel Cuny and Norris Wright dead, and another four men—Alfred Blanchard, Carey Blanchard, Robert Crain and Jim Bowie—wounded.

    Crain helped carry Bowie away, with Bowie recorded as having thanked him, saying, “Col. Crain, I do not think, under the circumstances, you ought to have shot me.” One doctor reputedly said “How he (Bowie) lived is a mystery to me, but live he did.” The doctors who had been present for the duel managed to patch Bowie’s wounds.

    My comment: Carter Hall and Anton Hastor have attempted to explain the intricacies of reincarnation to me, in such situations where the same two rivals reappear age after age, but the matter is dizzying to the intellect.

    Readers are no doubt puzzled that I arrived late at the duel, shot and missed, and then died on the point of Col. Bowie’s knife on September of 1827 and yet am a science fiction writer in 2001 and after, still armed with the same sword cane, and, ever since resigning as a member of SFWA, having no access to the Wells Time Machine kept in the basement of the lavish SFWA mansion in New Jersey?

    Nonetheless, I can explain. I am always late whenever I go anywhere, since I have an incurable habit of attempting to finish one last task before I turn to the next, and underestimate my travels times considerably. I had gotten so used to using the Wells machine to skip back the fifteen minutes or so whenever I arrive late, I merely got out of the habit of punctuality.

    And anyone could miss that shot.

    by John C Wright at March 21, 2015 07:23 PM

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    6 Discoveries from Near and Far: Volume XXXVIII

    Himalayas

    I. Around the World

    Things I found on long walks in foreign cities, or perhaps when someone posted them on Twitter.


    II. On the Blog

    A few posts you may have missed on the blog this week.


    III. A Blast from the Past

    Something from the AONC archives.

    ###

    Image: The Himalayas from 24,000 Feet

    by Chris Guillebeau at March 21, 2015 04:06 PM